EDGAR SPRINGS - High gas prices and a difficult economy mean more and more hunters are venturing farther away from home to practice their sport, and are choosing Missouri hunting ranches over famous ones in Texas.
Justin Hoffman owns Stone Creek Hunting Ranch in Edgar Springs and said he offers the same things as ranches in Texas, but at a more convenient location for midwesterners.
"We get a lot of people from central states. Kansas, Iowa, Illinois and of course Missourians," Hoffman said. "People tell me, ‘I'm not gonna drive right past you and go another 14 hours to Texas."
Hoffman also said that hunters always find a way to hunt something, even on a budget.
"People are giving up their bear or elk hunts in Colorado, but they can still afford to come down here and shoot a ram or a hog or what have you. They stay local, and that's good," Hoffman said.
The practice of hunting on ranches is met with its fair share of opposition.
Amanda Good, Missouri State Director of the Humane Society of the U.S., said hunting at a ranch is a canned hunt because the animals have no way to escape.
"It's the element of fair chase that is completely lacking. When the animals can't escape there's not a level playing field that is created between the hunter and the animal being hunted," Good said.
But hunting ranches are still a multibillion-dollar industry.
According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Department, hunters spent more than $20 billion on their sport last year.