Even though deer season has been up and running for a month, there is still something magical about that one Saturday closest to Nov. 1.
It is hard to explain why. Some would say it is boys and their toys or these days the renewal of an alternative lifestyle away from the urban grind.
What it isn’t so much, not after reaching a certain age, is just about the killing of a deer. Sure, before the season winds down in January, between 500,000 and 600,000 deer will be killed, and while that is a significant number, it certainly doesn’t completely explain hunting. After all, with about 600,000 hunters (a low number), hunters spend on average $4,200 per person to hunt each season, which comes out to about $120 a pound for venison.
For most, deer season actually begins in late August when the first hunting catalogues of the year arrive in the mail. Dove season is often an excuse to open the camp, fill the feeders and spend a few days at the lease. It is like preseason football or spring training baseball. It really doesn’t mean anything, but it is a chance to get away with the gang and get some things organized.
Archery season, which has also become a gun season for those with Managed Lands Deer permits, is a means to extend the hunting season. It is hard to say how many hunt during October under MLDPs, but there are probably 45,000 bow hunters creating an early season ripple.
For many deer hunters, today is a travel day in front of a long opening day weekend. It is like Christmas comes to town for those towns flying the highway banners that welcome hunters back for another year.
A few years ago I visited Llano specifically for the purpose of seeing the impact of deer season on the town’s coffers. Times have changed some as the Austin sprawl continues to get closer, but the reality is that hunting is still an important industry.
Cooper’s, the legendary barbecue shop in town, doubles what it cooks a day for opening weekend. Feed stores cater as much or more to hunters wanting corn, feeders and blinds as they do local ranchers.
Even land values are determined by hunting quality over grazing ability, and lease prices for hunting triple what a landowner can get from someone wanting to run cattle.
In an area minus oil and gas production, it is their boom, just compacted into three months.
But that is why deer hunting is important to the towns.
Why is it so important to people who call themselves hunters in 2012? Ask any hunter and you will probably get a different answer every time. It would be an interesting study in sociology.
There is no doubt there are easier and cheaper ways to put food on the table, but probably none as satisfying. Compare it to growing a garden.
With cellphones, almost every camp is accessible, but turn them off and walk outside and the real world is as far off as the stars.
For those lucky enough to have a lease, the season is about traditions that may have begun at youth — and camaraderie. Throughout life, we have to give up a lot of things we enjoyed as we get older. Hunting is not one of them.
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