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MAGAZINE OF THE TEXAS WILDLIFE ASSOCIATION

A Hundred Years of

Texas Pronghorns

AUGUST 2015


TEXAS WILDLIFE TEXAS WILDLIFE

T WA p r e s i d e n t M a r k B a r r e tt

Maintaining and Expanding TWA's Impact and Influence

I

am extremely honored to have been recently elected your new Texas Wildlife Association President. For the duration of my term, in this magazine column, I will be updating you on the successes, challenges and threats the association faces. When someone updates you on news, it’s always best to know who you’re getting it from. Let me take the opportunity in this first segment to share a little about myself. My name is Marko Barrett. I am a 37-year-old lifelong native of San Antonio, Texas. I am happily married to Sheila, a wonderful woman who married well below her league. Without her patience and understanding, I would not be able to follow through with my passion for TWA and the outdoors. I thank her every chance I get. I am President of Barrett Brother’s Oil & Gas in San Antonio, and also run a commercial hunting business on our high-fenced family ranches in Webb and Medina County. My first and greatest memories are of the outdoors. Until the age of 13, my parents, sister and I lived on several hundred acres in Leon Springs. Depending on the season, in the afternoons after school, I would chase frogs and skip rocks in the pond, hunt doves, set a box trap with stick and a string for whatever was dumb enough to fall for it or try to catch a glimpse of a whitetail or axis as the light faded. In the fall, when the weekend rolled around, my father, an avid hunter, would almost always take me hunting. Over the years, locations changed. I was fortunate enough to hunt in West Texas, South Texas, the Edwards Plateau and Coastal Prairie, all while tagging along with my father at a very young age. Because of the extreme fortune of those childhood experiences, I owe a debt to the land, wildlife and the hunting community of Texas. This is what drew me to TWA. No other organization gives the youth of Texas the variety of opportunities to experience the outdoors as TWA. None maintain the laser focus that this association does to delicately balance the protections between landowners, wildlife and hunters. This last year alone, we reached over HALF A MILLION people with our education programs, took over 3,000 kids and their parents hunting and spent countless hours working in and out of Austin and Washington, D.C. to protect hunting, wildlife and landowner rights. On top of that, we are growing. Eight short years ago, we were hovering around 4,500 members. Today, as of the publication of this magazine, that number has more than doubled, growing 30 percent this year alone. The trend of program expansion and membership growth needs to continue to accelerate in Texas with a rapidly increasing population to maintain and expand TWA’s impact and influence. This will be my number one goal as President of TWA. Have a question, comment or suggestion? Please feel free to contact me at mbarrett@texas-wildlife.org.

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.

TEXAS WILDLIFE

OFFICERS Marcus T. Barrett IV, President J. David Anderson, Vice President, San Antonio Dr. Louis Harveson, Second Vice President for Programs, Alpine Tom Vandivier, Treasurer, Houston For a complete list of TWA Directors, go to www.texas-wildlife.org

PROFESSIONAL STAFF/CONTRACT ASSOCIATES Administration & Operation David Yeates, Chief Executive Officer Quita Hill, Director of Finance and Operations Cheryl McPherson, Office Administrator

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

Programs Helen Holdsworth, Conservation Legacy Program Director Kassi Scheffer, Education Program Specialist Leslie Wittenburg, Education Program Specialist Clint Faas, Conservation Program Coordinator Courtney Brittain, Consultant Kayla Krueger, Education Program Contractor Elanor Dean, Education Program Contractor Toni Purnell, Education Program Contractor Elisa Velador, Education Program Contractor Adrienne Paquette, Education Program Contractor Sarah Josephson, Education Program Specialist Brian Robert, Education Program Specialist Julia Farmer, Education Program Contractor COL(R) Chris Mitchell, Texas Youth Hunting Program Director Bryan Jones, TYHP Field Operations Coordinator Barbara Scheib, TYHP Program Coordinator Kara Starr, Hunting Heritage Program Assistant

Advocacy Joey Park, Legislative Program Coordinator

MAGAZINE CORPS David Yeates, Executive Editor Kim Rothe, Consulting Publications Coordinator/Editor David Brimager, Advertising Director Lorie Woodward Cantu, Special Projects Editor 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 Arthur Temple College of Forestry and Agriculture, Stephen F. Austin State University-Nacogdoches Department of Natural Resources Management, Texas Tech University-Lubbock 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.

Marko Barrett President, Texas Wildlife Association

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TEXAS WILDLIFE ASSOCIATION 3660 Thousand Oaks Dr., Suite 126 San Antonio, TX 78247 www.texas-wildlife.org (210) 826-2904 FAX (210) 826-4933 (800) 839-9453 (TEX-WILD)

AUGUST 2015

The Texas Wildlife Association (TWA) was organized in 1985 for the purpose of serving as an advocate for the benefit of wildlife and for the rights of wildlife managers, landowners and hunters in educational, scientific, political, regulatory and legislative arenas. TEXAS WILDLIFE is the official TWA publication and has widespread circulation throughout Texas and the United States. All rights reserved. No parts of these magazines may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without express written permission from the publisher. Copyrighted 2014 Texas Wildlife Association. Views expressed by contributors are not necessarily those of the Texas Wildlife Association. Similarities between the name Texas Wildlife Association and those of advertisers or state agencies are coincidental, and do not indicate mutual affiliation, unless clearly noted. Members who move should send new address and current membership classification to headquarters. TWA reserves the right to refuse advertising.

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


Mission Impacts

AUGUST

Volume 31 H Number 4 H 2015

8 A Hundred Years of Texas Pronghorn Management by Steve Jester

16 Advocacy Funds Support TWA Legislative Mission by David Yeates

18 2015 Landowner of the Year Awards

by David Brimager

20 Adult Education Programs by Clint Faas

22 TWA Membership Reception by Kendra Roller

24 Wild Turkey Research

by WILLIAM P. KUVLESKY Jr., PH.D., ALFONSO OrTEGA, PH.D. and LEONArD A. BrENNAN, PH.D.

28 Recruiting Natural Resource Professionals and Students by MArIA FLOrENTINA MEJIA

30 Skunkbush Sumac by Steve Nelle

32 Coyotes and Quail by Dale Rollins, Ph.D.

36 Growth Or Property Rights? by Henry Chappell

38 Managing Competition by sTEvE nELLE

44 Frog Hunting Editor’s Note: Margie Hoover’s class also participated in a L.A.N.D.S. Intensive Field Investigation Day in May, 2015. TWA staff and volunteers provided additional hands-on learning experiences for the students. Funding for this program is provided by the San Antonio Livestock Exposition.

by Russell A. Graves

50 South Texas Heat Impacts Deer Productivity

by Colleen Schreiber

On the Cover

MAGAZINE OF THE TEXAS WILDLIFE ASSOCIATION

AUGUST 2015

Photo by Russell Graves

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

The cooperative effort and engagement of a diverse group of partners including private landowners across the Trans-Pecos to both restore pronghorns and understand the decline and document the process are providing an excellent model, not just for pronghorn restoration in Texas but also for restoring other wildlife species facing challenges both now and in the future. Read more about the history of pronghorn restoration beginning on page 8.

A Hundred Years of

Texas Pronghorns

www.texas-wildlife.org

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TEXAS WILDLIFE

MeeTingS And evenTS

FOR INFORMATION ON HUNTING SEASONS, call the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department at (800) 792-1112, consult the 2014-2015 Texas Parks and Wildlife Outdoor Annual, or visit the TPWD website at www.tpwd.state.tx.us.

AuguST

SepTeMBer

AUGUST 9-11 QuailMasters, Session 4, Hebbronville. For more information, contact Clint Faas at cfaas@texas-wildlife.org.

SEPTEMBER 16-18 Statewide Quail Symposium, MCM Elegante, Abilene. For more information, contact cfaas@texas-wildlife.org.

AUGUST 19 Master Naturalists’ Advanced Training, Waxahachie. The Indian Trails Chapter of the Texas Master Naturalists would like to introduce you to the L.A.N.D.S. Intensive (quail) and Trinity River Watershed programs of the Texas Wildlife Association. This is a free training, approved for Advanced Training hours for area Master Naturalists. For information, contact Charlie Grindstaff at pcgrindstaff@sbcglobal.net or (972) 291-2868.

ocToBer

AUGUST 22 Rainwater Potential, Bandera. For more information, visit srs@bcragd.org.

OCTOBER 5-6 Empowering Women in Natural Resource Management, Fredericksburg. For more information, contact Dr. Larry Redmon at Larry.Redmon@agnet. tamu.edu. OCTOBER 9-11 Women of the Land, Camp Allen, Navasota. For more information, contact Helen Holdsworth at hholdsworth@texas-wildlife.org.

The Texas Wildlife Association and Texas AgriLife Extension Service sponsor lunch-based webinars one Thursday of each month. If you are not able to attend the live webinar, each presentation is archived on the TWA website.

UPCOMING

WEBINARS FROM NOON–1 P.M.

August 20 – Bobwhite Quail Management by Dale Rollins, Ph.D.

IT’S EASY!

Just point your browser to forestrywebinars. net on the day of the webinar and click on the ”Wildlife for Lunch” in the “Upcoming Webinars” section. All you need is a modern computer with a quality Internet connection and a bag of lunch. The webinar series provides sound, science-based wildlife management options delivered by experts to you in the comfort of your own home or office.

NO NEED TO TRAVEL!

Conservation Legacy’s L.A.N.D.S. Intensive Program has a packed schedule for the 2015-2016 school year. We have students all across the state hoping to get out on the land and learn about our state’s rich wildlife and natural resources. We are particularly in need of volunteers in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. If you would like to help with any of these events, please contact Leslie Wittenburg at lwittenburg@texas-wildlife.org.

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AUGUST 2015

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.

QUESTIONS?

