GIBSON, Ga. — Dan Peaster’s family-owned hardware store on Main Street has almost everything an outdoorsman might need.
“Dove season’s just around the corner,” he said. “We’re getting in our ammo now. In the springtime, it’s fishing stuff.”
Gibson is the picturesque hub of Glascock County, whose population has the highest percentage of fishing and hunting license holders in the region – and the third-highest in Georgia, according to a computer analysis by The Augusta Chronicle.
The analysis, which compared license sales by county with population, reveals that 18.9 percent of Glascock’s residents are licensees, eclipsed only by Bryan County, with 19 percent, and No. 1 Clinch County, with 19.4 percent.
Peaster wasn’t surprised at Glascock County’s ranking.
“Everybody likes to hunt and fish,” he said. “It’s a way of life for a lot of people down here, and we’re proud to be a part of that.”
License sales are just one way to gauge a community’s outdoorsiness, but such data can play an important role in decisions by retailers hoping to reel in dollars from hunting and fishing clientele.
Gibson is almost an hour from Richmond County, where just 5.8 percent of the population is licensed, but it is part of the broader region whose demographics helped land a Bass Pro Shops that will be built
off Interstate 20 and Flowing Wells Road.
“As (Bass Pro Shops founder) Johnny Morris has said, it has to go where lots of people like to hunt and fish,” said Katie Mitchell, the retailer’s communications manager.
In addition to license sales, potential sites for new stores can be identified by regions that generate strong catalog and Internet sales, she said.
“There are lots of variables, but not one overriding factor,” she said.
The store will be just inside Columbia County, where 10.5 percent of the population hold licenses, tied for 43rd among the state’s 159 counties.
Also coming to Augusta is another major outdoor retailer – Cabela’s – which announced plans in July to establish a store off River Watch Parkway.
In terms of the percentage of population with licenses, Richmond County’s rank of 81st falls close to three counties of similar size: Columbus-Muscogee County, ranked 77th; Macon-Bibb County, ranked 76th; and Savannah-Chatham County, tied for 75th. DeKalb and Clayton counties, tied with just 2.1 percent of the population having licenses, ranked last in the analysis.
Mitchell pointed out that Bass Pro’s research shows their stores attract visitors from outside the immediate area.
“Our average visitor stays 2.5 hours and drives an average distance of 50-plus miles,” she said.