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MAGAZINE OF THE TEXAS WILDLIFE ASSOCIATION

june 2014

Hogs Gone Wild


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TEXAS WILDLIFE TEXAS WILDLIFE

preSidenT’S reMArkS

GreG SiMOnS

Making a House a Home One of my favorite television commercials is Coldwell Banker’s, The Value of a Home (I suggest you Google it…you will not regret). In this advertisement, the real estate mogul magically captures the esoteric values that separate the structural properties of a house, from the spiritual and aesthetic qualities of a home. I think we can all appreciate the profound contrast between these two places, even though it is difficult to quantify what makes one different from the other. But, make no mistake about it; a home certainly provides a sense of place that cannot always be found in a house, and it is my sentiment that this sense of place is part of the magic that compels people to appreciate the qualities of our natural outdoor world. Conservation icon, Aldo Leopold, often extolled the virtues of sense of place and its key role in conservation. In recent years, Richard Louv, who authored Last Child in the Woods, has examined and discussed how increased disconnect from the natural world often precludes a sense of place that is necessary in fostering natural resource literacy. Further, it is interesting to consider e.O. Wilson’s work on biophylia, where he suggests that humans are inextricably hard-wired to want to connect to other living systems. Perhaps, one could surmise that wild things and wild places are innately part of our home and that people who live a life that is separated from these elements are denied of one of the more fundamental ingredients that make a house a home. From a different but similar perspective, I think that people being people, have a tendency to lose sight of the fundamental elements of the Value of a Home for wildlife. Today’s paradigm makes it easy for us to conjure up our own ideas of what wildlife and wildlife habitat should look like. Our indoor lifestyle often forces us to view wildlife through the glass walls of a goldfish bowl. We conveniently find ourselves enjoying hummingbirds that are attracted to the sugar-water that we dispense through an artificial flower. Game managers often replace natural systems with things that are not so natural. I’m sure that each of these practices has a role in the important interface between wildlife and humans; but, should we not lose sight of the fundamental elements that do indeed make a house a home for wildlife? From my perspective, many of our artificial wildlife practices have a place in advancing conservation value in a variety of ways, including creating relevancy for wildlife. And, it is this relevancy that helps foster a deep connection to wildlife, which in turn will keep wildlife alive and thriving. But, I think it is important that we do not lose our appreciation for the intrinsic values that make wildlife wild and that make wildlife habitat a home for wild creatures. We say that the four components of wildlife habitat are food, cover, water and space. Is there actually a fifth component that we tend to overlook? One that is tied to the natural system of the arrangement with the four other traditional habitat components? One that is the difference-maker of making a house a home for wildlife? I think we should use caution in oversimplifying our natural ecological systems and how those natural systems are interwoven with our human health needs, or as Leopold put it many decades ago: “There are some who can live without wild things and some who cannot.” While we might not always realize it, perhaps we all depend on wild things…they are part of our home! TWA’s Convention, WildLife 2014, is right around the corner, july 10-13. With the addition of our Private Lands Summit on Thursday, combined with our spruced-up Friday and Saturday Convention activities, this makes for a can’t miss opportunity for the entire family to have a fun time, celebrating the pleasures that make Texas a very special place for us to call home. Cheers!

Mission Statement of the Texas Wildlife Association Serving Texas wildlife and its habitat, while protecting property rights, hunting heritage, and the conservation efforts of those who value and steward wildlife resources.

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TEXAS WILDLIFE

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TEXAS WILDLIFE ASSOCIATION 3660 Thousand Oaks Dr., Suite 126 San Antonio, TX 78247 www.texas-wildlife.org (210) 826-2904 FAX (210) 826-4933 (800) 839-9453 (TEX-WILD) OFFICERS Greg Simons, President, San Angelo Marcus T. Barrett IV, Vice President, San Antonio Dr. Louis Harveson, Second Vice President for Programs, Alpine J. David Anderson, Treasurer, Houston For a complete list of TWA Directors, go to www.texas-wildlife.org

PROFESSIONAL STAFF/CONTRACT ASSOCIATES Administration & Operation Quita Hill, Director of Finance and Operations Vacant, Office Administrator

Outreach & Member Services David Brimager, Director of Marketing and Partner Relations Kendra Roller, Director of Member Relations Kathy Dalgleish, Membership Coordinator

Programs Helen Holdsworth, Conservation Legacy Program Director Koy Coffer, Education Program Specialist Kassi Scheffer, Education Program Specialist Clint Faas, Conservation Program Coordinator Courtney Brittain, Web Program Consultant Mary Pearl Meuth, Education Program Contractor Lynnsey Dohmen, Education Program Contractor Leslie Wittenburg, Education Program Contractor Elanor Dean, Education Program Contractor Toni Purnell, Education Program Contractor Amanda Crouch, Education Program Contractor Justin Dreibelbis, Hunting Heritage Program Director COL(R) Jerry B. Warden, Texas Youth Hunting Program Director COL(R) Chris Mitchell, TYHP Field Operations Coordinator Barbara Scheib, TYHP Administrative Assistant Kara Starr, Hunting Heritage Program Assistant

Advocacy Joey Park, Legislative Program Coordinator

MAGAZINE CORPS Kim Rothe, Consulting Publications Coordinator/Editor David Brimager, Consulting Editor Lorie Woodward Cantu, Special Projects Editor Cross Timbers Marketing.com, Design & Layout Publication Printers Corp., Printing, Denver, CO

COLUMNISTS/CONTRIBUTORS Ralph Winingham Lorie Woodward Cantu Dale Rollins, Ph. D. Billy Higginbotham, Ph. D. Borderlands Research Institute for Natural Resource Management, Sul Ross State University-Alpine Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute, Texas A&M University-Kingsville Arthur Temple College of Forestry and Agriculture, Stephen F. Austin State University-Nacogdoches TeXAS WilDliFe is published monthly by Texas Wildlife Association, 3660 Thousand Oaks Dr., Suite 126, San Antonio, Texas 78247. E-mail address: twa@texas-wildlife.org POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Texas Wildlife Association, 3660 Thousand Oaks Dr., Suite 126, San Antonio, Texas 78247. The Texas Wildlife Association (TWA) was organized in 1985 for the purpose of serving as an advocate for the benefit of wildlife and for the rights of wildlife managers, landowners and hunters in educational, scientific, political, regulatory and legislative arenas. TEXAS WILDLIFE is the official TWA publication and has widespread circulation throughout Texas and the United States. All rights reserved. No parts of these magazines may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without express written permission from the publisher. Copyrighted 2014 Texas Wildlife Association. Views expressed by contributors are not necessarily those of the Texas Wildlife Association. Similarities between the name Texas Wildlife Association and those of advertisers or state agencies are coincidental, and do not indicate mutual affiliation, unless clearly noted. Members who move should send new address and current membership classification to headquarters. TWA reserves the right to refuse advertising.

For advertising information, contact David Brimager at (800) 839-9453 3660 Thousand Oaks Dr., Suite 126, San Antonio, TX 78247 or e-mail dbrimager@texas-wildlife.org.


Mission Impacts

TEXAS WILDLIFE

june

Volume 30 H Number 2 H 2014

dear mr. Brimager: Thank you for the awesome powerpoint presentation to our kellerwilliams farm and ranch group in new Braunfels. The presentation hit all the high points of the texas wildlife association, key issues on how wildlife management impacts the real estate industry, ag valuations, water rights and so much more. also, howard ham gave a testimonial on twa's lobbying in the legislature about landowner rights. a lot of great information was presented. we definitely look forward to having you back, and i am sure that we will have agents joining your association and especially attending your various events and convention. once again, thanks for speaking to our group. Thanks, mike merta Realtor Keller Williams Reality Farm & Ranch Specialist Certified Probate Real Estate Specialist

8 Hogs Gone Wild by ralph winingham

14 Reaching Out to Rural Texas Water 18 Partnering Makes TYHP Possible by Col(r) Jerry warden

22 Making a Difference with Partnerships by koy Coffer

26 The Plow: Food Plots

by lorie woodward Cantu

34 Are Arthropods the Canary in the Coal Mine? by forrest smith

L.A.N.D.S. Success

36 Erect Dayflower

koy Coffer: Thanks for a great in-service last saturday. i did the earthworm measurement project yesterday with my students to engage them before we started our soil unit, and we then went outside and planted our container gardens.

by dale rollins, ph.d.

38 TWA Statewide Committee Meetings at Annual Convention by kendra roller Leela Belaouichi

They loved it!!!

42 The Great Texas Wildlife Trails by mary o. parker

nancy Brock, Fifth Grade Teacher Oyster Creek Elementary School Sugar Land, Texas

46 Trophy Quail Management by dale rollins, ph.d.

48 The Sentinel of the Plains by russell a. graves

James Ho

Learn More About TWA

scan the Qr code with your smartphone to learn more about the texas wildlife association or visit www.texas-wildlife.org

On the COver Feral hogs – domestic strains gone wild, imported Eurasian boars and their hybrids – have spread across the Lone Star State like wildfire in the past two decades. The most prolific large wild mammals in North America now inhabit nearly three dozen states, including Hawaii. Read about the latest research on controlling the feral hog population in Ralph Winingham’s article on page 8. Photo by Russell Graves

MAGAZINE OF THE TEXAS WILDLIFE ASSOCIATION

juNE 2014

Hogs Gone Wild

www.texas-wildlife.org

5


TEXAS WILDLIFE

MeeTinGS And evenTS

FOR INFORMATION ON HUNTING SEASONS, call the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department at (800) 792-1112, consult the 2013-2014 Texas Parks and Wildlife Outdoor Annual, or visit the TPWD website at www.tpwd.state.tx.us.

June

June

AuGuST

JUNE 7 Texas Big Game Awards, Regions 1,2, and 3 at Four Bar K, Lubbock. Hotel block available at Hawthorne Suites, (806) 792-3600, Group Code: TBGA. For more information, contact Justin Dreibelbis at jdreibelbis@texaswildlife.org.

JUNE 27 Texas Agricultural Land Trust Program, Canadian, 8:30 a.m. – 12 p.m. For landowners, estate and tax advisors, and other interested parties to learn about conservation easements as a tool to prevent fragmentation of family lands. For more information, contact Allison Elder at aelder@txaglandtrust.org or (210) 826-0074.

AUGUST 9 Texas Big Game Awards, Regions 4 and 8 at Y.O. Ranch Hotel and Conference Center, Kerrville. Hotel block available at Y.O. Ranch Hotel, (877) 967-3767, Group Code: TBGA2014. For more information, contact Justin Dreibelbis at jdreibelbis@texas-wildlife.org.

JUNE 10-12 L.A.N.D.S. Teacher/Volunteer Training (geared for grades 6-12), Temple Ranch, Freer TX. For more information contact kcoffer@texaswildlife.org or call (512) 4961678. JUNE 25 Texas Agricultural Land Trust Program, Lubbock, 8:30 a.m. – 12 p.m. For landowners, estate and tax advisors, and other interested parties to learn about conservation easements as a tool to prevent fragmentation of family lands. For more information, contact Allison Elder at aelder@txaglandtrust.org or (210) 826-0074. JUNE 26 Texas Agricultural Land Trust Lunch Program, Amarillo, 12 – 1 p.m. For landowners, estate and tax advisors, and other interested parties to learn about conservation easements as a tool to prevent fragmentation of family lands. For more information, contact Allison Elder at aelder@txaglandtrust.org or (210) 826-0074.

JUNE 28 Texas Big Game Awards, Regions 5,6, and 7 at Fireman’s Training Center, Brenham. For more information, contact Justin Dreibelbis at jdreibelbis@texas-wildlife.org.

July JULY 10 Private Lands Summit: Private Lands Stewardship in the Modern Era, JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort and Spa. For more information, contact TWA at (800) 839-9453. JULY 10-13 WildLife 2014, TWA's 29th Annual Convention, JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort and Spa. For more information, contact David Brimager at dbrimager@ texas-wildlife.org or (800) 839-9453.

AUGUST 15 Texas Agricultural Land Trust Program, Victoria, 8:30 a.m. – 12 p.m. For landowners, estate and tax advisors, and other interested parties to learn about conservation easements as a tool to prevent fragmentation of family lands. For more information, contact Allison Elder at aelder@txaglandtrust.org or (210) 826-0074.

SepTeMber SEPTEMBER 4 Saving Family Lands Seminar, Dallas Petroleum Club, 8:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. Stephen J. Small will present this workshop for landowners, attorneys, appraisers, accountants, realtors, and estate planners. He will present current information on tools and financial strategies for keeping cherished lands in the family. CLE credit available. For information or to register, visit www.txaglandtrust.org, or contact Allison Elder at (210) 826-0074 or aelder@txaglandtrust.org.

The Texas Wildlife Association and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service sponsor lunchtime webinars the third Thursday of each month. If you are not able to attend the live webinar, each presentation is archived on the TWA website.

DATES / WEBINARS FROM NOON–1 P.M. June 19 – State and Federal Government Landowner Assistance Programs,

QUESTIONS?

