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October 2008

Release Date: Oct. 29, 2008ASU Logo

Economic Conditions Threatening West Texas Deer Season

Despite a white-tailed deer population that is outstanding in terms of both quantity and quality, West Texas will likely see a drop in the number of deer hunters turning out to claim their trophies this year.

The wetter-than-usual summer of 2007 led to a good fall breeding season for white-tailed deer and favorable spring conditions helped provide a strong fawning season, said Dr. Cody Scott, professor of animal science and research scientist at Angelo State University. The deer population is so strong that even this year’s hotter summer did not hinder it.

“Deer don’t eat grass, for the most part,” Scott said. “They mainly eat shrubs and some forbs. The shrubs are still there whether it’s dry or not. So, the dry summer really didn’t seem to have much of an impact on the deer numbers or deer quality this year.”

Along with ASU agriculture students, Scott does annual spotlight surveys throughout the area to gauge the West Texas deer population prior to hunting season. This year those surveys are another source of good news.

“The body condition has been excellent in the deer we have seen,” Scott said. “Antler formation has been excellent as well. So, it should be a good year.”

While that would normally be sweet music to the ears of deer hunters, the current economic conditions are adding a sour note to the tune. Some hunters, particularly those coming from other parts of the state or the country, are finding that they simply cannot afford it this year.

“During this time of year in Texas, these seasonal leases where hunters pay so much per acre to hunt are typically hard to find,” Scott said. “But, a lot of the people from Houston and the Metroplex area, with the cost of fuel and cost of food, have opted to turn their leases back. Some individuals have opted to stay home this year because it costs so much to drive out here, stay for the weekend or however long, and fill up the deer feeders. In terms of the number of hunters, it is going to hurt.”

Besides the area ranchers who lease their land for hunting, San Angelo is also expected to feel the pinch of fewer hunters heading to the region.

“San Angelo’s economy could definitely suffer,” Scott said. “Most years it is hard to find a hotel room in San Angelo during November and December. This year it may be easier. There are some other things, like the Roping Fiesta, that will still bring in a lot of dollars. But, there will be fewer hunters here this year.”

However, for those hunters that do show up, plentiful white-tailed deer await them along with wild turkey, javalina and quail, though quail numbers are down again this year. Other options include exotic game, which never goes out of season, and feral hogs.

“The number of feral hogs continues to grow throughout Texas and the southern U.S.,” Scott said. “Most landowners view them as a nuisance because their numbers are growing rapidly and they compete with white-tailed deer and other wildlife species. Many of the hunting operations will offer feral hog hunts as well.”

Though the ASU Ranch succeeded in filling its quota of hunters for its annual blind-draw deer hunts, it was harder than usual and many area ranchers are faced with some cold economic truth as what could be a slower than usual deer season draws near.

“Hunting is entertainment, it is extra spending” Scott said. “You have to pay the bills first and that is going to keep some hunters at home.”