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Prime Time for

Big Bucks



Guarantees are hard to come by in rural Texas. Thanks to Capital Farm Credit, a reliable source of capital is not. For nearly 100 years, we’ve lived and worked in the same communities as the men and women we serve. Our cooperative structure ensures we never stop caring — and our financial support means rural Texas never stops growing. | 877.944.5500





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



ovember is finally here. This is the month that every hunter in Texas has been waiting for since the end of last hunting season. But, this year has carried much more anticipation than other recent years with the generous spring rains and a relatively mild summer. The whitetails are carrying heavier antlers and the quail ranks are bolstered by double and triple clutches this year. By any measure, this year will be one we all remember fondly. I respectfully suggest you drop whatever you are doing, pull those youngsters out of class, cash in those vacation days, and get out in the field. We have before us the absolute finest that Texas and Mother Nature have to offer. This month brings a responsibility with it – Nov. 3, Election Day. In addition to several other state and local ballot initiatives, we are afforded the opportunity to vote on a proposed amendment to the Texas Constitution that would establish Texans’ right to hunt and fish (Proposition 6). TWA is in support of this effort. In an “off ” year election such as this, outcomes will be driven by voter turnout making the proportionate influence of each vote that much more important. The outdoor community cannot assume that this will just skate by. Hunting and fishing license sales represent about 15 percent of the state’s population. That means we need to vote. I will, and I ask that you consider doing the same. This month brings another responsibility to wildlife stewards and hunters. As you are all aware, we have unfortunately had several confirmed Chronic Wasting Disease cases in whitetail deer this year. TPWD will be seeking voluntary samples to screen the health of our deer herds. I encourage you to consider supporting this effort. It is important that we find out where CWD is and is not. This month also brings a bittersweet change at TWA. Our long-time Director of Conservation Legacy, the one and only Helen Holdsworth has resigned to pursue a tremendous new opportunity. Helen has led our Conservation Legacy education programs and the Texas Brigades with character, professionalism and absolute dedication for over a decade. She leaves both programs flourishing. In fact, under her leadership both programs have grown to the point that each now needs their own Director. Helen will be missed. She is a tremendous leader with a huge heart for the work of natural resource literacy. We wish her well with the new endeavor and are pleased to send out another TWA “missionary” into the world. We are also excited about the opportunity for TWA that comes with changes in leadership. As always, I am at your complete disposal. Call or email anytime. Happy Hunting!

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 Kassi Scheffer, Education Program Specialist Leslie Wittenburg, Education Program Specialist Clint Faas, Conservation Program Coordinator Courtney Brittain, Consultant Elanor Dean, Education Program Contractor Toni Purnell, Education Program Contractor Elisa Velador, Education Program Contractor Adrienne Paquette, Education Program Contractor Kimberly Shaw, Education Program Contractor Sarah Josephson, Education Program Specialist Brian Robert, Education Program Specialist Julia Farmer, Education Program Contractor Jo Picken, 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, Texas Big Game Awards Program Coordinator Melanie Blanding, TYHP/CL Administrative Assistant Marla Wolf, Curriculum Writer

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: POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Texas Wildlife Association, 3660 Thousand Oaks Dr., Suite 126, San Antonio, Texas 78247.

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.




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

Mission Impacts

NOVEMBER Volume 31 ★ Number 7 ★ 2015

8 Whitetail Deer Hunting by DAVID SIKES

14 TBGA’s New Trophy Search Database


Crosby Middle School has participated in the L.A.N.D.S. program for the last two years. Our students are greatly surprised by the necropsy activity and the wealth of knowledge presented. They are amazed by the entire process. The Field Investigation Day was icing on the cake for them. They take away so much more from the outdoor experience. I always like hearing someone say later, "Remember when we dissected the quail and…" I just smile. Thank you TWA for all that you do and what you do for me and especially for my students. Michelle Crowell Crosby Middle School Hitchcock ISD

16 Lessons from Leopold by STEVE NELLE

18 The Legacy of Helen Holdsworth by KASSI SCHEFFER

22 Dr. Wallace Klussmann: Two Conservation Careers by LORIE WOODWARD CANTU

26 Open Sights vs. Optics by RALPH WININGHAM

30 If Bass Could Grow Antlers by DR. BILLY HIGGINBOTHAM

34 Scaled Quail Diets in the Trans-Pecos


36 Water: What’s It Worth? by HENRY CHAPPELL

38 Rattlesnakes and Yucca Bucks Thank you Toni! You were fantastic! Loved the way you can bring the information to the kindergarten level. Our students are still talking about the skin and skulls. Hope to have a long term relations with you and Texas wildlife. The program is awesome. Thank you so much for coming and hope to see you in the fall. Cindy Tanner, Meadowcreek Elementary Crowley ISD


42 Technology for the Outdoors by RUSSELL GRAVES

48 Ten Reasons You Don’t Want CWD in Your Woods by LYNDSAY THOMAS JR.

ON THE COVER Learn More About TWA

Scan the QR code with your smartphone to learn more about the Texas Wildlife Association or visit



This first class South Texas buck was photographed by Hardy Jackson. Texans have great expectations this deer hunting season. In addition to the possibility of harvesting a huge buck like the one on the cover, hunters look forward to another season afield enjoying family, friends and all that the great outdoors has to offer. Prime Time for

Big Bucks





FOR INFORMATION ON HUNTING SEASONS, call the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department at (800) 792-1112, consult the 2015-2016 Texas Parks and Wildlife Outdoor Annual, or visit the TPWD website at



NOVEMBER 7 Opening day of the regular white-tailed deer season, statewide.

JANUARY 28, 2016 Membership Reception, Victoria, Texas. Location TBD. For more information, contact Kendra Roller at (800) 839-9453.

NOVEMBER 12-14 Conference for the Advancement of Science Teachers, Fort Worth. Your TWA’s Conservation Legacy program will have a booth at this conference. NOVEMBER 19 Wildlife for Lunch Webinar on Desert Bighorn Sheep. See the ad on this page for details on how to sign up.

DECEMBER DECEMBER 17 Wildlife for Lunch Webinar, Managing for Multiple Species. See the ad on this page for details on how to sign up.

JULY JULY 14-17, 2016 WildLife 2016, TWA’s Annual Convention, J.W. Marriott Hill Country Resort and Spa, San Antonio. For more information, call TWA headquarters at (800) 8399453 or visit the TWA website at JULY 15, 2016 Statewide Texas Big Game Awards Banquet, during TWA’s Annual Convention,WildLife 2016, J.W. Marriott Hill Country Resort and Spa, San Antonio. For more information, call TWA headquarters at (800) 839-9453 or visit the TBGA website at

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.



November 19

Desert Bighorn Restoration in Texas – Presented by Thomas Janke, Borderlands Research Institute

December 17

Managing for Multiple Species – Presented by Mike Marshall, Texas A&M Institute for Renewable Natural Resources


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.


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.

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 looking for volunteers in the Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston and Lower Rio Grande Valley areas. If you would like to help with any of these events, please contact Leslie Wittenburg at





Contact Clint Faas at (210) 826-2904 or

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 to join a test meeting, today.


PICTURED: Men’s GameGuard vented Field Jacket, Toboggan and Gloves with a Performance Tee base layer and our rugged Brush Pant. Visit for our entire collection, including: gun cases, accessory bags and soft-side coolers.

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The Bobbie Blesh Buck Story Article by DAVID SIKES


n 83 years, Bobbie Blesh never demonstrated a desire to hunt; though, as a child, she was exposed to a rich Texas hunting culture through her father. Evidence from taxidermists of her dad’s field prowess was displayed prominently on the walls of her family’s comfortable Dallas home. As a child, Bobbie even had a huntress role model in an aunt. Her father’s sister enjoyed sports afield. Even so, as Bobbie watched her father prepare for hunting adventures involving deer, doves and quail, the urge to follow or to ask whether she could tag along did not occur. And, through all those years, Bobbie cannot recall anyone extending to her an invitation to join in a hunt. In retrospect, this didn’t seem to bother her. In many ways, Bobbie Iris Rickard enjoyed the typical urban lifestyle of an upper-middle class girl born in 1929. She was shielded from many hardships of the Great Depression, because her father owned a successful chain of five-and-dime stores. She was an only child and the focus of loving parents. Bobbie was a good student at Highland Park High School and active in the church youth group. After graduation, she did what might have been expected of a Texas girl from a good Christian family. She enrolled in Southern Methodist University, joined a sorority and in four short years earned a bachelor’s of science degree in home economics. Some might see this as typical for a young lady with a southern Methodist upbringing back then. The following year, in December 1952, Daddy’s little girl married a responsible gentleman from a good family. It was a good fit, evidenced by the success they enjoyed from a noble calling. Bobbie and her Ph.D. husband ultimately established and operated an educational institute for preschoolers, while raising a beautiful family, two daughters Sharon and Joyanne and a son named Warren. Dr. Robert Blesh was an educator not a hunter. So, Bobbie watched again from the sidelines as her own father instilled his hunting heritage into outdoor-eager Warren, as if he were the




Photo courtesy of the Blesh family





Photo courtesy of the Blesh family

Photo by David Sikes


Bobbie Blesh is so excited to get her hunting license.




son he never had. Nearly every Saturday, Bobbie’s dad would stop by the house to take Warren to the family farm in Aledo. Looking back, Bobbie cannot recall any aversion to the outdoors she might have held as a child or an adult. In fact, Bobbie enjoyed catching panfish at Lewisville Reservoir and salmon fishing in Alaska.

Who knew that Bobbie – the petite, SMU sorority girl with a home-ec degree –wanted to go hunting? And, she wasn’t afraid or against guns either. Warren recalls his mother shooting an old over-and-under varmint gun that belonged to his grandfather, but he’s not sure what was in her sights. The upper barrel was a .410 gauge shotgun with a .22 caliber rifle below. Nobody is sure what became of the


always been just a request away. She did not lack opportunity. Her son Warren owns and manages a small ranch near Goldthwaite with plenty of whitetail deer, blackbuck antelope and other game. Part of his management plan involves offering a variety of hunting packages for a fee to help cover expenses. And, by this time, Bobbie had spent many nights in the bunkhouse of this peaceful Central Texas respite. All she had to do was ask or express a passing interest in hunting. Warren would have been delighted to accommodate her wishes. But, instead, the sassy grandmother revealed her desire at a very public fundraiser for the Goldthwaite Botanical Gardens. Warren had donated a blackbuck hunt for the banquet’s live auction. The unsuspecting Blesh family sat in the audience, along with Mom, when the auctioneer rattled off the particulars of the Triple R hunt. It is unclear whether Bobbie planned what happened next. The bidding opened at $1,500. Bobbie grinned and raised her hand to the delight of the crowd and puzzlement of her family. Somebody upped the bid to $1,600. Bobbie, now fully engaged and invested in the chase, raised her hand again with purpose. The auctioneer enthusiastically

began babbling and begging for someone to boost the bid to $1,700. The hunt was in Bobbie’s sights. She obliged the auctioneer, not once but twice, out-bidding herself until the total had reached $2,000. Yes, as you can imagine, Warren was staring intensely in disbelief at his mother when the auctioneer shouted, “Sold!” and punctuated the sale with the resounding finality of his gavel. “Why, Mom?” Warren asked his dear mother. “Because nobody has ever asked me to go hunting,” she replied with a self-satisfied grin. “Now, when are you going to take me?” Warren describes the Triple R as a modest little ranch with a big heart. The family prides itself in welcoming young hunters, just as his grandfather had nurtured him. Warren especially enjoys hosting first timers, hoping other small-ranch owners follow his lead. But, he never imagined his mom would be among these first-timers. The blackbuck hunt went well. Warren had prepared her for months by marking magazine photos of deer around the house, placing a dot or X in the spot she should place the bullet. He even marked the spot on the ceramic deer figurine of a pair of lounging deer that had been in the family Photo by David Sikes

old gun. Bobbie’s father died 1977. Bobbie enjoyed a mostly domestic life, again, one of family bliss in a setting mostly guarded from misfortune. Fast forward to 1996, when Warren approached his mother with an opportunity to purchase 400 acres he’d been leasing as a hunting camp in Mills County. The owner wanted to sell the property but promised not to list it if Warren could come up with some fast cash. Mom came through by helping with the down payment. Warren honored his grandfather by posting his monogram, RRR, above the ranch gate. As a grandmother, Bobbie’s good life continued. She watched her children become successful and responsible parents with families of their own. For years, family and friends suspected nothing was missing except perhaps later, in 2007, when her husband died. But, surrounded by people who loved her, Bobbie’s heart healed as time passed. She had her health and the fulfillment that comes with the life she’d led, along with the gratification of knowing she had touched many lives along the way. What could be missing from such a storied legacy? Well, one day, Warren noticed a subtle clue that Bobbie may have wanted more. According to Mom’s ledger, only a few hundred dollars remained on Warren’s debt for the ranch. The final payment never came, because Bobbie refused to accept it. This was not actually a loving mother’s act of generosity. She wanted a piece of the Triple R Ranch, along with ranch privileges for life. Bobbie had grown to like the easy pace and serenity of rural life. Her unlikely evolution came as a surprise to her children. The second hint that something might be simmering unfulfilled in this Texas grandmother came suddenly as another surprise to everyone. There were no obvious signs of discontent, no warnings, no bucket list to anyone’s knowledge. She had not confided in her children or friends this grand and secret desire. Who knew that Bobbie – the petite, SMU sorority girl with a home-ec degree – wanted to go hunting? Rather than come right out and say so, Bobbie chose a more dramatic revelation. Understand that hunting had

Bobbie Blesh takes aim during a deer hunt with her son, Warren Blesh.



