Texas Wildlife, August 2014

Page 1


Salty Reds Need Fresh Water Too!


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president’s remarks


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)

TWA + Teamwork = Conservation Success


I’ve always been fascinated by teamwork. Even as a kid, team sports seemed more rewarding than soloplayer sports. Though I excelled in distance races in track, the grind of preparation and the metabolic high of competition seemed mundane compared to the more self-fulfilling interaction with teammates in baseball and football. Teamwork is poetry in motion. The symphonic nature of groups of individuals collectively orchestrated through the choreography of different talent sets working in unison is one of beauty and one of strength. Legendary basketball star, Michael Jordan summed it up well when he said, “Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships.” The San Antonio Spurs certainly proved Jordan’s observation to be spot-on with their amazing show of teamwork as they recently marched their way into an NBA championship. Our Texas Wildlife Association’s success in deploying its mission rests squarely on its ability to develop and maintain a functional team component with how it goes about conducting business. In fact, it is my opinion that nonprofits like TWA rely on the ability to create team synergies as much or more than most any entity found in the private or public sector. Think about it, our TWA is made up of paid staff, volunteers who contribute sweat equity, philanthropists who give cash, various stakeholder groups whose values are not always congruent, not to mention evolving issues and pressures which require adaptability. At first glance, one might look at our TWA recipe as a pot of stew with dysfunctional chemistry that makes up our arrangement of ingredients, when in fact, we have all pieces in place to achieve amazing results when things are properly choreographed. Our TWA Conservation Legacy line-up of education programs, by design, is built upon a foundational principle of teamwork. There’s an inter-organizational dimension to many of our CL programs that is tied to cooperative participation with other partnering and collaborative groups, who provide “their” own people, working with “our” people, all looking at their work as one common cause. Many of our CL education programs, for all practical purposes are not TWA “owned,” were never intended to be TWA “owned,” and work most effectively and efficiently when the collective CL participants are not too fixated on who gets credit for the output; when all goes well, all affiliated groups share in the success, and the mission is complete! Our partnership with Texas Brigades is a classic example of CL teamwork. Our Hunting Heritage programs, which include the Texas Big Game Awards and the Texas Youth Hunting Program, are great examples of excellent working partnerships between TWA and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Combining resources and vision, the output is ultimately a better product than if either of these groups were going at it alone. Throw in other sponsors, as well as volunteers, and you have a recipe for great teamwork. When you consider our advocacy and public policy work that is part of TWA’s function, there simply is no better opportunity for excellence within teamwork. Advocacy through traditional civic engagement impacting the democratic process, relationship-building with elected officials, financial pledges to support PAC efforts, leveraging of our education resources to influence literacy values of policy-makers, all coordinated through strategic planning to help advance our mission. Yet, another example of TWA teamwork. As I’ve expressed on a few other occasions, one of my visions for TWA is to continue to look for ways that we can cultivate existing partnerships, while also exploring opportunities to create new collaborative efforts with other like-minded groups. I also look forward to identifying ways that we can better engage our broad leadership, while also providing more landing platforms for all members who wish to contribute, resulting in great teamwork! I look at TWA’s team as work in progress, and I look forward to investigating ways that we can continue to build out our team, and build up our game plan, working for tomorrow’s wildlife…today!



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.



august 2014

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

David Yeates, Chief Executive Officer 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 Kayla Krueger, 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 Elisa Velador, 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. Steve Nelle Henry Chappell Borderlands Research Institute for Natural Resource Management, Sul Ross State University-Alpine Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute, Texas A&M University-Kingsville 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 information, Oaks Dr., Suite 126, San Antonio, TX 78247 For advertising or e-mailDavid dbrimager@texas-wildlife.org. contact Brimager at (800) 839-9453 3660 Thousand Oaks Dr., Suite 126, San Antonio, TX 78247 or e-mail dbrimager@texas-wildlife.org.

Mission Impacts



Volume 30 H Number 4 H 2014

8 Salty Reds Need Fresh Water Too! by Nate Skinner

14 Private Property Rights Challenges by Andrew biar

18 Texas Big Game Awards Landowners of the Year by Justin dreibelbis

22 Dedicated Volunteers

Equals Successful Programs by Koy coffer

26 The Cow: Planned Rotational Grazing by lorie woodward cantu

30 Rio Grande: River of Strife by Henry chappell

34 Caesar's Gun Comes Home Seven-year-old Trace Baxter is all smiles as he looks through his copy of Texas Wildlife magazine at the Regions 1, 2, and 3 Texas Big Game Awards Sportsmen’s Celebration, held on June 7 in Lubbock.

by fred bryant

36 Pokeweed

by steve nelle

Justin Dreibelbis: Just wanted to drop you a note about the Texas Big Game Awards Banquet held in Lubbock in June. We had an excellent time, and this awards program far exceeded what I thought it was going to be. I must say the focus on youth hunting that you do is where it all starts. Hats off to your team and all the sponsors that support the program. I will attend next year regardless of an entry into the program to support this. Charles Baxter Krum, TX

38 Members in Action:

Making a Difference by kendra roller

40 Urban Game Wardens by Judy Bishop Jurek

46 Quail Escargot

by Dale rollins, ph.d.

50 Fencerow Habitat by Russell a. Graves



On the Cover 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

Freshwater inflow is a key to the red drum’s life cycle. Although salinity changes do not directly affect the fish itself, they can destroy much of what the species needs to flourish. Without a functioning estuary, what will happen to the redfish? See the full story on beginning on page 8. Photo by Scott Sommerlatte Salty Reds Need Fresh Water Too!




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.




august 3-5 QuailMasters – Session III, Pampa. For more information, contact Clint Faas at cfaas@texas-wildlife.org.

september 11 TWA Membership Reception, Javier’s, Dallas. For more information, contact Kendra Roller at kroller@texas-wildlife.org.

October 1 Quail Appreciation Day, McMullen County. For more information, contact Dr. Dale Rollins at drollins@tamu.edu.

august 8 TWA Membership Reception, Y.O. Ranch Hotel and Conference Center, Kerrville. For more information, contact Kendra Roller at kroller@texas-wildlife.org.

september 16 Quail Appreciation Day, Knox County. For more information, contact Dr. Dale Rollins at drollins@tamu.edu.

October 2 Quail Appreciation Day, Jim Wells/Duval County. For more information, contact Dr. Dale Rollins at drollins@tamu.edu.

september 17 Quail Appreciation Day, Palo Pinto County. For more information, contact Dr. Dale Rollins at drollins@tamu.edu.

October 3 Saving Family Lands: A Free Workshop for Landowners, Amarillo. For more information or to register online, visit www. txaglandtrust.org or call (210) 826-0074.

august 9 Texas Big Game Awards Banquet, Regions 4 and 8, Y.O. Ranch Hotel and Conference Center, Kerrville. For hotel reservations, contact the Y.O. Ranch Hotel at (877) 967-3767 and use group code: TBGA2014. For banquet information, contact Justin Dreibelbis at jdreibelbis@texas-wildlife.org. august 20-21 South Texas Wildlife Conference, Floresville. For more information, contact Clint Faas at cfaas@texas-wildlife.org.

september 23 Quail Appreciation Day, Tom Green County. For more information, contact Dr. Dale Rollins at drollins@tamu.edu. september 30 Quail Appreciation Day, Tom Green County. For more information, contact Dr. Dale Rollins at drollins@tamu.edu.

October 4 Lone Star Water Forum, Brenham. For more information, contact Clint Faas at cfaas@ texas-wildlife.org or (800) TEX-WILD. October 15 Quail Appreciation Day, Wilson County. For more information, contact Dr. Dale Rollins at drollins@tamu.edu.

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. August 21 – Cattle Grazing and Wildlife Habitat Jason Hohlt


October – Diseases Affecting White-tailed Deer in Texas Ryan Schoneberg

September – Wild Pigs

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

Mark Tyson


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.


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.



august 2014

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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Photo by David J. Sams

Salty Reds Need Freshwater Too!

The lack of freshwater inflows into Texas bays and estuaries could have severe results for red drum, a species Texans spent so much time, effort and money to save once already. Article by Nate Skinner


bronze back appeared against the shoreline, shimmering in the morning sun as ripples in the shallow water occasionally lapped over top of it. At first, I thought I was seeing things, but the shiny, orange submarine began to move, slowly pushing a wake along the edge of the grass. As I began to make a cast, a similar shape appeared and then another and another. A feeding frenzy was taking shape, right before my eyes as baitfish and small crustaceans poured out of the bayou with the outgoing tide. It was all I could do to not jump clear out of my wading boots.



august 2014

A flick of my wrist sent a hook-clad plug into the air, landing perfectly in front of the lead fish’s nose. Before I could engage the reel, a large head exploded out of the water, engulfing my offering and the game was on. The strike was similar to a snapping turtle picking off a piece of food floating on a pond. It was a “Chomp!” so to speak, as the water was so shallow (maybe six inches at most) that the fish had no choice but to come above the surface to attack the bait – their backs were out of the water for crying out loud! As my drag screamed and the sun rose over the marsh that morning, I couldn’t help but think, and I may have even said it out loud,


texans went great lengths to preserve once already in the past 50 years. red drum are actually quite tolerable to a wide range of salinity, as they thrive from the saltiest waters of the gulf of Mexico to the brackish waters of the wetlands and marshes. freshwater inflow comes into Photo by Scott Sommerlatte

also effect the much-needed flow of fresh water into coastal systems. several texas landowners are employing these practices across the state, and others can easily jump on board. Their efforts, combined with some much needed rain, can ultimately lead to healthy texas stocks of redfish, a species

Freshwater inflow is a key to the red drum’s life cycle. Although salinity changes do not directly affect the fish itself, they can destroy much of what the species needs to flourish. Without a functioning estuary, what will happen to the redfish?

Photo by Scott Sommerlatte

“Thank god for hungry redfish!” Memories like these are ones that fuel many anglers’ obsessions, making the days with little to no catching still enjoyable, and the days when the bite is on fire, that much more worth it! In this day and age, almost anyone could use a break from reality in the form of a bowed rod, smack dab in the middle of a game fish gorging session. But, as the years wear on these “memories,” could become just that, a thing of the past. It seems that commercial and industrial practices combined with poor land management regimes could make tremendous encounters with schools of redfish a fleeting occurrence. The decrease of freshwater inflows into texas bays and estuaries is directly affecting the habitat and ecosystems in which red drum thrive; and, as this continues, the results could be detrimental to our texas fishery. No one thing is to blame here, and some things are literally out of our hands in terms of weather patterns and precipitation. Lucky for us, sound land management practices not only produce a healthy terrestrial environment, but they can

According to Fisheries Program Manager at the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies, Megan Robillard, redfish spawn offshore, and then the juveniles enter back into the bays and estuaries where they grow and mature in the marsh.



Photo by Nate Skinner


play in terms of the red drum’s habitat and nursing grounds. according to fisheries Program Manager at the Harte research Institute for gulf of Mexico studies, Megan robillard, redfish spawn offshore, and then the juveniles enter back into the bays and estuaries where they grow and mature in the marsh.“The marsh is like a nursery,” explains robillard, “and without regular freshwater influx, this nursery will basically die.” robillard says all of the organisms living in marshes require a salinity of 1020 ppt. “If the salinity rises higher than 25 ppt, crustaceans like blue crabs and benthic organisms like oysters cannot live,” says robillard, “and all of a sudden, the food chain and habitat for these growing, juvenile redfish have been interrupted and disturbed, ultimately hindering their prosperity.” freshwater inflow is a key to the red drum’s life cycle. although salinity changes do not directly affect the fish itself, they can destroy much of what the species needs to flourish. Without a functioning estuary, what will happen to the redfish? The main contributor to the lack of freshwater inflows into texas bays and



Photo by David J. Sams

The marsh serves as the primary nursing ground for juvenile red drum.

Freshwater inflows that help keep bays and estuaries healthy will ultimately enable many generations of Texas anglers to enjoy red drum fishing.

august 2014


The ‘40s and ‘50s along the Texas Gulf Coast were truly the “Good Old Days.” Redfish were plentiful and there were no limits on what fishermen could retain. Word about their tasty fillets spread quickly and commercial netters began reaping the benefits of this hot commodity. With this rapid increase in popularity, the red drum population began a significant decline in the 1970s; and, by the mid ‘80s, redfish were all but extinct along the Texas Coast. Management measures adopted in the late 1980s were brought about by a three-pronged recovery plan created by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) in 1975. The plan included banning commercial netting, implementing bag and size limits, and the designation of red drum as a game fish which eliminated the commercial sale of the species. TPWD’s plan also integrated a stocking program, as the first redfish fingerlings were stocked in 1983, and now about 30 million are stocked in Texas bays each year. While stocking fingerlings to enhance the red drum population had never been attempted, it soon became a successful and important part of TPWD’s management program. Today, the redfish have fully recovered, and currently the Texas fishery is arguably one of the best in the nation for pursuing them.

