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Hunting and the economy

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Have gun, will travel: economy only grazes hunting

By JOE KAFKA

Associated Press Writer

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — Have gun, will travel — even if the economy’s shot.

In the heart of South Dakota’s pheasant-hunting country, license sales have been strong this fall despite gasoline prices near $3 a gallon and a looming recession. Ditto for hunting license sales in New York, Utah and Colorado. The leading retailers of outdoor gear, meanwhile, say sales of shotguns, ammunition and warm camouflage clothes aren’t too bad considering the economy’s headwinds.

Hunting’s popularity has waned slightly in recent years, and American families are tightening their belts as a recession looms, but businesses catering to hunters say the sport’s outlook remains relatively healthy during these hard economic times.

“Hunters may not get the latest product, but they’re still getting the things they need and getting out there. Our sales are holding up good,” said Larry Whiteley of Bass Pro Shops, a privately held company that is one of the country’s biggest suppliers of outdoor gear. “It’s a family tradition. You know, deer camp and all that stuff.”

Some publicly traded companies that sell guns and other hunting equipment, such as Cabela’s Inc. and Smith & Wesson Holding Corp., are showing signs of weakness, however.

To the extent that certain regions of the U.S. are noticing a dropoff in hunting and fishing activity — Pennsylvania, Texas and Missouri, to name a few — industry and government officials point to other root causes, such as urban sprawl and poor weather.

Some industry officials say financial struggles might even act as a counterweight to these other forces, because the search for wild game in fields and forests can be soothing for the soul.

“Hunting is part of what you are. It’s a relief from all the stresses of society,” said Brent Lawrence, a spokesman for the National Wild Turkey Federation.

But just like leisure travelers in general, hunters are expected to stay closer to home and keep their spending in check when it comes to frills they might have splurged on in the past.

The wily Chinese ring-necked pheasant of South Dakota lures about 200,000 hunters every year. Many people fly or drive hundreds of miles to chase them through expansive fields of mostly harvested corn, soybeans and sunflowers, overgrown weed patches, and tall-grass prairie stretching to the horizon.

O’Jay Vanegas, 59, of Scottsdale, Ariz., visited South Dakota last week to hunt pheasants, just as he’s done for the past 12 years.

But Vanegas, an auto salesman who expects to earn about $30,000 less this year, skipped the season’s opening day because the round-trip airfare from Phoenix had more than tripled from previous years. He predicts other hunters will cut back in similar ways.

“When money gets tight, something has to go,” he said. “Hunting is a luxury.”

Hunting license sales are flat this year in North Dakota, and down in states such as Texas, Arkansas and Missouri. But officials there blame bad weather: torrential rains, flooding and hurricanes.

The economy also may be a factor in reduced sales of hunting licenses, says Jim Low of the Missouri Conservation Department.

“People may not balk at the $10 price of a resident small-game hunting permit, but $4 gasoline to get to and from hunting and fishing spots ... very likely did affect people’s recreational activities,” Low says.

In Pennsylvania, general hunting license sales through August were off 4 percent for residents and 16 percent for nonresidents, but Jerry Feaser at the state Game Commission says that may have little to do with the economy.

“We’ve been fighting a long-term decline in license sales, which has more to do with things like urban sprawl than the economy,” he says. “We have a lot of development on formerly huntable lands, and that’s a major obstacle.”

George Van Horn, a senior analyst for Los Angeles-based industry research firm IBIS World, says retailers that depend on hunting are holding up well in the slack economy.

A survey done every five years for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service showed last year that 12.5 million Americans hunted in 2006, spending $22.7 billion. In 2001, there were 13 million hunters, and they spent $23.4 billion.

Some companies that rely on the shopping habits of hunters are exhibiting signs of strain.

Cabela’s of Sidney, Neb., which specializes in direct marketing of hunting, fishing and camping merchandise, said Oct. 7 it would reduce its work force by roughly 10 percent. The company’s CEO, Dennis Highby, said at the time “it was necessary given the macroeconomic environment we are facing.”

And late in September Smith & Wesson Holding Corp., cited the economic downturn when it eliminated about 80 jobs at a Rochester, N.H., plant that makes hunting rifles.

Data collected from hunting preserves and the sporting good industry by IBIS suggest people tend not to cut back much on hunting trips in tough economic times because they already have the basic gear like guns and clothing.

“Local hunting, as far as people who live in rural areas and hunt for pleasure and food, may increase just because they’ve already got the equipment,” Van Horn said.

But sporting goods stores, which have reported strong sales of hunting equipment for the past five years, can expect slower growth this year, because enthusiasts that tend to take “big, luxurious trips are going to be cutting back.”

Bobby Wiggins, manager of Bear Creek Shooting Preserve at Preston, Ga., said some past customers have cancelled deer hunting trips this year.

“Some of my regulars say they’re pinching pennies right now, although I’ve replaced some of the ones I’ve lost and it might turn out to be a good season,” Wiggins says.

Stowe Samco, owner of Absolutely Pheasants hunting lodge in Tripp County, S.D., which labels itself the “Pheasant Hunting Capital of the World,” said his reservations are up 13 percent from last year.

It costs about $400 daily to hunt pheasants at Samco’s place. He believes the sagging economy may deter hunters who are less affluent.

“I think the people that are hurt by the economy right now, the people that won’t be coming, are probably going to be your $75- to $200-a-day guys. It’s tougher for them,” Samco says.

Lawrence, of the National Wild Turkey Federation, says most of those who typically hunt close to home have not been deterred by the weak economy. However, he says some who have been willing to shell out big bucks for hunts may stay home this fall.

