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Tracking hunters’ big economic footprint in the Mountain West

A large mule deer with antlers roaming through a field in Nevada.
Nevada Department of Wildlife
Mule deer are one of the big game animals that attract hunters to Nevada’s rural communities, generating millions of dollars in economic impact, according to a report by researchers at the University of Nevada, Reno.

A new study highlights the economic impact that hunting has on one state in the Mountain West, a region of the country that sees billions of dollars spent by hunters each year.

In Nevada, hunters spent $380 million in 2020, according to researchers at the University of Nevada, Reno. That included purchases like deer and elk tags, firearms and ammunition, and off-road vehicles and campers.

It was nearly the same amount Nevada hunters spent in 2019, says Michael Taylor, an economics professor who co-authored the study.

“There’s enough excess demand that hunting did not decrease during the pandemic,” Taylor said. “And it’s likely not to decrease during future recessions.”

Taylor says their data could help Nevada’s state leaders better understand how conserving natural resources benefits the economy, especially in rural counties, where most hunting tags are issued.

“Improved ecosystem health can support larger herds of wildlife, can allow the department of wildlife to offer more hunting opportunities, and that’s going to bring revenue into these areas,” Taylor said.

The number of tags available to hunters every year is not set by the economy or revenue opportunities, according to the study. Instead, the Nevada Wildlife Board of Commissioners sets tag quotas based on survey data and population modeling.

Across the Mountain West, hunters’ economic footprint exceeded $4 billion in 2020, according to a separate study by research firm Southwick Associates published late last year. It found that Utah led the region with about $813 million in retail sales. Spending also eclipsed half a billion dollars in Montana ($748 million), Idaho ($666 million), and Colorado ($626 million), followed by Arizona ($441 million), Wyoming ($339 million), and New Mexico ($206 million).

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Kaleb is an award-winning journalist and KUNR’s Mountain West News Bureau reporter. His reporting covers issues related to the environment, wildlife and water in Nevada and the region.
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