Hunting brings big bucks

Published 8:16 am Wednesday, January 7, 2009

A national recession didn’t stop hunters this season from heading into the woods, according to several local businesses that cater to the sport.

“Business has been pretty steady,” said Richard Harris, owner of Firearm Sales Co. in Ivor.

Edward McKellar, owner of Leatherwood Taxidermy, does custom taxidermy work. McKellar said he has taken in close to 30 deer this season and his business has increased by at least 40 percent.

“I definitely see an increase,” he said. “The volume of my work comes during (deer) hunting season. It keeps me busy.”

Dail’s Home Center on Armory Drive Sells ammunition, archery supplies, hunting clothing and dog food that hunters buy for their hounds.

“That was a department that, strangely enough, wasn’t affected by the economy,” Steve Dail, store manager, said. “We had an increase this year — a 10 percent increase from last year.”

Dail said that sportsmen may have even hunted more this season because of the economy.

“People were looking for a little outlet,” he said.

He said the hunting likely gave other local businesses a boost as well.

“These hunters are in Southampton County patronizing our restaurants, staying in our hotels,” he said. “It does put a lot of money in the local economy.”

Each year in Virginia, hunters spend more than $480 million in trip-related and equipment expenditures, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2006 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation.

The survey estimated that hunting and fishing generate $128 million in state and local taxes and directly support more than 24,000 jobs in the Commonwealth. Hunters contribute to the Virginia economy in the form of food, lodging, gasoline, dog food, kennel supplies, veterinarian care for hunting dogs and equipment purchases.

Mark Pope, who runs Southampton Outfitters hunting lodge in Drewryville, says he’s glad the season is over.

“It’s a lot of hard work for me because people come from all over and I have to accommodate all their needs,” Pope said.

Pope said this year around 80 hunters visited the lodge, with the farthest hunter traveling from Washington state. The largest deer killed this year came in at 160 class and 13 points.

Pope speculated that most of this year’s business came from regional hunters. “I’d say I saw about a 10 to 15 percent increase in my business. A lot of people that would have gone out to the Midwest stayed closer to home on the East Coast because of high gas prices.”

The visiting hunters “were really disappointed about leaving,” Pope said.

While the hunters may be gone, Pope is already preparing for next year’s season. “I’m already working on a couple of shows, and then there are crops to be planted. There is definitely plenty to do.”