OP-ED: Sunday hunting wouldn't be the economic boon proponents suggest

Wayne Campbell
Pennsylvania State Grange
Deer cross a snow-covered field in Springfield Township Sunday, Jan. 13, 2019.

Although interesting, The York Dispatch's May 20 article on Sunday hunting in Pennsylvania presents only one side of the equation by asserting that allowing Sunday hunting will provide a financial boost to local communities’ economies and local tax coffers. 

Personally, I come from the hunting culture of Pennsylvania. I am an avid hunter. I enjoy being outdoors. I cherish the opportunity to teach my grandchildren about hunting safety and the joys of a day in the woods. I also believe that it is important for hunting to share the outdoors with others who also love being outside and who engage in recreational activities.

The Pennsylvania State Grange supports hunting but opposes Sunday hunting. For example, we strongly support House Bill 102 sponsored by Rep. Dave Maloney, R-Berks, to allow for after-school training on hunting and safety. Hopefully, this will familiarize a new generation with this activity.

There are strong economic arguments that warrant keeping hunting Sunday-free.  Hunting’s economic contribution pales when compared to non-hunting recreational activities. The 2011 study cited in the article is dated. More recent data puts hunting in perspective.

Hunting is only a part of outdoor recreation. The U.S. Government’s Bureau of Economic Analysis prepared an assessment of the outdoor recreation economy in the United States. Issued Sept. 20, 2018, it cited the top six outdoor recreation activities in 2016: boating/fishing, $36.9 billion; game areas such as golfing and tennis, $34.7 billion; RVing, $30 billion; guided tours/outfitted travel, $25.7 billion; motorcycling/ATVing, $20.3 billion.  Well down the list came hunting (the category includes archery as well as non-archery hunting), which had $13.9 billion in economic impact in the U.S.

More:Sunday hunting proposal pits Pennsylvania farmers against outdoor enthusiasts

What these statistics do is to document that hunting plays a role but is by no means the dominant part of outdoor recreation’s contribution to the economy.

Another study by the U.S. Outdoor Industry Association provided more statistics that suggests an even greater contribution to U.S. economic activity by non-hunting outdoor recreation. Among other things, this study, which used hunting data provided by agreement with the National Shooting Sports Foundation, charted retail spending, the number of jobs created, and the amount generated in local and state taxes.

Hunting generates $27.4 billion in retail sales. But camping generates $166.9 billion, fishing generates $35.6 billion, and trail sports generate $201.5 billion. Even wildlife watching generates more retail spending than hunting — $30.2 billion versus hunting’s $27.4 billion.

Job-creation presents an even greater contrast. Other outdoor recreation creates more jobs than hunting. Camping is credited at creating 1.4 million jobs nationally. Fishing generates 287,554 jobs. Wildlife watching also generated more jobs than hunting, 235,825 nationally versus hunting’s 194,973.

The third measure presented in the U.S. Outdoor Industry Association report is the contribution of outdoor recreation in terms of generating local and state taxes. Again, camping led the way with $11.3 billion in local/state tax revenues, followed by trail sports at $13.5 billion, fishing with $2.4 billion, and wildlife watching with $1.9 billion. Hunting generated $1.7 billion in state and local taxes.

What does all this have to do with Sunday hunting?

Other outdoor recreational activities provide as much if not more economic activity than hunting.

Hunters get six days a week. Other users of the outdoors should get one day where hunting does not put a damper on their enjoyment of the outdoors.

— Wayne Campbell is president of the Pennsylvania State Grange