Freshwater flows are important for the health of coastal habitat, fish and waterfowl.

Photo by Scott Sommerlatte

estuaries is the recent drought that has been the levels of these water bodies. although plaguing our state. Now, one might look there have been several rain events in the back on the last 12-15 months and think, past year, none have precipitated enough “We’ve had quite a bit water to bring these more rain recently lakes back to their than we did in the normal levels. ...the eff ects of declined previous two to three Located in Central years.” This statement texas, this chain of freshwater inflow are may be absolutely seven reservoirs lies true, but the key being seen throughout the along the Colorado factor is not whether river and provides entire Texas coastline. we’ve had more rain in water to major cities, recent months, it is the including austin and location of where this rain has fallen and by the Dallas-fort Worth area. what amount. The water flowing downriver from for example, one of the largest water these lakes is also the main resource for resources in texas is the Highland Lakes, and agricultural practices along texas midrecent drought years have greatly lowered coast prairies and the main source of

Photo by Scott Sommerlatte


freshwater inflow for Matagorda Bay. There are over 200 miles between the source and where this water finally reaches the coast, and you can bet that a lot of this water is getting used up along the way. This has created an intense political battle as government agencies try to allocate water between urban areas that need it to support communities and businesses and coastal prairie farmers that are in dire need of water to maintain crops. With these raging political conflicts, it’s easy to see where the concern for water actually making it down the Colorado river into the bay, the way it naturally should, can disappear in the mix. The only sure solution to this problem is for a flood event to occur, filling the Highland Lakes and ending this water shortage. and, this is only one area of

Crustaceans like blue crabs and benthic organisms like oysters cannot live if the salinity of the water is too high, thus interrupting the food chain and habitat that allows juvenile redfish to thrive.




the coast – the effects of declined freshwater being deposited into creeks, rivers, marshes inflow are being seen throughout the entire and wetlands, which silts up channels texas coastline. and cuts that carry freshwater into bays With the weather as an obvious, and estuaries. at the same time, this also uncontrollable variable, our focus must be increases the rate at which water flows on sound land management practices as across the property, allowing for less water one important way to increase freshwater to soak into the property’s soil. However, flow into our coastal ecosystems. However, today’s ranchers are much more careful no amount of land management will ensure about grazing management than previous the flows we need unless it is accompanied generations, and there is much less erosion by reduced water consumption by cities, and overgrazing than in the past. Most industry and agriculture. The problem is soil erosion comes from poorly managed one of excessive demand combined with cropland not range or pastureland. reduced supply. Effective brush control involves following There are three main strategies that a margin of concern when planning to when adopted on clear sections of properties across a property. some our state will not It all boils down to one goal clearing is okay, but only produce a all the – trying to nudge the system eliminating sound ecosystem on brush on a property land but will also also increases the back to its natural state. enhance our marine rate of runoff, aiding and wetland habitats in erosion and as freshwater is allowed to flow naturally. decreasing the amount of water allowed to They include planned grazing, effective percolate through the soil. brush control and restoring the land back restoring the land back to its natural to its original working condition. working condition allows for a natural Planned rotational grazing is a process in percolation of water into the soil. This can which cattle are treated much like a herd of be accomplished by restoring native grasses buffalo, allowed to graze on a property for and brush. just a short period of time and then moved When planned rotational grazing, to another place. Overgrazing leads to soil effective brush control and efforts to restore erosion which leads to more sediments the land back to its natural condition are



august 2014

Photo by Nate Skinner

Outdoor writer Nate Skinner (l) guided Reba Lubianski (r) on her first hook up with this solid redfish on Galveston Bay.

adopted as management practices for a given property, the need for excessive amounts of irrigation and water use are greatly reduced, as the natural flow of water is restored. This frees up more water to travel downstream, giving our bays and estuaries a chance to survive. texas landowner Chris gill, a texas Wildlife association (tWa) member, manages two properties under the three aforementioned practices – one is along the coast in refugio County, while the other is located in the western part of the state in Hudspeth County. Despite the amount of mileage between the two ranches, gill says the same practices work well in both places. “It’s amazing how similar these two properties can be when it comes to managing them, even though they are in two entirely different geographic regions of texas,” he explains. “It all boils down to one goal – trying to nudge the system back to its natural state.” tWa Legislative Program Coordinator Joey Park says this connection could provide a large chunk of the solution to the coastal freshwater inflow problem. “If we could eliminate the disconnect between the folks upstream and what’s happening on the coast, the pieces of the puzzle would start to fall into place.” says Park. “If more people would realize what Chris gill has already figured out, that everything is connected in terms of water flow, then properties could be managed effectively and there would be more fresh water making it to our bays and estuaries.” as the fight for water continues, it is important as texans to see the whole picture. There is no longer north and south, east and west. The entire state functions as one in terms of water, and it’s a commodity that no one part can live without. Proper land management practices, combined with some much needed rain in certain areas, will ensure that many more memories can be made along our bays and estuaries. They say, “Water is the universal solvent.” and, that’s definitely the case here.

WHY I AM A TWA MEMBER! I am a member of TWA because of the conservation emphasis. I think it is important to protect the lands and the animals so that future generations can enjoy it just as much as I have. My future career involves the protection and conservation of animals across the world. I believe TWA has really given me an opportunity to start down that path.

Austin Blackwell SAN ANTONIO TX


issues and Advocacy


Private Property Rights Challenges Article by andrew biar Photo by Russell Graves


here an excess of power prevails, property of no sort is duly respected. No man is safe in his opinions, his person, his faculties, or his possessions.” This was written by Father of the Constitution, James Madison, in his article On Property, in March of 1792 in the National Gazzette. This quote from Madison speaks for me and many others who are concerned about the private ownership of property, be it land, intellectual, manufactured or any type of property. Private property is crucial to a free society. Ownership of private property is vital for a moral society to exist. Private property is the key to economic opportunity and success. The belief in private property is not a new concept that was thought up by the Founding Fathers or even the Magna Carta. By the way, ask the average American what the Magna Carta is, and they will not have a clue. Private property is something that has been in existence much longer than the U.S. has been around. The debate about private property is evident in Aristotle’s rebuttal to Plato’s more communal belief in property when he said, “Everyone thinks chiefly of his own; hardly at all of common interest, and only when he is himself concerned as an individual. For besides other considerations, everybody is more inclined to neglect the duty which he expects another to fulfill.” Basically, Aristotle is saying that an individual does a better job of being a steward of property than the collective group of a society. This exemplifies what the members of the Texas Wildlife Association (TWA) are doing with their property and the group’s diligent defense of private property rights. As individuals acting freely, responsibly, and morally, we are protecting the land and all that is on it, under it and around it. Private property rights had strong protections in the United States until the 1930s. Unfortunately,



Left up to the Environmental Protection Agency, under their proposed rules of Waters of the U.S., most any creek, gully, ditch or drainage would likely fall under federal jurisdictional control of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, creating a possible regulatory nightmare for landowners. TWA, through its work with the Water Advocacy Coalition, has been actively engaged with addressing concerns over this proposal.

the well-intentioned efforts of the New Deal and the subsequent progressivism that followed, dealt a blow to private property rights. The influence of which exists to this day. Another defender of private property rights, Edmond Burke, connects private

August 2014

property with economic freedom and success. He believed private property was essential to the individual’s opportunity to grow economically as well as serving as a buffer against an overbearing government. In The Works of Edmund Burke: With a Memoir, in Volume 2 he writes: “A law against property is a law against industry.” If one does not have the freedom to own property, without the threat of it being taken unjustly, then one’s economic freedom is restricted or completely void of existence.” The Takings Clause in the Fifth Amendment should be a basis for the protection of private property. You would think. However, it has largely been set aside and disregarded by the courts as well as public policy leaders and politicians of all stripes. Evidence of the shrinking support for private property can be seen in the continuous slide the United States has taken over time in the Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom. The Index defines economic freedom as “the fundamental right of every human to control his or her own labor and property.” Since 2002, we have slid from fourth to 12th. This does not say much for private property rights. As I mentioned in the Issues and Advocacy article in the May issue of Texas Wildlife magazine, it is imperative that TWA members be engaged in the political as well as the public policy processes. Elections have consequences. Texas landowners face many challenges these days, whether it is protecting groundwater rights, dealing with the BLM issue up on the Red River, addressing problematic aspects of EPA’s proposed rules of Waters of the U.S., impacts of navigable streams declarations, or perhaps condemnation for pipelines or power lines. Protecting private property rights will take the collective and individual member efforts of TWA.

Join our Team as a Corporate Partner


Our members value TWA’s magazine as the only twelve-month, full color magazine in the industry. Published monthly, Texas Wildlife magazine reaches approximately 25,000 readers per issue. Not only does TWA’s over 6,000 members own or control nearly 40 million acres of land in the state, 95% of our members have a more positive image of companies that partner with TWA. And 84% of our members say they are more likely to purchase products from companies that advertise and support TWA. Therefore, having your company logo listed as part of the “Corporate Partners Program” provides a unique and exclusive option to help promote your brand.

Become a Corporate Partner

Join our “Corporate Partners Program” program today, and secure your company a premier position within TWA’s monthly publication. For more information on how to join, please contact David Brimager, TWA’s Director of Marketing and Partner Relations, via email at dbrimager@texas-wildlife.org or by phone by calling (800) 839-9453.


corporate partners program hoffpauir polaris

As the number one volume Polaris Ranger dealer in the U.S., if you purchase a Polaris ATV or UTV from Hoffpauir Polaris you will receive a free one year Associate membership to TWA. Hoffpauir Polaris also supports TWA through various donations to our annual convention, educational programs, and much more. Visit www.HPolaris. com to learn more about how you can get a great deal at Hoffpauir Polaris.

** Some conditions and exclusions may apply to these partnerships. ** offers valid through 12/31/14

As a voice for Texas landowners, hunters, and conservationists,TWA focuses its mission on natural resource stewardship, issues relating to private property, hunting and hunter’s rights, and conservation education. TWA’s magazine Texas Wildlife, not only serves as a great resource tool for our members, but it also provides relevant articles and news on such topics as conservation, hunting, and advocacy. Our Hunting Heritage, Conservation Legacy, and Issues and Advocacy efforts position TWA as a respected voice for wildlife in Texas. Reaching over 368,000 youth and over 53,000 at special events in our Conservation Legacy efforts, 30,000 people in direct contacts at adult education events, and almost 10,000 through its Hunting Heritage (Texas Big Game Awards and Texas Youth Hunting Program) efforts, TWA continues to be the leader in fighting natural resource illiteracy in Texas.

TWA has partnered with these quality companies to offer our members quality products and/or discounts, with a portion of the proceeds to support TWA’s mission efforts!

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TWA’s new official merchandise supplier, Willie’s T’s is the place for all things TWA logo apparel and gift related. An annual contribution is made by Willie’s T’s on each item sold. For more information visit www.texaswildlife.gostorego.com.

TWA Members receive 10% off any style cooler. Visit www.iceholecoolers.com or email twa@ iceholecoolers.com for more information.

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For information on how to become a TWA Corporate Partner, contact David Brimager at (800) 839-9453 or dbrimager@texas-wildlife.org.



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Texas Big Game Awards

LANDOWNERS OF THE YEAR presented by capital farm credit

Photo by Koy Coffer

Article by Justin Dreibelbis


he Texas Big Game Awards (TBGA) Landowner of the Year award was created in 2012 to recognize TBGA landowners for excellence in wildlife conservation on their lands through both habitat management and the promotion of hunting and conservation education. By recognizing these land stewards for their extraordinary efforts, we hope to illustrate the important role of Texas' private landowners in the future of our natural resources and proud hunting heritage. 18


Flagler Ranch

Statewide TBGA Landowner of the Year Owner: George Matthews Manager: Lewis Scherer When George Matthews purchased his western Hill Country ranch in 1992, it had been severely overgrazed by cattle, sheep and goats. He soon implemented an ecosystem approach to management with a goal of returning the property to its original grassland savanna state. With the help of talented range and wildlife professionals like ranch manager Lewis Scherer, the Flagler Ranch has blossomed into an exceptional wildlife property that is

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known far and wide not only for their great land stewardship practices but for their willingness to share with those interested in learning about our Texas natural resources. Scherer and his staff work diligently to keep Ashe juniper and prickly pear at manageable levels. With an intense prescribed fire regime and careful population management of native and exotic ungulates, they have been able to provide quality habitat for game and non-game wildlife of all species. This reintroduction of fire on to the landscape has particularly benefitted the endangered Black-capped Vireo by creating an early successional habitat, which they require for nesting.

Photo by Koy Coffer


Students from Kerrville Tivy High School learn about native grasses at the Flagler Ranch.