Photo by David Sikes


TWA Life Member Warren Blesh and his mother Bobbie Blesh with the whitetail buck harvested on Warren’s RRR Ranch near Goldthwaite.

50 years, showing his mother where to aim. After her one-shot harvest of the blackbuck, Bobbie walked toward the animal, turned to her son and revealed she wanted a whitetail buck next. The lessons continued in the off season, and Bobbie was ready. But, within days of the hunt, she fell. This threatened to postpone her hunting plans. The spill blackened Bobbie’s eye and fractured a bone in her left hand. The doctor said the hunt was off. But, it wasn’t. Bobbie promised not to use her left hand. And, her eye was not swollen – at least not enough to hamper her shooting accuracy. Bobbie was determined to fulfill her quest. “And, I want to shoot the same gun,” she told Warren. Of course she did. The rifle the Blesh family all knew as “The Legend” was the stuff of tradition. It belonged to a relative – a cousin to Bobbie thinks – who became one of his hunting mentors throughout



childhood. The relic had been part of Warren’s memories since he was 14. He believes it’s a British made firearm from World War I reworked into a 22.250. And, even today, when Warren’s hands caress the oiled and worn wooden stock his mind conjures the face of James “Rip” Farley, who

I should have done this 50 years ago. I thought the antlers were bigger than that. Warren refers to as his father of hunting. For 35 years, they were a familiar and comfortable trio, Warren, Rip and "The Legend." Together, they never missed what they aimed to shoot or an opportunity to hunt the Power Ranch near Goliad. On their final hunt together, Warren, then


a young man, and Rip spotted the biggest buck they had ever seen together. Warren held "The Legend" steady, but something told him not to shoot. Instead, the pair sat, watched and savored their final hunting moment together though they didn’t know it would be the last. Rip died a few months later but not without a final gesture. Warren got the gun in accordance with Rip’s wishes as stipulated in his will. But, legends belong to the ages. The Blesh family knows, because Warren has told them in certain terms that when he dies, "The Legend" goes to Farley’s great grandson, Alex Eilers. But first, there was destiny to fulfill. Its next duty was to put a smile on the bruised face of Rip’s 83-year-old cousin Bobbie. So on a December dawn, with her son sitting snuggly by her side in a rustic ground blind on the RRR, Bobbie with her good hand clutched the now familiar relic she knew by name and reputation. Mother and son whispered throughout the cool morning

Bobbie completes her TBGA First Harvest Award paperwork.

as they peered through the blind’s narrow window. But the hunt did not produce a buck befitting Bobbie’s first. The midday siesta gave Bobbie time to imagine what could have been and to dream about the evening’s opportunity. Like a child, she would not be denied and Warren certainly was not going to stand

in the way. The afternoon wildlife activity was much greater than what the morning chill had revealed. And, this was reflected in Bobbie’s antsy attitude. But when the bucks came out, the whispers returned. It was Bobbie’s time. Her shoes were blue. Her nails were red. Her sweater was white. The bruise around her squinting left eye was a delicate shade of lavender. Her jeans were fashionably faded, topped with her daughter-in-law’s GameGuard camouflage jacket. And resting a broken left hand on her knee, Bobbie sighted down the barrel of "The Legend" with her good eye and squeezed the trigger with the index finger of her uninjured hand. Her aim was true, and the buck was hers. The celebration inside the blind was brief. Warren helped his mom over the uneven terrain in silence. They stopped and stared at the buck. Warren nudged the animal with his boot. “You did it, Mom,” he said. “One shot.” Bobbie looked up at her son with pride.

“I should have done this 50 years ago,” she said with a youthful grin. “I thought the antlers were bigger than that.” Photo courtesy of TBGA

Photo courtesy of the Blesh family


TWA Past President Greg Simons (l) and TWA CEO David Yeates (r) presented Bobbie with her First Harvest Award at the Texas Big Game Awards banquet in San Angelo.





(C) 210.422.4676 (O) 325.294.4616





Texas Big Game Awards Announces New Trophy Search Database Article by DAVID BRIMAGER


s you read in the October issue of Texas Wildlife magazine, the Texas Big Game Awards (TBGA), a partnership of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) and the Texas Wildlife Association (TWA), is celebrating its 25th Anniversary this hunting season. And with that comes being the leader in recognizing the contributions that landowners, land managers and responsible hunters make to managing and conserving wildlife and wildlife habitat on Texas’ private lands. Have you ever wanted to know what the best typical whitetail ever entered in the TBGA is? Or maybe how many entries you/a friend might have entered? Or possibly how many of a certain species have come to a certain county in Texas. Well now you can as the Texas Big Game Awards is proud to announce that the TBGA Trophy Search Tool is now available for free on the TBGA website! The new database search tool allows access to the TBGA’s trophy entries since the program’s inception in 1991. Entries can be searched in a number of different ways depending on the type and amount of information in which you are interested in. Search by: season, county, hunter last name or by animal. Everything you ever want to know about entries in the Texas Big Game Awards program is just a few clicks away. Head to and check it out this season, or anytime. Have a safe and enjoyable hunting season, and I look forward to seeing you at a regional sportsman’s celebration banquet this summer.







Lessons from

Leopold The Trophy Hunter Who Never Grows Up

Photo courtesy of the Aldo Leopold Foundation (



The disquieting thing… is the trophy hunter who never grows up, in whom the capacity for isolation, perception and husbandry is undeveloped, or perhaps lost. He is the motorized ant who swarms the continents before learning to see his own back yard, who consumes but never creates outdoor satisfactions. For him the recreational engineer dilutes the wilderness and artificializes its trophies in the fond belief that he is rendering a public service.


ldo Leopold was an avid and enthusiastic hunter by any measure. Most of Leopold’s activities for most of his life revolved around hunting and the management of land for game production. Leopold hunted for sport, personal enjoyment, challenge and instinctive reasons; it was his primary connection to nature. Leopold’s father taught him to hunt and Leopold taught his own children the enjoyment of hunting. Hunting was at the core of Aldo Leopold. This passage relates Leopold’s opinion about an immature form of hunting. It is taken from a 1939 essay, entitled Conservation Esthetic, which is the concluding chapter of A Sand County Almanac. Although Leopold was a lifelong devoted hunter, he was not himself a trophy hunter, at least not by our modern perception of the term. The number of birds shot was not his gauge of a successful hunt. The size and score of horns or antlers did not seem to matter to him. No photos exist of Leopold posed with trophy class big game, although he certainly had the opportunity to hunt wherever he wished. However, by his own standards and definitions, Leopold was indeed a first class trophy hunter. His criteria of trophy hunting were based on genuine hunting skill, sportsmanship and personal ethical restraint. Leopold’s concept of trophy hunting still resonates with many of today’s landowners, hunters and TWA members. The ability to be isolated for long periods; to be at home in the woods, mountains or marsh; to be able to perceive and appreciate

nature and wildness in all of its richness and intricacy; to have a genuine sense of responsible husbandry and stewardship of animals and habitats. For Leopold and many other like-minded hunters, all hunting can be trophy hunting; regardless of the species hunted and regardless of the kill. Leopold was a member of the Boone and Crockett Club and never spoke against ethical trophy hunting. However, he was troubled by what he observed in some trophy hunters and some trophy-based wildlife management. Many of us will agree. It is disturbing to see what some aberrant modern day trophy hunting has become. For some so-called trophy hunters, it is the quest for the largest, most bizarre and unnatural antlers possible, regardless of the method of production. For some, it is merely the pulling of the trigger without the woodsmanship, patience or the satisfaction of a challenging hunt. Fortunately, these anomalies of hunting are the exception and not the norm. Most hunters, like Leopold, still hunt in a responsible, mature and ethical manner and for the same reasons as Leopold – as a vital connection to nature. The game biologist is also partly to blame for the trend toward a shallow, artificial type of hunting. Leopold referred to this type of synthetic wildlife management as recreational engineering which he said, dilutes the hunting experience. In his book Game Management, Leopold made a bold statement that many of us would concur with: “The recreational value of a head of game is inverse to the artificiality of its origin, and hence in a broad way to the intensiveness

of the system of game management which produced it.” Leopold believed that it is not in the public interest to support and enable a greater and greater dependence on artificial game production and call it trophy hunting. Whether trophy hunting or rabbit hunting, Leopold placed a very high value on the hunter’s own personal code of ethics. Leopold wrote, “A peculiar virtue in wildlife ethics is that the hunter ordinarily has no gallery to applaud or disapprove of his conduct. Whatever his acts, they are dictated by his own conscience, rather than by a mob of onlookers. It is difficult to exaggerate the importance of this fact." Many have marveled at Leopold’s uncanny prophetic ability. How could Leopold have known of the ever increasing trend we see in the motorization of hunting? How could he have been able to predict the degree of artificiality we now see in some forms of game management? Undoubtedly he saw glimpses of it in his day and understood the temptation and the danger of making hunting too easy and too trivial. As we head to the woods, brushlands and marshes in pursuit of our favorite game, may we keep in mind the real reasons why we hunt. May we savor each moment in the wild and appreciate every aspect of the hunt. If our skills and good fortune are aligned and we are able to take a fine animal, may we be humble and thankful for the opportunity and blessing. And, may we each work to perpetuate the rich traditions and culture of ethical, responsible hunting.

WRITER’S NOTE: Aldo Leopold (1887 – 1948) is considered the father of modern wildlife management. More importantly, he developed and described many of the concepts of conservation, ecology and stewardship of natural resources. Leopold was an amazingly astute observer of the land and man’s relationship to the land. His writings have endured the test of time and have proven to be remarkably prophetic and relevant to today’s issues. This bimonthly column will feature thought-provoking philosophies of Aldo Leopold, as well as commentary.




Travel in style. Get a TWA Membership Decal for your ride.

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The Legacy of Helen Holdsworth Article by KASSI SCHEFFER Photos by CONSERVATION LEGACY and TEXAS BRIGADES

Helen (back center) with her covey at the 5th Battalion of Rolling Plains Bobwhite Brigade.


he beginning is just as good as anywhere to start. In 1997, Helen, an Extension Associate with the (then) Texas Cooperative Extension, was recruited by Dr. Dale Rollins to serve as an Adult Covey Leader during the 5th Battalion of the Rolling Plains Bobwhite Brigade. Her experience during her 4 1/2 days at camp so immensely impacted her life, she immediately returned back to South Texas with the intention of starting a South Texas camp. In less than a year,



she had formed a committee of natural resource professionals, created a schedule, found a facility and served as the Camp Coordinator of the 1st Battalion of the South Texas Bobwhite Brigade held in 1998. The rest is history… In 2002, when the Conservation Legacy Education Program of TWA was still in its infancy and the Texas Brigades had just added its fifth camp, the leaders of both organizations agreed that each needed an educator to lead their efforts in youth


education. Helen would give 50 percent of her time as an Education Program Specialist for TWA and 50 percent as the first Executive Director for the Texas Brigades. Then, in 2008, with the departure of her mentor Tamara Trail, Helen stepped into the role of Director of Conservation Legacy. Trying to summarize Helen’s impact on the organizations’ programs, staff, members, volunteers, youths, families and colleagues is virtually impossible. However,


to claim that someone is leaving a legacy requires an insight into their leadership, skills, expertise, accomplishments and passions. Since Helen has been the Executive Director of Texas Brigades, much has changed, grown and improved, all under her direction and humble guidance. While not every accomplishment of Helen’s can be written and each endeavor was successful because of the people working alongside her, Helen led the charge. • Managed the inception of four new camps, Bass Brigade 2004, Waterfowl Brigade 2012, Ranch Brigade 2013, and in 2016 a Coastal Brigade to complement the suite of camps (Rolling Plains Bobwhite 1993, East Texas Bobwhite/ Feathered Forces 1996-2009, South Texas Bobwhite 1998, South Texas Buckskin 2000 and North Texas Buckskin 2002). • In 2006, established the Wildlife Intensive Leadership Development (W.I.L.D.) Program for Brigades Graduates, which seeks to hone members’ leadership skills, expose them to agricultural and natural resource policy-making and policy makers and foster development of their professional skills. The last two classes of W.I.L.D. have held their final session in Baraboo, Wisconsin at Aldo Leopold’s ‘Shack,’ completing the ‘conservation circle’ for the young leaders. • Supported over 150 natural resource professionals as they volunteer their time to serve the camps as instructors and committee members. • Guided over 1,800 cadets along with their parents, spending thousands of hours communicating with them before, during and after their camp experience. • Spent countless hours on the road, attending committee meetings and visiting camps, ensuring that all those participating in Texas Brigades felt supported and appreciated, as well as advocating for the importance of wildlife and natural resource education. • In 2015, launched the Texas Brigades Network, to connect every Brigade graduate, all past Adult Leaders, volunteers and instructors, as well as donors, friends and Brigade families to magnify the outreach of Brigades’ conservation leaders.


