By taking time to go hunting and fishing, we are helping the economy of our community, state and nation.
Studies have concluded hunters and anglers contribute more than $1.5 billion to Pennsylvania’s economy each year.
A report by the Sportsmen’s Alliance, through Southwick Associates revealed that hunters and sport shooters contributed $149 billion to the national economy, supported nearly 970,000 jobs and created more than $45 billion in wages and income in 2020.
In Pennsylvania, the research has revealed that 780,000 hunters spent $1.2 billion on hunting-related purchases that have supported 13,600 jobs in 2020. A Pennsylvania study for the American Sportfishing Association determined 1,550,800 anglers spent $422.4 million to go fishing.
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Rob Southwick, president of Southwick Associates, was involved in the studies as he has been keeping tabs on how outdoors hobbies have been driving parts of the economy across the United States for more than three decades.
“If (Pennsylvania) anglers stopped spending their money, the $422 million, and just kept it in their pocket, you would see the total economic activity in the state decrease by $722 million,” he said in a telephone interview about the ripple effect that would impact 6,440 jobs across the supply chain.
Since 1988, his company has been providing economic research on hunting and fishing. It’s been funded by the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s Multi-state Conservation Program for groups like the Sportsmen’s Alliance and the American Sportfishing Association to reveal the economic value of outdoors activities.
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In addition to the hunting numbers, his company’s research discovered 861,000 people spent $676 million on target shooting-related purchases in Pennsylvania. If targets shooters were to stop this spending, he believes it would impact 10,600 jobs.
While those are significant numbers, he said Pennsylvania ranks 12th in the country for spending on hunting-related activities, based on the latest data collected in 2020 during the pandemic. In 2011, Pennsylvania was ranked No. 4 when people could travel more often.
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“Hotels is one of the biggest ones,” he said about costs facing sportsmen. Travel costs are among the biggest drivers of the numbers.
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If people aren’t able to travel as much, it will definitely impact the results, he said, referring to the challenges of dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.
Southwick believes Pennsylvania’s ranking will come back up in the list when market conditions return to a more normal environment. “A lot of people went elsewhere,” he said about it being a COVID anomaly during the lockdowns that varied from state to state.
“The demand is still there,” he said about some outfitters now being booked several years in advance.
Those costs are in addition to hunting licenses, guns, bullets, clothing and other equipment hunters need each year. In the 2021-22 hunting year, the Pennsylvania Game Commission sold 854,066 licenses as of the end of January. That number may climb as the licenses are valid through June and include this spring’s turkey hunting season.
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While the pandemic may have hurt travel opportunities for hunters, the lockdowns did help the fishing industry.
“Fishing did a little better during the pandemic. It’s something you can do in your own community, more day trips,” Southwick said. The research revealed an increase in first time anglers. “It shows demand has always been there. But then they started canceling Saturday soccer tournaments and all the other things that kids are doing. The kids are saying, ‘can I go fishing.’”
The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission reported in 2021, more than 920,000 anglers purchased a fishing license and the agency believes the numbers reveal a continued resurgence in the popularity of fishing and boating as affordable, family-friendly outdoor activities.
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Southwick said the big challenge now that other events are starting to reopen is to find ways to keep them fishing.
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While hunting, target shooters and anglers dominate the spending, you also need to factor in those spending time at state parks and go camping.
John Hallas, director of state parks for the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, said state parks have a direct impact on the where they are located.
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“Every dollar invested in state parks returns approximately $13 to the Pennsylvania economy across the board,” he said about a recent study’s findings for both rural areas as well as larger communities. “State parks are economic engines.”
The bottom line is that outdoor activities have far ranging benefits beyond the enjoyment and memories that are made in the great outdoors.
Brian Whipkey is the outdoors columnist for USA TODAY Network sites in Pennsylvania. Contact him at [email protected] and sign up for our weekly Go Outdoors PA newsletter email on your website’s homepage under your login name. Follow him on social media @whipkeyoutdoors.