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  • Steve Sorensen

Is Deer Hunting an Industry?

The following column appeared in the Jamestown Gazette (January 3, 2022) and the Forest Press (January 5, 2022).



At the close of deer season, the cabin fever season begins. We gather around the wood stove and begin the debates. One guy refers to hunting as an industry. Another takes exception. He calls it a lifestyle, a passion. Industry? Or passion? The argument gets hotter than the wood stove.


We’ve chased deer for three months with every weapon at our disposal – bows, crossbows, rifles, shotguns and muzzleloaders. We’ve worn boots to support our feet, underwear that wicks moisture away from our skin, and high tech fabrics and insulations to keep ourselves warm, dry, comfortable and safe.


We’ve purchased ammunition and arrows for effective terminal ballistics. Businesses exist to manufacture and test these things so they kill quickly and efficiently. We’ve bought telescopic sights that cost as much as the guns we fasten them to. Binoculars too. We use treestands designed for stealth and safety. We carry dependable artificial light because we’ll need to see what we’re doing after dark. Every hunter has knives and the tools to sharpen them.


We use mapping apps on our smartphones to mark every location of interest and to track ourselves so we don’t get lost. We put cameras in the woods so we can photograph deer while we sleep. We have vehicles we depend on for hunting, and for some hunters that goes beyond the four-wheel drive truck to ATVs and silent electric bicycles. In the off-season we watch videos, subscribe to magazines, and read books in an effort to become better hunters.


We do all that and more, and much of this equipment evolves and improves from year to year, getting safer, more efficient, more durable. In a word, better. Then we buy the better stuff.


No, none of us use every piece of gear, but every piece of gear is used by many, and it adds up to an industry. That word accurately describes the big picture, the macro view, the economic angle to hunting. Every piece of gear is an investment, and over the years we spend a lot of money.


If you don’t think hunting is an industry, attend one of the sportsman’s shows scheduled for this winter. Your head will spin, looking at all the equipment deer hunters are eager to buy. If you don’t think hunting is an industry, leaf through a copy of Deer and Deer Hunting magazine. Search the Internet. Try to count the number of businesses that buy advertising so they can capitalize on the passion of hunters, and help you kill a good buck.


Roughly 80% of all hunters hunt deer. No disrespect to duck hunters, turkey hunters, small game hunters, or any other hunting enthusiasts, but all of them combined don’t ante up the dollars deer hunting produces.


Hunters’ dollars create and support countless jobs. Without deer hunters many sporting goods stores would go out of business. Real estate values would plummet in camp country. Motels would rent fewer rooms and restaurants would sell fewer meals. Taxidermists and gunsmiths would go belly-up. Those are just a few of the ancillary businesses the deer hunting industry creates and supports. It’s an industry full of creative, innovative, enthusiastic entrepreneurs always looking to improve something.


In broad outline, that describes hunting as an economic activity. It amounts to billions of dollars spent by hunters in hard pursuit. Their aim is mostly deer, and mostly whitetails. If that’s not an industry, then what is? If people looked at it superficially, they’d think there’s an industry bent on exterminating whitetail deer, yet deer thrive as the industry grows.


Make no mistake. Deer hunting IS an industry, but it’s NOT ONLY an industry. It is a lifestyle and a passion too. But it’s still also an industry. Deer hunting is an industry because it’s a passion, and when the lifestyle and the passion die, the industry will die.


That’s the way it is with every lifestyle, every passion. An industry rises up to serve it. When the passion dies, the industry dies. So preserve the passion, and don’t sneer at the word industry.


To access more of my writing on hunting topics, go to the home page of my blog, Mission: Hunter.