The American west carries a deep historical connection to hunting, wildlife and the outdoors, attracting the mountain men of the past and the big game hunters of today.  While dramatic vistas, tough and unforgiving mountain terrain are characteristic of many western states, the state of Montana has long been a bucket list destination for hunters, anglers, and outdoor enthusiasts.

Roughly 32 percent of Montana’s 94+ million acres of land is comprised of public land available for hunting and other outdoor pursuits.  Accounting for nearly 30 million acres of pristine wilderness containing archetypical big game animals such as elk, mule deer, whitetail deer, antelope and many others, it is any wonder that hunting is big business for the Big Sky State.

A recent report compiled by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks illustrates just that.  After analyzing data from 2016 hunting seasons across the state, researchers set out to attached a dollar amount to big game related hunting expenditures, particularly for elk, deer and antelope hunts.

The report details a hunter expenditures data summary which was derived using two pieces of information:

  1. Average per day hunting trip-related expenditure data derived from FWP’s 2014 baseline economic surveys of hunters (updated to current year dollars using consumer price index adjustments). Trip-related expenditure data includes the following:  transportation (gas, car rental, airfare, and other transportation costs), food, beverages, lodging, equipment purchased just for the trip, access and/or guide fees, and all other expenses—NOT including the cost of hunting licenses and any durable goods (e.g., rifle/shotgun, boots, pack, truck, etc.).
  1. Hunter use estimates (e.g. hunter days) which are provided annually and/or biennially, depending on the species, from FWP’s Hunter Harvest Survey.

Researchers then calculated these estimates separately for both resident and non-resident hunters.

Overall, the report concluded that spending derived from elk, deer and antelope hunters supports close to 3,300 jobs across Montana and contributes a whopping $324 million each year to the state’s economy.

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Montana FWP

The report then got granular with the data, with detailed expenditure data for each of the three big game species being extrapolated.

The annual elk hunting seasons lead the way in hunting-related expenditures, accounting for an estimated $164 million spent within the state’s borders.  Following close behind were deer hunters, who accounted for $150 million in spending, and antelope hunters, representing $10 million of the cumulative total.

Additionally, researchers created interactive maps detailing both a county-by-county and hunting district-by-hunting district breakdown of all hunting-related expenditures in Montana.

View the report in its entirety here.