Advocacy group promotes hunting’s economic impact
CENTREVILLE — Hunting Works For Maryland, an organization advocating the positive economic impact of the sport, has partnered with more than 50 businesses to promote local spending.
Dolores Jones, co-chairman of the organization, and coordinator Rob Sexton spoke last week with reporters from APG Chesapeake to raise awareness of the group that is part of the larger Hunting Works For America organization.
Hunting Works For America was launched by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, which identifies itself as “the firearms industry trade association” and “has a membership of more than 11,000 manufacturers, distributors, firearms retailers, shooting ranges, sportsmen’s organizations and publishers.” Like Maryland, the group has set up Hunting Works efforts in states like Ohio, Michigan, New York and South Dakota.
In talking about Hunting Works For Maryland, Jones, who also is the general manager for the Holiday Inn Express in Chestertown, said hunting and shooting sports bring in about $265 million in annual spending. She said hunting season normally brings a boom in the economy.
“The money brought in by hunters can be really critical to many of our smaller, local economies. In these areas, hunting season is the busiest time of year,” Jones said.
She spoke about the midweek traffic she sees at the Holiday Inn Express that comes in during hunting season. She said 30 out of 81 rooms one night last week were occupied by hunters.
Jones said about 88,000 people hunt in the state each year, 19,000 of which are Maryland residents. Jones said hunting essentials are more than just shotgun shells.
“Folks are in town, they’re eating dinner, they’re buying gas, they’re Christmas shopping; it’s a type of tourism that at this time of the year, impacts us greatly,” Jones said.
Jones said hunters spend $50 million on trip-related expenses, including traveling, hotels, restaurants and other costs. About $127 million is spent on hunting equipment, exclusively. About $3,000 on average is what each hunter spends in the state, Jones said.
Shooting and hunting are both sports that directly and indirectly support more than 4,500 jobs in Maryland, Jones said. From using money spent on trip-related expenses at restaurants, hotels or other establishments, hunters are also providing an economic driver for other workers in the areas they travel to.
Sexton said there were a lot of expenses to hunting that are not often thought about.
“We tend to think of the hunting economy as guns, camo and ammo, but it’s trucks and ATVs, tires on ATVs,” Sexton said. “The expenditures are pretty diverse.”
Sexton described a ripple effect hunters add to the economy. He said when hunters stop somewhere to eat, the restaurant staff gets paid. He said that gives waiters and waitresses money to spend, again pumping up the economy.
According to an informational brochure from Hunting Works for Maryland, that ripple effect totals $401 million.
Along with unique spending, Maryland itself is a unique destination for hunters from Pennsylvania, New York and even Maine, Sexton said. The state is the only in the U.S. to offer hunting for sika deer, along with bears in the western part of the state, he said.
“Most hunters come from where the people live,” Sexton said. “They spend their money before they leave town and they come to where they hunt and they spend a whole more. We tend to think of hunting as a rural pursuit. Well, that’s where it takes place, but the money is spread from the home base to where they actually hunt.”
Jones and Sexton said Hunting Works For Maryland is not a lobbying group. They described it as a marketing and promotion effort, one Sexton said he hopes will provide the information officials need may need when making decisions.
“Hunting Works For Mar yland partners have a story to tell about the important economic chain involving the hunting and shooting sports,” the group’s website states. “The Hunting Works For Maryland partnership will monitor public policy decisions and weigh in on hunting-related issues that impact Maryland jobs. Hunting Works For Maryland will serve as a vehicle to facilitate important public policy dialogue and to tell the story of how our hunting heritage positively affects conservation and jobs throughout the state.”
In a news release, Hunting Works For Maryland co-chairman Deb Carter, a Cecil County resident and executive director of the Maryland Association of Campgrounds, spoke about educational outreach.
“More than 88,000 people hunt in Maryland each year. Each of these hunters spends, on average, $3,000 a year. This spending is felt throughout the economy of Maryland,” Carter said. “We are working together to educate people about these numbers and how hunters are directly contributing to our economy.”
While Sexton spoke about the group’s goal of expanding the stakeholder base, the Hunting Works For Maryland website paints a grim picture in which communities may fail without hunters propping up the economy.
“Politically motivated antihunting groups are growing. Many would like to limit, make more expensive and even ban hunting. Their actions are eroding our heritage and damaging state economies and local businesses that depend on hunters for their livelihoods. All this is occurring at a time when hunter numbers are declining, and, quite frankly, many of our rural communities and businesses will not survive if hunter numbers continue to erode,” the website states.
For more information on Hunting Works for Maryland, visit huntingworks foramerica.com/hunting worksformd.
Molly’s Place, an outdoor outfitter located in Kennedyville, is just one example of how hunting adds to the local economy, a point being raised by advocacy group Hunting Works For Maryland.