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Deer hunting plays important economic role in Oklahoma

According to Joanna Matthews of the Antlers Chamber of Commerce, deer hunting season has an important impact on the local southeast Oklahoma community.

“It is like Christmas,” she said. “The Friday before opening day of rifle season, the highways and stores are all packed with people coming in to hunt.”

With deer gun season underway, similar sentiments are shared in other communities across Oklahoma, including those in the far western region of the state. Steve Musick with the Cheyenne Chamber of Commerce said the Rogers Mills Co. community booms during deer season. Motels and restaurants fill up, and local hunting guide businesses stay busy with clients.

Drawn by family tradition, the chance to be outdoors, or even the opportunity to harvest a trophy animal, deer hunters who are participating in the season are having far-reaching effects on the state’s economy. Hunting sustains jobs, draws in-state and out-of-state business and floods the economy with millions of dollars each year. The number of people who hunt in Oklahoma could fill both Oklahoma University’s Owen Field and Oklahoma State University’s Boone Pickens Stadium almost two times, and deer hunters make up a large portion of those hunters.

Original expenditures made by hunters, anglers and wildlife watchers generate rounds of additional spending throughout the economy. According to the most recent U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation (2006), the total economic effect of deer hunting activity in Oklahoma during 2006 was estimated at nearly $500 million, and the total economic effect from 2006 hunting activity in Oklahoma in general was estimated to be about $843 million.

Expenditures made for hunting, fishing and wildlife watching activities support jobs throughout the state. Many of these jobs are in companies that directly serve recreationists, such as retailers, restaurants, motels and more. Others are in companies that support the first companies and employees such as wholesalers, utilities, manufacturers, grocers and more. Total jobs — full and part time — supported in Oklahoma in 2006 from deer hunting-related activities was estimated at about 5,662.

Given that 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 economies.

Deer season draws hunters to Oklahoma from across the country as well as the thousands of sportsmen who live and work in Oklahoma. These hunters purchase gear — some of which is made right here in Oklahoma — and they stay in small-town hotels and spend money at local grocery stores, restaurants, and other vendors. Hunting is big business in Oklahoma and an important part of the fabric of the state’s economy — a relatively healthy one compared to other parts of the country.

During hard economic times, families and friends are drawn closer together through hunting, and the fabric of Oklahoma’s economy is woven even tighter and stronger thanks to a pastime enjoyed by thousands and supported by Oklahoma’s rich natural resources.

Deer gun season runs through Dec. 4, and deer archery runs through Jan. 15, 2012. Additionally, the holiday antlerless deer gun season will run Dec. 16-25 in open areas (refer to antlerless deer hunting zones map on page 25 of the current “Oklahoma Hunting Guide for open areas). To learn more about deer hunting in Oklahoma, log on to wildlifedepartment.com.