Anglers, hunters and shooters have increased their payment to play.
Individuals and groups opposed to the so-called "blood sports" like to point out the reduced number of participants in these outdoors pursuits, but anglers and hunters are willing to pay increased prices to enjoy their outings. Recently released figures from the National Sporting Goods Association show just how much more these outdoors addicts shell out to fund their fun.
Exercise equipment tops all sales, with more than a half billion spent on gear. Golf ranks second, with more than a third of a billion spent on duffer duds, but expenditures in both the hunting and firearms and the fishing tackle categories showed a 6 percent increase in sales from 2004 to 2005 and a combined increased payout of more than a half billion dollars for guns, rods, reels and related gear last year.
Handgun sales, at 8.5 percent, showed the greatest gain, even outdistancing hunting footwear for individual items.
Exercise gear tops all sales at $5.2 billion, but total sales of $3.3 billion for hunting gear in the United States ranked third, slightly behind golf at $3.4 billion.
Whether angler-hunter numbers decline, flatten or slightly increase in various areas across the country, those outdoors participants pay more for their toys and enjoy the narrowest season openers, time to get out and participate in their chosen sports.
Shooters at West Falls Conservation Society now have more room to roam on their range on club grounds.
Thanks to a $2,500 grant from the Friends of NRA, WFCS members put together a range improvement project in late September. Jack Bouquin, Mark Nuernberger, Mark Miller, John Marlow and others worked with a subcontractor to install more than 700 feet of drain tile around 50- and 100-yard ranges.
Marlow noted that after relocating trees and shrubs, opened areas allow for setting up 25- and 50-yard targets on the 50-yard range and 75- and 100-yard target practice and competitions.
A Teen Shooting Academy at Hamburg Rod & Gun Club finished its fifth week of instruction and three shooters have emerged with some sharp shooting scores.
Fifteen-year-olds Connor Hillery and Ryan Perrello did well on the trap range with instructor Don Lombardo. Hillery's best so far has been 23 for 25; Perrello broke 22 of 25.
Mike McShane, 17, with instruction from Steve Aldstadt, logged a top score of 89 out of 100 for the 50-foot range.
To learn more about shooting instruction opportunities, call Bob Church (592-7211).
Passing to fishing ports
Starting on Jan. 8, air travelers to Canada must have a valid, current passport. The U.S. Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 set that date for all passengers flying back to the U.S. from Canada, the Caribbean, Bermuda, Panama and Mexico.
Ice anglers headed to Lake Simcoe by car can still use a birth certificate or driver's license to bring home their buckets of perch. U.S. drivers returning home from Canada may have to obtain a passport by January 2008, but that requirement may be delayed.
For now, spring and summer fishing flights and fall hunt outings into Canada call for a passport for the return trip into the U.S. A processing fee of $97 does not include a photograph. To ensure those outdoors trips won't be delayed or canceled, drop by a U.S. Post Office or check online for an application: http://travel.state.gov/passport.