Hunters, retailers and the state’s tourism industry are joining forces to tout the economic benefits of hunting in Iowa.
“Each year, nearly 50,000 visitors come to Iowa to hunt, which is a huge number,” says Libbey Patton, tourism director for Clear Lake. “They spend an average of five days in our state and spend nearly $170 each day on lodging, meals, gas, equipment and supplies.”
Patton cites statistics indicating nearly 6000 Iowans have jobs that are directly tied to hunting. Steve Ries of Central City runs Top Gun Kennels, a family business that raises dogs for pheasant hunters.
“We’re losing interest in the field,” Ries says. “There was 160,000 hunters in 2000 that took the field to pheaseant hunt and today there is 60,000 hunting taking the field to pheasant hunt, so we’re losing 100,000 hunters.”
That drop off is due to a declining pheasant population in Iowa, but Ries is hoping the mild winter can help boost the number of birds available this fall for hunters.
“The pheasant population is as low as I’ve ever seen it in 19 years being in the business,” Ries says. “However, they say if everything is ideal, the pheasant population can double in one year. That’s not going to give us a lot of opportunity, but it is going to give us some hope to continue in that direction to attract more and more people in our state to pheasant hunt.”
Ries suggests hunters need to pass along a love of the sport to a younger generation that’s occupied with the shooting they can do in video games.
“I’ll guarantee you there is a lot more excitement when my daughter hit her first deer…than there is in 15 in an hour in a video, so those memories last a lifetime,” Ries says. “It’s just like fishing. It’s not the ones that you catch that you remember. It’s the ones that got away.”
Ries and Paton are part of the new “Hunting Works for Iowa” coalition hoping to focus attention on the economic impact of hunting. The group points to data which indicates each person who is licensed to hunt in Iowa spends an average of $1140 for each season they hunt, whether it be deer, doves, or other animals.