Ireta Nowlin owns and operates The Corner Mart in Mason County, and she says it's always busy this time of year. "It's pretty busy, the first few days of gun season is really busy, sometimes they are lined up way back there to get their deer checked in."
That's because there are nearly half a million people hitting the woods hoping to get a buck or doe, and all of them are spending money.
Scott Warner, a biologist with The West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, explains the economic impact deer hunting has on West Virginia's economy. "The two weeks of firearm season, over four hundred thousand hunters will be heading out into the woods. That also means four hundred thousand hunters will be stopping at stores getting supplies ready for the upcoming week. The total economic impact for the state is nearly a quarter billion dollars, that's just for the two weeks, we're not talking pre-season."
That's pretty impressive, and that much money means a lot of people have jobs thanks to deer hunters. And while hunters do spend a lot of money on guns, 4-wheelers and other big ticket items, perhaps the most important money they'll spend is on the small stuff.
"Most of the high dollar items, ammunition, firearms, but really the true economic benefit beyond that has to do with the small mom and pop stores. We have a lot of check stations that really thrive on those two weeks. Snacks, refreshments, gas, food, those are items that really keep the economy going in terms of money being spent." says Warner.
And for folks like Ireta, that money helps pad the bottom line, but it also means old friends keep coming back into her store, if only once a year.
"They're really friendly and excited about their kill. some will come in once a year and say ' Do you remember the friend that was with me?' I enjoy talking to them. It's a relationship, yes." says Nowlin.
A relationship that has, in many cases, spawned generations as hunters come in to this Mason County store as young adults and eventually bring their grand kids in to see Ireta.
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