Texas Parks & Wildlife Magazine   


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Healthy Ways to Enjoy Fall Safely

Hunting, fishing, biking, birding … Texas has enough space for all.

Texans have been cooped up in houses and apartments for months because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but they’re still finding ways to get outside. Certain outdoor activities that lend themselves to social distancing are booming.

Fishing license sales are up, bike sales are off the charts, park visitation is in demand, and people are bird-watching, paddling and stargazing more than ever. Judging by the numbers of people applying to hunt on public land, Texans are planning to go hunting this fall as well.

With restrictions on travel and work, spending time outdoors has grown in importance as a way to stay happy and healthy while being safe at the same time. Time in nature has been shown to improve mental health and physical health and reduce anxiety — important considerations during times of illness and stress.

Plus, being outdoors can serve as a form of social distancing, the strategy recommended to limit spread of the virus, with many outdoor activities accomplished alone or in small groups. There is a growing consensus among experts that being outdoors is less risky than being indoors for virus transmission.

 Chase Fountain / TPWD

Fishing Leads the Way

The state is on pace to have a record-setting year in hunting and fishing license sales, with year-to-date revenue (through July) 9.3 percent higher than last year. This is being led by fishing license sales, with revenue increasing 28.3 percent over last year.

41% increase in license revenue in June 2020 compared with June 2019

 Chase Fountain / TPWD

Everybody  Parks

Local, state and national parks have experienced closings and reopenings and limits on capacity in the past few months. Texas state parks were shut completely for two weeks in April and later reopened to day use and limited camping. Visitation is down for the year but is rebounding.

Lake Meredith National Recreation Area in the Panhandle saw a significant increase in visitation after reopening. More than 280,000 people visited the park in May, says Superintendent Eric Smith.

“The month of May we saw double the visitation that it’s been in any month of May in the past 20 years,” Smith told ABC 7 News in Amarillo, adding that many visitors were new boaters, new campers and out-of-towners.

 Shirokumakousaku | Dreamstime.com

Pedal Power

The cycling market showed historic growth this spring. April sales for bikes and accessories hit $1 billion in the U.S., 75 percent greater than the year-ago figure.

Woody Smith of Richardson Bike Mart in North Texas says his sales were up 50 percent during the COVID months.

“It’s been crazy,” he says. “It’s been a curse for many people but a blessing for us. We are having our best year in history.”

Smith says biking is an activity that’s easy to do, doesn’t cost a lot and is available right from your doorstep.

“We’ve been seeing lots of families biking together,” he says. “Biking is a favorite pastime for lots of people.”

 Paul Jantz | Dreamstime.com

The Buck Starts Here

Hunting licenses went on sale August 15, and people were anticipating the season before that. Applications to hunt on public land were up 34 percent over last year.

“It looks like people are pretty excited about an opportunity to get outdoors this fall,” says Justin Dreibelbis, public hunting program director at the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

 Mikael Males | Dreamstime.com

For the Birds

Bird-watching has also surged in popularity during the pandemic. Downloads of the National Audubon Society’s bird identification app doubled in March and April over that period last year, according to the Associated Press. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s free bird identification app, Merlin ID, saw downloads shoot up 102 percent over the same time last year.

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