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Wild Pigs

Prolific, Problematic, Palatable

MAY 2016




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he month of May is a busy one for TWA. Our education programs begin to wrap up as Texas schools wind down for the summer break, allowing our staff to work on program evaluations and goals for the fall semester. The Texas Youth Hunting Program moves into its “training season," hosting Huntmaster Training workshops and Hunter Education programs across the state. The Texas Big Game Awards regional banquet schedule begins on May 14 in the always hospitable Lufkin. Our Advocacy program will be preparing for a May 23 Senate hearing on Texas Water Code and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Commission meeting on May 26 when new Chronic Wasting Disease rules will be adopted. On May 19, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department will host its annual Lone Star Land Steward Awards Banquet to honor excellence in private land conservation efforts across our great state. If you have not attended one of these banquets in the past, I would strongly encourage you to consider going this year. The stories of personal sacrifice and Herculean efforts by conservation-minded landowners will make any Texan proud. It is truly an inspiring event. May marks two other events of significant personal importance. First, the annual tarpon migration begins to pass by our Texas shores. To see those mighty fish swim by on their ancient trail to spawning grounds is one of the great outdoor treasures that Texas has to offer. They are truly wild creatures living in a truly wild environment. It does my heart good to witness it. Second is Mother’s Day. My mother grew up in western Louisiana and deep East Texas, the daughter of a WWII veteran who was also a consummate outdoorsman. Poppy passed when I was still very young, but it was his lifestyle that was behind my mother’s tolerance of my outdoor passion and misadventures while growing up. In hindsight and as a father now, I am amazed at her patience in granting me so much time and autonomy in the outdoors—relatively unsupervised. She was probably watching much closer than I realized, but those countless hours spent chasing lizards, hunting imaginary bandits with my BB gun, camping on the old homestead, riding around pastures in a pickup with the old-timers of the family or just pedaling my bike through the scrubby mesquite-laden outskirts of town after school all carved a path for me. Self-reliance and an ingrained respect for the great outdoors were all learned in those early years. I suspect that many, if not most, TWA members share similar stories. So thank you, Mom. By reflecting on that upbringing, I realize that we are all duty bound to raise our children the same way. Of course we live in a somewhat less innocent time these days, but we should all strive to get our children and grandchildren outside and unplugged as much as possible. My 5-year-old daughter and I were in the backyard last weekend shooting her Red Rider BB gun at a box when she asked me if we could shoot some birds with my “shopgun,” as we did back in dove season. I walked her through the difference between mourning doves and cardinals as table fare and how the neighbors probably would not appreciate gunfire next door. Later that afternoon, she came racing back from the neighbor’s house to retrieve her BB gun so that she could bag a Red-shouldered hawk that had flown by. She was convinced that it was big enough to make a meal for the whole family. Another amusing and teachable moment. In my book, there is nothing more rewarding. Get outside. And take a youngster with you. It is good for you, good for them and good for Texas. Best,

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.



MAY 2016

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

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

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

Outreach & Member Services David Brimager, Director of 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 Specialist 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 Bryan Jones, TYHP Field Operations Coordinator Bob Barnette, TYHP Field Operations Coordinator Barbara Scheib, TYHP Program Coordinator Kara Starr, Texas Big Game Awards Program Coordinator Sarah Pape, TYHP Administrative 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: POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Texas Wildlife Association, 3660 Thousand Oaks Dr., Suite 126, San Antonio, Texas 78247. The Texas Wildlife Association (TWA) was organized in 1985 for the purpose of serving as an advocate for the benefit of wildlife and for the rights of wildlife managers, landowners and hunters in educational, scientific, political, regulatory and legislative arenas. TEXAS WILDLIFE is the official TWA publication and has widespread circulation throughout Texas and the United States. All rights reserved. No parts of these magazines may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without express written permission from the publisher. Copyrighted 2014 Texas Wildlife Association. Views expressed by contributors are not necessarily those of the Texas Wildlife Association. Similarities between the name Texas Wildlife Association and those of advertisers or state agencies are coincidental, and do not indicate mutual affiliation, unless clearly noted. Members who move should send new address and current membership classification to headquarters. TWA reserves the right to refuse advertising. For advertising information, contact David Brimager at (800) 839-9453 3660 Thousand Oaks Dr., Suite 126, San Antonio, TX 78247 or e-mail


Mission Impacts

Volume 32 H Number 1 H 2016

8 Wild Pigs


16 Issues and Advocacy

TPWD Chronic Wasting Disease Rules by DAVID YEATES

18 Hunting Heritage

Texas Youth Hunting Program by BOB BARNETTE

24 Lessons from Leopold Leopold's Repentance by STEVE NELLE

28 Conservation Legacy TYHP participant Bryce Crowell and his dad Brian Crowell

Mr. William Krebs (Lead Huntmaster): Thank you very much for one of the most meaningful bonding experiences I’ve had with my son. I just recently moved to the North Texas region after having lived in Lubbock just long enough to get my degree through the G.I. Bill. The hunting opportunities were slim to none for my son before I found the Texas Youth Hunting Program. It was a Godsend for my son. I couldn’t ask for an opportunity better than your hunt to pass on my hunting heritage especially in the company of the people of Harper. I love your town. Reminds me a lot of the small New Mexico town that I grew up in. We used to hunt for every species you could think of right out of our back door. When I moved back to Texas after having traveled around so much in the Navy, I was shocked at the lack of hunting opportunities for youths in Texas. I was excited to find out about TYHP. Thanks to hunts like yours, I was able to expose my son to the positive aspects of hunting. You are doing the hunting community a huge service. I cannot express my gratitude for having been a part of the Harper Wildlife Management Area Hunt held in memory of your son Jacob. Thank you sincerely, Brian Crowell

Program Profile: Discovery Trunks by ELANOR DEAN and KASSI SCHEFFER

32 TWA Members in Action

Craig Smith, GameGuard Outdoors by LORIE WOODWARD CANTU

38 Guns & Shooting Make it Fit


40 Pond Management

Behold the Mighty Bluegill by BILLY HIGGINBOTHAM, PH.D.

