The Wild Harvest Initiative Assesses Texas Harvest Data

Wild_Harvest_image.jpgA recent study on how Texas hunters use their harvested wild game shows, perhaps unsurprisingly, that almost every successful hunter shares with friends, family, and community members – reinforcing the idea of good, old-fashioned “Texas Hospitality” with a little bit of scientific evidence.

Beginning in August and ending in October 2018, Conservation Visions, in partnership with Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, conducted the “Texas Wild Meat Sharing and Consumption Index Study.” This survey was designed to gather information about the amount of wild meat harvested by hunters in Texas and explore their consumption and sharing habits.

"Texas hunters have a keen interest in a sustainable harvest of the game animals they pursue," said John Silovsky, Wildlife Division Director with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.  "Adequate harvest management can result in a surplus of wild meat that can be shared with family, friends, neighbors or charitable organizations such as ‘Hunters for the Hungry.’ The motivation to harvest game with many of today's hunters is not about trophies, but the opportunity to provide healthy wild recreationally harvested meat for the table."

Nearly 98 percent of successful Texas hunters reported sharing their wild harvested meat. According to state numbers, 60.5 percent of the average 1.19 million hunting and fishing license holders are successful in harvesting at least one game animal. The study by Conservation Visions suggested, by applying their findings to state reported data, that wild harvested meat is shared with 2.1 million individuals inside the hunters’ households and 3.7 million individuals outside their households. Additionally, the study showed that hunters shared a “staggering” 42.9 percent of their meat from their hunt with people outside of their immediate household.

Respondents reported being primarily motivated to share wild meat outside of their household because either they possessed more than they could consume in their household (27.3 percent) or they wanted to help family and friends with food stocks (24.2 percent). Hunters with rural addresses were less likely than those living in urban areas to respond that they had more wild meat than their household could consume and were more likely to report being primarily motivated by a desire to share their harvest in order to help family and friends with food stocks. Respondents in the highest income bracket (more than $200,000) were more likely than respondents in any other income group to report both that they were unable to retain harvested meat and that they donated their meat to a charity.

“We know that recreational wild harvest plays a significant and positive societal role in terms of food security and the related concepts of health and nutrition,” said Shane Mahoney, internationally recognized biologist, conservation advocate, and founder of Conservation Visions. “These benefits, however, extend beyond harvesters and their households to impact many other citizens who, themselves, may not hunt or fish. This is because recreational hunters and anglers have a unique tradition of wild meat/fish sharing that facilitates the consumption of wild harvested food by family members, friends, neighbors, and community groups, as well as individuals in need via donations to food banks/pantries and other charities concerned with social welfare.”

The survey was sent to 45,000 people who had purchased at least one hunting license in Texas between 2014 and 2017. In total, 2,735 completed questionnaires (6.08 percent) were returned. Additional care was taken to make sure the same hunter wasn’t surveyed twice. The study was the first of its kind by Conservation Visions’ “Wild Harvest Initiative,” which aims to quantify the benefits of wild meat sharing in the United States and Canada. The organization has confirmed future studies in Alaska, Arizona, and Nevada. The studies will eventually, as outlined by the goals of the Wild Harvest Initiative, advance social acceptance of wild harvest activities, especially hunting and angling, by emphasizing their relevance to the broader values and benefits of food, fitness, and health. It will contribute meaningfully to hunter and angler recruitment, retention, and reactivation through focused messaging of new insights regarding public attitudes and the scale and value of wild meat and fish harvests.

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About Jake Walker

Jake is the Communications Chair for the Texas Chapter of BHA. He lives deep in the heart of Austin, TX.

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