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Great outdoors is big business
Hunting, fishing is billion-dollar industry in Peach State
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By the numbers

• $22 million: Sales per year of hunting and fishing licenses in Georgia

• $1.13 billion: Retail sales for fresh- and salt-water fishing in 2006 in Georgia

• $2 billion: Total economic impact of fishing in Georgia

Sources: Georgia Wildlife Resources Division; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Census Bureau

Hunting, fishing and boating are endless sources of fun for those who participate.

Outdoor sports also are part of a billion-dollar industry for the Peach State, according to Michael Spencer of Georgia Wildlife Resources Division’s license and boat registration unit.

“(Georgia) get(s) about $22 million a year from the sale of hunting and fishing licenses alone,” Spencer said, explaining the money generated from licenses was a fraction of the economic impact of the outdoor recreation industry. “When you consider the retail sale of hunting, fishing and boating equipment, ammunition, gas spent driving to and from hunting areas, lakes or rivers, then (lodging) costs and airline tickets — you’re talking about billions of dollars a year. And don’t forget about the jobs that support hunting, fishing and boating and the tax revenues generated from all these activities.”

According to fact sheets provided by Spencer, Georgia sold 997,651 resident and nonresident hunting licenses and 1,107,000 resident and nonresident fishing licenses in 2011. These numbers illustrate the popularity of wildlife-related recreation in Georgia, he said.

Excluding hunting-related sales, retail sales for fresh- and salt-water fishing netted $1,132,855,393 in 2006 with a total economic impact of nearly $2 billion for Georgia, according to a study conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

“(We must) realize that the economic impact from hunting and fishing goes well beyond the value of license sales,” Spencer said. “Statistically, Georgia is the No. 1 destination for out-of-state deer hunters. We’re also in the top 10 for boating and fishing.”

Spenser said the big-item costs, such as for guns and boats, might be described in business terms as “sunk” costs, as those are part of the expected initial investment in outdoor sports.

Each year, however, hunters buy ammunition and other hunting-related gear, and fishermen buy lots of live and artificial bait as well as boat-launch fees or fishing-related necessities. Outdoorsmen continue to invest in their sport, and those investments impact the state’s economy in a big way, Spencer said.

The Census Bureau survey noted that 12.5 million Americans bought hunting licenses in 2006. That figure can be misleading, though, because many hunters buy a variety of hunting licenses — small game, big game, combination, wildlife management-area permits, waterfowl, etc. Spencer said his staff has determined that Georgia has 350,000 resident hunters.

South Carolina has 160,000 resident hunters, North Carolina has more than 280,000 resident hunters and Florida has about 215,000 resident hunters. Florida leads the Southeast with 1.88 million resident anglers. Georgia has 971,000 resident anglers, South Carolina has 527,000 resident anglers and North Carolina has 866,000 anglers.

License fees are used to manage the state’s game resources, but overall hunting, fishing and boating activities conducted by resident and nonresident sportsmen have a major economic impact on the entire state.

For more information about the economic impact of hunting, fishing and other wildlife-related recreation, go to For information about hunting and fishing opportunities and license information, go to

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