44 Borderlands News Scaled Quail


48 Water Planning or Battle Planning by HENRY CHAPPELL

50 Explore Texas—A Nature Travel Guide

Book Review by EILEEN MATTEI

ON THE COVER Learn More About TWA

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


MAY 2016

Overrun by wild hogs, landowners continue to work to control their numbers. Aside from widespread trapping, mass harvest by way of helicopters and traditional hunting to reduce the population of these nuisance animals, writer Luke Clayton suggests making the most of them—as a food choice. Read more in his article on page 8. Photo by Russell Graves

Wild Pigs

Prolific, Problematic, Palatable



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






MAY 14



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

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


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


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

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

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



JULY 14-17


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


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


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

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


Wildlife for Lunch Webinar: Coffee Shop Quail Talk: Common Myths and Misconceptions, Robert Perez, TPWD. For access information, see the webinar ad on page 7 of this magazine or contact Clint Faas at (800) 839-9453 or

2016 TEXAS BRIGADES CAMPS JUNE 11-15 Rolling Plains Bobwhite Brigade

JULY 6-10 Bass Brigade

JULY 24-28 North Texas Buckskin Brigade

JUNE 12-16 South Texas Buckskin Brigade

JULY 17-21 Waterfowl Brigade

JULY 26-30 Coastal Brigade

JUNE 24-28 South Texas Bobwhite Brigade

JULY 18-22 Ranch Brigade

For more information, visit the Texas Brigades website at



MAY 2016

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.


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 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.

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


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


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

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

QUESTIONS? Contact Clint Faas at (800) 839-9453 or


Photo by Russell Graves




MAY 2016


Prolific, Problematic, Palatable Article by LUKE CLAYTON


hile researching my recently published book on hunting wild hogs, I learned some interesting facts about the history and distribution of wild porkers in Texas. Wild hogs have been rooting around in the Lone Star State for several hundred years. But during the past couple decades, Texas and many other states in the south and southeast have seen an explosion in their numbers and distribution. I grew up in northeast Texas between the Sulfur and Red Rivers. When I was a kid in the 1950s and 1960s, there were a few men who hunted these isolated sounders with dogs, but it wasn’t until the 1980s that the wild hog explosion occurred. Hogs are very hardy, resilient critters that are also excellent for human consumption. This could be the reason explorers brought them over from Spain and planted “seed stock” in regions that later became Florida and Texas. Settlers in Texas were raising hogs well before the battle of the Alamo—there were sounders of wild porkers reported on many major drainages in Central and East Texas by the 1850s. Thanks to the war with Mexico, the Civil War and raiding Comanches, many frontier farms were disrupted and hogs were




Photo by Russell Graves

turned loose to fend for themselves. Well into the past century, it was a common practice for farmers to earmark their hogs and turn them out in the fall to feed on acorns. They built catch pens in the woods and baited them with corn when the acorns played out each fall. In the 1930s, some outdoorsmen stocked the true European boar on fenced properties. Some escaped and passed their genes along to the feral population. Thirty or so years ago, when hunting hogs was beginning to get really popular in Texas, many hunters released hogs on their hunting land. This practice established sounders in areas that had previously been void of wild hogs. In retrospect, this was a very bad idea and one that is illegal today. Through the years, I’ve heard hunters make statements like, “Our lease is overrun with ‘Russians.’ Or, “When I was hunting in Texas last year, I killed a monster pure blood ‘Russian’ with 3-inch cutters.” The only way a true European or Russian boar could possibly exist in Texas is if it is part of a pure breed stocked behind a gameproof fence. Granted some wild hogs, such as those with long snouts, thick, woolly coats and long tusks, have some of the pure European boar genes. But it’s virtually impossible to find a pure European boar in the wild, for obvious reasons. The fact is that today wild hogs are widely dispersed over most of Texas, and their numbers have to be kept in check. The goal for many game managers is to reduce their numbers by half each year, but keeping them thinned out is a challenge, especially if hunting is the only method used. Shooting wild hogs from helicopters has received a lot of attention the past few years. A few companies offer helicopter “hunts” for hogs. On very large or highfenced ranches, shooting them from the air has its advantages. But on smaller tracts the choppers often push hogs and other wildlife around. Although this method of reducing the hog population is acceptable, there are much more effective, affordable methods of controlling their numbers. Large-scale trapping is one of the more efficient methods of keeping hog numbers in check. I love to eat wild pork, and when I am unwilling to relinquish several hours sleep by hunting them at night, I set my



MAY 2016

Photo by Russell Graves


trap. I typically trap four or five each year. My trapping does little to actually reduce hog numbers but trapping on a large scale does. I have several friends who trap hogs to sell to licensed meat buyers and game ranches. Several of theses guys use big, circular 30-foot traps that are controlled by an app on their cell phone. The system works like this: the trap is baited heavily with corn. When a hog approaches the gate, a camera takes and transfers a picture to the trapper’s phone. The trapper can then, from anywhere on the planet with cell coverage, activate the camera multiple times using his phone. When the entire group of hogs enters the enclosure, he uses his phone to trip the gate. These space-age hog trappers have their

work down to a science and have found a way to turn the nuisance hogs into profit and quality meat. TASTY WILD PORK Aside from efforts to control their numbers, I believe in making the most of them. I am a big believer in wild pork as a food choice. I am often asked if wild hogs are really good to eat. My best answer is that it depends on the age and size of the animal. If you were going to a livestock sale to purchase a hog to butcher, would you choose the biggest, oldest, most rank boar in the pen? Or, would you choose a younger, fatter animal? The answer is pretty obvious. While the older animals can make good sausage, I much prefer the younger hogs that weigh

