Few traditions in Mississippi are as rich as hunting and fishing. Over the past century, the two have morphed from a means of subsistence to more of recreation, contributing to the quality of life for as many as 650,000 participants, the surveys show.
Think college football is big? Consider this: If Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Southern Miss, Jackson State and all the state's four-year colleges played home games in front of average crowds on Nov. 17, which is the opening Saturday of the gun season on deer this fall, the sum total of attendance would be significantly less than the number of people who will be deer hunting.
Throw in fishermen and small game hunters and football attendance would be less than half who'll be enjoying outdoor pursuits that one day.
And you'd better believe that sportsmen and sportswomen don't limit their recreation to Saturdays in the fall. Once deer season opens, they go every chance they get, and fishermen enjoy a year-round season. The impact on the state's economy is tremendous.
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service conducts a survey every five years, which, among other things, tracks expenditures on all wildlife- and fish-related recreation. In 2006, the last survey available, hunters spent $540 million, fishermen $240 million and an additional $176 million was spent on wildlife watching.
Let me do the math for you — that's a total of $956 million a year. Tax that at 7 percent, and you'll find that Mississippi's general fund receives no less than $67 million annually from sportsmen and sportswomen.
Most of that is pure profit since no general fund money is used to fund wildlife and fishing programs. Outdoorsmen pay their own way, a badge they carry with pride.
Don't be surprised to see Mississippi's total expenditures bust the billion dollar mark when the 2011 survey is released this fall.
Changing demographics may have reduced the number of sportsmen over the past 20 years, but not so much in Mississippi as nationwide. License sales actually increased in the 2012 fiscal year in the Magnolia State.
Outdoor fun is a way of life here. It is big business. It is a tradition, bordering on a religion. But more than anything else, they are plain ol' good fun.
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