New Strength in Numbers

New Strength in Numbers
There's a lot of money spent on hunting trips. (Mike Suchan photo)

Reversing trend, numbers for hunters, anglers increase

LAS VEGAS – It appears there's new life in the great outdoors. Some of the best news from the 2013 SHOT Show was unveiled in a mountain of statistics Thursday. Hunters and anglers have more strength in these new numbers.

U.S. hunters increased nine percent and anglers were up 11 percent in 2011. It marks the first reversal in recent history's downward trends.

The Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation (CSF) and the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) revealed the results from the latest statistics available. They were combined with a previously released report from the American Sportfishing Association (ASA).

Maybe it's a sign that people got back to the basics of life after the economy tanked. But that's probably reading too much into these numbers. The increases may reflect simply added scrutiny. It was noted during Thursday's press conference that an unprecedented $13 million was spent in compiling the CSF and NSSF reports.

The good news could prove invaluable. In quantifying the time and money spent by those who enjoy the outdoors, a voice for the future was amplified.

"Many people may not fully comprehend how important hunting and fishing are to the fabric of this country," CSF president Jeff Crane said. "The (annual spending) would rank No. 24 on the Fortune 500 list."

That was part of the purpose here: "Providing real-world comparisons to what many consider more mainstream industries and activities," according to Crain.

For example, anglers spent $47.7 billion in 2011, which was more than the revenue of aerospace/defense giant Lockheed-Martin ($46.9 billion) the same year. The 15.5 million U.S. hunters would fill every NASCAR track, NFL stadium, MLB ballpark, NBA arena and NHL rink – two times over.

Equal in importance, the latest stats demonstrate how much we care about protecting the outdoors.

That last point is often overlooked. Hunters and anglers paid $3 billion in 2011 for conservation and restoration efforts. Those dollars were the result of license and stamp fees, federal excise taxes on hunting and fishing equipment and membership contributions to conservation organizations.

Another $11 billion was spent by private landowners and leaseholders for habitat acquisition and restoration.

All that money represents astonishing passion, previously underappreciated.

"Put your money where your mouth is" — that's a common expression used when questioning anyone's commitment.

Uncommonly, it seems we've been putting more money than mouth in support of the outdoors. That voice was amplified Thursday.

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