Helen (second from left) visits Aldo Leopold’s “Shack” in Wisconsin with members of the Wildlife Intensive Leadership Development (W.I.L.D.) Program.

The Conservation Legacy staff at their annual retreat. (Helen is the second person from the left in this photo.)

• Established organizational best practices,

increased communications, improved operating systems, served as the primary grant-writer and the list goes on and on…

"Helen is unflappable – you never 'see her sweat' even when the going gets tough. That's what leadership is to me… someone who stands tall when all the rest of the covey is bickering or wringing their hands. She has





TWA WELCOMES NEWEST MEMBERS OF THE CONSERVATION LEGACY TEAM JO PICKEN My name is Jo Picken. I am a native Texan with a strong connection to the land and to the plants and creatures that inhabit it. For many years, I have been an educator, both formal and informal. In addition to the school building, I have used the playing field, the arena, the church, the lake, the hunting blind, the playground, the park, the pasture, the trail and the roadside as my classroom. I consider myself blessed to have been raised in a rural setting with daily exposure to open spaces, wildlife and agriculture. These choices were made on my behalf when I was a child. Once I began making these decisions for myself, I was all too happy to keep these connections in my life. My degree from the College of Agriculture at Texas A&M University not only moved me forward academically, it also strengthened my network of friends and family in the field. Both personally and professionally, my ties kept me firmly rooted in the natural world. In recent years, I have been sharing my knowledge of and love for Texas’ flora and fauna with a crowd who is poised to take control of our natural resources a couple of decades down the road. I understand that learning is a process; so must we all. We must make every effort to set off and push forward on that lengthy journey. Our children need first to be educated. Only then can they begin to appreciate. Appreciation combines and builds its way toward protection and conservation. This is what Texas Wildlife Association is all about, and it is why I am excited to join the Conservation Legacy Team. I now look forward to serving teachers and K – 8th students in the southern portion of Harris County as well as Fort Bend, Chambers, Galveston and Brazoria counties. I hope to see you down the road or up the trail.

KIMBERLY SHAW Howdy! My name is Kimberly Shaw, and I am very excited to be the newest DFW area education contractor for the Texas Wildlife Association. I will be sharing my love for nature and Texas wildlife with students and teachers in Dallas, Ellis, Kaufman and Rockwall counties. I have always loved being outdoors and had a passion for our native Texas wildlife. I graduated from Texas A&M University in 2000 with a degree in Wildlife & Fisheries Sciences. After college, I was a zookeeper at the Fort Worth Zoo for 12 years. I worked with many animals in the Texas Wild exhibits but spent most of my time caring for North American river otters, American alligators, black bears, white-tailed deer, red wolves and more. My favorite animals are river otters and alligators, and I was lucky enough to work with and train those animals! Because I loved doing chats and programs for the guests, I then pursued my teaching certification. I am certified in early childhood through 8th grade, as well as in agriculture, and I have taught in a local school district and at a science center. I believe that education is the key to conserving Texas wildlife and natural resources for our future generations. I hope that by sharing my passion for the conservation of the wild fauna and flora of Texas I will encourage our youth to be great stewards of our home and our wild things and places. I look forward to meeting and inspiring the students and teachers of the DFW area!




earned "good dog" status in my book, and to anyone who knows me, that's as much praise as I can bestow on someone." – Dr. Dale Rollins As TWA’s Director of Conservation Legacy, Helen’s expertise in facilitating growth and providing support to all programs and operations within TWA was unprecedented. Helen was the one you went to when you needed advice, and she would always provide a genuine perspective. Her dedication to her work has earned her the respect of everyone she has worked with, as she truly embodies the mission of the Texas Wildlife Association. The growth of the Conservation Legacy Program and the impact numbers are a testament to Helen’s leadership, expectation of excellence and passion for natural resource education. • Around the same time Helen became Director, the choice was made to increase the efforts of the Learning Across New Dimensions in Science (L.A.N.D.S.) Outreach Programs – Distance Learning, Discovery Trunks, Wildlife by Design classroom presentations and teacher workshops. Since 2008, L.A.N.D.S. Outreach has grown from one educator to nine, three trunk topics to seven, three Distance Learning programs to 17, from 12,000 student impacts each year to over 212,000 in 2014, and in 2015 over 600 trained educators across the state. Never wanting to be in the business of saying ‘no,’ as the programs’ demand grew, Helen advocated for more educators ‘on the ground,’ the creation of additional lessons and resources, and the improvement of teaching techniques. • L.A.N.D.S. Intensive has also drastically grown and changed since it was piloted as the flagship program of Conservation Legacy. Intensive, which used to describe one four-part program of teacher trainings, lessons, necropsies and field investigation days on private land, has now expanded to include two new programs, Trinity River Project and Necropsy in a Box. It has been said about Helen, “after finding out what it took to make new ideas come to life, she did whatever it took to make that happen, whether it was funding for school buses, materials, securing a site for a field day, or creating new curriculum. After having





Helen (front row, far right) with others learning about land management at a Women of the Land workshop.

what was needed, Helen then handed the new program off to the person in charge and gave them room to work.” This commitment to hands-on, on the ground education is how L.A.N.D.S. Intensive has impacted over 35,000 students since its inception. • While educating Texas youths is a significant part of Conservation Legacy, the education of adults is not discounted, hence the Conservation Legacy vision, “Educating Generations of Texas Land Stewards.” From live online webinars, to field days, yearlong trainings and workshops tailored for specific audiences, Helen has always championed the need for education programs for all ages. The Women of the Land program, created to “empower women to make informed decisions for the land and its resources today, tomorrow and for future generations” especially rang true for Helen. Empowerment of any land steward is important, yet providing the resources to women in a secure learning environment was where Helen’s vocation and avocation united. When it came to adult education events, Helen always desired to attend and was always working behind the scenes to ensure that each event was a success. "Helen is considered a leader among leaders in conservation education in Texas. She is effective and efficient and tackles

challenges with a "can do" spirit, leading the charge with what is possible rather than accepting status quo or inside the box thinking. She recognizes the strengths of her team and calls the plays accordingly. Helen's leadership is not one exhibited by position or title, but by integrity and example. Always keeping the mission of TWA and Texas Brigades clearly in focus, Helen has inspired a creative and collaborative approach to planting and spreading the seeds of conservation. She has done a masterful job of leading the stewardship venture called Conservation Legacy. What a privilege to share in the journey. As our paths cross down the road, be sure to look for Helen still leading the charge ever waving the banner of private lands stewardship." – Tamara Trail Helen has served as a liaison, volunteer, mentor, Camp Coordinator, confidante, educator, facilitator, Program Director, advisor, coworker, advocate, writer, member, Covey Leader, student, colleague, editor, collaborator, Executive Director, patron and supporter. It cannot and will never be said enough, Helen’s prowess to serve as the leader of two, first-rate, statewide, education entities is unparalleled. We wish Helen the best of luck in her future endeavors, feeling thankful that we were able to share in her visions and ventures and knowing that she is not leaving “us,” rather she is just expanding the stewardship across Texas. Good luck H2!


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Dr. Wallace Klussmann: Two Conservation Careers Photo by John Jefferson


Dr. Wallace Klussmann looks to see if his shot had been true right after recoil. He is as much at home in the dove field as he was as head of the Wildlife and Fisheries Science Department at Texas A&M.


n 1993, Dr. Wallace Klussmann, professor emeritus at Texas A&M University (TAMU), ended his 30-year career in higher education and immediately embarked on his second “career” as a volunteer. “Retirement is like another career,” Klussmann, who served as head of TAMU’s Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences from 1982 to 1990, said. “People have to retire to something not from something.” Klussmann’s retirement destination was natural resource and rural economic development advocacy. “As a state employee, we were discouraged from getting involved politically and encouraged to sit on the fence,” Klussmann said. “I had wonderful jobs at Texas A&M, but retirement is even better—I don’t have to check anything with the dean.” Klussmann climbed off the apolitical fence permanently in 1993 at the request of Congressman Lamar Smith, who found himself locked in a battle with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over a critical habitat




designation for black-capped vireo and golden-cheeked warbler. “Next thing I knew I was his wildlife expert at a series of town hall meetings through the Hill Country,” Klussmann said. “My message about endangered species in Texas was simple: Big sticks don’t work in a private L.A.N.D.S. state. Incentives do. Landowners should be encouraged to value endangered species just as they do white-tailed deer or bobwhite quail.” Klussmann’s philosophy was formed by the years he’d spent working with landowners applying research findings in rural Texas and his own personal experience as a landowner. He and his wife Dolores had retired to the Hill Country where they had purchased a ranch near Fredericksburg. The fight over critical habitat was taking place in their backyard. “If regulations have a chilling effect on the rural economy, it encourages people to ‘shoot, shovel and shut up’ instead of conserving rare species,” Klussmann said. “Engagement – not estrangement – of


three terms as chairman of his church council in Cherry Springs. His efforts have earned him accolades including being named the TWA Friend of Wildlife in 2000 and this year’s Pioneer in Agriculture by the Gillespie County Farm Bureau. “While one TYHP hunt may not make lifelong hunters of these youths, I’m convinced they leave knowing enough to vote the right way in the future,” Klussmann said. “It’s no secret that natural resource illiteracy is rampant, but through TYHP – and L.A.N.D.S. – TWA is making a lasting impression.” THE ROOTS OF ADVOCACY Klussmann is passionate about getting young people outdoors because his childhood was spent working the fields on his family’s diversified farm, roaming the nearby woods and fishing the Brazos River in Washington County. He rode a horse to the little country school in William Penn near Independence. At least once a year when new, inexperienced teachers arrived, he and the other boys would orchestrate a horse stampede by running back and forth on the tin roof of the school’s barn where the horses were tied. The scared horses would break their leads and run down the road delaying the start of school for at least an hour. “We didn’t have much formal entertainment, but we had a lot of fun,” Klussmann, whose grandson is currently building a home for his family on the original Klussmann place in Washington County, said. His memories are calibrated beginning with a BB gun for hunting robins, which his mother refused to cook despite his pleas, but his aunt did. There was the shotgun with hammers that, according to Klussmann, posed no jeopardy to flushing quail. Then, there was the open-sight .22 dedicated to squirrel hunting. But, of all the outdoor experiences, fishing with his uncle on the Brazos River made the biggest impact. “Those days and nights on the river, I think, informed my career choice,” Klussmann, who eventually specialized in fisheries and aquatic management, said. Klussmann didn’t head directly to college after high school graduation. His first stop was a job at JC Penney in Brenham. “My first month’s paycheck was $150 – and I spent $84 of that on a double-barrel shotgun,” Klussmann, who still has the shotgun, said laughing. “Tells you what my priorities were back then.” He moved up the corporate retail ladder quickly but decided to stop Photo by Koy Coffer

landowners is the key.” The message resonated. Although it took time and the election of a president with Texas roots to change the philosophy at U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, today there is a spirit of cooperation and active management. One example is cowbird trapping initiated by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) that has put the black-capped vireo and golden-cheeked warbler in a much better stead. The strategy of active management and cooperation became a template for other potential conflicts between the rural economy and endangered species such as the dunes sand lizard that threatened to shut down oil production in West Texas. A coalition of landowners, oil companies and government agencies worked to create a “win-win” conservation plan. “Success breeds success and a willingness to consider conservation challenges from different angles,” Klussmann said. Klussmann got involved with TWA at the same time he got involved in the politics of natural resource management. Charly McTee, who served as TWA’s general manager, called him and asked him to join. Klussmann agreed only after determining that TWA and TPWD had addressed the differences that prompted the TWA’s creation. “I checked with Charly and I checked with TPWD,” Klussmann said. “I wanted to be sure that we would be working together not against each other. Wildlife wouldn’t have benefited if we were all at cross purposes.” The answers he received greenlighted his involvement. He got busy. He has served on TWA’s Executive Committee for 15 years and as the PAC Committee Chairman for a decade. “Although our PAC is relatively small, it is effective because TWA is respected in Austin,” Klussmann said. “Through the years, we have built a reputation for working for the good of wildlife and habitat – and doing what we say. Legislators appreciate straight shooters.” He has also been instrumental in TWA’s education efforts including the Texas Youth Hunting Program (TYHP) and Learning Across New Dimensions in Science (L.A.N.D.S.). In fact, the proposal that led to the creation of TYHP was written at a meeting hosted on his ranch. “I kept harassing Bob Cook [former TPWD Wildlife Division Director] telling him that we weren’t doing enough to get young people involved in hunting,” Klussmann said. “One day he turned to me and said, ‘Quit bitching, Wallace, and get me a proposal.’” Klussmann convened a meeting at his ranch. The attendees generated a proposal that led to TPWD committing $90,000 to hire the first executive director of what grew into TYHP. After two years, it became a position jointly funded by TPWD and TWA. “Of all the things I’ve done in my retirement, the creation of TYHP has been the most satisfying,” Klussmann said. “We’re not only giving young people an opportunity to harvest an animal, we’re giving them a full-blown educational experience that impacts their families.” Identifying TYHP as his most satisfying contribution is a big distinction because in addition to working with TWA, Klussmann has served as Llano County Republican Chairman for eight years; a member of the Gillespie County Farm Bureau Board of Directors, where he is immediate past president, for more than 10 years; and as Chairman of the Texas Department of Rural Affairs for 10 years; as member of TPWD’s White-tailed Deer Advisory Committee and Hunting Committee; and

High school students on a L.A.N.D.S. field trip to the Klussmann’s ranch listen to Wallace explain why taking care of land and wildlife is important to Dolores and him.







