Numbers of hunters, anglers on the rise

Here in Southeast Texas, hunting and fishing rule. We have some of the best deer and duck hunting that can be found in the state, even the nation. And fishing is excellent just about any time of year. If you don’t like fishing inland lakes like Sam Rayburn and Toledo Bend for bass, crappie and catfish, head to the coast where you can catch trout, reds and flounder. Meanwhile, all of our hunting and fishing activity not only keeps us entertained, but also puts big-time bucks into the local economy. For example, go into any Academy store and you’ll see a whole lot of hunters shopping for and buying anything from corn to camouflage clothing.

I was at Leger Shooting Range the other day and there was not a slot open on the range.

“With hunting seasons right around the corner, business is picking up,” said Randy Leger. “We’re selling lots of guns, scopes and ammo. Our sales will only increase from now through Christmas.”

On the boating scene, Mike Hebert, who owns Texas Marine in Beaumont, says their boat sales are through the roof.

“We sold over 90 boats at a recent show in Houston,” said Hebert. “We’re having a record year for boat sales.”

Just recently, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service survey found some very good news. In the world of outdoors, it’s always good to hear that the numbers of hunters and anglers are on the rise. That not only increases business for companies like Texas Marine and Leger but also usually results in the hiring of more employees.

Noemi Perez, a spokesperson with the FWS, says Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar has announced that the results of a national survey of outdoor recreation show a significant increase in hunters and a double-digit increase in anglers over the past five years.

“Seeing more people fishing, hunting and getting outdoors is great news for America’s economy and conservation heritage,” said Salazar. “Outdoor recreation and tourism are huge economic engines for local communities and the country, so it is vital that we continue to support policies and investments that help Americans get outside, learn to fish or go hunting. “

Perez said that the Fish and Wildlife Service’s 2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation found that hunters nationwide increased by 9 percent while anglers grew by 11 percent.

“Nearly 38 percent of all Americans participated in wildlife-related recreation in 2011, an increase of 2.6 million participants from the previous survey in 2006,” said Perez. “They spent $145 billion on related gear, trips and other purchases, such as licenses, tags and land leasing and ownership, representing 1 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product.”

The Fish and Wildlife Service is dedicated to connecting people and families with nature, according to Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe.

“We look forward to continuing to work with the states, non-governmental organizations and additional partners to help keep recreational fishing, hunting and wildlife watching going strong for people across America’s great outdoors,” said Ashe.

At the request of state fish and wildlife agencies, the Fish and Wildlife Service has been conducting the national survey every five years since 1955.

“It is viewed as one of the nation’s most important wildlife-related recreation databases and the definitive source of information concerning participation and purchases associated with hunting, fishing and other forms of wildlife-related recreation nationwide,” said Perez.

“State agencies, hunters and anglers are the key funders of fish and wildlife conservation through their license and gear purchases,” said Dr. Jonathan Gassett, commissioner of the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Resources Commission and president of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. “An increase in participation and expenditure rates means that agencies can continue to restore and improve habitat and fish and wildlife species, bring more youth into the outdoors and provide even greater access to recreational activities.”

During this survey, Perez says that the U.S. Census Bureau interviewed 48,627 households across the country to obtain samples of sportsmen and women and wildlife watchers for detailed interviews.

Robert Sloan can be reached by e-mail at sloan288 [at] aol [dot] com.