less than 150 pounds. I’ve harvested many young boars that tasted excellent. Just this past winter, I shot a young boar that weighed 170 pounds and had absolutely no wild boar smell. The pork chops, sausage and roasts from that boar were as good as any I’ve had from the wild. Wild hogs have to work for a living, rooting and foraging and traveling to and from feeding areas, thus they are more muscled than their domestic counterparts. I’ve occasionally harvested wild hogs that were almost as fat as the domestics, but most have minimal fat. During the course of a year, I typically make around 80 pounds of smoked and fresh breakfast sausage for my family and friends. I also slow-smoke smaller hogs



that I transform into pulled pork barbecue. Using a vacuum sealer, I package this smoked barbecue into 2-pound packages and then freeze them for later use. The trick to making great-tasting wild pork barbecue is cooking at low temperatures with moisture for a long period of time. I use a Smokin’ Tex electric smoker that does a great job on even the larger cuts of ham and shoulder. First, I will apply a good rub on the meat. Then, I smoke it for about three hours uncovered. Next, I’ll place the cuts in an aluminum pan, coat them well with my favorite barbecue sauce and cover with aluminum foil. I will cut the thermostat on the smoker down to around 200 degrees and let the larger cuts cook all night. The total cooking time is usually 12-15 hours. The finished product is always moist, savory pork.



MAY 2016

Photo by Luke Clayton

Photo by Luke Clayton


Entire books have been devoted to making cured, smoked sausage, but the process is really quite simple. All that’s needed is a smoker of some sort, meat grinder, electric or mechanical, seasonings, casings and possibly a sausage stuffer. For many years, I used a stuffing tube that attaches to my meat grinder to fill the casings, but these days, I use a sausage stuffer that is designed for the job. And rather than purchase individual spices, I’ve found it much easier to buy pre-mixed spice kits that contain everything necessary to make sausage at home.

Photo by Russell Graves

Photo by Russell Graves


The old adage, “When handed lemons, make lemonade,” can be applied to our dilemma of dealing with the vast number of wild hogs roaming Texas. We can just change the words to “When overrun by hogs, make sausage and BBQ.” (Luke Clayton’s newly published book Kill to Grill, the Ultimate Guide to Wild Hog Hunting…and Cooking is available at




With no way to get in, a disappointed feral hog picks up some kernels of corn that were thrown outside the 34-inch-high enclosure made of hog panel, which features a graduated mesh that is smaller at the bottom to keep out piglets.

WAR ON PIGS The First Line of Defense is a Fence Article and photos by JOHN GOODSPEED


othing pigs out on corn like a feral hog. A sounder of hogs will vacuum up that yellow circle under a feeder like miners at a gold rush—which it is—considering that Texas wildlife managers and hunters cast out some 300 million pounds of corn and 100 million pounds of protein a year. There are no cost estimates for how much feed goes to the hogs or how many trophy whitetails get spooked away or show up too late. But there is one sure-fire solution, said Billy Higginbotham, who declared war on wild pigs with the battle cry, “Fence Your Feeders!” “The problem is that the vast majority of hunters are not putting up feed pens,” said Higginbotham, a professor and wildlife and fisheries specialist with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service



MAY 2016

in Overton. “Hogs get on feeders like deer, and a sounder will move from feeder to feeder in their home range. “They’ll get trained to when feeders go off just like deer. As aggressive as they are, they’ll out-hustle deer for corn—and deer don’t want to stick around if pigs show up at a feeding site.” Higginbotham began his campaign in 2009 at presentations, on online forums and to anyone who would listen after conducting a study to see how high enclosures need to be to keep hogs out while still allowing deer, especially fawns, in. The study was conducted at the Rob and Bessie Welder Wildlife Refuge near Sinton by Texas A&M University-Kingsville student Justin Rattan and Higginbotham’s colleagues David Long and Tyler Campbell of USDA APHIS Wildlife Services/National Wildlife Research Center at Kingsville. Using six 16-foot-long panels in a circle with 12 T-posts about


8 feet apart, they fenced off six feeders—two each with panels at heights of 20, 28 and 34 inches, a standard hog panel height. Trail cameras monitored the sites for two weeks before and after the enclosures were built in July 2009 and again in November. Large hogs scaled the 20-inch-tall enclosures, but none topped the others. No pigs burrowed below the fences. Hog panels with a graduated mesh at the bottom that gets larger the higher it goes prevent piglets from getting in. with a halt in “The important thing we wanted to find out was if there was a significant decrease in deer access, and the answer is no,” Higginbotham said. A drought that year caused a low fawn crop so they did not get a good measure. But the 34-inch panels were too tall for young fawns, according to a study by David Hewitt, a professor and research scientist at the Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute at TAMUKingsville. Heights greater than 33 inches hampered fawn access. So Higginbotham recommends using the standard 34-inch-tall hog panels and cutting off a 3- to 4-foot section of the top mesh in two or three places around the perimeter. Removing those 6 inches of mesh allows young fawns to leap over the 28-inch-tall notches while still repelling hogs. A six-panel enclosure is about 28 feet in diameter, which is the minimum, he said, adding that bigger is better—eight to 10 panels—to prevent dominate bucks or does from chasing off others.

At an unfenced feeder where white-tailed deer had just been eating, a sounder of hogs gobbles up a portion of some 300 million pounds of corn that is cast out by hunters and wildlife managers every year in Texas.

“Deer acclimate to it pretty quickly, so you can put up an enclosure a month or two before the season,” Higginbotham said. “But if there’s feed in the feeders, it’s better to go ahead and put them up. If not, the pig problems will continue.” Besides, at a cost of around $200 for the minimum-size feeder, it won’t take long for the savings in corn to leave more gold in your pocket.





