Hunting and Fishing a $14.4 Billion Industry in Texas

Steve Lightfoot, 512-389-4701,

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AUSTIN, Texas — How does a $14.4 billion Texas-based industry go unnoticed? Easy when you consider most of its participants go about their business cloaked in camouflage or tucked in some secluded backwater hideaway.

Despite not appearing on the stock market rolls, hunters, anglers and wildlife watchers in Texas collectively are a major economic force, according to new findings by the Southwick Associates, a Florida-based research firm specializing in economic and business statistics related to fish and wildlife resources.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Wildlife Division commissioned the Southwick group to ascertain the economic effect from fish and wildlife-related recreation in Texas, based on data in the 2006 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation. The firm recently completed its Texas-focused report.

According to the Southwick report, the economic effect from Texas hunters, anglers and wildlife watchers was estimated to be $14.4 billion. In other words, if these outdoor enthusiasts were to stop spending money in Texas and not spend these dollars on other in-state items, the state economy would shrink by $14.4 billion.

"These new findings demonstrate the significant roles hunting and fishing play in Texas’ economy," said Gene McCarty, TPWD deputy executive director. "They also put into perspective our challenge as the state agency charged with managing the natural resources these industries rely upon."

Expenditures made for fish and wildlife-related recreation support significant industries. Unlike traditional industries, which are often easily recognized by large factories, the hunting, fishing and wildlife viewing industries are comprised of widely scattered retailers, manufacturers, wholesalers and support services that, when considered together, become quite significant.

Original expenditures made by hunters, anglers and wildlife watchers in Texas generate rounds of additional spending throughout the economy. For example, a retailer buys more inventory and pays bills, wholesalers buy more from manufacturers, and all these pay employees who then spend their paychecks. The sum of these impacts is the total economic impact resulting from the original expenditures. According to Southwick, total Texas economic impact from sportfishing accounted for $4.73 billion ($2.93 billion from freshwater and $1.79 billion from saltwater), with $4.63 billion and $5.12 billion from hunting and wildlife-watching, respectively.

The Southwick report also stated that, since outdoor recreation dollars are often spent in rural or lightly populated areas, the economic contributions of fish and wildlife resources can be especially important to rural and outlying suburban-exurban economies.

In many communities, such as those in Llano County, for example, deer hunting is a driving economic force. The same argument can be made for Texas’ acclaimed fishing destinations, including Lake Fork and Rockport.

In addition to how much they contribute to the economy, the report sheds demographic insight into the participants of the hunting and fishing industry.

According to the findings, participants are about 40 years old, are predominantly male, and are likely to be married. The average household income for Texas hunters is approximately $66,316, significantly higher than the $43,425 state average (U.S. Census Bureau). About 59 percent have at least some college experience. Non-resident hunters typically have higher income and more education.

Freshwater anglers share demographic characteristics similar to hunters in age and income, while saltwater anglers appear to be a bit older and have higher household incomes.

Wildlife watchers, according to the findings, tend to be older than hunters and anglers, are split fairly evenly between male and female, and are likely to be married. Other demographic traits are also similar to hunters and anglers.

In 2006, there were 1.1 million hunters (residents and nonresidents), hunting a total of 14 million days in Texas. Of the total hunters in Texas, 978,697 were state residents and 122,589 were nonresidents.

Texas whitetail deer hunting has an international reputation, so it comes as no surprise the study found that big game hunting was the most popular in terms of hunters and days, at more than double the participation in migratory bird hunting.

Ironically, despite Texas’ reputation for big bass, catfish were targeted most by anglers, according to the findings. In 2006, there were 1.8 million freshwater anglers (residents and nonresidents), fishing a total of 26.9 million days in Texas. Of the total freshwater anglers in Texas, 1.7 million were state residents and 142,821 were nonresidents.

There were 1.1 million saltwater anglers (residents and nonresidents), fishing a total of 15.1 million days in Texas, the survey indicated. Of the total saltwater anglers in Texas, 1.07 million were state residents and 76,946 were nonresidents. Most fishing effort was directed at redfish.

In 2006, there were 955,726 watchable wildlife recreationists (residents and non-residents) participating in activities in Texas. Of the total recreationists in Texas participating in activities more than one mile from home, 778,134 were state residents and 177,592 were non-residents. Altogether, these recreationists spent 13.1 million days in watchable wildlife related activities in Texas.

The primary watchable wildlife activity, measured in terms of number of participants, was observing wildlife, with photographing wildlife the second preferred activity. In terms of days of activity, feeding wildlife ranked higher than photographing wildlife. Please note one participant may engage in two or more activities per trip as these activities are not exclusive.

The number one type of wildlife observed by residential recreationists in Texas was birds. The second most prominent category was small mammals.

Hunters and wildlife viewers depend on a combination of public and private lands. With urban and suburban populations increasing, the study concluded, it is likely that public lands will play an increasing role in supplying residents and visitors alike with opportunities to experience Texas’s wildlife resources.

The data shows that wildlife viewers are much more dependent on public lands. One reason among several for this difference might be related to a higher percentage of participants living in non-rural regions and therefore less likely to have access to private lands.

Fish and wildlife provide numerous recreation opportunities for Texas residents. The recreation expenditures benefit Texas with significant jobs, income and other economic activity. These benefits are particularly important in rural or remote areas where other sources of income are limited.

Anglers, hunters and wildlife viewers spend dollars that, in turn, benefit many other industries throughout the state. According to Southwick, the resulting economic benefits reach every corner of the state and its economy.