Illinois draws about 512,000 hunters every year. Now, a group is promoting how that number affects the state's economy.
The group, called "Hunting Works for Illinois," said the money that hunters spend on equipment, travel, food and lodging creates a "ripple effect" by adding jobs and maintaining local economies.
The group comprises business associations that want to let others know about such benefits. Among them are the Illinois Manufacturers Association, the Illinois Petroleum Marketers Association, the BNSF Railway, and several convention-and-visitor bureaus from across the state. They say hunting supports more than 18,000 jobs in the state.
Brittany Henry, executive director for the Jacksonville Area Convention and Visitors Bureau west of Springfield, said several hotel packages are meant to attract hunters into the area by offering special discounts and added perks. But she said hunting affects more than just Jacksonville's tourism.
"Did you know that hunters pay special taxes on their equipment?" she asked. "Hunters fund public conservation efforts through a special tax called Pittman-Robertson. Hunters are glad to pay these taxes that benefit the outdoors for everyone."
According to the group, hunting also affects the railroad industry.
"Probably half of our business is bringing in consumer goods, much of which comes from the west coast," said Peter Skosey, executive director for state government affairs at BNSF Railway. It operates one of the largest freight railroad networks in North America.
Soskey says he joined the initiative because hunting merchandise often travels by freight train. When such goods arrive in Illinois, he said, they go to distribution centers that send them to stores where people buy hunting gear.
This hunting promotion initiative exists in fifteen other states, including Missouri, Wisconsin and Michigan.