TPWD Chronic Wasting Disease Rules Article by DAVID YEATES


s most TWA members are aware, Texas had its first Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) finding in white-tailed deer in June of 2015. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) and Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) responded immediately by halting all permitted movement of deer. In short order and with broad stakeholder input, emergency rules were enacted to maintain business continuity for those who use special permits to move deer (captive deer breeding; Deer Management Permits; Trap, Transport and Transplant; and Trap, Transport and Process). Those rules were adopted by the TPWD Commission on an interim basis to get through the 20152016 deer hunting season, with the stated intent to revisit the rules after the season when there was more testing information available and more time to spend hashing through the intricacies of the rules. By the close of the 2015-2016 hunting season, additional CWD-positive whitetailed deer were located at the original detection site, at a ranch a few miles west of that site and at a breeding facility that had purchased positive deer from the original detection site. Surveillance for CWD during the hunting season reached a historic high with over 7,000 samples collected in breeding pens and over 10,000 samples collected outside of breeding pens across the state. With that sampling in hand and a season of operation under the interim rules for perspective, TWA joined several other stakeholders in a series of meetings with



MAY 2016

TPWD and TAHC to work on crafting rules governing CWD surveillance as it pertains to artificial movement of white-tailed deer in Texas. The lens that TWA used for those meetings was to avoid creating undue risk of spreading CWD while providing reasonable business continuity for all deer managers and business operators across the state. The working group submitted a report to the TPWD Commission with recommendations, items of consensus and items without consensus. The Commission took that report under advisement and issued proposed rules following its March 24 meeting for public comment. The Commission will adopt final rules at its May 26 meeting. The proposed rules will allow for liveanimal testing to be incorporated into the surveillance regime, along with options for different rates of post-mortem testing to provide flexibility to permit holders and their individual business models. TWA has taken the position that testing options should maintain a high confidence of probability of detection, whatever the blend. We have also maintained that all live deer releases should be restricted to highfence enclosures only. Until the emergency rules were enacted last summer, low-fence releases were allowed. Texas is the only state to have allowed that, so it seems prudent to remove that option. TWA has also taken the position that visible, external identification is paramount to a reliable biosecurity system. This is even more important in light of the ability to co-mingle captive-

bred deer with “wild� deer in Texas. Current statute requires only an ear tattoo in released deer. Unfortunately, those tattoos oftentimes fade or fail and are not visible from any distance. We believe there are viable options to provide reliable identification that will not adversely impact business owners. We encourage the TPWD Commission and the deer breeding community to move towards adopting those identification systems for the health of all Texas deer and all deer hunting interests, commercial or otherwise. This has been a contentious issue for many years, but I truly believe that we are closer to finding a meaningful and mutually acceptable solution than we have ever been. While the long hours spent in the working group were taxing, they helped foster a better understanding of the issue and the many perspectives around the table. It reaffirmed that difficult issues are best handled through teamwork and mutual respect for diverse viewpoints.

If you are interested in this issue, please feel free to contact me at for more details. If you wish to support the TWA stance on this issue, mark your calendar to attend the May 26 TPWD Commission meeting at TPWD Headquarters in Austin.





Texas Youth Hunting Program Our Family Drives Our Success! Article by BOB BARNETTE Photo courtesy of TYHP


tarted in 1995, the Texas Youth Hunting Program (TYHP) is well-known not only in Texas but nationwide as an exemplary way to introduce youths to the world of hunting, conservation and land stewardship via safe and educational mentored hunts. TYHP has impacted Texas significantly, with approximately 60,000 youth and volunteer participants since its inception. Like many successful enterprises, we can’t do what we do all by ourselves. TYHP has numerous partners who provide direct support and share resources to operate and expand the program. Our partners are our family, and we recognize them annually in Texas Wildlife magazine to make sure they know how much TYHP and the Texas Wildlife Association (TWA) appreciate them! Our largest financial supporter is the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD). With a unique alliance between a state agency and a non-profit organization, TPWD and TWA established TYHP to increase the number of youths participating in wildlife and hunting activities. As one of TPWD’s main hunter recruitment and



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retention programs, TYHP receives funding for staff salaries and reimbursement for staff travel, lodging and meals. We are very proud to support TPWD in its mission. The balance of TYHP funding is received through the Texas Wildlife Association Foundation (TWAF). TWAF is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to providing ethical environmental education about wildlife and habitat conservation to Texans of all ages. TWAF works year-round to seek grants and donations to support programs like TYHP. We are very grateful for the critical support of TWAF. Other supporters to which we owe special thanks include the following: Houston Safari Club: American Conservation and Education Society (ACES): A long-time supporter, the ACES generously provides scholarship funds for Houston-area youth to attend TYHP hunts and helps support Huntmaster training for area volunteers.


McBride Foundation: An affiliate of the Austin Woods and Waters Club (AWWC), this foundation has granted funds to TYHP for general usage since our inception. The foundation also funds the AWWC’s youth hunting program, which operates under the TYHP banner and therefore reduces direct expenses of TYHP. Safari Club International (SCI)—Austin: This SCI chapter has long provided food and support to the annual Cave Creek Super Hunt as well as grants to TYHP. Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF): RMEF has generously supported TYHP with grant funding and donations of gear and equipment since 2000. G. Rollie White Foundation: This foundation’s long history with TYHP includes funding for financial aid for youth participants and for volunteer training directly impacting expansion of TYHP. Rotary Club of Corpus Christi: Harvey Weil Sportsman Conservationist Award Trust: Grants from this Trust have honored Harvey Weil’s legacy by funding TYHP hunts in South Texas and the Coastal Bend since 2005. Texas Farm Bureau (TFB): TFB supports TYHP not only with financial grants but TFB leaders also serve on the TYHP Advisory Committee. National Rifle Association (NRA): The NRA has donated numerous firearms to TYHP for use by young hunters who do not have their own. The South Texas Friends of the NRA chapter supports TYHP with donated safety gear such as orange vests and ear protection.

