In a time of budget cuts and declining energy revenue, big game outfitters want legislators to know how much big game hunters in Wyoming contribute to the state’s economy.

A recently released report based on 2015 data and examining the value of hunting the animals classified as big game in the state shows an economic contribution of nearly $303 million.

The figure was compiled and report prepared by the Southwick Associates, an organization that researches and studies the economic impact of outdoor activities nationwide.

“Big Money” is the title of the report and its conclusion is that big-game hunting equals big business in Wyoming.

“With incredible opportunities to hunt some of the more incredible big-game species in the world, including elk, antelope, mule deer, moose, bighorn sheep, white-tailed deer and mountain goats, it is quickly obvious why Wyoming is one of the most desirable hunting destinations in all of North America,” the report reads. “It is also obvious why hunting is so critical to the state’s economy.”

Although several other groups such as the Wyoming Game & Fish Commission and the Wyoming Game Wardens Association helped fund the study, the main backer was the Wyoming Outfitters and Guides Association.

“It is aimed at the legislators,” said Cody’s Lee Livington, president of the outfitters group.

The report is in part a response to lawmakers who have introduced bills that would divert license revenue to other government agencies or programs from Game and Fish.

The money hunters spend on license fees is a very large component that keeps that management agency ticking.

“Obviously, we feel it is important to us they understand the economic impact,” Livingston said of those making decisions in Cheyenne.

The $303 million total includes $224 million spent on retail sales by resident and non-resident hunters for guided and non-guided hunts.

The ripple effect from the hunts leads to $85.5 million paid in salaries and wages and in local economies, accounting for 3,100 jobs.

In a different kind of evaluation Southwick concluded that in 2015 alone, residents and non-residents spent $138.7 million to buy real estate in Wyoming for hunting purposes.

Those who visit the state, or selected hunting areas, spend money on hotels and meals, gas to reach their destinations, meat processing, vehicle rentals, new equipment and supplies for the hunt, license fees, and guide fees.

In 2015, non-residents paid out 85 percent of the guide and outfitter fees, or $45.4 million.

“It’s an industry,” Livingston said. “This isn’t just an outfitter’s study. It is part of tourism. Tourism is getting more important than ever to the economy and so is the outdoors.”

Less than six months ago, the University of Wyoming, released a study at the behest of the Wyoming Wildlife Federation, which examined use of public and private lands and which documented local hunting and fishing participation.

That research showed the value of the outdoors industry to Park County, which benefited to the tune of $23.4 million annually. About 20,000 fishing licenses were sold within the county in 2015. Also, 62,000 hunting days were spent in Park County that year.

The breakdown showed $12.7 million was spent in-county on hunting and $10.7 million related to fishing.

Overall, including all types of outdoor activities, the statewide value of hunting, fishing, hiking, camping and wildlife watching and the like was estimated at $4.5 billion for Wyoming.

According to Renny McKay, a Game and Fish communications director in Cheyenne, the big-game hunting report “shows generally its importance to the economy in the big picture.”

While hunting and fishing licenses, resident and non-resident fund more than 80 percent of the Game and Fish department, he said, since 2007 legislators have earmarked millions of dollars extra for Game and Fish wildlife management.

Those types of study programs went beyond the basic daily work of being in the field, but in the current budget it is expected that money will no longer go to the agency.

In essence, McKay said, the legislators will take back what they previously granted.

The biggest big-game hunting spenders are non-residents who may live in cities and have long dreamed of participating in hunts in a comparative outdoor paradise like Wyoming.

One way to raise more money would be to allow more non-residents to draw hunting tags.

However, that would not be sound scientific practice because deer and antelope populations have declined due to recent years of drought conditions.

“We are limited,” McKay said. “There are fewer licenses available at the same time non-resident applications to hunt in Wyoming continue to go up.”

Alan Osterland, Cody regional Game and Fish wildlife supervisor, said money gleaned from The Federal Wildlife Restoration Act of 1937, also known as the Pittman-Robertson Act, has been a big help in recent years.

The tax on gun and ammunition sales “has put a chunk of change in our coffers,” Osterland said.

However, Wyoming officials predict a decline of in-state gun sales with the change a Barrack Obama administration to a Donald Trump administration. That would produce a concurrent decline in tax money shared between the federal government and the states.

Osterland echoes Livingston and the big-game hunting report as it relates to Wyoming tourism.

“Oh, the outdoors is a huge part of it,” he said.

Livingston said Wyoming has it “pretty good” right now and would hate to see legislators tamper with rules that financially support Game and Fish.

Changes, Livingston said, could result in “significant, multi-million-dollar losses to Game and Fish. A lot of people don’t realize how much money licenses contribute, the amount of money piped in.”

(3) comments


Anyone who has ever spent time around outfitters and guides, especially those in the leadership of that narrow sector of the Wyoming workforce, quickly become aware of one character trait : they exaggerate a lot. ( You don't want to know what I think of gun dealers and gun " enthusiasts" ). Outfitters, guides , and Great White Hunters are tellers of tall tales. Their vocation , avocation , and ego depend on it. The currency of that realm is Bragging Rights.

So--- the Wyoming Outfitters and Guides association pays a firm to do a study for them. Right away you see the study will attempt to build to a conclusion favored by and promoted by the people funding it. Of course they will then take the results of " their" study and trumpet it. Blow it thru the Elk bugle . Brag about it. Take it to the Legislature and blow some more. They even had the audacity to title the study " Big Money ". Keep in mind this is a camp stew of self promotion , advertising , lobbying, hornswaggling, and tall tale telling intended to bolster their anachronistic lifestyle and old hat employment. It all runs in a big circle.