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

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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AUGUST 2015


Photo by Russell Graves

A Hundred Years of Texas Pronghorn Management Article by Steve Jester, Wildlife Biologist

T

he story of pronghorn management, regulation and restoration in Texas reaches back over 100 years and includes successes, failures and more than just a little drama. Much of the story is chronicled in reports and documents in the files of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department which provided much of the material for this article. The story begins, like many do, with unintended consequences. Pronghorn suffered as the western part of Texas was settled (1870-1890) and the open range changed to fenced pastures. Extensive sheep ranching with net fences was particularly hard on pronghorns as some ranches became overstocked as sheep and pronghorns (“prairie goats”) compete directly for food resources. Worse still, pronghorns did not adapt their behavior very well to fences. Pronghorns require large areas with free movement to thrive and are adapted to moving great distances to find forage. Pronghorns don’t like to jump and can learn to scoot under barbed wire fences but impeding their movement led to the death of many. Then, there was the Texas drought (a drought which was also happening all over the southwestern United States) — it was very tough on wildlife even in the absence of livestock competition. The plight of the pronghorn did not go unnoticed, and by an act of the state legislature, the hunting season for pronghorns was closed in 1903. Even though ranching is thought to have been a cause of the decline of the pronghorn, it was ranchers who, according to a 1973 TPWD report by P.B. Uzzell, undertook the first pronghorn restoration in Texas. According to Uzzell, “Without apparent fanfare, the resurrection

www.texas-wildlife.org

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© H.P. Haddon, TPWD

PRONGHORN MANAGEMENT

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TEXAS WILDLIFE

AUGUST 2015


PRONGHORN MANAGEMENT

in their recovery, which included predator control. Further action by the state of Texas did not occur until 1938 when the Texas Game Fish and Oyster Commission (TPWD’s predecessor) used some of the first federal dollars available for state wildlife management to start pronghorn restoration. This was the first era of three (thus far) in pronghorn restoration. The first era’s goal was to restore the species within the state. This was accomplished by the study of existing numbers distribution and evaluation of suitable (but unoccupied) habitat, combined with trapping and

transplanting. The transplanting was to serve two purposes: 1) Move pronghorns from overstocked sheep ranches to cattle ranches. 2) To move surplus pronghorns off ranches that had too many to other suitable ranches where pronghorns once thrived but were now absent/gone. remember, there was no hunting season for pronghorns at that time, so ranches with surplus had no legal way to remove them. The first actual trapping of pronghorns occurred in 1939 using a technique developed in New Mexico that involved drifting pronghorns, while on horseback, © TPWD

of the pronghorn was undertaken by a small group of interested landowners in the Trans-Pecos region sometime between 1910 and 1925.” Not much was recorded about those early efforts. But, what is known is that with the leadership of these early ranchers, pronghorn numbers began to recover in the Trans-Pecos even while elsewhere in the state their numbers remained largely depressed. Uzzell did not offer a hypothesis on the pronghorn increase in the Trans-Pecos other than to note that legal hunting had ended and that Trans-Pecos landowners were interested

WWW.TExAS-WILDLIFE.OrG

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Š TPWD

PRONGHORN MANAGEMENT

down an increasingly narrow netwire lane, funneling them into a corral. Later, winged aircraft and helicopters were used to herd the pronghorns into the funnels (last used in Texas in early 2000s for a research project). This first era initially focused on the Trans-Pecos and Permian Basin regions; but, as it progressed, animals were moved to other parts of historic pronghorn range in the Panhandle and North Central, Southwest and South Texas. Trapped pronghorns were only moved to ranches where the habitat was suitable and the ranch owners had completed an application. Even though the transplanting efforts were not a runaway success, the herds at the good trap sites were bouncing back quickly and TPWD (still Game, Fish and Oyster then) soon realized that trapping and moving surplus animals was not a realistic long term solution for folks that felt they had too many pronghorns. reinstituting hunting seasons where numbers were

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The first actual trapping of pronghorns occurred in 1939 using a technique developed in New Mexico that involved drifting pronghorns, while on horseback, down an increasingly narrow netwire lane to a corral. healthy enough to support it was hoped to reduce landowner demand for removing pronghorns and perhaps provide a financial benefit to landowners to spur more positive interest in pronghorns on productive pronghorn ranges. In 1943, the Texas Legislature gave

AUGUST 2015

the Game, Fish and Oyster Commission regulatory authority in the Trans-Pecos and included a provision for an open season on pronghorn bucks based on population surveys. (Later, does were added.) This system has remained largely unchanged until the present day as pronghorn tags have never been on a Texas hunting license with deer and turkeys, and the harvest has always been allocated by permit based on annual population surveys. Initially, landowners were given only 20 percent of the permits that they could assign to the hunter of their choice with 80 percent being distributed by the Commission via a lottery to applying hunters similar to what is still done in many western states. The landowner percentage was later increased to 40 percent; and, finally, landowners were given all the permits and all pronghorn hunting opportunity on private land was based on negotiations between the landowner and the hunter. The first hunting season in the Trans-


PRONGHORN MANAGEMENT

this first era of trapping and transplanting with two exceptions: cattle ranches in the Trans-Pecos and the establishment of few new herds in the northeastern Panhandle. The first era of pronghorn relocation officially ended in 1956 when one animal was trapped for the Dallas Zoo. The second era (1972-1989) started in 1972 with trapping/transplanting mainly

east and south of current occupied range to parts of the historic range where suitable pronghorn habitat only existed in small patches. In 1984 (and again in 1986 and 1987) a number of Texas pronghorns were sent to the state of Arizona from Presidio County for use in that state’s pronghorn restoration efforts. The pronghorn relocation effort in 1989

pronghorn permit program. This first era of restoration lasted until 1956 by which time approximately 4,000 animals had been moved. This effort initially focused on the Trans-Pecos and Permian Basin regions. But, before it was completed, animals were moved to other parts of historic pronghorn ranges including the Panhandle as well as North Central, Southwest and South Texas. Uzzell was not overly impressed with the success of

from a single large ranch west of San Angelo with a surplus of pronghorns. Between 1972-1976, nearly 1,100 pronghorns were moved to suitable ranches totaling at 1.5 million in the Trans-Pecos, Panhandle and Permian Basin. Pronghorn restoration continued from 1978 through 1981, primarily using animals that TPWD was able to secure from the states of Wyoming and Colorado. release sites during this period included some well

was the first use of the helicopter and net gun technique (the current technique) for capturing pronghorns for translocation. The trapping operations were being conducted on a ranch on the Texas-New Mexico border, and the division director was directly operating the net-gun during capture operations. At some point, the helicopter strayed into New Mexico and animals were captured and moved to Texas for processing and transport. This act, not

Š Chase Fountain, TPWD

Pecos was in 1944. In 1953, pronghorn hunting in the Panhandle was added. And, in 1961, hunting was extended further east in to the Permian Basin and into counties southeast of Midland-Odessa and west of San Angelo. Hunting did not happen every year as seasons were completely closed in some regions in at least five different years over the first three decades of the

WWW.TExAS-WILDLIFE.OrG

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Š Chase Fountain, TPWD

PRONGHORN MANAGEMENT

authorized by New Mexico, violated both state and federal wildlife law which later led to a plea of no contest by Texas officials. An early 1990s TPWD evaluation of pronghorn trapping and translocation efforts conducted from 1939 to 1989 rated 18 percent of the transplants as successful with growing pronghorn populations. The remainder either had fewer pronghorn than were initially released (35 percent) or had experienced complete loss of broodstock (47 percent). The current third era of pronghorn restoration initiated in 2011 really brings us full circle with Trans-Pecos landowners stepping up for pronghorns as they had a century earlier. This time, rather than on their own the ranchers are acting in cooperation with TPWD, Borderlands

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research Institute at Sul ross State University, Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation and a broad array of other public and private partners concerned about Trans-Pecos pronghorns as detailed in an article that appeared in Texas Wildlife magazine almost exactly two years ago. The Trans-Pecos Pronghorn Working Group was formed after pronghorn herds severely reduced by drought did not respond to improving range conditions. This era involves not just translocation of pronghorns but also a great deal of data collection: 1) to identify potential reasons for the decline; 2) to ensure that animals are given the best chance of survival during trapping operations; 3) to closely monitor the success of the transplantation efforts after the movement of the animals; and, 4) to

AUGUST 2015

provide information for future pronghorn management and restoration efforts. These operations are also providing an opportunity to learn more about pronghorn diet and nutrition and rangeland analysis to better determine long-term pronghorn carrying capacity. Also unique to this era, the Panhandle is serving as the source of the pronghorns for the Trans-Pecos. So far, over 400 pronghorns from the Panhandle have been moved to restoration sites in the Trans-Pecos (200 in 2011, 130 in 2013 and 102 in 2014). Around half of the animals moved have been fitted with tracking collars to collect data on survival and their movements across the release sites. The animals have all been captured by helicopter net-gunning first used in 1989, a


PRONGHORN MANAGEMENT

Photo by Justin Dreibelbis

complete change in technique from earlier efforts. Wildlife managers from the 1940s would recognize similarities in much of the rest of the process with interested landowners applying to receive transplanted pronghorns, inspection of release sites for suitability and landowner agreements which include management practices such as fence modifications where needed to ensure the pronghorns’ ability to move and, in some cases, for predator control. The cooperative effort and engagement of such a broad group of partners across the Trans-Pecos to both restore pronghorn and understand the decline and document the process are providing an excellent model, not just for pronghorn restoration in Texas but also for restoring other wildlife species facing challenges both now and in the future.

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i ss u e s a n d A d v o c a c y

MAKING A DIFFERENCE

Advocacy Funds Support TWA Legislative Mission Article by David Yeates

M

ark Twain famously observed, “We have the best government money can buy.” On a related note, Will Rogers once quipped, “Be thankful we’re not getting all the government we’re paying for.” The relationship between money and politics is time-worn and off-putting. While there are certainly many examples of unscrupulous or unethical behavior between politicians and donors, there is a legitimate and critical role for fundraising on the advocacy front. The Texas Wildlife Association (TWA) raises advocacy funds for two purposes, and I felt it is important to share that with the membership. The first use of funds is to employ professional lobby staff. This past legislative session, TWA was represented by Joey Park, Mignon McGarry, Corey Howell and Chelsy Hutchison. As a neophyte to the Capitol and the mechanics of the legislative process, I was very curious what role a lobbyist plays in TWA advocacy efforts. Our lobbyists were at the Capitol every day of the session, monitoring hundreds of bills as they were filed and moved through committees and eventually to the Chamber floors for votes. As bills of importance were set for committee hearings, the lobby staff helped coordinate TWA policy experts to provide testimony on them.

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Our lobby staff has a broad network of relationships with elected officials and staffers, which was invaluable in scheduling meetings with legislative offices to discuss specific issues and the overall policy agenda of TWA. Their professional expertise in the “nuts and bolts” process at the Capitol is crucial to our effectiveness there. The Capitol is a beehive of activity with no instruction manual provided, so a team of tenured lobbyists that understand where to be, what to do and when to be there to do it makes all the difference in the world. There are surprisingly few outdoor organizations in Texas that maintain a professional lobby presence at the Capitol, making our role there that much more important. In fact, many smaller outdoor organizations contact TWA directly to seek input or assistance on issues they see as important. I personally spent a substantial amount of time working with the lobby staff at the Capitol this session and can assure you that TWA was very well served by their support. The second use of funds is through our TWA Political Action Committee (PAC). The PAC holds donations in a dedicated account, subject to government oversight and reporting. This is the pool of dollars that are used to make campaign contributions to

AUGUST 2015

those holding or seeking legislative office. There are specific windows of time when those contributions can be made, and all must be reported to the Texas Ethics Commission. TWA generally restricts its PAC donations to the state level and focuses on supporting the candidates and office holders that are perceived as supportive of wildlife, natural resources, hunting and private property rights. While this is the nexus of money and politics that many find unsavory, it truly is the best way to support the right candidate for office. Political campaigns cost money, in many cases, a substantial amount of money. By endorsing and financially supporting the candidates that we believe will act in the best interests of the wild places and wild things of Texas, we advance the cause of TWA. That support builds trust and relationships with legislators, ensuring that TWA will get the call when a legislator has a question on a bill that could impact what we hold dear. There is nothing more valuable in the legislative process than that kind of call from a legislator. Politics can be like litter on the side of the road; it is easy to assume that someone else will do what needs to be done to make things right. After participating in a legislative session, I can assure you that, not only will there probably not be someone else there to pick up the trash, there is a line of people ready to add to the mess. The work of TWA at the State Capitol is truly critical to hunting, natural resources and private property rights here in Texas. I urge you to consider contributing financial support to the TWA advocacy mission in one of the ways outlined above. This can be done by calling me directly at the TWA office in San Antonio, (800) 839-9453. Mark Twain has been a long time favorite author of mine, so I’ll close with another quote of his, “The secret to getting ahead is getting started.”


