Big bucks = $Big bucks

By Glynis Crawford Smith

The Highlander

Hunters looking for the big bucks can mean big bucks of the green variety to business.

Texas ranks first or second every time a national survey is conducted. The Lone Star State's 2.71 million hunters and anglers spend $4.1 billion annually and support 65,993 jobs, according to a study reported by the Congressional Sportsman Foundation.

“There’s no question that deer hunters boost the economy in small towns such as Burnet for the several weeks they are in the area,” said Kim Winkler, executive director of the Burnet Chamber of Commerce.

“Of course, hunting supports our local businesses directly related to the manufacture and sale of hunting and outdoor products and services such as feed stores, firearms and ammunition, camping/hunting/safety equipment, private hunting leases, tour operators and taxidermists. But it also has a great impact on local accommodations, gas stations and convenience stores, as well as restaurants and other food businesses.”

Winkler doesn't overlook the impact for all those trucks with trailer loads of gear headed west.

“Whether hunting locally or just passing through, there is a definite economic stimulus when hunters come to town and we welcome and appreciate their arrival,” she said.

The sporting goods store Outfitters, 1009 US 281 in Marble Falls, stocks a little bit of everything for the sportsman from camp equipment to gun, archery and fishing supplies.

Thomas Cooper-Hicks operates Copperhead Creek Shooting Club inside Hidden Falls Adventure Park, 7030 Ranch to Market Road 1431 east of Marble Falls.

Just before any season begins, he sees an uptick in business.

“In the month prior to deer season, they come in to sight in their rifles,” he said. “They have a lot of money invested in deer hunting, they want to make sure the shot is true. We advise people on their scope mounting and shooting technique.”

“Dove season just opening,” said Cooper-Hicks. “We have sporting clays that simulate bird flight. So, prior to the season, we had hundreds of people coming out to practice. But that doesn't just mean business for us. They buy ammunition and equipment in town. They go out to eat.”

“People come here to hunt year round,” said owner Pat Pucik. “Besides white-tailed deer, people hunt birds, hog and axis deer. Our season for hunting here is year round.”

“We have a lot of deer leases in the area and a lot of them are booked by families that have been coming to the area for years,” said Pucik. “But we we hear from people hunting here for the first time and people who do day hunts as well as season hunts. They come from all over the United States to this area. Their families shop around town.”

“We have a lot of leases and a lot of bucks in Burnet County,” said Cooper-Hicks. “Other counties don't truly have that much more wildlife; it's just marketed elsewhere.”

And marketed it is, apparent in events that sprout up in the area.

In Llano County where they claim the title “Deer Hunting Capital of Texas,” hunters are invited into to Llano Chamber of Commerce Hunter Appreciation Event from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. on Nov. 4, at the visitor center at 100 Train Station Drive 325-247-5354. Businesses provide goody bags and information about everything from hunting guides to food and drink. This year the big drawing prize is a Polaris 4-seater, a Cadillac among ATV's from K&P Motor Sports in Marble Falls.

That same day is the opening of the San Saba Chamber of Commerce Hunters Welcome Weekend, 325-372-8291, with the San Saba Volunteer Fire Department Steak Dinner. It will be served from 5-8 p.m. at the firehouse, 702 East Story Street.

Further west, it is the Mason Wild Game Dinner, hosted from 6-9 p.m. on Nov. 12 by the Mason Chamber of Commerce, 325-347-5758.

More than two dozen businesses in Llano and Burnet Counties relate directly to hunting in one aspect or another of their trade, whether sporting goods and supplies, deer feed, meat processing or taxidermy.

“They buy jewelry for their spouses, artwork, new guns for themselves,” said Briley Mitchell, executive director of the Llano Chamber of Commerce. “The money adds up, and with every purchase, they pay sales tax that goes right back into the economy.”

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