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Time to take advantage of wildlife tourism

February 25, 2014
By MIKE PALMER - Staff?Writer , Times Leader

Wildlife tourism has to either be the best kept secret or the most overlooked resource when it comes to local tourism.

The wildlife tourism industry in the Ohio Valley is a multi-million dollar industry and generates thousands of jobs, according to reports from the states of Ohio and West Virginia.

Wildlife tourism includes recreational fishing, hunting and wildlife watching. Wildlife tourism is extremely valuable to the local economy and relies heavily on the health of the ecosystem in the area.

Hunting in the Ohio Valley is a time-honored tradition in which the majority of families have at least one member who participates on a regular basis.

Each year more than 350,000 hunters take to West Virginia's woods in search of some sort of quarry. With this pursuit millions of dollars are directed toward the state's economy, creating more than 5,000 jobs. West Virginia's hunting-related expenditures for food, lodging, transportation, and equipment brought in nearly $270 million to the state's economy. The economic benefit of hunting in West Virginia is especially valuable because of the amount of revenue generated in our most rural areas.

According to a deer hunter survey, license-buying deer hunters annually spend over $266 million in Ohio, which includes food, transportation, gear, lodging, processing, taxidermy, leasing fees, etc. This does not include the number of hunting licenses and deer permits purchased from the Division of Wildlife and does not include the money spent by the estimated 125,000 landowners who hunt.

Hunting has an $853 million economic impact each year in Ohio through the sale of equipment, fuel, food, lodging and more.

The majority of that total happens during deer season. Approximately 500,000 people hunt deer in Ohio. Approximately 420,000 hunters are expected to participate in last year's gun season, including many out-of-state hunters.

The state of Ohio is a great place for hunting deer and turkey. It is estimated that Ohio has over 600,000 deer and over 200,000 turkeys. Whitetail deer in Ohio can get large weighing in at around 300 pounds. Ohio eastern wild turkeys can reach in excess of 20 pounds.

Wildlife tourism is bolstered by the many public land opportunities for hunters and the numerous lakes and of course the Ohio River. Most of the public hunting land in Ohio is located in the southern and southeastern part of the state. Across the river tourists will find over 1.3 million acres of public hunting land in West Virginia.

If you like fishing for big walleyes, monster small-mouth bass, big-and-plentiful crappie, the state of Ohio and West Virginia offer some great fishing opportunities for tourists and residents alike. Big lakes and reservoirs as well as small ponds and streams provide a day on the water (or ice) for some great fishing.

Whether you happen to be looking for small-mouth bass in lakes, Sauger in rivers, or trout in streams, or a host of other game fish, the Ohio Valley has them all.

The bottom line is that whether you enjoy fishing for anything from trophy Muskie to plentiful panfish like Crappie, the Ohio Valley can accommodate you. The state of Ohio and West Virginia also have great trout stocking programs. Simply check with the department of fish and game and you can actually get a stocking schedule and find out which bodies of water are being stocked with trout and when.

The Ohio Valley also has some of the best bird watching in the country. It is a major migratory stopping place for birds and water fowl, which also attract a large number of hunters and outdoor nature tourists to the area.

Outdoors-men in this area also note that Cabela's located one of its outdoor stores in Ohio County. In addition to an economic boost from the retail sales, A quick survey of license plates in their parking lot confirms the World's Foremost Outfitter superstore located in the Highlands is also a tourist attraction.

Palmer may be reached at



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