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H u n t i n g H e r i ta g e

MAKING A DIFFERENCE

Texas Big Game Awards Announces 2015 Landowner of the Year Awards Article by David Brimager Photos courtesy of Awardees

Recipient of the Statewide Top Landowner of the Year Award is the MT7 Ranch.

F

or 24 years, the Texas Big Game Awards (TBGA), a partnership of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) and the Texas Wildlife Association (TWA), has been the leader in recognizing the contributions that landowners, land managers and responsible hunters make to management and conservation of wildlife and wildlife habitat on Texas private lands. TBGA is proud to announce the recipients of the 2015 Landowner of the Year (LOTY) Awards program presented by Capital Farm Credit. The prestigious

Winner of the Region 4 Landowner of the Year Award is the Double A Ranch.

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LOTY Awards recognize the important contributions that Texas private landowners make to wildlife and habitat conservation. It also recognizes these landowners’ perpetual commitment to our hunting heritage. This year’s statewide awardee is the MT7 Ranch located in Stephens County. The ranch was established in the fall of 2008 when TWA Members Mike and Mary Terry purchased the 8,200acre ranch. Since then, the ranch has purchased additional acreage and now totals 20,251 contiguous acres becoming a leader in the Breckenridge community. The ranch has a noteworthy history of cattle, rodeo, wildlife and agriculture. The ranch is also one owner removed from the 100-year-old Veale Ranch that was started in the late 1890s. The MT7 Ranch has completely rebuilt the ranch by placing land stewardship and wildlife management at the forefront of the ranch’s goals. Also recognized on the regional level is the Double A Ranch located in Uvalde. Owned by TWA Members Allyn and

AUGUST 2015

Susan Archer, the ranch was established in 2001 and totals over 7,200 acres. Wildlife management has been the core goal of the Archers by providing such services as adequate water sources across the ranch, supplemental feed, habitat improvements and much more. The ranch is also a supporter of the Texas Youth Hunting Program (TYHP) providing first-time hunting opportunities to Texas youth. The objectives of the LOTY Awards are to recognize TBGA landowners for excellence in habitat management and wildlife conservation on their lands and their encouragement of youth and adult education. The Awards promote the best stewardship practices in the TBGA’s eight regions and illustrate the important role of Texas' private landowners in the future of our natural resources. Nominations for the TBGA LOTY Awards come from natural resource agencies, conservation organizations, the general public and from the ranches/ landowners themselves. Nominees must have accepted entries in the TBGA program and their ranches must be listed as awardees in the official TBGA database. Consideration also includes the number of TBGA awards the ranch/landowner has produced, number of youths and first-timers experiencing the outdoors, habitat and wildlife management projects related to the property and more.

The TBGA Landowner of the Year Awards are proudly sponsored by Capital Farm Credit.


HUNTING HERITAGE

TYHP Introduces North Texas Field Operations Coordinator Bob Barnette has joined the Texas Wildlife Association team as North Texas Field Operations Coordinator for the Texas Youth Hunting Program. In this new position, Bob will be responsible for support and growth of TYHP in the North Texas area. A life-long outdoorsman, Barnette grew up in Dallas and earned a bachelor’s degree in engineering management from Southern Methodist University and an MBA from the University of Dallas. His professional career has included stints as a financial analyst for a large aerospace/defense contractor, a bond trader for two different brokerage firms and, most recently, operation of his own small business in Dallas. In addition, he has over 20 years of experience as manager of his family’s ranch in San Saba County. Barnette loves to teach, and he is very active as a Texas Parks and Wildlife bowhunter education and hunter education volunteer instructor. He holds multiple shooting instructor certifications from the National Rifle Association and USA Archery. Barnette is a staff instructor at Texas Archery Academy, where he has also developed original courses on archery and bowhunting. He enjoys introducing folks to shooting and hunting. Barnette has worked with youths extensively via Boy Scouts and his church, and he belongs to numerous conservation and outdoor advocacy organizations. Barnette and his wife Cathleen, an elementary school teacher,

live in Dallas. Their sons Clint (24) and Connor (21) are also avid outdoorsmen. Barnette considers their many years afield together as invaluable in creating strong family bonds. He and his family spend as much time as possible at their ranch, hunting, fishing and relaxing in the San Saba River. By serving as both a Huntmaster and guide for TYHP, Barnette says that he developed a great passion for the program. He says that he appreciates the perspectives of all TYHP stakeholders: youths, parents, volunteers and landowners, and he looks forward to working with TWA and TYHP to help fulfill the mission of increasing the number of youths participating in wildlife and hunting activities, ensuring the future of our hunting heritage!

www.texas-wildlife.org

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c o n s e r vat i o n l e g a c y

MAKING A DIFFERENCE

From the Classroom to the Field Wildlife and Habitat Conservation Education Article and photos by Clint Faas

Women of the Land attendees watch as a small square of hay is lit, simulating a strip-headfire in a prescribed burn. A state fire specialist supervised the demonstration which was conducted in a controlled setting. During a true prescribed burn, proper safety gear would include Nomex fireproof shirts and pants, hardhats, leather boots and gloves.

A

ldo Leopold, often considered the father of wildlife management, once said “The urge to comprehend must precede the urge to reform.” Referring to the complexities of nature and ecological principles, one must first understand or attempt to understand these things before they can work to make a difference. In Conservation Legacy’s (CL) Adult Education Programs, we aim to

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do just that. Supporting the CL mission, “educating generations of Texas land stewards,” we work to conduct informative, science-based and timely workshops that help all those who attend to develop a better understanding of wildlife, habitat and natural resource management. We don’t, however, do this alone! Whether through partners, sponsors, speakers or promotion, we lean on groups like the USDA Natural Resources

AUGUST 2015

Conservation Service, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and many others to make these workshops a success. Reaching out to leading professionals in their respective fields, we strive to provide the best information that attendees can bring back and use to improve their management strategies. Each year, the Texas Wildlife Association takes part in 10 or more


WildliFe And HABiTAT conServATion educATion

workshops that range from Women of the Land to quail to white-tailed deer to water conservation and water rights. In addition, we host monthly webinars on a wide range of topics that can be viewed both live and on our website. Last year, over 1,700 people, including wildlife professionals, landowners, lessees, birdwatchers, hunters and urban wildlife enthusiasts all came together to make up the diverse group of people that attended these programs. Mary Jo Doggett, who now has land near London, Texas, has attended six or more programs in the last several years. Originally focused on production agriculture through cattle and hay, they have now shifted their attention to include deer and other wildlife species. Doggett said that one of the greatest benefits of the programs goes beyond the information presented. Networking with conservation likeminded people, landowners and others interested in improving the land, gives her new connections and new ideas on how to improve her own property, she said. Doggett said that through CL workshops, she has learned a lot about plant identification. In learning what the plants are and what benefit they have to wildlife, Mary Jo has been able to identify areas to avoid when clearing brush so that only target species are removed. She said that she looks forward to attending new workshops in the future to get a different perspective on the topics at hand. Although it is hard to put a figure to the number of acres or the number of species that may be impacted, the enthusiasm of the attendees and their willingness to learn new ideas leaves a sense of optimism that the words spoken indoors translate to hours spent out on the landscape. Austin Schaefer, who manages and consults on almost 9,000 acres near Tilden, does just that. With a bachelor’s degree in range and Wildlife Management from Texas A&M University-Kingsville, he views the workshops as an opportunity to pick up on different methods and techniques that someone else may apply on their land. From each workshop, Schaefer said that he learns about something new that can be applied to managing the ranch. Seeing techniques or examples first-hand,

CONSERVATION LEGACY

Dr. Eric Grahmann discusses bobwhite and scaled quail management in South Texas with Austin Schaefer and the rest of the 2015 QuailMasters class.

during the field portion of many of the workshops, gives a visual of how to apply ideas in the field in addition to learning about them in a classroom setting. In addition to field days and workshops, Schaefer said that he also takes advantage of the Wildlife for Lunch Webinars. These webinars offer the ability to get information without having to leave work and travel. Attending a webinar during one’s lunch-break provides a great opportunity to learn about a wide range of wildlife and management topics. Since the webinars are archived on the web, people can watch them at any time. TWA’s Adult Education programs are offered throughout the year. Ideal

locations are selected depending on the program topic; locations are rotated around the state giving everyone an equal opportunity to attend without having to travel too far. It is our goal to do everything we can to increase attendance at the programs. New faces mean new ideas and an additional opportunity for everyone to network. The resources are available, and we strive to always have topics that can be useful to people on their land. If you would like to learn more about the Adult Education Programs that TWA offers, please visit the web page: http:// www.texas-wildlife.org/program-areas/ category/adult-education.

WWW.TExAS-WILDLIFE.OrG

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MAKING A DIFFERENCE

TWA Membership Reception in Houston a Success Article by Kendra Roller

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ver 125 people attended a membership reception in June at the Houston Country Club. The evening began with words from TWA Treasurer J. David Anderson and concluded with our guest speaker Carter Smith, Executive Director of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

TWA welcomed 80 new members to the organization through this event. Our generous hosts and sponsors made the evening a great success for TWA through funds they raised and new members introduced to the association. We would like to thank our hosts and sponsors for their outstanding support!

Elizabeth Eggleston, Jackson Hooper, Mark Kidd (Team Houston Chair), Bill Eggleston, Will Eggleston and Tom Atwell

Houston Safari Club Leadership

TWA President Marko Barrett with John Miller, Ransom Belton, Victor Johnson and David Yates

TWA Treasurer J. David Anderson with Patti Culbert, Rev Bill Denham and Ken Blanchard

Hosts: Brenda & J. David Anderson, Jackie and Steven Harker, Ann and Tom Kelsey, Rob Hall, Kelley and Eric Anderson, Victoria & Parker Johnson, Nancy and Arthur Epley, Becky and Mark Kidd, Yvonne Mikulencak, Cora Lynn and Bill Wilson, Allison and Tucker Knight, Martha and Sam Bowen, Jonna Hitchcock, Brenda and Chuck Greco, Susan and Steve Lewis, Houston Safari Club, John D. Maclay, John W. Kelsey and James H.C. Steen and Natalie Mencio. Sponsors: Andon Energy Services

M Kidd Properties, Inc.