Not one to mince words, Klussmann wrote a letter to the editor, which was directed to the reporter. In it, he said, “As a lifelong educator, I respectfully suggest that before you start writing again that you go back to school.” The letter didn’t get published, but the reporter responded to Klussmann, who invited him out to the ranch to discuss the role of incentives in endangered species conservation in a private L.A.N.D.S. state. “The reporter accepted my invitation, but it remains to be seen if he’ll come to the ranch,” Klussmann said. “I hope he does because none of us can afford to stop learning.” And his outreach extends beyond the headlines to the people who share his fence line. In recent years, the 1,100 acre ranch that surrounds the Klussmann place has been divided into 14 tracts, all of which sold quickly. These days he is the go-to guy for new landowning neighbors who are grappling with land management questions: What plants are growing here? How can the habitat be improved? Where should the stock ponds be sited? He’s discovered that although the land is being fragmented, the people who are buying it are intensely interested in taking care of it. “Today, living on the ranch lets me touch the land every day,” Klussmann said. “Yes, the L.A.N.D.S.cape is changing as the owners change, but they are our neighbors – and our conservation audience. We in the landowner and conservation community have to lead the conversation if our natural resources are going to have a future.” Photo by David Smith

climbing when management wanted him to move to Houston. Neither he nor his young wife, Dolores, wanted to live in the big city. In 1956, they both enrolled at Texas A&M. At their graduation in 1960, Dolores had earned the distinction of being the first female valedictorian in the university’s history. During the summers, Klussmann worked with a fisheries biologist who was responsible for all of the Hill Country waterways including the major rivers and the Highland Lakes. The biologist was slated to retire about the time Klussmann was scheduled to graduate. Klussmann had his eye on the job and the fisheries manager had his eye on Klussmann. The employee’s retirement was delayed leaving Klussmann with a new degree and no job, so he took a teaching position with Blinn College. The caveat was he had to be pursuing a Master’s degree. “I graduated from Texas A&M on Saturday,” Klussmann said. “Dolores and I moved to a roach-infested apartment in Huntsville on Sunday, so I could start my master’s program at Sam Houston on Monday.” He had been teaching about 30 days when the TPWD fisheries director called and offered him the coveted biologist’s job in the HighL.A.N.D.S. Lake. Klussmann told him he’d be available in January. The director said he needed someone immediately. Klussmann honored his commitment to the college. “I continued on a career path that I never expected, but one I never regretted,” Klussmann said. He joined the staff at Texas A&M University in 1963 and earned his Ph.D. there as well. During his tenure as a professor and department head, he never had much patience for academic politics, but never lost his enthusiasm for students. “The students were the best part,” Klussmann said. “Students are motivating and interesting. It’s rewarding to watch them grow and develop into professionals and leaders.” For the record, he taught the law class where Justin and Tamara Trail, long-time TWA movers and shakers, met as Aggie undergrads. He was also the one who told Greg Simons, TWA’s immediate past president, “A&M’s Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences is just where you need to be” when Simons was a high school student touring universities with his guidance counselor. Simons took him at his word. Although Klussmann retired from education, he hasn’t retired from teaching. His ranch is an outdoor classroom for local high school students, university researchers and college students from across the country. Not long ago, he and Dolores hosted a group from Colgate University in Hamilton, NY. Half the biology students were vegetarians. The Klussmanns served both venison burgers and veggie burgers, which prompted an interesting discussion about personal philosophies that began with food choices and ended with land management ideology. “One student asked me whether I preferred preservation or conservation,” Klussmann said. “As I told her, people have to conserve something before they can even think about preserving it.” His education efforts are not limited to students. Recently, there was an article in the Austin American-Statesman questioning Texas’ approach to endangered species listing, particularly a state leader’s insistence that economic impacts be considered.

Dr. Wallace Klussmann and wife Dolores at TWA’s annual convention, WildLife 2015. Dr. Klussmann has served on TWA’s Executive Committee for 15 years and as the PAC Committee Chairman for a decade.

TWA NEW MEMBERSHIP INCENTIVES JOIN OR UPGRADE TO AN ACTIVE MEMBER BY DECEMBER 31, 2015! Upgrade or Join TWA as an ACTIVE ($145) member by the end of 2015 and be entered to win one of four prizes.*


ADV01 Polaris ATV

Donated by Hoffpauir Outdoor Superstore

2ND PRIZE Remington Model 700 BDL Limited Edition Ray Murski Memorial Custom 7mm Rem Mag Rifle Donated by Remington


4TH PRIZE Apple iPad Air 2 (16 GB) To upgrade or join, visit or call the TWA office at (800) 839-9453.

LIFE MEMBER INCENTIVE If you are currently a Life member, we have a drawing this year for you too! All Life members as of Dec. 31, 2015 will be entered into a drawing for a shotgun provided by TWA. If you have ever considered upgrading your membership, 2015 is the year to do it!

JOIN EARLY RENEWAL INCENTIVE TWA sends out four renewal reminders to each member as his/her renewal date approaches. The first renewal received is mailed 30 days prior to the renewal date. In 2015, if you renew on your first notice, you will be entered into a drawing for a TWA Life membership. A life membership currently costs $2,400. The winner of the early renewal drawing will be provided a Life membership at no cost. Be sure to check your mail and respond to your early renewal notice this year.

If you have any questions about the TWA Life member or early renewal incentive program for 2015, please feel free to contact TWA Director of Member Relations Kendra Roller at or (800) 839-9453. *Polaris ATV vehicle is presented as is with no warranty offered or implied. Winner responsible for all taxes and fees. Remington rifle will require all necessary FFL license paperwork be completed before firearm can be given. Winner of the rifle may be responsible for transfer fees. Size and color of the YETI cooler to be determined by TWA.



Open Sights vs. Optics Article and Photos by RALPH WININGHAM

Strong young eyes and clear vision allow shooters to accurately hit targets with open sights. Many veteran shooters must rely on corrective lenses or optics atop their rifles and handguns.


hose hunters blessed with excellent eyesight well into their senior years are few and far between in most shooting circles. The rest of us have to accept the fact we could use a little help with our vision-challenged status as both rifle and handgun shooters. As expert marksman and former rifle range owner Wes Reed once said: “As we get older, vision is the first thing to



go, memory is the second and I can’t remember the third thing.” According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, about 30 percent of adults develop some form of visionreducing eye disease by the age of 65. The most common causes of vision problems are age-related macular degeneration, XXX glaucoma, cataracts and diabetic retinopathy. A visit to an optometrist every year for an eye examination is highly


recommended for any age-challenged adult, particularly those that rely on good vision to participate in outdoor sports. In most cases, shooters with failing eyesight for whatever reason seem to lose the ability to clearly focus on the front sight of their rifle or handgun. An image of a sharp, crisp front sight is essential to being on target. Corrective lenses are one way to obtain front sight clarity, with switching to the


use of a telescopic sight as another popular remedy. As long as the shooter’s eye relief is established to provide a full view of the crosshairs in the scope, hitting the mark becomes a simple process for those with reduced visual ability. Shooters of scopes on heavy caliber rifles should pay particular attention to eye relief – generally requiring about three to four inches between the shooter’s eye and the back edge of the scope. If the eye relief is set too close, the firearm's recoil can force the optic to strike the skin around the shooter's eye, leaving a cut. This is often referred to as an "idiot cut” – don’t be an idiot. Reed, who passed away in 2004 at the too-young age of 81, accumulated a wealth of knowledge about the importance of good shooting vision during countless hours on the range and in the outdoors that he willingly shared with his hunting companions. Like most veteran shooters, during his younger days he relied strictly upon open sights on his center fire rifles, moving up to high quality rifle scopes when his ability to focus his iron sights on long range targets did not meet his high level of acceptability. He spent hours and hours on the range practicing sight alignment and fired thousands of rounds over the years just to make sure he would be on target when he pulled the trigger. “If I miss what I am shooting at, I want to know that it was my fault and not the rifle’s fault. Most rifles are capable of much better accuracy than the shooter who is pulling the trigger,’’ he said. Reed’s ability to hit a target, even in his later years, at any range utilizing either open sights or with a scope mounted on his rifle, was impressive. Most shooters do not possess or are unable to achieve such a level of proficiency no matter how much they practice. Some rifle shooters just seem to have a natural ability to hit the mark and Reed was one of them. His uncanny marksmanship reminded me of a turkey shoot held at a Laredo shooting range many years ago. Winners of the competition held in early November were awarded a frozen turkey, which was

The author's daughter, Jamie, moved up to a scoped rifle at the tender age of 14 because of vision problems in order to down this nice Webb County whitetail buck.




Whether a shooter is practicing with open sights or with scoped rifle, the key to consistently hitting any target with any rifle is lots of quality time getting to know that specific firearm.

quite a prize back in those days. The well-attended event required groups of 10 shooters to step up to the shooting line with their rifle – any type of sights were permitted – and fire offhand (no resting the rifle on a sandbag or shooting stand) at a bullseye target 100 yards down range. The best three-shot group nearest the center of the target was a winner in each relay. About half-way through the day, a lanky, raw-boned cowboy parked his beat-up pick-up truck in the parking lot and walked to the registration station cradling a weathered rifle scabbard in his arms. He paid the $1 entry fee to participate and joined nine other marksmen on the shooting line. Pulling a veteran Winchester Model 94 .30-30 lever action from the scabbard, he loaded three rounds at the command of “ready” by the range officer. Upon



the command of “fire,” he shouldered the rifle, lined up the open sights on the target and fired three shots in less time than it takes to read this sentence. When the range was declared safe and all targets were returned for scoring, the cowboy’s three-shot group measuring no bigger than the diameter of a nickel was dead center in the bullseye. He gathered up his rifle, scabbard and prize turkey, then drove off without a saying a word and leaving the other competitor’s speechless. Just like Reed, the cowboy knew exactly what to do and exactly how to align his open sights on the target to put three shots exactly where he wanted them to hit – that comes with practice, practice and more practice. In addition to spending a lot of range time with firearm sporting any type of sights, successful shooters also can take


advantage of advice from those who have devoted years to helping put outdoor enthusiasts on target. Sam Cherry, president of Decot HYWYD Sport Glasses Inc. based in Phoenix, said that corrective lenses designed to accommodate a shooter’s ability to focus on a front sight are generally required for anyone 40 years old or older. “There are very few older shooters who can still accommodate a front sight really well. Shooting glasses with a different adjustment for the aiming eye can be a good way to accomplish that,’’ he said. He also said that selecting the optimum color for corrective lenses can also be of value for those who are having trouble focusing on sights and/or targets. In low light situations, gold or yellow lenses provide a light gathering property that improves target visibility; light orange is good for increasing contrast just


before sunrise or at sunset; and bronze or light rose can help hunters see game better in lush green surroundings. As a final side note, there is a common misconception that consumption of carrots will greatly improve a person’s vision. While eating carrots will provide a limited amount of Vitamin A necessary for good vision, the root vegetable is not the cure-all suggested by folklore. Officials in the know about good diet and good vision recommend foods rich in lutein and zeaxanthin including egg yolks, kiwi, yellow squash, spinach, peas, honeydew melon, brussels sprouts, green beans, apples, corn, grapes, pumpkin, peppers, cucumber, orange juice, celery, scallions, broccoli and mango. The bottom line is that a combination of plenty of range time practicing sight acquisition; regular eye examinations to determine the requirements for properly designed and/or colored corrective lenses; and a good diet will help keep everyone on target.

Training a youth to be able to put round after round into the right spot can start with a scoped .22-caliber rifle in order to develop good sight acquisition habits that will carry on through adulthood.


