By John Schlageck, Kansas Farm Bureau
During the early days of our country, settlers hunted out of necessity. While farming and trading provided them with a great deal of food, it wasn’t enough for sustenance. To survive, they hunted, fished and trapped wildlife where they lived and worked.
Today, hunting in America offers two major benefits to society: wildlife management and an economic boost.
Most wildlife populations continue to thrive under conservation programs put into place in the early 1900s. For example, the white-tailed deer population was a meager half a million 100 years ago. With careful conservation efforts, plentiful crops, well planned hunting seasons and reasonable limits for hunters, the population has grown to approximately 32,000,000.
Almost every other wildlife species has flourished as well. Most of these animals number in the millions today. This wasn’t the case before the efforts of hunters and wildlife enthusiasts became commonplace.
Just as impressive are the numbers on the economic impact of hunting. With approximately 6 percent of the U.S. population hunting today, business is booming.
For countless small businesses in rural Kansas communities, hunter spending plays a major role in economic success.
Local shops, outfitters, hotels, convenience stores, restaurants and landowners across the United States all benefit. In 2011, nearly 13.7 million hunters spent $38.3 billion, according to a 2011 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service survey.
In addition to the 680,000 jobs supported by hunters, hunting generated nearly $12 billion in tax revenues for federal, state and local coffers. Wildlife agency positions are also supported by sportsmen through the purchase of hunting licenses and funds collected as excise taxes through the long-running Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration.
These sportsmen contribute on average $8 million per day nationally, much of which goes toward conservation efforts. Billions of dollars have been used to protect fish and wildlife habitats throughout the country.
Through conservation efforts, money generated and jobs created, hunting remains a positive engine in this country’s economic industry. What many fail to understand about this sacred tradition is that it isn’t just about the act itself.
Hunting provides the opportunity to experience nature. Some sportsmen will tell you the best part about hunting isn’t shooting. It’s the peacefulness and serenity of being outdoors.
Some may even feel a connection with their ancestry while hunting. It’s also an opportunity to pass such traditions to their children and friends.
For generations, families have shared these experiences and it has strengthened their relationships. It is a visceral feeling that can strengthen family bonds. Hunting remains a way of sharing in nature’s beauty and the dynamic between human and animal have few comparisons in society today.
Hunting prevails as a part of our American identity. Millions of people take pride in hunting. Their experiences are much bigger than themselves and create this community we call hunting.
John Schlageck is a leading commentator on agriculture and rural Kansas. Born and raised on a diversified farm in northwestern Kansas, his writing reflects a lifetime of experience, knowledge and passion.