ATHENS, Ga. - Think deer hunters don't affect the economy? Just ask Comer resident Andrew Bradley how much money he spent on deer hunting supplies this year.
"Way too much," said the 18-year-old, who has spent more than $2,000 on deer hunting supplies this year alone, as he stood admiring several rifles in Franklin's hunting and fishing store on Atlanta Highway in Bogart. "Personally, I've spent too much money this year."
Along with spending $400 each for four Ruger Bisley revolvers, which can be used for sport or target shooting, the hunter also spent $800 for a Savage .308 rifle replete with Nikon scope.
Oh, and that doesn't count what he spent on seeds for food plots, the fuel for the tractor he uses to till the property or the two deer stands he purchased for $200 a piece.
"I'm contributing to the economy," he said, grinning. "That's what I'm doing."
Mr. Bradley's expenses are atypical, you say. Not so, says Art Lietch III of Franklin's, an Athens outdoor sports supply store frequented by a large number of sportsmen in northeast Georgia.
Though the average hunter spends several hundred dollars per year on such supplies as ammunition, gloves, clothing and masking agents (scents), many hunters spend upward of several thousand dollars per year, buying new guns, scopes, tree-stands, and various garments, Mr. Lietch said.
Noted wildlife biologist and whitetail deer expert Brian Murphy said there are roughly 300,000 deer hunters in Georgia, with 25,000-plus hunters in northeast Georgia alone.
Chasing the 1.2 million whitetail deer in the state, those hunters spend millions on everything from gas to travel across the state to hotels, airfare, food, land-lease fees and processing.
"The spin-off benefits are huge," said Mr. Murphy, the executive director of Quality Deer Management Association, a Watkinsville-based organization devoted to promoting healthy whitetail deer herds across the country.
About 400,000 deer are harvested each year in Georgia, Mr. Murphy said.
The way Bowman resident Chris Lecroy sees it, deer hunting expenses is money well spent.
"It's an investment," said the 38-year-old, who imagines he has spent more than 2,500 hours in a deer stand.
Quite an investment of time to go along with the $800 to $1,000 he spends each year on deer hunting club membership fees, food plot preparation and seeds, deer stands, guns, ammunition and overnight supplies.
At Buddy Williams Taxidermy and processing in Union Point, hunters spend about $55 to $60 to have each deer processed, said Julie Williams, co-owner of the facility.
Mr. Williams said the location takes in 700 to 1,000 deer each year to be processed and 300 to 400 to be mounted.
According to a 1996 survey completed by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, big game hunters - which includes deer, elk, bear, and wild turkey - spent $9.7 billion in trip- and equipment-related expenses.