As bad as the long-developing, two-year drought has been for Texas farm and livestock production, some say it has been as bad or worse for Texas wildlife, including the largest whitetail deer herd of any state in the United States.

Last whitetail deer season (2012), hunter harvest was down compared to recent years, largely as a result of acorn drop and other forage failures in much of the state. With just over 3.6 million deer in Texas, hunters had plenty of deer for a fair harvest last year, though some suffered in quality. Around 309,000 bucks and nearly 266,000 does were taken by an estimated 636,000 hunters; the number of hunters was down slightly, and that means fewer deer leases awarded on the average.

The drop was not significant overall, but a number of rural farm, ranch and private property owners statewide who have developed supplemental revenue sources off the healthy Texas hunting industry felt the pinch. They say fewer deer and fewer hunters over the last two years hurt overall economic conditions, especially for those who have relied more and more in recent years on hunting-related revenues as the drought cut into traditional farm and ranch profits.

 

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With daily deer hunting fees averaging between $150 to $2,000, and season leases starting at $1,000 a gun and topping out around $15,000 or more for a 100-acre year- round lease, hunting is big business in Texas. In fact, at $1.7 billion in hunting-related retail spending in Texas each year, the state leads the nation in the most money spent for hunting sales, and when the multiplier for lease revenues, hotels, fuel and food are included, the overall impact grows to over $3.6 billion a year.

Obviously, wildlife management and health are critically important not only to the state and every taxpayer who benefits from the economic support offered by the state's hunting and fishing industry, but especially to rural property owners who provide deer hunting services and facilities.

A complicated formula for determining the total number of hunting day opportunities in the state (number of hunters times the number of seasonal hunting days for deer and waterfowl), shows that Texas offers the largest number of days to hunters of any state in the nation with just over 14 million each year.

Anyone who owns rural property suitable for hunting operations and manages the wildlife of that property well has a good chance of capitalizing on the abundant revenues generated by the industry. But the amount of revenue and the success of a hunting lease operation depends each year on a good hunting season, which is determined by a number of factors including animal health, abundant natural food production to support wildlife, weather considerations such as famine and drought, and the over-all state of the economy any given season, all of which can result in more or fewer hunters.