Burton on the Bay:
Hunting's Dollars -- And Sense
It appears to be one of those old damned if you do, damned if you don't situations. I see by the daily press, The Sun in particular, the shooting sports industry is being slammed for supporting, financially and otherwise, the training of youths in firearms use and firearms safety.
Self-serving claim the critics. Just another way to get the nation's youngsters involved in the use of weapons and hunting.
Yet it would seem with all the talk that firearms manufacturers should be held responsible, financially, legally and morally, for the crimes, deaths and injuries attributed to firearms.
What have we got here? We're saying "you are responsible and should pay the bill, but, no, don't teach youngsters how to use the guns you produce."
Boy, if that isn't a Catch 22. Damned if you do, damned if you don't.
And you think the cigarette manufacturers have a rough row to hoe, as they should. Tobacco kills more people across this nation than guns. No denying that.
Keeping the Deer in Check
Hunting is a big sport in Chesapeake Bay Country, always has been, and hopefully always will be. The same for other parts of Maryland as well as across the nation.
Hunters play a major role in game management. With natural predators long gone, they do their part in keeping wildlife populations within reasonable numbers - and they pay to do it.
Just think what the deer situation would be in Maryland without hunters - who, by the way, have legally harvested about 900,000 deer within the state since the first modern-times hunt in 1931. Everywhere, there are complaints of deer damages, nuisance woes, cars getting banged up when encountering them and so forth - and that's with hunters thinning populations by more than 60,000 annually.
So what are the do-gooders trying to say? Go back to bows and arrows, but keep those deer numbers down, keep them out of our gardens, shrubbery, golf courses, and off our roads. But do it via bow and arrow like the Indians did.
And this is no broad defense of the firearms industry, nor the National Rifle Association with its constitutional rights malarkey. Anyone with any common sense has to realize something must be done about the misuse of firearms in our state and nation.
But common sense also tells us it isn't sporting arms - the guns with long barrels - that are the centerpiece of all the killing, wounding, crime and mayhem. It's the handguns, and primarily the criminals who use them.
But we've been into that before so we'll not rehash it. Nearly all guns are designed to kill, but handguns are pretty much designed to kill or intimidate people. Sporting long-arms (not military or target weapons) are designed to harvest game.
There is a difference. But we'll not go into that either. Rational thinking distinguishes the difference.
Another aspect of gun issue deserves airing. And from here on we're primarily dealing with hunters and sporting arms - rifles, shotguns, muzzleloaders and bows and arrows. Economics.
Paying More Than Their Way
Maryland hunters pay via licenses and permits for much of their hunting opportunity. Ninety-five percent of wildlife management funding and the purchase of lands for hunting comes from outdoorsmen via sport-related taxes and other assessments. Hardly any cash at all comes from general funds.
Taxpayers get a break. They have managing their wildlife populations and programs a bunch of people, young and old, male and female, who actually pay their way. They don't ask that a stadium be built here 'n' there for them; they just do their thing.
Ever consider what it would cost taxpayers to carry the load? But we'll go even beyond that. Consider the economic impact of hunting. Money and jobs.
A recent economic analysis conducted by independent Southwick Associates for the International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies revealed that the spending by 160,000 hunters - beyond what they pay for licenses and permits - creates 2,322 full- and part-time jobs in Maryland alone.
This state's economic impact reaches $159.6 million annually: some $50.8 million in salaries and wages, another $7.6 million in state sales taxes and income tax revenue - not to mention $5.3 million in federal income tax receipts.
Maryland hunters, 16 years and older, spent $90 million on hunting trips and equipment in 1996, including everything from a few bucks for shotgun shells at the sporting goods camp to a trek to the mountains stalking big game.
Former DNR wildlife chief Don MacLaughlan, now International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies' international resource director, says these studies show that conservationists can argue for healthy wildlife habitat and jobs at the same time.
Hey, deer hunters of Maryland alone generated $40.4 million in '96 while supporting 1,013 jobs that created an economic impact of $76.4 million. And this study was made during a year when the migratory Canada goose season was closed.
Estimates of economic impact by primarily Eastern Shore and state tourism leaders during the heydays of honker hunting rose from $25 million to more for waterfowlers. That income - hopefully - is not lost forever; Canada geese are expected to rebound. Incidentally, much of the funding for the rejuvenation of flocks comes directly from hunters through the U.S. and Canada Fish and Wildlife Services.
The Southwick Associates survey revealed that nationally statistics indicate that hunting had in '96 a total economic impact of $61 billion, which is even more than the combined salaries of National Basketball Association players.
America's 14 million hunters spent $22.1 on hunting trips and equipment during '96, an increase of 78 percent over 1991, which this writer considers pretty impressive.
In the U.S., catering to hunters in pursuit of their sport created 704,600 jobs that generated $16.1 billion in salaries and wages, $1.4 billion in state sales and income tax revenue and $1.7 billion to IRS coffers.
But let's get back to Maryland before signing off. Our hunters spent in '96 a total of 2,130,263 days afield, and they didn't need any publicly financed stadium as their locale.
Oh, and the bowhunters, the fellows who don't use guns, they contributed a tidy sum to the economy, say to the tune of billions of dollars in the Northeast, which includes states from Maine to West Virginia, including Maryland.
Retail sales for the 691,930 modern Robin Hoods in this region totaled $2.75 billion, which via economic impact figuring generated $4.77 billion ($37.1 billion nationwide). In our region, some 64,140 jobs were created, with Maryland getting its share.
Annually, the average bowhunter spent $131.68 for food while pursuing his sport, $43 for lodging, $208.51 for transport, $212 for bows among his many expenditures, which when other expenses were figured in, averaged $4,009.41 per participant.
Just thought you'd like to know a little about the other side of this sport, which is so maligned by so many these days. Have you kissed a hunter lately? Enough said ...
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VolumeVI Number 19
May 14-20, 1998
New Bay Times
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