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Hunters still dotting the Jackson horizon
By Paul Bruun, Jackson Hole, Wyo.
Date: October 10, 2012
They’re easy to recognize, especially over breakfast in Bubba’s or the Virginian.
The initial giveaway is that unshaven badge of independence proudly worn by size-large, vacationing middle-aged fellows in techie Gore-Tex boots and wrinkled jeans. Somewhere on their person or within reach is a camouflage garment. Their caps carry a logo promoting either a scope company, a certain make of ammunition, broadhead or firearm or possibly the NRA.
Hunters, either visiting or local, regularly wear the look of satisfaction as they happily relate stories to all within listening range.
This group is not as recognizable as some may recall. Current Octobers now feature more visitors hanging around. The public has scattered into new breakfast places, and I’ve ended my fishing-client airport pickups, where the bombproof bow and rifle cases were easy IDs.
Mention Jackson Hole to a hunter and you’ll get an enthusiastic response. Although out-of-staters can’t be guaranteed an elk tag through their outfitter, as it was before the rules changed in the 1970s, Wyoming’s big-game reputation remains something of which many dreams are made.
Without invading fellow columnist Jonathan Schechter’s statistic-saturated domain, a recent report on hunting and fishing participation given to the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus by members of the outdoor industry reveals some interesting figures. In its 2011 National Survey on Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife Associated Recreation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reports a 9 percent increase in hunters and an 11 percent increase in anglers compared with the last survey in 2006.
The report counts 37 million sportsmen and women over the age of 16 in America. This total is similar to the population of California.
The $90 billion they spent in 2011 is the same as the global sales of Apple’s iPad and iPhone in the same year.
What’s notable is how expenditures are divided. Equipment outlays remained strong, even during a sluggish economic period. Hunters spent $8.2 billion while anglers accounted for $6.2 billion in gear. In the bigger “special equipment” category, which includes boats, RVs, ATVs and other such vehicles, $25 billion was spent. And finally, the part that caught my eye was that sportsmen and women invested more than $32 billion in trip-related expenses.
Fortunately, many Rocky Mountain states and their congressional delegations recognize the positive economic impact of hunting and fishing. From South Dakota’s zealous Pheasant Capital of the World boastfulness to Colorado’s well-publicized Gold Medal Trout Streams program and the increasing popularity of Wyoming’s Cutt-Slam, the outdoor sportsman is recognized as a valuable commodity. Quality guide and outfitter services attract a variety of clients from various income levels. Do-it-yourselfers and in-state residents are also included in the hunter mix.
The latest outdoor recreation trend of expanding mountain biking trails to many U.S. Forest Service-permitted ski areas is on the upswing, as are hiking, zip-lining and paragliding. But consider that the $6 billion hunters spent in 2011 on guns, ammunition and archery equipment is comparable to the sales of bicycles in the U.S. Of particular importance is that a majority of those gun and ammo companies are domestically based where American workers benefit.
Other niche outdoor activities are growing. Non-game management by state agencies expands constantly. Yet the roles played by sportsmen and women make them the nation’s most ardent conservationists. They are the ones funding state fish and wildlife management. Combine license and stamp fees, excise taxes on hunting and fishing equipment, the tax from small-engine and marine fuel and membership contributions to conservation organizations, and hunters and anglers directed $3 billion toward on-the-ground conservation and restoration efforts in 2011. Then add another $11 billion to include acquisition of private habitat and restoration work on lands owned or leased for the purpose of hunting and fishing.
The unshaven guy in boots and jeans toting a camo pack and a hard gun case may not appear to be a potential Teton Pines real estate buyer or be able to pronounce the best red on the wine list. But he and many others just like him have been supporting Jackson Hole for a long time. My appreciation is similar for the aluminum rod-tube owners who descend in droves during warmer summer months. Their numbers are equally impressive.
I particularly favor hunters and fishermen because they are accustomed to putting their money where their mouths are when it comes to supporting game and fish management and organizations that take wildlife futures seriously.
I am glad to hear sportsmen numbers are increasing. It’s about time.
Comment on AIS regs
Better have your fishing outfitter take a look at the Aquatic Invasive Species Regulations (Chapter 62) proposed by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. This is especially critical for Idaho residents who travel regularly to Wyoming to guide float-fishing trips.
At the recent Game and Fish information meeting (from which I’ve lost my notes), Beth Bear, AIS coordinator and fisheries biologist, detailed her statewide operation for watercraft inspection, education and training. Located in Laramie, Beth’s office has made astonishing inroads into patching the Swiss cheese collection of Wyoming highway entrances into potential watercraft check stations.
She has created a dramatic network with the $470,000 raised in 2012 from AIS sticker sales and an additional $1 million in funding from the Wyoming Legislature. Border-entry checking begins in 2013.
Portions of adjacent state waters such as Flaming Gorge (Utah) and Palisades Reservoir (Idaho) are dealt with in the new regulation proposals. Leeway is granted to Wyoming boaters to forgo inspections when returning from these waters. The same will not be true for out-of-state boaters coming to use Wyoming waters.
As mentioned earlier, this will affect outfitters sending resident and nonresident guides in and out of state on a daily basis during summer months.
One solution is for every commercial outfitting operation to have two or three employees certified as AIS inspectors (courses are available) and to maintain in-house inspections. Other concerns may be scheduling Idaho residents strictly in Idaho and Wyoming residents in Wyoming whenever possible.
Keeping watercraft as well as other water-involved vehicles (construction, agriculture and fire control) free from aquatic invasive species isn’t going to be easy. Surviving after invasives take hold will be unmerciful.
During a recent trip down Milward to my favorite post office haunt, I noticed the perfect silhouette of a blue grouse atop the first- floor window of the town parking garage. Upon later discussion with Redmond Street pal Terry Ross, I learned that both ruffed and blue grouse have adopted town as temporary digs since surrounding human-caused fires displaced them.
It’s nice that we can welcome more wildlife guests, despite our dismal driving behavior.