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Other Game Birds of Texas



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

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 www.texas-wildlife.org


The philosophy of the school room in one generation will be the philosophy of government in the next. –Abraham Lincoln


any of us were fortunate to grow up in the country or at least have plenty of access to it. Bending a fishing pole at a pond or chasing fireflies down by the creek are resonant childhood memories. Our love of the land, sparked when we were young, binds all of us here at Texas Wildlife Association together. That spark grew into our burning passion for Texas wildlife. It drives our management practices, pushing us to improve previously mismanaged habitat, until it is able to sustain healthy wildlife populations. It encourages us to look at societal problems from a “big picture” perspective. Where does that water really come from? How did that beef get on our table? We know that without landowners to implement sound habitat management practices and provide wildlife with open spaces to roam, Texas just wouldn’t be Texas. As the urban population in Texas continues to grow much faster than the rural one, it is increasingly important to bring nature into the classroom. If the importance of wildlife and natural systems aren’t presented to children who have never been in a rural setting in a compelling and interesting way, they are much less likely to have interest in those things as adults. The L.A.N.D.S. (Learning Across New Dimensions in Science) Outreach programs are designed to introduce youths to the outdoors. Through Discovery Trunks which provide hands-on materials for lessons, Distance Learning webinars which broadcast lessons directly into the classroom, and Wildlife by Design which tailors specifically to a teachers needs and requests, children are getting their first taste of the outdoors. Through L.A.N.D.S. Intensive, they are given a more thorough introduction with a semester-long combination of classroom lessons combined with field trips to investigate and apply what has been learned in the classroom. In 2015, all of TWA’s Conservation Legacy programs and partnerships AGAIN made over half a million impacts in the field of natural resource literacy. This brings the total number to over two million people touched since the program’s inception. TWA is working hard to preserve the legacy of the land in the hearts and minds of Texas youths, who will become the decision makers of tomorrow. As the Texas landscape changes and its population grows, it will be up to them to carry the torch. Education is just one of the MANY ways that YOUR TWA is making a difference.

Marko Barrett President, Texas Wildlife Association

David Yeates, Chief Executive Officer Quita Hill, Director of Finance and Operations Cheryl McPherson, Office Administrator

Outreach & Member Services David Brimager, Director of Public Relations Luke Sammons, Director of Communications Kendra Roller, Director of Member Relations Kristin Parma, Membership Coordinator

Programs Kassi Scheffer, Director of Education – Outreach Programs Leslie Wittenburg, Director of Education – L.A.N.D.S. Intensive Clint Faas, Director of Conservation Programs 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 Marla Wolf, Curriculum Writer COL(R) Chris Mitchell, Texas Youth Hunting Program Director Bob Barnette, TYHP Field Operations Coordinator Bryan Jones, TYHP Field Operations Coordinator Barbara Scheib, TYHP Program Coordinator Kara Starr, Texas Big Game Awards Program Coordinator Melanie Blanding, Conservation Legacy Program Assistant

Advocacy Joey Park, Legislative Program Coordinator

MAGAZINE CORPS David Yeates, Executive Editor Kim Rothe, Consulting Publications Coordinator/Editor David Brimager, Advertising Director Lorie Woodward Cantu, Special Projects Editor Publication Printers Corp., Printing, Denver, CO

COLUMNISTS/CONTRIBUTORS Ralph Winingham Lorie Woodward Cantu Dale Rollins, Ph. D. Billy Higginbotham, Ph. D. Steve Nelle Henry Chappell Borderlands Research Institute for Natural Resource Management, Sul Ross State University-Alpine Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute, Texas A&M University-Kingsville Arthur Temple College of Forestry and Agriculture, Stephen F. Austin State University-Nacogdoches Department of Natural Resources Management, Texas Tech University-Lubbock TEXAS WILDLIFE is published monthly by Texas Wildlife Association, 3660 Thousand Oaks Dr., Suite 126, San Antonio, Texas 78247. E-mail address: twa@texas-wildlife.org POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Texas Wildlife Association, 3660 Thousand Oaks Dr., Suite 126, San Antonio, Texas 78247.

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 dbrimager@texas-wildlife.org.

Mission Impacts Thank You to TWA


s a 20-year veteran in elementary education, I’m always looking for out-of-the-box ways to extend my students’ learning. However, I am quite particular as I only want exceptional learning opportunities for my students at Merriman Park Elementary in Richardson ISD. When I found the description of TWA’s Conservation Legacy Programs, I knew I had to try it. My second graders and I first tapped into the Bats-a-Billion Distance Learning Program. We thoroughly enjoyed the interactive aspect which allowed my students to become quite the bat experts. Since the Distance Learning program surpassed my high expectations, I knew had to share the information about other conservation programs with our Outdoor Learning Center educator Lindsay Baronowski. She reserved two Discovery Trunks and scheduled Kimberly Shaw, the Dallas area TWA Conservation Legacy Wildlife Educator, to come to our school and share a Wildlife by Design program with our second and third graders. Kimberly was quite knowledgeable and successfully engaged the students by presenting a variety of Texas animals in the Skins and Skulls program. Students learned how to look at an animal to determine if it is a predator or prey animal and learned about animal defenses. Kudos to Kimberly for fielding all of the curious students’ questions and for allowing them to each touch two pelts and get close-up views of the skulls. Thank you, Kimberly! The kids and I both loved the Critter Connections mini-magazine that Kimberly left for us. We have already subscribed to Critter Connections. TWA educators, this very particular educator is MOST impressed as were my colleagues. We are already making plans for Kimberly to come back in the spring! Sincerely, Cathleen Barnette 2nd Grade, Merriman Park Elementary, Richardson ISD (Editor’s Note: In 2012, The Texas Wildlife Association’s Conservation Legacy education efforts in North Texas became formally known as The James Green Wildlife & Conservation Initiative. Sportsmen’s Club of Fort Worth has generously supported this program since its inception and in 2015 provided additional funding for an educator (Kimberly Shaw) as well as funding for additional Discovery Trunks to be created and circulated exclusively in North Texas.)

FEBRUARY Volume 31 H Number 10 H 2016

8 Other Game Birds of Texas by TODD STEELE

16 Hunting Heritage

TBGA’s 25th Anniversary by DAVID BRIMAGER

20 Conservation Legacy

Natural Resource Excellence in Teaching Award by LESLIE WITTENBURG

22 TWA Members in Action

2016 Texas Wildlife Association Region/ Urban Team Chairs

24 Caesar Kleberg News

History and Culture of Upland and Webless Migratory Game Birds in Texas by LEONARD A. BRENNAN, DAMON L. WILLIFORD, BART M. BALLARD, WILLIAM P. KUVLESKY JR., ERIC D. GRAHMANN and STEPHEN J. DEMASO

28 TTU News

Moist-soil Management and Ducks on the Upper Texas Coast by MICHAEL D. WHITSON and WARREN C. CONWAY, PH.D.

32 Plant Profile Cowpen Daisy by STEVE NELLE

34 Bongo II and Quail Booms by DALE ROLLINS, PH. D.

38 Groundwater Basics by HENRY CHAPPELL

42 Simple, Neat and Wrong by STEVE NELLE

46 Your Right to Hunt and Fish by JOHN GOODSPEED

ON THE COVER Learn More About TWA

Scan the QR code with your smartphone to learn more about the Texas Wildlife Association or visit www.texas-wildlife.org



The Purple Gallinule is one of the most colorful game birds that can be harvested in Texas. It inhabits marshes and wetlands but migrates early. Read more about other atypical game birds in Todd Steele’s article on page 8. Photo by Todd J. Steele Other Game Birds of Texas





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 tpwd.state.tx.us.






JULY 14-17

Final week of the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo, 3400 Burnett Tandy Drive, Fort Worth. For more information, visit www.fwssr.com.


San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo, AT&T Center, San Antonio. Visit www.sarodeo.com for more information. Wildlife for Lunch Webinar: Understanding Wildlife Leases, presented by Craig Bowen, Plateau Land Group. For access information, see the webinar ad on page 7 of this magazine or contact Clint Faas at (800) 839-9453 or cfaas@texaswildlife.org.


Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Ranching and Wildlife Expo, Reliant Center, Houston. For more information or to learn how you can help out contact Clint Faas at cfaas@texas-wildlife.org.


Wildlife for Lunch Webinar: Identifying Predation on Wildlife and Livestock, presented by John Tomecek, Ph.D., Texas A&M AgriLife Extension. For access information, see the webinar ad on page 7 of this magazine or contact Clint Faas at (800) 839-9453 or cfaas@texaswildlife.org.

APRIL Harvey Weil Sportsman Conservationist Award Dinner,Welder Wildlife Foundation Refuge,Sinton,Texas. Honorees are Berdon Lawrence, Conservationist of the Year; Dr. Fidel Hernandez,Professional Conservationist of the Year; and Kent Ullberg,Living Legacy Award. Reservations must be made in advance. For more information, visit www.rotarycc.com,call (361) 8828672 or email lysa@rotarycc.com.






Wildlife for Lunch Webinar: Getting to Know Your Quail, presented by Dale Rollins, Ph.D., Texas A&M AgriLife Extension. For access information, see the webinar ad on page 7 of this magazine or contact Clint Faas at (800) 839-9453 or cfaas@texas-wildlife.org.

Texas Big Game Awards Banquet, Regions 5, 6 and 7, Pitser Garrison Convention Center, Lufkin. For more information, contact David Brimager at dbrimager@texas-wildlife.org.

MAY 19

Wildlife for Lunch Webinar: Pond Management, Billy Higginbotham, Ph.D., Texas A&M AgriLife Extension. For access information, see the webinar ad on page 7 of this magazine or contact Clint Faas at (800) 839-9453 or cfaas@texaswildlife.org.


Texas Big Game Awards Banquet, Regions 1, 2 and 3, McNease Convention Center, San Angelo. For more information, contact David Brimager at dbrimager@texas-wildlife.org.


Texas Big Game Awards Banquet, Regions 4 and 8, SSGT. Willie DeLeon Civic Center, Uvalde. For more information, contact David Brimager at dbrimager@texas-wildlife.org.


Wildlife for Lunch Webinar: Comprehensive Range and Wildlife Management, presented by Chip Ruthven, TPWD. For access information, see the webinar ad on page 7 of this magazine or contact Clint Faas at (800) 839-9453 or cfaas@texas-wildlife.org.


