Hunting bolsters local western Ky. economy

Marion, Ky. (AP) – Pickup trucks represent a major segment of
vehicular traffic in Marion, and during the right time of year, a
good many are hauling deer in the back.

“Deer hunting is probably the No. 1 fall recreation in the
area,” said Michele Edwards, director of the Marion Tourism

The pursuit of white-tailed deer in the region is so prominent
that much of the tourism in the area is all about hunting. Autumn
visitors to Marion and the Crittenden County surroundings show up
with wardrobes dominated by camouflage and blaze orange.

And local folks don’t leave it to the out-of-towners. Crittenden
countians have grown into a nest of deer hunters as the whitetail
population has developed from being one of Kentucky’s earliest to
blossom to one of its largest and best producers of trophy caliber

The area celebrates the status of deer hunting, its local
importance, with what this year is the fifth annual Big Buck
Contest that the tourism commission and Hedges Sports and Apparel

The contest works like this: hunters enter in advance of
hunting, entries opening Tuesday with adults paying $5 and
youngsters $1. And when an entrant takes a big buck – or one he or
she thinks is big enough – during any Kentucky archery, crossbow or
firearm hunting season, it’s brought to Hodges for measurement.

Each buck entered is gauged by a formula: adding the weight in
pounds to the number of antlers points multiplied by two, plus the
largest inside spread of the antlers in inches. The highest total
score wins.

The adult winner collects $1,000 from the tourism council, and
the winning junior hunter gets a $75 gift certificate from Hodges.
All entry money, however, goes to the Marion Community Christmas
Fund, so charity is a significant winner.

“The contest sort of celebrates the deer season,” said Leroy
Hodge, owner of the sporting goods store. “We have a lot of
out-of-state hunters in here, and this gives them and the locals,
too, pretty good odds of winning a nice prize. Most of the biggest
deer taken around here don’t win because people don’t think they
can win, and they don’t enter before they get their deer.”

But hunt they do, Hodge said. Area habitats draw out Crittenden
residents, other west Kentuckians and hunters from many other
states because of the wealth of the deer herd locally, he said.

“It’s a combination of quantity of deer and the quality of
them,” Hodge said. “We’ve got a lot of deer, and the bucks grow
big. Mostly by word of mouth, the quality of the hunting has gotten
around and people now are coming in here especially from throughout
the Southeast.”

Edwards said deer have generated a substantial tourism influx
from people who lease land in the area just for hunting purposes as
well as visiting hunters who travel to Crittenden to hunt with
approximately 10 nearby outfitters who maintain hunting lands
and/or lodges.

“As soon as the bowhunting season starts, we’ll start seeing
them come in from Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida,”
Edwards said. “We’ve started seeing some coming from South and
North Carolina, too.

“Most of our visiting hunters are from states in the Southeast
because, while they may have lots of deer at home, those states
farther south have little deer compared to us. Kentucky is among
the top-producing states of trophy deer.”

Edwards said Marion and the county get a pretty fair influx of
economic activity from visiting hunters paying for lodging, food,
gas, equipment and other essentials.

Moreover, the attractiveness of area hunting has made Crittenden
County land itself more valuable on the open market.

“As we have become a destination, we’ve attracted more hunters
who want to lease land here that they can take care of, grow food
plots, and maybe come and hunt several times during the different
seasons throughout the fall,” Edwards said.

“So many people have come and bought and leased ground just for
hunting, we’ve seen the property values skyrocket.”

Chris Evans, editor of the Crittenden Press and a close observer
of the sporting community, said, “Deer hunting and the effect it
has had on property has been a big boost for the economy – no doubt
about it.”

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