Texas Capital Bank

Capital Farm Credit

Bud Light/Silver Eagle Distributors

Republic Ranches

Tommie Vaughn Polaris

Academy

Les and Clay Allison

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AUGUST 2015


CAESAr KLEBErg WILDLIFE rESEArCH InSTITUTE TEXAS A&M UNIVERSITY-KINGSVILLE

Wild Turkey Research at CKWRI Using Man-Made Roosts to Improve Wild Turkey Habitats and Populations in South Texas Article by WILLIAM P. KUVLESKY Jr., PH.D., ALFONSO “PONCHO” OrTEGA, PH.D. and LEONArD A. BrENNAN, PH.D.

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here are three subspecies of wild turkeys that inhabit Texas. Most people are familiar with the rio Grande wild turkey, which inhabits rangelands throughout basically the central part of the state from the Panhandle south to the rio Grande river. The Eastern wild turkey is a subspecies that inhabits forests; it can be found in at least 30 counties in East Texas. In addition to the rio Grande and Eastern subspecies of wild turkey, a small population of Merriam’s wild turkeys occupies Guadalupe Mountains National Park in the Trans-Pecos bordering southeastern New Mexico. The Merriam’s subspecies is a bird of the western U.S., occupying generally mountainous terrain. A few Merriam’s wild turkeys may remain in the Davis Mountains, along with a few other mountain ranges, but they are disappearing due to hybridization with rio Grande wild turkeys which have been expanding their ranges into the Trans-Pecos via riparian habitats along rivers and creeks. Texas currently has millions of wild turkeys, primarily rio Grandes, but the statewide population appears to be declining in recent years, which has prompted concern among wildlife scientists. Therefore, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department officials and wildlife scientists from several universities are conducting a number of studies to try to determine what is causing the apparent wild turkey decline.

Scientists at the Caesar Kleberg Wildlife research Institute (CKWrI) at Texas A&M University-Kingsville have been studying rio Grande wild turkeys in South Texas for the past decade. CKWrI scientists are focusing on potential wild turkey habitat issues in the southern half of the rio Grande Plains and have enlisted the cooperation of almost a dozen landowners who are interested in wild turkey conservation. Like all wildlife species, wild turkeys have important habitat requirements and among the more important habitat requirement for wild turkeys is roosting habitat. In South Texas, large mature trees, such as live oak and hackberry, are the most common trees that provide roosts. Unfortunately, many of these large trees have died throughout South Texas due largely to the recent three-year drought. As a result, natural roosts may be limited, and if natural roosting habitat becomes limited for wild turkeys, survival will decrease and/ or wild turkeys will abandon areas where there are no roosts. Therefore, wild turkey populations in South Texas may begin to decline as their natural roosting habitat disappears. However, wild turkeys will use man-made structures as roosts where natural roosts are limited or unavailable. It is not uncommon to see wild turkeys roosting on power lines or transmission towers throughout South Texas where natural roosting habitat is limited. Moreover,

CKWrI has helped landowners design and locate constructed roosts on their ranches. Turkeys began using some of these roosts shortly after they were constructed. What appears to be important relative to wild turkeys using these constructed roosts is placing and designing them correctly. Our experience and knowledge of wild turkey natural history and ecology enabled us to establish roosts at locations where turkeys will use them, but in reality this was simply guesswork. Scientific research was sorely needed to learn where to site constructed roosts in locations where there would be a high probability of wild turkey using these man-made structures. Therefore, we initiated a project in 2014 with the objectives of learning; (1) where to site wild turkey constructed roosts on south Texas landscapes where natural roosts are limited and: (2) determine what kind of roost design is favored by wild turkeys. Field work was initiated during the summer of 2014 on eight ranches that have 87 constructed roosts. We also enlisted another five cooperators who want constructed roosts established on their ranches. Field work entailed collecting data about the vegetation within a quarter of a mile of each constructed roost, specific data about habitat composition with each vegetation community, as well as the distance from a roost to the nearest feeder or source of water. We compared these data

Sponsored by JOHN AND LAURIE SAUNDERS

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Photo by David Hewitt

C aesa r klebe r g wildlife r esea r ch i n stitute

between constructed roosts that are used by wild turkeys and those that are not used in an effort to isolate factors that are associated with wild turkey use of constructed roosts. Results are very preliminary and are associated with turkey use of constructed roosts during summer. We have learned that platforms with larger areas (minimum of 60 square yards.) were important features of constructed roosts used by wild turkeys, whereas unused roosts had structures that were smaller (23–47 square yards).

Evidently turkeys prefer a strong, platform on which to roost, as well as one that will accommodate as many birds as possible. The vegetation data collected around constructed roosts has not yet revealed much relative to specific turkey habitat preferences, but we have more fieldwork to do over the coming year and anticipate learning more about habitat preferences. This project will continue throughout the year for the next two years so that we can continue to learn more about the habitat

preferences associated with constructed roosts and additional aspects of structural roost designs wild turkeys prefer. Another research project that was initiated involved trapping and attaching radio transmitters to wild turkeys to study their movements during the breeding, nesting and poult-raising seasons (spring and summer). Numerous landowners have told us over the years that they see turkeys during the winter, for example, and then never see turkeys again until the following

www.texas-wildlife.org

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Photo courtesy of CKWRI

C aesa r klebe r g wildlife r esea r ch i n stitute

fall, thus indicating to the landowner that turkeys have moved away and gone somewhere else to spend the spring and summer months. We learned from previous research conducted on King Ranch that wild turkey hens will move up to five miles from winter roost habitat to areas with good grass cover to nest and hatch eggs, so we know wild turkeys do make extensive movements during spring. However, the climate in the western Rio Grande Plains is drier and grassland habitats are not as abundant therefore wild turkey hens may indeed be moving significant distances to nest during the spring. To examine this in more detail, we are using radio telemetry to determine how far wild turkeys move (particularly hens during the breeding season), and identify home range sizes, as well as habitat

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preferences during turkey movements in spring and summer. This project will be a landscape study that will use Geographic Information System technology to quantify vegetation community preferences on a seasonal basis, document changes in home range sizes seasonally and help ascertain use of constructed roosts in an effort to identify key locations for siting constructed roosts. Thus far almost a dozen wild turkeys have been radiomarked and are currently being monitored at least three times per week. Radioed wild turkey monitoring will continue for the next 15 months, and we will add additional radioed birds to our study when trapping efforts resume next November. Our research effort would not be possible were it not for the generosity of numerous South Texas ranchers who are

AUGUST 2015

dedicated to wild turkey conservation. Mr. Renato Ramirez, owner of the El Veleno Ranch has spear-headed efforts among Zapata area ranchers to fund our wild turkey study and provide study sites. The Encino Lodge south of Hebbronville has also provided funding as well as food, lodging and logistical support for project personnel. Mr. Charlie Hoffman, owner of the Hoffman H30 Ranch near Alice is also helping to fund our work and providing study sites. Las Huellas, a Conservation Organization in Brownsville dedicated to wildlife conservation and youth, is also generously funding our research. Additionally, Buddy and Ellen Temple, Stuart Stedman, Henry Hamman, Lee Bass and Jose Guevara are generously allowing us to use their ranches as study areas.


Don’t Think It Could Happen?

THINK AGAIN.

CALL TO JOIN! Preserving the sport of hunting through education, conservation and the protection of hunters’ rights. WWW.HOUSTONSAFARICLUB.ORG · 713.62 3 . 8 8 4 4

WWW.TExAS-WILDLIFE.OrG

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department of natural resources management

texas tech university

TTU WILDLIFE RESEARCH NEWS

Recruiting Natural Resource Professionals and Students in Texas Article by MArIA FLOrENTINA “MASI” MEJIA, M.S.

Graduate research Assistant, Department of Natural resources Management, Texas Tech University, The rumsey research and Development Fund

Photos courtesy of TTU DEPArTMENT OF NATUrAL rESOUrCES MANAGEMENT

An all-women scientist research team preparing to conduct a vegetation transect on Guana Island, British Virgin Islands.

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he future of natural resource professionals in the state of Texas is here. Programs like Learning Across New Dimensions in Science (L.A.N.D.S.), Texas Brigades and the Texas Youth Hunting Program facilitate natural resource conservation education to a younger audience. For me, my first knowledge of a natural resource career was the first time I went hunting through TYHP. My guide and I stalked my buck and as we got closer, he set up the shooting sticks. I placed my rifle on the shooting sticks, took aim and harvested my first buck. For some, that might be enough to be recruited into the field of natural resources; but, for me, it was when my guide, a wildlife biologist, took the time to educate me about a white-

tailed deer’s anatomical parts. I was hooked. I then proceeded to be a cadet, assistant leader, special agent and W.I.L.D. member in Texas Brigades. All of which exposed me to the different career possibilities and opportunities within the professional fields of natural resources management, and I earned my bachelor’s degree in natural resources management here at Texas Tech University. Careers in natural resources Career options within the “field” of natural resources includes a wide diversity of career paths, including fish and wildlife management, parks, recreation and tourism, conservation, policy and planning, environmental science and technology, forestry, and soil science, among others.

It is not limited to these specific fields, and by definition are virtually all crossdisciplinary, including environmental chemistry, geology, archaeology, ecology and more. In the state of Texas alone, I found there were more than 3,000 natural resources professionals working in a variety of higher education institutions, state and federal agencies and nonprofit and nongovernmental organizations. Clearly, there are many career opportunities in natural resources, even within Texas! However, what motivates people to pursue this profession? My thesis research is focused upon identifying specific factors that have motivated people to pursue a career in natural resources within Texas,

Undergraduate students in Texas Tech University’s Introduction to Natural Resources Management class learning hands-on field techniques.