July 17 – Oil and Gas From a Landowner’s Perspective Jay Evans

Jon Hayes

August 21 – Cattle Grazing and Wildlife Habitat

Contact Clint Faas at (210) 826-2904 or cfaas@texas-wildlife.org

Jason Hohlt

IT’S EASY!

On the day of the webinar, simply go to https://texas-wildlife.webex.com, and click on the title of the webinar you wish to attend. The webinar series provides sound, science-based wildlife management options delivered by experts to you in the comfort of your own home or office.

NO NEED TO TRAVEL!

Each web-based seminar is fully interactive and allows you to engage the experts, make comments and ask questions during the course of the presentation.

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For first-time users of the WebEx webinar program, advance log on (up to one hour before the presentation) is recommended to address any potential problems. Users may be prompted to download WebEx software to run the program correctly. There is also a test site to setup and test WebEx any time, day or night. Please visit http://www.webex.com/test-meeting.html to join a test meeting, today.


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While the research on sodium nitrite is underway, the timetested method of hunting and shooting wild pigs remains one of the most popular control efforts in the state.

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TEXAS WILDLIFE

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HOGS GONE

WILD Article by RALPH WininGHAM

The latest research on controlling the feral hog population

Photo by Russell Graves

O

f all the creatures big and small roaming across the Lone Star State, there seems to be only one that can claim the titles of the most popular and the most disliked animal at the same time – feral hogs. Prolific and destructive, but among the best table fare known to wild game aficionados, the wild porkers fall only behind the white-tailed deer as the state’s most numerous big game animal. estimating the number of feral hogs in Texas is a guess at best. The creatures that eat almost everything that can be digested and show little fear of any predators, including humans, are believed to number about 2.6 million. Feral hogs – domestic strains gone wild, imported eurasian boars and their hybrids – have spread across the Lone Star State like wildfire in the past two decades. The most prolific large wild mammals in north America now inhabit nearly three dozen states, including hawaii. damage estimates to Texas crops, fences, pastures, yards, golf courses and other property is estimated at $200 million each year, with more than $52 million of that in agricultural losses alone. nationwide, the feral hog plague is estimated to cost about $1.5 billion each year. The latest survey by the u.S. department of Agriculture office in Austin estimates that the average landowner spends $2,631 per year in control efforts or repairs. The destruction is widespread, with 87 percent of those surveyed reporting damage from hogs rooting roads, ponds and fields; 65 percent citing wallowing damage; 53 percent experiencing crop losses; 49 percent suffering feed loss; and, 47 percent faced with fence damage. While officials estimate about 750,000 feral hogs are harvested each year (the annual tally by hunters is about 600,000, commercial trappers take about 70,000; and professional pest control experts kill about 50,000), the swine are clearly winning the population battle. A glimmer of hope in the hog control effort has fallen on the shoulders of wildlife biologists at the kerr Wildlife management Area near hunt, where research is underway testing a toxic control method that shows signs of being ecologically safe, economical and most importantly, effective. "The usual methods we have been attempting are not so effective. Successful development of an effective toxic bait would ultimately have global implications,'' said donnie Frels, project leader at the kerr WmA. The substance under study is sodium nitrite, the same chemical used

WWW.TexAS-WILdLIFe.ORG

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HOGS GONE WILD

as a preservative for jerky, bacon and other food products. unlike humans, feral hogs do not have the ability to control the effects of sodium nitrite in their system and if enough of the chemical is ingested, they die. "Sodium nitrite reduces the ability of blood to carry oxygen. The hog's organs such as its heart and brain require oxygen for the animal to survive. What happens when they ingest sodium nitrite in a lethal dose is that the animal becomes lethargic, lies down and simply stops breathing. "There is no pain, no thrashing or vocalizations, which is very important when considering toxicants,'' he said. The research has been going on at the kerr WmA for about four years in conjunction an ongoing project in Australia where favorable results have been reported. In that country, tests in large research areas have determined that feral hog reduction rates of as high as 89 percent are possible. "To my knowledge, there have been no tests conducted on private property in Australia. We hope to attempt such application here in Texas soon,'' Frels said. "There are a lot of variables, such as developing an effective delivery system that will prevent nontarget intoxication of other mammals such as bears, raccoons and deer." The research is the only study of its kind being conducted in the united States, but the world is watching with anxious anticipation of a possible feral hog control system, he said.

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Photo by Ralph Winingham

Confined to a special enclosure for monitoring purposes, these feral hogs are among the nearly 100 wild pigs being used at the Kerr Wildlife Management Area to study the use of sodium nitrite as a possible control measure.

This thermal image of a feral hog is an example of how hunters and others are relying on space age technology to help control the wild pig menace in Texas.

"We've even had a television crew come here from japan to film the research. That country has a big feral hog problem – when a hog gets into a rice paddy, that can really be bad,'' he said. So far, the main problem with the use of sodium nitrite is that the chemical degrades quickly and gives off an unappetizing gas, in addition to its salty taste. If the food source does not smell or taste edible, feral hogs simply won't eat it and the sodium nitrite won't work as a toxic agent.

The Australian researchers with Animal Control Technologies have developed a large pellet similar in size to a cattle cube that they have found to be palatable to hogs and have been using in their research. At the kerr WmA, the biologists are experimenting with smaller pellets, just a little larger than protein pellets used in deer feeders. They are also incorporating state-of-theart technology in their feeders and distribution system to help ensure that they can monitor the ingestion of the pellets by each


of the individual study animals. This technology includes radio frequency identification tags that are placed in the ears of the study hogs and cameras that capture feeding activity. "hogs have an incredible social structure, and they are very intelligent. We suspect learned aversion is occurring which is ultimately decreasing effectiveness," he said, explaining that hogs may start avoiding the feeders if they suspect any danger. he stressed that private use of sodium nitrite, which is readily available to the public, for hog control is both against the law and would be ineffective. "you can't just go out and spread it on the ground. That is illegal, and the hogs won't eat it. "Our research is being conducted under controlled conditions to determine an economical and effective toxin and delivery system for wild hogs. Only after those tests are Photo by Ralph Winingham

Photo by Ralph Winingham

HOGS GONE WILD

Donnie Frels, project leader at the Kerr Wildlife Management Area, explains the working procedure to tag and monitor feral hogs at the facility in an attempt to find a safe and effective control measure.

WWW.TexAS-WILdLIFe.ORG

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HOGS GONE WILD

Photo by Ralph Winingham

Photo by Ralph Winingham

completed will we be able to work with the Taking to the air has also given hunters and sure in the state remains the hundreds of environmental Protection Agency registra- predator control experts the edge over wary thousands of hunters who take advantage tion process to develop a publicly approved wild hogs. In 2011, the Texas Parks & Wild- of the opportunity to shoot an unlimbait,'' Frels said. life department approved the aerial assault by ited number of hogs any time of the year. While the research on sodium nitrite is shooters willing to pay a hefty sum for heli- TPWd officials consider the hogs as exotic underway, the time-tested method of hunt- copter flights targeting the destructive pests. animals that cause damage to property and ing and shooting the wild pigs remains one of The opportunity for shooters to take to the crops. If you are a landowner or a designatthe most popular control efforts in the state. skies has made a dent in the feral hog popu- ed agent of a landowner, killing wild pigs many hunters are turning to their own lation in isolated areas, but biologists do not as damage control, no hunting license is rehigh-tech methods to enhance their wild believe the use of "hog copters" will become quired. If you are killing feral hogs for their pig reduction success in order to combat the a significant reduction factor. meat or for recreation, a hunting license is hogs' keen sense of sight, excellent olfactory As noted earlier, the largest control mea- necessary. nearly any hunting method is leabilities and ability to gal, including trapping; revert to nocturnal habsnaring; using tracking its when faced with any dogs; any type of firehunting pressure. arm or archery equipAs researchers have ment; and even using a discovered, the eyes of knife or spear. feral hogs do not reAuthor’s Note: TPWD flect light at night like officials have recomwhite-tailed deer and mended that hunters other animals, but the wear disposable plastic or animals do give off heat rubber gloves when field that can be detected by dressing or cleaning wild infrared sensors. hogs to prevent a possible Although the price infection of Swine Bruceltag can be quite high losis. The disease, known – top-end night vision as undulant fever, is optics can set a shooter transmittable to humans back by as much as and causes flu-like symp$14,000 – the devices toms such as fever, chills, are flying off the shelves aches and pains. There nearly as fast as they arhave only been few cases rive at sporting goods reported in Texas and the The species-specific feeder used by Australian researchers in their study of feral hogs being retails across the state. disease is treatable with "The technology is examined by Donnie Frels, project leader at the Kerr Wildlife Management Area, is just one specific antibiotics. possible delivery system being used in the hog population control effort. much improved over earlier generations of night vision," said Chuck hand at dury's Gun Shop in San Antonio, pointing out that rather than green blobs seen through early versions of night vision scopes, the third generation models depict actual thermal images of warm-blooded animals. When matched with a suppressor that reduces the sound of the shot to a level that will not send the night-time pests scattering in every direction, hunters have a distinct advantage over The two different kind of pellets currently under study at the Kerr Wildlife Management Area as possible delivery systems for the hogs. sodium nitrite as a hog control measure are displayed by Donnie Frels, project manager at the facility.

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Photo by Ralph Winingham

Hogs that have been trapped and delivered to the Kerr Wildlife Management Area for study purposes are given a wide berth by Donnie Frels, project manager at the facility that is looking into possible toxins for use against the destructive animals.

Concerning turning feral hog meat into fine table fare, Austin outdoorsman, butcher, chef and cookbook author jesse Griffith has spent years developing his techniques of wild game culinary creativity. Griffiths said he has never encountered any wild game or fish that he would consider inedible, although he has prepared some dishes that did not quite meet his expectations. “every animal is different and you have to learn to treat them all differently,’’ he said, adding that feral hog is one of his favorite game meats to offer his dining companions. The following recipe, including a salsa, is from Griffith’s book: Afield: A Chef ’s Guide to Preparing and Cooking Wild Game and Fish that is available from www.welcomebooks.com/afield. more information about his game preparation and wild game cooking classes is available at www.daidueaustin.net.

WiLD BOAR CARniTAS

JALAPEnO SALSA

Fatty, crisp and chewy, “little meats” make a perfect taco with raw onion and fresh cilantro. The meat is browned slowly and cooked until tender in the oven. use lard if the pig is a bit lean, or try to make this with fatty cuts – i.e, belly – from fatty hogs. The long cooking time of this recipe lends itself well to an overnighter in the oven. Serve carnitas with beer and stacks of good tortillas, and jalapeno Salsa.

modeled after the house salsa at meson Principal in Saltillo, mexico, this salsa is super simple, but perfect. I was shocked to taste such a good sauce made from only three ingredients.

2 pounds fatty hog belly or shoulder, diced kosher salt 1 teaspoon ground cumin 1 teaspoon mexican oregano ¼ teaspoon ground coriander 2 teaspoons guajillo or chipotle chile powder 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper juice and zest of 1 orange Preheat oven to 225 degrees. In an ovenproof pot or dutch oven, combine all the ingredients and stir to combine. Cover the pot tightly, place in the oven and cook until very tender and crisp, about 6 to 7 hours. If the carnitas are still not deeply browned, place the pot over high heat and cook, stirring often, for a few minutes until the pieces caramelize nicely. Serves four.

8 large ripe tomatoes 2 to 4 jalapeno peppers kosher salt Build a hot fire or preheat a grill or broiler. Char the tomatoes and peppers very well – there should be plenty of black on the tomatoes and pepper skins. Remove the tomatoes and peppers from the heat and let cool. Remove the stems from the peppers and the cores of the tomatoes and discard. Place the peppers and tomatoes in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until still coarse (or smooth if you prefer). Season with salt. makes about one pint.

WWW.TexAS-WILdLIFe.ORG

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issues and advocacy

MAKING A DIFFERENCE

Reaching Out to Rural Texas Water Meet TWDB's New Agricultural and Rural Texas Ombudsman This article was featured on the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) website in March 2014. It is reprinted here with permission of TWDB.

I

t's a good thing Doug Shaw loves Texas back roads. In just his first six weeks on the job, he traveled over 3,000 miles. The Texas Water Development Board's first Agricultural and Rural Texas Ombudsman began this new staff position on Dec. 1, 2013. The product of a sixth generation Texas farm family, Shaw knows rural Texas, and he knows Texas water. He previously worked in the water planning division at TWDB from 2006 until he assumed his new role last year. His long experience in regional water planning enabled him to work with diverse interests and stakeholders, including rural and agricultural, and to understand the unique opportunities the TWDB's funding programs offer to communities across Texas. Shaw holds B.S. and M.S. degrees in agricultural economics from Tarleton State university. So, what exactly is an ombudsman? And why does TWDB need it? TWDB is in the midst of developing rules for administering the new State Water Implementation Fund for Texas (SWIFT), the fund authorized by voters in november to finance projects in the state water plan. The legislation for SWIFT directs TWDB to undertake the use of not less than 10 percent of the funds on rural and agricultural projects. "The ag ombudsman is helping us spread the word to rural communities about the SWIFT and the benefits it will offer to those communities," says TWDB Chairman Carlos Rubinstein. "His effort is a critical part of our SWIFT outreach and our outreach on many other programs." "The Board has made it clear it wants to expand outreach," Shaw says. "I enjoy traveling, talking to people and listening to their concerns. This is exactly what I've wanted to do."