Corporate Partners of TYHP: Our corporate partners have served a vital role with direct donations of gear. We particularly wish to highlight: Cabela’s: Cabela’s provides thousands of hunter orange caps, embroidered with the TYHP logo, to our youth hunters and Huntmasters. They also support TYHP by providing venues for meetings. Academy Sports and Outdoors: Academy partnered with TYHP in 2015 to provide specific equipment for use on TYHP hunts, and they also donated gift cards to take care of impromptu needs. Pack Rabbit Products: Another new partner in 2015, Pack Rabbit Products donated eight of their innovative pack frame sets for use on TYHP hunts where gear or game must be packed long distances. Individual Donors: In addition to the efforts of organizations and corporations, TYHP receives support from many individuals, whose generosity is truly humbling. Many donate anonymously, but others allow recognition. We would like to recognize and thank the following donors who contributed $2,000 or more: Richard Butler Nancy and Nyle Maxwell James Collins The Alfred S. Gage Foundation The Loring Cook Foundation TYHP Volunteers: From certified Huntmasters to guides, cooks and others who support TYHP hunts, the level of commitment and go-the-extra-mile efforts are truly amazing. TYHP is successful due to the tireless work of volunteers across the state who donate time and often their own resources to provide great experiences for young hunters.


Landowners and Property Managers: Hunts can’t happen without land on which to conduct them. So we also must recognize the generosity of those who allow TYHP to hunt on their property and use their facilities. The commitment of Texas landowners to preserving and expanding our hunting heritage is exceptional, and we extend our most sincere and humble thanks to our participating TYHP landowners and managers. One of the secondary purposes of TYHP is to foster family relationships through time spent outdoors together, and many of our volunteers and participants highlight this aspect of the TYHP experience around those evening campfires on TYHP hunts. Perhaps you’ve heard the saying that your friends are the family you get to choose. TYHP is fortunate to have chosen a great family of friends to help in our mission. And like other great families, growth is welcome. If your business or organization would like to join our family, please contact TWA Headquarters at (800) 839-9453. GIVING THE GIFT OF HUNTING A special thank you to longtime TYHP supporters Debbie and Randy Rehmann for organizing a matching challenge that raised $50,000 to support Youth Hunts across the state. Thank you to all who contributed! Esperanza Heights Ranch—James Barrow Tonya & Brent Bertrand Warren Blesh Brett Bunger Megan & Steve Calandra Hillary & Chris Cosgrove Melinda & Keith Crawford Travis Everett Susan & Gary Farmer Debbie & Rick Gopffarth Denny Gosser Kelly & Jeff Henkener Adrienne & Rhett Hickey Cyndi & Gene Hubnik E. Randall Hudson III Tena & Burt Jebousek Allan T. Kresta

Paul Lamb Donna & Michael O’Day Katherine & Kevin Oeding Tamera & Russell Rehmann Saunders, Norval, Pargaman, & Atkins, LLP Kathy & Bruk Schenken Kelly & Greg Seiter Jason Sharp Kurt M. Zinsmeyer Char & Denis Snyder Linda & Jeff Vogt Gareth Walters Meredith & Brent Watts Cora Lynn & Bill Wilson Pamela & Mike Wren John E. Wright



Texas Big Game Awards Statewide Celebration

Family Fun for Everyone!


JULY 14-17, 2016


Top Notch Trade Show!

Exciting and Exclusive Auctions!

3rd Annual Private Lands Summit

Fun and Educational Programs for Youth


MAIL-IN REGISTRATION FORM fill out the registration form at and return with payment to twa at 3660 thousand oaks dr., suite 126, san antonio, tx 78247 FAX REGISTRATION FORM complete your registration form and fax to (210) 826-4933 PHONE REGISTRATION register and pay by phone at 800-839-9453 ON-LINE REGISTRATION register on-line at

Our amazing discounted group rate is only $209 per night, plus applicable taxes for a standard room.

NEW for 2016, in order to receive

the group reservation code, you must register for the convention first. You will then be provided by phone or email the special room rate code. Special group rate ends June 23, 2016.

Bring the family! Children 12 and under are admitted FREE! VISIT WWW.TEXAS-WILDLIFE.ORG or CALL (800) 839-9453 FOR MORE INFORMATION


Thank You to Our WildLife 2016 Sponsors! (Convention Sponsors as of March 1, 2016)


SILVER Title Sponsor of the Youth Shooting Range

Title Sponsor of the Statewide TBGA Ceremony

Title Sponsor of the TWA Wildlife Seminars

Title Sponsor of the WildLife Refreshments

Title Sponsor of the Ranger Riders Youth Programs

Title Sponsor of the WildLife Printing

BRONZE Title Sponsor of the Convention Lanyards

Title Sponsor of the TWA Ladies Reception


Friday, July 15 | 8:30 p.m. Cibolo Canyon Ballroom J.W. Marriott Hill Country Resort and Spa

Texas singer and songwriter Max Stalling will entertain TWA convention a endees on Friday night during WildLife 2016, July 14-17, at the beautiful J.W. Marrio Hill Country Resort and Spa in San Antonio.

story that showcases Stalling’s artistry in a way that will keep the listener intrigued and singing along by the second chorus. His songs will keep your foot tapping, heart pounding and dancing shoes worn.

Despite playing the same circuit as many household names in Texas country, grouping Stalling with them would be premature. Stalling’s style is modern with a vintage feel. His unique voice and amusingly clever song lyrics pull him in a different direction — a direction most obviously evident in his record Home to You.

Originally, Stalling had no expectation of ever being in the music business. “I didn’t even pick up a guitar until graduate school,” notes Stalling. A˜er a ending high school in South Texas, Stalling studied at Texas A&M University, where he earned a masters degree in food science. He followed the corporate road from there and eventually landed in Dallas working in product development for Frito-Lay.