SPONSORED BY The Rumsey Research and Development Fund and the Department of Natural Resources

Management, Texas Tech University

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AUGUST 2015


T T U W ildlife r esea r ch n ews

so as to incorporate those concepts and practices into higher education (and other) recruitment efforts for prospective students and young professionals. This is an important topic as its implications have great meaning to recruiting future natural resource professionals who will serve as conservationists and stewards on both private and public lands. Previous Research Most natural resources professions have been historically dominated and populated by Caucasian males. However, there has been significant research to identify barriers experienced by underrepresented gender and ethnic groups experienced that may preclude them from pursuing natural resources careers. For example, research on gender in the field of natural resources has focused on women, and many natural resources fields have often been termed “Good Ole Boys” clubs, in which one needed (or needs) to be in to succeed professionally. For example, about 2 percent of The Wildlife Society membership was female in 1944, but they now represent more than 20 percent of the total membership, and natural resources professions are changing in terms of gender equity in the workforce. However, there continue to be discrepancies in gender in the natural resources workforce, so promoting efforts to minimize that “gender gap” is critical. However, diversity does

A participant of a Latino Outdoors led hike at Palo Duro Canyon State Park. He was scoping out the canyon walls in hopes of seeing a large mammal.

not stop at gender. Diversity also includes ethnicity. Historically, research regarding ethnicity in the field of natural resources has focused on identifying barriers that individuals have faced in recruitment or retention in either higher education or in the practicing field. While this information is important, an understudied topic is the support that individuals have in the field of natural resources. Current Research My current thesis research focuses on understanding motivations and recruitment efforts that influenced professionals and students to pursue a career in the field of natural resources within Texas. The student recruitment and motivation element is critical, as underrepresented groups majoring in natural resource majors in colleges have the lowest enrollment rates compared to other majors. For example, Texas is considered a majority-minority state, in which ethnic minorities make up a greater percentage of the population than ethnic majorities, yet that disparity is not reflected in current undergraduate student populations. For my study, I constructed a survey using previous literature related to these topics, and collected natural resource professionals’ email addresses that were affiliated with state agencies, federal agencies, nonprofit organizations and higher education institutions, as well as email addresses for undergraduate

and graduate students enrolled in natural resource degree plans at Texas universities. All emails were publicly available on respective websites. An informational email was distributed to the above groups, followed by an email containing a survey link; follow-up emails were distributed as well. Currently, I am working to complete my thesis, and I am analyzing my data as open-ended questions were included in the survey, which provided an opportunity for individuals to elaborate on their survey answers and add further depth. In a future installment of this column, I hope to elaborate further on what I found! As part of that, I hope this research will be valuable to informing the general public about the importance and value of our natural resources; we as stewards of the land must be able to relate to them in a multitude of ways. Part of that is being able to connect to them, personally, ethnically and culturally. As natural resource managers and stewards of the land, we must evolve with changing demographics to ensure that the values of conservation and stewardship are shared equitably. I hope that my research results will help promote greater workforce and student diversity in the wildlife, habitat and natural resources arenas in Texas. For more information, please contact Maria Florentina Mejia at maria.f.mejia@ ttu.edu.

Youths participating in bird watching at Scales, Tails, and Trails Event, hosted annually by the Texas Tech Association of Natural Resource Scientists, a graduate student organization in the Department of Natural Resources Management.

www.texas-wildlife.org

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P la n t P r o file

Skunkbush Sumac Article and photo by Steve Nelle

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here are six species of sumac growing in Texas – skunkbush sumac is the most common and widespread. Skunkbush grows in all regions of the state except South Texas. It is also found across much of the U. S. and Mexico. Skunkbush also goes by other names including fragrant sumac, aromatic sumac, polecat bush, three-leaf sumac and quail-bush. Some say the leaves are fragrant, others say it smells like a skunk. Skunkbush is a small shrub often growing underneath or adjacent to large trees. It sometimes grows in thickets but can also grow as individual bushes. It is most commonly found in shallow soils. Skunkbush is easily identified and easy to distinguish from other kinds of sumac. Skunkbush always has triple leaflets, while all other sumacs have five or more leaflets making up each leaf. The small clustered flowers appear in early spring while the plant is still naked, before the leaves come out. Following pollination by insects, the fruit begin to develop. The fruit matures and turns orange or red by mid to late summer. Sumac fruit are dry, lacking pulp and each fruit contains one seed. The red exterior skin of sumac fruit is tart like lemons and is covered by fine fuzz. Skunkbush has multiple benefits for wildlife including browse, fruit and

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cover. The fruit are consumed by many kinds of birds, including quail, turkey, prairie chicken, pheasant, woodpeckers, mockingbirds, thrashers, cactus wren and others. The fruit are eaten by small mammals as well as deer. Skunkbush is browsed by deer, exotics, goats and sheep but not highly preferred. Protein content of the browse is about 15 percent for new growth in early spring, then

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dropping to about 10 percent in summer and fall. Although it is not one of the more nutritious or preferred browse plants, it is often abundant and can contribute significantly to deer diets. In a diet study conducted by TPWD in the Rolling Plains, skunkbush was the sixth most important plant in the yearlong diet, making up five percent of the diet. Although this may sound like a small amount, five percent of the annual diet means that each deer is consuming over 60 pounds of skunkbush each year. Skunkbush is also browsed by mule deer, pronghorn and bighorn sheep. Skunkbush sumac provides good cover for many kinds of birds. Some small song birds make nests in the dense network of interior branches and twigs. Quail and other ground dwelling birds use skunkbush for overhead cover and protection from hawks. For landowners interested in wildlife habitat, sumacs should normally be protected when conducting mechanical brush control operations. Skunkbush is susceptible to some aerially applied herbicides used for pricklypear control. Skunkbush and other kinds of sumac respond positively to fire by sprouting back from the base, and fire can be used to temporarily increase the availability and nutritional content of browse.


DullnigRanches.com Rober t Dullnig 210 . 213 .970 0 DullnigRanches @gmail.com

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WWW.TExAS-WILDLIFE.OrG

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Photo by Wyman Meinzer

Coyotes and Quail Article by Dale Rollins, Ph.D. Coyote and Blue Quail

C

ertain animals have earned iconic status with Texans – the venerable white-tailed deer, roadrunners, bobwhite quail and coyotes would be on most folks’ short list. Who hasn’t enjoyed the spirited sunset chorus of coyotes in west or South Texas? Likely few have with the exception of sheep and goat ranchers in the Edwards Plateau. But what about quail hunters? Should coyotes be targeted, toasted or tolerated? Coyotes play a Dr. Jekyll-Mr. Hyde type duality, and as such they enjoy a lovehate relationship with Texas landowners. They are viewed as anything from Nature’s sanitation engineer to a pariah with the contrast sometimes occurring across adjacent property lines. Headquartered in San Angelo

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for the past 28 years, I’ve dealt with predator politics most of my career. When I called for the first “Predator Appreciation Day” in 1995 it raised quite a stir, but as I reminded those in attendance, form does indeed follow function – there was method to my madness. I’ve made a career out of appreciating things ranging from quail to feral hogs to brush to predators. Regardless of the species du jour, the goal of a Predator Appreciation Day plays on several contexts of the word “appreciate.” These include: (a) value or admire highly (easily comprehended for a Quail Appreciation Day but less so concerning feral hogs); (b) to judge with heightened awareness; (c) to be cautiously or sensitively aware of, and (d) to increase the

value of. Given this backgrounding, let’s seek to appreciate coyotes and quail. A Coyote Quiz True or false? A coyote will catch a quail or eat its eggs given the opportunity (True). Controlling coyotes will usually result in an increase in quail abundance (False). Coyote abundance and quail abundance are directly related, i.e., areas with higher coyote abundance tend to have higher quail numbers (True, even if it at first seems contradictory). Think about that last statement (most QuailMasters miss that question on the pretest!). South Texas and the Rolling Plains harbor high numbers of coyotes (up to six per square mile) while the Edwards Plateau harbors the least (due to its history of sheep and goat production). Of those three ecoregions,


Photo by Dale Rollins

bobwhite abundance is highest in the Rolling Plains and South Texas but much lower in the Edwards Plateau. Correlated? Absolutely. Cause-and-effect? Maybe, although certainly other factors (soils) are involved too. When dealing with predator-prey relationships, one plus one doesn’t always equal two. While you’re contemplating the above coyote conundrum, ask yourself which ecoregion has the greatest abundance of various “mesocarnivores,” (skunks, raccoons, foxes). I’ll wager the Edwards Plateau does. Gray foxes and feral housecats are rare in areas where coyotes roam but quite common in the Plateau. Raccoons are increasingly omnipresent across all three ecoregions, but I’ll wager their distribution across the landscape is more constrained in areas where coyotes are common. More on that relationship shortly. The “Mesopredator Release Hypothesis” suggests that when a top-level species of predator (e.g., grey wolf) is removed, smaller species of predators (coyotes) will fill the void; simply put Nature does abhor a predator vacuum. Reminds me of an idiom I learned in parasitology back in 1976, “Bigger bugs have smaller bugs upon their back to bite’em. Smaller bugs have lesser bugs and so ad infinitum.” Our discussion here posits the idea that removal of coyotes prompts greater numbers of various quail-threat mammals, e.g., raccoons, skunks, grey foxes and perhaps even feral hogs. Research on coyote diets Coyotes are opportunistic, generalist predators – their diet typically reflects availability of various food items. Typically, rodents and rabbits will be key items as well as fruits, insects and carrion. In an extensive literature review of diet across 17 western states, coyote diets averaged 33 percent rabbits, 25 percent carrion, 18 percent rodent and 13 percent domestic livestock. Birds, specifically bobwhites and their eggs, comprised only 0.9 percent of the coyote diet in south Texas in a study by Scott Henke of the Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute (CKWRI). Only 12 of the 407 coyote stomachs contained bobwhite or their eggs. Wyman Meinzer reported only minor use of quail (0.2 percent by volume in 514 scats) from the Rolling Plains. In contrast, Val Lehmann reported that 37 percent of the coyote diet during spring and summer in south Texas consisted

Dr. Susan Cooper (l) secures a GPS radio collar on a coyote while RPQRR staff restrain the coyote. Researchers used net-guns from a helicopter to capture coyotes for the study.

www.texas-wildlife.org

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of bobwhites, but his sample size was low (n = 14 coyotes). Mark Tyson, then a graduate student at Texas Tech University, studied the diet of coyotes at the rolling Plains Quail research ranch (rPQrr) during 2010-2013. He examined a total of 1,028 coyote scats (30 per month) but only found quail feathers in one scat. rodents were the No. 1 prey, pricklypear was No. 2 in the diet and mesquite beans were third across the three-year-study. Interestingly, the frequency of various prey items in coyote scats at rPQrr suggested they consumed more feral hogs, skunks, raccoons, snakes and badgers than they did quail. This project was conducted during historic drought and quail abundance was relatively low. Coyotes, Coons, & Quail Habitat As a kid growing up in southwestern Oklahoma, where coyotes were abundant, occasionally we’d go coon hunting with the resident expert Bill Paige. Our destination was always the red river or the Salt Fork thereof – such riparian areas were the only places raccoons were found, at least in the 1970s. My travels across the Edwards Plateau since that time often reveal raccoon tracks in any cow trail. Might the two observations be related?

