Hunting works

Photo by Chip Gross

For decades, hunters have done a great job of telling others what they, as a group, have done for wildlife conservation in America. If it weren’t for sport hunters gathering together more than a century ago and demanding hunting seasons, bag limits, and other such regulations, there would be little wildlife left in this country. It’s an inspiring story, and one that needs to be retold continually.

But frankly, what hunters have not been good at in the past is telling their story in dollars and cents — how much sport-hunting benefits our national, state, and local economies. The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) is attempting to correct that by sponsoring a nationwide program: Hunting Works for America.

Begun in 2010, 18 states now have Hunting Works organizations, with two or three more states joining yearly. Ohio’s effort is led by six co-chairs, including sportsman and business owner Tom Vorisek.

“It’s time for hunters to stand up and tell the public — the average person in America who may not hunt or know much about the outdoors — what hunters and hunting means to them economically,” says Vorisek. “People should understand that they have a financial stake in hunting, even if they don’t hunt.”

Melinda Huntley, executive director of the Ohio Travel Association, another Hunting Works for Ohio co-chair, lists some impressive statistics:

  • More than 400,000 people hunt in Ohio annually, 42,000 of whom are nonresidents.
  • Ohio hunters spend $321 million on trip-related expenses annually.
  • Ohio hunters spend $274 million on hunting equipment annually.
  • Each hunter spends an average of $1,400 per year in Ohio.
  • Hunter spending translates to $490 million in salaries and wages.
  • Hunting in Ohio supports more than 20,000 jobs.
  • Hunters generate $97 million in state and local taxes annually.

“My point is that hunters are very important to the Buckeye State economy,” Huntley says. “The ripple effect from sport hunting in Ohio is $1.4 billion annually.”

Ohio, like other states in the program, is signing on partners to spread the message. “We started a year ago with a kickoff at the Ohio Statehouse and already have 58 businesses signed on,” Vorisek says.

“Sporting retailers, restaurant owners, hotel and resort operators, gas stations and convenience stores, hunting and shooting organizations, and chambers of commerce, to name just a few.”

There is no cost for a business to join a Hunting Works organization, and another benefit is the free advertising that joining provides. Also, the initiative should not be thought of as just for businesses or organizations located in rural areas. In Ohio, for instance, the top three counties for hunting-license sales are urban/suburban counties.

So what’s the ultimate goal? Hunting Works for America and its many state affiliates plan to monitor public policy decisions and weigh in on hunting-related issues that impact jobs. Vorisek makes it clear that Hunting Works is not another political lobbying organization.

“Our primary objective is public education,” he says. “Hunting Works does not get involved in endorsing various political candidates, but what we are doing and will continue to do in the coming years is to explain to people who do not hunt why they should care about the continuation of sport hunting in America.”

Vorisek says Hunting Works for Ohio will continue to spread the word about the economic value of hunting in the Buckeye State. “If we can raise the consciousness of the public concerning the financial value of sport hunting, hopefully people will be more favorable toward the sport in the future.”

If you’re a business owner or the head of an organization and would like to help, visit the Hunting Works for Ohio website and sign on as a partner. Individual volunteers are also needed.