Photo courtesy of MT7 Ranch

The Flagler is a hunting ranch. Along with their very successful commercial whitetail and exotic hunting operation, the ranch has hosted groups from the Texas Youth Hunting Program for 12 consecutive years. These youth hunts provide an opportunity for kids from all over the state to get out on well-managed private land to enjoy our state’s wildlife resources in a safe and educational format. Through their parent/ child hunting activities, ranch staff has recorded over 120 first-time harvests over the last 12 years. The ranch also donates hunts to other organizations like Honored American Veterans Afield (HAVA) which provides hunting experiences to American military veterans. An important component in the

ranch’s management scheme is to provide unlimited opportunities for environmental education and outreach. The ranch is regularly used as a demonstration site and outdoor classroom for local schools and various other conservation groups. TWA’s Learning Across New Dimensions in Science (L.A.N.D.S.) program regularly visits the Flagler for youth field days and teacher trainings. Matthews and his staff continue to use this beautiful property, along with a steady mix of hunting and environmental education, to make a difference to the citizens of Texas. Congratulations to the Flagler Ranch for being named the 2014 Texas Big Game Awards Landowner of the Year.


MT7 Ranch

Region 3 TBGA Landowner of the Year Owner: Mike and Mary Terry Family Manager: Ty Bartoskewitz Mike and Mary Terry purchased their historic Stephens County property in 2008 and named it the MT7 Ranch. They immediately set out to rebuild the wildlife habitat that had been damaged over the previous 30 years of intense livestock grazing. Along with piecing together several adjoining parcels of land and destocking the 800 head of cattle that were on the ranch, they identified the following list of objectives as the ranch’s mission statement:

1. 2.

3. 4.

To promote and practice good land stewardship and habitat management Provide quality recreational experiences for family and guests Use the ranch as an outdoor classroom to educate youth and adults of all ages about natural resources Operate a clean workplace and efficient business enterprise

Along with an impressive list of wildlife habitat management practices being implemented by ranch manager Ty Bartoskewitz and his staff, the ranch is intently focused on providing natural resource education experiences to both youth and adults. They regularly host field days for landowners and professionals and partner with Texas A&M University on Rio Grande wild turkey research. The internship program implemented at MT7 in 2009 gives college students from around the country an opportunity to gain experience on a working ranch while also allowing them to participate in hands on management and hunting activities. In 2010, MT7 Ranch began hosting an annual field day for 5th graders from Breckenridge ISD. Each spring, the entire class of 175 5th graders comes to the ranch for a wildlife field day. The kids rotate through six 25 minute stations which include fish biology/fishing, herpetology, skins and skulls of north Texas, radio telemetry and turkey biology, livestock, GPS skills and scavenger hunt.



Texas big game awards Photo courtesy of Back Porch Ranch


Regular Texas Big Game Awards entries from the ranch are evidence that the habitat management activities are doing good things for the land and wildlife. Educated kids and adults in the community are evidence that the outreach is doing the same. Congratulations to MT7 Ranch for being named the 2014 TBGA Region 3 Landowner of the Year.

Back Porch Ranch

Region 4 TBGA Landowner of the Year Owner: David and Crystal Watts Manager: Crystal Watts

David Watts had always dreamed of owning his own ranch and in 2005 it became a reality. He named the 5,000 acre ranch in Kinney County the “Back Porch Ranch” because of the grand views and atmosphere that the homes on the ranch provided. Watts says that the history of the ranch is simple because it was purchased with one goal in mind…to be a place where his family, friends and those without access to private land can come enjoy the great outdoors



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and experience everything it has to offer. Watts quickly began working on the wildlife habitat that had been neglected for the previous 24 years. To this day, he and his wife Crystal work tirelessly managing the invasive Ashe juniper with mechanical treatments and prescribed fire. Not only do they work on their habitat, they care about other people gaining the knowledge to effectively manage theirs. That is why David and Crystal have hosted TWA’s Women of the Land Program on the property multiple times with plans to host another workshop this fall. The Back Porch Ranch started working with the Texas Youth Hunting Program in 2007 and has held hunts every year since. They also regularly donate hunts to a number of like-minded conservation organizations like TWA, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and National Wild Turkey Foundation. The ranch is a frequent participant in the Texas Big Game Awards program and to date has 63 entries to their credit, 55 of which are First Big Game Harvests. Congratulations to the Back Porch Ranch for being named the 2014 TBGA Region 4 Landowner of the Year.

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Dedicated Volunteers Equals Successful Programs Article and Photos by Koy Coffer


Paul & Charlie Grindstaff live in Cedar Hill and volunteer for many of our LA.N.D.S. programs. One that is especially near and dear to their heart is the Trinity River Program, as it teaches students where their water comes from and shows them the importance of being a good land steward. Leslie Wittenburg (TWA) says, “Paul and Charlie do whatever needs to be done from the moment we arrive at the site, to often time being the last one to leave with me making sure everything is cleaned up and loaded. They have grown so much as wildlife educators over the last several years; always making the information they are presenting fun for the students but also taking time to find that real world connection they can relate to.” Paul and Charlie not only walk the Charlie and Paul Grindstaff at Paul and Charlie Grindstaff lead lead Run “RunFor ForYour YourLife Life." talk, they also are a BIG help in reCedar Mountain Lodge near Scurry. Cedar Mountain Lodge, Scurry. cruiting and mentoring new volunteers. Thank you both! Jay Whiteside lives in Purdon and has been a L.A.N.D.S. volunteer since the program came to his area. Whiteside works for Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) as a Technical Guidance Biologist and brings a ton of valuable information to our classroom and field experiences. Some of his specialties are: wildlife, plants, riparian areas, land stewardship and radio telemetry. When Jay to use “Radio Jay Whiteside Whiteside teaches teaches students students how the importance of aTelemsomething needs to be done, we call etry.” - Buck Ranch,River Marquez. riparian area Creek on a Trinity Field Investigation Day. Jay. He has been instrumental in helpThrough our journey of educating Texas ing the program grow across the DFW area youths, we have the privilege to work with as he has spent countless hours helping us many wonderful people who volunteer find, contact, visit and plan Field Investigatheir time and talent to help us with “Big tion Days at new ranches. Thank you, Jay! Heidi Bailey Kryger lives in Van and Projects.” This month, we’d like to spotlight has been a L.A.N.D.S. volunteer for many a few of those people to say, “Thank You!” ave you ever taken on a BIG project and wondered how in the world you would ever get it done? The Texas Wildlife Association Conservation Legacy team knows how that feels as we travel the state sharing our Learning Across New Dimensions In Science (L.A.N.D.S.) programs.



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Heidi Kryger helps students identify macro invertebrates at the 77 Ranch near Blooming Grove.

years. Even though she helps wherever needed, Kryger particularly enjoys working with our Trinity River program, and she is affectionately known as our “Macro Queen.” Why? She has a unique way to teach students about macro invertebrates so that they truly enjoy touching, feeling and looking at all of the creepy, crawly, critters. The smiles on the kids’ faces say it all. Even if she is already booked doing something with her regular job as a TPWD Wildlife Biologist, Kryger takes the time to make a few calls or write a couple of emails trying to help find another lead volunteer so that students will still have an awesome day out in the field. Thank you, Heidi! Stephanie Damron lives in Brenham and has worked with our educational programs since 2008. As a Wildlife Biologist for TPWD, Damron works with wildlife, water and land. She helps teach people the importance of conservation and how to be good land stewards. That being the case, Damron fit perfectly into the L.A.N.D.S. program and has gone from being just a “helper” to being the “lead volunteer finder” for the Brenham I.S.D. L.A.N.D.S. program.

dedicated vOlunteers

Stephanie Damron explains different parts of a deer organ at Brenham Junior High in Brenham.

since Brenham was the first location for L.a.N.D.s., and their volunteer base continues to grow year by year, Washington County has evolved into a perfect training ground. along with other leaders, Damron has worked hard to get the community involved and is able to offer a unique opportunity for both 7th graders (who study quail) and 8th graders (who study deer) in the Brenham IsD. By the time BIsD students get to High school, they are fully aware of the importance of our texas wildlife and natural resources. truly a win, win for all. Thank you, stephanie! Veronica O’Donnell lives in Burton and has been an important part of the Brenham L.a.N.D.s. team from day one. On a daily basis, O’Donnell works as a resource team Leader for the Natural resources Conservation service (NrCs) in Caldwell. Through O’Donnell’s knowledge, skills and passion, she not only helps by being at as many L.a.N.D.s. activities as possible, but

also helps recruit other professionals to get involved and volunteer. several times throughout our valuable partnership, O’Donnell has assisted in locating property for field Investigation Days and, in addition, has served as the liaison between tWa and the ranch. O’Donnell has also helped at several teacher trainings – always with a smile. Thank you, veronica! Mike Petter lives in Pleasanton and has been a volunteer for texas Brigades since 1998. He is one of the original members of the south texas Bobwhite Brigade committee and served as the camp coordinator for eight years. Brigade committee members work on the program year round, recruiting cadets and adult volunteers, mentoring Brigade graduates and taking them on hunts, developing curriculum, and fundraising. Mike does it all. since 2006, he has also been involved with the Wildlife Intensive Leadership Development (W.I.L.D.) program as a mentor. The W.I.L.D. program is an advanced leadership development program for those Brigade graduates seeking additional professional development and insight into how wildlife and natural resource policy is developed in texas. He currently serves as the President of the texas Brigades Board of Directors, and he is on tWa’s Conservation Legacy advisory Committee. He served on the Pleasanton IsD school Board for three years, where he was board president for one year. Petter sits on the board of the region 20 Education service Center. He has been involved with the L.a.N.D.s. program since the beginning. Not only has he been an instructor for several stations during the field Investigation Days (gPs/


Mike Petter teaches students how to read a GPS at a Brigades camp on 74 Ranch near Campbellton.

gIs being his specialty), he has also coordinated the Poth High school field Investigation Day for the past several years. Petter is always thinking about ways to expand the L.a.N.D.s. program. He is particularly interested in placing tWa educational resources in the various region service Centers across the state. Thank you, Mike!

Veronica O’Donnell helps a group identify various types of soil at Kerr Creek Farm in Burton.




c O n s e r vat i O n l e G a c y


Elisa Velador Joins tWA CL team


i! My name is Elisa velador, and I am very excited to join texas Wildlife association as the education contractor for the rio grande valley. I will be working to educate elementary students and teachers in the counties of Brooks, Cameron, Hidalgo, Jim Hogg, kenedy, starr and Willacy about texas wildlife and resource conservation. as a Brownsville, texas native, I have always loved spending time outdoors enjoying the many beautiful natural areas that south texas has to offer. This appreciation for nature led me to pursue Bachelor and Master of science degrees in Biology. understanding the interdependence between different species in nature has allowed me to realize the importance of conservation of our natural resources.

During my years of teaching high school science, I always made sure to incorporate nature into the classroom, whether it meant bringing in critters from the land or from the sea or simply meeting students for a hike through the south texas wilderness. It

is from these experiences that I have grown to love teaching others, especially children, about our sometimes little known texas biodiversity. I am very much looking forward to contributing my knowledge and passion for our natural environment to the Conservation Legacy team and to students all over the rgv. My hope for the future is for my children to have the same things I enjoyed while growing up. Clean rivers, fertile land and an abundance of wildlife to observe and enjoy are some of the things that I hope are available to us indefinitely. I firmly believe that by reaching out to today’s children and teaching them about the importance of protecting texas flora and fauna we can look forward to a sustainable future.





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South Texas Wildlife Conference

August 20 - 21, 2014 Floresville Event Center 600 Hwy 97 W Floresville, Texas 78114

Registration $65 before 8/6, $85 after 8/6

Tentative Agenda Wednesday, August 20th 6:00 p.m.


Thursday, August 21st 8:00 a.m. 8:30 a.m. 8:45 a.m. 10:30 a.m. 12:00 p.m. 1:30 p.m. 3:00 p.m. 4:00 p.m.

Mark your Calendars!

Texas Wildlife Association, Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department are hosting the 14th South Texas Wildlife Conference. The event will focus on Managing Expectations when dealing with Quail Populations and Restoration Impacts. This is a rare opportunity to hear from a wide range of practitioners, land managers, policy makers, wildlife biologists and wildlife researchers about the future of quail and restoration techniques in our region and what it means for landowners. Find complete conference details or register online by visiting:

Registration Introduction and Welcome Session I: Back to Basics Session II: Management Issues Lunch Session III: Emerging Topics Panel Discussion Adjourn

http://www.texas-wildlife.org/resources/events/ south-texas-wildlife-conference

Hotel Information: Holiday Inn Express

929 10th St, Floresville, TX 78114 (830) 393-7400

To register, please return this form no later than August 6, 2014.

