Each duck harvested in Illinois has $453 in value
Springfield – What is the value of an Illinois duck hunter? Better yet, how much is that bagged duck worth?
Those are questions Craig Miller set out to answer when the Illinois Natural History Survey distributed its annual hunter survey a few years back.
Findings were astonishing:
• Every dollar that waterfowl hunter spends generates $1.86 for the local economy.
• Duck and goose hunting generates 2,556 jobs and contributed $20.5 million in state and local taxes.
• Each bird harvested in Illinois generates $453 for the economy.
That final figure stands out to many state residents,whether they hunt waterfowl or not.
“An impact of $453 for every duck harvested kind of sums up how important hunting is to the state’s economy, and the local rural economies around Illinois,” said Miller, human dimensions scientist at the University of Illinois’ Prairie Research Institute.
While national studies regularly delve into the economic impact of hunting and fishing, Miller wanted to dig deeper and more locally – tracking Illinois’ duck or goose hunters’ spending activity for one year to learn the impact of buying guns, ammunition, clothing, gas for the truck, snacks and items for the hunting dog.
As ideas go, this one came the typical way: a discussion about the value of hunting.
“I was talking to Mark Alessi [DNR’s acting wildlife division chief] about trying to get a handle on hunting’s value and figuring out how to put into context hunting’s role,” explained Miller.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service releases a report every five years on the economic impact of hunting and fishing, but the sample size tends to be small and the findings are rather vague, classifying all types of hunters into a large group.
“We wanted to look at just the waterfowl hunters and measure their spending and the overall effect,” said Miller.
So, prior to the 2012-13 hunting season, Miller and his team surveyed 5,000 waterfowl stamp buyers to track the economic impact of a single hunting trip. The survey divided the direct expenses into three categories: transportation, food and beverages, and other shopping, services and entertainment.
Hunter expenses were analyzed using an economics assessment modeling program used by the U.S. Forest Service and other agencies.
An impressive 1,882 hunters participated, revealing that trip expenditures for the season totaled $37.5 million. Expenditures for clothing, decoys, guns, dogs and boats, totaled $105 million. The total direct costs were $143 million.
“Adding the total direct and indirect costs equaled $261 million,” Miller said. “This impact is huge, and it’s the rural, local economies that benefit from this recreation market, not the Chicago suburbs or larger cities in the state.”
Important to hunters, the findings also cemented the argument that tinkering with hunting seasons or scaling back hunting opportunities would have a negative effect for not only hunters, but businesses and services that cater to them.
As Miller noted, any policy or regulation changes – a change in the length of the hunting season, for example – could have a significant effect on rural economies.
This is an important point, because the USFWS has reminded hunters across the Mississippi Flyway many times in recent years that the current string of 60-day duck seasons could someday come to an end.
In fact, in its 2014 hunter survey, INHS asked duck hunters their feelings about how a 45-day duck season should be administered – if it ever came to that. A majority of hunters indicated they would prefer the season be delayed in those circumstances.
As for the economic impact of waterfowlers, Miller said it is important to keep in mind that this is one recreation activity for one season.
“When we consider economic contributions across other hunting activities for multiple years, you see the positive economic force of hunting,” he said.
Miller said a similar study of deer hunter impact is planned at the end of the current season.