Wisconsin initiative highlights hunting and the economy

Mark LaBarbera annnounces the Hunting Works for Wisconsin initiative at a Green Bay Fleet Farm store

GREEN BAY - Many of us know hunting is big business in Wisconsin. But how big is big?

A new group called Hunting Works for Wisconsin says it will work to make sure everyone will be able to answer that question.

Hunting Works for Wisconsin co-chairman Mark LaBarbera says the new group will work to promote the economic impact of hunting.

"We're going to make it easier for sportsmen to be ambassadors for their sport, and for local businesses and communities to understand the economic impact," said LaBarbera.

The statewide effort kicked off Thursday in Green Bay.

Here are the facts.

Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation statistics indicate almost 900,000 hunters in Wisconsin spend $2.6 billion each year. That breaks down to about $2,800 per hunter.

"People buy everything from hunting snacks, are huge. All the way up to ammunition, the hunting gear," said Scott Paul, Fleet Farm store manager.

Mill's Fleet Farm is one of 73 partners promoting the plan.

"We are going to continue to put up signs, and help out and participate and spread the word. I will be working with our corporate office in more initiatives," said Paul.

From restaurants, to bars, hunting seasons is big business. Many gas station owners say it's their biggest time of the year.

"Roughly $358 million of that is spent on travel-related expenses. A lot of those dollars spent directly at our members stores," said Doug Parrott, Wisconsin Petroleum Marketers & Convenience Store Association.

The Department of Natural Resources says the effort could be used to recruit new hunters.
"We want people to be aware there's opportunity for them to be able to go out and hunt, and what a great tradition it is," said Scott Gunderson, DNR assistant deputy secretary.

The group's website is up and running as well. Hunting Works for Wisconsin leaders say the rest is up to the public.

"It's there, it's just a matter now of communicating that and making sure that word gets out in an easy to understand fashion," said LaBarbera.

Wisconsin is the eighth state to have a Hunting Works initiative. Those initiatives are sponsored by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, a trade association for the firearms industry.