Richmond, Virginia – Recent economic downturns have many people thinking about how to simplify their lives, how to stretch their dollars, put food on the table, let go of stress, and still somehow give to others. Reports on obesity, concerns about what food quality and the footprint we are leaving on the planet, has people wondering what to do. An activity that addresses all that and more is hunting.
In the Commonwealth of Virginia, hundreds of thousands of sportsmen and women are gearing up for the hunting season. Many are already afield archery hunting. The general firearms season for deer opens on November 15. What benefits do all those hunters enjoy and what benefits do we all get from their activity? What benefits can you expect when you take up the tradition of hunting?
TOP 5 BENEFITS OF HUNTING
1. Boost the Economy
Affordable for the Hunter- One deer can yield approximately 50 pounds of nutritious venison. Virginia’s abundant wildlife provides opportunities for hunters to dine on venison, duck, goose, rabbit, turkey and more – the ultimate in organic, free-range food. For a small fee of $18, a Virginia resident can purchase a Hunting License good for one year from the day of purchase (or the ultimate investment, purchase a lifetime license with the cost depending on the age of the purchaser). This allows the individual to hunt a variety of small game such as rabbits and squirrels. For another $18, that resident can purchase a Bear, Deer and Turkey License, good from July 1 through June 30, and good for cutting the food bill.
Putting dollars into Virginia’s Economy – Each year in Virginia, hunters spend more than $480 million in trip-related and equipment expenditures, according to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service 2006 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation. It is estimated that hunting and fishing generate $128 million in state and local taxes and directly support more than 24,000 jobs in the Commonwealth. Hunters contribute to the Virginia economy in the form of food, lodging, gasoline, dog food, kennel supplies, veterinarian care for hunting dogs, and equipment purchases. Hunting attracts visitors from out-of-state eager to experience the great hunting the Old Dominion has to offer and those visitors spend a lot of money here in that pursuit.
2) Contribute to Conservation
Hunters are proud of their conservation heritage – More than 50 years ago, the Pittman-Robertson Act designated federal funding for wildlife conservation by establishing a special excise tax on firearms and ammunition, and hunters were all for it. By purchasing hunting licenses and paying special taxes on equipment, hunters have largely funded wildlife conservation in North America. Hunters are acutely aware that their dollars fund wildlife conservation in Virginia and they pride themselves on supporting valuable habitat and population management work. Contributions to and membership in sportsmen’s groups like Ducks Unlimited, Quail Unlimited, the National Wild Turkey Federation, and others provide hunters another opportunity to support states’ wildlife management efforts.
We all gain from conserved land – Hunting license dollars contributed significantly to funding the acquisition of thousands of acres of land for hunting and habitat. Over the years, the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries has acquired more than 200,000 acres of land available to the public for hunting, fishing, wildlife watching, hiking and other recreation. The Department manages habitat on its property not only to support game species such as bear, deer, turkey, rabbits, and waterfowl, but also to support a variety of non-game species such as eagles, songbirds, butterflies, snakes, and turtles that benefit from the same habitat improvements. Ultimately, conservation of land due to hunting license dollars is protecting precious habitat and watersheds and giving everyone a cleaner environment.
3) Wildlife Population Management
Abundant population equals ample opportunity – Hunting is an important wildlife management tool. This time of year in Virginia the deer population is up around one million animals. Hunters harvest about 250,000 each year, but deer are a renewable resource and the population rebounds. Hunters enjoy liberal seasons and abundant game here in the Commonwealth: archery, muzzleloader, general firearms seasons, fall turkey hunting, waterfowl hunting, hound hunting, mounted fox hunting, special late seasons and urban programs. There’s good hunting in Virginia!
When deer are not dear – Farmers, landowners, drivers, and outdoor recreationists all benefit from hunters harvesting the white-tailed deer population in Virginia. Hunting reduces pressure on crops, protects expensive landscaping, cuts down on deer in the roadways, and prevents deer overgrazing an area and destroying habitat needed by other wildlife such as songbirds. Hunters help maintain that balance for Virginians.
4) Healthy Minds, Spirits and Bodies
Hunters get huge rewards from time spent in the outdoors – Spending a day afield, whether still hunting alone or following a pack of hounds in pursuit of their quarry, releases hunters from their day-to-day stress. Being outdoors and active builds strength and improves your overall health. Nothing clears the mind and brings on a better sense of feeling alive and part of the environment than a day in the woods. Hunting builds self-esteem as you gain outdoor skills and the satisfaction of being able to participate in the age-old need to pursue and to provide food.
Anyone can learn — The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries offers outdoor skills training for beginners to learn safe firearms handling, game identification, hunting techniques and more. The Department also offers special hunts designed for youth, women, and people with disabilities. The Apprentice Hunting License allows someone who has never had a hunting license before to “test drive” hunting. The apprentice license holder can go afield with a licensed hunter age 18 or older immediately upon purchasing their license and has up to two years to complete the Hunter Education requirement. To learn more about hunting licenses, license requirements, seasons, game species, etc., visit www.HuntFishVA.com or call 1-866-721-6911 (Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.).
5) Sharing the Bounty
A tradition of stewardship – Hunting is a tradition that is often passed on from one generation to the next creating a special bond between family members and friends. Many hunters enjoy mentoring others in the pleasure of and importance of being good stewards of our natural resources. For most hunters it’s not the killing of game that’s key to hunting, but the experiences and life lessons they gain. People who hunt have a special connection with the outdoors and an awareness of the relationships between wildlife, habitat, and humans. With that awareness comes an understanding of the role humans play in being caretakers of the environment.
Helping others by putting food on their tables – Food banks need donations now more than ever. Hunters are providing much needed protein to Virginia’s needy families by donating a deer or a portion of it to Hunters for the Hungry (www.h4hungry.org). Last hunting season, more than 363,000 pounds of venison was distributed in the Commonwealth through this program. Since Hunters for the Hungry was founded in 1991, more than 3.5 million pounds, equal to 13.5 million servings, of venison have been distributed in Virginia. In tough times, hunters continue to share the wealth of their harvest. Hunters can also contribute by donating $2 to Hunters for the Hungry when they purchase their hunting licenses. The non-hunting public can donate money to Hunters for the Hungry to off-set the cost of processing that donated meat.