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If Bass Could Grow Antlers Article by DR. BILLY HIGGINBOTHAM, Professor and Extension Wildlife and Fisheries Specialist, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service If bass could grow antlers and channel cats had wings, Then fall would be much different for the hunters of things If bass could grow antlers and channel cats had wings, Come fall the cool weather would make our hearts sing But bass can’t grow antlers nor channel cats those wings, So anglers become hunters until next year’s new spring!


all me a closet poet – and I am sure to the vast majority of the TWA membership reading this hope it stays that way! While our thoughts naturally gravitate toward hunting as the weather cools and the deer, ducks, quail and doves beckon, fall fishing in our private impoundments can be fantastic if that body of water has been properly managed. There are certain fall pond management opportunities (“opportunities” sounds much better than “chores”) that need attention as the growing season winds down. When those opportunities lead to better fishing experiences, they don’t seem to be too much like work. As the weather cools and the days become shorter, it is time to stop certain management activities but is also time to begin others. Let’s take a closer look at some of those key management steps. Many pond owners supplement their fish populations with a commercial ration during the growing season. This can be as simple as increasing growth rates and packing weight onto that catfish population in order to provide enough fillets for those family fish fries. As the water temperatures cool, so goes the feed consumption by those catfish. Pond owners should carefully monitor feed consumption and begin to “cut back” the amount of feed fed as more feed is left



untouched on the pond surface. While some pond owners stop feeding completely when cold weather arrives, it’s a good idea to pick those unseasonably warm afternoons and offer a little feed to keep the catfish in good condition going into the next growing season. However, in deep South Texas, the fish may never completely go off of feed, particularly during mild winters. At one point in time, sinking rations were recommended for catfish as winter feed. However, that is no longer the case – stick with a floating ration, and if you feed during the cool months, feed only in late afternoons, particularly after a few days of warm weather providing only what the fish will clean up in 10-15 minutes. Many ponds managed primarily


for largemouth bass are also under a supplemental feeding program. In this case, the feeding program is directed at one or more forage species present, including the bluegill. Like catfish, forage species consumption of feed also slows as the water temperature cools. Again, only offer feed in the late afternoons after several warm days in a row, providing only what can be cleaned up in a few minutes. For those pond owners using automatic feeders to supplement their catfish and/ or forage species, the amount of feed dispensed certainly should be tweaked to match consumption. For some, it may be easier to activate those feeders manually rather than to allow them to dispense feed that may not be consumed – which could lead to future water quality problems. Another management step that should be discontinued as winter approaches is pond fertilization. In the northern two-thirds of the state, the last fertilizer application should be made in September or perhaps early October. However, in the southernmost latitudes, that last application could be made as late as early November. By now most weed control activities using herbicidal treatments have also ended. However, if biological control of problematic aquatic weeds using grass carp is planned, this is an excellent time to process your grass carp application with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in order to get the fish stocked prior to next year’s weed growing season. Another key management step in the fall is the continuation of maintaining Angler Catch Records. Besides taking total lengths of all key species of fish caught, now is the time to record accurate weights along with those lengths,













10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24

.5025 .6811 .8991 1.161 1.470 1.833 2.252 2.732 3.279 3.896 4.589 5.362 6.221 7.169 8.211

.5187 .7011 .9233 1.190 1.504 1.872 2.297 2.784 3.337 3.962 4.663 5.444 6.311 7.268 8.321

.5353 .7215 .9478 1.219 1.539 1.912 2.343 2.836 3.397 4.029 4.737 5.527 6.403 7.369 8.432

.5522 .7422 .9728 1.248 1.573 1.952 2.389 2.889 3.457 4.096 4.813 5.611 6.495 7.471 8.543

.5695 .7634 .9983 1.279 1.609 1.993 2.436 2.943 3.517 4.164 4.889 5.695 6.589 7.574 8.656

.5872 .7850 1.024 1.309 1.645 2.035 2.484 2.997 3.579 4.233 4.996 5.781 6.683 7.678 8.770

.6052 .8069 1.051 1.341 1.681 2.077 2.532 3.052 3.641 4.303 5.043 5.867 6.778 7.783 8.884

.6236 .8294 1.077 1.372 1.718 2.120 2.581 3.108 3.703 4.373 5.122 5.954 6.874 7.888 9.000

.6424 .8522 1.105 1.404 1.756 2.163 2.631 3.164 3.767 4.444 5.201 6.042 6.972 7.995 9.117

.6616 .8754 1.133 1.437 1.794 2.207 2.681 3.221 3.831 4.516 5.281 6.131 7.070 8.103 9.235

*Standard weight values (pounds) for August-December caught largemouth bass of various lengths (inches) for calculating Relative Weights. Desirable Wr values are 95% + of standard weights shown. The standard weight for a largemouth bass 17 ½ inches long would be 2.997 pounds (see highlighted figure in table). Example: A 17 ½ inch long fall-caught largemouth bass weighs 2.6 pounds. According to the chart, the standard weight (Ws) for a bass of that length should be 2.997 pounds. The calculation to determine Wr is: Relative Weight (Wr) = Actual Weight /Standard Weight (Ws) x 100 , Wr = 2.6/2.997 x 100, Wr = 86.7 Interpretation: This fish has a Wr considerable below the desired 95% + of the Ws table weight. While management decisions are not based on one or two fish, if this trend continues and Wr values fall consistently below 95 the pondowner should examine the pond for water quality issues (e.g., excessive aquatic weed growth, low pH, poor visibility < 15 inches) and/or confirm presence of appropriate forage species (e.g., bluegill). particularly for largemouth bass. The length-weight relationship of largemouth bass caught in the last four months of the year speaks volumes about the habitat and fish population health of a private body of water. Well managed bass ponds typically have largemouth bass populations that weigh within 95-110 percent of the standard weights provided (see table). Given that largemouth bass is the apex predator in private Texas impoundments, their relative weights by size classes are indicators of the habitat quality and forage availability present. For example, those bass ponds with persistent water quality problems or out-of- control weed populations reduce habitat quality, resulting in low bass relative weights that may decrease to 70 percent of table values. By the same token, the absence of

abundant and appropriately sized forage fish can also negatively impact a bass population. Consistently low relative weights of largemouth bass caught in the fall months should be a red flag for the pond owner interested in developing a quality fishery. Lastly, a word or two about winter drawdowns. Technically speaking, a drawdown of three feet in late November would make forage species more available to the bass population present until water levels are recovered by early March. In addition, if the drawdown exposed problematic shallow water weed species to freezing winter temperatures, reduction in that plant population could be expected the following summer. But, that was all before the great drought of 2011 where ponds even in “rainfall rich” east Texas went dry!

I can no longer look a pond owner in the eye and recommend a fall drawdown. Who knows when we will receive sufficient rainfall to refill those drawn-down impoundments? November marks the time of year when we stop doing some management activities while initiating others. Think about your pond resources and whether or not you are reaping the rewards that come with their management. Some of the year’s best fishing occurs during the cool weather of fall so take time to set aside that shotgun or rifle and take up a rod. And remember, there is nothing wrong with having fun while managing that pond to produce quality fishing on a sustained basis. (Continued on page 32)





Bluegill PSD


Stunted bass and large Bluegill. Harvest more 6”+ bluegill and 8” – 12” bass.

Harvest large bluegill. Release 12” – 15” bass.

Optimum situation (But temporary).

Harvest more 8” – 12” Bass. Bass overcrowded.

BALANCED POND Release 12” – 15” bass. (1/4 to 1/3 bass > 15”)

Temporary Situation

Possible habitat problems.

Increase bluegill harvest. Release 12” –15” bass.

Low bass recruitment. Poor bluegill growth. Bluegill-bass competition.


30 20



50 Largemouth Bass PSD



Interpretation: To calculate the Percentage Size Distribution (PSD) for a largemouth bass-bluegill population, record total length of both species throughout the year: (Number of Bass Caught > 12 inches / Total Number of Bass Caught) x 100 = Bass PSD (Number of Bluegill Caught > 6 inches / Total Number of Bluegill Caught) x 100 = Bluegill PSD Example of PSD Calculation 60 bass caught, 30 > 12 inches = PSD of 50 (30/60 x 100) 200 bluegill caught, 60 > 6 inches = PSD of 30 (60/200 x 100) See “Check Mark” in tic-tac-toe chart above by following the lines to where the bass and bluegill PSDs intersect. That center cell recommends the populations are likely balanced and 12 to 15 inch bass can be released. For a balanced population, 40% to 60% of the bass caught by a variety of fishing methods should be > 12 inches in length, while 20-40 percent of the bluegill caught should be > 6 inches in length. If catch records indicate other PSD ranges outside the center cell, recommendations are made for each of the remaining 8 cells of the chart.






Scaled Quail Diets in the Trans-Pecos


he Trans-Pecos region of Texas, which incorporates a portion of the Chihuahuan Desert, is blessed with an abundance and diversity of quail species that is second to none. It hosts four species of quail including scaled quail, Gambelâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s quail, Montezuma quail, and northern bobwhite quail. Of the quail species that inhabit the TransPecos, no species is more wide-spread and more important both ecologically and economically to the Chihuahuan Desert Borderlands than the scaled quail. Unfortunately, their geographic range and population trends have declined over the past 30 years. Factors possibly contributing to the decline include disease, drought, predators and overgrazing. Although the overall population of scaled quail in the Trans-Pecos has declined in the past few decades, there are areas that scaled quail are flourishing. In order to help bolster current populations, we need to understand why scaled quail select certain locations within available habitats and what resources are contributing to their survival at those locations. One way to assess these preferred habitats is to determine which plants comprise the scaled quailâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s diet. Although many studies have looked at the contents of bobwhite quail crops, scaled

Photo courtesy P.J. Fouche


Scaled Quail inhabit much of the Trans-Pecos. This species of quail is generally found west of the 100th meridian (roughly U.S. Hwy 83).

quail diets have received much less attention. As a result, studies are needed to help fill in the missing gaps pertaining to the diets of scaled quail. There are a few reports on scaled quail crop contents for Texas, Oklahoma, Arizona and New Mexico, however much of the Trans-Pecos has not been sampled. In order to evaluate what quail are consuming across the Trans-Pecos, 279 quail crops were collected from hunter harvested birds during 2013 and 2014. Some of the crop samples came from ranches that provide supplemental feed, so we were able to assess differences in forage selection between ranches providing




supplemental feed and those that do not. The use of supplemental feed in the form of milo or quail blocks has been increasing on many ranches in the Trans-Pecos. Analysis of crops obtained from ranches providing supplemental feed indicated approximately 40-70 percent of the crop contents were from the supplemental feed source. The remainder of the crop was comprised of seeds from various forbs, grasses or shrubs. Additionally, many crops contained arthropods and fruits from succulents. Vegetation can vary greatly across the Trans-Pecos, and we did note different plants in the crops of quail from different

Supplementing the Habitat


regions of the Trans-Pecos. When assessing forages consumed on ranches providing supplemental feed, there were notable differences between ranches in the southern portion of the Trans-Pecos (ranches close to Big Bend National Park) and those north of Interstate 10. Crop samples obtained from ranches north of I-10 contained wheat, milo, sunflower seeds, golden crownbeard, green vegetation, oats, rosette grass, careless weed, tasajillo, corn, Texas bindweed, redberry juniper, cactus, javelina bush and sumac berries. The most common natural forage item in scaled quail crops was golden crownbeard. It also appeared that harvested birds were visiting the supplemental feed quite often, and it accounted for 40-55 percent of the diet on the ranches sampled. Scaled quail also consumed a variety of insects such as grasshoppers, ladybugs, seed bugs, beetles, stink bugs and true bugs. Although a wide variety of insects were found in the quail crops, there appeared to be no specific preference for a particular insect species. In comparison, ranches in the southern portion of the Trans-Pecos that provide supplemental feed had crop samples that consisted of milo, vervane, tobosa grass, green vegetation, cactus fruit, careless weed, spreading fan petals, Johnson grass, prairie tea, golden crownbeard, western tansy mustard, wild tantan, ants and termites. The ranches sampled in this location primarily use milo for their supplemental feed. Once again quail seem to be taking advantage of the available milo as it accounted for 50-70 percent of the total crop contents. Golden crownbeard was also the preferred native

plant of the ranches sampled in the southern portion of the Trans-Pecos. This species was found in approximately 50 percent of all the crops that were sampled. Another interesting finding was that insects, such as ants, did not appear very often in the crop samples; however, when they were present, the insects typically accounted for more than 80 percent of the sample. This may be in part due to opportunistic feeding when insects are abundant. Green vegetation did appear in each crop sampled, however green leaf matter was not as abundant in crops obtained from ranches using supplemental feed compared to ranches that only had native forage. Scaled quail crops obtained from ranches that did not provide supplemental feed seemed to consume forages in fairly uniform amounts. The seeds selected were fairly diverse on these ranches and included: tasajillo fruits, blackbrush acacia, fall witchgrass, careless weed, Arizona cottontop, golden crownbeard, vervane, tobosa grass, prickly pear fruit, spreading fan petals, Johnson grass, prairie tea, western tansy mustard, wild tantan, ants and termites. One factor that stood out on ranches that did not provide supplemental feed was the preference for green/fleshy vegetation. This green vegetation accounted for 50-60 percent of the crop contents. The affinity for consuming this vegetation was likely due to the high water content within these plants. Since these crop samples were obtained from ranches that had limited standing water, quail appear to be selecting forage that had high water content. All quail can obtain necessary water

The contents of a scaled quail crop are typically comprised of seeds from forbs, insects and leafy greens.

through three sources. The first of the three sources is water produced as a byproduct of metabolism and is referred to as oxidative or metabolic water. Each food differs in the amount of metabolic water that they provide. Metabolic water alone is inadequate to provide all water needs, but can produce 25 percent of the water needed by the body. The second source of water is referred to as preformed water. This is the water that is obtained from the food source. Depending on the amount of humidity in the area, up to 3 percent of a seedâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s weight can be water. Some of the quailâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s forage can contain large amounts of water by weight such as arthropods (60 percent), fleshy fruits (70 percent) and leafy greens (90 percent). Therefore, quail can obtain a large proportion of the water they need on a daily basis from various food items. The third source for water is from surface water sources such as earthen tanks, drinkers, springs, stock tanks, etc. Quail will utilize standing water sources, but they are not reliant on them. Typically, quail obtain all necessary water for survival from metabolic and preformed water. Daily water requirements for quail are relatively small, and even during hot summer months, the average quail only needs about 0.5 ounces of water a day. During dry years, when the vegetation is not providing enough preformed water, quail will seek surface water to meet their daily water needs for survival. With the amounts of rain that we have received in the Trans-Pecos this year, quail are likely obtaining most of their needed water through metabolism and preformed water in their forage. Therefore, quail will not be reliant on standing water throughout the day. As such, individuals wanting to find that illusive covey should focus on areas with preferred scaled quail forage. Look for preferred quail forage such as: golden crownbeard, croton, common broomweed, plains bristlegrass, johnson grass, rosette grass, catclaw acacia, elbowbush, mesquite seeds, sumac, prickly pear cactus and some variation of small invertebrates which include spiders, ants, grasshoppers, termites, true bugs, ladybugs, seed bugs and caterpillars. If you can find a landscape that has a mixture of these preferred quail forage items, you might find a nice covey of Trans-Pecos scaled quail.