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Dr. Susan Cooper with Agrilife research led a project at rPQrr aimed at describing the use of various habitats during the nesting season of bobwhites (mid-May through June) by various mesocarnivores. We put GPScollars on coyotes, bobcats and raccoons and recorded their whereabouts at 5-minute intervals from dusk until dawn. The collars collected waypoints for six weeks then dropped off to allow retrieval of the data. Coyotes showed distinct territories and rarely ventured off of the ranch (as if we had a coyote-proof fence, but our fence is old and worn and replete with holes and “slides”) and thoroughly covered all parts of their home range, while bobcats and female raccoons were restricted mostly to riparian areas and dense brush. However, male raccoons ventured out in the open and frequented quail feeders during midnight buffets. Why the difference in habitat use between genders? We speculate it’s because of the threat of predation by coyotes to the female raccoon and her kittens. Boar raccoons, owing to their larger size, may be less vulnerable to predation by coyotes, or perhaps they’re just more adventurous. One male raccoon was killed the day before his collar was due to drop off. He was found dead about 50 yards

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from an area of dense brush from what we discerned as predation by coyotes. So, our data confirmed that coyotes (a) are a minor predator of quail, (b) consumed smaller predators of quail, and (c) restricted raccoons to habitats that are unlikely to be used as nesting sites by bobwhites. Although coyotes may occasionally eat quail or their eggs, there is no evidence that such levels of predation negatively influence quail abundance. Henke concluded that “the possibility of a greater loss of bobwhite production to mesopredators could exist in southern Texas with the implementation of coyote removal. Therefore, the benefit of coyotes to bobwhites may actually outweigh the occasional loss of birds to coyotes by depredation.” Not quite what you reckoned, eh? The rPQrr has a low density of deer – very low (perhaps 100 acres per deer). IF deer were our target species, we’d be targeting coyotes for control. But everything at rPQrr points to quail, not deer. Accordingly, we tolerate the coyotes, and after a successful quail hunt may even toast their serenade. As J. Frank Dobie said “Cantad amigos!”


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The Sulphur River, in northeast Texas, flows through some of the most valuable timberland left in Texas.

GROWTH OR PROPERTY RIGHTS? Article by Henry Chappell Photos by Russell Graves

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he Sulphur River, in northeast Texas, runs through some of the best remaining hardwood bottomland in Texas. Our state has already lost nearly 70 percent of its bottomland to reservoirs and other development. Small communities in the Sulphur River Basin support, and are supported by, farming, logging and the broader timber industry. Hunters from urban areas pay landowners for access to forest and field and patronize local businesses. Some 120 miles west, on the semi-arid Blackland Prairie, Dallasarea business interests and water developers see in the rich Sulphur watershed the key to unlimited economic growth. The Blackland Prairie is droughty. During a wet spring, pastures and woodland patches will be as green as any in Vermont. As I write this, North Texas reservoirs are brimming if not out of their banks due to record rainfall. It won’t last. Within a few years, spring will roar in hot, windy and dry; we’ll see temperatures in the mid1990s before the end of April, and dry, triple digit days from June to September. Boat docks will be sitting on cracked mud. City leaders want to “ensure Dallas’s continued growth” and believe their region’s economic contributions entitle them to Sulphur River water. If they prevail, 67,000 acres of prime hardwood

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bottomland, all of it privately owned, will be condemned, taken under eminent domain, and drowned beneath a reservoir that will supply water to a growing Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. TTo satisfy environmental requirements, some 140,000 additional acres may be condemned and set aside to mitigate the loss of irreplaceable wildlife habitat. The proposed impoundment, Marvin Nichols Reservoir, named in honor of one of the founders of Freese & Nichols, Inc., the Fort Worth engineering firm positioned to receive the lion’s share of the engineering contract, will cost an estimated $3.3 billion. A 2002 study by the Texas State Forest Service estimated that construction of Marvin Nichols Reservoir would cost the Northeast Texas economy 400-1300 jobs and $87 million to $275 million annually. Yet, the state must plan for its future water needs. Elderly Dallas residents remember the 1954-56 “drought of record,” a time of unreliable tap water, when scalding water from an emergency 3,000-foot well saved the suburb of Garland from a dangerous shortage. Nowadays, 16 regional planning groups, each composed of members representing the region’s stakeholders – agriculture, business, water development, industry, environmental and


Although we must plan for future water needs, skeptics wonder whether Marvin Nichols Reservoir is necessary because millions of people are coming to North Texas, or to ensure that they will come.

others, see to their region’s needs. In theory, this approach fosters grassroots water planning. The Region C Water Planning Area includes 16 North Texas Counties, with the Dallas-Fort Worth at its center. Region D Water Planning area is largely rural and encompasses all or parts of 19 counties in Northeast Texas, including the proposed Marvin Nichols Reservoir sites. Region C planning group recommends construction of the reservoir. Region D planners oppose the project. In a bitter 2007 legislative battle, urban interests prevailed at the last minute. The reservoir was included in the state water plan. Today, northeast Texas landowners work pastures and woodlands that have been designated as possible reservoir sites. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service considers the Sulphur bottoms (private land, kindly-used for generations) some of the most valuable wildlife habitat in the country. As for mitigating the environmental impact by taking even more land and managing it intensely, Tom Cloud, a USFWS field supervisor said, “It’s going to be extremely hard to find anything of this magnitude and quality.” According to a 2014 analysis prepared by Trungale Engineering & Science, of Austin, and Environmental Conservation Alliance, the vast and severe damage that will result from inundation and downstream flow reduction and the scarcity of remaining hardwood bottomland habitat render proper environmental mitigation impractical. During the 2013 legislative session, a bill to authorize funding for Marvin Nichols Reservoir and similar projects died in the House, but the water developers regrouped. During the three years prior to the recent rains, parts of Texas suffered drought rivaling the 1950s drought of record. For now, we have enough water. But millions of people are coming, we’re told. According to Region C projections, the DFW-area population will double by 2060. Yet skeptics wonder if the reservoir project must go forward because “these people are coming” or “so these people will come?” How can planning that disrupts lives 100 miles away be

called “local” or “bottom-up?” How will the projected benefits be distributed? Or, after being taken from northeast Texas, how will the vast natural wealth be redistributed? The fighting continues. This past January, the Texas Water Development Board voted unanimously to leave Marvin Nichols Reservoir in the state water plan. During the most recent legislative session, North Texas lawmakers, led by Rep. Kenneth Sheets, R-Dallas, killed an amendment that would have required Dallas planners to get approval from Region D planning group before building the reservoir. Planners cite costs and benefits, but some things are impossible to quantify. A dear friend of mine, an elderly backwoodsman, grew up in the Sabine River bottom and saw first-hand the impact of construction of giant Toledo Bend Reservoir on the Texas-Louisiana border. Upon learning of the proposed Sulphur River project he said, “Well, a whole new bunch of people will replace those living there now.”

Though ordinary looking, the Sulphur nourishes a rich culture and ecology.

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Photo by Larry Ditto

Deer and goats can severely compete for browse when animal numbers are not well managed. Social competition and aggression is also apparent.

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Managing Competition The Key to Wildlife Management Article by Steve Nelle

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will be very desirable for certain kinds of wildlife or livestock, while others will be less desirable. The job of the manager is to determine which combination of plants is best suited to his or her objectives and consistent with long term sustainability of the resource. Sunlight Competition The shading of land from the dense evergreen canopy of blueberry cedar is a good example of sunlight limitation and competition. Many have noted the scarcity of plants growing beneath a thick grove of cedar. This is not due so much to moisture competition but rather the lack of sunlight. Contrary to popular notion, these cedar dominated sites are often very productive, yielding in excess of 2,500 pounds per acre per year, but it is largely composed of cedar growth. The thinning or removal of the cedar canopy to allow sunlight penetration is a common practice of ranchers and wildlife managers as they seek to grow more grasses, forbs and Photo by Steve Nelle

astering the understanding and manipulation of plant and animal competition is perhaps the single most essential element to successful land and wildlife management. Land managers are in a position to actively and continuously tweak and adjust the various factors that affect habitat. We do not have total control of all factors, but we have enough sway over enough factors that our management makes a lasting difference. When it comes to the plants and animals that live on the land, we seek to determine or at least influence which species thrive and which ones diminish. It is well understood by habitat managers that plants compete among and between themselves for limited resources. Essential resources for which plants compete include sunlight, soil moisture and nutrients. Any given piece of land in any part of Texas has the potential to grow perhaps 150 to 300 species of plants. Some of these

Careful, selective brush sculpting has been used to reduce the competition of mesquite and cedar, while retaining good dense clumps of mixed brush for quail.

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habitat potential. With a finite supply of enough animals, especially females, to keep moisture, the active manager must try to the population balanced to the natural exert enough control to favor the plants food supply. In some places, this balance most useful to him and reduce the plants is rarely achieved, hence the chronic over least useful to him. For the cattle producer, populations and degraded habitat. Excess numbers of cattle, sheep or he wants most of the moisture to go toward goats for the available forage supply grass production and less toward brush also causes similar problems. Although and weeds. For the deer manager, he wants acute, widespread overgrazing is no more brush, browse and forbs and settles longer commonplace, many ranches for less grass. The decisions made by each are still suff ering the long term effects are consciously or subconsciously geared toward managing competition for moisture of past management. Nowadays, many to grow the plants they want most. Obviously we cannot influence how much it rains or when it rains, but management can affect the effectiveness of rainfall and which kinds of plants use the rainfall. rainfall effectiveness is driven by one key factor – keeping the soil well covered yearlong with plants and plant litter mulch. This not only maximizes the infiltration of rainfall, but also promotes soil health which maximizes the ability of soil to hold water. When the manager improves soil health and rainfall retention, he or she is simultaneously improving the nutrients available for plant growth. Animal to Animal Competition Wildlife managers and range managers also adjust and manage competition among various species of animals and between animals of the same species. The prime example of competition between animals of the same species is white-tailed deer. It is no secret that much of Texas has too many deer and that excess competition for food negatively affects the health Bobwhite quail and cattle both require grass cover and can create a form of competition. Landowner goals determine how of the deer and the health of much grass to allocate for nest cover compared to livestock the habitat. Managers strive forage. year after year to remove Photo by Steve Bentsen

Photo by Steve nelle

MANAGING COMPETITION

Heavy browsing of preferred forbs is a visual indication of excess competition. In this example, rabbits have over-browsed showy menodora, a desirable deer food plant.

other shrubs. Following brush control, that same location may now be set to grow the same 2,500 pounds of annual production, but now it might be composed of two dozen species of grass, 50 or more species of forbs and numerous kinds of shrubs and trees. In the steep canyon-lands of the Hill Country, where cedar woodlands are the natural historic cover, the manager may simply want to modestly thin the cedar in order to help improve the growth of associated hardwoods such as cherry, oaks, ash, elm and madrone. A different example of sunlight competition is the excess growth of grass which creates a dense mat that shades the ground, smothering forb and weed growth. For those trying to raise deer or quail, too much grass can materially reduce the quality of habitat and the abundance of food plants. reducing the grass cover to favor forbs becomes an important act of management, especially in high rainfall areas or wet years. Moisture Competition Plant competition for moisture is another driving force for wildlife management. In most years across much of the state, a lack of soil moisture and competition for limited moisture is what determines

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Chronic heavy browsing of hackberry by cattle and deer has created a stunted compact bush demonstrating the effects of competition.

