JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - Imagine filling up all of Missouri's professional sports arenas, Busch Stadium, Scott-Trade Center, Arrowhead Stadium, etc. Now imagine filling those venues three more times. That's the number of hunters and anglers who spent time in the outdoors in 2011 alone.
Many enjoy the sport from their own backyard, from a river down the road or even on a friend's land a few hours away.
No matter where nature takes them, there is a certain price to pay. Taking into consideration the cost of permits, fuel, guns, ammo, boats, fishing poles, bait, lures, bows and arrows, camouflage clothing, etc., at the end of the day, Missouri sportsmen and women spend a pretty penny, literally contributing billions to the state's economy.
On average, the 1.2 million Missouri hunters and anglers spent $2,407 a piece in 2011, the latest year with available statistics. That translates into more than $1.67 billion - that's billion with a "b." Spending by these sportsmen and women generated $181 million in state and local taxes in 2011, supporting 28,895 jobs.
Missouri ranks number 12 on a national scale in number of hunters and anglers, attracting residents and out-of-staters to the many lakes, rivers, timbers and prairie lands. Hunting and fishing permits range in price from $3.50 (for youths) to $19 for residents, and are required for most activities.
According to the Missouri Department of Conservation, residents spent a total of $20.3 million on hunting and fishing permits in 2011. That amount excludes the 655,559 landowners who have no-cost privileges. The 300,228 nonresidents purchased tags and permits, dumping an extra $11.3 million into Missouri's economy, with permits costing up to $225 for big game. Permit sales for FY2012 have already exceeded FY2011, with four months of hunting and fishing to go.
Those numbers seem to match the national trend, according to data released earlier this month by the Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation. In the past five years, the number of hunters and anglers has risen by 9 percent.
"Many people may not fully comprehend how important hunting and fishing are to the fabric of this country. Yet nationally, there are more people who hunt or fish than go bowling, and their spending would land them at No. 24 on the Fortune 500 list," commented Jeff Crane, president of the Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation. Nationally, sportsmen and women spent $90 billion in 2011.
Roger and Margie Haslag, owners of Missouri Valley Mercantile, see the direct result of hunting and fishing at their two Cole County store locations on Missouri Boulevard and Marina Road off Highway 50 near the Osage River.
"We see a lot of repeat customers and new customers," Roger noted. "They'll find something to buy throughout the whole year, be it hunting or fishing."
The family-owned business sees hunters and anglers all year long, seeking equipment and supplies for every season. The local business sees nonresident hunters, often coming in with friends who have been to the location before. With a special archery department, complete with 10-foot range, the store attracts bow hunters and bow fisherman, capturing multiple seasons.
"It's something we have to watch because we sell down pretty quickly," Roger said of the bow fishing products. Although the Missouri Valley Mercantile doesn't sell guns or ammo, the store sees plenty of business with its other hunting and fishing supplies, as well as Carhartt clothing and gear, and gift items.
When looking at the price tag for hunting and fishing, for some, the costs are quickly outweighed by the love of the sport.
Holts Summit resident Brad Dampf is one such individual. An avid hunter and fisher, the Helias graduate said he averages two to three days a week in the woods or on the water. Dampf hunts turkeys, deer, ducks, geese and more. He likes to fish for bass and crappie, and has been an active outdoorsmen since he was just a young boy.
Brad's father, Bill, of Arnold, taught his two sons, Brad and Nathan, how to hunt and fish. The three recently ventured on an annual hunting trip last week.
"For the past seven years, we've come down to a local guide here in Poplar Bluff," Brad said.
The sportsmen said he does his fare share of spending money on new equipment and doesn't mind the price of permits.
"The cost of tags aren't really that bad, but gas money is where it (expenses) comes into play," Dampf explained.
Dampf did go on a hunting trip to North Dakota last year, but has hunted in Missouri most of his life. He also prefers to shop locally, buying most of his fishing stuff at Mertens Live Bait and Tackle near Apache Flats.
A boat owner and fisherman, Dampf says he spends a lot on lures and bait. He is also trying to purchase a new gun each year, and recently purchased a new hunting rifle.
Jason Snellen and his three sons - Blake, 12, Jake, 10, and Brock, 6 - are well above the average mark when it comes to spending time outdoors. The young men try to get outside every day.
Living just outside of Elston on seven acres of land, the Snellen family is able to shoot squirrels right off their back deck. They recently completed a new "club house" that doubles as a great tree stand in the woodlands surrounding their house. The family also hunts and fishes on friends' property in California and loves private lakes.
Jason grew up hunting and fishing, and wanted to instill the same love of the outdoors in his boys.
"In a world that is all technology all the time, we don't take time to do things with our kids," he noted. "It is very important that my boys learn this. It is time we can spend together."
Hunting deer, squirrel, rabbit, quail, pheasants, raccoons, gigging for frogs and fishing for anything they can catch, the Snellens have weighed the cost of hunting and fishing. Since the boys are still youth hunters, the permits are cheaper. However, they each have several complete ensembles of camouflage and boots. The boys even saved up enough to buy their own gun this year, splitting the cost amongst themselves.
"The most expensive is the gun. But if you take care of it, it will last," Blake noted.
Their grandparents often pay for chores in hunting ammo, supporting the boys' hobby.
Jake said he enjoys fishing the most. He takes every bit of money he gets and spends it on kits to make his own lures.
Just getting into the hang of things, Brock joked that his favorite thing to "hunt" is the zombies on his video game. He comes alongside the older boys and is learning all the way. Although the family spends money on hunting and fishing, they consider a full freezer enough of a return. The rule of the house is, "If you kill it, you eat it." Mom of the house Tara doesn't mind cooking the eclectic array of meats, and appreciates the lower grocery bills. The only thing she doesn't like, said the boys, is all the laundry.