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Shortly after beginning his new position, several things became clear to Shaw. Most people weren't familiar with the TWDB and didn't know who to contact. Smaller entities that needed assistance for water projects didn't know how to navigate the financial process or felt they had to compete with larger entities for dollars. Shaw knows the outreach process will take time and will be an ongoing effort. "Our Board is meeting multiple times a month to shorten the time from application to getting money out the door, and further incent the timely and proactive development of water supplies. I'm a point of contact for small entities and stakeholders who are looking for help or information," he says. "This new position ensures they have a voice and are being heard." TWDB board member Bech Bruun reports, "Through Doug's outreach, more rural Texans will learn about and get involved in the regional water planning process, which is a key foundation to the

state water plan." Shaw adds, "More folks getting involved means more local information, which can only lead to more comprehensive regional water plans." To get funding from the SWIFT, projects must be part of the state water plan. And to be part of the state water plan, they must first appear in a regional water plan. To date, Shaw's travels have taken him from AgriLife and Texas Rural Water Association events to meetings hosted by legislators, city managers, county judges and commissioners from rural areas. So far the response has been overwhelmingly positive. "I grew up in rural Texas. It's appealing to be able to spend time there, and I'm encouraged by opportunities to get the message out and help develop water for Texas," Shaw says. Contact Doug Shaw, TWDB's Agricultural and Rural Texas Ombudsman, at (512) 4631711 or at Doug.Shaw@twdb.texas.gov.


National Shooting Sports FoundationÂŽ

HOW WILDLIFE

Since the late 1930s, hunters, target shooters and the firearms industry contributors to conservation,

GUNS & HUNTING HOW IT WORKS

America's wildlife and all who love the outdoors.

THEN & NOW

Manufacturers pay federal excise taxes on guns and ammunition.

44,000,000

100,000

Pronghorn Antelope 50

$9 Billion

For Conservation So Far

Where the Money Goes

Early 1900s As many wildlife species are dwindling in numbers or disappearing, firearms industry steps forward and asks Congress to redirect

Buy, develop, maintain and operate wildlife management areas

12,000

1,100,000

OTHER WAYS SPORTSMEN Excise taxes combined with revenue from hunting license sales

$81 Million

CONTRIBUTED ANNUALLY

conservation

7,000,000

Hunting License Name 123 Main Street Any town, USA 00000

Duck stamp proceeds are used by the government to buy or lease wetland habitat for ducks, geese and hundreds of non-game birds and animals.

Hunter safety and education programs Construction and maintenance of public target shooting ranges

wildlife agencies. These lands, where game and non-game species flourish, are purchased with sportsmen’s dollars but used by all Americans.

TODAY

Wild Turkeys

set aside to help ensure future wildlife abundance.

Quick History

1,000,000

41,000

TODAY

4

TODAY

Rocky Mountain Elk

Revenue from these excise taxes is distributed to state wildlife agencies.

nssf.org

TODAY

FEW

This System Has Provided NEARLY

32,000,000

Ducks / Waterfowl Population

YEARS AGO

3

500,000

5

1907

2

Hunters and target shooters purchase guns and ammunition.

TODAY

White Tailed Deer Population 1

Theodore Roosevelt

Aldo Leopold

Key Pittman

Willis Robertson


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H u n T i n G H e r i TA G e

MAKING A DIFFERENCE

Partnering Makes TYHP Possible Article by | COl(r) jerry warden Photos from | COl(r) jerry warden and tyhp arChives

W

hen the Texas youth hunting Program (TyhP) was conceived in the mid 1990s, it was based on various types of partnerships – one being the continuous relationship between the Texas Parks and Wildlife department (TPWd) and the Texas Wildlife Association (TWA), which together established TyhP. The program’s driving force is the partnership with the gracious landowners who provide places for hunts and the dedicated huntmasters who plan and run these hunts. But, the life blood of the program is the partnerships with like-minded organizations, foundations, corporations and individuals who provide necessary funding. These partners have three things in common: they care about our youth, the future of hunting and the outdoors. most do a great job of educating youths about the outdoors and hunting, but none have the ability to take kids hunting like TyhP does. unfortunately, in today’s world, it is not as easy as one might think for an organization to take kids hunting. It is more than a group of mentor hunters gathering a group of kids and heading to the woods. It is insurance, liability, concern for

A trophy javelina.

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A portion of the participants at the Cave Creek Super Hunt supported by Austin Woods and Waters Club, Safari Club International-Austin and Cave Creek Wildlife Management Association.

the child’s safety and well being, safe places to hunt and much more. most of these supporters provide funding so that they can do their part for the future of hunting while leaving youth hunting to experts such as TyhP, which provides an easy, affordable and efficient means of developing future generations of safe, educated and ethical hunters. It is these supporters who care and take pride in knowing they are contributing to the future of hunting. The funding provided by these partners has allowed the program to grow, mature and become recognized as the model for youth hunting in the united States. While TPWd provides funding for about 50 percent of the program, TWA looks to Texas Wildlife Association Foundation (TWAF) for the balance of the budget. TWAF, in turn, strives for grants and donations to support youth hunting. These partners, along with TyhP landowners, huntmasters and volunteers, provide millions of dollars of support in irreplaceable resources and labor, making the program successful. This partnership coalition has allowed the program to take

19,500 youths on safe, educational hunts since 1997. In the process, their support has provided approximately 55,000 participants with positive hunting and outdoor experiences. Without a doubt, they will be lifelong supporters of hunting, the outdoors and what TWA stands for. If you know any of these sponsors, please thank them for their support of youth hunting. The following is a list of supporters that consistently contribute to help make the program possible. Texas Wildlife Association Foundation – since the creation of TyhP, TWAF has provided major funding for the program. TWAF increases natural resource literacy and promotes conservation and educational programs that connect Texans to the land. american Conservation and education society – funding organization of the houston safari Club (hsC). TyhP’s relationship with hSC dates back to 1998. This year, hSC provided major funding for scholarships, primarily for inner city houston


pArTnerinG MAkeS TyHp pOSSible

HUNTING HERITAGE

There is nothing better than family togetherness on a hunt.

youths. It also provides funding for houston Area huntmaster Workshops which provide volunteer training for the program. austin sCi – has provided grants and indirect funding for scholarships through their Christo kaiser Award. every year, the Austin SCI has provided both the food and meal preparations for the World’s Largest Super hunt which takes more than 60 kids hunting over the course of a single weekend. Counting landowners and supporters the hunt easily exceeds 200 participants. SCI-A has assisted TWA/TyhP with its Life’s Better Outside experience and other displays by providing Sensory Safari wildlife mounts. A U S T I N

Blaine smith Memorial Fund – was established in honor of Blaine Smith, one of the program’s physically challenged hunters who passed away. The funding is to be used primarily to support our hunts that are intended for physically challenged hunters. Cabela’s – is one of the program’s continuing partners. Its generous donation has provided the trademark TyhP orange caps given to every youth hunter as part of their required equipment as well as other support. This donation has resulted in thousands of dollars of savings to the program for many years. Chevron Corporation – provides funding to TyhP based on volunteer hours which huntmasters dedicate to the program. G. rollie white Foundation – has a long history of supporting TyhP. The Foundation’s substantial funding provides scholarships for youths statewide and for volunteer training, which allows for program expansion. It also provides funding for TyhP’s much-needed marketing efforts and enhancements to its

More than hunting.

interactive website designed to increase youth participation in hunting. louie schreiner youth hunt sponsoring syndicate – through its annual purchase at the TWA Convention since the association’s early days, it has supported TWA and its programs. For 24 years, it has provided a hunt of a lifetime for youth on the world famous y.O. Ranch. The syndicate is a group of unrelated individuals who come together for the common interest of preserving our hunting heritage. McBride Foundation – is affiliated with the austin woods and water Club (awwC) and has been funding TyhP since its beginning. Their grants provide needed, direct funding of TyhP for general use of the program. Additionally, this foundation also provides funding directly to the AWWC youth hunting Program which operates under TyhP. This indirectly results in major cost savings to TyhP. This program increases the quantity of new hunters and serves as the model for other outdoor organizations.

that goes beyond providing financial support. It has trained members through huntmaster Workshops so that they can run all types of youth hunts, not just turkey hunts. It also assists with program insurance. rocky Mountain elk Foundation – has provided support and funding since 2000 to TyhP. Its funding supports TyhP hunts, huntmaster Training and volunteer appreciation measures. It has also provided for educational outings and summer camps designed to introduce inner city youths to outdoor, wildlife and hunting activities. These camps are orchestrated and conducted by TyhP huntmasters from houston.

national rifle association (nra) – has been one of the program’s key partners since the inception of TyhP. Grants from the South and West Texas chapters have provided the program with equipment for hunts, equipment to be used for recruiting/ introducing individuals to hunting and shooting, and funding for volunteer training. national wild turkey Federation (nwtF) – has supported TyhP by conducting and sponsoring youth turkey hunts since 2002. It is one more organization

A young lady prepares for a shot in a fully accessible blind provided by another partner, the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance.

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HUNTING HERITAGE

pArTnerinG MAkeS TyHp pOSSible

rotary Club of Corpus Christi’s harvey weil sportsman Conservationist award trust – is a focus of the Corpus Christi Rotary Club, which has been supporting TyhP with substantial grants since 2005. These grants have provided scholarships and funding for Coastal Bend and South Texas Area hunts. san antonio sCi – provides funding for program expansion. texas Farm Bureau -has partnered with TyhP for more than a decade and has provided funding used to recognize volunteers, landowners and other supporters who make the program possible. texas youth hunting partners – is a funding source developed by TWAF. To date, it has raised significant funds used to provide both full and partial scholarships for the program. key contributors who shy away from accolades but deserve recognition are Carl young, Cargill Inc., dynamic Systems Inc., vicky and david Black, evelyn and Carroll Summers, david darr, The Alfred S. Gage Foundation (Roxana C. hayne, joan n. kelleher, julie Stacy and nancy hayne, directors), Susan and Steve Lewis,

and many more partners including some who wish to remain anonymous. Additional support was received from Safe-TBox of Bulverde who provided and installed a storage container for the program’s equipment at the ymCA Robert’s Ranch. tpwd Cooperative Grant – since 1997 has provided competitive support as funds were available.

What could be better for a father and son who had never hunted before?

webyshops.com – is a group of online retail stores with an extensive inventory of outdoor gear which has donated a portion of their profits to the program since the mid 2000s. In addition to the highlighted supporters, a number of other organizations and individuals have provided funding for special needs of the program. many of these organizations and supporters have gone the extra mile by committing to huntmaster training, providing hunts and/or direct

A happy hunter with her reward.

hands-on participation in our program. TyhP could not function at its current level and continue to expand without these important partners. Thanks to these and others for their grants, donations and invaluable support that contribute to our joint efforts to ensure hunting will be around for future generations to enjoy. If you or your organization was not recognized in this article, please contact Jerry Warden at (800) 460-5494. It is very important to us that all of our contributors receive the proper recognition.

Turkeys Hot for Youth Opener Article by Texas deer season is over, but like the canary in a coal mine, the wild Rio Grande Turkey serves as a measure of hunting success during the spring. This was especially true during the windy, wet and cold Special youth-Only Weekend hunt of march 8-9, 2014 (South Zone). Landowners Leo Quintanilla of Paloma Cattle Company and Betty Teal hosted the hunt in mcmullen County for five youths, their fathers, huntmasters from the Texas youth hunting Program (TyhP) and guides/volunteers from the Alamo Chapter of the national Wild Turkey Federation (nWTF). For eight years, Paloma Cattle Company has served as site for introducing families to a bird-hunting sport with “classroom” education, hands-on instruction, camaraderie and… pop-up blinds. The latter is essential since these youths range from 9 years old to 16 years old, and keeping still with three

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bob warren

The successful 2014 Paloma Cattle Co. Youth Hunt near Choke Canyon.

people close together is nearly impossible without the use of blinds. Opening morning resulted in all shooting at longbeards, with two hunters connecting successfully. One hunter, who had experience with 4-h skeet shooting, borrowed a 20-gauge with a tight turkey-choke and glosights, which did the trick in harvesting one tom from a large flock of hens and gobblers. By Saturday evening, one more longbeard

was brought into camp, with the remaining hunters still having numerous shots at more longbeards. By Sunday morning, the last two hunters reported seeing “tons” more mature gobblers, lots of hens and very few jakes. In fact, one 9-year-old hunter closed out his weekend with shooting (but unfortunately missing) six different times, all shots landing too high. (Get those glo-sights mounted on that gun, quick!) Although the weather was changing by the minute, starting out relatively calm and ending with rain and wind, the “tons” of turkeys didn’t seem to mind the weather or being shot at continuously! If you are age 9 through 17 and want to get in on an upcoming youth hunt through TyhP, apply online at www.tyhp.org and maybe you will be one of the lucky hunters chosen to attend one of these lifetime hunting experiences held all across Texas.


