Bank bailouts, auto manufacturer bankruptcies, a home mortgage crisis, near trillion dollar economic stimulus packages, personal investments tanking, growing unemployment…it’s fair to say the news lately has been rather grim on the economic front. There’s little doubt a worldwide recession has serious consequences for each of our lives, but have you stopped to consider how economics can also influence the way we enjoy the outdoors?
Let’s start by taking a look back at fur prices. Going into last fall hunters and trappers were rather optimistic about the probability for a decent fur market. Just about the time the wild fur harvest season was getting underway was when the financial markets began to crash — and not just the American markets, either. In fact, the Russian ruble crashed in October 2008 to such a low point that by the time most raw fur inventories were to be finally sold at auction the prices already reflected an economy that had gone sour. Moreover, when Russia (the largest customer buying wild furs) stopped buying, the market experienced a hold-over situation on many pelts causing discount situations. Some experts suggest the fur market could take at least a year or two just to stabilize back to favorable pricing levels.
So, you’re probably thinking none of this really affects you as a pheasant, turkey or duck hunter, correct? Well, wrong! Both trappers and predator hunters can be a ground-nesting bird hunters’ best friend. Raccoons, coyotes, fox, skunk, and opossum can each take their toll on vulnerable nests or young discovered by these hungry, opportunistic predators, especially in the spring. While predator control is difficult to achieve on a wide-scale basis, there’s little disputing how hunting/trapping can positively influence game bird populations in specific areas. It’s entirely possible that the rooster busting into the sky this fall is there thanks to a predator being harvested the previous fall.
Now, keep in mind most predator hunters and trappers participate mostly for the challenge and the deep interest in their respective sports. While some participants may curtail altogether their activity during seasons with low fur prices, most others may only shorten their traplines or reduce how much traveling they do as a hunter just to cut back on expenses. Bottom line: in very real ways the down economy can indirectly impact what wild game you place in the freezer for the next few years to come.
ON A POSITIVE NOTE
It’s no big secret that certain segments of the sporting goods industry have been immune to this current bad economic climate. Take, for instance, gun and ammunition sales (I blogged about this topic previously). Some guns and certain calibers of ammunition are typically sold within hours of hitting the retail shelf, thanks to a buying frenzy that has lasted for nearly 8 months.
But stop for a moment to consider how this increased consumer buying activity could ultimately benefit wildlife and hunter education training programs? Since 1937, the Pittman-Robinson Act has placed a federal excise tax on the sale of all sporting arms and ammunition. The federal tax amounts to 11 percent on all long guns, ammunition and archery equipment with a 10 percent tax on the sale of handguns. This is critical tax dollars that ultimately goes back to the states for important wildlife restoration and hunter education projects.
During the fourth quarter of 2008 alone nearly $100 million dollars in P-R funds were collected by the federal government. Compare this to the same time period during 2007 and tax revenues are up over 30 percent. Bottom line: despite the down economy, the upswing in both gun and ammunition sales means more tax money is available for funding important conservation programs.
OK, I’ve illustrated two examples of how the current economy can play an important role in how many of us enjoy the outdoors. Can you think of any others? I’d like to hear your thoughts on the topic…so please, leave a comment below.
© 2009 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Prior Permission.
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