Making Tracks: Hunting the boon the Northwoods needs in a typically slow season
In just a matter of weeks, the Northwoods will soon seem to be dressed from head to toe in blaze orange. From gas stations, to department stores and restaurants, hunters will be seen all across the Northwoods as they prepare to find their next trophy buck. Visually, I think most people would be able to infer that the sport has a great impact on our area’s economy. When you take a look at the hard numbers though, the true enormity of how much the fall hunting season brings to the Northwoods becomes immediately clear.
Every five years, the US Fish & Wildlife Service conducts a study which evaluates the economic impact of activities around fishing, hunting, and wildlife viewing. The last such study was conducted in 2011 so we’ll look forward to updated numbers available in 2016, but if they hold anywhere close to what was happening just a few years ago, outdoor sporting should still have a great economic impact on Wisconsin and in our area.
In 2011, hunting related expenditures in the state of Wisconsin were estimated to total over $2.5 billion – up from just under $1.5 billion that was estimated to be spent in 2006. This growth is significant beyond just the $1 billion increase over 5 years – the state of the larger economy should be recognized at the time of these two studies.
In 2006, the economic downturn and housing bust had not yet occurred – unemployment in the nation sat at just around 4.5 percent; compare that to 2011, when the nation was still working its way through the depths of the great recession and national unemployment had jumped to 8.5 percent. Even though job security was low and financial stability was at the forefront of everyone’s mind, more people came out to hunt in the state of Wisconsin in 2011 than did in 2006 – so much so that economic activity around the sport almost doubled in those five years. What we can infer from these numbers is that the sport of hunting is so valued by its participants that they’ll still set aside time and money to get out and hunt even in tough economic times – a true sign of a stable and growing industry.
Hunting is also a sport that our state – and our area specifically – reaps great benefits from by bringing in outside visitors and spending. Just as ski bums will chase their thrills in the mountains of Colorado and Utah, hunters trek to the upper Midwest for its world-renowned offerings in whitetail deer, grouse, turkey, and other game animals. Almost 15% of the hunters in 2011 came from outside Wisconsin. Trip-related spending (food, lodging, transportation, etc) totaled over $350 million or about $400 per hunter over each trip. Our area isn’t exporting any of this industry to other states either. Of the more than 760 thousand Wisconsin residents that hunted in 2011, essentially none of them traveled to other states for hunting reasons. This kept more than $2 billion of related spending right here in Wisconsin and our area.
As we near the peak of the fall hunting season here in the Rhinelander, I’m sure some people will be hesitant to wholeheartedly embrace the whirlwind of activity around the sport. There are inherent dangers with having so many people in the woods at the same time with high-powered rifles, as well as accidents that can occur in tree stands and with increased traffic on the roadways. These are somewhat similar to the risks surrounding the busy boating, fishing, or snowmobiling seasons of the rest of the year. We must trust that other people are acting in a safe manner while also taking precautions that can help protect ourselves.
If you’re hunting, wear the appropriate clothing and follow the right procedures. If you choose not to hunt, be mindful of what’s happening around you and pay extra attention to household pets and their safety as well. By being prepared and acting in a sensible manner, we will all benefit from a great Northwoods tradition.
Dana DeMet is available at (715) 365-7464.