Hunting is Conservation. Here’s Why.

December 2, 2020 By: Ben Westfall

Money spent on hunting gear like firearms and hunting blinds helps fund conservation through a federal excise tax.

I remember being told in school, “You won’t always have a calculator in your pocket” whenever we would complain about having to work math problems out on paper. Not only do we always have a calculator in our pocket these days, but we have much more than that at our fingertips in this technologically driven world. Granted, I am barely old enough to remember a time before the internet, but even at a young age I loved looking up random facts in my grandparents’ old worn-out encyclopedias. Through my education, and now my career, I still love researching and learning new things, so I was stoked when asked to help out with the research phase of an exciting project that the National Deer Association (NDA) is a part of.

In addition to my usual duties as an NDA Deer Outreach Specialist in southwest Alabama, I was given the opportunity to research and compile data about the importance of deer hunters in the southeastern United States as part of a new collaboration called the Southeast Deer Partnership. When it comes to fun deer facts, I tend to be a bit of a nerd, so here are a few intriguing tidbits of information that you can use to show off at deer camp that demonstrate the role hunters play in conservation. Amazingly, the following numbers only represent one region and only 15 states in a nation covered in deer and deer hunters!

$201.5 million!

It is no surprise that gearing up for deer season can get expensive, and I know I am not the only one who has fudged the truth when asked how much I spent at Bass Pro Shops. But as a result of our desire to fill our hunting pack with the latest and greatest, the federal government has kicked back over $200 million in conservation funding to the 15 states that encompass the Southeast region through the Pittman-Robertson Act, and that’s just in 2020 alone. This money is given back to state wildlife agencies for the purpose of hunter education, habitat management and wildlife research. Be sure to have this fact ready the next time you have to explain your Bass Pro Shops or Cabela’s receipt!

Nearly 169,000 jobs

Growing up I knew I wanted to pursue a career in wildlife, and in college I quickly learned about the competitive nature of this industry. I had seen many friends and classmates grow frustrated with the lack of job openings in our field. In grad school, I gave a presentation on conservation careers and was shocked by how many students were unaware of the additional opportunities outside of the government. Between governmental agencies, non-governmental organizations like NDA and private companies, there are nearly 169,000 jobs in the Southeast supported specifically by deer hunting. If you are planning on pursuing a career in conservation, don’t be discouraged, as there’s a multitude of avenues you can take to land that dream job. 

Over $84 million on deer food?

Before moving to Alabama, I worked as the biologist on a privately owned QDM property in Missouri. Having experience with purchasing food plot seed in bulk, I am fully aware that managing land for deer hunting is not the cheapest hobby in the world. But when I found out deer hunters in the Southeast spent almost $85 million on hunting-related plantings in 2016, you could have knocked me over with a turkey feather. Kudos to us deer hunters because not only do food plots help grow big bucks and offer the opportunity to harvest deer, they also provide high-quality nutrition and cover to hundreds of other critters, and we sure are planting a bunch of them! 

Our members and supporters are the crucial piece of the puzzle that allow NDA to partner with other agencies and organizations to ensure the future of deer hunting and the benefits that hunters provide to conservation efforts. Hunting is conservation, and with your help we can continue to improve the habitat, recruit and educate hunters, and fund conservation projects that allow us to enjoy our favorite pastime for generations to come.

About Ben Westfall:

Ben Westfall is NDA's Conservation Coordinator. Ben received both his bachelor of science and master of science degrees from Southeast Missouri State University with an emphasis on wildlife conservation.