WildLife 2016, TWA’s Annual Convention, J.W. Marriott Hill Country Resort and Spa, San Antonio. For more information, call TWA headquarters at (800) 839-9453 or visit the TWA website at www.texas-wildlife.org.


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 texasbiggameawards.org.


Wildlife for Lunch Webinar: Property Evaluation Basics: Reading the Land, presented by Shane Kiefer, Plateau Land and Wildlife. For access information, see the webinar ad on page 7 of this magazine or contact Clint Faas at (800) 839-9453 or cfaas@texas-wildlife.org.


Wildlife for Lunch Webinar: Ecosystem Function in the Texas Rice Belt, presented by Dan Keesee, USDA-NRCS. For access information, see the webinar ad on page 7 of this magazine or contact Clint Faas at (800) 839-9453 or cfaas@texaswildlife.org.


Wildlife for Lunch Webinar: Disease Ecology in a Changing World: Why Should We Care in Texas? Presented by Dr. Ivan Castro, Texas State University. For access information, see the webinar ad on page 7 of this magazine or contact Clint Faas at (800) 839-9453 or cfaas@texaswildlife.org.

Photo by by Hardy Jackson

Wildlife for Lunch 2016 Webinar Series Join the Texas Wildlife Association and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service as they sponsor a series of lunchtime webinars on the third Thursday of every month. These webinars will provide sound, science-based information about wildlife, habitat and natural resource management. Whether one is a landowner, land manager, hunter or wildlife enthusiast, there is something in this webinar series for everyone.

IT’S EASY! This webinar series can be viewed from the comfort of one’s home, office or anywhere with a computer and internet connection. Broadcast during the lunch hour, the goal is to provide educational content without interrupting a normal work day. To log on, simply go to texaswildlife.webex.com on the day of the webinar and click the presentation you wish to access.

NO NEED TO TRAVEL! Each web-based seminar is fully interactive and allows you to engage the experts, make comments and ask questions during the course of the presentation.

MISSED THE SCHEDULED WEBINAR? If you missed the initial webinar or would like to see what other topics have been offered in the past, each webinar is archived on TWA’s website for future viewing.They can be found at www.texas-wildlife.org/webinars.

QUESTIONS? Contact Clint Faas at (800) 839-9453 or cfaas@texas-wildlife.org









Understanding Wildlife Leases Presented by Craig Bowen, Plateau Land Group Identifying Predation on Wildlife and Livestock Presented by John Tomecek, Ph.D., Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Getting to Know Your Quail Presented by Dale Rollins, Ph.D., Texas A&M AgriLife Extension

MAY 19

Pond Management Presented by Billy Higginbotham, Ph.D., Texas A&M AgriLife Extension

Comprehensive Range and Wildlife Management Presented by Chip Ruthven, TPWD Property Evaluation Basics: Reading the Land Presented by Shane Kiefer, Plateau Land and Wildlife Ecosystem Function in the Texas Rice Belt Presented by Dan Keesee, USDA-NRCS


Coffee Shop Quail Talk: Common Myths and Misconceptions Presented by Robert Perez, TPWD Because Ranching and Wildlife Go Together Presented by Tyler Campbell, Ph.D., East Foundation


Patterns of Supplemental Feed Consumption in White-tailed Deer Presented by Emily Belser, CKWRI

Disease Ecology in a Changing World: Why Should We Care in Texas? Presented by Ivan Castro, Ph.D., Texas State University



The Fulvous Whistling-Duck is the hardest resident duck to bag usually migrating south of Texas prior to the general waterfowl season.






hat weighs a few ounces and flies like Hall-of-Famer Phil Niekro’s legendary knuckleball? Can you name the chicken-sized game bird of the marsh that walks on water lilies and sports bright yellow legs, protruded long toes, a crimson red bill, a purplish blue head and a greenish-bronze back? What is the only Curassow bird hunted in the United States? These three – Wilson’s Snipe, Purple Gallinule and Chachalaca – are a few of the atypical game birds that can be hunted in Texas. More than 50 legal migratory and non-migratory game bird species can be harvested in Texas, not including accidental or vagrant migratory species. Many are well known with high harvest numbers for 2013-2014 as reported by TPWD: doves – almost 10.5 million; quail – almost 321,000; and ducks – about 1.85 million. But, scattered across Texas are game bird species (although not in prodigious numbers) that can add a whole new dimension to your bird hunting. SECRETIVE AND RARE BIRDS OF THE MARSH Rails There are four rails (Virginia, King and Clapper Rails and the Sora) and two rail-related birds (Common Moorhen and Purple Gallinule) that can be legally hunted in Texas. All are localized and reserved dwellers of marsh-type environs including flooded rice fields. Clapper rails are generally associated with saltwater marshes while the other three legal rails prefer freshwater marshes. King and Clapper rails are year-round resident birds, while the Virginia and Sora are strictly migratory. None are easy to hunt and some can be downright impossible to find. Rail hunting is often a cat-and-mouse game conducted in thick sedge flooded fields, glasswort-covered marshes and secondcropped rice. Hunting them is akin to chasing running blue quail




The Gambel’s Quail lives in the Chihuahuan Desert of West Texas and has a boom-or-bust population based on winter and spring rains.

through prickly pear thickets of West Texas, except you are wet-chasing them through marsh grass. Flushing retrievers can be used with some levels of success, but high September temperatures and active water moccasins should be considered before embarking with hunting dogs. Gallinules Even rarer in the hunter’s bag is the elusive and colorful Purple Gallinule. (This bird is featured on the cover of this magazine.) In more than 30 years of pursuing waterfowl along the middle coast of Texas, I have never had an opportunity to harvest or raise a shotgun at one – but they are there. They are more common in coastal marshes closer to the Louisiana border and often bagged in the Bayou State. Rest assured: If I ever shoot a Purple Gallinule, it has a date with the taxidermist. Another game bird closely related to the Purple Gallinule, but in greater abundance and less secretive, is the Common



Moorhen. It is a drab-colored, dark bird with long yellow-green legs. Most gallinules migrate out of Texas beginning in August and are nearly all gone by late October, so the best time to bag one is during the first split generally running the last two weeks in September. One of the best places to pursue rails and gallinules are the marshes of the Anahuac and High Island areas. On average, fewer than 1,000 rails and gallinules are shot in Texas every season. ERRATIC SHOREBIRDS American Woodcock The American Woodcock is one of two legal shorebirds that can be hunted in Texas. It is a coveted bird in the northern states but overlooked and certainly underutilized by most Texans. This is not “Gentleman Bob” hunting behind stylish pointers, classic double barrels and open range. Woodcock inhabit an inferno of quagmires, barbed vines, briar-infested mottes and thickets so


restrictive that working dogs have to make calculated zigzags through the labyrinth to avoid being ripped to shreds. The admission price into woodcock country is torn clothes and drawn blood; I cannot recall one woodcock hunt that I returned unscathed. Clean flushes with open shooting lanes are not the norm; most shots are presented when a vine is interwoven around one’s neck, gun and legs. But, there is a special reward each and every time you pick up a downed bird – a tasty “timberdoodle.” Woodcocks can be found in the Pineywoods of East Texas and along the Gulf Coast. Woodcock biologist expert and former professor at Stephen F. Austin Dr. Monte Whiting said, “The absolute best place to hunt them is in a four to five-year pine plantation with sheared vegetation giving low coverage over ‘sloshy,’ wet, open ground. They probe the ground with their long bills for earthworms which will represent over 70 percent of their diet.”


Virginia Rails are common migrants of wetlands, freshwater and brackish marshes usually along the coast of Texas.




During the day, woodcocks like to spend their time resting in thick coverts, they move to the edges of thick cover to feed at dawn and dusk – that is the best time to try to intercept them. You can hunt woodcocks without a dog, but your success rate will go up with a well-trained pointer with a beeper collar. Places to hunt woodcocks in East Texas include the wildlife management areas of our national forests. As with all game, it is always a good idea to call the refuge manager or local wildlife biologist for tips and specific hunting locations. “Texas has an undetermined number of resident woodcocks, but the vast majority migrate from northern states starting in October and reach their peak numbers with cold fronts late in December and into January,” said Whiting. An estimated 4,660 woodcocks were harvested in Texas during the 2013-2014 season per a Texas Parks and Wildlife Department survey. The season for woodcocks is generally from the middle of December through the end of January.

The Eurasian Collared-Dove is one of Texas’ fastest-growing populations of invasive species, currently estimated at 3 million birds.

The Sora is one of four rails that can be legally hunted in Texas.





The Chachalaca occupies one of the smallest ranges of all the game birds in Texas. It is limited to extreme South Texas along the Rio Grande River.

Wilson’s Snipe The other legal shorebird with a welldeserved game bird status is the Wilson’s Snipe, commonly referred to as the Common Snipe or Jacksnipe. It is our smallest game bird in Texas and the United States. Make no mistake, this is a real game bird, superbly camouflaged, capable of mindboggling aerobatics that no sporting-clay target can imitate. More than one skilled wingshooter has gone through a box of shells only to harvest a bird or two. Snipes seem to have an innate proclivity to avoid well-intended patterns through spiraling twists and turns like an erratic bottle rocket. Large numbers of snipes winter in Texas settling in shallow moist soil areas,

muddy grass fields, marshes and harvested rice fields where they probe for small invertebrates and worms. Just about any wet area with cover along the coast could be a snipe haven. “Snipes are found all over Texas, anywhere there is sheet water and moist soil they can probe for food,” says Shaun Oldenburger, Migratory Shore and Upland Game Bird Program Manager for TPWD. “They certainly are an underutilized resourse in Texas.” The only way to truly tell if an area is holding snipe is to don a pair of hip boots and trudge out into the muck to see if you can flush a rasping scaip, the distress call of the snipe. Snipe season is one of the last to close

in the winter (this season, Oct. 3, 2015 to Feb.14, 2016), providing a few final attempts at live birds before one has to resort to clays. An estimated 12,387 snipes were harvested in Texas last season. UNUSUAL GAME BIRDS OF THE BORDER Plain Chachalaca The game bird with the smallest range in Texas is the Plain Chachalaca, a hen pheasant-like bird of thorny thickets, scrubland and second-growth forests of the Lower Rio Grande Valley. Unlike other Galliformes (pheasants, quail) that prefer to spend most of their time foraging on the ground, chachalacas prefer to spend much of their time in trees, running and hopping along branches to feed on leaves, berries




The Wilson’s Snipe, or Jacksnipe, is Texas’ smallest game bird weighing just a few ounces. It might be the most challenging to shoot on the wing.