Except there are other studies, and Bigger Pictures. I just scanned three different reports on the economic impacts of outdoor recreation across America, and specifically in Wyoming, and as an aside some findings of what tourists who come to Wyoming want to experience first and foremost in the Yellowstone Park portion of their outdoor experience.

The Bigger Picture is Outdoor Recreation is a $ 4.5 - 5.5 BILLION dollar annual industry in Wyoming, depending on which study you use. Billion. Of that , $ 1.4 billion is wages and salaries from approximately 50,000 wage earners directly employed in all subsectors of outdoor recreation , before they even spend a dime of that in a store ,saloon , or other economic point of sale. And yes, somewhere near $ 300 million gets injected into the tax base of Wyoming directly7 from outdoor recreation each year. ALL the recreation.

Outdoor recreation is a LOT more than big game hunting. A lot more. Like 17 times as much money spent as the entirety of hunting , and it's subsector outfitting. And truth be told---no tall tale here ---- the Wyoming resident and the tourist to Wyoming spend way more money and time to see a big game animal alive just to view it and photograph it, that they spend to hunt and kill it ---whether they are doing it on their own or pay for a commercial outfitter service.

Or put another way : Wyoming's wildlife is worth far more alive that dead. Like 3- 5 times as much if you allow that 75 percent of the visitors to Yellowstone Park value seeing a wolf or grizzly as much or more as seeing Old Faithful go off. A case could be made that the Wildlife Watchers outspend the Hunters in Park County Wyoming annually , if you include the north half of Yellowstone that is in fact also within Park County . ( think Lamar Valley wolf watchers and those endless forests of tripod legs and camera lenses the size of artillery ) . There is more money spent shooting wolves , bears, bison , deer, moose, mountain goats, mountain sheep , and elk with Nikons and Canons than with Winchesters or Remingtons.

The entirety and summation of all the jobs in outfitting statewide is maybe 3200 people , and to a large extent they are seasonal jobs , parttime jobs, probably a second or third job for the wage earner , not yearround paychecks The same is true of other outdoor recreation job descriptions, but to a lesser extent. Outfitting and guiding overlap other economic sectors and cannot be considered as completely separated from the workforce at the end of the year , and tax time. And besides, in the 72 percent of Wyoming residents who do enjoy and spend money towards outdoor recreation in a year, only a very small fraction of them ever hire a guide or outfitter. They do it themselves. But a very sizeable percentage of the money spent on outdoor recreation in Wyoming is spent by residents.

There's one more point I'd like to make about outfitters and guided big game hunts. We have too many outfitters; too many camps. All competing with each other and diluting their own market . Who is the Outfitter and Guides Association worst enemy ? --- outfitters and guides , that's who.

There are Bigger Pictures and other studies of the economic churn of outdoor recreation in Wyoming, of which big game hunts are just a small fraction . We in Wyoming need to give the fullest consideration for all the other outdoor economy , not just the hook and bullet braggers. Can anyone refute that ONE ski area in Teton County outperforms the entirety of outfitting and guiding per annum ? We do not live in the 19th century any longer. Hunting is s-o-o-o-o 19th century... The future isn't what it used to be,

If you ever find yourself in Las Vegas or Reno for one of those big sportsmen's shows , and they are having a Liar's Contest or Tall Tale Telling Contest across town , place your bets with the Nevada bookie on the Wyoming outfitter or guide to splay out the best whopper.

stewart lands

In response to the suggestion that hunting adversely affects tourism, I would point out that neither of these activities subtracts from the other. Hunting has little if any impact on the quality of one's visit to Yellowstone or any ski park. In fact, wild fish and game are managed so that animal populations remain stable, with hunters and fishermen consuming only the excess animals in any population. Nature always breeds many more animals than habitat can support, and it does no harm to game and fish populations to consume the excess that will perish of disease or starvation if not consumed. Of course, the trick is to manage populations at a sustainable rate, and it is the money contributed by sportsmen primarily that enable wildlife managers to achieve this goal.

As for the assertion that hunting has become "so nineteenth century," this is a twenty-first century mindset that fails to acknowledge that wild fish and game, taken in a sustainable manner from undisturbed lands, remains by far our least destructive manner of acquiring food. To grow the protein provided by a single elk would require 1/8 of an acre of soy, and that is assuming the most efficient, genetically engineered plants and most intensive farming techniques. Shall we consider the relative impacts of a single elk removed from wild lands and the damage done by converting 1/8 acre of wild land over to agricultural mono-culture serving no species besides man? Does the loss of one elk (to be replaced by another of the very next generation) really compare unfavorably with the destruction of every single individual, of every major species, on the landscape converted to barren fields of beans, broccoli, or beets? It is for good reason that hunters and fishermen were acknowledged as the world's first conservationists, and this remains the case today, although many people have become so far removed from their own sources of food that they fail to recognize the great damage they inflict with each visit to the grocery store. In fact, it is agriculture, not hunting, that is the foremost cause of animal extinction, world-wide, as well as the single greatest source of greenhouse gases destined to alter our environment for millennia.

The Gunrunner

As a gun dealer here in Cody we supply lots of resident and non-resident hunters with all kinds of hunting needs and push hunting in Wyoming to all of our customers across the nation. Business is good! This survey has some great data (none of it surprises me), but we must not be pushing the Wyoming Game & Fish and the Wyoming legislators to issue more non-resident tags thereby cutting the amount of resident tags. With wolves and grizzlies way over-populated, the elk herds are down and the amount of tags has dwindled. If you doubt this, just try to draw a tag in the "hot" areas against Park boundaries. Guaranteed NO GO. You'll wait and wait year after year to get into the prime elk areas and years and years to draw sheep or moose tags. So to cut resident tags is a crime. We have lobbyists in Cheyenne to make sure this doesn't happen.

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