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1 Cummings DC, Langston VB, Burch PL. 2012. GF-2791 [Sendero], a new herbicide containing aminopyralid and clopyralid, for honey mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa) control in southwestern rangelands. Technical Presentation, 65th Annual Meeting and Trade Show of the Society for Range Management, Spokane, Wash. ® Trademark of The Dow Chemical Company (“Dow”) or an affiliated company of Dow. Sendero, Reclaim and Remedy Ultra are not registered for sale or use in all states. Contact your state pesticide regulatory agency to determine if a product is for sale or use in your state. Always read and follow label directions. ©2013 Dow AgroSciences LLC R38-890-004 (03/13) BR 010-58024 DARPRANG3058

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c O n S e r vAT i O n l e G A c y

MAKING A DIFFERENCE

Making A Difference With Partnerships Article and Photos by kOY COFFER

h

ave you ever tried to do a big task by yourself? If so I bet you found it’s not easy. Take that same task, bring in some likeminded people who have similar goals, aspirations, a variety of skills, and the energy to get things done and guess what, that big task now looks a lot more manageable. The Texas Wildlife Association is dedicated to educating both youth and adults about natural resources, wildlife, water, conservation and the importance of being a good land steward. We know it’s a big task; therefore, we asked many of our natural resource, wildlife and conservation partners to join us in the process. We are proud to say that many groups, organizations and agencies jumped on board and continually help TWA make a difference. Let’s hear from some of our partners as to why they think “partnerships” are important: Roy Walston/CEA-AG/ Kerr County: One of the primary goals of Texas A&m AgriLife extension Service is to educate youth and adults in the areas of agriculture and natural resources. By partnering with other agencies like TWA, we are able to more efficiently reach a larger audience and utilize experts from throughout the state to reach these common goals. natural resource education continues to be, and will always be, an issue of upmost importance to the landowners of Texas that appreciate and understand their role as land stewards for future generations. Pam Baldree/Science Teacher/ Leon ISD: Six years ago I jumped on board with the L.A.n.d.S. program and have since had approximately 300 students go through the program. Three years into the program, I decided to start building leaders and mentors, therefore I asked koy if I could allow a few of my students to act as TWA volunteers during field days for other schools? I have to say, I never would have dreamed that this decision would not only change my students lives, but also my own. The students I chose were not always passing, sometimes

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Students from Blooming Grove ISD leading a group from St. Phillips at a Trinity River Field Day.

they were overlooked in class, but basically had a love for the outdoors and willingness to work hard. Through this partnership with TWA, I was able to witness something most teachers only dream about…my students actually became the teachers at each station. Amazing does not even begin to describe the transformation from student to leader we all witnessed. Tom Hynes/Hill Country Master Naturalist/Fredericksburg: The partnership established between TWA, Texas Parks and Wildlife department, ranchers, private landowners and volunteers, mirrors the connectedness of nature; remove or weaken one of these elements, and the partnership is stressed. each element of this partnership receives symbiotic benefit; ranchers and landowners get to see educational programs for children first hand as a result of their generosity. volunteers have not only the opportunity to sensitize youth to the workings and wonders of nature and their role of responsibility, but to do so in a setting which demonstrates the beauty of natural wonder and the results of good land management practices which promote sustainability. Texas Parks and Wildlife department and

TWA provide the medium which makes this partnership possible and to work effectively. Jennifer Bristol/Texas Children In Nature/Austin: Texas Children in nature is honored to partner with TWA since they offer so many ways for kids and families to directly connect with and learn about the outdoors. TWA creates a unique pipeline for young people to do more than just connect with the outdoors; they offer a means for them to learn about careers in the outdoor and conservation industry. Larry Pierce/Regional Program Leader/ East Region: I am involved with TWA because the organization understands the value of educating all Texans about conservation of natural resources and land stewardship. I believe that partnerships provide credibility and the opportunity for networking and idea sharing; all of which are critical for any organization to be successful. Steve Lewis/Ranch Owner/San Antonio: I partner with TWA frequently. TWA’s, koy, kassi and helen have the key to the gate. middle school kids on our ranch make me feel great. Invite a kid on your land. It will make you feel good about yourself, TWA and Texas.


MAkinG A diFFerence WiTH pArTnerSHipS

Cathy Downs/Hill Country Master Naturalist/Comfort: Partnering with TWA is easy. Their mission and goals align to my organizations, as well as my personal ones. The ability to share resources is one of the most valuable aspects. TWA has a recognizable brand in the land stewardship educational community, and they advocate for children in nature. Jerry Warden/Texas Youth Hunting Program/San Antonio: The Texas youth hunting Program (TyhP) is a true partnership established and supported between Texas Parks and Wildlife department (TPWd), a state agency, and the Texas Wildlife Association (TWA), a non-profit organization. Our partnerships go well beyond our initial founders; it is fully embedded throughout the program. It has partnerships with many conservation oriented national, state and local organizations who assist with funding to ensure the future of wildlife and hunting. It also includes over 200 landowners who provide a place for youth to hunt, and 1400 trained volunteers who run hunts and produce safe, educated and ethical hunters. Partnership is the life blood of this program as well as others. Cary Dietzmann/Ranch Owner/Cat Spring: Aldo Leopold wrote, “When land does well for its owner, and the owner does well for his land; when both end up better by reason of their partnership, we have conservation.” As a proud TWA Life member, Texas Parks & Wildlife Lone Star Land Steward, and active member of the board of directors, my thoughts mirror Leopoldo’s. I think strongly that the partnership between myself and TWA enables both the organization and myself to achieve and grow more together than either could achieve alone. I am honored to volunteer for TWA at L.A.n.d.S. events for the benefit of the next generation of land owners and wildlife conservationists. equally proud to display our TWA banner and discuss our mission at all the adult educational events I am able to participate in. We are working for tomorrow’s wildlife today. Mike Petter/Natural Resource Consultant/Pleasanton: Conservation is more about people than anything else. Getting people to understand natural resource management is important to my business, as well as TWA. Working through schools is especially important since teachers are looking for clever ways to get their messages across, and a natural fit for schools is to engage students in nature.

CONSERVATION LEGACY

Doug DuBois/Texas Youth Hunting Program/Austin: even though my dad didn’t grow up hunting, he fell in with the right group of dads who took their kids hunting… and I’ve been enjoying the outdoors ever since. Trinity River volunteers and students at John Bunker Sands. TyhP provides me the opportunity to help the next generation no Springs Ranch, Longbranch Ranch, natuof outdoorsmen/women learn to appreciate ral Resources Conservation Service, Project the wonders of this world, safely, legally and Wild, Rollin Plains Quail Research, San Anethically. It is a real pleasure working with the tonio Livestock exposition, Shield Ranch, strong support system of talented TWA staff Soil and Water Conservation districts, Stasand dedicated volunteers to facilitate success- ney Cook Ranch, TAmu, Texas AgriLife exful programs across the state. tension, Texas Association of environmental Dr. Bill Eikenhorst/Veterinarian/Bren- educators, Texas education Agency, Texas ham: “The need for conservation education Brigades, Texas Parks and Wildlife departand conservation action is bigger than any ment, Texas Children In nature, Texas FFA, one of us but it ain’t bigger than all of us.” I Texas master Gardeners, Texas master natuam involved because I met a group of strong ralist, Texas youth hunting Program, The 77 leaders and volunteers who became Texas Ranch, Trinity Bluff Wildlife Ranch, TrinBrigades. These men and women shared my ity Waters, Waters To The Sea, uTB, uTSA, desire to foster conservation education and ymCA Roberts Ranch, and hundreds of produce conservation action. These conser- private biologist and landowners who open vation leaders were willing to risk embracing their hearts to Texas. me as a stranger to their disciplines and help me invest my talents and energy to create conservation leaders in every Texas community. They became my mentors and friends. They enriched my life, my family and community. Although a long-time member of TWA who attended multiple conventions, I became a volunteer through my affiliation with Texas Brigades. Partnership in action. Conservation Legacy – A TWA Stewardship venture creates a bright pathway to the future health of Texas lands, waters, plants, animals and healthy Texans. TWA is privileged to be the host of this great venture. With privilege comes responsibility. The legacy of Texas conservation cannot be owned in deed or title or possessed as a property. It is not granted or given. It must be earned. Texas’ conservation legacy lives in the hands, hearts, minds and souls of all who call Texas home. It is our dnA. Our legacy is calling. Who will answer? A special Thank you to the following people for their partnerships; Bear Creek Ranch, Blinn College, Cedar mountain Lodge, Capital Farm Credit, dixon Water Foundation, dobbs Run Ranch, double R Ranch, Flagler Ranch, houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, john Bunker Sands Wetland Center, katy Prairie Conservancy, kerr Creek Farms, Lla-

WWW.TexAS-WILdLIFe.ORG

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CELEBRATING SUCCESS James Green Wildlife & Conservation Education Initiative

In April, over 300 guests gathered at River Crest Country Club in Fort Worth to celebrate the successful impacts of The James Green Wildlife & Conservation Education Initiative in North Texas. As a result of the program efforts in 2013, over 47,000 students have learned the conservation message in the North Texas area at an average of $2.84 per participant. Sarena Green Wright served as chairman of the event and shared with the audience her brother’s love of the outdoors. The educational programs that the Texas Wildlife Association Foundation (TWAF) supports instill an understanding and appreciation of the outdoors and natural resources along with sharing the message of private land stewardship. This vital message is being delivered in classrooms across the state through the Texas Wildlife Association’s Conservation Legacy programs. Mike Baldree, superintendent of Leon ISD in Jewett, Texas (and formerly superintendent of Blooming Grove) shared his personal experience as to how effective the Learning Across New Dimensions in Science (L.A.N.D.S.) program has been for his students over the years. Ever since the inception of the L.A.N.D.S. program, Baldree has made it a priority to incorporate the natural resource education program in his schools, and the results have been undeniable. The classrooms that utilize the program report that the students are more focused on the relevant content and have a better understanding of the concepts at hand. Wright, with the help of the host committee including Auction Chair Bryan Walsh and TWAF Trustee Bryan King, put together a fantastic auction lineup and all proceeds from the event directly support The James Green Wildlife & Conservation Education efforts in North Texas. In January 2012, The Texas Wildlife Association’s Conservation Legacy education efforts in North Texas became formally known as The James Green Wildlife & Conservation Initiative. This naming opportunity was made possible as a result of TWAF Trustees, friends and family of James Green and a grant from the Sportsmen’s Club of Fort Worth as a way to memorialize their friend James Green. The James Green Wildlife & Conservation Initiative utilizes the L.A.N.D.S. (Learning Across New Dimensions in Science) program to bring natural resource education directly to Texas students through a variety of methods and venues that enable educators to enhance educational effectiveness through curricula integration and augmentation. An important piece of natural resource education is the commitment to teach the value of responsible hunting and fishing and their role in conservation, land management and the economic health of our state. The L.A.N.D.S. program is designed as an educator’s toolbox for achieving better understanding Texas’ natural resources as well as meeting the state-mandated learning objectives. WWW.TexAS-WILdLIFe.ORG

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Photo by Hardy Jackson

Game Management

The central thesis of game management is this: game can be restored by the creative use of the same tools which have heretofore destroyed it - ax, plow, cow, fire, and gun...; Management is their purposeful and continuing alignment. ~ Aldo Leopold, Game Management, 1933

The Plow

Food Plots Article by LORiE WOODWARD CAnTu

editor’s note: This is the third installment

in a six-part series examining Aldo Leopold’s Thesis of Game Management and its application in 21st Century Texas.