Home to You may be the best and most well rounded collection of songs that Stalling has released to date. It has earned Stalling a Best Album and Best Male Vocal nomination for the 2011 Lonestar Music Awards as well as his first #1 single on the Texas Regional Radio Report. The album has been a top seller at Lonestar Music since its release, and the first single I Ain’t Drinking Alone was #14 on the Radio Free Texas 100 Most Requested Songs of 2010 list. The opening track, which Stalling released as his second single, is an unexpected tune borrowed from Austin music fixture Bob Schneider. Long Way to Get quickly rose to #3 on the Texas Music Chart. With songs about love, love lost and the road, the album is a perfect candidate for the repeat bu on on any music player. The collection wraps up with The Fantasy Dinner, a lighthearted

During this time, Stalling discovered the Three Teardrops Tavern and Dallas community radio station KNON. These outlets exposed a musical heritage to which Stalling had been nearly oblivious. Inspired by artists like Townes Van Zandt, Robert Earl Keen, Guy Clark, Lyle Love and Jerry Jeff Walker, Stalling started writing songs, recording albums and eventually touring with a full band to back him. With Jeff Howe on drums and percussion, Clay Willis on guitar, and Jason Steinsultz swapping between upright and electric bass, Stalling creates a dynamic live show that’s smart, charming and as listenable as it is danceable.

So pull on your boots, and make plans to attend your TWA’s annual convention in July. Register at or call TWA Headquarters at (800) 839-9453.

Leopold Leopold’s Repentance

Photo courtesy of the Aldo Leopold Foundation (

Lessons from


I personally believed that there could not be too much horned game and that the extirpation of predators was a reasonable price to pay for better big game hunting. ~Aldo Leopold, 1914 As a budding ecologist and an avid hunter, young Aldo Leopold was a bold and outspoken proponent of intensive predator removal early in his career. Leopold knew the obvious—that a decrease in predators would mean an increase in big game. He advocated the aggressive and widespread eradication of predators, especially wolves and mountain lions. Usually, as we mature and gain experience, the views we once held dear evolve. Notice the changing of Leopold’s thoughts toward predators from 1919 to 1939: 1919 - “The advisability of controlling vermin is plain common sense, which nobody will seriously question.” 1920 - “To try and raise game in a refuge infested with mountain lions, wolves, coyotes and bobcats, would be even more futile than to try and run a profitable stock ranch under similar conditions. Predatory animals are the common enemy of both the stockman and the conservationist.” 1920 - “It is going to take patience and money to catch the last wolf or lion in New Mexico. But the last one must be caught before the job can be called finally successful.” 1930 - “Future predator control must be localized and discriminate.” 1939 - “Perhaps there are too many deer…perhaps it was a mistake to clean out the wolves.” 1939 - “Browsing animals are in constant danger of destroying their own range. Hunting alone is seldom sufficient to keep the herds in balance. We need predators as well.”

Repentance is mostly a religious term. It means to change one’s mind about something, with a corresponding change in behavior. But it does not always happen in a moment. Over the course of many years, Leopold repented about predators and expanding big game populations. Toward the end of his life, Leopold reflected back on his views about predators. In his famous essay, Thinking Like a Mountain published in 1949, Leopold recalled a 1909 encounter with wolves along the Arizona-New Mexico border: “In those days we had never heard of passing up a chance to kill a wolf. I was young then, and full of trigger-itch; I thought that because fewer wolves meant more deer, that no wolves would mean hunters’ paradise. Since then I have lived to see state after state extirpate its wolves. I have watched the face of many a newly wolfless mountain, and seen the south-facing slopes wrinkle with a maze of new deer trails. I have seen every edible bush and seedling browsed, first to anemic desuetude, and then to death. I have seen every edible tree defoliated to the height of a saddle horn.” Leopold changed his mind about widespread and intensive predator removal. However, Leopold’s repentance does not mean he condemned all predator management. He changed his thinking about predator eradication, but there is no indication that he was opposed to the management of predators in specific cases where it was warranted. Although the ecological role of predators is now better appreciated, predator

control still has a legitimate place in Texas ranching and wildlife management. Ask any experienced rancher in pronghorn country and they will tell you that coyotes and bobcats are a primary factor in keeping antelope numbers suppressed. It’s not the only factor, but often the most important. Likewise, where white-tail or mule deer fawn survival is low year after year, coyote control prior to fawning season will often yield good results. Clearly, good habitat management is the cornerstone, but predator control can also be sound practice. Brown-headed cowbirds wreak havoc on songbird populations. While not technically a predator, the effect is the same. Trapping and killing cowbirds by the thousands has become one of the primary tools used to increase songbird populations. The killing of one native species to benefit another is the essence of predator management. It has a legitimate place for livestock production, game production and songbird production. Predator control is still a controversial topic and full of emotion. It is good to remind ourselves that predator management is simply a tool. It is neither inherently good nor inherently bad; like any tool, it can be used properly or improperly. The skill in which any tool is used in each individual situation will determine whether it has a positive or negative impact. Let us not repeat the mistakes of Leopold, but neither let us discard a valuable management tool that was previously misused.

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



MAY 2016





(C) 210.422.4676 (O) 325.294.4616



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

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



MAY 2016


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Program Profile: Discovery Trunks Article by ELANOR DEAN and KASSI SCHEFFER

Students at Meadow Wood Elementary gather around the Butterflies Flutter By Discovery Trunk as they open it for the first time. (Photo courtesy of Meadow Wood Elementary)


HISTORY OF THE PROGRAM he selection and quantity of Discovery Trunks has increased greatly since their inception in 2008. Originally, there were only two trunk topics available—Animal Adaptations (now Wildlife Investigations) and Let’s Talk Turkey. In 2009, two more topics were introduced: Texas Critters (now Exploring Adaptations) and More Than a Drop. Trunk use slowly grew from an average of 3,300 students in 2008 and 2009 to 6,400 students in 2010. Then in 2011, when the Outreach Program of Conservation Legacy received funding to put educators on the ground, a set of Discovery Trunks was