Currently, Texans pay nowhere near true market value for water.



hat’s water worth? Two glib replies come to mind. The first involves a quick check of water prices for a given municipality, or pumping costs in the case of farmers tapping an aquifer. The second is that water is priceless because we can’t live without it. The first answer fails to take into account significant subsidization of water developed, stored, and delivered for municipal, industrial and agricultural use. Water subsidies provide a mixed blessing. In the near term, affordable water allows for economic growth and adequate supplies for even the poorest citizens. A much longer view makes clear the reality that cheap water induces little incentive for conservation. Given a complex society, water can no more be priceless than truly free. No matter how communal the arrangement, reliable tap water involves cost. Yet, prohibitively high cost, severely limits human flourishing. The apparent cost is in development, management, delivery, processing and discharge. Notwithstanding natural disaster, unexpected population surge or disruption of energy supplies, adequate infrastructure should limit water scarcity and, therefore, price. Still, many users would find that price objectionable if not prohibitive. Hence, subsidies, through programs such as the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas (SWIFT), which provides financial assistance for projects in the state water plan.




Free market purists argue for complete privatization of our entire system of water and water rights so as to allocate resources to the most important uses by means of a free price system. Bidders most able to satisfy consumer demands would outcompete less able bidders for these resources. Even as this appeals to my conservative sensibility, natural conservative wariness about human nature leaves me uneasy. History reminds us that economic disruptions can drive millions of people into ruin while markets “rationalize.” Imagine a devastating drought and all water in private hands – or under management of fallible corporate executives accountable to investors. In theory, it should work out, but … Water development and provision will involve a mixture of public and private enterprise into the foreseeable future. Perhaps we consumers should think in terms of water price – what we actually pay for a gallon of water - and value – what that same volume would bring in an ideally functioning free market. Such a market doesn’t exist, therefore we must estimate value by accounting for identifiable costs and benefits. Another way to think of water value is to consider the negative economic impact of the unavailability of a certain volume of water. For example, in the 2011 state water plan, Region C planning group, citing a projected doubling of the current Dallas-Fort Worth


Metroplex population, estimates that failure to increase the region’s water supply through implementation of recommended projects could result in a shortfall of 1.5 million acre-feet, which could stifle the region’s economic growth to the tune of $61 billion per year by 2060. So, roughly speaking, the market value of that volume of water in the DFW Metroplex in 2060 would be $61 billion divided by 1.5 million, or $40,667 per acre-foot or about $125 per $1,000 gallons. Current price of municipal water in Dallas runs about $1.80 per 1,000 gallons. Do we believe that in 45 years, Dallasites will be paying 69 times more for water than current residents pay? Odds are, development and delivery will be subsidized in large part by taxpayers and municipal bondholders who’ll never use a drop of that water. Even at $125 per 1,000 gallons, should we assume that our market includes all pertinent data, or are we externalizing

costs that will have to be paid by future generations or folks in other regions? Consider that construction of a large reservoir could inundate many thousands of acres of valuable hardwood bottomland thereby damaging the local timber industry, wildlife and recreation- related commerce, and other small town and rural businesses. Yes, these losses must be weighed against potential lake-related commerce and the benefits of downstream flood control. Then again, a tamed river is a radically changed river. For millennia, frequent flooding, now absorbed by the reservoir, played a critical role in bottomland ecology, dissipating seeds, and providing advantage to certain species of trees and other vegetation. A diminished river allows encroachment of less unique and valuable upland vegetation. There are tangible costs to hundreds or thousands of miles of altered streams coarse. What about impacts to estuarial inflow and potential damage to our multibillion dollar coastal fishery? I’ve barely

scratched the surface. Furthermore, contrary to reductionist economic theory, humans are neither purely economic creatures, nor consistently rational. We are aesthetic beings as well, with varying needs for beauty and meaning. All but the most ruthless philistine will instinctively assign value to natural beauty and, likewise, the psychological and spiritual benefits of intact ecosystems. Whether or not we can account for them in any useful way, we know these values exist and that to diminish them is to incur cost. As Texas’s water markets grow more sophisticated and technology advances, the difference between water price and value should decrease. Along the way, water scarcity and increasing population may force significant lifestyle adjustments. In the meantime, we’d do well to use and appreciate water in keeping with its true value.

Although cheap water encourages economic growth, it induces little incentive for conservation.



Photo by Alan Terrell Although not a yucca, this stump of a dead fir tree in Colorado shows how an inanimate object can look very much like a buck.



t was mid-December of 2013. I had Gus, my ten year old lab with me while working on some family land near Manor. In the middle of the small tract is the old Rose Hill Cemetery where my great-great-grandfather George Heinrich Nelle and his wife are buried along with other early German immigrants. The land surrounding the cemetery once had the Rose Hill schoolhouse and German Evangelical Lutheran Church. The nearby land had been farmed by my family for many years and the small Rose Hill Community prospered. During the early 1900s most families moved away and the buildings were dismantled. Over time the cemetery and surrounding land was neglected and become overgrown. GUS December had already been an unusually cold month, and I figured that the snakes would be denned up for the winter. While I was working, Gus was exploring. About mid-afternoon, she came up to me limping and holding her right front leg off the ground. I could find no thorn and saw nothing abnormal, so I told her to go lay down where I could keep an eye on her. Because I thought that snakes would not be active in cold weather, I dismissed the possibility of a snake bite. A short while later after closer examination, it became obvious that she had probably been bitten. Her upper chest was swollen




and oozing blood. A fast trip to the nearest vet confirmed my worst fears. There was nothing to do; the bite was too severe and too close to the heart. I watched Gus die as I held her in my lap, about two hours after being bitten. It was nearly dark by then. I dug a hole in the hard black clay and buried my dog and cried like a child. It was lonely that night and the next as I slept on the ground without my companion of ten years. For the next few days as I worked to thin out the dense brush, I was more wary than ever of rattlesnakes and hated them more than ever. But it was December and I saw no snakes. MESQUITE The following April I was back at Rose Hill again, continuing the campaign to reduce the excess mesquite. The pain of losing Gus had worn off but I still walked by her grave and spoke to her. My brother and I had been working to thin out the overgrown mesquite for the past year. After cutting the mesquite we would immediately spray the fresh cut stump with a mixture of diesel and Remedy to kill the root system. As a result, there were thousands of small and midsize mesquite limbs lying on the ground. As the grass grew up, the limbs were becoming partially hidden. Most limbs were about the same diameter as a good size rattler and the color and texture of the bark were similar enough to fool you at first glance. Your mind


things that are not real. That is what ground shrink is all about. The massive 12 point, 20 inch buck becomes an ordinary 9 point, 16 inch buck after the bullet hits. YUCCA BUCKS Most Texas deer hunters have observed the mysterious yucca buck. Although this type of buck is commonly seen, few if any clear photos exist to prove its existence. It is most often spotted in the early light of dawn, near sunset or on foggy mornings. Yucca bucks usually blend in well with the surrounding brush, but sometimes they stand out in the open. These bucks almost always remain motionless for long periods. Sometimes the hunter swears that they move. The bucks are carefully observed through binoculars or scope, trying to judge whether the antlers are really as large as they appear. Only very seldom is one actually killed. They are elusive. Even seasoned deer hunters are fooled by the yucca buck. Because the hunter expectantly anticipates or dreams of seeing a huge-antlered buck, his or her mind is programmed to see one. Anything that even faintly resembles the shape of a deer or the silhouette of antlers gets our immediate attention. Once we finally figure out that it’s just a crooked old Spanish dagger, we feel foolish. OTHER EXAMPLES Many hunters still kill yearling spikes under the belief that it will improve genetics. They have been told and want to believe that they can improve the antlers in future generations by culling out young spikes, even under free range conditions. After several years of culling, the hunters are convinced they notice an improvement

in buck quality – because they think it should improve. Even though the harvest records do not reveal any change, yet they continue to kill spikes. For decades range managers and ranchers have declared that mesquite and cedar are depleting aquifers and drying up springs and creeks. That belief prompted the assumption that widespread brush control would restore the state’s dwindling water supplies. Government agencies spent millions in support of that assumption. It was easy to believe and there were anecdotal accounts that seemed to support the assumption. But sadly we often hold on to threads of evidence, no matter how weak, that supports our opinion, and ignore stronger evidence and hard data that refutes it. It is human nature to want to be right; but wishful thinking and strong opinion does not make springs flow again. Fire is another example. Those who overpromote prescribed burning only see the positive effects of fire. Their eagerness to advance the use of burning does not allow them to see the negative effects. Even if bare ground, erosion and other problems are clearly evident, they do not see it because they do not want to acknowledge something different from their dogma. The same can be true of those who overpromote various mechanical practices, herbicide treatments, grazing systems or the latest improved grass. Every tool or technique we use as land managers can have both positive benefits and negative side effects. The astute land manager forces himself to see both sides, looking past the hype and evaluating everything with strict

Photos by Steve Nelle

can play tricks on you. As we walked back and forth working, it seems that every other step had a limb. Some of them even seemed to move. The grass and weeds were still dry and walking on it made a sound that could be mistaken for a rattlesnake. I had my hearing aids turned up all the way hoping to hear any real snakes before stepping on them. Then I saw the slight movement and heard the faint buzz, both in the same instant, a large snake less than two feet away partially hidden in the grass. You know the feeling. Even if you halfway expect it, the shock of the too-close encounter is surprising and revolting. I jumped away and muttered a few unrepeatable words. I had nothing to kill it with; but I did spray it with a good dose of diesel hoping to make it sick. The snake retreated out of sight into the thick underbrush. Was it the same snake that killed Gus? Afterward, every mesquite limb seemed to resemble a snake. It makes it hard to concentrate on your work when you see snakes every few steps. My mind was playing tricks on me. Because I anticipated seeing snakes and because of recent memories, my mind saw snakes. That’s why people still see Elvis. Because they want to see Elvis, they see him. It’s not just the kooks. We all tend to see things that we want to see or that our minds have been trained to see. Conversely, sometimes we refuse to see things that are evident – because we don’t want to see them. Likewise, in ranching, wildlife management and hunting, our minds can also play tricks on us. Making us believe

At first glance, a mesquite limb can look enough like a rattlesnake, to startle even the most experienced. Even when outdoorsmen are on vigilant lookout for snakes, one can still be surprised by a too close encounter. Afterward, everything looks like a snake.




apparently drove climate change scientists to fraudulently fabricate or alter data. They made the data match what they wanted to be true. However, in most cases, it is not blatant dishonesty, but unconscious biases that direct the mind to see what is expected. Confirmation bias is not a new discovery. In 1620, English scientist and philosopher Francis Bacon noted, “The human understanding, when it has once adopted an opinion . . . draws all things else to support and agree with it. And though there be a greater number and weight of evidence to be found on the other side, yet these it neglects, despises, or rejects.” In 1899, Leo Tolstoy observed that “the simplest thing cannot be made clear to the most intelligent man if he is firmly persuaded that he knows already, without a shadow of doubt, what is laid before him." The practical application of these truths is easy to see but difficult to implement. First, we can all admit that we are guilty of this bias to some extent. This admission can motivate us to be hard on our own

Photo by Steve Nelle

and ruthless judgment. It requires a brutally disciplined mind to be able to see things as they are rather than the way we wish. This involves the practice of critical thinking and forces us to lay aside bias, tradition and emotional attachment to the issue. It is difficult to do. CONFIRMATION BIAS This inclination to see what we want to see is called confirmation bias. It is the tendency to search for and interpret observations and information in a way that confirms what we already believe. The effect is stronger for emotionally charged issues and for deeply held beliefs and traditions. Confirmation bias creates overconfidence in personal beliefs and can even strengthen beliefs despite evidence to the contrary. Scientists are also guilty, although like the rest of us, they are reluctant to admit it. There is often a preferred and anticipated outcome to research and it is uncanny how frequently the outcome matches the expectation. Several years ago, this desire for data to match expectations

How could a common yucca be mistaken for a buck? Just ask any deer hunter. Most longtime deer hunters have been fooled by a gnarly old Spanish dagger under faint light, thinking it may be the buck of their dreams.




opinions. By scrutinizing our own beliefs and being open to differing and opposing perspectives, we can come closer to discovering real answers. Secondly, we can acknowledge that in the complex world of land and wildlife management, nearly everyone else also has biases that dictate and drive nearly everything. We should be cautiously suspicious of nearly everything and if it seems too good, we should be even more suspicious. If something goes against your training, your logic, your experience or your instincts, question it severely; but then also question your own position. TWA is an organization with great diversity of opinion on nearly everything. It is part of what makes us a strong, effective and dynamic association. Although the absolute final truth on just about any subject is elusive, and even though the “right answers” may change over time, the search for the best possible solution is vital. It doesn’t necessarily mean a compromise; it does mean working hard to find tough answers to difficult issues.