I

n Leopold’s game management tool box, the plow represents cultivation. For many wildlife managers, this means food plots. “Food plots are planted to supplement the nutritional needs of wildlife,” said Ruben Cantu, a certified wildlife biologist based in San Angelo who works extensively in east Texas, mississippi, Louisiana and Arkansas. “Generally, people plant them to support deer, but like many habitat enhancements, food plots can benefit other species.” While good food plots provide diverse plant material, they should not be confused with native plant restoration, he said. “The components of a food plot are generally plants that have been developed for agricultural cultivation,” Cantu said. “While the species selected should be adapted to a specific location, they are not generally wild-

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growing native plants. And, while the food plot mixtures (depending on the species involved) may provide additional ecological benefits such as increased soil nitrogen and improved soil tilth, most, except for perennials, need to be replanted every year.” (For land managers interested in native range restoration, a food plot mixture that helps improve soil quality may be a beneficial step in the transition process, he said. The better the soil quality, the easier it is for plants of all types to become established.) Plants commonly used in food plots include: oats, winter wheat, cowpeas, iron peas, clay peas, soybeans and clover varieties. “managers who are considering food plots should make their plant selections based on agronomic principles, not marketing,” Cantu said. “While it is tempting to buy the newest whiz-bang food plot mixture, it is imperative that managers consider makeup of the mix and ask: ‘Are these plants adapted to my location?’” Primary adaptation factors include: average annual rainfall and soil types. In addition, managers must consider their

goals as they make plant selection and ask: For what is the primary species being managed? how many acres of food plots are needed? Should I plant summer plots, winter plots or both? Because food plots are designed to supplement existing habitat, they are planted to coincide with dips in the natural food supply that occur in the heat of summer and the cold of winter. In summer, a primary consideration is protein. In winter, energy is also an important component. “Successful food plot programs provide year-round quality feed sources to carry wildlife through periods when native plants may not be meeting all of their nutritional needs,” he said. “Food plots can extend the native habitat that you have, buffering it from overuse and helping protect it from damage.” Food plots fall into two categories: summer and winter. Summer food plots are generally planted in April-june; and, depending on weather conditions, they provide feed through first frost. managers plant winter food plots by Oct.15 and expect to utilize


feedstuffs through late spring through early summer, depending on plant varieties. In order to maximize the effectiveness of a food plot program, managers should plant both summer and winter food plots and keep the plots in seasonal rotation. “Locations can be used as food plots repeatedly, but they should be designated as either a summer or winter site and not double-cropped,” Cantu said. “The reasons are both practical and ecological. If managers are constantly plowing up and replanting a single site, they are losing a lot of grazing opportunities. even when food plots are dormant, they can provide remnant seeds and cover, even for other wildlife.” When selecting the sites for food plots, managers should keep wildlife behavior in mind. Ideally, food plots should be located along known travel corridors and fairly close to cover, he said. “Generally, whitetails will begin using a food plot faster than they will begin using a feeder simply because food plots are not obviously man-made,” Cantus said. “With that said, though, food plots are open fields, and whitetails and other wildlife are more likely to utilize areas where they can escape to cover quickly.” Food plots allow whitetails to spread out

over a much wider area, thereby allowing more animals to use it simultaneously and reducing competition that sometimes occurs at a feeder. As a general rule of thumb, it is recommended that 3 percent to 5 percent of a ranch’s acreage be dedicated to growing food plots, if they are part of the ranch’s strategy to maximize nutrition, he said. In addition, food plots can be a more costeffective source of protein than commercial feeds, he said. According to research conducted by Auburn university, the cost of producing forage from food plots is about 10 percent of the cost of providing supplemental feed. While food plots offer many potential benefits, their success is not guaranteed. “The downside to food plots is that they are very rain dependent and sometimes they don’t grow,” he said. “Like row crop farming, planting a food plot is a gamble.” Generally, the protein-rich plants that form the basis of a white-tailed deer food plot should be adapted to minimum average rainfall of the region where they are planted. Landowners in higher rainfall areas, such as those operating east of I-35 in Texas and throughout the Southeast, have access to a greater diversity of plants suitable for food plots. As a result, food plots are much more common – and more likely to succeed – in these areas.

For drier regions, winter wheat and oats are viable option for winter food plots. While most people plant these crops to provide cool season grazing for livestock as well as harvestable grain, deer and other wildlife species use the fields, too. “The downside to food plots is that they are very rain dependent; and, sometimes, they don’t grow,” he said. “Like dryland farming, planting a food plot is a gamble.” Wildlife managers interested in establishing food plots will need to put on their farming caps or hire someone who can. “Planting a food plot is more involved than just plowing up the ground and broadcasting seed,” he said. elements that have to be considered include: soil types, elevation (If an area is prone to flooding, some plants can withstand extra moisture and some cannot), fertilization, field preparation, seed depth, and soil moisture banking as well as planting techniques and equipment. “While food plots can help alleviate foraging pressure on native habitat, they are not standalone, quick fixes for habitat mismanagement,” Cantu said. “Combined with population monitoring and selective harvest, food plots can buffer native habitat while offering a supplementary source of highquality, year-round forage.”

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2014 TEXAS WILDLIFE ASSOCIATION’S ANNUAL MEETING AND EXHIBITS

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2014 TEXAS WILDLIFE ASSOCIATION’S ANNUAL MEETING AND EXHIBITS

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MAIL-IN REGISTRATION FORM fill out the registration form at texas-wildlife.org and return with payment to twa at 3660 thousand oaks dr., suite 126, san antonio, tx 78247 FAX REGISTRATION FORM complete your registration form and fax to (210) 826-4933 PHONE REGISTRATION register and pay by phone at 800-839-9453 BRING THE FAMILY! CHILDREN 12 AND UNDER ARE ADMITTED FREE.

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2014

BELOW SCHEDULE AS OF MAY 6, 2014 (SCHEDULE SUBJECT TO CHANGE)

THURSDAY, JULY 10, 2014 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.

2014 Private Lands Summit (Cibolo Canyons Ballroom Rooms 1-4, Level 2) Hosted by Texas Wildlife Association NEW FOR 2014! SEPARATE REGISTRATION REQUIRED FOR THIS EVENT.

10 a.m. - 6 p.m.

Convention Exhibitor Registration and Move-In (Grand Oaks Ballroom, Level 2)

TEXAS WILDLIFE ASSOCIATION’S ANNUAL MEETING AND EXHIBITS

FRIDAY, JULY 11, 2014

Touted as one of the “family-friendliest parties in Texas,” wildlife enthusiasts from across Texas will come together for two days of fun, education, and top-notch networking. Each year more than 1,500 people attend this premier event.

7 a.m. - 7 p.m.

Registration Open (Level 2) Sponsored by No Fences Land Company

8:15 a.m. - 11:30 a.m. TWA Committee Meetings ** 8:15 a.m. - 9:15 a.m. Desert Big Game Committee (Dogwood, Level 3) 9:15 a.m. - 10:15 a.m. White-tailed Deer Management Committee (Begonia, Level 3) TYHP Advisory Committee (Alyssum, Level 3) Conservation Legacy Advisory Committee (Dogwood, Level 3) Membership Committee (Bluebonnet, Level 3) 10:15 a.m. - 10:30 a.m. Break 10:30 a.m. - 11:30 a.m. Hunting Heritage Advisory Committee (Dogwood, Level 3) Legislative Committee (Bluebonnet, Level 3) Women of the Land Advisory Committee (Alyssum, Level 3) **Anyone is welcome to attend the committee meetings to learn more about the programs associated within those committees. 9 a.m. - 11 p.m.

Exhibits Open (Grand Oaks Ballroom, Level 2)

9 a.m. - 8 p.m.

Daisy Air Gun Range (Grand Oaks Ballroom, Level 2) Sponsored by Academy Sports and Outdoors

9 a.m. - 11 p.m.

Silent and Not-So-Silent Auctions Open (Grand Oaks Ballroom, Level 2)

Noon - 1:30 p.m.

TWAF Luncheon (Cibolo Canyons Ballroom, Level 2 - doors open at 11:30 a.m.) Keynote Speaker: Grady Spears, Cowboy Cook

(Tickets for this event must be purchased separately) Marriott Range Riders (Child Care) Available through the JW Marriott for an Additional Fee 1:30 p.m. - 4:30 p.m. TWA Little Lonestars Activities (Periwinkle & Verbena, Level 3)

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2 p.m. - 4 p.m.

TWA Joint Membership and Directors Meeting (Cibolo Canyons Ballroom, Level 2)

4 p.m. - 6 p.m.

TWA Ladies Reception (Cibolo Canyons Foyer, Level 2, VIP Area) Sponsored by Prois Women’s Hunting Apparel

4 p.m. - 6 p.m.

Cocktails with Exhibitors (cash bar, includes 2 drink tickets) (Grand Oaks Ballroom, Level 2) Sponsored by Silver Eagle Distributors/Budweiser (Note: soft drinks and water available at no charge)

5 p.m. - 10 p.m.

Marriott Range Riders Kid’s Activities (Sunflower and Wisteria, Level 3)

6 p.m. - 7 p.m.

TWA Convention Kickoff Dinner (Cibolo Canyons Ballroom, Level 2) Sponsored by Chasco Constructors

7 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.

Texas Big Game Awards Statewide Celebration (Cibolo Canyons Ballroom, Level 2) Sponsored by Nyle Maxwell Family of Dealerships TBGA Landowner of the Year Award, Sponsored by Capital Farm Credit

8:30 p.m. - 11 p.m.

Casino Night (Grand Oaks Ballroom, Level 2)

11 p.m.

Silent Auction and Exhibits Close for the Night (Grand Oaks Ballroom, Level 2)


AGENDA OUR HUNTING HERITAGE...OUR FUTURE SATURDAY, JULY 12, 2014 7 a.m. - 9 a.m.

TWA Family Breakfast (Cibolo Canyons Ballroom, Level 2) Sponsored by C.H. Guenther & Son, Inc.

7 a.m. - 7 p.m.

Registration Open (Level 2) Sponsored by No Fences Land Company

10 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Texas Hunter Education Class (Iris & Lily, Level 3) - Lunch on your own

9 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Daisy Air Gun Range (Grand Oaks Ballroom, Level 2) Sponsored by Academy Sports and Outdoors

9 a.m. - 11 p.m.

Exhibits Open (Grand Oaks Ballroom, Level 2)

9 a.m. - 11 p.m.

Silent and Not-So-Silent Auctions Open (Grand Oaks Ballroom, Level 2)

9:00 a.m. - 11:45 a.m. TWA Wildlife Education Concurrent Session Seminars (Level 3 Meeting Rooms) Each speaker will give their presentation twice (8:45-9:45 & 10:00-11:00)-all times a.m. Session One: Private Lands Stewardship Texas Game Wardens, (Begonia & Bottlebrush, Level 3) Current Issues in Wildlife, (Larkspur & Indian Paintbrush, Level 3) Session Two: All About the Hunt Scoring and Aging Whitetails on the Hoof, Dave Richards (Bluebonnet & Dogwood, Level 3) JW Marriott Executive Chefs, Making Wild Game Gourmet (Sunflower & Wisteria, Level 3) 9 a.m. - 11 a.m.

TWA Little Lonestars Activities (Periwinkle & Verbena, Level 3)

12 p.m. - 1:30 p.m.

TWA General Session/Awards Luncheon (Cibolo Canyons Ballroom, Level 2) Keynote Speaker: Retired U.S. Marine, Michael Jernigan Video By: Elephant Productions, Layton Blaylock Films, Rhonda Calhoun-Full Draw Adventures TWA President’s Address Luncheon TWA Awards Presentations

1:30 p.m. - 4 p.m.

TWA Little Lonestars Activities (Periwinkle & Verbena, Level 3)

3 p.m. - 6 p.m.

Book Signing with Al Brothers, Murphy Ray, and Dave Richards (Level 2 Foyer) Come meet these Texas wildlife legends and pick up an autographed copy of their books!

5 p.m. - 6 p.m.

TWA President’s Council & Life Members Reception (Level 2, Foyer Area, by Invitation Only) Special Guest U.S. Congressman John Carter

NEW FOR 2014 • Informative Wildlife Seminars • Brothers, Ray, and Richards Book Signing • Casino Night

• Texas Hunter Education Class • Thursday, Private Lands Summit • Original Silent Auction Bidding Process

5:30 p.m. - 6:30 p.m. TWA-PAC Reception (Cibolo Canyons Foyer, Level 2, VIP Area) Special Guest TBD 4 p.m. - 6 p.m.

Cocktails with Exhibitors, Open Bar (Grand Oaks Ballroom, Level 2) Sponsored by Silver Eagle Distributors/Budweiser (Note: soft drinks and water available at no charge)

5 p.m. - 11 p.m.

Marriott Range Riders Kid’s Activities (Sunflower & Wisteria, Level 3)

6:30 p.m. - 9:30 p.m. TWA Grand Auction and Banquet Dinner (Cibolo Canyons Ballroom, Level 2) 10 p.m.

Silent and Not-So-Silent Auctions Final Closing (Grand Oaks Ballroom, Level 2) Tables Closing at 10 p.m., 10:15 p.m., and 10:30 p.m.