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created and earmarked for Harris County and the surrounding region. This increased the total number of trunks to 20 and student outreach to over 18,000 (plus teachers). The next year brought new educators and Discovery Trunks to the Dallas/Fort Worth area, a set of trunks to the Rio Grande Valley and eight trunks to the Education Service Center’s Living Science Center in San Antonio, increasing the total number of trunks to 60 and educating over 35,000 students about wildlife, water and conservation on private land. In 2013, with the help from partner organizations Bat Conservation International, Houston Audubon Society

and the Texas Master Naturalists, Conservation Legacy introduced three new trunk topics, for a total of seven topics statewide: Bats-A-Billion, Bird is the Word, Butterflies Flutter By, Exploring Adaptations, Let’s Talk Turkey, More Than a Drop and Wildlife Investigations. This again increased the total number of Discovery Trunks available statewide to 81, which educated over 77,000 students in 2013. An ever-growing demand for Discovery Trunks in 2014 incited increased support from the Texas Wildlife Association Foundation, and over the course of 2015, 69 new Discovery Trunks were built, bringing the current total to 154 trunks available


statewide. Last year, Discovery Trunks impacted 128,257 students and their teachers across Texas, and in 2016, Discovery Trunks are anticipated to educate over 160,000 students. IMPACT OF THE PROGRAM Today, there is a definite disconnect between youths and the natural world. More time is spent indoors using computers, video games and the television than outside exploring the backyard or local park. While many children may tell you about the African lion, very few can identify and tell you about a native animal species. Conservation Legacy developed Discovery Trunks as the bridge between the classroom and the outdoors. While there are a handful of natural resource units that teachers are required to incorporate into their science classroom (per the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills [TEKS] standards), the words Texas, native, private land and aquifer do not appear. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that many teachers are not familiar with the topics of Texas wildlife conservation and/or natural resources. While the lessons and hands-on materials inside Discovery Trunks are designed with the student in mind, each trunk also contains resources for the educators, as they first need to educate themselves before teaching the next generation. The impact of Discovery Trunks is best conveyed from the perspective of the educators, parents and students. The students love this material. They get so excited when they see me coming to their classrooms. They know that we are going to have a great science lesson. Students stop me in the halls and ask when we will have science next. My goal is for the students to be excited about science, and these trunks definitely accomplish that goal. I love hearing from parents whose children come home and can’t stop

Each Discovery Trunk features hands-on, natural resource materials consistent with the trunk’s theme and a binder full of TEKS-aligned science lessons, designed for grades K-8, available at no cost. (Photo courtesy of Conservation Legacy)


talking about what they learned in science that day. There is such a wealth of hands-on materials to bring the subjects to life. The trunks enable the students to see and hold the materials that are being discussed…to actively participate in hands-on learning with things they might not have experienced before. Science is more meaningful to them if they can approach/handle what they are studying. The lesson plans provided are straightforward and easy to work into the science curriculum. The vocabulary that students are developing and the concepts they are exposed to will most definitely benefit them when the time comes for them to test. Our 5th grade teacher reports that Discovery Trunks can cover concepts not easily explained to kids with just text learning. ~Melissa Endicott, Parent Volunteer at Meadow Wood Elementary The Discovery Trunks gives students practice with critical thinking skills. The trunk gives me a new way to teach adaptations that the students can see and apply to real life. They get to take these concepts and apply them to real life situations thanks to the trunk materials. It’s a real benefit given the limited amount of resources allocated to our schools. It is so nice to have access to such good resources in such good condition for free. These are city and suburban students. This provides them exposure to things that they wouldn’t otherwise have access. ~Kathy Saludis, Science Lab Teacher at Rita Drabek Elementary Animals need to be camouflaged. In my food chain, the owl is camouflaged. That lets him be a better hunter,” described Saior L., 1st Grader at Rita Drabek upon completion of the Owl Eat You Up activity.

Students at Rita Drabek Elementary play the game Bird Eat Bird while learning about predator/prey interactions. (Photo courtesy of Rita Drabek Elementary)





I'm able to incorporate the Discovery Trunks during my library time. This way all 700 students on our campus can enjoy the materials. They always look forward to the next trunk arrival and all the cool stuff they will get to see. They get really excited about getting to touch all the materials. I had all the pictures of the animals on the board. As a class, we looked at each skull and became skull detectives. We discussed eye placement and teeth in order to guess which skull belonged to which animal. The students loved it! ~Molly Sparkman, Librarian at Janet Brockett Elementary Discovery Trunks are available statewide, at no cost, to any Texas educational institution or organization with the desire to educate the youth of Texas. Visit to learn more and reserve one for your local school.



Stribling Elementary students investigate the materials of the Butterflies Flutter By Discovery Trunk. (Photo courtesy of Stribling Elementary)





search Texas Wildlife Association

Visit the TWA website for the latest news, statewide and local leadership contacts, calendar of events, Texas Wildlife magazine, membership – join, renew or upgrade – Conservation Legacy, Texas Youth Hunting Program, Texas Big Game Awards and much more.

Become a follower of TWA on Twitter. Join the over 2,00 followers and receive free periodic “tweets” from TWA about headlines, news of interest, calendar reminders, and more.

Enjoy TWA information and postings, discussion boards, photos, videos and other items of interest using the world’s most popular social network. Communicate with TWA members, supporters and other who share similar interests.

View interesting and informative video clips regarding wildlife and wildlife management practices, including effective strategies for quail, as well as profiles of TWA Conservation Legacy programs and activities.