If you return this form after the above date, registration costs are $85 per person. Name: _______________________________________

Registration (Please check one)

Affiliation: ____________________________________

$65 Pre-Registration (On or Before August 6th) $85 Pre-Registration (After August 6th)

Address: ______________________________________

Total Enclosed: ____________________________

(If registering multiple people, please copy form as needed)

City, State, Zip: _________________________________

Form of Payment

Daytime Phone: (_____) _____ - __________________


Email: ________________________________________

Card number: _______________________________

Mail Form & Payment to: South Texas Wildlife Conference Texas Wildlife Association 3660 Thousand Oaks Dr, Ste 126 San Antonio, Texas 78247

Expiration Date: __________ CIV #: ____________

Please make checks to: TWA:STWC

For more information, please contact Clint Faas at (979) 541-9803 or cfaas@texas-wildlife.org.




Billing Zip Code: _____________________________ Name Appearing on Card: ______________________ Cardholder Signature: _________________________

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 Cow: Planned Rotational Grazing article by LORiE WOODWARD CANTU Photos by CHASE CURRiE, PH.D.

editor’s note: This is the fourth installment in a six-part series

examining Aldo Leopold’s Thesis of Game Management and its application in 21st Century Texas.


n Leopold’s game management tool box, there is no mistaking what the cow represents. On the san Pedro ranch located near Carrizo springs, the fitzsimons family and their team utilize all of Leopold’s tools, but early on the family adopted planned rotational grazing. They have been using livestock to impact the landscape and wildlife habitat on their property since the late 1970s when they switched from continuous grazing with a low-stocking rate to a more intensive practice. at the time, continuous grazing was the conventional approach. Livestock camped in their favorite places, which were generally close to water, revisiting their preferred plants until they were grazed out of existence. Then the cattle would move on to the next plant on their preference list, repeating the process, until the landscape was populated by a limited variety of less palatable plants. Plant – and wildlife – vigor, diversity and performance suffered. “We changed from continuous grazing to planned rotational grazing because, although the cattle were doing well, we were not seeing a positive response on the wildlife and habitat side of the



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equation,” Joseph B.C. fitzsimons, co-owner of the san Pedro ranch and long-time tWa director, said. today, the san Pedro’s livestock, wildlife and landscape benefit from planned rotational grazing, hands-on, observation-oriented style of forage management. The grazing practice is designed to mimic the natural movement of migratory ungulate herds. Historically, huge herds of grazing animals descended on an area, grazed it down, tilled the soil with their hooves, enriched it with manure, urine and plant litter, and moved on. The vegetation then rested and recovered until the herd returned months or even years later. “Planned rotational grazing is not a one-size-fits-all system or solution,” said fitzsimons. “It has worked well on some places and not well at all on others. Its success or failure isn’t tied to a soil type or habitat type, but to the individual practitioners. It’s equal parts art and science.” One thing the family learned from experience was that in order for the system to work the cattle have to be gentle. Early in the process, the family replaced their cow-calf operation with a stocker operation. It was not uncommon for them to have 2,500


A planned rotational grazing system must provide flexibility. Because oil and gas reclamation is an integral part on this ranch, some pastures are deferred periodically to allow re-seeded plants to establish themselves on right-of-ways that are being reclaimed.

steers from Mexico in one herd. While the stocker operation gave some marketing benefits, it became obvious that those gains were being offset by increased time, labor and expense in handling the cattle. today, the san Pedro is home to a commercial and purebred Beefmaster cow-calf operation. One of the primary commitments of planned rotational grazing is looking ahead and planning how the cattle will be rotated through the pastures to best utilize the forage resources. The key is balancing time with intensity to maximize the forage usage without damaging the plants. to avoid permanent damage, grasses and livestock have to be managed so that the plant is never required to expend root energy to grow more leaf while livestock are still grazing it. Dr. Chase Currie, the san Pedro’s natural resources manager, said, “When some people talk about planned rotational grazing, they emphasize the plan. While the plan is indeed important to give you an operational framework, it has to be adaptable. ultimately, the plan is dictated by the conditions on the range, not a calendar.” for instance, in february, the cattle were rotated into a small pasture that was scheduled for three days grazing. When the cattle were moved in, Daniel Boone, the ranch manager noticed that the Lehmann’s lovegrass, an invasive species, was greening up while the native grasses were still dormant. Currie and Boone adjusted the grazing schedule, allowing the cattle to stay in the pasture for a few extra days, grazing the lovegrass hard in an attempt to knock it back.

The inherent flexibility of planned rotational grazing is particularly helpful and evident during drought. Because planned grazing practitioners are evaluating their forage 60 days to 90 days ahead, they begin noticing and responding to drought conditions as they emerge instead of being forced into a decision by a crisis, Currie said. fitzsimons said, “The nightmare of a drought occurs when you’re just cruising

along. and then bam, you hit the wall. If you have a good rotational planned grazing practice, you’ll see the wall coming and can avoid it.” One strategy is finding additional grazing. two ranches that neighbor the san Pedro do not practice grazing themselves but see the benefit for wildlife management. for the past two years, the san Pedro’s grazing managers have been able to periodically graze their herds on the

Native grassland.




neighbors, incorporating those ranches into their overall grazing plan. after a drastic destocking in 2011, access to this additional land has allowed the san Pedro team to stabilize herd numbers while conserving forage and providing rest for the home ranch and the benefits of livestock impact on the neighbors. Planned rotational grazing also encourages practitioners to consider ongoing challenges in new ways. In addition to livestock and wildlife, the san Pedro is also home to oil and gas development, meaning reclamation is another land management priority. Boone and wildlife biologist Mike McMurry experimented with using native hay harvested in the open sandy areas of the ranch to mulch pipelines traversing that same soil type. The results were gratifying. after attending a presentation on the effects of covering soil with erosion blankets to reduce and stabilize soil temperatures in the Chihuahuahan and sonoran deserts, Currie has begun using purchased rolls of native hay to protect pipeline reclamation sites. soil temperature on bare ground in south texas can exceed 140⁰ f during the day and fall to 90⁰ f at night. By reducing the swing in soil temperatures, soil microbial activity increases, as does CO2 efflux and water retention. The hay also acts as a native seed source and protects emerging seedlings from direct sun. and cattle are used, short-term, to break up the mat and tromp the organic matter into the soil. animal impact is important. The smaller the pasture is and the more intensely it’s used, the greater the subsequent plant response because the animal impact is intensified, Currie said. The ranch has pastures ranging from a few acres to 2,500 acres. The team is currently evaluating strategies for re-fencing the ranch to create smaller grazing units. They are considering placing fences based on soil type to help get a more consistent grazing response or based on location of water sources and the distance cattle are willing to travel to drink. McMurry, who has been affiliated with the ranch since the 1970s and managed the ranch in 80s, said, “When you put a large herd of animals together and concentrate them in a small area, you have created a great big powerful tilling and fertilizing machine that breaks down and incorporates a mass of vegetative litter, leading to the germination of the greatest variety of grasses and forbs.” today, the most diverse, productive pastures on the ranch are the smaller ones. During the stocker cattle hey days, a small enclosure would house the entire 2,500-head herd for no more than three to four days. “It looked like a bomb went off after they left,” McMurry said. “But at the first rainfall, it would respond almost immediately. Once you witness the response caused by animal impact and herd effect, it is much easier to see cattle as a tool and begin to imagine ways that you can use them to change the land.” Just as one example, large herds of cattle kept in pastures with low-growing mesquite trees will actually “prune” the trees as they break off low limbs in the process of shading up, creating a higher canopy, he said. as the limbs are broken off, more sunlight reaches the ground underneath, encouraging grass growth. When the san Pedro team implemented planned rotational grazing, the ranch’s riparian areas were the first to respond. The ranch, which is located between the Nueces and rio grande rivers, is home to san Pedro Creek, san ambrosia Creek and san Pedro spring, the only remaining perennial spring in the region.



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fitzsimons said, “Our riparian areas are the circulatory system of wildlife through the ranch. Their habitat value has continued to increase over time.” Conventional wisdom calls for completely excluding cattle from riparian areas, but on the san Pedro the team chose to create long, narrow enclosures in the riparian areas and flash graze them, McMurry said. The goal is getting high numbers of cattle in and out quickly, and then providing long recovery periods. “If vegetation in riparian areas is never grazed, it gets so thick that wildlife can’t get to the water,” McMurry said. for instance, a turkey is not going to walk through a five-foot tall tangle of weeds and grass, running the risk of getting eaten by predators, to get a drink. In addition to opening up the riparian corridors and increasing plant diversity, the flash grazing technique encouraged the regrowth of woody plants like willow and soapberry, McMurry said. under continuous grazing, the cattle kept the fresh sprouts nipped off. When rest was introduced into the system, the sprouts had time to proliferate, so that some remained after the cattle passed through. Those then had the chance to grow, eventually reaching maturity. as the trees and woody plants came back, so did wildlife species like beavers, wood ducks and turkeys that hadn’t been seen on the ranch in a long time. In addition, managers saw increased water infiltration due to soil disturbance and thicker grass cover. The uplands have also showed positive changes as a result of grazing. “In my opinion, the idea of keeping cattle completely off of the country to enhance wildlife habitat is a misguided concept,” McMurry said. “You need grazing to strike a balance, particularly between grasses and forbs.” In his experience, the long-term absence of grazing contributes to proliferation of non-native invasive grasses. Left untouched, invasive grasses can make it difficult for ground dwellers like quail to travel and can crowd out native grasses and forbs. forbs are vital wildlife food sources, not only as direct grazing but as seed and insect producers. Plus, forbs, at 23 percent – 24 percent are an excellent source of protein. as a point of comparison, browse species average about 16 percent protein. “Plant diversity means more food and better food for more species,” he said. Of course, when a ranch is located in south texas’ famed golden triangle, white-tailed deer provide the ultimate measurement of successful habitat management. In addition to grazing management, the san Pedro team judiciously manages deer numbers and age structure, but they don’t feed supplemental protein. The ranch is low-fenced. and yet the average dressed body weight of 4.5+ yearold bucks has increased from 122 lbs. to 150 lbs. over the past 30 years. Last year, in the midst of an ongoing drought, a hunter harvested a whitetail grossing 211 B&C points, the biggest buck ever taken on the ranch. “The bottom line is: genetics don't get expressed without proper nutrition,” McMurry said. “a diverse plant community provides nutrients you can't duplicate out of a sack. Well-managed grazing is one of the best tools for creating and maintaining a diverse plant community.”




DAVID E. CULVER dec@landtx.com

(C) 210.422.4676 (O) 830.997.8616 www.landtx.com



Texas Waters

Colorado Canyon, just downriver from Presidio.

RIO GRANDE River of Strife Article by Henry Chappell Photos by Wyman Meinzer


t might have been called Río de lucha – River of Strife – for no sooner had the river become fixed in the imagination of Spanish colonizers, than blood began to flow. In 1529, Juan de Oñate marched into the Rio Grande Valley of New Mexico with 129 soldiers, 10 Franciscan priests, and dozens of women, children, slaves and livestock. The Pueblo rose against the invaders, but Oñate’s soldiers crushed the revolt, killing and enslaving hundreds. As an example for those who might be tempted to rise up again, Oñate’s had the feet of two dozen Pueblo men amputated. Successive waves of soldiers and settlers followed – as did uprisings, as colonial authorities forced Indians to pay tribute in corn and labor. Many were expelled from the most fertile farmland along the river. In 1680, led by a shadowy San Juan millenarian named Popé, the Pueblo revolted again, this time killing some 400 colonists and driving the remaining 2,000 settlers out of the province. Only a dozen years later, the Pueblo, confronted by Diego de Vargas’ cannons, swore their allegiance to God and King in return for clemency. A thousand miles downriver, in the desert below what would become El Paso, and, further south, along the western coastal plains, the Jumanos and Coahuiltecans met their eventual doom in the form of Cabeza De Vaca and his adventurers. Secure Mexican claim to the river brought with it more blood during the Mexican War of Independence and lasted a little more than a decade until Santa Anna surrendered to Sam Houston in the aftermath of slaughter at San Jacinto. On May 6, 1846, war with Mexico opened when General Zachary Taylor and his men engaged Mexican forces at Palo Alto, a few miles north of Brownsville. Two years later, with Mexico’s defeat and the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, the upper reaches of the Rio Grande, which had been part of the Republic of Texas, became part of Colorado and New Mexico, and the middle and lower Rio Grande officially established Texas’s border with Mexico.



