Quail hunting has positive impact on rural economies

WICHITA FALLS – Leasing land for quail hunting has a positive impact on many rural economies in the state, said a Texas Cooperative Extension economist.

“The economic impact of hunting in Texas exceeds $1.5 billion annually,” Jason Johnson, Extension economist based at Stephenville. He addressed a capacity crowd at the recent Red River Quail Symposium in Wichita Falls.

“Quail are the third most hunted species of game in Texas, ranking behind deer and dove, based on the number of active hunters,” he said. “But quail rank fifth behind deer, dove, duck and wild turkey in terms of the number of days spent hunting. This suggests that insufficient quail habitat or the distance to suitable quail habitat restricts hunting activity for this game bird.”

The recent Red River Quail Symposium included two ranch tours and a one-day seminar on landowner resources for habitat and hunting management.

Hunting’s economic impact reaches beyond landowners and into other sectors/businesses that cater to the hunting and travel industries. In many areas of Texas, hunting is second only to Friday night football in terms of visitors and money drawn in to local communities, Johnson said.

“Approximately 65 percent of Texas hunters come from urban areas, so this economic impact is essentially a urban-to-rural transfer,” he said. “According to a United States Fish and Wildlife Service survey, the average Texas hunter spends more than $1,300 each year on hunting and travel amenities.”

A 2001 survey of Texas Quail Unlimited members revealed more specific information about avid quail hunters in Texas, he added.

“The typical Quail Unlimited member responding to our Texas survey was a middle-aged, affluent white male,” Johnson said. “Most were college graduates, and 42 percent reported household incomes above $125,000. They lived in rural areas, small cities and medium- and large-sized urban areas.

“The relevant point is that the average expenditure per hunter responding exceeded more than $10,000 each year on quail hunting,” he said. “That’s money spent on lease fees, dogs, vehicles, transportation, feeds/feeders/food plots, lodging, guns and ammunition, meals and other expenses. A large portion of these expenditures, averaging around 40 percent to 50 percent, are made in the destination county of the quail hunt.”

These hunters listed 79 Texas counties among their favorite hunting destinations.

“If you want to attract this type of hunter clientele, you have to ask: How does my livestock management compliment wildlife habitat?” Johnson said. “What we call carrying capacity – the number of animals we can run on our acreage – is not the same thing as stocking rate. Carrying capacity is defined and provided by Mother Nature. Stocking rate is determined by the land manager.”

An appropriate stocking rate based on several environmental factors encourages more and better wildlife habitat – habitat conducive to quail and other wildlife, he said.

“Quail will follow the habitat, especially if the habitat provides necessary cover and food when they are nesting and rearing their young,” Johnson said. “And the avid quail hunter will follow the birds.

“Long-term lease arrangements with these hunters can lend stability to land management strategies, which in turn can benefit wildlife and livestock. This type of stability helps appreciate land values and that ripples through local economies.”

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