SUNDAY, JULY 13, 2014 8 a.m. - Noon

Final Auction Check-Out (Grand Oaks Ballroom, Silent Auction Area, Level 2)

Noon

TWA Convention Closes

www.texas-wildlife.org

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THANK YOU TO OUR 2014 TEXAS WILDLIFE ASSOCIATION’S ANNUAL MEETING AND EXHIBITS

SPONSORS

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CAESAR kLEBERG WiLDLiFE RESEARCH inSTiTuTE TEXAS A&M UNIVERSITY-KINGSVILLE

Are Arthropods the Canary in the Coal Mine? Article and Photos by FORREST SMiTH

C

anaries in a coal mine are sentinels for a bad omen. Through observation, they can reveal a problem (carbon monoxide gas) before humans can otherwise perceive it. Arthropods (insects, spiders and crustaceans) may figuratively be the “canary” in our native habitat when it comes to the effects of exotic grasses. Our research at CkWRI has documented an interesting relationship between arthropods and exotic grasses. In western South Texas, Aaron Flanders found 60 percent more arthropods in native habitats than in sites with exotic grasses. This is quite a difference, especially considering that exotic grass sites in his research contained just 11 to 20 percent exotic grass cover. he also found that there were fewer native forbs and birds, including quail, on sites with exotic grass. This cascade of impact – from exotic grasses to a decrease in native forbs, arthropods and birds – was an eye opener. This reduction in native forbs following exotic grass establishment was also documented in subsequent research conducted by joey Sands. Sands found that areas with more than 25 percent exotic buffelgrass cover had 73 percent less forb cover than native sites. In another study, erin Cord, working in eastern South Texas during 2009-2010, also found greater abundance and diversity of arthropods in native plant dominated patches compared to patches of Old World bluestem. Again, loss of native forbs in exotic grass patches was pointed to as a cause for the decline in arthropods. her work documented the loss of whole groups (orders) of insects, as well much lower arthropod diversity in general, in exotic grass stands. In another recent project, Adam mitchell working on the Welder Wildlife Refuge, also found far fewer species of arthropods in Old World bluestem

Native bee on Indian blanket.

patches compared to nearby native plant communities. Old World bluestem patches had large numbers of only one or two species of arthropods, whereas native plant dominated areas had 10 times as many species. The ability of native forbs to support diverse populations of arthropods was emphasized by another study in kingsville. dr. Richard Patrock, a consulting entomologist working for our partner the uSdA nRCS e. “kika” de la Garza Plant materials Center, documented 47 species of pollinators utilizing a single quarter-acre plot of the native forb Rio Grande clammyweed in kingsville last summer and fall. Other native forbs monitored by dr. Patrock hosted similar numbers of pollinating arthropods: Indian blanket-33 species; orange zexmenia-31 species; and, awnless bush sunflower-32 species. These numbers clearly indicate the importance of native forbs. Loss of plant diversity, especially of flowering forbs because of exotic grass domi-

Pipevine swallowtail on Rio Grande clammyweed.

nance, appears to have considerable implications for loss of arthropod diversity. In turn, this change likely has negative impacts on many insect-dependent wildlife species such as quail, as well as on other important ecosystem-level processes such as pollination and nutrient cycling. Arthropods may be the most telling indicator of ecosystem change resulting from exotic grasses coverage. They just may be the “canary in the coal mine” when it comes to native habitats and the effects of exotic grasses.

Sponsored by JOHN AND LAURIE SAUNDERS

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TEXAS WILDLIFE

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TEXAS WILDLIFE

PLAnT PROFiLE

Erect Dayflower

e

rect dayflower (Commelina erecta) is one of my favorite forbs, or wildflowers – actually both. It sports a lovely blue flower with yellow stamens, has an interesting history, provides seed for bobwhites, and even does “tricks” on command. What more could you ask from a plant that might be confused as a grass until it flowers? erect dayflower is a native, perennial, warm season forb. Its leaves are grass-like, especially during their early growth. The term “dayflower” stems from the short-lived flower, lasting only a day or so according to one authority. The flowers bloom especially

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during the morning hours. It grows on a variety of soils, but I tend to think of it on sandy and gravelly sites. dayflower on the landscape is more of a punctuation mark than a headline; it rarely claims the landscape with its flowers like one might observe with Indian paintbrush, plains coreopsis or Gordon’s bladderpod. But, the sky-blue flower and school bus-yellow stamens will likely catch your eye. It can be confused with its cousin spiderwort, but the spiderwort flower has three petals and is a more purple color. So what’s its “trick?” When the “spathe” (a

Photo by Dale Rollins

Photo by Kurt Schaefer

Article by DALE ROLLinS, PH.D.

leaf-like bract that encloses a flower cluster) of this plant is squeezed, it produces a drop of liquid (about the consistency of glycerin), hence the name “Widow’s Tears.” It’s one of those little footnotes that may help you remember the plant and impress your friends with your knowledge of botany -- try it! erect dayflower is an important food for white-tailed deer which consume the leaves and stems. Seeds of dayflower will sometimes be found in bobwhite crops, but I’ve never seen it more than a minor part of the quail’s diet, likely due to its relative scarcity on the landscape. A member of the spiderwort (Commelinaceae) family, erect dayflower is said to be named for the three Commelin brothers who were all dutch botanists in the 17th century, although only two were productive in their field. erect dayflower’s two larger petals (the showy blue ones) are said to represent the two Commelins who were published, while the third inconspicuous petal (much reduce din size, usually white in color) represents the unpublished brother. An early version of “publish or perish” I reckon!


RESTORING

wildlife habitat with native grass... one acre at a time THE DECISIONS we make today impact wildlife habitat of texas forever. if you do not get involved, you will have exotic, invasive grasses planted on your pipelines.

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T WA M e M b e r S i n A c T i O n

MAKING A DIFFERENCE

TWA Statewide Committee Meetings at Annual Convention Article by

T

kendra roller

WA has many venues for members who wish to volunteer and take a more active role within the organization. Serving on a statewide advisory committee is one way to get more involved with specific program areas of the Texas Wildlife Association. On Friday, july 12 of the convention, several of these committees have scheduled a meeting. The committee meeting schedule is below. We encourage you to consider attending some of these committee meetings to learn more about what TWA is doing across the state and to see how you could get involved in those efforts. A listing of all committees, their purpose and professional staff contact, is below. Please contact the appropriate staff person or call the TWA office if you would like more information or would like to be considered for possible appointment to an advisory committee.

2014 TEXAS WILDLIFE ASSOCIATION’S ANNUAL MEETING AND EXHIBITS

Schedule of TWA Committee Meetings, Friday, July 11, 2104 at the J.W. Marriott Hill Country Resort and Spa Finance Committee

8:15 a.m. – 9:15 a.m.

desert Big Game Committee (dogwood, Level 3) 9:15 a.m. – 10:15 a.m.

White-tailed deer management Committee (Begonia, Level 3) TyhP Advisory Committee (Alyssum, Level 3) Conservation Legacy Advisory Committee (dogwood, Level 3) membership Committee (Bluebonnet, Level 3) 10:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.

hunting heritage Advisory Committee (dogwood, Level 3) Legislative Committee (Bluebonnet, Level 3) Women of the Land Advisory Committee (Alyssum, Level 3)

TWA Advisory Committees Conservation Legacy Committee

The TWA Conservation Legacy Advisory Committee (CLAC) is formed to provide advice and recommendations to the TWA executive Committee on the range of issues and topics necessary for implementing high-impact education programs. Staff Contact: Helen Holdsworth (hholdsworth@texas-wildlife.org)

The TWA desert Big Game Committee is formed to provide advice and recommendations to the TWA executive Committee on the range of legislative, regulatory and non-regulatory issues and topics involving mule deer, pronghorn antelope and bighorn sheep management in Texas. Staff Contact: Justin Dreibelbis (jdreibelbis@texas-wildlife.org)

TEXAS WILDLIFE

Staff Contact: Quita Hill (qhill@texas-wildlife.org)

Hunting Heritage Committee

The TWA hunting heritage Advisory Committee (hhAC) is formed to provide advice and recommendations to the TWA executive Committee on the range of issues and topics necessary to sustain and promote our hunting heritage, promote ethical, safe hunting, educate hunters and the public on management of our native ecosystems, encourage involvement and identify accessibility in hunting, and foster private lands stewardship through education. The future of hunting is dependent on the recruitment of next-generation hunters, hunter access and maintaining and increasing hunting opportunities for hunters. Staff Contact: Justin

Dreibelbis (jdreibelbis@texas-wildlife.org)

Legislative Committee

The TWA Legislative Committee is formed to provide advice and recommendations to the TWA executive Committee on the range of issues and topics necessary to achieve the organization’s public policy goals (both legislative and regulatory) at the state and federal levels. Staff Contact: Joey Park (joeypark@austin.rr.com)

Desert Big Game Committee

38

The TWA Finance Committee is formed to provide advice and recommendations to the TWA executive Committee on the range of issues and topics necessary to achieve the organization’s financial goals.

june 2014

Membership Committee

The TWA membership Committee is formed to provide advice and recommendations to the TWA executive Committee on the issues and topics necessary to achieve the organization’s membership and regional development goals. Staff Contact: Kendra Roller (kroller@texas-wildlife.org)

TYHP Advisory Committee

The TWA TyhP Advisory Committee (TyhPAC) is formed to collaboratively work with the TWA executive Committee to oversee the direction of the Texas youth hunting Program (including, without limitation, the administration and financing of the youth hunting program, or similar mutually agreed programs). TyhP is a co-sponsored initiative of the Texas Parks and Wildlife department, Texas Wildlife Association and Texas Wildlife Association Foundation, Inc. that is established as a program to consolidate youth hunting outreach and information in Texas. Staff Contact: Jerry War-

den (jwarden@texas-wildlife.org)

White-tailed Deer Management Committee

The TWA White-tailed deer management Committee (WTdmC) is formed to provide advice and recommendations to the TWA executive Committee on the range of legislative, regulatory and non-regulatory issues and topics involving White-tailed deer management in Texas. Staff Contact: Justin Dreibelbis (jdreibelbis@ texas-wildlife.org)

Women of the Land Committee

The TWA Women of the Land (WOTL) Advisory Committee is formed to provide advice and recommendations to the TWA Conservation Legacy Staff, Conservation Legacy Advisory Committee and the TWA executive Committee on a range of issues and topics necessary to support a land ethic that achieves natural resource literacy through the WOTL program and other outreach programs/activities relevant to the mission of WOTL. Staff Contact:

Helen Holdsworth (hholdsworth@texas-wildlife.org)


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At 25,000 acres, the historic Stasney-Cook Ranch – stop #91 on the Panhandle Plains Great Wildlife Trail – offers plenty of places for buffalo to roam. You’ll also find wild turkeys, quail, hawks and migratory songbirds here.

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THE GREAT TEXAS

WILDLIFE trails TWA members open ranch gates to nature-tourists Article by MARY O. PARkER Photos by JEFF PARkER

I

n 1996, Texas Parks and Wildlife department (TPWd) created its first wildlife trail map – Central Texas Coast: Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail – for those wanting to know the best places to see many of our 639 documented bird species. That made TPWd the first wildlife agency in the nation to create an official state birding trail. Less than two decades later, nine maps offer nature-lovers nearly a thousand wildlifebased destinations across hundreds of Lone Star miles – with plenty of Texas-sized hospitality along the way. Shelly Plante, manager of nature Tourism at TPWd, credits private landowners with helping make that happen. “They add a great dimension to the Great Texas Wildlife Trails. In a state that’s mostly privately owned, having ranchers and landowners who are willing to open their gates to nature tourists gives the general public a unique opportunity to enjoy the outdoors in a more private setting,” she said. Wildlife watching now ranks as the number one outdoor activity in the nation. In the Texas Gulf Coast region alone, nature-based tourism generates over 72,000 jobs annually. In Aransas County – which was featured in that very first map – they account for a whopping 28 percent of private-sector employment. That equals more than twice the 12.4 percent national average. “When we started the coastal birding trails, only a handful of landowners were in the business of nature tourism,” Plante said. “now, on

the inland trail maps, about one-third of the sites are privately owned. This shows a huge shift in how landowners now use their land, that more and more of them are open for business to nature-tourists and able to earn revenue from this type of business.” With 123 separate driving loops traversing 11 different eco-regions and making 980 stops along the way, there’s bound to be a TWA member among those landowners, right? Sure enough! here, we feature five: Panhandle Plains Wildlife Trail The Panhandle Plains Great Wildlife Trail offers wide open spaces and about 100 places to stop and stretch your curiosity along the way, including Playa Lakes and Rita Blanca Grasslands, which star pronghorns prairiechickens and prairie dogs. Stop #62: Arrington Ranch nestled into a slice of Panhandle prairie, the Arrington Ranch – a Texas Commission of Agriculture “designated Family Land heritage Property” owned by TWA members debbie and mike Arrington – offers up plenty of wildlife-viewing opportunities. Prairie dogs and their “sidekicks” – Burrowing Owls – provide hours of entertainment, while six miles of trails meander along the wetland that serves as headwaters for Washita River. This riparian habitat is rich in mule deer and Rio Grande turkeys. The ranch also provides refuge to two of Texas’ three bluebird species – eastern and mountain Bluebirds. debbie Arrington said that she appreci-

ates how the map allows her and mike to “show everyone how ranchers and farmers work together in enhancing and improving the wildlife environment. We all work hard to keep a perfect balance to benefit cattle, crops and wildlife.” One of the Arringtons’ favorite visitors is jeff mundy, a renowned conservationist and Audubon Society activist who has worked hard to preserve key Texas birding sites. “jeff comes often and brings bird watchers from all over the world who want to see what our area offers,” debbie said. “That includes the Lesser Prairie-Chicken leks north of us, and our birds here such as the mountain Bluebird.” Stop #91: Stasney-Cook Ranch Lance Thomas, manager of Stasney-Cook Ranch, explained that when the Panhandle Plains map first came out, it attracted nature-tourists to the ranch; however, that doesn’t seem to happen anymore. “But I still think it was worth the energy and effort we spent getting on the map, because it’s better than not having a ticket in the barrel,” he said with a chuckle. At 25,000 acres, the ranch offers plenty of places for all sorts of Texans to roam. Wild turkeys, quail, hawks and migratory songbirds make their homes here. So, too, do Longhorns and bison, staples of the ranch’s heritage. But, many folks just enjoy the experience of hanging out on a traditional Texas ranch. Thomas said: “There’s not another place around here like us. There are ranches where people have leases to go hunting on (which