Cattle grazing can be used as an income generating tool to maintain desirable habitat conditions for wildlife.

some other exotics, when their preferred foods are reduced or eliminated, they switch to a diet of grass and are therefore able to out-compete white-tail. other Competition Competition is not limited to species with similar food habits. How many times have you heard that cattle and deer do not compete? This oft repeated claim is not necessarily true. A mature beef cow on native range consumes about 30 pounds of forage each day. Typically, about 75 percent to 90 percent of their diet is grass, and 10 percent to 25 percent is forbs and browse. This means that on average, a single cow is eating between 3 to 7.5 pounds of deer food (forbs and browse) each day. Each deer on average, consumes about 3.5 to 5

pounds each day. While the consumption of forbs and browse by cattle appears to be small when expressed as percentage, it is significant when expressed in pounds of forage consumed. On most Texas ranches, each cow consumes as much or more deer feed each day than is eaten by one deer. This is not necessarily a problem if cattle numbers are kept in balance and rotated, but it can be a problem when livestock are not well managed. Another type of competition exists between cattle and quail. While this is not direct competition for food, it is a very real competition for grass cover. Quail nest in large, lightly grazed clumps of grass. Cattle eat grass. This can cause competitive demand for the same thing. When cattle grazing is

Photo by Steve nelle

ranchers realize the wisdom of minimizing competitive overgrazing by keeping livestock numbers adjusted to the current forage supply. Another important aspect of management is to understand the competition that exists between different species which have similar feeding habits. Axis deer versus white-tailed deer is a good example. While their feeding habits are not identical, they are similar enough to cause problems if animal numbers are not properly managed. Many ranches are already fully stocked with white-tail; when axis or other similar species are added, competition often becomes excessive which can result in poor animal performance and loss of preferred plants due to overuse. In the case of axis and

Photo by Steve nelle

Photo by Steve nelle

MANAGING COMPETITION

When the deer population is well managed to minimize deer to deer competition, and when the habitat is well managed, the results are impressive.

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MANAGING COMPETITION

Photo by Larry Ditto

Photo by Larry Ditto

the mesquite but leave the lotebush, catclaw and hackberry, he is actively managing competition. The tool of “Plow” is the tilling of soil, often accompanied by the planting of seed. Plowing destroys or alters the existing plant cover and prepares the land for different kinds of plants. Plowing modifies the competitive balance among plants and is commonly used for food plots, weed patch stimulation and grassland restoration. Various species of exotic antelope, deer and sheep compete with native wildlife for forage; their numbers must often be The tool of “Cow,” or aggressively managed to maintain good habitat. grazing management, can be an effective and money making tool to alter plant well managed with the specific intent of effect is the essence of land management. communities and habitat. When grass keeping good nest cover, the competition The five basic tools espoused by Aldo becomes too thick for wildlife, more grazing is insignificant. In dry years, or when cattle Leopold in 1933 are still the primary ones is needed. When grass becomes too thin, are not managed with nest cover in mind, used today to manage plant and animal less grazing is needed, or perhaps a more there can be a shortage of nest cover which competition. The “Axe” speaks of our translates into poor nest success. activities to manage trees and shrubs. As sophisticated grazing rotation employed. The tool of “Fire” is commonly used to Tools to Manipulate Competition we manage the density and composition reduce cedar and pricklypear, or merely Many different tools and techniques of trees and shrubs, we favor some species to thin the brush canopy and favor grass are available to help the land manager at the expense of others. This is the basis and forb production. Fire is also used to manipulate competition. Using the right of modern brush management. When the renovate browse that has grown out of tools in the right way to achieve the desired landowner tells the contractor to take out

Excessive competition between over-abundant deer is a major issue in parts of Texas. Reducing the population through hunting is essential.

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Photo by Steve nelle

MANAGING COMPETITION

Animals with different feeding habits can co-exist together with minimal competition.

reach of deer and to increase the nutritional value of deer food plants. The tool of “Gun,� or harvest management, is especially important when trying to manage the deer or exotic population. Liberal and flexible hunting regulations are in place to allow managers the ability to keep deer populations in balance with habitat. Another important tool to manage animal numbers is the high fence. Like all other tools, it is not good or bad; the way in which it is used determines whether it has a beneficial or detrimental effect. Management by objective Land managers must consciously decide specifically what they intend to do with their land. If you do not have clear cut objectives, the land often goes its own direction which may or may not be consistent with your desires. In the Hill Country, long term unmanaged land tends to grow toward a thicker and thicker cover of cedar. In parts of East Texas, untended land often develops a thicker and thicker cover of yaupon, sweetgum or pine trees. In every region and on every different soil type, there are characteristic plants that tend to dominate over time. Managing

the dominance and competition among these plants to achieve desired objectives is often the goal of habitat managers. For the manager trying to produce multiple species of wildlife in addition to livestock, manipulating the competition between these plants is an ever changing balancing and rebalancing act. It requires the creative and skillful combination of art and science and should be guided by stewardship ethics. Conscientious land stewardship normally involves the active manipulation of plants and animals. It is usually not enough to just let nature take its course. Ever since the Garden of Eden, the earth has produced thorns, thistles and weeds in addition to desirable plants. The biblical account reminds us that mankind was relegated to a life of toil to make the land produce desired crops. Productive, sustainable and profitable farming, ranching, forestry and wildlife management requires that men and women take responsible control of the condition and productivity of the land. When these manipulations are done in a way that maintains the natural bounty, diversity and beauty of the land, the toils are worth it, and the outcome is good.

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Frog hunting Article and Photos by Russell A. Graves

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he sound is hard to describe but if you ever heard it you don’t forget: “Wuh-um, wuh-um, wuh-um,” bellows the big bullfrog in a baritone voice from the edge of the small pond that sits a couple of hundred feet from my country cabin in central Fannin County. He’s fervently looking for a mate; so, each night, he sings the same love song over and over. If you like the country, you are bound to love that sound. Nothing epitomizes Texas summer nights like fireflies and noisy bullfrogs. I have a lifelong fascination with bullfrogs that started when I was a kid, and some of my earliest memories in the outdoors involve frog gigging with my dad and his cousin. My people are originally from the central Texas area around Kosse. For years, we’d have our family reunion at Fort Parker State Park near Mexia. During our three or four days stints camping at the park, my dad would bring his jonboat. During the days, we’d fish the lake at the park; but at night, he’d launch the boat for a post-dusk foray down the Navasota River where he and his cousin Milton would tag team bullfrogs and haul a bucketful from the bank of the river while three burr-headed boys (me and my two brothers) held the spotlight. Occasionally, my dad would let one of us lean from the boat and try to catch a big green frog barehanded, but lack of coordination and quickness meant the frogs jumped away more often than not. Back in the day, however, he and Milton were a formidable duo and were efficient at catching a mess of the amphibians. After a night of frog hunting, my dad would put the catch in a small tub with a bit of water so they wouldn’t dry out. The next

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morning he’d clean them. He was as good at cleaning frogs as he was at catching them. He’d reach into the bucket, snatch a frog out by the hind legs and in one deft motion, lay them across a stump and chop off the back legs with a hatchet. He’d toss the front half back on the ground where they’d instinctively crawl back to the water. “Where are the frogs going now, daddy,” I asked him. I couldn’t have been more than seven or eight at the time. “They’ll go back to the river, grow some more legs, and we’ll catch them again next year,” he smiled with all the swagger of a 40-something while wearing his aviator sunglasses, cut off jeans and pearl snapped shirt. Back in the late 1970s, my dad was the epitome of a “good ol’ boy:” a fan of Willie and Waylon, drinker of Pearl beer, and just the right combination of a hell raising blue collar worker and a doting father who shared his love of the outdoors and her bounty with his boys. Back at camp, he’d slather the legs in a concoction of beer, corn meal and other ingredients and lay them in the cast iron skillet filled with grease made hot by oak wood embers that glowed red with heat. “They taste like chicken,” said just about anyone in camp who happened to try fried frog legs for the first time. Everything tastes like chicken when you are trying something new. The frog legs never offered much meat, but what little they did yield was satisfying considering the way they were harvested. My daddy and his people were “foodies”

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before the word was ever invented…fresh vegetables from the garden, blackberries and wild pears picked from the fields, and protein harvested from the woods and the water was just how we lived. No catchy catch phrases like “farm-to-table” or “locally grown” was ever part of our lexicon when I was young. Locally grown for us was walking out the screen door and picking squash from the garden or catching channel cats from our pond. Therefore, catching frogs and then eating their legs was just what we did. Traditions are a simple concept. What is taught to you, you pass on to another. There is an intrinsic value to traditions as they help bond families, people, communities and cultures to a common practice or ethic. Frog gigging is a southern tradition. Although maps belie the notion, the old south culture and traditions spill over into East Texas; and, somewhere along the IH35 corridor, the south ends and the rest of Texas begins. I grew up along the cultural demarcation line in an area that has abundant ponds and a creek that dominates the local landscape. Bois’ d’arc Creek is slow and has enough backwater sloughs to have a good population of bullfrogs and even into my teens, we still hunted frogs a lot during the warmer months. The tradition was passed from my granddad to my dad and then onto me and my brothers. Fast forward nearly 40 years from my early days on the Navasota river, I’ve spent the last few years passing a frog hunting tradition to my kids. Thankfully, bullfrogs are a common and abundant species in Texas. They are found in most counties save for some of the perennially dry ones in the western part of the state. Their slick, green skin provides excellent camouflage that aids the frog in hiding from predator species while at the same time keeping them hidden from the species the bullfrog eats like crawfish, insects and most other small aquatic life that lives in their proximity in the marsh. The bullfrog has all the features you’d expect the amphibian to have: webbed toes for swimming and strong, powerful legs made for jumping and gliding through the


FROG HUNTING

water. The legs are so powerful that the frog can jump up to 10 times its body length to escape predators. Each summer, bullfrogs breed in the marshes in which they live and the female (which is slightly larger than the male) lays up to 20,000 eggs in the water. Male bullfrogs establish and defend their own territory in the marsh, and the females lay their eggs in the same area where they are bred. In less than a week, the eggs hatch and the tadpoles begin feeding on algae and bacteria that they ingest from the water. After a couple of months, the tiny tadpole metamorphoses by growing legs and losing its tail; and, ultimately, it takes its place in the marsh as another generation of bullfrogs. May of 2015 wasn’t the optimum time to hunt frogs. With the once-in-2,000-years rainfall that Texas experienced, it was no doubt a great time to be a frog. Wet nights and high water, however, made it hard to get around our familiar haunts and hunt frogs. With a respite in the rainfall in late May, the temperatures were over 80 degrees and while the Northeast Texas blackland

mud was soppy, it was still manageable with rubber boots. On the next to the last day of the month, rain fell earlier in the day and then the sun came out. The result is steamy and sticky air that had a relative humidity of what felt like 150 percent. That night, five of us go out…my friend Garry, my brother Bubba and his 20-yearold son on leave from the army, and my 10-year-old son ryan and me. ryan’s been frog hunting a few times and so has Bo. But, by far, the ones with the most time hunting for the one-pound amphibians are me and Bubba. Our gear is simple: a couple of cordless q-beam spotlights, a regular flashlight or two and a frog gig. The frog gig we carry is a family relic that may be more than half a century old. Our granddad carried it. Our dad used it, and now we carry it along when we hunt. The device looks formidable. It’s a flat spring loaded pair of grappling jaws that, by force of leverage, close and grip anything with which it comes in contact. It’s got a healthy dose of rusty patina that shows years of wear, and it’s attached to a locally harvested,