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During the American Civil War, the lower Rio Grande served as a corridor for Confederate cotton smuggling, while Rebel guerillas, many of Mexican heritage, used the south bank of the river as a refuge from Union troops. On May 13, 1865, over a month after Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, Confederate forces under Colonel John S. Ford engaged Union troops at Palmito Ranch, near the north bank of the Rio Grande, and drove them all the way to Brazos Island – the last battle of the Civil War. Since that sweltering day in 1865, battles along the river have continued virtually nonstop. These modern skirmishes and prolonged battles have been fought among nations, states, municipalities, business interests and politicians. The stakes never change: power, wealth, livelihood, sovereignty and culture – all of which depend on water. Some have it. All want it. The Rio Grande flows from its headwaters in San Juan County,

Watering pack animals and dogs in the Big Bend country. Even in times of relative abundance, the Rio Grande is vulnerable to diversions on both sides of the border.

RIO GRANDE The Rio Grande has shaped human culture for thousands of years.

Colorado through the middle of New Mexico, and, beginning at El Paso, forms a nearly 1000-mile border with Mexico before flowing into the gulf of Mexico at Brownsville. By most measurements, it’s the twenty-second longest river in the world and the fourth longest in North america – about 1,896 miles from source to mouth. Larger cities and towns in the watershed include santa fe, albuquerque, El Paso, Juárez, Laredo, Macallen and Brownsville. twenty-two manmade impoundments and diversions along the rio grande store or divert water for agricultural or municipal use. The reservoirs vary in capacity from 52,000 acre-feet, in rio grande reservoir, near Creede, Colorado, and 5.1 million acre-feet in giant amistad reservoir at the confluence of the rio grande and Pecos rivers in texas. In the upper reaches of the rio grande valley, in Colorado, farmers grow potatoes and alfalfa. along the middle section, in New Mexico and texas, cotton, peppers, onions and pecans predominate. In the more tropical southern or lower reaches of the watershed, vegetables, cotton and citrus fruits account for most of the agricultural production. Cattle raising is important over the entire length. since 1939, the rio grande Compact, a three state agreement and managing commission that allocates water and arbitrates disputes, has kept relative peace among stakeholders in Colorado, New Mexico, and texas. But with extended drought, nearrecord temperatures, and lack of snowmelt at the rio grande’s headwaters, users below New Mexico’s Elephant Butte reservoir face critical shortages. to make up for a lack of water in the river, farmers and municipalities in New Mexico have recently drilled wells

in the area. texas authorities charge that pumping diverts groundwater that would otherwise find its way into the river, leaving downstream texans with inadequate flow. authorities in New Mexico counter that the Compact doesn’t specifically address groundwater. texas sued, and the case ended up at the supreme Court, which ruled this past January that texas could proceed with the lawsuit. federal water experts have been called in. More regulations – and federal involvement in what had been state and local water management – are coming. Meanwhile, pecan orchards aren’t being irrigated and thousands of acres of erstwhile cropland rests fallow. further south, the El Paso area relies primarily on groundwater. river flow is nowhere near adequate. But, with freshwater aquifer levels dropping, the region’s planners are eyeing some 2.3 billion acre-feet of

brackish groundwater. Current desalination technology is expensive and energy intensive, so high-tech firms are seeking venture capital and grants from government entities such as the texas Emerging technology fund in hopes of developing viable desalination technologies. since before texas’ annexation into the union, the rio grande’s naturally shifting river channel has caused border disputes especially between El Paso and Juarez. texas’s oldest town, Ysleta, founded in 1680, found itself isolated on an island by the floods in 1829-1831. With annexation, the united states declared the international boundary as the deepest part of the river channel. Thus, Ysleta became part of El Paso. today, International Boundary and Water Commission, adjudicates disputes. a concreted river channel through the El Paso area greatly simplifies the agency’s work.

The confluence of Rio Grande and the Pecos River. Thirsty, invasive salt cedar has lowered Pecos River levels, threatening both the Pecos and the Rio Grande.




upriver releases from Elephant Butte reservoir, much diminished by irrigation diversions in New Mexico, are rarely sufficient to maintain year-round flow below El Paso. for some 200 miles, a stretch of the river known as the forgotten reach, no tributary refreshes the rio grande. Just upstream of the Mexican town of Ojinaga, and Presidio, the rio Conchos, the largest Mexican tributary, joins the rio grande and helps maintain the flow for the next 127 miles, through Big Bend ranch state Park, Big Bend National Park, Black gap Wildlife Management area and the designated Wild and scenic stretch through the lower canyons. since 2,000, much to the dismay of river runners, the rio grande has at times ceased flowing through Big Bend National Park. In recent years, irrigation diversions in droughtstricken Mexico have often reduced rio Concho’s flow below that required by a 1944 treaty between Mexico and the u.s. Mexico paid its accumulated water debt as late as 2005, after an all-too-brief wet spell, but soon fell behind again. as of March 2014, the deficit stood at about 860,000 acre-feet. Per the treaty, Mexico must provide the u.s. a minimum of 350,000 acre-feet per year from the rio grande water shed. In return, the u.s. must provide Mexico with 1.5 million acrefeet from the Colorado river. Currently Mexico cites an exception which excuses its water debt during times of “extreme drought,” a term left undefined by the treaty. Lake amistad, above Del rio, and falcon reservoir, downstream of Laredo, provide storage of some 8 million acre-feet of water, and flood control for lower-middle and lower

The Rio Grande at Santa Elena Canyon with the Chisos Mountains in the distance. Since 2,000, flow has stopped at times in Big Bend National Park and the lower canyons due to insufficient inflow from the Rio Conchos.

stretches of the river. However, since amistad is upriver from falcon, and receives higher flows, its sedimentation rate is much higher. studies indicate that by 2050, amistad could lose as much as 23 percent of its capacity to sedimentation. Bottom line: given rapid population growth along the lower rio grande, and continued agricultural needs, one or more

The Rio Grande as it flows by Boquillas.



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stakeholders will always be hurting for water. The river just can’t meet present – let alone future - needs. according to the current texas state Water Plan, the population in the eightcounty region will grow from 1.7 million to 4 million people by 2060. Water demand will increase by 593,000 acre-feet. again, desalination of abundant brackish groundwater may offer a way out of the bind. a recent study by the rio grande Water authority, u.s. Bureau of reclamation, International Boundary and Water commission, and other agencies concluded that construction of three desalination facilities could provide the best long term solution. technological fixes won’t come cheap. Proposition 6, which voters passed last fall, allocates $2 billion from the texas’s rainy day fund to help fund projects in the state water plan. If $2 billion sounds like a lot of money, consider that nearly every region in the state currently faces looming water shortages. so the strife continues. Let’s hope bloodshed remains in the distant past.

Texas Wildlife Association Foundation, Inc. Ensuring a legacy of conservation and a heritage of hunting through education.

TWAF is a 501(c)(3) charitable foundation that was organized in 1991 to serve as a funding source for conservation education and research programs directly related to the foundation’s mission. TWAF does not participate in lobbying efforts and does not engage in political activities, allowing it to solely focus on its educational mission. TWAF has a close relationship with TWA, which is active in the political arena and has an effective issues and advocacy program. Both organizations work to continue to create, establish, and introduce innovative approaches to achieving agriculture and natural resource literacy and foster life-long learning for students of all ages. The Need As Texans become more and more disconnected from the land, the need for natural resource education dramatically increases. Natural resource illiteracy threatens us all. TWAF provides a solution by funding TWA education programs and participating with various partnerships to ensure healthy habitats, train conservation ambassadors, and equip the leaders of tomorrow. TWAF puts nature within people’s reach and helps Texans understand the value of natural resources. The education and outreach programs of TWA that are supported by TWAF are divided into two main categories: Conservation Legacy – Empowers and educates Texans with the fundamental tools necessary to facilitate natural resource literacy and foster a relationship with the outdoors. Hunting Heritage – Supports the proud tradition of hunting and recognizes its place in conservation. Mission Statement Texas Wildlife Association Foundation, Inc. increases natural resource literacy and promotes conservation and educational programs that connect Texans to the land.




Caesar’s Gun Comes Home Article by fred bryant Photos courtesy of tio kleberg and CkWRi


yman Cornelius smith was an american innovator and industrialist. His first business venture in 1873 was to open a livestock commission in New York. This business failed but by 1877, he and his family were in the business of building firearms. Lyman was not of the “smith and Wesson” family or namesake, but he was in the business of building guns. His brother Leroy split off of the company to form Ithaca gun Company, while Lyman and his younger brother Wilbert went on to produce popular breech-loading shotguns under the L.C. smith shotgun Company of syracuse, NY. He sold the entire gun manufacturing rights to Hunter arms in 1889, which produced L.C. smith shotguns for several decades. Later, Hunter arms was sold to Marlin firearms Company in 1945. It was an engraved 20 gauge, side-byside L.C. smith shotgun that showed up at rancho santa gertrudis on february 3, 1912. We believe this shotgun was shipped by train from New York to kingsville. The train tracks were completed by then and trains were running from agua Dulce through kingsville to Brownsville by 1904. In 1900, 27-year old Caesar kleberg had arrived to work for his uncle robert kleberg sr. and Mrs. Henrietta king and no doubt, being the keen observer of wildlife that he was, noticed that bobwhite quail and doves flourished across the ranch acreages. In those days, all a hunter needed was a good dog and good shotgun. as the picture portrays, Mr. Caesar, as he was fondly known, had



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Tio Kleberg, at the Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Center, holding Caesar’s shotgun as he stands next to a photo of Caesar Kleberg with his shotgun and one of his hunting dogs.

a good bird dog, and a good shotgun. We are not sure how many hunting partners he had over the years, but we do know that he had a close personal friend in John Henry (Jack) kidd II, a man with whom he enjoyed hunts in the field. Mr. kidd was an attorney for a couple of years in kingsville handling the affairs of rancho

C aesar k leberg w i ldl i fe research i nst i tute

The engraved plate of the magazine of Caesar’s shotgun.

Santa Gertrudis (now King Ranch), who later moved to the Rio Grande Valley to set up his law practice. We suppose that he and Mr. Caesar kept close ties because Mr. Caesar moved to the Norias Division as manager in early 1900s. It would have been easy to have maintained a hunting friendship with Mr. Kidd; Mr. Caesar’s house on the railroad tracks was just 10 miles north of Raymondville. Sometime before his death in 1946, probably in 1940 or so, we believe he gave his prized L.C. Smith 20 gauge to Mr. Kidd. Mr. Caesar had no heirs; he was a bachelor his entire life. Three years after Mr. Caesar died, Mr. Kidd was tragically killed in a boating accident in 1949, and we believe the L.C. Smith was passed on to his eldest son, John Henry Kidd III, in the probation of his will. John Henry III married Trudy in

1960 and they lived in Double Oaks, Texas, most of their married lives. Fast forward to 1971. After graduating from Texas Tech, Tio Kleberg and his wife Janell moved to El Paso where Tio served his term of duty in the U.S. Army at Ft. Bliss. While there, they became good friends with Jed Becker and kept in touch with him over the years, even after Tio and Janell moved back to Kingsville where he became Vice President of King Ranch. When John Henry III passed away 2 years ago, their son Dr. Joe Kidd, a surgeon in El Paso, contacted Jed about selling the L.C. Smith Shotgun, which his mother Trudy had in her possession. So a surprising phone call came from Jed to Tio in the fall of 2012 to let him know that his friend Trudy had a shotgun and that she thought might have belonged to Caesar

Kleberg and possibly was interested in selling it. Tio’s ears perked up immediately when he heard this news because he knew nothing of this shotgun or if Mr. Caesar even owned an L.C. Smith. He asked Jed to get some more information on the gun, primarily to check out the providence and authenticity of this firearm through the Cody Firearm Museum in Cody, Wyoming, the keeper of all records of L.C. Smith guns and serial numbers. Jed contacted Fred L. McDaniel, a gun appraiser, to follow up and research the shotgun. The gun checked out to be an authentic L.C. Smith and more exciting, etched in gold on the trigger guard, were the initials CK (see photo). Sure enough, the 20 gauge had been delivered to Rancho Santa Gertrudis in 1912. This confirmation launched Tio into action. Through funds from Caesar’s own Foundation, the Caesar Kleberg Foundation for Wildlife Conservation, which was created by his last will and testament, Tio, along with contributions from Jed Becker and Duncan Spillar, purchased the shotgun. On February 3, 2013, 101 years after it was delivered to Rancho Santa Gertrudis, Tio presented the L.C. Smith Shotgun to Dr. Steven Tallant, President of Texas A&M University-Kingsville, to forever be held in trust by his namesake, the Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute. It seems fitting to end this article with the words of the late Paul Harvey, famed radio commentator and news columnist, “And, now, you know the rest of the story.”

Caesar Kleberg's initials on the trigger guard of his shotgun.