The Cinnamon Teal (r) is a vagrant of the Central Flyway where it is shot on occasion. It is usually associated with flocks of Blue-winged and Green-winged Teal.

and seeds. Unlike hunting for other upland game birds where one waits for a groundlevel rise, a hunter will be looking forward and up to find one of these unique birds. Chachalaca can be hunted on private lands limited to Cameron, Hidalgo, Starr and Willacy counties and on the five units of the state-controlled Las Palomas WMA in the Rio Grande Valley. “They are tough and wary birds to hunt, but the best way to hunt them is to arrive early and listen for their loud, raucous wakeup calls. You should then quickly hone in on them, much like you would do while spring turkey hunting,” said Jimmy Stout, area manager for Las Palomas WMA. “The refuge does not keep track of how many chachalaca are harvested every season, but I am guessing the number is below 50.” The season generally opens at the beginning of November and closes in late February. Gambel’s Quail From El Paso to the Big Bend Region of the Chihuahuan desert of West Texas, one may pursue the beautiful Gambel’s Quail in mesquite, acacia and mimosa in which they also roost. Unlike the Blue Quail, which shares its habitat and sometimes interbreed, the Gambel’s Quail sports a teardrop-shaped head plume. “Gambel’s Quail have never been abundant in Texas as we are on the edge of their preferred habitat -- dry washes with a water source, riparian areas and nearby desert scrub,” said Robert Perez, upland

game bird leader for TPWD. Places to hunt Gambel’s Quail include Big Bend Ranch State Park (special draw permit), Black Gap Wildlife Management Area (recently reintroduced) and private ranches along the Rio Grande River. OTHER LEGAL DOVES Eurasian Collared-Dove Eurasian Collared-Doves, considered an invasive species, were introduced in the Bahamas in the 1970s, and spread into Florida by the early 1980s, from which point they colonized rapidly along the Gulf Coast. First identified in Texas in 1995, their numbers have since swelled to nearly 3 million birds – about 1.1 million urban birds and 1.7 million rural birds – in just over 20 years. According to Shaun Oldenburger, their numbers are increasing at a 15 percent average annual growth rate across the state, making them one of the fastest-growing invasive species in Texas. Eurasian Collared-Doves inhabit just about every county in the state. They are slightly larger than a whitewinged dove, paler in color with a black collar around the back and sides of the neck. They are not gregarious as are other doves, so finding huge concentrations of the birds is unlikely. However, they are a bonus to anyone dove hunting as they do not count towards the daily bag. (Be sure to leave a wing on the bird for identification purposes.) There is no closed season or bag

limit on Eurasian Collared-Doves. White-tipped Dove The White-tipped Dove, formerly called the White-fronted Dove, was once limited to extreme South Texas, but recent dove surveys have documented the expansion of its range to the north. It is classified as a migratory species with seasons and a limit of no more than two in your bag. Whitetipped Doves are low flyers and they have a penchant for walking (with a head bob) rather than flying when in search of food on the ground. Not a great deal is known about this dove, and TPWD estimates that approximately 5,000 of these birds are harvested every season, showing them to be more of an incidental take than a targeted dove. Best spot for bagging one of these birds would be along the Rio Grande River in South Texas. STRANGE DUCKS INDEED Cinnamon Teal Unlike the Blue-winged and Greenwinged Teal that flock to Texas in huge numbers every winter, the Cinnamon Teal is a vagrant species. They are a common duck of the Pacific Flyway and are never a common bird on a Texan duck hunter’s strap. But, every season, duck hunters in Texas shoot a few of these teal that intermingle with flocks of bluewings and greenwings. They can be distinguished-from other teal in the same flight by their contrasting dark overall color, often appearing almost black in flight. The Cinnamon Teal drake has red-orange eyes and in full plumage sports a deep cinnamon red color, a true trophy for any Texas waterfowler. Fulvous Whistling-Duck Probably one of the most coveted ducks to shoot in Texas is the Fulvous WhistlingDuck, not to be confused with the more common whistling-duck the Black-bellied Whistling-Duck. Fulvous ducks have a rich tawny-colored body with blackish wings. They are mainly late spring and summer nesting residents along the entire Texas Coast, common in marshes, rice fields and ephemeral wetlands. A few are known to winter along the coast, but most migrate out to the east coast of Mexico with the first cold fronts. Hunt early in the duck season along the Coast and you might just shoot one of the hardest game birds of all to collect in Texas.





TBGA's 25th Anniversary

Come celebrate with us during our Sportsman’s Celebrations! Article by DAVID BRIMAGER

Photo by David Smith

one here in Texas where big game contests abound. What makes the TBGA unique is its efforts to demonstrate that “Hunting Equals Habit.” It does this by not only recognizing the trophy and the hunter but by also recognizing the landowners who manage the habitat and wildlife where the harvests are taken. The TBGA also awards youths and first-timers thereby acknowledging and promoting Texas’ hunting heritage. The TBGA makes known to all citizens

See some of the best big game animals taken across the state at a regional awards celebration this year.




of Texas, the important role that ethical hunting and habitat management play in the lives of our young people and the ecosystems over which we must be responsible stewards. With numerous entry categories available, there is something for everyone. Awardees are presented with award certificates, and scores are recognized by approved use of the Boone and Crockett Club scoring system. As of today, there are over 20 worldwidePhoto by David Smith


he Texas Big Game Awards (TBGA) is hitting the road again this spring to celebrate the “official” hunting program of Texas. The 2016 Sportsman’s Celebration banquet season is May 14 in Lufkin, June 4 in San Angelo and June 11 in Uvalde. As you may know, this year marks the TBGA’s 25th Anniversary, which is a great accomplishment for any big game recognition program but especially for

Know of someone who needs college scholarship money? Encourage him or her to apply today in TBGA’s $20,000 college scholarship program, presented by Carter’s Country Outdoor Stores.

recognized companies that support the Texas Big Game Awards. Statewide Sponsors include Budweiser and Hixon Land and Cattle Company. Carter’s Country Outdoor Stores continues their state sponsorship of the $20,000 TBGA College Scholarships Program. Academy Sports and Outdoors is the Title Sponsor of the First Big Game Harvest Category. Hoffpauir Outdoor Superstore is the Title Sponsor of the TBGA ATV Raffle. And, Capital Farm Credit is the Title Sponsor of the TBGA Landowner of the Year Award. Within the Texas Regional Sponsors program, innovative products and money are donated to support the Sportsman’s Celebration banquets. Those partners include: Yeti Coolers, Remington Arms, Leupold, Game Guard, Winchester, Daisy, Nikon, C. Young and Company, Smith’s Edgesport, Hunter’s Specialties, ThermaCell, Record Rack Premium Game Feeds, Nature Blinds, Prois Hunting Apparel for Women, Skull Hooker


Photo by Kara Starr


Regional awards banquets are fun for the entire family!

and Wildleaf. We hope you will help us celebrate this exciting anniversary by attending a regional banquet somewhere in Texas this year. Visit

www.TexasBigGameAwards.org to learn more. The program is FREE. There is still time to enter this year, as the deadline has been extended to March 1, 2016.



Texas Wildlife Association Foundation, Inc.

for their continued support of the

Conservation Legacy Program. This successful partnership over the last 13 years

has resulted in over two million participants.

FEB 11-28, 2016





Natural Resource Excellence in Teaching Award



ince 2004, the San Antonio Livestock Exposition, Inc. (S.A.L.E.) has partnered with the Texas Wildlife Association Foundation to help fulfill the mission to expand and deploy new conservation education programs across the state of Texas. Through this partnership, S.A.L.E. and the Texas Wildlife Association’s Conservation Legacy programs have educated over 1.1 million Texans about our state’s diverse, abundant wildlife, natural resources, as well the importance of good land stewardship. TWA’s Conservation Legacy programs include a wide range of educational programs, from public events such as the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo to classroom presentations, hands-on field investigation days, land management field days and webinars. For many years, S.A.L.E. has generously funded the Natural Resource – Excellence in Teaching Award for teachers who demonstrate the use of innovative techniques and curricula to promote natural resource literacy among students. Teachers selected for the award have also articulated the importance of conservation to the future of Texas and its citizens, equipping future decision-makers with critical thinking skills necessary in the understanding of natural resource issues. Six teachers were awarded $2,400 each for the 2014-2015 school year. Sarah Anderson at St. John Paul II Catholic High School in New Braunfels said she will use the award to enhance and expand field investigation opportunities for the ecology classes to learn more about land management from professionals Mary Beth Bauer from Our Lady of the Hills Regional Catholic High School in Kerrville said that she will use her award



to specifically enhance opportunities for her students to learn about the natural resources in situ. “The majority of our students are more urban then rural, and many of them have very few opportunities to spend time in the natural environment, either due to lifestyle or to lack of free time,” Bauer said. Don Harris from Tom Moore High School in Ingram will use his award this year to complete and maintain a deer-proof native range plot on the high school campus where students will learn about native grasses, forbs and browse plants. This will give students direct access to learn and study the plants. Mary Stone from Tivy High School in Kerrville will purchase basic equipment for her classes that will provide a pathway to student-centered learning with hands-on activities along an established riparian zone. “This opens up opportunities for a fresh curriculum that will promote resource literacy and the importance of conservations of Texas land and water resources,” said Stone. Sherri Michael from Three Way Elementary in Stephenville will use her $2,400 award to help complete their Garden 111 project, enhance other outdoor spaces for students and facilitate relative teacher training. Michael said that creating a rainwater catchment system on campus for the Garden 111 and creating an outdoor classroom are priorities. Once they have completed this project, Michael said that they will submit it for certification as a Schoolyard Habitat through the National Wildlife Federation. Carla Weaver from Travis Elementary in Houston will use her award money to enhance learning experiences at the


Pictured are the Excellence in Teaching Scholarship Recipients and S.A.L.E., Inc. Volunteers (l-r): Beth Bauer, Our Lady of the Hills Regional Catholic High School; Cody Davenport, S.A.L.E. President; Mary Stone, Tivy High School; Tina Altgelt Haynes, S.A.L.E. Vice President; Keith Martin, S.A.L.E. Executive Director and CEO; Don Harris, Ingram Tom Moore High School; Jackie Simmonds, S.A.L.E. Scholarship Committee Chairman; Joe Soules, S.A.L.E. Chairman of the Board; and Sarah Anderson, St. John Paul II Catholic High School.

second grade Campout Forest Festival by purchasing binoculars and GPS units for geocaching activities. Some of her award money will also be used to secure speakers and presenters for the event, and it will provide funds for camping supplies for families, enabling all students’ families to attend the event regardless of financial status. “This campout and the Forest Festival is something special that our second graders will remember forever,” said Weaver. Thank you to S.A.L.E. for this great partnership for the past 11 years. It is facilitating natural resource literacy within schools across the state, creating tangible relationships between the outdoors and essential academic skills. It is recognizing teachers for their willingness to go above and beyond to provide meaningful learning experiences for students. This coalition is vital to the success of the TWA mission.

