Hunting advocacy group touts economic benefits
WORTHINGTON -- With so much talk in recent years about enacting stricter regulations on gun sales and ammunition, hunting advocacy groups are doing what they can to spread the positive impact sportsmen can have on a local economy.
Representatives from Hunting Works For Minnesota were in Worthington Wednesday for a regional meeting, looking not only for more businesses, individuals and communities to support their cause, but to do a little number dropping in the process.
Cal Brink, executive director of the Marshall Area Chamber of Commerce and co-chairman of Hunting Works For Minnesota (HWFM), said money spent on hunting in the state has an economic ripple effect of $1.3 billion.
"This isn't trying to convince people that it's good to kill birds or animals," Brink said. "When people are doing that or attempt to do that, they're spending money. It's a cultural heritage. We advocate that it's something we want to continue across the state of Minnesota and across the country, too."
Brink said it is important to let the public know the impact hunting has on the state. In Minnesota, an estimated 477,000 people hunt each year. Of those, approximately 20,000 are from out of state. Those hunters spend money on everything from hotel rooms and restaurant food to gas stations, hunting supply stores and other businesses.
Money generated from the sale of hunting licenses, wildlife or waterfowl stamps and tags helps fund state wildlife conservation efforts, and sales of the federal duck stamp alone have been used to purchase more than 5 million acres of land for habitat across the country, said Brink.
"Every time someone buys a gun, ammo, archery and other hunting equipment, they help pay for habitat," he added.
HWFM was established in October 2010, and now has more than 275 partnerships with communities and businesses across the state. The Worthington Area Convention and Visitor's Bureau has been a partner since the beginning, said Chamber Director Darlene Macklin in welcoming the group to Worthington.
A portion of Wednesday's meeting was spent discussing plans for bringing the Governor's Pheasant Hunt to Nobles County. The 2013 hunt is slated for Madelia, while Marshall hosted the event in 2012.
Chad Cummings said he, along with Doug Tate and Macklin, have been "lining up infrastructure" to bring the hunt to Worthington as early as 2014. They are seeking individuals with guiding and hunting skills to coordinate the hunt, and are also in need of private landowners to volunteer the use of their hunting grounds on the pheasant opening weekend for the governor's entourage.
In Marshall, Brink said, they had secured approval from private landowners to use up to 5,000 acres of private ground, in addition to public lands, to host the hunt last fall.
"We're Minnesota's best kept secret for pheasant hunting," he added.
"Some of the fear we've heard is you're going to tick off the local guys that go out and hunt," Cummings said. "I strongly feel that the good side way outweighs the bad."
The economic impact of hosting the Governor's Pheasant Hunt would be seen in local motels, restaurants and even downtown stores if hunters bring their spouse.
Brink said the hunt hosted in Marshall cost approximately $26,000, and the event raised $29,000 through sponsorships, an evening banquet before the hunt and an auction. Because the event can't be a money-making event for a community, Brink said money leftover can be used for expanding habitat.
In addition to plans to getting the Governor's Pheasant Hunt to Worthington, Cummings said he wants to work on updating a map that depicts public hunting grounds in Nobles County.
Those maps, along with hunting and fishing related brochures, can be made available throughout the community and at the Minnesota 60 rest area south of Worthington.
Roxann Polzine, one of about a dozen people attending Wednesday's meeting, said in just the month of May, more than 6,100 people stopped at the rest area.
Daily Globe Reporter Julie Buntjer may be reached at 376-7330.