WWW.TexAS-WILdLIFe.ORG

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Stasney-Cook also does), but with us they can come out and stay at a real working ranch and just relax. This is a pretty authentic and historic place, and people think that’s a neat thing – a ranch still doing what it’s been doing for over 100 years.” Well, except those wind farms. “We offer tours of those, too. Lots of people are really interested,” Thomas said. “They enjoy learning all about how it works.” Great Texas Coastal Birding Trails

jays, Painted Buntings, Crested Caracaras, Barred Owls, Redshouldered hawks, Scissor-tailed Flycatchers, Roadrunners…the list goes on and on!” said Streich. Stop #2, Lower Texas Coast: Kenedy Ranch While the kenedy Ranch no longer offers the Sanborn birding tours as noted on the trail map, they do still welcome those wanting to learn about the ranch’s exciting history. Ranch administrator, homero vera, explained that most who come are birders who seem hesitant to step inside the museum. Instead, he said, “They’ll either be looking into our yard from the sidewalk or street looking for birds in our oak trees and pond. I tell them they can come in the yard to check out the birds if they want and I also invite them to the museum.” Those who choose not to venture inside don’t know what they’re missing! The ranch, founded in 1860, offers up one of the Lone Star’s most interesting historical narratives. The museum brings visitors on a journey through over 150 years of Texas ranching traditions. Special displays celebrate Tejanos, those mexican cowboys who played an important role in helping shape the character of our state with their unique contributions to cattle ranching and the great cattle drives of the late 1800s. Because it sits at the northern limit of the range of many tropical bird species, those who do step into the yard will be rewarded with some of our South Texas specialties – the very birds that help make this region a premiere birding destination.

Three trails comprise the Great Coastal Birding Trail: upper Texas Coast, Central Texas Coast and Lower Texas Coast. Together their itineraries deliver you to 332 locations at which you’ll spot hundreds of migrant and resident avian species. delight in Roseate Spoonbills, Red-crowned Parrots, colorful Green jays, quirky kiskadees and vociferous Chachalacas. Black-tailed Prairie Dogs, a keystone species, play a vital role in helping But, the trails also include a pleth- sustain healthy ecosystems at the Arrington Ranch, home to TWA members ora of other critters including: Debbie and Mike Arrington and stop #62 on TPWD’s Panhandle Plains American alligators, dolphins, Great Wildlife Trail. Debbie appreciates how TPWD’s wildlife trail map allows them to show the public how hard ranchers work to enhance the “wildbutterflies, dragonflies and dam- life environment.” selflies, white-tailed deer, javelinas and more. Stop #46, Central Texas Coast: Rob and Bessie Welder Wild life Foundation and Refuge The 7,800-acre Rob and Bessie Welder Wildlife Foundation (WWF) – located on lands deeded along the Aransas River in an original 1834 land grant – provides free tours to the public each Thursday and on selected Saturdays. The refuge welcomes groups and individuals for these tours, which are guided by wildlife experts and include a 10-mile While Kenedy Ranch wildlife – such as the Bobwhite Quail shown here – ofdriving excursion. visitors may fers lots of viewing pleasure, don’t overlook its museum, which celebrates borrow guide books and binocu- 154 years of ranching and regional history. Additionally, because of its locaHeart of Texas Wildlife Trail tion at the northern-most part of the range of many tropical bird species, lars to bring along at no charge. the Kenedy Ranch—stop #2 on the Lower Texas Coast: Great Texas Coastal “The tour takes visitors through Birding Trail – is home to many birds seen only in this part of the U.S. From Central Texas to the a variety of habitats ranging from South Texas Plains two “heart “native wildlife can be viewed on the ref- of Texas” trails deliver dozens of delights. upland mesquite-mixed-grass communities to freshwater wetland lakes. many species of uge year-round. mammal species include mexican free-tailed bats bedazzle as you adbirds and wildlife are generally seen on these white-tailed deer, bobcats, coyotes, raccoons venture through the hill Country, following tours,” explained WWF’s Conservation edu- and javelina. Reptile species include alliga- the Heart of Texas West trail map. Follow the cation and volunteer Program Coordinator, tors, various turtle species, lizards, and vari- Heart of Texas East routes, and you’ll head as ous snake species. Bird species include Green far south as Laredo, where Green Parakeets meg Streich.

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Map courtesy of TPWD

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department offers nine Great Texas Wildlife Trail Maps (regions shown here), which include nearly 1,000 wildlife-based destinations across hundreds of Lone Star miles.

soar in the historic town square. Stop #65 - West: Stowers Ranch The Stowers Ranch, founded in 1904 by George Arthur Stowers (pronounce the “ow” like “ou” in “ouch”), is located at the headwaters of the north fork of the Guadalupe River in some of the Texas hill Country’s most magnificent terrain. Its mix of grasslands, woods and riparian areas makes Stowers Ranch a wildlife magnet. Since taking sheep and goats off the property in the 1960s, said Stowers’ grandson, Richard Smith, “We’ve remained committed to habitat restoration.” For Smith, being on one of the TPWd maps “lets us show people places like ours where the habitat is in good shape.” Smith said the maps haven’t brought many visitors, but that those who do come enjoy spotting Bald eagles, Golden eagles, endangered Golden-cheeked Warblers, and Black-capped vireos. “A number of years ago, with the help of the environmental defense Fund, we created a Black-capped vireo sanctuary. We have four to five families of Black-capped vireos on the sanctuary part, but we’ve also got them and Golden-cheeked Warblers throughout the ranch,” he shared. Far West Texas Wildlife Trails updated maps will soon be released, Plante said. That means more stops and likely more stops hosted by TWA members. But for now, the Far West region consists mostly of driving loops that deliver folks to publically owned destinations. Go exploring here, and you’ll journey through Texas’ most remote lands, carousing

mountains, deserts and Rio Grande riparian habitats. don’t miss montezuma Quail at Fort davis State Park bird blind or the sweet smell of Spanish dagger in bloom at Big Bend State Park. And, no matter where you head, don’t forget to look up; here, the stars certainly shine brightly over Texas! In fact, last year the International darkSky Association (http://www. darksky.org/) designated Big Bend national Park as one of only 13 International dark Sky Parks on earth.

Prairies and Pineywoods Wildlife Trails Compare and contrast ecosystems such as the Big Thicket and Blackland Prairie when you explore two distinct sets of Prairies and Pineywoods driving loops. The “east” trail map brings you through dense pine forests comprised of loblolly and long-leaf, while routes on the “West” map feature mixedgrass prairies. Spy a myriad of species along the way, from Pileated Woodpeckers to Scissor-tailed Flycatchers, carnivorous plants to cactus, and beavers to bison.

Just for Fun ~ Map Scavenger Hunt: Grab your stack of TPWd Great Wildlife Trail maps and enjoy a scavenger hunt! use the following questions to get you started: (Don’t own the maps? view them online, pick them up at any Txdot Welcome Center, or buy them from TPWd at: http://www.tpwd. state.tx.us/huntwild/wildlife/wildlife-trails/purchase.) • If you visited the trail with a Roadrunner for its sign marker, what trail would that be? • Find the Red-crowned Parrot. Where was it located? • Follow the Chisholm Trail. What Great Texas Wildlife Trail map did you use? • you’ll find a 355-acre lake and bluebirds at which site on one of the Prairies and Pineywoods Wildlife Trails? • you can view montezuma Quail at which Far West Texas Wildlife Trail site?

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TROPHY QUAIL MANAGEMENT Article and Photos by DALE ROLLinS, PH.D.

A

las, if only a quail had antlers. my lamentation stems from professional jealousy I reckon. As a lifelong “student of quail,” at times I’ve been envious of the time, effort and dollars expended on the venerable white-tailed deer in Texas. But, one thing I’ll concede . . . “deer decline” is not in our lexicon. don’t let me fool you – I enjoy deer hunting. I didn’t shoot one until 1987, because there were no deer in my boyhood haunts in southwestern Oklahoma until the late 1980s – now, they’re everywhere. Instead, I cut my teeth quail hunting, and the buzz-bomb of a covey rise will always be special to me. I submit there are several similarities between Boone & Crockett quail and trophy bucks, and I will expound on those here. Scoring a Trophy Hunt Every quail is a trophy! notice, my subheading doesn’t say, “scoring a trophy animal.” Quail (obviously) don’t have antlers or any other secondary sex characteristics like a turkey’s beard. The cock and hen are very similar in appearance, with only the white face of a cock distinguishing it from the more tawny-faced hen. not to ignore blue (scaled) quail, the rooster’s crest (topknot) is a couple of millimeters longer than that of the hen. unless you’re playing “quail snooker” (where one only shoots the cocks), the sexes of quail in the bag aren’t too important. now, let’s be serious here. Anytime you can enjoy a day of quail hunting, it’s a memo-

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rable outing. But, many of us have a competitive side, hence the allure of a scoring system. Several years ago, if only to be trendy, I sought to devise a B&C score for a trophy quail hunt. I considered several variables including (a) number of coveys flushed, (b) number pointed, (c) birds bagged) and (d) shots per bird bagged, to name a few. What components would you consider important? After wrestling with my initial thoughts, I came up with an equation. And, you don’t need a tape measure or have to add fractions! The equation is pretty simple: B&C score = 30 + 6(no. coveys flushed). For example, let’s say on a day’s hunt you find nine coveys, then your B&C quail score becomes (30) + (6)(9) = 84. If a more stellar hunt produces 22 coveys, your score is (30) + (6)(22) = 162. Given the past seven or eight years, most of us would be thrilled to claim a 162. If there was a B&C minimum score for a trophy quail hunt, it might be 24 coveys (i.e., a score of 174). using that criterion, have you recorded any wall hangers? I tested my scoring system on a credible, qualified participant, i.e., Ray Sasser (outdoor editor for Dallas Morning News), on a hunt in Coke County on Feb. 4, 2005. Ray and I had enjoyed a day of bobwhite and blue quail hunting the day before in Borden County, and we agreed to finish out our weekend quail quest on my lease near San Angelo. But, time constraints limited us to only a morning hunt. That Saturday morning provided the

weather that quail hunters dream. It was in the mid-40s, almost foggy and only a light wind. We started at 8:15 on my “ranch buggy” with my four “Betters” (doc, Li’l Annie, deuce and Babe – the last three being setters with a tad of Brittany in them). It was one of those rolling thunder kind of quail hunts. Ray limited out after about 15 coveys, and we spent the next hour just cruising and letting the dogs enjoy a dream hunt. When we quit at 11:15, we’d pointed 28 coveys . . . in Coke County, Texas. I did the tabulations [30 + (6)(28)] and proclaimed to Ray that we had just tallied a gross 198 B&C quail hunt . . . one for the record books. When I asked Ray (also a veteran deer hunter) if he agreed with the score, he proclaimed, “Absolutely.” Ray and I later agreed it was the best quail hunt either of us had ever been on. now, I haven’t gotten around to differentiating gross versus net scores, nor typical versus non-typical hunts. Perhaps deductions could include the number of coveys “busted” per hunting by foot versus vehicle, baited roads or not, etc. I welcome your suggestions. A Quail Quest Rick Snipes is an avid quail hunter who owns a ranch in Stonewall County in the sandhills northwest of Aspermont. It’s a beautiful quail ranch and the recipient of several awards for habitat management. Snipes’ idea of a trophy quail hunt is “to hunt wild quail in beautiful country with great dogs

Photo courtesy Ray Sasser

Dale Rollins flushes the 28th covey of a 198 B&C quail hunt, Coke County, 11:15 a.m., February 4, 2005.


and good friends.” until about 2010, he routinely enjoyed 30 covey days. But since that time, quail hunting there (and across most of the state) has been in the doldrums. Snipes serves as the President of the Board for the Rolling Plains Quail Research Foundation whose mission is to “preserve the heritage of Texas’ wild quail hunting for this, and future, generations.” See www.quailresearch.org for additional details. Harvest Records While a quail won’t be any bigger at 3 years old than it was as a “yearling,” it’s still a good idea to keep some harvest records. monitoring your quail population’s age ratio (juveniles per adult in the bag) is the most telling statistic. If your bag shows three adults for every juvenile quail, rest assured you won’t have a “trophy” quail hunt – your odds of that are much higher if you have five (or more) juveniles per adult. Aging a quail is much easier (and more accurate) than staring down the throat of a deer to examine its molars. Learn to distinguish the subtle difference between the wing feathers (specifically, the primary coverts) of juvenile birds (sometimes called hatch year birds) versus adults. The higher the ratio of juveniles to adults indicates better reproduction the previous summer.