P lant P rof i le

Pokeweed Article and Photos by steve nelle


okeweed is an important plant for wildlife as well as for cultural, historical and medicinal reasons. Pokeweed is a tall rank growing perennial that often grows to heights of 4 feet to 10 feet, and then dies back to the ground each winter. The taproot of old plants reportedly reaches the size of a man’s leg. It is also known as pokeberry, poke sallat or simply poke. Pokeweed grows across the entire east side of the United States from the Deep South up into Canada. In Texas, pokeweed is more common in the eastern half of the state, growing in sun or shade, often in disturbed areas. Pokeweed is especially familiar in the south, where it is commonly eaten by country folk who know how to properly cook it. Poke sallat festivals are a tradition in some southern states. The young spring leaves when boiled are relished by some people as excellent greens. However, as the leaves mature in summer, they become toxic and must be boiled several times, discarding the water each time. Some people get a poison ivy type reaction from handling the plant. The berries and seed are toxic to humans. Pokeweed is well known by many species of wildlife who relish



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the purple berries. Mockingbirds, thrashers, tanagers, bluebirds, cardinals, dove, woodpeckers, waxwings, kingbirds and yellowbreasted chats are very fond of the berries. Small mammals, deer and black bears also consume the berries. Pokeweed berries mature in staggered fashion over a long period, providing continuous ripe berries for a four- or five-month period. Deer and livestock often browse the leaves. Early spring leaves are reported to contain up to 32 percent crude protein and are highly digestible. The plant is commonly mentioned in the medicinal plant literature and is listed for many folk remedies. Pokeweed is being actively investigated by medical researchers for various uses, including possible cancer treatments. Historians indicate that the Declaration of Independence may have been drafted with pokeweed berry ink, and Civil War soldiers used the ink to write letters back home. Some gardeners and landowners dislike the plant due to its aggressive growth, while others love it for its high value to birds. Love it or hate it, pokeweed is here to stay with birds planting the seeds wherever they go. Nature is amazing. The same plant that feeds birds and deer can be toxic to humans and perhaps someday used to cure sickness and disease.


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.

we plant certified south texas native grass seeds on pipeline row’s and tank dams in the eagle ford shale.

Wallace Nichols wallace@nhrtexas.com www.nhrtexas.com Phone: 713.253.6021




t wa m e m b e r s i n a c t i o n


Participants of the Pronghorn Symposium enjoyed the evening reception.

TWA Hosts Reception at Pronghorn Symposium Article by kendra roller Photos courtesy of clint faas


membership reception was held in May at the Museum of the Big Bend on the campus of Sul Ross University in Alpine. This reception was held in conjunction with the Pronghorn Workshop conducted by the Borderlands Research Institute and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Workshop participants and local TWA members attended this reception where TWA

President Greg Simons was the keynote speaker. TWA would like to thank the hosts and sponsors that made this reception possible: ◆ Elizabeth & Daulton Beam ◆ Deborah & Greg Simons ◆ Patricia & Dr. Louis Harveson ◆ Leslea & Brent Charlesworth ◆ Misty & Lane Sumner ◆ Druanne & Homer Mills ◆ Katherine & Ben Love ◆ Susan Combs and Joe Duran ◆ Mac Stringfellow ◆ Tom Beard ◆ Steve Lewis ◆ Means Ranch Company LTD ◆ Ernest Woodward ◆ Julie Kelleher Stacy

TWA Director Dr. Dan McBride and TWA Member Ruben Fernandez.



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◆ Texas Parks and Wildlife Department ◆ Borderlands Research Institute

TWA Membership Level Changes

In March, the Texas Wildlife Association Board of Directors voted to combine the membership levels of youth and student. The youth membership level is no longer a membership level of TWA. If you are a youth member, you can renew at the student level for $20 a year or any other membership level that you choose. The student level no longer includes the hard print version of the Texas Wildlife magazine. Beginning in July, all student level members began receiving the digital version of the magazine. If you do not have an email address on file at TWA, and you are a student member, please send your email address to kroller@texas-wildlife. org. Or, you can call (800) 839-9453. If you have any questions regarding these membership level changes, please contact TWA Director of Member Relations Kendra Roller at kroller@texas-wildlife.org or (800) 839-9453.

community bankers


in support of twa

Interested in joining these banks in support of TWA and seeing your logo featured monthly in Texas Wildlife Magazine? Contact TWA Director of Member Relations Kendra Roller at (210) 826-2904 or kroller@texas-wildlife.org.

Photo by D. K. Langford


WARDENS Article by Judy Bishop Jurek Photos courtesy of TPWD


PWD’s law enforcement division is divided into eight regions. The regional headquarters for each are situated in San Angelo (I), Fort Worth (II), Lufkin (III), Houston (IV), San Antonio (V), Lubbock (VI), Temple (VII) and Corpus Christi (VIII). Each is further separated into districts. Quite naturally some regions include massive, continually growing metropolitan areas while others expand over more rural land with less human population but more wildlife. Game wardens are distributed across the state but may be sent anywhere at any time based on need. Their duties are more extensive than simply enforcing wildlife laws and regulations. They assist with drug busts; native and exotic wildlife (including plants) and human trafficking; search and rescue of hikers, boaters, hunters, fishermen and in times of natural disasters; educational seminars; firefighting; nuisance animal calls; and other causes that arise. Of the numerous attributes a Texas Game Warden must possess one is versatility. When certain seasons open, it’s often necessary to bring in additional wardens to assist checking licenses, answering calls, directing traffic, or whatever else may occur. A West Texas warden may go the coast during oyster or shrimp season while a South Texas officer travels to the Panhandle for pheasant season. Should a disaster such as a hurricane, tornado, flood or wildfire



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occur, game wardens respond. TPWD now has multiple specialized units. They include a K9 Team; Marine Investigation; Maritime Tactical Operations Group; Search and Rescue (SAR); Statewide Forensics; Reconstruction and Mapping Team (STORM); Underwater Search and Recovery Dive Team; SCOUT Team (Specialized Tactical Response); Criminal Investigation Division (CID); Critical Incident Team (CIT), and a Statewide Honor Guard. “It really surprises people when they learn all the different things game wardens do,” said Grahame Jones, TPWD Chief of Special Operations. “We respond to natural disasters, perform swift water rescues and now have K9 teams. Although we’ve always had training, we now have uniform training, as well as equipment, so we’re all on the same page.” With a bit of background information to set the stage, the point of this article is to show differences between game wardens assigned to heavily populated areas and their rural partners. All game wardens have the same responsibilities as already noted, but as they say in real estate, it’s all about location, location, location! Up North Amarillo was recently named the windiest city in the United States. Game Warden Michael “Shane” Lewis has been stationed in Potter County for six years, having spent six years prior southwest of San Angelo. When asked the best time for an interview, Lewis

quickly replied, “Now is always the best time!” Lewis is proud member of TPWD’s new SCOUT team. “It’s basically a state response team universal in its environment. It’s an extra load. I’ve been gone about five weeks already this fiscal year on special operations. I couldn’t do it without the support of my game warden partner and neighboring wardens. It’s a team effort,” he said. “Just maintaining the equipment requires a lot of time.” When asked about differences between urban and rural wardens, Lewis replied, “When it’s a small town and you’re the only one, people are more receptive to you. Everyone knows you. In large populous, you’re more of a police figure, people don’t understand what game wardens do.” After a brief pause, he continued, “You lose that personal nature as time is more scattered. I’ve seen a lot in 12 years. Being a game warden is a way of life. It’s more of a lifestyle than a career choice, I think…at least to me. People look at you as a symbol.” With a chuckle, Lewis added, “Even if, like I said, they don’t understand exactly what you do.” Whether country or big city, helping other law enforcement agencies is one aspect; assisting fellow wardens is another. “There’s not much water up here in North Texas,” said Lewis, “I get to travel once in a while for water safety on lakes and rivers. At the same time, other wardens come up here to help out in antelope and pheasant seasons. A big event here is the annual Canadian River sand drags. Extra wardens and state park police are brought in for

public safety.” Lewis loves his job, concluding, “Being a part of TPWD law enforcement is being a part of a very large but close family.” As for Amarillo’s wind, he stated he might one day move to a place not quite so blustery. “Maybe Alaska,” he laughed, “God’s been good to me so far. We’ll just have to wait and see.” Way Down South The Lone Star’s Cameron County is its southernmost county. It fits somewhat into a triangle with the Gulf of Mexico on one side, Mexico bordering another and the rest of Texas above and beyond. Dan Cantu was born in McAllen but grew up in north Houston. He got his law enforcement training elsewhere as a Florida game warden. Three years ago he became a Texas game warden assigned to Brownsville. “The structure, laws and regulations are a bit different between Florida and Texas, but where I was there is similar to being here,” said Cantu. “It’s a big city with water and agriculture just outside. We help out Customs but with nine miles of state waters, we assist the Coast Guard quite a bit and in turn they help us. We check commercial fishermen, local shrimpers and fish products coming from Mexico.” Cantu is also a member of the SCOUT team. “You have to try out for the team and follow a set of standards. It’s a privilege to be part of SCOUT. We help the Border Patrol with drugs on the Rio Grande and serving high risk arrest warrants.” Brownsville is constantly growing, spreading out. New developments suddenly appear on previously rural land. Often




human residents aren’t accustomed to wildlife meetings. Citing urban and rural differences, Cantu said, “two things. Domestic animals are often mistaken for wildlife, especially domestic ducks. We get numerous calls for animals that aren’t wild.” “The other is simply a misconception about nature. The wildlife was there first. New barriers cause problems and people have encounters with wild animals they’ve never seen or experienced before. We get lots of calls in regards to this,” he said. “I love being a game warden. It’s something I always wanted.” The Far West Thirty-year veteran Miguel “Mike” Legarretta was first stationed in galveston but since 1987 has been in El Paso County. It’s a long way from anywhere else in the state to the far West texas city located in the franklin Mountains. Neighbors include New Mexico state and across the international border, Mexico’s Ciudad Juarez. raised in a Hudspeth County farming community, Legarretta loves West texas. “I might not lead the pack anymore due to my age but I can sure cover the rear!” he said with a laugh. “There are many differences between rural and big city wardens. City people don’t understand what a game warden is or does.” “I’m constantly asked what park I work for, if I’m a texas ranger or sheriff Deputy,” said Legarretta. “El Paso is growing so fast. We have lots of infrastructure with very



limited hunting, but we have a community lake that keeps us busy. There are military people from all over the country here and others who do not understand texas’ private property rights.” “We answer lots of wildlife complaints and sightings within the city limits. We check pet stores and flea markets for illegal and exotic species as well as retail and wholesale stores selling fish and fish products for proper permits.” Legarretta said, “We also do joint task forces with other agencies as needed.” Legarretta pointed out, “Big city game wardens spend a lot of time and effort educating the public. We give presentations at schools, provide safety programs, and put on kid fish events. and, we get a taste of the rural life by assisting wardens elsewhere when needed.” The State Capital upon graduating the academy in 2009, Chris sanchez was assigned to a tri-county West texas area around Monahans in Ward County (2010 population 10,658). In august, 2012, he was transferred to travis County. “The difference is like comparing apples and oranges,” laughed sanchez. “The major factor is the sheer number of people around austin.” The 2010 census put the population at over 1 million residents – that is a huge difference! “What comes with that is out west if in uniform or not, I was a figure known to all. Here, game wardens are often mistaken

