Global Hunting Industry Reflects Economy
Author: Ed Stoddard
DALLAS - If you can spare the $40,000 or more needed to go to Africa to shoot an elephant, then chances are you are in a recession-proof income bracket.
If you enjoy you hunting and fishing but have a tighter budget, or have not been immune to the tough economic times, then you may be scaling back on some of your regular trips.
That is the picture that emerged from the annual convention of the Dallas Safari Club during the weekend, which featured more than 1,000 exhibitors from around the world.
It is not your run-of-the-mill convention, with big guns on display as well as a menagerie of stuffed animal trophies including massive brown bears, rhinos and elephant heads. Some of the exhibitors were clad in camouflage or bright hunter's orange.
"The Big 5 stuff is selling," said Darren Baker of Coenraad Vermaak Safaris, referring to the fabled "Big 5" game mammals of Africa: elephant, rhino, buffalo, lion and leopard.
"But the cheaper hunts for plains game antelope are not doing as well," said Baker, whose South African-based operation takes clients on hunting safaris to places like Botswana, Tanzania and Zimbabwe.
He said the average price for an elephant hunt was about $40,000 but they can cost much more.
Joe Klutsch, whose Katmai Guide Service offers hunting and angling excursions to Alaska, noted a similar trend.
"The high-end stuff is holding up and doing fine," he said, referring to moose or brown bear hunts. The latter he said can cost up to $25,000. But he said demand for cheaper hunts and sport fishing services were down.
He also said that because of the economic uncertainty, clients were far more reluctant than they have been in the past to sign up for trips one or two years down the line.
"People are writing checks for 2010 but unlike in the past people are not booking two years out. People are tentative because they don't know what the economy is going to do, they are uncertain," he said.
The economics of travel is also making some sportsmen who used to venture further afield stick closer to home.
Danny McGuire, who is in the restaurant business, was checking the displays but said he and many of his friends were scaling back on overseas trips in favor of hunting and fishing opportunities nearby.
"I'm still hunting and fishing but won't go to Argentina for a bird hunt now, I'll go to south Texas ... everyone here is looking for a deal," he said as he browsed the stalls.
One sector that seems to be benefiting from this state of affairs in Texas is the exotic game industry, which a 2007 study by Texas AgriLife Extension Service, which is linked to Texas A&M University, estimated to be worth $1.3 billion.
The study also found it to be the fastest growing sector of the state's farming industry.
The industry essentially revolves around the farming of exotic game such as kudu antelope from Africa which are then hunted on ranch properties.
"I think the exotic game industry is benefiting in Texas because of reduced international travel," said Robert Gegenheimer, who has an exotic hunting operation near Dallas.
Other outfitters said they found that local Texans were passing on pheasant hunts in places like Kansas and South Dakota -- which are seen as prime places for the sport -- in favor of similar hunts in Texas.
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