Better habitat means better hunting. For 25 years, this has been the mantra of the Texas Big Game Awards, which celebrates Texasâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; hunting and conservation achievements. Each year, the program recognizes hunters, including youth and first-time sportsmen, who harvest high-quality big game, and the landowners whose conservation efforts made these harvests possible. Award categories include white-tailed deer, javelina, mule deer, pronghorn antelope and bighorn sheep. Hunters and landowners, help us continue this tradition and celebrate your season successes â&#x20AC;&#x201C; enter the 2015-16 Big Game Awards.

Learn more at

The Texas Big Game Awards is a joint program of





echnology moves at a staggering pace. Today it’s estimated that computer processing speeds double every couple of years or so. The ability to handle multiple, complex mathematical computations in a split second is the basis of society’s technological lifestyle. As such, microprocessing power dominates our everyday lives. These technologies permeate consumer electronics from the mundane (e.g. a refrigerator) to your automobile, cell phone and personal computer. Processing technologies have also spawned a revolution in technologies that benefit landowners, land managers and outdoor enthusiasts. When processors become smaller and faster, they also become more mobile. As such, high technology has made it afield. Here’s a rundown of some of the latest technology and how it can benefit those who derive their vocation or avocation from the land. QUADCOPTERS When you hear about quadcopters (or drones) these days, typically it’s a crazy stunt someone’s attempted or an illegal activity like flying it too close to firefighters. Drones (specifically quadcopters) often get a bad rap in the press. People are leery of them for a variety of reasons including privacy concerns and safety reasons. However, quadcopters, when used responsibly, are fantastic tools for wildlife management and outdoor enthusiasts. While there are many companies who manufacturer quadcopters my favorite are the DJI brand. The company makes a line of quadcopters meant for beginners to experienced pilots. I use mine for photography and videography of course, but they are increasingly being used for mapping and precision agriculture applications.




GAME CAMERAS Game cameras aren’t necessarily new technology, but their features continue to keep pace with the latest technological trends. When I first used a game camera back in the 1990s, it was a cumbersome model that used a transmitter that beamed an invisible light over to a receiver. When the beam was broke by an animal walking through it, the receiver sent a signal to a wire-connected compact film camera and the camera took the picture. Even with the biggest roll of film, the best you were able to do was to take 36 pictures at a time. Then you had to take the film to a processor and have it developed before you could see what tripped the beam. It was a cumbersome process. Today game cameras can shoot a picture of a deer and instantly send the picture to you via cell signal. Most, however, are simple digital cameras that have a motion sensor that takes an image each time an animal moves in front of it. The one game camera that stands out to me the most is the Plot Watcher HD. The Plot Watcher HD isn’t like most traditional game cameras that take images only when an animal is present. Instead, it shoots pictures at preset intervals making a series of photos. When downloaded, the photos are presented in time lapse form with proprietary software provided with the camera. While a downside may be that the camera doesn’t take night time photos, it does present a concise view of animals’ movements during the daylight hours. The data is valuable for figuring animals travel habits at all periods of the day. I am able to tell if they are hanging around my food plot for a while or if they are passing through. Because the plot watcher records every animal in front of the camera regardless of size, I can also see what kinds of critters are found on my place. THE BULLET HP Electronic game calls have been around for a while. I have an old version of a Johnny Stewart game caller that uses 45 rpm records. Predictably, the steady march of technology has seen electronic


callers evolve from records, to cassettes, to CD’s, and now many of them are high powered MP3 players with sounds built into the callers. The next iteration of the game caller is the Bullet HP from Convergent Technologies. With the Bullet HP, sounds are stored on your smartphone and broadcast via bluetooth to the device. Convergent makes several apps designed for various hunting applications like an app with predator sounds or another that’s used for calling deer. Each app is low priced and is available on iPhone and Android platforms. Getting new sounds in the field is as easy as downloading a new app and the whole device (including volume control and sound selection) is controlled from the user’s smartphone. Aside from the new calling interface, the unit also features a spinning decoy that projects from the top of the call. Believe me, when a coyote or bobcat sees the furry appendage, they are locked in. APPS It wasn’t too long ago that the line between

their pocket. These computers just happen to make phone calls. All this computing power provides some real value to the landowner or manager. Some of the valuable apps are third party while the others are built in to most smartphones when you buy them. CAMERA One of the items that smart phones have supplanted from our everyday lives is the dedicated still and video camera. You no longer need to carry a separate camera to document your property. In 2013, camera enabled smartphone sales topped over 1 billion – a 38 percent increase over the previous year. During the same time, mid and low-priced point and shoot digital camera sales dropped 36 percent. While 2014 numbers are still premature, the decline continues for pointand-shoot cameras while smartphone sales continue to stay strong and grow the market. The great thing about digital smartphone cameras are their ability to switch between still and video cameras with a touch.

home computer and a telephone was definite. About a decade ago, most carried phones that had pretty much a singular purpose: make phone calls. Today, with the proliferation of smartphones, many have the luxury of carrying small computers in

The quality of imagery smartphones can produce is on par with traditional cameras. Perhaps one of the best features of smartphone cameras is something you can’t see. Each time you take a picture the image is geotagged with the latitude and longitude



Article and Photo by DONNIE DRAEGER Wildlife Information Systems, a Texas based company, has developed several useful apps for hunters, wildlife biologist and landowners. The app receiving the most buzz here in Texas is the WIS Harvest–TWIMS Edition.WIS Harvest is a skinning shed data assistant that creates an electronic harvest data sheet and an instantaneous searchable database in your skinning shed or deer camp allowing the user to access and filter valuable data instantly on an android tablet or phone. With WIS Harvest the hunter can input and store all pertinent harvest data about the hunter, location, hunt type, date, health of deer and much more. WIS Harvest also has a score sheet that allows the hunter to input all antler data and quickly obtain a gross and net for both typical and non-typical bucks. The TWIMS version of this app is customized to meet the requirements of Texas hunters who hold Managed Lands Deer Permit (MLDP) or an Antlerless Deer Control Permit (ADCP) issued by TPWD. The end goal of this version is to produce the required annual harvest log in the form of an Excel spreadsheet structured to the exacting standards set by TPWD. At the end of the reporting year, simply select a ranch and a date range from your harvest log and email the spreadsheet for your review before you forward it to the TWIMS website. The TPWD required spreadsheet is automatically filled out for you. You no longer have to count points and calculate antler scores by hand and then tediously type them in to the spreadsheet, WIS Harvest-TWIMS Edition does it all for you! For more information, visit




from the location. In other words, each time you shoot an image a “digital trail” is created. Geotagged images are great for documenting changes to a ranch over time. Because they are geotagged, you can easily compare two images shot from the same place over time. CONVERSION CALCULATOR This is one of my favorite apps. The conversion calculator allows you to



easily calculate area or volume using both imperial and metric measurements. Have to spray herbicides that give you directions on ounces per square foot? This app easily lets you convert it to see how many pints or quartz per acre that equates to. You can use the conversion calculators on everything from breaking down acreage to recalculating recipes in order to feed more people at your next get together. The


bottom line is that if you can measure it, you can covert it. OUTDOOR ANNUAL Once upon a time, if you wanted to make sure that you understood the game regulations and bag limits of a particular county, you had to carry one of Texas Parks and Wildlife’s Outdoor Annuals with you wherever you went. While the books are small, they are easily tattered and aren’t really all that portable. Now, TPWD offers the annual book of fish and game regulations and bag limits in a convenient app. No matter the county, you can find the bag limits for all the game in that county with just a few touches. On the Outdoor Annual app, you also find the latest hunting and fishing news, information about hunter education and species reference information. MOTIONX GPS I love this app. Instead of toting around a dedicated GPS unit to map trails or blind locations, MotionX GPS turns my smartphone into a GPS Unit. The app uses satellite imagery to help you visualize your location where you can record tracks and set waypoints that you can reference with pictures taken from within the app.


Aside from marking locations of feeders, blinds or ranch roads, you can also use the built in compass or record elevations that are remarkably accurate by using the app. It’s not the precision you’d need when setting elevations for a pond or building but it’s a good tool to use when planning and visualizing ranch improvements. All of the data you record is shareable with others who use the app. Theoretically, gone are the days when you have to give directions to hunters. If they use the MotionX GPS app, you can share the location of a blind, and they can use their smartphone to find their way. ANIMAL AND PLANT ID APPS Much like the Outdoor Annual, carrying guidebooks into the field can be cumbersome. While I don’t have any specific apps to mention, I know that there are several that help you ID plants and animals. The cool thing about these apps is the intactness of them. Not only can you

see a picture of a songbird, but apps like Bird Song ID lets you record a bird song and then cross references its database to provide a possible match as to the bird’s ID. Apps like Audubon Mammals provide pictures and copious notes concerning the various North American wildlife species the application features. TEXAS AGRILIFE EXTENSION APPS The Texas Agrilife Extension Service offers a variety of apps aimed squarely at landowners and managers. Currently, they feature 10 apps that help managers make decisions on various aspects of pond management, grazing and wildlife management. For the rancher, there’s a stocking rate calculator that helps you determine the correct number of animals you should be grazing. There are apps to help you manage feral hog and white-tailed deer populations and even a handy app for managing quail that gives you month to

month ideas on things a land manager can do to improve quail habitat. You’ll have to pay for most of the apps, but the cost is nominal. MAPRIGHT Mapright is a subscription-based web service that is like Google Maps on steroids. The web makes geographic information systems (GIS) available to the masses. GIS, for the uninitiated, is a “system designed to capture, store, manipulate, analyze, manage and present all types of spatial or geographical data.” For a nominal monthly fee, users can create their own GIS maps of properties where you can easily add elements such as boundaries, blind locations, water features and other points of interest to your maps. With hundreds of pre-loaded icons, creating maps with layers and layers of information is a snap. Because it’s a cloud based service, you can access your maps using your smartphone wherever you travel.

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TEN REASONS YOU DON’T WANT CWD IN YOUR WOODS Article by LINDSAY THOMAS JR., QDMA Director of Communications This article was published in the August-September 2015 issue of Quality Whitetails. It is reprinted here with permission from the Quality Deer Management Association.


hronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is a serious threat to the future of deer hunting. Yet, there are many hunters who don’t understand or appreciate the threat, who feel it is not something they have to worry about because it is far away from their woods or who confuse it with other diseases. That’s why it’s important for all deer hunters – especially those who have not yet felt the impact of CWD or who live far from any outbreak areas – to learn what is really happening right now to those who have the misfortune of being affected. There is much confusion between CWD and hemorrhagic disease (EHD and bluetongue virus). EHD and bluetongue are serious matters in their own right, and their impact is more rapid, more visible and more dramatic. Deer carcasses pile up quickly in outbreak areas. By contrast, CWD is a slow poison, building over time, taking months or years to kill individual deer that are spreading the infection as they slowly die. Unlike the EHD and bluetongue viruses transmitted by insects, the CWD blight is steadily growing with no breaks, no recovery periods, no survivors and no resulting immunity. The known impact sites for CWD in wild deer or elk currently include 20 states and two Canadian provinces, a list that has been growing recently. Minnesota and Maryland discovered CWD in free-roaming deer in 2011; Missouri in 2012; Pennsylvania in 2013; Iowa in 2014; and already this year, Michigan. We should be concerned about both EHD and CWD, but an important difference is that CWD can still be prevented from spreading to new areas. If you don’t hunt in or near regions with CWD, be very happy, and support all efforts to prevent the disease’s arrival near you. If it hits, the biological damage to the deer herd will be slow to build, but the impact on you and your hunting will likely be immediate and significant. Don’t take my word for it. Just consider the actual impacts on hunters caught in the real world of a CWD outbreak. Here are 10 very real reasons why you don’t want CWD in your woods. 1. NECESSARY DEER POPULATION REDUCTION State wildlife agencies are working hard to prevent CWD entering their states, but when it is discovered and prevention is no longer possible, the goal shifts to intensive surveillance and containment. Sharpshooters, agency personnel and local hunters




are enlisted to shoot and sample enough wild deer to reveal the prevalence and extent of the outbreak. Once this is known, a management plan is developed, and it usually involves reducing deer density in the Disease Management Zone (DMZ) to reduce deer-to-deer contact and slow the spread. Emergency seasons may be opened, bonus tags may be doled out, and landowners may be asked to cooperate in thinning the one resource that may be the reason they own land – necessary steps that neither the agencies nor the hunters involved would choose if they didn’t have to. Missouri discovered its first case of CWD in Macon County in 2010 in a pair of adjacent captive deer facilities owned by the same deer farmer. It was discovered in 2012 in wild deer just outside these pens. The site is in Missouri’s prime deer country. “This is the heart of some of our best deer hunting in the state,” said Jason Sumners, deer project leader for the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC). MDC moved quickly, as most states do, to drop wild deer numbers in a 30 square mile core area around the two deer farms. Sharpshooters entered private lands, and bonus tags were dispensed. “Deer density was probably in the neighborhood of 35 to 40 per square mile before we started. Now, we’re less than 10,” Jason said. “A lot of the landowners in this area bought the land specifically for deer hunting, and it’s a tough pill for them to swallow. In general they have been really, really cooperative, but they’re not happy about it at all.” 2. NEW RULES FOR MOVING AND HANDLING VENISON After you have killed a deer, you likely have a set of rituals you go through to reduce it to bag and prepare it for the dinner table. If CWD appears nearby, you can probably scrap all that and learn a new regime. It’s possible that every deer you kill will have to be taken first to a mandatory check-station for sample collection. You’ll be limited as to where you can take the carcass without first boning it out. Parts like the head may have to remain in the DMZ and other parts discarded at an approved location. “I can’t take a deer carcass out of the zone. I can’t even take the head to a taxidermist outside the zone,” said Rick Watts of Pennsylvania, who lives in a DMZ surrounding a deer farm in Adams County where CWD was discovered in 2012, one of three