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On the back of every game warden’s business card it states: TPWD Mission: To manage and conserve the natural and cultural resources of Texas and to provide hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation opportunities for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations. for park officials, Highway Patrol, or any agency associated with a badge, gun and uniform.” sanchez said it can be funny at times but also causes problems particularly because so many people have no clue what a game warden is or what they do. “travis County is unique. It’s a huge metropolitan area yet still has some legitimate hunting areas within it. Dove hunting is phenomenal around here.” sanchez said, “People either love the wildlife or not, depending on circumstances surrounding their idea of nuisances. The public’s perception about wildlife and identification of animals also runs the gamut from knowledgeable to ignorant. That can be very challenging.” sanchez stated wardens’ duties include protecting wildlife, ensuring public safety, and educating people. “We (five travis County wardens) have to prioritize calls. We’re dependent on information received in order to make decisions on how to proceed in serving our constituents. Nothing ceases to amaze us.” “Water safety is a priority and the summer season is kicking off,” sanchez said. “We have lots of water despite the severe drought’s low lake levels. game wardens have to be ready to change an action plan on a moment’s notice. We have interruptions occurring constantly, again mostly related to the dense population.” “I miss the small town, tight-knit, everyone-knows-you atmosphere,” said


sanchez, adding, “But being in austin keeps me on my toes. We respond to all sorts of requests including but not limited to poaching, trespass calls, boating accidents and assisting other agencies. additionally, we protect wild resources enjoyed by outdoor enthusiasts on both public and private land and water. We check on commercial activity as well, folks trying to make a few bucks selling “fresh” seafood, turtles and even exotic animals. You never know what the day, or night, might bring!” Alamo City Action san antonio native kathleen stuman began her game warden career 14 years ago in deep south texas’ Jim Hogg County. two years later, she transferred to Comal County. Now stationed in the alamo City, stuman said, “I love the outdoors, wildlife and being around water. to me, it’s the perfect job! With the guadalupe and Comal rivers, Canyon Lake and numerous smaller lakes, four Bexar County wardens stay busy.” stuman proudly serves on the seven-member rifle squad on tPWD’s Honor guard team. “It’s not mandatory. I do it from the heart, because it feels good, it’s a worthy cause and you know it helps others.” she continued, “You try to give back by honoring your fellow wardens. You want to do your best.” stuman recently assisted at a drowning on Braunig Lake outside the city. “People go out in boats, floats and personal water craft without putting on a life jacket, thinking nothing will happen, but it does. rescues are good. recovering drowning victims is not, especially if it’s a child. We have hearts – we do take it personally.” asked about challenges, stuman replied, “People don’t understand what game wardens do. They don’t know we assist with major disasters and help work the border. They don’t know fishing or hunting laws and regs. We’re constantly asked, ‘What park do you work for? Why do you carry guns?’ We just bite our tongues and try to inform them patiently who we are and what we do.” “People also assume we carry dart guns and wonder why we can’t fix an injured animal.” stuman says it’s common to find deer, especially bucks, with hammocks, hockey goal nets, Christmas lights, and all kinds of stuff caught up in their antlers. “We don’t deal with domestic animals but get calls mistaking dogs for coyotes or house cats for bobcats.” “The urban biologists help out a lot, identifying animals, teaching urban folks how to deal with wildlife,” said stuman. “Bexar County is big and there is some legal hunting but people try to hunt in city parks, front yards and subdivisions where hunting is illegal. We had a deer killed inside the medical center. That was a good solid case.” “game wardens try to educate the public about conservation and protecting natural resources while enforcing tPWD laws. We also work with other law enforcement agencies,” stuman said. “We make public appearances, display the Operation game Thief trailer exhibit, attend career days, and speak at clubs such as rotary to give updates on law changes.” They also do many outreach programs. stuman and other wardens help put on kid fish and events for

physically challenged children. They’ve now expanded to include adults as well. “It is the most fulfilling thing for me to see someone get so excited catching a fish. We get sponsors to help, too. It’s so rewarding and parents appreciate it greatly.” stuman’s voice changed slightly, “It’s part of my job and I love it!” Harris County’s Houston Duties for gregg Johnson began three years ago in three-warden Maverick County where Eagle Pass is the county seat. In august, 2013, he was transferred to Houston’s heavily populated ninewarden Harris County. “It was a change all around,” said Johnson, adding with a hearty laugh, “traffic! It just takes a whole lot longer to get anywhere.” Born and raised in Corpus Christi, Johnson feels at home in Harris County due to the climate. “In Maverick County, it’s so dry. Plus we had to travel for water safety training. Here, I get a little




of it all – fresh and saltwater, dove, duck, geese, shrimp, oysters, alligators, deer – a bit of everything. There are more people so we have lots of work.” Johnson stated outdoor type people are informed of game warden duties. “The average Joe and Jane here are city dwellers with little knowledge of warden activities. Our new vehicles have “state Police” on them so we’re answering many questions about whom, what and why; we’re constantly educating the public. I believe the designation will help everyone, wardens and citizens alike.” Fort Worth Metroplex a veteran with 11 years’ experience assigned to tarrant County her entire tenure, Michelle “Chelle” Mount is now a k9 team member. Her new appointment includes partner fisher, a black Labrador retriever, currently trained as a wildlife detection dog although future training will include search and rescue. However, that’s just one of her many duties. “Working the Metroplex is always busy,” said Mount, “The population is so dense that there’s never a lull in activity. We have no dirt roads, there are lights everywhere at night; but, still, some hunters try to shoot deer and wildlife in parks and 10-acre subdivisions. Plus, we have lots of lakes so water safety is a big issue.” Mount often checks commercial busi-



nesses for various permits and products including fish for bait and human consumption and the sale of wild game. “There are so many diverse interests and cultures. People have water gardens and aquariums. They travel to different places and bring back plants, reptiles, insects and then begin trading them.” “Many may be invasive species. a wellknown garden center had to destroy a huge shipment of plants not allowed here as they’ll grow in either dirt or water and will take over in a hurry. I’ve chosen to take on some of the strange stuff,” she chuckled. fisher and Mount often work with u.s. fish and Wildlife and Customs. Mount said, “We’ve caught people catching texas turtles and shipping them to China for food. In russia, red foxes are pets; we’ve confiscated shipments here. The beauty industry imports garra rufa minnows, known as spa fish, used to eat dead skin off feet. for a while they tried using tilapia, an exotic invasive species, as they’re much cheaper.” “It’s always interesting,” stated Mount. “I’m proud to be a game warden and fisher’s handler. We’re ready for whatever may come our way.” Big D Dallas County is home to Mike stephens, a game warden for two years. stephens is a retired Navy veteran with 13 years

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in military justice. His inspiration to be a warden stemmed from intrigue in this specialized, yet diverse, field of law enforcement. “One day you’re in the woods, another on a lake, and driving home you may make a DWI arrest…the job quenches a thirst for challenges,” stephens said. He is part of the new Marine Theft unit that investigates boat theft, improper and fraudulent registrations, and other marine related crimes. “The south end of Dallas County remains very rural so traditional warden duties still apply, even in the metropolis,” said stephens, “But you may respond to a call in downtown Dallas. One of the biggest challenges is interacting with folks who’ve never really encountered wildlife or a game warden. Often, I explain wildlife have rights, too. My goal is educate, helping understand wildlife in an urban environment isn’t bad. It’s something they should observe and enjoy.” Dallas County’s population is over four million with people from all over the world. stephens says it’s important the public is informed of wardens’ roles with regards to wildlife conservation, water safety, and law enforcement. stephens summed it up nicely, “as game wardens, we’re very proactive in the communities we serve, not only as state Police officers, but also as diplomats educating the public about who we are, the mission of tPWD and in continuing the proud tradition of serving the people of the state of texas.” Consensus of Urban Wardens Throughout numerous interviews, a common thread prominently prevailed. Public awareness and understanding of what a game warden is, what he or she does, and the extent of his or her law enforcement powers is lacking overall in our big cities. small town, rural game wardens are much more readily accepted, recognized and appreciated for the many duties they perform. Members of any and all wildlife related associations should try their best to assist by advising friends, relatives, neighbors, especially those new to texas, about the importance of our wardens and the respect they deserve. That’s one fact where there is no difference between urban and rural texas game Wardens!




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Quail Escargot

The value of quail and quail hunting in Texas Article and photos by

dale rollins, ph.d.

Aldo Leopold referred to quail hunting as “grand opera” with a price in line therewith. To the avid quail hunter, a covey rise in open country is worth every penny.


hotshells: $10 per box; over-under 20-gauge shotgun: $1,500; decked-out Kawasaki Mule: $13,000; frosty mornings and covey rises behind good dogs, with good friends, in good country: priceless! If you’re a quail hunter, and your significant other also reads Texas Wildlife magazine, I suggest you ditch this copy before she reads it, or else be prepared to pay the fiddler tonight at supper. If she keeps the checkbook – you have been forewarned! Quail in Texas are 6-ounce ingots of gold. Aldo Leopold recognized their value over 60 years ago when referred to quail as “grand opera.” But just how grand are they? Back in 2000, my colleague Dr. Jason Johnson, extension economist, and I sought to describe the spending habits of Texas quail hunters. We were curious about how valuable quail were to two related audiences: quail hunters and landowners. So, we devised a questionnaire and sent it out to a random sample of 250 Quail Unlimited members with Texas addresses. We sent a similar survey out to a random sample of landowners from 13 counties who owned a minimum of 500 acres. There were some surprises in the results.



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When asked how much the hunter spent in pursuit of his (100 percent were male) hobby in 1999, the average figure was $10,354. If he was so foolish (or failed to follow my earlier advice) as to calculate what each bird cost him, the average was $207. That amounts to about $512 a pound, or $32 an ounce. Quail escargot indeed! The average quail hunting trip was 402 miles (one-way), and the most popular destinations were Brooks and Coleman counties. Most respondents either leased land for quail hunting (54 percent) or hunted on lands owned/leased by friends or family (45 percent) or as a guest on a lease (45 percent); only 11 percent hunted on public land. The average number of days hunted was 15.3 days in 1999; down 29 percent from an average of 19.7 days in 1990. He bagged an average of 3.6 bobwhites per hunting day. About 38 percent of those surveyed hunted scaled (“blue”) quail during the 1999-2000 season, and bagged an average of 1.4 birds per hunting day. Almost 20 percent had purchased land to support their hobby in the previous decade. In 2002, I presented the survey’s findings at Quail Unlimited’s annual convention in Dallas. I remember well how I swallowed

Data courtesy TPWD Hunter participation for bobwhite and scaled quail in Texas, 1981–2011.

hard when I professed that respondents spent an average of $10,354 in pursuit of quail . . . I thought nobody could really claim such spend thriftiness. I was apprehensive that folks would scream “poppycock,” or the Texas equivalent thereof. But, no one challenged our accounting, at least not like you would think anyway. I think they were fearful our results would “leak” to their spouses. Then and now Again, that was in 2000, and quail abundance nosedived in many areas over the last decade. So when the 7th National Quail Symposium convened in January 2012, we decided to refresh the survey, i.e., conduct a “longitudinal survey, to see how economics might have changed over the past decade. This time (2011) we used an electronic survey sent out to over 4,700 members of Texas Quail Council, the successor of Quail Unlimited in Texas. Whereas we attained a 47 percent response rate to the mail-out survey in 2000, we only garnered a 9 percent response rate to the e-survey. (My interpretation here is that an older audience is less likely to complete an online survey.) But, as it turns out, the response rate surely wasn’t the only thing that decreased dramatically. According to the 2011 survey, respondents documented an average expenditure of $8,606 in pursuit of quail during an average of 8.8 days of hunting during the 2010–2011 season. The number of days hunted decreased by 45 percent, while the average expenditure decreased by only 17 percent (due mainly to increased lease costs). Bird dog ownership declined by 34 percent over the last 10 years; half of respondents still owned bird dogs in 2010. However, among dog owners, the number of bird dogs owned declined by 50 percent

between the 2000 and 2011 periods. “My bird dogs died, and I just didn’t replace them” is a common lament. As the bird dogs go, so goes the future of quail management and the big money spent on quail hunting. Support your local bird dog! Some categories did increase between the two surveys, but they’re not particularly good news. Household incomes of quail hunters confirmed an affluent status (defined as > $125,000 annual income), a statistic that increased from 42 to 65 percent from 2000 to 2010. Combined with harvest estimates provided by respondents, the cost of a bird in the bag increased to $253 per quail, an increase of 24 percent over the last 10 years. Reckon what increasing costs have done to stifle recruitment of quail hunters? The “golden goose” is indeed on the chopping block. When asked to identify the most important factors affecting quail populations, survey respondents most frequently cited weather, land use changes, predators and overgrazing as the primary culprits. Of note, in the 2000 survey, 39 percent of hunters cited overgrazing as an important factor in declining quail abundance, whereas only 1 percent of landowners believed such to be true. Quail hunter trends The number of quail hunters in Texas decreased 72 percent from 1981 to 2010. Most of the decline occurred from 1981-1996 with numbers thereafter remaining relatively stable. Resident hunters accounted for 85 to 99 percent of the total quail hunters with the proportion comprised by non-residents generally increasing over time. Texas residents accounted for 98.6 percent of quail hunters in 1981. However, in 2008 (the year with the highest participation by non-residents) that number slipped to 89.5 percent. The number of non-resident quail hunters increased about 206 percent from 1981 to 2008. We don’t have comparable figures for nonresident quail hunters in Texas, a group that increased almost 70 percent during the decade of the 1990s. But, I’d wager their numbers are closer to the Texas QU hunter than the guy from Tyler hunting on the Matador WMA. As Don Aiken of Roscoe says, “Deer hunters come to the ranch in pickups; Quail hunters come in jets.” Such attrition in the ranks of quail hunters is disconcerting in several respects. First, an important avenue for income diversification for many rural landowners and local economies is threatened. Second, the esprit de corps and ultimately the continued participation of quail hunters are rapidly approaching critical mass in Texas. (Note to self: If white-tailed deer had declined by 79 percent over the past 20 years, wouldn’t there be panic in the streets?) Show me the money

Expenditure patterns of “avid” Texas resident quail hunters during the 2010- 2011 hunting season (Johnson et al. 2012). The average annual expenditure of this group of quail hunters was $8,606.`

