MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - In Lowndes County today there was no shortage of enthusiasm for the Alabama Black Belt Adventures campaign.
"The more I think about this the more it makes sense," said well-known Alabama fisherman Ray Scott.
The concept is the brainchild of local Tom Harris. Together with the Alabama Department of Conservation and the Alabama Economic Development office the plan is to turn the Black Belt known for its rich black soil into a hunting and fishing mecca.
"What we're talking about today means so much to the Alabama Black Belt and to Alabama," said Representative John Knight.
It means so much in fact the head of the state's economic development office says this has the potential to do for hunters what the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail did for golfers. Neal Wade remembers a story when 3 executives from Germany made an unannounced visit to the state.
"They came in and I said 'what are you doing here?' They said we love you and we wanted to come back,' said Wade who said the 3 men ended up spending a week on one of the RTJ golf trails.
A website is already up and running promoting the Black Belt Adventures. Economic development supporters say the potential benefit is obvious. Right now Conservation officials say more than 80,000 people from out of state hunt in Alabama every year, well over 200,000 out-of-town fishermen and they all buy things like hunting clothes, gas and food.
"Where can you go and hunt 7 months out of the year?" said Buckmasters found Jackie Bushman.
The campaign may be coming along at the right time. One survey shows that more and more in-state residents are choosing to stay home to hunt and fish, and campaign supporters hope this will also educate landowners about marketing opportunities for their land.
"This is exactly what we need to be doing and it's time to put the saddle on it," said Scott.
Put the saddle on it as the state sets it sights on those 18 million hunters around the country.
Alabama lawmakers are providing the seed money to start this organization to the tune of more than $500,000. After that money runs out supporters say they'll seek private donations.
Conservation officials say hunters as a group spend around $1.4 billion a year in the state.