Don’t Think It Could Happen?


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





2016 Texas Wildlife Association Region/Urban Team Chairs

TWA Statewide Membership Chair: Deborah Clark deborahclark90@sbcglobal.net

Regional Chair/Co-Chair: Region 1- Trans-Pecos

Misty Sumner


Region 2- Panhandle

Ken Cearley Manuel DeLeon

ken@cornerstoneranchingsolutions.com manuel.deleon@tx.usda.gov

Region 3- Cross Timbers Team San Angelo

Ray Henicke Jeffrey Bozeman Blake Behrens

rayhenicke@yahoo.com boze@orwcpa.com behrensranchsales@suddenlink.net

Region 4- Edwards Plateau Team Austin

Dr. Dan McBride Vacant


Region 5-Post Oak Savannah Team Dallas

Dr. Jim Cathey Stephen Hill

jccathey@ag.tamu.edu hill2222@sbcglobal.net

Region 6-Pineywoods Team Houston

Jackie Harker Steven Harker Mark Kidd

Jharker10@gmail.com Sharker99@gmail.com mark@mkiddproperties.com

Region 7- Coastal Prairies

Robin Walker Bill Walker

walker@walkerfortexas.com walker@walkertexasrancher.com

Region 8- South Texas

Whit Jones Vannie Collins

wwjonesiii@aol.com vanniecollins@gmail.com

If you are interested in serving on a regional committee or becoming more involved with your region, please contact your regional chair or Kendra Roller at kroller@texas-wildlife.org. 22




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History and Culture of Upland and Webless Migratory Game Birds in Texas Excerpted from: THE UPLAND AND WEBLESS MIGRATORYGAME BIRDS OF TEXAS By LEONARD A. BRENNAN, DAMON L. WILLIFORD,BART M. BALLARD, WILLIAM P. KUVLESKY JR., ERIC D. GRAHMANN and *STEPHEN J. DEMASO (In Press: Texas A&M University Press, to appear in 2016)

Early markets carried general merchandise, agricultural products, home furnishings and food staples requisite to life in 1800s Texas. Featured migratory game birds were mainly passenger pigeon, doves and woodcocks, while resident game birds included wild turkeys, prairie chickens and quail. Other offered birds commonly included robins, flickers, meadowlarks and blackbirds. — Sawyer (2013:29)


he term “game bird” typically refers to any bird that is hunted for food, but also has not been domesticated. Over the years, classification of which species are, or are not, considered a game bird has changed a great deal. Today, the range of species that people consider to be a game bird is considerably narrower than what it was historically. Consider, for example, the line “Four and 20 blackbirds baked in a pie” from the nursery rhyme “Sing a Song of Six Pence.” More recently, at least back in the 19th and early 20th century “Robin Gumbo” was a common

dish in the Southern United States. Federal protection of robins and other migratory song birds put an end to such gastronomical delicacies. NATIVE PEOPLES OF TEXAS The literature on aboriginal uses of game birds in Texas, while limited, contains a number of interesting anecdotes. First, it is important to understand that no single animal species in this region – bird or otherwise – was abundant enough to provide a reliable food supply. Bison in the plains may have been an exception, but otherwise, most native peoples endured with what they could capture opportunistically. Newcomb (1961) documented a variety of circumstances about how game birds were part of the cuisine and culture of Native Americans in what is now Texas. Members of the Caddo were known to consume a large assortment of small birds, while they also hunted turkeys and prairie-chickens. Curiously, the Lipan also hunted turkeys, but considered “water birds” unfit for consumption for

some mysterious reason. The Kiowa Apache apparently did not eat birds, bears or fish, and they regarded owls and other nocturnal birds to be reservoirs for the souls of their dead. The Jumanon wove and tied crane feathers in their hair for decoration, and apparently Karankawa women created body-art decorations in the shape of birds. Both the Karankawa and their inland counterparts the Coahuiltecans were known to consume birds, probably on an opportunistic basis. It is not known if they hunted migratory waterfowl. These anecdotes from Newcomb (1961) certainly provide more than a hint that game birds, however the term is defined, played a significant role in the aboriginal cultures of the region that eventually became Texas. SETTLERS FROM EUROPE The arrival of Europeans in Texas had huge impacts on bird populations and most of these impacts were not good. First subsistence hunting, and then even more importantly market hunting






(Sawyer 2013), resulted in extinction or near-extinction of species that are closely related to species covered in this book. The Passenger Pigeon (Ectopistes migratorius) is a classic example of how such forces combined to create a perfect storm of events that brought what was once probably the most abundant species of bird in the world to extinction in less than half a century. Although it was probably never exceptionally abundant, the huge size and conspicuous nature of the Whooping Crane (Grus americana) no doubt made it a prized meal for many pioneering Texans who settled along the coast. Nearly all of the Greater Prairie-Chickens (Tympanuchus cupido) were extirpated from Texas by about

Fig. 1.1A

1850 (Oberholser 1974), except for the Attwater’s subspecies (T. c. attwateri), which while still extant, is maintained by annual releases of captive-reared stock. Recently, the Lesser Prairie Chicken (T. pallidicintus) was removed from the list of game birds in Texas, and at the time of this writing (May 2015) has been federally listed as threatened. THE 20TH CENTURY The advent of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 no doubt brought organization and structure to the conservation of many species of migratory birds, especially those that were hunted. It is interesting to note, however, that even during the early part of the 20th Century, the definition of what was a game bird

was far more liberal than it is today. This is because many species of shorebirds (primarily members of the Scolopacidae) were hunted at this time. It was not unusual at all for people to hunt Plovers, Turnstones, Oyster-catchers, Yellow-legs and Curlews, all of which are still found along the Texas Coast today (Figure 1; Forbush 1917). Today, only two species from this group, the American Woodcock (Scolopax minor) and Wilson’s Snipe (Gallinago delicate), are legal to hunt. During the early 1960s, biologists and administrators in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) realized that the scientific basis for conservation and management of the webless migratory game bird species lagged far behind the

Fig. 1.1B

Figure 1.1 – Some former webless migratory game birds that could be found on the Texas Coast in the early 20th Century. A: Yellow-legs and Plovers, B: Upland Plover and Hudsonian Curlew, C (see on following page): Recommended shot-shell loads for game birds, early 20th Century, note the inclusion of Plovers, Yellow-legs and Curlew. From Forbush (1917).




Fig. 1.1C





body of knowledge that had accumulated for both migratory waterfowl as well as several species of resident upland game birds. To remedy this situation, the USFWS, in cooperation with numerous state wildlife agencies, organized what became known as the Accelerated Research Program (Sanderson 1977) that ran from 1967 to 1982, and resulted in at least 340 scientific publications (Babcock 1994). The landmark book by Sanderson (1977) that described many of the early accomplishments of the Accelerated Research Program was updated 17 years later by Tacha and Braun (1994). The information in Sanderson (1977) and the update by Tacha and Braun (1994) became the scientific foundation for the conservation and management of the webless migratory game bird species described in this book. In Texas, bird hunting is big business. More than 300,000 hunters spend more than 1,000,000 hunter-days in pursuit of Mourning Doves. These metrics are far greater than any other game bird in Texas. Thousands of youths are introduced to bird hunting by spending time on dove fields, usually first as “retrievers” before they are allowed to shoot. Millions of dollars in revenue are generated both directly (hunting licenses and excise taxes on fire arms and ammunition) and indirectly (travel to and from hunting sites, overnight lodging, restaurant meals and vehicle fuel to name just a few commodities and services) and represent an important industry in Texas. A ranch near Mathis, Texas, for example, charges $650 per person for two days of dove hunting and $750 for a day of turkey hunting. South Texas Bobwhite hunters often pay up to $15 per acre (nearly $40 per hectare) per year to lease hunting access on private ranches. These quail hunters and their operations also are often associated with “camps” (an understatement of the word if there ever was one) that make significant contributions to rangeland wildlife habitat improvement as well (Howard 2007). Much has changed with respect to how people have used and valued these game birds over the years. As noted previously,

during the 19th and early 20th century, there were numerous species that were considered game birds that are no longer hunted today. We are sure that change will continue to be one of the few things that remain constant as we move forward. However, what also needs to remain constant is the presence of these species of birds on the Texas landscape. LITERATURE CITED Babcock, K. M. 1994. Introduction. Pages 1-2 in Tacha, T. C., and C. E. Braun, eds. Migratory shore and upland game bird management in North America. Washington, D.C.: International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, Washington, D.C. Forbush, E. H. 1917. Important American game birds: their ranges, habits and the hunting. Wilmington, Delaware: E. I. DuPont DeNemours and Co. Howard, R. 2007. Operating a South Texas quail hunting camp. Pages 336-362 in L.A. Brennan, ed., Texas quails: ecology and management. College Station: Texas A&M University Press. Newcomb, W. W., Jr. 1961. The Indians of Texas: from prehistoric to modern times. Austin: University of Texas Press. Oberholser, H. C. 1974. The bird life of Texas. Austin: University of Texas Press. Sanderson, G.C., ed. 1977. Management of migratory shore and upland game birds in North America. Washington, D. C.: International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. Sawyer, R. K. 2013. Texas market hunting: stories of waterfowl, game laws and outlaws. College Station: Texas A&M University Press. Tacha, T. C., and C. E. Braun, eds. 1994. Migratory shore and upland game bird management in North America. Washington, D. C.: International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. *Stephen J. DeMaso is employed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the findings and conclusions in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily respresent the views of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services.




