Hunting is big business. If you doubt it, consider that fish-and-wildlife-related activities generate $2.4 billion in economic value for the people of Maine. Deer hunting alone brings in an estimated $200 million a year. That huge economic impact depends on maintaining a healthy natural resource. Managing that resource is an expensive proposition, and most of the bill is footed by sportsmen and women.

Direct contributions come through the purchase of hunting licenses, providing an estimated $1.5 million in 2011. One way hunters contribute indirectly is through Pittman-Robertson (PR) funds, derived from an 11 percent excise tax on sporting arms, ammunition and archery equipment, and a 10 percent excise tax on handguns, providing Maine with an estimated $3.1 million annually.

The benefits go far beyond game species. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service provides PR funds to the state fish and wildlife agencies for “restoration, conservation, management, and enhancement of wildlife resources and for perpetuating public use and benefit from these resources.” That means anyone who photographs or watches wildlife benefits.

The funds are particularly important to Maine, as they pay many staff salaries and most of the administrative costs of the Wildlife Division’s management programs for game animals and furbearers.

PR funds require matching state dollars. How much money each state is eligible to receive depends on population size, land area, and the number of paid hunting/trapping license holders. Each state is required to provide detailed descriptions of how the funds will be used, as well as an evaluation of previous activities.

States must also show that all hunting license fees are used only for the administration of wildlife agency projects. Shifting any license revenues to general funds or outside agencies could jeopardize federal funding.

The economic contribution of hunters goes far beyond mere license sales and excise tax. Whether in-state or out of state, many hunters travel to a particular destination. Trip-related expenses include food and lodging, transportation, fuel, guide fees, land use fees and equipment rental. Hunters need equipment such as guns and ammunition, optics and possibly camping equipment, campers or all-terrain vehicles. They also spend on things like books and magazines and membership dues in sportsman’s clubs or conservation organizations. In addition to wildlife conservation and management, all these expenditures support local economies, particularly in rural and more economically depressed regions.

Hunters also help in ways that are harder to track economically. They defray administrative costs by volunteering. Volunteers from the National Wild Turkey Federation have been invaluable in assisting with trap and transfer operations. Volunteers from Ducks Unlimited work on wetland habitat enhancement programs and installing and maintaining nest boxes. Groups like the Rangeley Lakes Heritage Trust are managing winter habitat for deer. Many hunters also provide harvest and biological data through various surveys to help MDIFW track game populations.

Whether you hunt or not, you owe a debt of gratitude to hunters. Consider their contributions the next time you pull over on the side of the road to photograph a moose, marvel at a big tom turkey strutting under your backyard bird feeder, or slow down to admire a big buck bounding across a field. Hunters, in part, paid for that experience.

Bob Humphrey is a freelance writer and registered Maine guide who lives in Pownal. He can be contacted at:

[email protected]

 


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