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10-foot-long bamboo pole. We carry it mainly out of tradition, but we will use it to catch frogs that are up in brush or to keep night roaming snakes at bay. Like our dad, however, we catch the frogs by hand when we can. While it’s early in the season, the rain and mild weather has slowed the bullfrogs’ amorous instincts. As such, they haven’t been too active so far this year. Earlier in the day, I walked the perimeter of two ponds on my place looking for a frog hanging out along the bank or halfway submerged in the shallow water with only his eyes above the surface, but I saw nothing. That night, our hunting party checked the ponds again but aside from a broad banded water snake, we didn’t find any amphibians; although, at least one was here the night before. By midsummer they’ll be thick in here. We head down the county road to Bubba’s land, since he reports that he’s been hearing a big bull bellowing from the marsh on the nights when the rain wasn’t falling. A short walk from Bubba’s house finds us on the edge of a duck marsh that he created in some bottomland that slices through his property. About three years old, the

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two-acre marsh is a wildlife haven. During the winter, ducks of all kinds frequent the shallow water wetland while throughout the rest of the year, beavers, otters, crawdads, snakes and bullfrogs take advantage of the habitat. On one of the first clear nights in a month, steam rises from the marsh while a gibbous moon hangs towards the western half of the sky. The frogs are everywhere. Small green frogs are thick in the marsh, and we stop and watch them for a while as they inflate their throat sacks and make a variety of sounds intended to attract mates. Even in the trees that flank the wetlands, green tree frogs and a variety of toads sing their species’ version of an ambitious love song. We are at the marsh for five minutes when Bubba spots an enormous frog. He lays the gig down while I shine the light on the frog. The spotlight isn’t injuriously powerful but just strong enough to dilate the pupils in the frog so he loses his night vision. Meanwhile, Bubba slips through the water and sneaks behind him. It’s over as fast as it started when Bubba reaches down and snatches the frog from

AUGUST 2015

the water. It’s big and healthy and doesn’t seem to mind being held. Tonight, however, we don’t plan to eat any. It’s all about catch and release to teach our boys how to frog hunt. We all check him out for a bit and then toss him back where he quickly swims away, For at least two more hours we walk around in the dark and look at small frogs, snakes and pick up the angriest crawfish we’ve experienced for a while. Summer nights in the wild are magical. Ultimately, that’s the takeaway: it’s fascinating to experience the natural world as it comes alive once the sun goes down. At midnight, we head back to Bubba’s house to clean up and talk about the experience. One frog is all it took to unleash a flood of memories from our childhood and pass the tales on to our boys. About halfway back to Bubba’s house, we hear the old bullfrog again. “Wuh-um, wuh-um, wuh-um,” he calls from the marsh in a steady, cadenced fashion. He’s reminding us that he’s out there anytime we get ready to reconnect with an old southern tradition once again.


JOIN YOUR NEIGHBORS WHO ARE MAKING A DIFFERENCE As members of the Texas Wildlife Association, we are asking our neighbors who are fellow conservationists, ranchers and hunters to join our vital efforts. Your membership will help promote Texas’ hunting traditions and the opportunity for new generations to know the pleasures of the Texas outdoors. By joining, you will also strengthen our work with legislators, educators and wildlife biologists to safeguard private lands and the many species of wildlife they support. The future of our wildlife populations depends on you. Join your neighbors today! TO JOIN OR FOR MORE INFORMATION texas-wildlife.org • (800) 839-9453 Photo by D.K. Langford

EDNA TO EDEN.

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www.texas-wildlife.org

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Photo by Dave Hewitt

In the heat of a South Texas day, white-tailed deer typically hide out in tall, dense brush. Thus when planning brush management, CKWRI researchers recommend keeping the tall brush.

Research Suggests South Texas Heat Impacts Deer Productivity This article by Colleen Schreiber was printed in the April 2, 2015 issue of Livestock Weekly, and it is reprinted here with permission.

S

outh Texas may be the last great habitat, but it’s also known for its hot weather and unpredictable rainfall patterns. Wildlife adapt to the regions in which they live, but as with humans, a little too much of anything — be it summer’s heat or winter’s cold — can have a negative impact on their ability to thrive. White-tailed deer are no different. The productivity of a deer population in South Texas is undoubtedly tied to rainfall. Fawn to doe ratios, antler size and population growth overall tend to be better in wet years compared to dry years. The typical explanation is that these metrics are better in wet years because forage availability is better — there’s more of the good stuff out there on the landscape — and therefore the deer’s level of nutrition is better. A typical response to counter poor nutrition, particularly in dry years, is to make available a consistent, high quality pelleted feed. However, the team of researchers at the Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute has found that this practice alone does not solve all the problems associated with drouth. On the CKWRI Comanche-Faith project, a decade-plus research effort, researchers documented that supplemental feed indeed improves

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the fawn to doe ratio, antler size and the population growth rate. Even with the presence of supplementation, however, the deer still did more poorly in the dry years compared to the wet years. In other words, the variation in productivity is still there, year in and year out, regardless of whether the deer have supplementation. “That suggests it isn’t just about nutrition, that something else is going on,” says Dr. Dave Hewitt, the leader of the deer research group at the CKWRI. Another line of evidence to support this hypothesis comes from data collected in the deer pens at the Kerr Wildlife Management area at Hunt. Researchers see variation in yearling buck weights and antler beam length from year to year even though these deer are maintained on the same level of nutrition year in and year out. More to the point, these yearling bucks are less productive in the dry years, even in a pen situation where nutrition is adequate. An observation heard from ranch managers time and time again is that consumption of pelleted feed by deer drops off during the summer months, regardless of whether it’s dry or wet. And in fact, on the Comanche-Faith project researchers documented a consistent drop in consumption during the summer months


Photo by Timothy Fulbright

relative to other seasons. More data on Using GPS collars, CKWRI scientists have found, in fact, that their bedding sites in another South Texas research project learned more about how deer move across litter were four degrees cooler than other showed that feeder site visitation dropped the landscape and more about their habitat random spots in the nearby habitat. off in June, July and August. selection. In the heat of the day, the deer In planning brush management, CKWRI One possible explanation is that the typically hide out in tall dense brush. Also researcher Charlie DeYoung, who also does South Texas heat is causing problems for other movement data showed that during a lot of management-related consulting, the deer. Basically every function from the heat of the day, fawns tended not to be says when it comes to managing the heat movement to digestion, reproduction, in the tallest brush but rather selected for for deer the two things to keep in mind are growth and maintenance causes vegetation and water. a deer to produce heat. Not “Preserve the tall brush,” says only that, dry years are typically DeYoung. hotter than normal. Thus, Hewitt Generally when using a roller suggests that deer have to find chopper or aerator saving the big other ways to rid their bodies of stuff is not an issue because such excessive heat. equipment is not able to tackle “Perhaps they reduce intake the really big stuff. However, of pelleted feed to reduce the where he has noticed problems, amount of heat they generate,” where the big brush has been says Hewitt. damaged, is when herbicides are Researchers have also learned applied from the air. that deer consume large amounts “I don’t like to see hundreds of mast such as mesquite beans of acres of tall brush in a block and prickly pear tunas during the being sprayed,” says DeYoung. summer months. He suggests, instead, spraying “Another possible reason that in strips or better yet leaving a the deer switch from pelleted feed pattern of mottes with large brush to more mast might be because dotted across the landscape. Also the pelleted feed, which typically when doing brush strips, a helpful has a lot of grain, ferments management technique that could quickly in the deer’s rumen, and help dissipate heat further, he in the process produces a lot of says, is to orient the brush strips heat over a short period of time,” with the prevailing wind. explains Hewitt. “The native As for water management to vegetation, on the other hand, is help with the searing South Texas not as easily digested; therefore, heat, DeYoung suggests that the the heat accumulated from the more water there is available the digestion process is spread over better it is for the deer. He knows a longer period. So perhaps this of managers who put a water is part of the explanation for why trough by every deer feeder and deer eat less supplemental feed in others who have a water source the hot summer months.” for every 300 acres. CKWRI researcher Tim “There’s no data to say one is deer fawns tend to select bed sites under woody plant Fulbright points out that unlike White-tailed better than the other,” DeYoung canopies where it is cooler during the day; they also choose locations humans, deer do not have sweat with taller grass for hiding. They choose it also for the litter, because it reiterates, “but deer need water glands. They can pant, however, may provide insulation from heat radiating from the ground. when they’re feeding, and if to dissipate heat. The problem water is readily available, they’re for South Texas whitetails is that going to eat more.” water is often limiting, and to dissipate heat horizontal screening, particularly tall grass. Water distribution, he points out, is by panting, adequate water is needed. In another study researchers learned that relatively easy to accomplish and at a Given that Fulbright suggests that fawns tended to select bed sites adjacent minimal cost, at least compared to other South Texas whitetails, most likely use to brush clumps. Fawns also tended to major management infrastructure. behavioral adaptations to survive the select sites with considerable litter. CKWRI A project underway now at the Faith and heat – adaptations as simple as reducing researchers suggest that perhaps the fawns Comanche ranches is investigating further movement during the heat of the day and used the litter to insulate them from the the importance of water. choosing locations that tend to be cooler. heat radiating from the ground. They

www.texas-wildlife.org

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community bankers

SECURITY STATE BANK, SOUTH TEXAS IN PEARSALL

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

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ICF –Your Images, Their Future

Saving W ildlife One Image at a Time

ICF SNAPSHOT OF THE MONTH

by karine Aigner The killdeer chick is no stranger to the race. With eyes open upon hatching, the precocious chicks waste no time and are on their feet in minutes, immediately learning to forage with their parents. Photographer Karine Aigner is no stranger to following wildlife with her lens, but, she says that the killdeer chicks are a challenge to photograph – they barely stop moving for a second! Aigner captured this image on TWA landowner member Camp Lula Sams in Brownsville. 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. Save camp Lula Sams is a capital campaign led by the Images for conservation Fund, in conjunction with valley Land Fund, Wildlife conservation and Education Society of South Texas and brownsville community Improvement corporation. For more information, visit www.imagesforconservation.org.

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Texas Wildlife, August 2015  

Texas Wildlife is the official publication of the Texas Wildlife Association.

Texas Wildlife, August 2015  

Texas Wildlife is the official publication of the Texas Wildlife Association.