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Moist-soil Management and Ducks on the Upper Texas Coast Article by MICHAEL D. WHITSON, Graduate Research Assistant and WARREN C. CONWAY, PH.D., Bricker Endowed Chair in Wildlife Management

Photo by Dan Sullins

Department of Natural Resources Management, Texas Tech University The Rumsey Research and Development Fund

Wintering waterfowl lift off moist-soil managed fallow rice fields on the Texas coast.


hen you think of the Texas coast, ducks may not be what first come to mind. Images of sandy beaches, salty waves, adult beverages, swimsuits, redfish, shrimp and crabs are much more common thoughts. However, after spending a lot of time on the Gulf Coast, I can attest that waterfowl are very much a part of the coastal landscape, and

waterfowl hunting is not just a pastime but a passion and business for many. The Texas coast is generally dived into three regions, the lower coast (Corpus Christi Bay south to Mexico), mid-coast (Corpus Christi Bay to Galveston Bay) and the upper coast (Galveston Bay to Louisiana). These areas consist of vast areas of coastal associated wetlands, which provide critical habitats for

millions of wintering waterfowl annually. The upper Texas coast not only serves as vital habitat for wintering waterfowl but also important breeding habitat for Fulvous and Black Bellied Whistling Ducks, as well as year round habitat for the regionally iconic and permanent resident Mottled Duck. For many people the large winter concentration of ducks and geese make hunting waterfowl

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

Management, Texas Tech University




in these destinations- whether it’s chasing Redheads on the lower coast, geese along the mid-coast or puddle ducks on the upper coast - "bucket list" experiences for waterfowl hunters. Much of the Texas coast has experienced dramatic changes, including declines in wetland quantity and quality from a variety of anthropogenic sources including agricultural conversion, urban expansion, saltwater intrusion, marsh subsidence and freshwater inflow reduction. These wetland quantity and quality issues, coupled with declines in rice farming and production, have contributed to shifts in wintering waterfowl populations and reduced recruitment of Western Gulf Coast Mottled Duck populations. Currently, Mottled Ducks are a focal species of conservation concern for both state and federal agencies within its geographic range, which emphasizes increasing management efficiency and efficacy to meet present and future needs of both Mottled Ducks and other wintering waterfowl populations. One possible method is to use manipulation of flooding and drawdown events in managed wetlands and rice fields, commonly called moist-soil management (MSM), to influence and direct plant community structure and composition to benefit these birds. The goal of MSM is to create conditions to favor growth and seed production of desirable plant species that produce large amounts of desirable waterfowl foods while maintaining species diversity and creating adequate structural cover for waterfowl. Moist-soil management has been used to improve wetland habitat in other regions, but has not been thoroughly explored on the upper Texas coast, which has an extended growing season, rich plant diversity, and lots of pre-existing water control infrastructure, all of which may provide unique management opportunities. And, did I mention lots of ducks? To examine these management possibilities, we estimated plant responses from existing seed banks in fallow rice fields and recorded actual plant community responses to various water-delivery management schemes. To determine seed bank potential, we used 105 soil core samples collected from 21 fallow rice fields located

Photo by Mike Whitson


James Tolliver measures plants in moist-soil managed wetlands on the Texas coast.

on the Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge in Chambers County, Texas, assigned them to either moist (wet soil) or inundated (about 1 inch of water) treatments and followed germination from those samples in a greenhouse for more than 150 days. Emerging seedlings were removed from dishes, placed in separate growth containers and grown until they were actually identifiable. Almost 9,500 seedlings from 65 plant species were identified, where 76 percent of all seedlings were either desirable or highly desirable, based upon previously published waterfowl food values and criteria. We observed better response from those soil cores that were kept moist than inundated. Regardless, fallow rice field seed banks clearly contained valuable waterfowl plants, and these habitats could be successfully managed to enhance critical wintering waterfowl habitats.

The next phase was to measure actual response to different management schemes. We split the 21 fields into three groups of seven and assigned each group to one of three flooding periods: early flooding in mid-April; midseason flooding in mid-May, and late-season flooding mid-June. Then, individual fields were assigned to one of two drawdown treatments – slow drawdown period of 14-21 days or a rapid drawdown period of 7-14 days. As with most things in wildlife management, Mother Nature often interferes with the best laid plans. In 2011, due to the drought Texans vividly remember, we were unable to flood the units as hoped, but we did have some success with these approaches in 2012, despite a few other "logistical implementation limitations" on a federal level. We were successful at meeting the new modified flooding schemes later



in the growing season when we recorded (from a total of 34,362 sampling points) 73 plant species, 70 percent of which were considered either desirable or highly desirable. Fields that were flooded earlier contained 42 percent of these plants, and the slow drawdown treatment worked better regardless of flood timing. This clearly demonstrates that traditional MSM on fallow rice on the upper Texas coast is a viable management approach with more desirable species responding to earlier flooding periods with slower draw downs. While we are still quantifying seed production, carrying capacities and actual winter bird use, MSM appears to be a potentially valuable management tool to create mosaics of wetlands under various flooding and drawdown schemes which would greatly enhance waterfowl habitats and increase foods for wintering waterfowl. It just might provide you an opportunity to check a Texas coast waterfowl hunting experience off your bucket list.

Photo by Courtney Threadgill


Soil seedbank germination experimental setup in a greenhouse.




DAVID E. CULVER dec@landtx.com


(C) 210.422.4676 (O) 325.294.4616 www.landtx.com




Queen Butterfly (Photo by Clint Faas)

Monarch Butterfly (Photo by Larry Jay)

The butterfly pictured in Plight of the Monarch in your January issue of Texas Wildlife magazine was incorrectly identified as a Monarch. That butterfly (above left) is actually a Queen Butterfly. The Monarch Butterfly can be distinguished by a lack of internal white spots on the underside of the back wing and thicker black lines on upper wing as seen above in the photo on the right. TWA magazine staff regrets the error.





Cowpen Daisy Article and photos by STEVE NELLE


owpen daisy is one of the more common wildflowers of Texas. It grows across most areas of the state but is most abundant in South Texas and West Texas. As the name implies, it is usually found growing in disturbed places. Cowpen daisy goes by several nicknames. A more elegant name for this plant, found in some plant books is golden crownbeard which makes it seem more refined than it really is. Less elegant names include skunk daisy and stinky daisy, which gives an appropriate description of the musky smell of the plant. Deer and livestock readily detect the disagreeable odor and rarely graze this plant. Unpleasant odors and taste are one of the ways in which plants resist being eaten. Because it has little value to deer or livestock, it would be easy to dismiss cowpen daisy as a worthless weed, however this would be an unfortunate mistake. The



late Val Lehmann, famed quail biologist of King Ranch taught me that cowpen daisy is a good quail food plant. After examining quail crops from South Texas and the Trans Pecos, I began to notice how frequently the seed is consumed. The seed of cowpen daisy is distinctive and easy to recognize. It looks like a small flat sunflower seed surrounded by a large wing. It is eaten by all four species of Texas quail. Cowpen daisy is a warm season annual weed, starting growth in spring and growing to two or three feet tall by mid-summer. It will bloom continuously from summer through frost depending on rainfall. It is common to get three seed crops from this plant in one year. The flowers of cowpen daisy are the classic sunflower shape with a central core surrounded by petals. Botanists remind us that the central core is composed of many


individual flowers called disc flowers, while the outer petals are also each a separate flower, known as ray flowers. Thus, the composite type flower is composed of many separate flowers, each producing a single seed. Cowpen daisy is one of the favorite flowers visited by butterflies. It is common to see several different kinds of butterflies extracting nectar and cross pollinating cowpen daisy flowers. For those who appreciate butterflies or flowers, cowpen daisy is one of the easiest plants to grow in a wildflower garden. Even where deer numbers are high, cowpen daisy thrives. More than one Texas seed company sells the seed for cowpen daisy. It won’t win any beauty contest, but cowpen daisy is one of the plants whose virtues are being discovered and appreciated by Texas landowners, wildlife managers and nature lovers.


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trough to peak. Quailologist Dr. Fred Guthery reckoned a quail population could do no more than double from one year to the next, and his hypothesis is generally observed. But, it did not hold true for last year especially not in the High Plains or Rolling Plains ecoregions. See the Figure 1 on this page for blue quail observations

from the High Plains. They increased a phenomenal 12,800 percent. Now that’s a sonic boom in my books. Several other ecoregions saw increases near 400 percent. See Table 1 for percent increases at other ecoregions between 2014 and 2015. Keep in mind that most of Texas saw record low quail abundance as recently as 2013.

14 Mean Quail Observed per Route Long Term Mean 12











































0 1978


ver heard of a sonic boom? Ever personally heard one? Ever heard of Operation Bongo II? Neither had I, but as it turns out I lived through it. A sonic boom is the sound associated with the shock waves created by an object traveling through the air faster than the speed of sound. Sonic booms generate enormous amounts of sound energy, sounding much like an explosion. Supersonic aircraft create a sonic boom when they exceed speeds of Mach 1. During the spring and summer of 1964, the Federal Avian Administration conducted Operation Bongo II, sonic boom tests, over Oklahoma City. Over the course of six months, 1,253 sonic booms (eight booms per day) were created. Ultimately, public opinion over the booms spelled doom for the supersonic plane industry over United States’ airspace. So what does this have to do with Texas quail? I consider a quail density of one bird per acre as the “sound barrier” in quail management. It’s achievable, but it’s not common – especially not since about 2005. Quail have always been characterized as “boom or bust” species, with the booms being observed during El Nino weather systems and the busts during La Nina systems. Wherever you live in Texas, you’ll likely agree that this past summer produced a boom. And, some of you can proclaim it was a sonic boom. Refer to roadside quail count data collected by TPWD since 1978 across various ecoregions (https://tpwd.texas. gov/huntwild/hunt/planning/quail_ forecast/forecast/). These graphs show the average number of quail observed per 20mile route; they are considered accurate at the ecoregion level but not at the individual county or ranch level. In other words, your place may have done better or worse. Pay attention to the booms. Normally, they take two (or more) years to go from

Figure 1. Abundance of scaled quail in the High Plains according to TPWD roadside counts, 1978-2015. Source: https://tpwd.texas.gov/huntwild/hunt/planning/quail_forecast/forecast/high_plains/.


