Over the past ten years two things have remained constant with elk hunters, according to the most recent survey of elk hunters published by Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks-they hunt for the love of the outdoors and they continue to provide a significant economic boost to local Montana economies. The survey was conducted beginning in 1998 to find out if elk hunters had changed in the decade following the last survey in 1988.
"Hunting remains a sanctuary from the everyday grind of work, meetings, customers, and phones-it is the last bastion of 'getting away from it all,'" said Rob Brooks, FWP's responsive management unit coordinator. "And, 61 percent of hunters say their hunting trips were worth more than they actually spent." Brooks said the contribution hunting makes to the Montana economy appears to be stable with the potential to grow.
From Jordan to Libby, local economies benefit from hunters' dollars through sales including food, lodging, supplies, transportation and guide fees. The FWP survey of elk hunters shows the average resident hunter travels 104 miles and spends about $142 per hunting trip. The average non-resident hunter travels 1,224 miles and spends $1,659 per hunting trip. Nonresident, guided hunters spend on average $3,825 per trip, according to those surveyed. As expected, hunters spend more per trip now than they did 10 years ago, with nonresidents spending about $260 more per trip and residents spending about $60 more per hunting trip.
"Interestingly, resident hunters said they were willing to pay more to improve their hunting experience," Brooks said. Residents reported they were willing to pay an additional $311 over and above what they actually spent on their most recent trip. Nonresidents were willing to pay $931 more per trip.
"It is difficult to put the feelings and values of hunters into dollars and cents, but on the face of it, the economic value of hunting to Montana is impressive," Brooks said.
The "average" resident hunter surveyed is a 42-year old male with 18 years of hunting experience. He hunts 11 days a year and earns $35,000 to $39,999 annually. The nonresident hunter is on average 47 years old, with 12 years of hunting experience and an annual income between $50,000 to $74,999. The survey shows that 94 percent of hunters are male.
The survey reports hunters hunt the same area an average of two years-significantly lower than in 1988 when they hunted the same area for five years. They walk an average of six miles and mainly hunt with a rifle, though the percentage using a bow increased from one percent in 1988 to 15 percent in 1998.
Fewer hunters chose to "rough it" in 1998 than in 1988. More nonresident hunters, 37 percent, than resident hunters, 17 percent, camped, and 15 percent of the resident and 26 percent of the nonresident hunters used horses. Seventeen percent of the residents and 21 percent of the nonresidents preferred a trailer or motor home.
To obtain a summary of the research results or the full report, contact FWP's Responsive Management Unit at 406-444-4758.