DMZs in Pennsylvania. “There was only one taxidermist in the zone who did European mounts, and he quit. He didn’t want to have to deal with all the regulations and problems.” Rick now processes his own venison because his favorite processor is located outside the zone, and hunters who use commercial processors must use one that is located within the boundaries. “I live a mile from the edge of the zone, and the two butchers that are inside the zone are on the far side. They’re further away from me than a couple of butchers that are outside the line.” Precautions and regulations like these complicate life for hunters, and they strain the relationship between hunters and their wildlife agencies, but the agencies are also in a tough position. There are no easy methods for containing CWD once it arrives, but inaction is not an option for anyone who cares about whitetails. “I don’t think the average hunter understands the potential impact of what this will do to their hunting,” Rick said. 3. LOSS OF BASIC HUNTING PRIVILEGES Rick’s hunting has changed in other ways. He can no longer use supplemental feed or distribute minerals. These are common rules put in place in an effort to slow CWD’s spread anywhere it appears, and QDMA supports agencies in taking steps like these. Bait, feed and mineral sites can congregate deer unnaturally, making it easier for them to swap saliva or come in contact with the urine or feces of other deer – all of which can transmit the infectious materials that cause CWD. In Rick’s case, he can’t hunt with urine-based lures or attractants either. “We used to do trail-camera surveys and I put out corn and minerals to bait the camera sites, so I can’t do trail-camera surveys anymore,” Rick said. “That affects our ability to get deer in front of cameras and monitor the herd. I also used to put out minerals and a mix of attractants in front of my cameras, but I’m not allowed to do that anymore, either.” 4. MATURE BUCKS NOT ENCOURAGED Research has revealed that CWD prevalence rates are highest in older bucks. For that reason, CWD containment plans often involve managing for a young deer age structure, the opposite of Quality Deer Management. Hunters are discouraged from attempting to build buck age structure by protecting yearling or middle-aged bucks – again, an unfortunate but prudent step in containing the disease. In 2004, Missouri established an experimental 4-points-on-aside antler restriction to protect yearling bucks in 29 northern counties. It was a success and was popular among hunters, so in 2008 the rule was expanded to 65 counties. When CWD was discovered in the middle of those 65 counties, the antler point regulation was repealed in the six-county DMZ. When a positive deer was found outside the DMZ this year, the regulation was repealed in 14 additional counties. Jason Sumners said the sex ratio of the deer harvest in the containment zone has shifted quickly back in favor of bucks, and pressure on yearling bucks is high once again. Gary Bolhofner of Missouri, who hunts in the DMZ, said he

hated to see the antler regulation repealed. “The 4-point rule really helped,” he said. “We were really seeing a lot of good bucks before it was dropped.” 5. ECONOMIC LOSSES IN THE REGION When CWD is discovered in a new area, research has shown a subsequent decrease in hunting effort and time spent afield. Some hunters leave the woods because they don’t see many deer anymore, a result of intentional efforts to reduce deer density and contain the disease. Some hunters leave the woods because of fears about eating venison from infected deer. Participation rates rebound in many areas after an initial period of alarm and confusion, which is often fueled by inaccuracies about the disease in local news media. Once the facts come into focus, many hunters return to the woods, but not all. In Wisconsin, hunting license sales fell sharply after CWD was discovered in 2001 and have remained about 5 percent below previous levels, or about 40,000 hunters short. The initial decline in hunting participation after a CWD outbreak is significant enough to be felt in the local economy, even if the effect is short-lived. Spending by hunters on lodging, meals, gas, equipment, deer processing and other goods and services drops off. License sales may also decline, impacting state wildlife agency budgets at a time when new expenses associated with controlling CWD are exploding. Tennessee does not yet have CWD that we know of. But the Department of Agricultural Economics at the University of Tennessee conducted a study to estimate the economic impact of CWD if it should appear. They studied actual impacts on hunting participation in other states and applied them to known spending patterns by hunters in Tennessee. The researchers wrote in a final report: “When the direct effects are combined with effects from decreased purchases from supplying industries and service providers and effects from fewer expenditures with income losses, the total economic losses are estimated at $98 million and 1,459 jobs.” This is to say nothing of the value of hunting land in the affected area. “I take calls from folks who want to know what’s going on, who had been thinking about buying land in the area but are goosey about the long-term impacts of CWD,” said Jason Sumners. “I can’t say there has been an impact on land value, but there’s definitely a perception of, well, ‘maybe I’ll just go buy land somewhere else.’” According to land brokers in the outbreak region, recreational land value inside Missouri’s DMZ is currently $200 to $350 less per acre than outside the zone. 6. YOUR TAX AND LICENSE MONEY DIVERTED Even in states where CWD has not yet been detected, wildlife agencies are pouring tens of thousands of dollars into monitoring to ensure early detection if it arrives. In our 2010 Whitetail Report, QDMA surveyed agencies and found that states were spending a combined annual total of over $1 million just for collecting and testing samples to monitor wild deer for CWD. I checked with




my home state of Georgia, which is fortunately still a long way from the nearest known case of CWD, and learned the Georgia Wildlife Resources Division (WRD) currently spends around $20,000 annually on CWD surveillance. The grand total since 2003 is nearly half a million dollars. These costs rise dramatically after CWD enters the picture, as more intensive monitoring is needed to define the impact zone. Monitoring costs are joined by added expenses and manpower. In states with CWD, costs are running in the millions. While much of these funds used to come from the federal government, state funds also were being used. In 2012, federal funding for CWD surveillance was significantly reduced, and most costs must now be borne by the states, which already have precious little in their budgets for spending on programs that benefit sportsmen. Georgia WRD could do a lot to benefit sportsmen with the funds that are being spent on CWD surveillance, but the situation could be much worse. So far, none of those CWD samples collected in Georgia have tested positive. 7. NO STATE HAS WON THE CWD BATTLE After more than a decade and over $49 million dollars spent fighting CWD in Wisconsin, prevalence rates in 15 impacted counties are climbing steadily. In Iowa County, for example, the percentage of adult bucks with CWD has climbed from 33 percent in 2012 to more than 40 percent. “Even so, many of us continue to hunt deer in this increasingly diseased region,” wrote hunter and freelance writer Patrick Durkin in a recent column for the Wisconsin State Journal. “Its where many of us learned to hunt deer, and it remains a beautiful land with abundant wildlife. We continue to cherish it, much as we would a stricken loved one. So, yes, the deer hunting tradition remains, but how long before it, too, falls to CWD?” I asked that same question of Dr. John Fischer, a wildlife veterinarian and Director of the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study at the University of Georgia’s College of eterinary Medicine. “In my opinion, it’s too early to tell,” he said. “In some areas, CWD prevalence in wild deer is approaching 50 percent. For a disease that’s uniformly fatal, I think that sooner or later you’re going to start seeing some population impacts.” Those impacts may not include local extinctions, but they will include changes in herd structure, said Matt Dunfee, Director of the CWD Alliance. “A doe will live long enough to replace herself,” he said, “but she’s probably not going to survive to 4½ years old. Neither is a buck.” New York has one of the few encouraging stories. In 2005, CWD was discovered at two captive deer facilities in Oneida County. Surveillance was intensified, restrictions were placed on movement of live and dead deer, and later that year two wild deer tested positive in the DMZ. Since then, despite thousands of wild deer tested statewide and particularly in the DMZ, no additional positives have been found. The containment zone was dissolved in 2010, but surveillance is ongoing. Because of potential




environmental contamination with infectious CWD materials, even this might not be a victory. “You don’t go back to ‘CWD free,’” said Dunfee, “It will affect a wildlife agency forever. Even in New York, they’re not CWD free. The long-term effect of this will be felt, as far as we know, indefinitely.” 8. PRIONS DIE HARD Even if Wisconsin or any other state could somehow completely remove every sick deer in DMZs, infectious materials litter the battlefield. The abnormal proteins, called “prions,” are shed by whitetails in feces, urine, saliva and blood, and they remain in carcasses. Unlike an EHD virus which cannot survive outside the body of its host, CWD-causing material can survive in soil and remain infectious for an as-yet undetermined amount of time. “We know it can remain viable in the environment for a number of years,” said Dr. Fischer. “We don’t know how long.” In studies with captive elk, sick animals were removed and their pens cleaned and disinfected thoroughly, including removal and replacement of the dirt in the pen. But new animals introduced to the site became infected. If wild deer die out or are eradicated from DMZs, restocking will not likely be attempted for years without risk of new outbreaks. 9. ARE YOU GOING TO EAT THAT? There is no evidence that CWD is transmissible to humans. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “To date, no strong evidence of CWD transmission to humans has been reported.” Nevertheless, they urge caution because CWD is in the same group of disorders as mad cow disease, which can infect humans. The CDC suggests you be careful about how you process venison harvested in a DMZ and what parts of the deer you touch and eat. Deer can carry CWD for months to years before symptoms become obvious. If CWD comes to your area, will you be concerned about eating venison? Or feeding it to your family? Do you want to have that on your mind when you are slicing out a pair of backstraps? Many hunters in DMZs pay out of their own pockets to have their deer tested for CWD, and they wait until results are back before they eat the venison – the CDC also suggests this precautionary step, although experts emphasize the test is a surveillance tool and not a food-safety procedure. The cost of a test may vary from $30 to $50 or more, and results are usually available in a few weeks. It’s one more way that deer hunting has changed for these hunters and potentially one more added cost. 10. THERE’S CURRENTLY NO CURE Scientists are working to create a vaccine that can prevent CWD, but the work is slow. An initial trial provided tantalizing hope that a vaccine is possible. Four of five deer given an experimental vaccine still contracted and died of CWD when exposed, but the fifth deer remains CWD free – the “first partially successful vaccination for a prion disease in a species naturally at risk” according to researchers.


Still, it’s likely to be years before a vaccine is actually developed. It will be extremely useful in cleaning captive deer herds of the disease, but its practicality for reducing or preventing CWD in wild herds will be questionable. The bottom line, according to Dr. Fischer: Prevention is the only proven technique for managing diseases in free-ranging wildlife. “Trying to play catch-up with a wildlife disease after it’s already established is tough,” said Dr. Fischer. “There’s no guarantee of success, but there is a guarantee it’s going to be a very costly, longterm endeavor. If you don’t have CWD where you hunt, you don’t want it.” Based on what we know about how the disease spreads, there are two primary methods for preventing the arrival of CWD in new areas. • First, stop the transportation of live deer and elk into and within your state. • Second, stop movement of parts of deer and elk from DMZs into your state. “If you are a hunter in a state without CWD, encourage your legislators and wildlife agency to put in place any regulations that can reduce the risk of it entering the state,” said Matt Dunfee.

“Encourage them to spend money on sampling and monitoring to pick up the disease as quickly as you possibly can so they can jump on it when it does.” I live and hunt in Georgia, where CWD has yet to be discovered, and I pray it never will be. For many hunters, CWD is easy to ignore or dismiss because it is still far away from their state’s borders or because the impact is complex or difficult to quantify. But I urge you to learn all you can. Visit your state wildlife agency’s website and read their CWD response plan. Contact them to learn more about their testing programs, and support them in their monitoring efforts – as well as their containment efforts should that day come. If nothing else, take one thing from this story: You don’t want CWD in your woods. About the Author: Lindsay Thomas Jr. is the Director of Communications for the QDMA ( and editor of QDMA’s Quality Whitetails magazine.



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by David Bechtol This photo of a bobcat taken by David Bechtol during the 2010 Pro-Tour of Nature Photography, Borderlands of Laredo, is representative of the same species found at Camp Lula Sams. Over the last 10 years at Camp Lula Sams, there have been sitings of nine different bobcats, one ocelot, three different color phases of jaguarundi and one mountain lion. 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




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Texas Wildlife, November 2015  

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

Texas Wildlife, November 2015  

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

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