South Texas

Rolling Plains

High Plains












% increase














% increase







Table 1. Quail abundance for various ecoregions as gauged by TPWD roadside counts, 2014-2015. Source: https:// tpwd.texas.gov/huntwild/hunt/planning/quail_forecast/forecast/high_plains/.



Spring Whistle Counts RPQRR 2008-2015

6.00 5.00





3.00 2.00 1.00 0.00









Year the possibility of a longer nesting season, although hot and dry weather from JulySeptember weren’t conducive to the latter half of the nesting season. 4. Let them eat rats! Our abundance of rodents, especially cotton rats, was apparent as of our March 2015 helicopter counts which are conducted twice, annually. A bobwhite is essentially a cotton rat with feathers, so a “rat year” parlays into a quail year. Our rodent trapping in June suggested a 350 percent increase over 2008, our next highest year , and a whopping 622 percent increase over 2014’s number. The coyotes and presumably other quail-predators are fat and happy. Why chase a quail when all it has to do is lie down with mouth agape and a rat runs into it? 5. Go forth and multiply! Our nesting hens (those alive on May 1 which we define as the start of the nesting season) enjoyed a good year of procreation. The number of nests initiated per hen was 1.07, which isn’t

Small Mammmal Abundance (Summer totals per 4,000 trap-nights) RPQRR, 2008-2015 1000

No. Trapped

WHERE DID THEY COME FROM? By just about everyone’s observation, it’s been a spectacular irruption. But, exactly what happened that permitted the birds to bounce back so “miraculously?” For sure, it rained. But, how does rain manifest itself into a quail boom and in some cases a sonic boom? Below I posit several sequential contributors and illustrate them with our research data from the Rolling Plains Quail Research Ranch (RPQRR). 1. A running start. Quail abundance “turned the corner” in 2014. A mild winter and good cover conditions since then prompted good overwinter survival. The momentum carried through the spring of 2015. Our spring whistle counts were up (16 percent)but not impressively Spring cock call counts are an indication of breeding capital, but typically not a strong indicator of fall abundance. Perhaps, a good many roosters were too busy courting to whistle for another hen. 2. Fall rains set the table. Rains last fall did two things I consider particularly important for good quail tidings. First, it spurred a bumper crop of filaree and other winter annual forbs. Second, it brought forth a broomweed crop which was well entrenched by May. I can’t prove it, but there seems to be something special, nutritionally speaking, about filaree. In my opinion it “primes the reproductive pump” for quail in West Texas. When complemented by a bumper broomweed crop, it makes a great two-step for quail. 3. We got off to an early start. Covey break-up, a precedent of whistling activity, was about three weeks earlier than usual, and this parlayed into an earlier nesting season. An earlier nesting season allows

spectacular in the bobwhite world, but it is the best we’ve observed at RPQRR. The hens and/or their chosen rooster at the time made the most of the nests. Hatch rate was a whopping 77 percent. Typically, we observe hatch rates of 45-55 percent which is also very good. Across the range of bobwhites, hatch rate is less than 30 percent. See Small Mammal Abundance graph below for the mechanics of such success. 6. Mother’s Day Out. The common reports of megabroods (broods with 25 or more chicks) suggest: (a) great survival of the May-June hatch and (b) the hens responsible for successful first hatches sent the “kids” off with their father, and she went on to find another boyfriend. Sounds like a quail soap opera, eh? I will overlook such low morals in the quail populations. 7. Odds are. An average rain year in 2014 followed by bonanzas last spring enhanced, perpetuated and/or sustained nesting cover across the landscape. Providing over 300 potential nest sites per acre seems to be a tipping point for nesting success. Some of our “dummy nest” transects recorded over 800 potential nest sites per acre. The principle of “thimblerigging,” more places to hide a nest, equates to greater nesting success. Additionally, we observed quail nests outside the norm per the vegetation selected. Even Texas wintergrass, whose swards lay like straw, garnered a good many nests. And, most sites east of RPQRR have even more Texas wintergrass than us. 8. The golden parachute. I am un-





0 2008












RPQRR Average Fall Call Count 14


Avg Covers/Stop

doubtedly broomweed’s biggest ambassador and this year illustrates why. The dense canopy of broomweed provides better insulation for quail and chicks than a Yeti cooler. Our roadside counts in September were up 350 percent over 2008’s previous high. 9. Happy Halloween! The wheels didn’t fall off. No unexpected goblins such as coccidiosis, eyeworms or cold rains materialized. So when RPQRR staff conducted the fall covey counts, the numbers were up 110 percent from October 2014 and are the highest we’ve observed. I’ve enjoyed several 30-plus covey/day outings on my lease in Howard County. 10. Happy New Year! As quail hunters, we should remember what my hunting partner often recites: “We are blessed men!” And, with El Nino forecasted to last through this spring, who knows? Maybe, we’ll hear (see) more sonic booms in quail this fall. It should prove to be an interesting year ahead.







SAN ANTONIO MAN TELLS TALL TALE is a memoir of a south Texas boy coming of age in the second half of the twentieth century. Each tale more thrilling than the last, the book chronicles a lifetime of hunting, fishing, and traveling throughout Texas, the Gulf Coast, the Rocky Mountains, and South America. These powerful and often humorous stories of chasing white tail deer, avoiding snakes, fishing for blue marlin, and even courting his wife are based on the author’s experiences in the great outdoors with close friends and family. Colorful illustrations by San Antonio artists Clay McGaughy and Pat Safir bring the stories to life. In the end, the reader will find that these are not tall tales at all, but the real life experiences of a lucky kid growing up in South Texas. Filled with humorous twists and turns, this book makes for a fun read for anyone.



Purchase on Amazon or by calling Eunice at (210) 820-0404 or by email at epowers@hupecol.com












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Some of Texas’ rivers and streams begin as springs.



heir waters are hidden in subterranean formations. We see their flows in the form of springs, water from wells or excavations that pierce the water table. Large cities have grown up around this abundance of “groundwater” just as Native American communities formed around springs seeping from the earth. Worldwide, 30 times more potable water lies underground than in all of the earth’s rivers and lakes. In Texas, water in some 80,000 miles of rivers and streams, nearly 200 major reservoirs 5,000 acre-feet or more, and tens of thousands of smaller impoundments account for less than half of the state’s potable water. The rest, about 60 percent, comes from underground reservoirs called “aquifers.” Aquifers form when water from the surface – rainwater, or seepage from rivers, streams and reservoirs - percolates



through the surface and into porous rock formations. These pores can be the space between bits of gravel, or particles of sand and clay, or fissures in limestone. In addition to porosity – water-holding capacity – formations must be permeable. In other words, the rock or sediment must have pathways between water-holding pores or chambers. In the case of gravel, sand or clay, the permeability can be described as trickling through the same spaces that serve as pores. Water held in limestone cracks travels or “flows” through a network of fissures, underwater reservoirs and streams cut by water through the eons. Compared to rivers and streams, aquifer flow is generally very slow. Nine major aquifers provide 84 percent of all groundwater used in Texas. Twentyone minor aquifers account for the rest. Nearly all of the state, except for the vast bedrock mountains of the Trans Pecos


region, is underlain by groundwater. Our aquifers are of three basic structures: Unconfined aquifers, confined aquifers and karst aquifers. The vast Ogallala aquifer, which underlies some 174,000 square miles in portions of South Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Texas, is unconstrained; its water level depends on recharge, and wherever its upper saturated layer – the water table – intersects the surface, it flows forth in the form of springs. As the name suggests, confined aquifers consist of saturated layers bound above and below by impervious rock or “aquitards.” Due to confinement pressure, water that contacts the surface in the form of natural springs or via wells drilled through the upper aquitard flows under artesian pressure. Karst aquifers flow in underground


streams, channels and caverns formed over the eons in limestone and marble. One of the country’s best known karst aquifers, the Edwards aquifer, supplies water to some 2 million people in South Central Texas and nourishes numerous springs along the Balcones escarpment. The edge of an aquifer exposed at the earth’s surface is called the “outcrop,” while the larger portion that slopes away underground is known as the “downdip.” Multiple aquifers with varying downdip angles, separated by aquitards, can overlie one another. For example, portions of the Dockum aquifer, which runs from the northwest corner of the Panhandle generally southeast through the Southern Plains, lies beneath the vast Ogallala. Wells drilled into confined aquifers decrease artesian pressure. Excessive water withdrawal can stop the flow of artesian springs as in the case of long-dead Big Spring. Today, pumped surface water maintains the illusion of a flowing spring. When pumping from unconfined aquifers exceeds recharge rates, the water table simply drops, requiring deeper wells and more energy to pump water to the surface. Furthermore, water quality generally declines with significant depletion. In some areas, groundwater overdraft causes “subsidence” or the literal sinking of ground level, as fine-grained materials compact in the absence of water. Subsidence of as much as nine feet in parts of the HoustonGalveston area has prompted a significant decrease in pumping. Aquifer recharge rates depend on aquifer type and precipitation rates. In general, confined aquifers are slower to recharge than unconfined aquifers, which are typically formed in highly permeable gravel and silt. But glaring exceptions exist. For example, the Ogallala, an unconfined aquifer has a very slow recharge rate due to the impermeable layer of caliche that forms the High Plains “Caprock,” low precipitation and a high evaporation rate due to wind and heat. Ogallala recharge averages about .25 inches per year. To draw water from the Ogallala is to mine “fossil water” left by retreating glaciers. Even though it’s confined, the highly fissured Edwards aquifer recharges at mean annual rates as high as 2.5 inches, much

Groundwater pumping by windmills makes ranching feasible on rangeland with scarce surface water.

Unconfined aquifers can be recharged by surface water trickling back into the water table.




to the benefit of residents of San Antonio, New Braunfels, San Marcos and Austin. Still, given a projected doubling of the state’s population from 25 million to 50 million by 2050, fights that have long simmered will boil over without judicious planning. We can’t overdraw indefinitely. Parts of the Ogallala have dropped as much as 100 feet, and other aquifers can be severely stressed when drought reduces recharge to essentially zero for weeks or even months. An early 20th century Texas Supreme Court decision ruled groundwater too “mysterious and occult” to regulate, leading to the “Right of Capture,” which is the right of a landowner to pump without limit, even while depleting water beneath a neighbor’s property. Heavily capitalized concerns could overdraw vulnerable aquifers for sale to distant markets, thus leaving locals parched. In 2012, the Texas Supreme Court reaffirmed landowners’ ownership of water beneath their properties, while leaving



Heavy pumping of groundwater can significantly deplete aquifers with slow recharge rates.

open the possibility of reasonable local regulation. Today, some 100 groundwater districts, created under the Texas Constitution, provide local users the authority to regulate pumping rates, well spacing and other issues to ensure a sustainable groundwater supply. With assistance from the Texas


Water Development Board, each district submits an updated management plan every five years. Tussles continue, but groundwater conservation districts provide a representative voice to users and provide a measure of protection to vulnerable communities.