The results from these studies identify that a large percentage (at least 50 percent) of a quail hunter's annual expenditures occur en route to and at the hunting destination. Ironically, many hunters come from urban areas making quail hunting one of those rare social and economic activities that draw money from urban to rural communities. This economic injection accrues not only to the landowners, but also to the general merchants throughout Texas who cater to the needs of those who travel across the state in pursuit of quail. Attracting this caliber of high-spending hunters is one economic development strategy available to those rural counties and regions with huntable quail populations. Dr. Johnson offered suggestions for landowners and rural entrepreneurs hoping to attractively position




WHAT ABOUT BLUE-COLLAR QUAiL HUNTERS? We recognize and caution that our survey population may not represent the mainstream quail hunter in texas but likely those more affluent and more committed to pursuing a quality quail hunting experience. On the other hand, our estimates may not be exceptional given the expense of hunting quail on private lands in texas, and the paucity of public hunting opportunities (about 97 percent of texas is privately owned land). But, what of the blue-collar hunters who don’t spend an alaskan cruise for their quail The quail hunter’s dollars touch many hands between the hunter’s source (e.g., Ft. Worth) and his destination (e.g., Coleman) as demonstrated in this “show me the money” exercise at the Rolling hunting? I bemoan their demise, as that is Plains Bobwhite Brigade. where I fit into the equation. But, our cohort is indeed endangered. at age 59, I am likely themselves to these hunters. Examples for landowners in the youngest quartile of quail hunters. include addition of dog kennels and for communities The statistics cited herein don’t bode well for to consider extended hours for restaurants and a local the working-class quail hunter or for youths directory of services such as a local vet clinic in case a seeking to continue our heritage. But, wait; dog gets snake bit. there is public hunting, right? unfortunately, It should be noted that expenditures per quail huntthere is precious little in texas. One of the er decreased by approximately $2,000 over the last 10 few, and most popular places, is the texas years. In this regard, a dedicated effort to preserve and Parks and Wildlife Department’s Matador protect suitable quail habitats is indeed a worthwhile WMa located north of Paducah. goal for both landowners and rural economic develChip ruthven, manager of Matador opment advocates. That’s why rekindled interest and Wildlife Management area, complemented funding, e.g., texas a&M agriLife Extension’s reversour statewide survey with local data. a ing the Quail Decline Initiative is so timely. sample of 750 hunters who hunted quail Paul Melton of roby told the West texas Quail on the Matador WMa during the 2002-03 study group attendees in 2005 that quail hunting was season were surveyed to assess their impact the most popular avocation of the forbes 400 list of on the local communities of Paducah and One of the down sides of the cost deep-pockets. guess what name accounts for four of quail hunting is that hunter reChildress. These hunters spent an average cruitment is limited and problemof the top 10 on that list? The Waltons (as in Walof three to four days on the Matador WMa atic. I encourage you to find ways Mart). and, if you don’t know who Ol’ roy was (paand harvested 1.8 quail per day. average age to integrate younger hunters into triarch sam Walton’s English setter), you might want your quail hunting operation. of hunters was 47 (about 10 years younger to peruse the pet food item next time. I’ve heard that than their more affluent brethren). They falfurrias was once home to the world’s smallest Wal-Mart, built traveled an average of 305 miles from their place of residence to because Mr. Walton (who hunted nearby) wanted to purchase his the Matador WMa. These hunters spent an average of $307 in shotgun shells from his own store. local communities while in pursuit of quail on the Matador WMa. Considering that the recreational dollar turns-over about 1.6 times within the community, quail hunters on the Matador WMa brought in about $378,000 to local coffers or about $490 each. THE COLORS OF THiNGS Colors are funny things. I know some ranchers who see red when they see orange. But retailers and many landowners know that orange turns to green, and gold. Whether you’re at the Coyote Café in gail, the airport in Brooks County, the Beehive in albany, or the allsups in aspermont, you might want to smile and welcome that older gentleman bedecked in blaze orange. His investments in your local community could be paying for potholes so that you won’t have to. A mixed bag of bobwhite and blue quail, coupled with a day of good dog work, provided a smorgasbord of memories for Chuck Ribelin (l) and Tim Wilson on this 2005 hunt on Rocker Ranch in Borden County.



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Reference: Johnson, J. L., D. rollins, and k. s. reyna. 2012. What’s a quail worth? a longitudinal assessment of quail hunter demographics, attitudes, and spending habits in texas. Proceedings of the National Quail symposium 7:294–299.


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Fencerow Habitat Article and photos by


Russell A. Graves

obwhite quail are in of property. As agricultural trouble. Nationwide, practices became more the species is on the efficient and pastures turned perilous brink of collapse and into monocultural grazing unfortunately, their numbers paddocks, the food and have been on the decline cover plants on the margins for over a hundred years. In disappeared. With it, some areas where populations have of the grassland wildlife, like always been stable – areas like the small coveys of quail that the Texas Rolling Plains – the hung on in meager numbers, sudden and dramatic quail disappeared. Their decline decline is alarming. in Northeast Texas parallel In early spring and summer various studies across the of each year, however, the nation that link the decline quail on my small country of bobwhite quail with the place just north of Childress, decline in fencerow habitat. Texas, seems to spring from While other factors may the scrublands. On any given be at play, loss of habitat is morning, I can drive around generally recognized as one of the land’s perimeter and the key reasons for the decline count a few male Bobwhites of quail and other grassland calling from the tops of old bird species. In reality, a clean cedar fence posts that I left fencerow provides no benefit intact when I bought the for wildlife. property. I can find even more in the grown up edges along The Benefits the fences. Instinctively, the quail know what I know; the “Weedy fencerows serve as rough edges of my property, travel corridors for species the unmoved ditches and the like bobwhites and pheasants. grown-up patches along my Also, they sometimes provide fence are a food and coverthe "last" substantial cover rich oasis that attracts the “Weedy fencerows serve as travel corridors for species like bobwhites and between more permanent Bobwhites and other wildlife. pheasants. Also, they sometimes provide the "last" substantial cover between more cover such as rangelands and a In contemporary agricul- permanent cover such as rangelands and a food source like croplands. As such food source like croplands. As they may serve as staging areas for birds entering, and exiting, cropfields,” says ture, plowing cropland to the Dale Rollins, Professor and Extension Wildlife Specialist. such they may serve as staging edges of the property line is a areas for birds entering and common practice among growers. It is also common for livestock exiting cropfields,” says Dale Rollins, Professor and Extension ranchers in areas with intensively managed, improved rangelands Wildlife Specialist (retired), Director, Rolling Plains Quail Research to keep fence rows cleared of weeds and brush. Foundation and an ardent student of quail. Historically, however, fencerows were often allowed to grow up. While numbers vary by locations, at least 18 species of A generation and beyond ago, equipment was more cumbersome vertebrates commonly use these corridors of successional habitat. and in places like where I grew up in Fannin County, herbicide use Not only do the rough and ragged fencerow edges provide cover was sparse. Therefore, grasses, forbs and some shrubs were more for small animals and birds, they are also rich in food plants for commonly found along cross and perimeter fencing on a piece wildlife – especially if you plant and propagate the fencerows.



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Depending on the part of the state you are in, valuable food plants such as wild plum, bundleflower, honeysuckle, greenbriar and vine mesquite are commonly found growing. “Some of the more common weeds encountered in fencerows (e.g., kochia, Russian thistle, careless weeds) are great seed and insect producers for bobwhites. Hence, they provide both cover and food,” adds Rollins. On my small place, it’s not usual to see quail, cottontail rabbits, cardinals and a host of other songbirds and mammals hanging out along the fencerows. Deer use them as a secure travel corridor between their bedding and feeding areas. The best fences rows and adjacent grown-up ditches grow a variety of plants like shrubs, forbs, and grasses. Once established, the birds and wildlife that utilize these habitat corridors help propagate the habitat. “In rangeland situations "weedy fencerows" are usually "brush fencerows,” says Rollins, “In these situations brush species like hackberry and agarito, establish in the fencerows because birds perching on the fences deposit seeds through their droppings. Such brush fencerows can provide excellent screening and escape cover for bobwhites. However such brush fencerows are often targeted for control due to concerns they damage the fences that produced them.”

While other factors may be at play, loss of habitat is generally recognized as one of the key reasons for the decline of quail and other grassland bird species. In reality, a clean fencerow provides no benefit for wildlife.

Fencerows, when allowed to grow up, can provide valuable habitat for many species of Texas wildlife.

Common Sense Practices While it’s a common practice to clean out fence rows, for land managers wanting to reestablish them with food and cover for wildlife, the United States Department of Agriculture recommends that the fencerows be 40 feet to 50 feet wide and consist of a variety of plants. While the width doesn’t seem significant, for every quarter mile of grown-up fence row that’s 50 feet wide adds about an acre and a half of habitat. If clean fences are a must, then fenceless “fencerows” are easily established with plantings parallel to fencerows. These artificial fencerows provide the same habitat benefit but also allow a landowner to keep their fences clean for maintenance sake. Another practice around agricultural fields is to leave a strip of unharvested crop or uncut hay to serve as cover and feed for wildlife. While 10 feet is the recommended minimum width, 20 feet to 30 feet is a good compromise that only sacrifices less than an acre of yield for every quarter of a linear mile. For hay fields on our place, we often leave narrow strips of uncut forage around the margins of the field as well as through the middle of the field. For every six or eight rows cut, one is left standing. By traditional measures, the field looks rough and unkempt once the hay is removed. However, small wildlife species and predators seem to enjoy it. On one side of my property where my fence joins a neighbor’s property, he likes to keep the fence row relatively clean. Instead

“Some of the more common weeds encountered in fencerows (e.g., kochia, Russian thistle, careless weeds) are great seed, and insect, producers for bobwhites. Hence, they provide both cover and food,” says Dale Rollins.

of letting the fence grow up in shrubs and forbs, I keep a twenty foot wide “firebreak” cut along my side of the fence. Each spring, I’ll shred and plow the firebreak and before the spring rains begin, I’ll plant milo in the firebreak. As the summer progresses the temporary fencerow habitat grows to provide cover for wildlife and green browse for deer and once the milo is mature, the seeds provide a winter food source for quail and other birds as they slowly drop from the heads onto the ground. In addition, the dead stalks are good thermal cover for ground dwelling animals. Hunting Fencerows www.texas-wildlife.org


Dove hunting along fencerows is a productive practice as the birds often roost and feed along fences.

When I was a kid, my dad gave me some simple advice for deer hunting in Northeast Texas. “If you can find an old home place, that’s where you’ll find deer,” he would say. His advice was always sage. He put his blind up overlooking the bois d’arc block foundation of an old house; its yard surrounded by a dilapidated mesh wire fence where trumpet vine, green-briar, and wild gourd adorn the rusted barrier. Behind the house an old corral and a long, narrow catch pen provided even more slender habitat corridors. Like clockwork, each year he hunted the old home place he killed a deer. Even today, we can still hunt that one spot and see deer traveling along the brushy corridor and feeding from the deer high browse continually. It’s a true hot spot.

Outdoor writer Brian Strickland knows the benefit of these slivers of habitat that stands in contrast to the surrounding landscape. He targets these areas when he hunts the family property near Sulphur Springs. “On the property, we have a couple of old cross fences that we’ve let grow up,” he says. “When I put up stands in the late summer, I try to target these areas because I know that deer will travel along the fences as they move from their bedding areas to where they feed.” He says that the fencerows create a pinch point that the deer travel along thus increasing his chance of seeing multiple deer per hunt. That’s significant considering the area isn’t historically known as one that produces a large acre per deer ratio. “It’s not unusual for me to see deer after deer moving along the fence and feeding

Turkeys find the seeds and bugs that are found along fencerows a valuable source of feed.



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from the plants that are growing along it, especially in early October,” Strickland explains. His consistent approach to bowhunting small acreage whitetails is paying off. Last season, he arrowed a nice, mature 140 class whitetail. This season, he plans to hunt the same spot in an attempt to duplicate his success. On my family property, the habitat strips we leave behind are good spots for hunting doves in September, deer in October through December, and predators year round. Hunting aside, the areas of fencerow habitat are always a good place to watch or photograph a host of wildlife species. In all, fencerow and cropland strips are an effective habitat management technique for both small and big wildlife species. They are manmade habitat connectors in which Mother Nature fills in the gaps with plants and shrubs, similar to ships being sunk to create artificial reefs. Whether the property is big or small, adding these habitat edges is a cost effective way promoting habitat diversity on your property.


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ICF –Your Images, Their Future

Saving W ildlife One Image at a Time


by Rolf Nussbaumer On a starry night on the Los Lazos ranch near Laredo, professional photographer rolf Nussbaumer of New Braunfels captured this beautiful image of a striped skunk. Nick Benavides, owner of the ranch, partnered with Nussbaumer during ICf’s Borderlands of Laredo Pro-tour of Nature Photography, helping him to find wildlife and creating settings that were designed to attract critters for great photos. 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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