A white-tailed buck silhouetted against a sunset. Dreamstime/Tribune News Service

Motivations for hunting are numerous and varied, but among the top is food. Discussions about the economic efficiency of pursuing pure protein often lead to the conclusion that it’s an expensive way to fill the freezer. However, the hunter gains more than meat from the cost of a hunting license and a few days spent afield.

A resident big game hunting license costs $26. That’s roughly the same price as a meal at a decent restaurant, a couple movie tickets, eight gallons of gas or two months of HBO. For that you get the privilege of enjoying a year’s worth of hunting opportunity. Newcomers have the added expense of equipment, which can be substantial. Amortized over a lifetime of hunting, it turns out to be a pretty good investment.

One must also consider that purchasing a hunting license is not an entirely selfish act. License fees cover much of the cost of running your state wildlife agency. That includes things like salaries for biologists, administrators and enforcement personnel. It pays for the telemetry collars biologists put on deer, bear and moose; the snowshoes they wear to visit deer yards each winter; rocket nets, bands and boxes used to trap and transfer turkeys. It pays for staff time to hold public meetings where citizens provide input on wildlife management, and a litany of other expenses, not the least of which is research and management of non-game species. Everyone benefits.

Hunters have a tremendous economic impact. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, last conducted in 2016, big-game hunting alone accounted for nearly $15 billion in expenditures for trips and equipment, nationwide. According to a 2013 study, all forms of hunting contribute over $230 million to Maine’s economy annually, likely a lot more now. In real terms, that includes everything from guns and ammo to guides and lodging fees to gas at the local convenience store, all important components where outdoor recreation is a chief component of the state’s economy.

If your hunt is successful, you bring home pure protein, with no preservatives or additives. Venison has one-third the fat of grass-fed beef, and only a third of that is saturated fat. It has a quarter of the cholesterol but more iron. It’s a great source of complete protein – containing all 10 essential amino acids – and of B vitamins.

There’s also a sense of personal satisfaction in obtaining your own meat. The locavore movement is a relatively recent trend where more folks are growing, gathering and harvesting their own food. It seems the rest of the world is catching on to what hunters figured out long ago. In addition to the gratification of getting your own grub, you also know where it came from. If you process your own, you have complete control over quality and handling. It’s also a great source of exercise.

Discussions about the actual cost of procuring venison often lead to conclusions that it’s a rather expensive undertaking. However, there is some evidence to the contrary. Several cost analyses found that venison is between 50 and 78 percent cheaper than the average cost of beef, with venison coming in at between $0.95 and $2.99 per pound. That’s taking into account initial as well as recurring purchases for things like guns, ammo, licenses and processing.

All things considered, the greatest benefit may be the intangibles. For many, hunting offers a reason to go afield where they otherwise may not. Even when game is not procured they bring something home: knowledge, experience and memories. Another motivation for hunting is camaraderie, and sharing the experience and the prize that much more rewarding and valuable.

Bob Humphrey is a freelance writer and Registered Maine Guide who lives in Pownal. He can be reached at: [email protected]

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