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Frye: Group touting hunting's value

| Saturday, Feb. 8, 2014, 9:10 p.m.

Some people already know hunters spend a lot of money in Pennsylvania.

Their spouses, for example. You can only hide that ever-growing pile of gadgets for only so long.

But not everyone's in the loop.

The people behind the effort known as Hunting Works for Pennsylvania have spent the past year trying to change that. They've been organizing businesses into a coalition aimed at carrying the message of hunting's economic importance to the general populace and decision makers in government.

Hunters spend about $986 million in Pennsylvania each year, generating $257 million in federal, state and local taxes, according to the U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance, a lobby group. The total impact on the state economy is $1.6 billion a year, it adds.

The guys and gals who head into the woods in orange and camo see that, said Rob Sexton, the alliance's senior vice president.

“Our message really is to the rest of the folks out there,” Sexton said. “Hunting supports 15,000 jobs in Pennsylvania, so whether you hunt or not, hunting is important for everyone.”

Hunters' money winds up in lots of places, he added. They buy gear at home, gas and groceries on the way to camp, and stay and eat at places in between.

“For those who think hunting is largely a Clearfield County thing, there's a lot of money spent in cities, too,” Sexton said.

For a long while, that hunting economy was taken for granted, said John Kline of Kline Associates, a Harrisburg-based lobbying firm. But hunting has come under attack from politically driven antihunting organizations, he said.

“Businesses are recognizing that,” Kline said.

The Hunting Works coalition is a response meant to give businesses their first collective “voice for policy decisions,” he said.

To date, the coalition has signed on 125 businesses — from hotels and restaurants to gas stations and tourism organizations such as the Greater Pittsburgh Hotel Association — across 44 counties, Kline said. Member businesses get signs they can display touting them as being hunter-friendly.

It's too early to say whether that's helped them, Sexton said. The program is still new, with just one hunting season having occurred since its launch.

“But we're building,” he said. “The more we can spread the word, the better and faster this will grow.”

Bob Frye is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at bfrye@tribweb.com or via Twitter @bobfryeoutdoors.

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