LLANO — It may not be Black Friday or even the Christmas rush, but local merchants are still celebrating as the hunting season opens Nov. 3 in the Hill Country town known as the "Deer Capital of Texas."
The influx of hunters helps add millions of dollars to the local economy, from restaurants to hotels, officials say. And the town wants to say thank you with a party Nov. 2.
"Everyone in town benefits from the deer hunters from restaurants, to lodging to our merchants," said Patti Zinsmeyer, executive director of the Llano Chamber of Commerce. "It’s a tremendous economic impact for our community."
While the archery season began in late September, it’s the general season — which runs through Jan. 6 — that really attracts the camouflage-clad hunters, officials said.
In fact, the number of arriving hunters can easily double the city’s population over the course of the season, they add.
The proximity to major population centers such as Austin and San Antonio make Llano a great weekend destination for hunters — and a place to spend their money. Chamber officials said.
According to the 2011 National Survey of Hunting, Fishing and Wildlife-Associated Recreation report by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the average hunter spends $2,484 on trip-related expenses, equipment, licenses and leases.
For instance, in Llano visits from 3,000 hunters during the season translates into an additional $7.5 million in economic activity.
Officials said Texas hunters typically spend a little more than the national average on deer hunting.
Those numbers aren’t lost on Llano residents and businesses.
Meanwhile, the Chamber hosts its annual Hunters Appreciation Day Nov. 2 from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. The event is at the Chamber office, 100 Train Station Drive.
The chamber and local businesses treat the hunters to food and drinks. There’s also a prize drawing during the day with the winner getting a Marlin .243-caliber rifle.
"We’ll also have 300 goodie bags for the first 300 hunters that come by," Zinsmeyer said. "It’s just the businesses’ and the Chambers’ way of saying ‘thank you’ to the hunters."
With its high number of deer, the Edwards Plateau — which includes Llano and Burnet counties — draws a lot of hunters.
"Deer hunting brings thousands and thousands of people to the area," said Parks and Wildlife Game Warden Capt. Kevin Davis. "It’s a huge boost to the economy."
Davis, who oversees game wardens in Llano, Burnet, Lampasas, San Saba, Mason and Menard counties, said people can expect to see a lot more traffic on area roads.
The season means game wardens stay busy, but their emphasis shifts somewhat from area lakes — which is where most of the activity occurs during the broiling summer — to the brush.
"There’s no slack time for game wardens, especially in the Hill Country," he said. "We’re the lead agency on lake enforcement, so that keeps us extremely busy as well. This is just a change of focus for us."
Davis said the wardens will check deer camps and deer hunters. But his officers will also conduct some "low-visibility" operations to catch people violating game laws.