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Photo by Steve Nelle Buffelgrass was considered the miracle grass of South Texas. Although it is excellent cattle forage, it has proven to be detrimental to wildlife habitat and plant diversity.



eople often look for easy answers and painless solutions to life’s problems. We look for a pill that will help us lose weight even though we know the real answer involves diet and exercise. We seek relief from aches and pains even though we know these are usually just symptoms of underlying problems. It is almost universal that people try to solve deep problems with shallow solutions. American philosopher, Henry Louis Menken (1880 – 1956) must have been an astute observer of human nature. No doubt he had experienced the frustration and futility of addressing complex problems with simple solutions. The truth he describes below applies to many aspects of life and it applies especially well to natural resource issues. For every complex problem, there is a solution that is simple, neat and wrong. — H. L. Menken, 1917 Too often, we view natural resource problems as simple cause and effect. We fail to acknowledge or understand the complexity




of ecological relationships and the ripple effects of our land management decisions. We tend to look at the surface and fail to dig out and examine the roots. Complex relationships do not usually respond favorably to simple solutions. Ranching, wildlife management and conservation are more complicated than we often think. Simple solutions are great for simple problems or where temporary fixes are needed. This is the basis for baling wire, duct tape and JB Weld. Sometimes simple solutions are good enough and will suffice until a permanent solution is found. However, we should not seek simple solutions for long-term, multi-faceted problems. SALT CEDAR An example of a simple solution is the eradication of salt cedar to increase streamflow on West Texas rivers. Salt cedar is widely perceived to use large volumes of water and materially reduce streamflow. It makes sense on the surface since salt cedar extends its roots into the alluvial water table. The logic was that killing water-sucking brush would release extra water into the river.

In an effort to make the eradication effort palatable and ecologically friendly, it was labeled with the buzzwords “ecosystem restoration.� Agencies were eager to gain public support by claiming to restore flow to a degraded river system. Millions of taxpayer dollars were spent in the killing of salt cedar on hundreds of miles of river, but recent studies show that there is no extra water flowing down the river. Although the project had good intentions, it was a wrong answer to a complex problem. A more comprehensive approach would have involved studying river hydrology and salt cedar ecology beforehand without preconceived results. A large project affecting hundreds of landowners and using public funds was implemented without a corresponding effort to understand the complexity of salt cedar invasion and streamflow dynamics. There may be other legitimate reasons to control the invasive salt cedar, but not to provide additional river flow. Likewise, agencies sponsor juniper and mesquite control programs for the purpose of increasing the state’s water supply. Despite strong compelling scientific evidence that brush control does not increase the public water supply, the programs persist. Simple solutions to complex problems seldom work. IMPROVED GRASSES Among the most widespread and damaging simple solutions has been the use of so-called improved grasses for increased forage production. These grasses are productive, relatively inexpensive, easy to establish and tolerate heavy grazing. In the 1960s, they seemed like miracle grasses, and they still have an appeal that is hard to overcome. The problem with these grasses is they form monocultures and crowd out natives, but even worse, they spread into places where they were never intended or desired. If they stayed where they were planted at least the problem would be localized, but many of these grasses have seed dispersal that favors their spread far and wide. No one became alarmed until it was too late. Now millions of acres of rangeland are dominated by these exotic bluestems, buffelgrass, Lehman lovegrass and other non-native grasses.

Photo by by Steve Nelle


Intensive wagon-wheel grazing schemes were heavily promoted as a way to double stocking rates. The successful operation of these complex systems requires a great deal of managerial skill.

It is easy to look back and see the shortsightedness of extensive planting of these exotic grasses, but at the time, it seemed like exactly the right thing to do. Native ranges were depleted, soil was washing away and livestock were hungry. Drought and overgrazing had taken a toll on the native grasslands of Texas. In those days, few people were advocating improved grazing management and longterm land stewardship as the best ways to restore damaged range and habitat. Nearly everyone was on the bandwagon to plant these new and improved grasses. In comparison to the real solutions, it was simple, easy and nearly foolproof. Now we are living with the irreversible consequences. WAGON WHEEL GRAZING Intensive grazing management techniques were introduced to Texas landowners in the 1970s. Promoters touted the seemingly magical benefits of the new methods. They promised a doubling or tripling of stocking rates, rapid range improvement, lower labor costs and good animal performance. Many different names have been used to describe the variations of these intensive grazing methods: cell grazing, wagon wheel grazing, short duration grazing, holistic planned grazing, time-controlled grazing, Savory grazing, mob grazing and others.

The principles to mimic the historic grazing patterns of bison seemed solid The problem was not the principles, but the application. Many producers heard what they wanted to hear without seeking to understand the ecology and management that is required. Hundreds of ranchers built expensive new fencing layouts and started rotating livestock. Sadly, when these grazing methods are used in a simplistic, rigid manner as they often were, they fail miserably. But when the principles are applied thoughtfully, with proper ecological knowledge, flexibility and skill, the results can be very impressive. In this and many other cases, it is not the tools that are wrong, but our simplistic implementation. SPIKE BUCKS Another prime example of simple solutions is the practice of culling spikeantlered yearling bucks in an attempt to improve antler genetics. Research with penned deer in controlled breeding situations indicated that spike yearlings will usually remain inferior throughout their life. Thousands of hunting camps jumped on the bandwagon of killing spikes, thinking that they were improving the deer herd. As usually is the case, the issue is much deeper than originally perceived. There are multiple causes for a yearling buck to grow





Several exotic species of bluestem grass have been introduced in Texas. K R bluestem is the most common species and continues to spread across millions of acres where it is unwanted.

watershed or lack of vegetation along the banks. As long as the cause of muddy water persists, any solutions will be short-lived and ineffective. This reminds us of the old adage: “The cause of a problem suggests its cure.” Natural resource history is replete with the failures and backfires of simple solutions. Early in his career, Aldo Leopold advocated the eradication of predators to produce more deer. Kudzu was introduced for erosion control. Goats were recommended to control cedar. Mirex was widely used for fire ant control, but it also killed native beneficial insects. Magical beans and miracle clovers are planted in hopes of producing trophy bucks, often with no regard for habitat management. Some of these techniques and practices have legitimate uses and benefits in certain situations as part of a carefully planned, comprehensive land management program. None of them will solve the intended problem adequately when used alone or without careful consideration of the long term side effects. There are no silver bullets; no quick fix solutions. When we hear of simple solutions being promoted to address complex natural


Photo by Steve Bentsen

spikes and most of the time it is not related to genetics. Other research and practical ranch experience showed that aggressive culling of spikes usually had no effect on antler development in future generations. To make matters worse, the intensive removal of spikes often hurt the future supply and the age structure of bucks. On numerous ranches, killing spikes actually diminished the deer herd value rather than improving it.. THE OTHER SPIKE Herbicides that kill brush or weeds sometimes are used as quick fix solutions to complex range problems. A perfect example is the widespread use of tebuthiuron (trade name Spike) for control of creosote bush and tar bush in the Trans Pecos. The herbicide usually works very well to kill these brush species. Within several years of application the grassland response is often remarkable with a good natural recovery of native grasses. The problem that is often overlooked is that this herbicide is a very effective, nonselective broad-leaf herbicide that remains active in the soil for two or three years. Not only are the target brush species killed, but also many other desirable species of browse and perennial forbs. When it is applied to large areas, there is a significant and long lasting decrease in plant diversity and damage to wildlife habitat. Ironically, many of the landowners using this herbicide are very interested in quail, mule deer, pronghorn and other wildlife. In their zeal to get rid of two problem brush species, they unintentionally kill dozens of desirable species and do long lasting harm to the habitat. It is not the herbicide’s fault – the warnings are plainly printed on the label that this product will kill or harm many desirable shrubs and forbs. The problem is with the scale in which it is used and with no consideration of the side effects. OTHER SIMPLE SOLUTIONS Gary Valentine, TWA member and former NRCS State Biologist, recalls a solution that is often used in pond management. Alum and gypsum have been widely recommended to clear muddy ponds for improved water quality and fish production. However, Valentine points out that the underlying reason for muddy ponds is often poor vegetation on the

Photo by Steve Nelle


The widespread aggressive culling of yearling spike bucks for genetic reasons was a simple solution to a complex problem and has proven to be ineffective in most cases.

resource issues, our best advice is to urge the promoters to slow down and back up. Urge them to take a good, deep look at the situation from multiple viewpoints keeping long-term perspectives in mind. It will be difficult and unpopular advice, but remember this: “The law of unintended consequences kicks in when the rule of simple solutions is applied – that law kicks long and kicks hard.” TWA is an organization that does not search for simple solutions. Time and again, I have seen TWA staff, directors, officers and volunteers roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty, doing the hard work and heavy lifting to address complex matters. Hunting Heritage, Conservation Legacy, Issues and Advocacy are the core purposes of TWA. Solving complex problems and addressing deep-rooted issues is not for the simple-minded or faint-hearted. It takes hard labor, wisdom, perseverance, creativity, vision and dedication. I’m proud to be a member.

Photo by Forrest Smith


Reseeding with native grasses and forbs is not a simple solution but with patience and good management has proven to be a better long term solution.

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A father teaches his daughter how to shoot a .22 rifle before moving to a larger caliber for her first deer hunt, a tradition for many Texas families that was supported by 81 percent of the voters who approved the state’s hunting and fishing amendment.