“They may not make the big trip to go elk hunting in Colorado or duck hunting in Canada,” Lawrence says. “But for the most part, tried and true hunters are still getting out there.”

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bkelble
I burned 10 gallons of gas today out hunting.  I am doing my part to help the economy.  I bought a car yesterday actually, and I plan on buying some ammo tomorrow.  I wish I had some more gun money to help our economy out with.

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gspdad
I just got back from a week in North Dakota this morning. The price of gas range from $2.90 to $2.19 depending on where we were on the interstate. This trip was about the same cost as last years and have already started planning next years trip. The economy is tough, and money is tight, but a day in the field is priceless.

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erik meade

I spend very little on hunting to begin with.

I probably fit in with this part of the article

“Local hunting, as far as people who live in rural areas and hunt for pleasure and food, may increase just because they’ve already got the equipment,” Van Horn said.
 And even though my hunting trips up north are not local, there are done on the (really, really) cheap.

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Guest

This weekend has me down 1/2 tank.

A couple short hop's to the close state bird locals.

$2.79 gallon  :D  :D

Glad to see some relief from high prices!

Hopefully temp's will come down for next weekend.

Way to warm for the dog's and us!

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Hunshatt

400 miles , 5 hours, and 24 gals of diesel at 3.40 a gal,  an out of state Vt. licence 40.00. another 30. in beer , muffins , aa batterys and breakfast sandwichs, for 5 woodcock

wonderfull day of memories with a couple of good friends of   conversation , dog work and  covers.......... priceless

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rprovines

The price of gas range from $2.90 to $2.19

Filled up in Indy yesterday @ $1.99.9. Kids were talking about some station that went a dime less, but didn't see it on my way out of town.

I put a bunch of miles on the truck this year, didn't think twice about doing it, but did cringe when I when pulled up to the pumps on the first outing when it was still $3+

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Greg Hartman

I guess my view of the thing is that I don’t play golf, don’t belong to the country club, don’t own a boat or an airplane; etc.  Hunting and shooting is what I do.

At my age, if I put off a season due to fuel costs or whatever, I’ve lost much that cannot be regained. My very special Maggie is ten – don’t know how many more seasons I’ll be blessed with spending time with her in the field.  If not now, then when?

Finally, while I don’t like paying high fuel prices (especially filling up the 100 gallon tank of the big motorhome with diesel), I’m lucky in that I can easily afford to do so without spending the rent money, the grocery money or the retirement funds.

Therefore, I WILL go where and when I want without the slightest guilt or concern.

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Hunshatt
I guess my view of the thing is that I don’t belong to the country club, don’t own a  airplane; etc.  Hunting and shooting is what I do.

Therefore, I WILL go where and when I want without the slightest guilt or concern.

What Greg said, as well as no kids(cept the dogs) so I can be as selfish as I want , and still have a smaller carbon foot print than most people

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Guest

Greg Hartman @ Nov. 02 2008,8:57)

QUOTE

I guess my view of the thing is that I don’t belong to the country club, don’t own a  airplane; etc.  Hunting and shooting is what I do.

Therefore, I WILL go where and when I want without the slightest guilt or concern.

What Greg said, as well as no kids(cept the dogs) so I can be as selfish as I want

Same here and am a lucky man indeed! :devil:

Live within the moment, it's your's to do with as you please

I live to hunt and that is what we do.

Hope your season is going as well as our's?

Regards,

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Hunshatt

Thanks, and other than the really mentally challenged Llew pup I got for my dad it is. Trip to New Brunswick, trips to Jackman and Rangley Me, Vt,  and more planned, as well as a late seaon woodcock in Jersey over xmas(negotiated a deal with th g-friend that if I went down this year I could bring the  it is.

Btw my favorite cover is Amesbury , Ma.......

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rprovines

Thanks, and other than the really mentally challenged Llew pup I got for my dad it is.

Shoulda gone with the Ryman.

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steve schultz

I just traveled 757 miles in 3 days in SD hunting pheasants. Like Greg said and what I tell my wife at my age a lost trip now you can never get back.

I use a small economy car to hunt with so it takes some of the bite out off the gas bill. 4 dogs and all my gear in a Pontiac vibe is a little crowded.

 A game wordon I spoke to said that hunting pressure was down this year in SD

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Hunshatt
Shoulda gone with the Ryman.

should'a got a washed out, started trial dog, which i what I'm getting this time

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Wingman

Hunting gear manufacturers are down less than fishing gear manufacturers.

In both industries, the best customers have been folks who already have a lot of gear: you are much more likely to sell a shotgun to a guy who has two or three of them than a guy who has none. The guy with 8 bass rods has long been a better prospect for a mid- to high-range new crankbait out fit than a guy with one or two spinning rods.

Some firearms manufacturers also make ammo. I suspect with two wars going on, such manufacturers with military contracts are not likely to go broke.

As for participation, This week I went deer hunting for around $30 in gas and the sportsmans/hunting license for hunting and fishing that I always get and the rifle and shells I already owned. Now I have 35 pounds of venison in the freezer.

If other people are like me, even those facing budget constraints, then they'll simply hunt and fish a little closer to home. My 7-year-old and I can go bass fishing for $4 in gas and $1.75 in soft plastics and $7 in snacks. Or we could spend 3 times that much going to a movie where people hit each other to solve their problems.

Not a difficult choice, really.

It's true that I wont be buying a new shotgun or fishing rod right away, but that doesn't mean I'll completely stop buying gear and it certainly doesn't mean I'll hunt or fish less.

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