F or many folks, deer hunting is life. From Amarillo to Brownsville, north to south, and Texarkana to El Paso, east to west, it’s easy to see why.
Local business owners revel in seeing camouflage from head to toe, lifted pickups towing gear-laden trailers and all those hunters who bring along their wallets. This begins with lease preparations in September, through February when everything must be secured and packed away.
It’s a fact that the dollars flowing into those communities can make the entire year for small shops. The most recent economic impact survey from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service on outdoor recreation sheds light on just how much money we’re talking about.
That survey showed that more than one million residents and nonresidents 16 and older bought hunting licenses in Texas—a figure that has continued to hold steady at seven figures for years. Annual deer-hunter participation and harvest surveys conducted annually by Texas Parks & Wildlife show that in good seasons roughly 600,000 of those more than a million hunters are pursuing deer. Those hunters take more than a half-million bucks and does from a statewide herd that numbers in excess of four million.
That’s a lot of folks digging into their bank accounts to collect bone and backstraps, a true economic driver of the first order.
Although the federal survey includes a host of numbers, the overall impact of hunting in Texas is clear. Hunting-related expenditures added up to more than $1.8 billion. A healthy chunk of those funds goes directly toward deer-hunting trips, gear, food and lodging, among other purchases.
According to studies from the International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, those expenditures have a multiplier effect of double those amounts. This provides revenue across multiple business interests. Moreover, a study compiled for Texas Parks & Wildlife by an outside agency showed a total economic effect multiplier of nearly three.
All that funding has a trickle-down effect, helping to pump hundreds of millions of dollars into our local state economy each fall and winter.
That dollar amount includes valuable funds headed to outfitters, mom-and-pop shops and those making a direct living off the hunting industry. However,the federal taxes generated by the overall industry end up going back into state coffers earmarked for needed resource protections and improvements.
In that respect, hunting is conservation, with a direct correlation to improving habitat and in some cases access and opportunities.
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service annually distributes revenue to each state’s wildlife agency through the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration program. Those funds come from excise taxes on the sale of everything from sporting firearms and ammunition to archery equipment.
In 2016, this totaled more than $32 million that came back to Texas for wildlife restoration efforts. Pittman-Robertson funds allow the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department’s Wildlife Division to offer many services, including technical guidance to private landowners who control roughly 95 percent of wildlife habitat in Texas.
This also funded TPWD surveys and research for development of hunting regulations, operation and management of Wildlife Management Areas and conducting research and developing techniques for managing wildlife populations and wildlife habitat.
Hunters also play a vital role in deer management at the statewide level, which also means a lot for conservation efforts. Those hundreds of thousands of hunters are the main mechanism by which TPWD influences overall deer numbers, buck-to-doe ratios and various herd genetics, while helping to increase or reduce populations based on selective harvest.
The clear example of this conservation role and management framework is the antler restriction move implemented in a half-dozen Post Oak region counties in the late 1990s. They were designed to improve the age structure of buck herds, increase the opportunity to hunt those bucks and encourage better habitat management. For the most part, that framework has been wildly successful and the restrictions are now in place in more than 60 counties in the Post Oak, Pineywoods and northern coastal prairie regions.
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—BY Will Leschper
The Rolling Plains Quail Research Ranch in Fisher County is soliciting crop contents of quail taken across the Rolling Plains (including in Texas and Oklahoma) in an attempt to build a comprehensive seed collection of plants eaten by quail.
Hunters are asked that as you clean birds, dissect out the crop and empty the contents into an empty shotgun shell box so they will dry out, then tape the seams with duct tape. Do not put them in a plastic bag as they will mold. At the completion of your quail season send the box and contents to RPQRR, P.O. Box 220, Roby, TX 79543-0220.
—BY Dustin Ellermann