YOUR RIGHT TO HUNT AND FISH The Texas constitutional amendment may be a silver bullet, but vigilance is not off the hook. Article and photos by JOHN GOODSPEED


arter Smith said he never lay awake at night worrying about Texans losing their right to hunt and fish. Still, the executive director of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) acknowledged he sleeps a little easier knowing those privileges for future generations are enshrined in the state constitution after the overwhelming passage of Proposition 6 on Nov. 3. The amendment established the right to hunt, fish and harvest wildlife in Texas while sound science continues to guide wildlife conservation and management. Smith along with the bill’s legislative sponsors and leaders of key conservation groups including the Texas Wildlife Association (TWA) agreed the amendment guards against any potential attacks by animal rights or anti-hunting organizations, which have mounted successful campaigns in other states. “I always thought of the right to hunt and fish amendment as a kind of an insurance policy against future circumstances that we can’t anticipate or fathom at this juncture,” Smith said. With the amendment’s, Texas becomes the 19th state with such an update to its constitution, with 17 approving the right to hunt and fish since 1996. Vermont was the first in 1777. Arizona’s attempt in 2010 failed. Texas’ amendment may provide a silver bullet against future encroachment on hunting and fishing rights. Those interviewed knew of no challenges in other states after their voters approved similar amendments. “We all know constitutional arguments in court are the most weight bearing. You want to go into court nowadays armed with the best tools, and at the top of that list are the constitutional amendments,” said Sen. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, sponsor of Senate Joint Resolution 22, the bill proposing the amendment. “Would I have thought in years past that this was needed? Absolutely not. “But well-funded radical environmental groups that would bring litigation, like the Sierra Club and PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), would do anything they can to knock a dent in the heritage and day-to-day enjoyment of the outdoors by




families hunting and fishing together.” Those sentiments were echoed by Rep. Trent Ashby, R-Lufkin, who filed the companion bill, House Joint Resolution 61. “It will certainly make it more difficult for anti-hunting or anti-fishing organizations to try to work through both the statehouse in Texas as well as the courthouse in Texas measures impeding upon the right to hunt and fish,” Ashby said. “I feel very good about the prospects going forward to ensure those rights are not infringed upon. “Also, we’ve seen some of these extremist groups work closely – not necessarily in Texas – with state regulatory agencies to reduce bag limits on certain species if not an outright ban on hunting. This effort wasn’t pursued because of a current crisis by anti-hunting organizations in Texas. They are very active in other states. This was an effort to look over the horizon to get

out in front because we thought that they’re eventually coming to Texas, so, therefore, we felt it was important to strike while the iron was hot.” The amendment also may help protect against regulations by federal agencies. “We have the strongest argument that we can make in court, our own sovereign right in the state to protect the citizens,” Creighton said. “If the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) is moving through a new Clean Water Act to protect a clam, salamander or a mussel and we don’t challenge it in court, we have to abide by it. “For things like duck, dove or deer hunting, I don’t expect any interference from the feds, but don’t count them out for a moment.” With the possibility of future challenges, the strong voter support of the amendment may mean that the best defense is a good

offense, TWA Chief Executive Officer David Yeates said. “That was a pretty bold public statement when the amendment passed by 81 percent approval. The policymakers, TPWD and our legislators heard the public loud and clear on that,” Yeates said. “If there are future efforts to nip around the edges, I think we have a pretty strong public sentiment on the record. The biggest defense, though, is that it’s in our constitution.” TWA was one of more than 60 conservation organizations to support the amendment. Yeates testified before a House committee and encouraged membership to vote for it because it dovetails with the group’s mission statement: “Serving Texas wildlife and its habitat, while protecting property rights, hunting heritage and the conservation efforts of those who value and steward wildlife resources.”

Taking grandchildren out to catch their first fish creates special bonds and lasting memories, and that right is guaranteed for generations to come thanks to the passage of Texas’ hunting and fishing amendment.





Dove hunting, which provides youths with a relatively low-cost introduction to hunting, was banned in parts of Michigan, a state that does not have a constitutional amendment to protect hunting and fishing rights.

“If this protects against any future attempts to restrict hunting, then that meets our mission threshold pretty clearly. That’s why we supported it,” Yeates said. “We’re promoters of hunting recruiting and retaining through youth hunts and the Texas Big Game Awards. It’s a natural fit for us to support something like this. “Hunting is a big part of who we are in Texas, but the true societal benefit is the open space that hunting provides. There is an economic incentive for providing habitat for game species, but the side benefit is providing habitat for threatened and endangered species. It creates a big air filter for urban areas and a water filter for aquifer recharge.” The economic impact of hunting- and fishing-related activities tops $4 billion annually, Ashby said, citing the latest numbers from the state comptroller. “I think it’s important that people

appreciate just how important our outdoor heritage is to our state’s economy,” he said. “That’s just one of the things we worked hard to make our colleagues understand while we had discussions on the floor.” The Dallas Safari Club (DSC) got on board early to work with Creighton and Ashby to support the legislation and work with other conservation groups to ensure its passage. “Every day it seems like there are more and more challenges to hunting and fishing. I like to think Texas is one of the strongest outdoor states, if not the strongest, in the nation,” DSC Executive Director Ben Carter said. “We have a strong support of the Second Amendment and hunting and fishing, and we all want our kids and their kids to grow up enjoying what we had. “The Humane Society of the United States and PETA did not put up much of an effort, and I think that was a sign to us

that they knew Texas was a strong outdoor state and that they could spend their money better elsewhere.” For the long term, the amendment should be effective at barring future restrictions in courts or through legislation, although maybe not so much for policies from federal agencies, he said. “We have to be vigilant to everything that could have an impact,” he said. “The way the vote went shows very strong support among the citizens of Texas. I think we’ll be vigilant, and it will be difficult for people from outside the state to come in and have that happen.” Like other organizations, the Houston Safari Club (HSC) supported the amendment’s passage by providing donations and using social media, press releases and member notifications, HSC executive director Joe Betar said. “I heard from some people who did




This rainbow trout, caught in one of the lakes stocked by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Neighborhood Fishing Program, allows an easy way for fathers and sons living in cities to enjoy the state’s rich outdoor heritage that now is enshrined in the state constitution.

not understand why we had to have an amendment. But things change, and we need to protect this right as a constitutional amendment for the next generation,” Betar said. “You had a similar proposition in Arizona, and they lost with pressure from anti-hunting groups even though polls showed voters supported it. We couldn’t let that happen in Texas.” He also said the growth in companies moving to the state and the surging population from people moving here from across the nation could change the demographics in Texas much like what happened in Colorado, altering its political picture. “Had the vote on the amendment come up 15 to 20 years from now, I’m not sure the outcome would be the same,” Betar said.



Creighton and Ashby credit the resounding success of the amendment to the support of organizations that reached out to members including TWA and the NRA, which is 600,000 strong in Texas. “In the end, we had a coalition of over 60 organizations who represented more than 3 million hunters, anglers, landowners and conservationists who were actively supporting Proposition 6,” Ashby said. Before the beginning of the last legislative session, Creighton and his staff researched what was going on around the country and noticed litigation to curb hunting and fishing rights. “In some of the states, the plaintiffs won,” Creighton said. “In parts of New York, deer hunting was banned. In Michigan, dove hunting was banned in parts of the state.


With the Legislature meeting only five months out of 24, we wanted to be proactive in creating a proposition to protect hunting and fishing rights in Texas. “A lot of Texans wondered why we put it in the constitution, saying that it’s like putting in the right to breathe air. But it’s such a longtime part of our ingrained heritage to enjoy the outdoors, to hunt and fish with our families. We’ve never had more people in Texas and never a more plentiful deer population. The way TPWD manages licenses and hunting activities in the way people take animals such as deer to put food on the table…is a plan that is working very well. “But some of these radical groups that try to turn back these efforts we’ve proven and shown are working very well will find


a sympathetic judge somewhere, somehow. I’m never surprised what gets into a court and ultimately what these judges will decide.” TPWD’s Smith said that while there was no organized opposition to the amendment, he occasionally deals with activists protesting how the state handles wildlife management of such species as mountain lions and feral burros at state parks and the regulations and harvest of freshwater turtles. “Those challenges have not been with great frequency,” Smith said. “In other states, various forms of hunting are being challenged regularly. Fortunately, not in Texas, but who knows what will happen 20, 25 or 50 years from now.” The conservation organizations sought TPWD’s input before the bills were filed, and the language carried forward by Creighton and Ashby reflected feedback from the department, Smith said. “They made sure the constitutional

amendment did not undermine the department’s authority to regulate and enforce fish and game laws,” he said. By law, the department cannot advocate for or against legislation, but TPWD officials served as resource experts, testifying about the bills and the implementation of the bills if passed, Smith said. “We were consulted by a number of legislative offices about our perspective,” he said. “Certainly from the department’s perspective, we’re in the business of promoting hunting and fishing – and passing it on to our children and grandchildren is in line with our mission.” Arizona’s failed hunting and fishing amendment was high on the minds of Creighton, Ashby and conservation group leaders. Smith said the effort to pass Arizona’s amendment was disorganized and not well funded while those against it executed a sophisticated campaign that suggested it would take away the rights of hunters and

anglers to participate in the management of their fish and wildlife. “So it was a very artfully and carefully worded message campaign that obfuscated the issue for a lot of hunters and anglers and made it easier for the animal rights apologists to secure their victory,” Smith said. “There was a very different set of circumstances than we saw in Texas with well-organized groups working at the outset with agencies like ours to help draft acceptable language and find legislators who were well-known sportsmen to carry the legislation and execute a well-mobilized campaign by DSC, NRA and others with the support of TWA and others to secure passage. “Being strong upfront had to have played a role. The activists probably had done their own polling and figured it would have been cost-prohibitive and futile to beat something like this in Texas. “But we can’t be forever complacent about that.”



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Photo by D. K. Langford






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by Todd Steele These ground squirrels were photographed during the 2010 ICF Borderlands of Laredo Pro-Tour on the Shape Ranch owned by Sarah and Hugh Fitzsimons. TWA and Vantage Bank are proud to partner with the Images for Conservation Fund in an effort to present some of the outstanding images captured during its nature photography competitions held on private lands in Texas. ICF is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization created for the purpose of conserving wildlife habitat. Save Camp Lula Sams is a Capital Campaign led by the Images for Conservation Fund, in conjunction with Valley Land Fund, Wildlife Conservation and Education Society of South Texas and Brownsville Community Improvement Corporation. For more information, visit www.imagesforconservation.org.




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Profile for Texas Wildlife Association

Texas Wildlife, February 2016  

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

Texas Wildlife, February 2016  

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