In 2006, hunters generated $2.63 billion in retail sales for their sport in Texas, paying nearly $284 million in state and local taxes and supporting more than 44,119 jobs, according to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. That doesn't include the millions spent by birdwatchers, photographers and others who enjoy wildlife they don't kill.
A large chunk of money also goes to private landowners who sell hunting leases, providing revenue to farmers and ranchers, whose operations are being pinched by the same long drought that threatens the population of game animals.
This is a problem, obviously. But luckily Texas House candidate Tony Tinderholt has inspired Buzz to come up with a plan to harness Texans' love of sport and free enterprise, along with our basic nativism, in a way that everybody wins.
As the Observer's Amy Silverstein reported here last week, the Arlington Republican draped his beefy body in camo and joined the private Texas Border Volunteers to chase down some border-jumping people in this country illegally.
"I thought they were actually catching illegal immigrants, but they're not. What they're doing is identifying and tracking criminal trespassers on private property ranches," he said. And then they called the law. "I thought they would actually have face-to-face time with these people. They don't do that at all."
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Ah, too bad, Tony. But when life gives you lemons ...
See, Texas is loaded with America-loving men who like nothing better than to hustle in the South Texas bush searching for illegal border crossers. At the same time, ranchers benefit from hunting leases. And the state likes to collect money for game tags. And the retailers of ATVs and camouflage suits certainly could use the business.
So we say, let's make this a sporting, profitable and humane enterprise.
We're not talking about "The Most Dangerous Game" here. No violence. Just a good, healthy run through the mesquite thorns, like a big game of kick the can. Ranchers could even put out automatic feeders to attract immigrants. Border jumpers could wear flag-football belts to decide a fair catch. We could even have zones where, if an immigrant makes it, he gets a bus ticket ... to California.