Video: High-end hunts

By Mary Thompson Reporter
CNBC
updated 2/14/2006 5:06:53 PM ET 2006-02-14T22:06:53

Vice President Dick Cheney’s hunting accident is still front-page news — and fodder for late night talk shows. But it’s also unwanted publicity for a sport whose ranks are down 40 percent since 1987.

Less leisure time, longer distances to preserves and a lack of hunting ground are all hurting the sport.

“There are shrinking areas for people to hunt … I think that is one of the biggest things. There are more and more people living in the cities and not in rural areas,” says Sid Evans, editor for Field & Stream.

Ben Beckage's B&B Pheasantry shooting preserve in rural Pittstown, N.J., now covers only 100 acres, well down from 1,000 in the 1980s.

“I've seen it go from a blue-collar business to a high-end business,” says Beckage. “People would rather come in and have a country club atmosphere, which I don't want to provide, especially here. It's not feasible.”

Smaller preserves may be struggling, but high-end lodges catering to wealthy individuals and corporations are bagging big business. These lodges charge customers up to $1,000 a day for guns, guides, dogs, the works. Their clients are aging baby boomers with a lot more money to spend and corporations looking for an alternative to the golf outing.

At upscale Harris Springs Sportsman's Preserve in South Carolina, business is up 25 percent from last year, with 65 to 70 percent of it coming from corporations. Business is up 30 percent at Illinois' Harpole Heartland, with 40 percent of that coming from companies.

Although there are fewer hunters, they're spending billions of dollars more. Sales of hunting equipment and guns are up 32 percent to almost $3 billion in the last five years; apparel sales are up 13 percent,and boot sales are up 45 percent. All showing that hunting is still a sport that gets big bucks.

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