I encourage students of quail to set up photo points along their ranch (hopefully, callcount transects), and score their ranch’s habitat for quail. If I can assist in getting you started, don’t hesitate to let me know (drollins@quailresearch. org). Once you get familiar with this scoring system, it’s easy to break up the monotony of a long drive by scoring sites along each side of the highway. Towards More Trophies just as there are trophy deer hotspots in Texas (the “golden triangle” inscribed by a line from Laredo to Carrizo Springs then to Cotulla) so are there quail honeyholes. I recognize the “Golden Rectangle” in the Rolling Plains as 75 miles either side of a diagonal line from Sweetwater, Tx to Sweetwater, Ok. Another bobwhite bulls-eye is a circle with a (roughly) 75-mile radius of hebbronville in South Texas. If you’re lucky enough to hunt in these areas, you should recognize what a trophy spot you have. Cherish, value and protect it.

no Trophies needed As tempting as it is to quailify a hunt as a trophy, such notoriety may be counterproductive; it depends on how you define a trophy. The older I get, the less importance I attach to my game bag. As often as not, I hunt these days with a camera. my trophies are taking young hunters and women on their first successful quail hunt behind good dogs in great country. Their smiles, and my dog’s efforts, are B&C enough for me.

Scoring Habitat Surely good habitat is as, or more, important to quail as it is to deer (as quail are more subject to a wider array of predators). I also have a 10-point scoring system for habitat – to be evaluated through a quail’s eyes. I use three variables, including (a) brush diversity, (b) herbaceous cover (grass and forbs), and (c) interspersion of habitat types. I rank each of these on a scale from zero to 3, giving a possible top score of 9 points. If I look at the habitat through the eyes of a quail hunter and declare, “I’d kill to hunt that place,” it gets a bonus point (for a possible total score of 10). I don’t give many 10s anymore. I score a point for each species of brush I can see (including prickly pear) up to three points. For herbaceous cover, if it looks like a table top, that’s a “0”; ankle high equals “1”; knee high equals “2” and thigh high scores a “3.” To max out the interspersion score, one should be able to throw a softball from one quail house (brush covert) to the next. Look at the accompanying photos, and see if your score would be close to mine.

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the of the plains Article and Photos by russell a. graves

When the danger is passed, they call out with a jump-yip. The jump-yip is an animated call where a prairie dog raises up on its back legs and throws his head back to punctuate the fact that the coast is clear.

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“R

ight there,” I said as I pointed, motioning to my wife and kids as we cruised through a remote corner of Floyd County, Texas. Flanking the edge of a dried out playa lake, conical mounds of fresh dirt was a dead giveaway that prairie dogs took up residence on the slope overlooking the broad basin. While most of the town’s residents seemed to be hunkered underground to escape the relentless march wind, a few of the rodents skittered about as we slowed down to take a closer look. The black-tailed prairie dog is one of four species of prairie dogs in north America and the only species found in Texas. The rodent, which is historically found west of the 98th meridian, now occupies pockets of its original range. Floyd County is one of many that straddles an ecological area that changes dramatically from east to west. On the county’s western side is the lower edge of the high Plains - a vast ecological zone that generally tilts downhill from west to east as sediments have flowed for eons from the Rocky mountains. Below the caprock escarpment, rolling plains ripple from the canyonlands eastward to the Texas Cross Timbers. On each side of the ecological dividing line, prairie dog colonies pepper the landscape. As we drive, we see a few small towns here and there across the plains - the biggest is perhaps an acre in size. At each town, you’d see a prairie dog or two foraging while a few others set up on their rear, keeping watch for predators and crying out their high pitched “chirk” at the slightest hint of danger. The call causes other prairie dogs to take notice and skitter to their burrows to wait out the danger in their subterranean safe houses. While seemingly abundant in spots across Texas, the number of prairie dogs in Texas and the range they occupy is next to nothing compared to what it once was. A Century of Decline

In the 1901 united States department of Agriculture’s yearbook of Agriculture, C. hart merriam, Chief of the division of Biological Survey submitted a report titled The Prairie Dog of the Great Plains. In his report, he cited a “prominent” Texas newspaper as editorializing: “No man who has not gone through the portions of Texas infested by prairie dogs can conceive the enormous ravages they have committed. Millions of acres of land once covered with nutritious grasses have been eaten

off by these animals, until the land is naked and worthless, and will remain so as, long as the prairie dog remains. They invade the farms and eat down the growing crops. Here and there individual effort has been made to destroy them, without avail, and their numbers steadily increase, until they are a menace to the prosperity of the land.” Four years later, vernon Bailey released the Biological Survey of Texas where he described a continuous prairie dog town that stretched from San Angelo in the south to Clarendon in the north and was about 100 miles wide along the entire stretch. In all, the town, in his estimation, was 16 million acres. By the time the 20th century rolled around and western Texas settlement was increasing, black-tailed prairie dogs were already tapped for eradication by settlers. The rodents were plentiful in the late 1800s and stood in the way of settlers taming the grasslands for fattening cattle or growing crops. In 1898, B.A. Owen wrote, “I ordered one hundred pounds of strychnine and four hundred pounds of cyanide of potash through doss Brothers of Colorado City… We got started about dec. 1 and worked 15 men all that winter and had success… The next year we had a good season and the grass was knee high all over the ranch. mr. Godair [the ranch owner] came to the ranch the next fall and asked me what I had to spend on the dogs. I told him approximately six thousand dollars and he said he wouldn’t have them back for twenty thousand dollars.” Over the next quarter century, black tailed prairie dog numbers dropped 25 percent over its range – largely fueled by the official governmental reports like the yearbook of Agriculture. In 1922, governmental agents poisoned over one million acres of prairie dog country in Texas and eradicated 90 percent of them in the process. In 1924, governmental researchers sealed the prairie dog’s fate for the next generation when they reported that, “The prairie dog is one of the most injurious rodents of the southwest and plains region. These animals

assemble in areas called towns, where populations become very high; thus, the removal of vegetation in its entirety from the vicinity is common.” After the report was published, full scale, government-sponsored eradication efforts were underway across the Great Plains. While the numbers of prairie dogs dropped precipitously nationwide, in Texas their eradication was near complete. Consider this: In 1870, Texas prairie dogs were estimated to cover 56.8 million acres, and in 1998, that number was reduced to 22,500 acres - a 99.96 percent drop. While prairie dogs (by nature) live in huge towns, the towns are actually segmented into individual neighborhoods called coteries.

Anatomy of an Earth Mover When I was a teacher at Childress high School, one of our cornerstone projects was to spend about six weeks each spring at a prairie dog town about a mile north of the high school. For scantly an hour each day students would break up into teams and take the pulse of dog town and monitor its health over the six or seven years we studied the rodents. With GPS equipment, they would plot the perimeter of the town to study how the size ebbed over the years. From known scientific population analysis, we could extrapolate the estimated number of prairie dogs in the colony and determine their overall forage consumption. We’d test the soil to see if prairie dogs had an effect on soil fertility and take grass clippings to see what kinds of impacts (positive and negative) that prairie dogs have on forage quality and quantity. In the study, the students would also take a plant inventory and catalog the diversity of plants in the prairie dog town and adjacent to the town where the soil types were identi-

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cal. Furthermore, they’d gauge the soil’s water infiltration rate, look deep underground at the prairie dog in their burrows using fiber optic probes, and monitor cattle grazing movements and preferences. using GPS collars, a cow's latitude, longitude, elevation, and whether its head was up or down was logged in the collar’s memory. A single point didn’t give much information. Taken in context with hundreds of other data points that the collars collected every 10 minutes for 45 days, a clear picture began to emerge. When all the data was collected and analyzed as a whole – the forage data, the soil data, everything – it seems that prairie dogs (at least on this little patch of Rolling Plains prairie) had a neutral effect on the health of rangelands where cattle were present. That assessment flies in the face of conventional wisdom. most who have an opinion will tell you that a prairie dog’s effect on rangelands is detrimental. They cite destruction of rangelands to livestock crippling burrows as support for their reasoning. While on an anecdotal level, some of that may be true, the fact is that black-tailed prairie dogs are a keystone species, and their existence on the prairie creates and maintains habitat for more than 40 species of mammals, 10 species of amphibians, 90 species of birds, 15 reptilian species, 29 species of insects, and 80 types of plants are associated with prairie dog towns. When prairie dogs colonize an area, their incessant digging and burrowing creates habitat for other animals. Badgers, burrowing owls, snakes, rabbits, and other critters occupy both active and abandoned burrows at any given time. At the time when the plains were full of prairie dogs, their presence helped maintain a complicated grassland ecosystem that supported the largest concentrations of mammals in north America in the vast herds of grazers like the bison and pronghorn antelope. While prairie dogs (by nature) live in huge towns, the towns are actually segmented into individual neighborhoods called coteries. These coteries are typically made up of related prairie dogs, and each coterie doesn’t necessarily get along with the next one. In fact, quit a bit of extra-coterie sparring and fighting occurs between prairie dogs on a regular basis, mostly over territorial disputes. Coteries are typically an acre in size and

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may have as many as 50-100 burrow openings. Contrary to popular belief, the burrows are not interconnected and many only consist of an entrance. most, however, have an entrance and an exit, and the two openings create enough of a draft to manage the subterranean temperature and keep the burrows at a comfortable range (50-70 degrees) year round. Inside the dirt mounds, females whelp their young which consists of three to five pups of mixed sex. The babies stay inside the burrow for the first six weeks of life and emerge to integrate into the coterie. They spend their days playing and, like the adults, feeding on grasses, insects and prickly pear. even though they isolate themselves into small communities, prairie dogs have evolved to live communally in large groups because, from a predatory avoidance standpoint, the more eyes keeping a lookout for danger the better. When a prairie dog spots a predator like a coyote or hawk, they begin to make a high pitched alert call called a chirk. The closer the danger the faster the chirk. When the call goes out, other prairie dogs stop and take notice. Prairie dogs chirk until the last possible moment when they duck into the burrows for safety. When the danger is passed, they call out with a jump-yip. The jump-yip is an animated call where a prairie dog raises up on its back legs and throws his head back to punctuate the fact that the coast is clear. The Prairie Dog’s Future Based on the species’ decline, it seems that prairie dogs should be listed as an endangered species but they are not. In 1998, the national Wildlife Federation petitioned the united States Fish & Wildlife Service to list the prairie dog as a threatened species. Threatened species status, while not as dire as the endangered species status, still brings a degree of federal oversight on privately owned lands. After hearings and lobbying on both sides of the prairie dog issue, the uS Fish and Wildlife Service ultimately ruled that the while the prairie dog is warranted for inclusion on the threatened species list, they precluded its listing. Instead, the service opted on a plan where individual states where prairie dogs were found could submit restorative plans to manage and mitigate the prairie dog’s demise.

Texas’ plan, which was adopted in 2004, states that “The management Plan is a stepby-step plan to reach the statewide goal of 293,129 acres of occupied prairie dog habitat by 2011. The six-pronged approach to achieve that goal was based on understanding the exact population size of the black-tailed prairie dog in Texas, implement and effect outreach and educational programs, develop management options that conserve prairie dog populations, tighten up regulatory regulations for prairie dogs, establish research programs that support long term population viability, and implement the entire plan. It’s unlikely that the prairie dog will ever occupy the entirety of its original range. The agribusiness infrastructure and human settlement forbid it from a practical standpoint. however, there are still special little pockets of rangelands where prairie dogs still hang on and thrive. In rural Floyd County, we’ve found a few already.


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ICF –Your Images, Their Futur e

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by karine Aigner This gray fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus) female and mate were photographed by professional photographer karine Aigner in Live Oak County on the Twin Oaks Ranch, owned by Claire and George vaughn. Aigner will coach an ICF Pro-Am Tournament at Santa margarita Ranch this fall. The competitors will focus on photographing whitetail deer, exotics and the remaining summer migrant birds that have not yet flown south for the winter. TWA and Vantage Bank are proud to partner with the Images for Conservation Fund in an effort to present some of the outstanding images captured during its nature photography competitions held on private lands in Texas. ICF is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization created for the purpose of conserving wildlife habitat and generating a sustainable income stream through the establishment and prosperity of the Private Lands' NaturePhotography Industry. Images for Conservation encourages private landowners to restore, preserve, conserve, and enhance wildlife habitat through the business of nature photography. For more information on ICF, visit www.imagesforconservation.org.

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"Texas Wildlife" - June 2014