MAY 2016


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Behind the Scenes Craig Smith, GameGuard Outdoors Article by LORIE WOODWARD CANTU


raig Smith, founder of GameGuard Outdoors, the maker of Texas’ best-selling camouflage pattern, likes to blend in. While he and his wife Stacey aid many conservation organizations, military support efforts and Christian missions, they relish working behind the scenes. “When we set up the company, we said, ‘If we’re blessed with success, we’re going to give back,’” said Smith, who lives in Argyle in North Texas. “It’s not something we advertise, but something we do as a way to serve.” As the couple reared their five children, international mission work has been a family priority. The couple dedicates all the profits from the sale of their Signature® Line to fund a variety of mission outreach organizations. “Mission work has been great for our family,” Smith said. “Our kids have traveled all over the world serving other people and learning first-hand about different cultures. It’s humbling to see



MAY 2016

how others live—and how much we enjoy in the United States.” The family has worked extensively in India and the country has claimed a special place in their hearts. The Smiths are establishing a 501(c)3 called The Open Door Project to fund a home for Indian girls who have been orphaned, abandoned, trafficked or rescued from brothels. The home, known as Grace House India, is nearing completion and when it opens this summer, it initially will provide refuge for 40 girls. Stacey along with GameGuard’s marketing and operations managers recently returned home after finalizing many details in India. “The home is going to be awesome, but it has too many ‘moving parts’ for us to do it alone,” Smith said. “In our company, we’ve created opportunities for other team members to contribute as well. They give back, too. It’s part of our company culture.” Recently, the company added the Amy T. Selkirk Fund for Breast Cancer Immunotherapy to its list of beneficiaries and is donating


the profits from every peony cooler bag sold to the effort. “We work hard to fund the efforts ourselves,” Smith said. “It’s just the way we’ve chosen to serve.” In their early years, the Smiths worked through national organizations, but these days they are directly involved with the causes and people they support. “We want our support to make a difference in the lives of people and not be devoured by overhead,” Smith said. “If we provide funds to purchase a wounded soldier an electric wheelchair, we want the soldier to get a wheelchair. We aren’t interested in buying office furniture for executives.” Their philanthropic effort is also an expression of gratitude and a source of inspiration. “We have an apparel company that has developed a loyal customer base and a loyal following,” Smith, who is a TWA Life Member, said. “Every year since 2003 our business has gotten better, and we’ve been able to provide more support to more good causes. We work hard so we can continue to grow the company and continue to give back.” THE DRAWING BOARD In 2002, Stacey suggested Smith find a new way to fund his substantial hunting habit. GameGuard was his solution. “When I came up with the idea that eventually became GameGuard, I overlooked one significant fact,” Smith said laughing. “Fall is the busiest time of year for a camouflage company. I don’t get to hunt nearly as much as I once did because I’m busy working.” Outdoor apparel, especially camo, is a competitive business. To be a success, Smith knew he would have to bring something different into the marketplace. His inspiration came from the rangelands of Texas. “I hunted in Texas my whole life,” Smith said. “Whether I was in the South Texas brush, the breaks of the Panhandle or the scrub out near Brownwood, none of the camo patterns available then matched the terrain.” Over the course of a year, Smith designed what became GameGuard’s signature pattern. Instead of using a

computer, he hand drew the pattern that includes native vegetation such as mesquite and yucca. Then, he matched the colors of the vegetation and the landscape in the camouflage to the terrain where it would be used during the time of year it was most likely to be used. “When we introduced our first camo products, the general reaction from retailers and competitors was ‘It’s too light,’” Smith said. “At the time, the camo section as a whole was the color of chocolate milk. Despite the naysayers, we believed we were on to something.” Apparently, they were. Imitation is the

sincerest form of flattery. Within two years of GameGuard’s entry into the marketplace, the major outdoors apparel companies introduced light patterns of their own. “We started with two shirts and a hat,” Smith said. “It wasn’t a huge offering, but it got people’s attention.” While developing a hand-drawn pattern with custom-colors is a challenge in and of itself, overseas manufacturing and importation is a labyrinth. “If people knew how many steps it takes to construct a single shirt, it would boggle their minds,” Smith said. Fortunately, Smith had mastered the




intricacies in the promotional industry. In the late 1990s, he was a pioneer in the marketing and manufacturing of customized caps, shirts, mugs and other items. His clients included Home Depot and Fox Sports. “I was fortunate enough to establish a strong working relationship with a Chinese manufacturer and got into import early,” Smith said. “While my competitors were purchasing premade products and adding customization, I was producing my goods directly. The lessons I learned applied directly to GameGuard.” Smith phased out his promotional company in 2005 to concentrate on GameGuard. “While GameGuard showed promise, I knew that it wouldn’t reach its potential unless I gave it my full attention,” Smith said.



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THE GROWTH PATTERN In the beginning, GameGuard had three products and two employees: Smith and Stacey. They have been married 21 years and worked together for 20. “Stacey works in the company from the neck up and I work from the neck down,” Smith said laughing. “This division of labor works great as long as I do what she says. All kidding aside, it’s been a blessing to build this together. We’ve had a lot of fun along the way.” Today, the company has 20 employees, five major product categories and a distribution center. Smith attributes the company’s growth to a dual commitment to customer satisfaction and innovation. “When we started the company, I vowed to stand behind our products 100 percent,” Smith said. “People told me that I’d go broke. We haven’t because people want to

do business with people they can trust.” Plus, the company works to offer the highest quality products possible to minimize the need for repairs and replacements. “We’re a family-owned business in Texas that is trying to treat people right—and it shows because customers stick with us,” Smith said. The company also looks to the future and tries to anticipate what its customers will need next. GameGuard has often been first to the market with cutting-edge fabrics and is currently in research and development for exciting new products in 2017. This year the company introduced a new vest and an infant line. Through the years, customers had suggested infant wear. Smith was reluctant because apparel companies get very few do-overs. “In this business, you can’t produce just 10 of any item,” Smith said. “You have to buy them by the thousands, so there is a big risk with the introduction of every new product.” Market research—combined with the birth of their first grandchild—prompted the creation of three infant items. “I’ve always said, ‘We’ve got to get them young,’” Smith said. “Fortunately, there are a lot of hunting families that agree.” Each year, the Smiths hold a companywide meeting. The staff tackles three questions: What are people asking for? What can we do better? And, what are the young people wearing? “If we are going to survive in the hunting industry, we have to pay attention to what the young people want and need,” Smith said. “They are the future of our business— and our heritage.” THE RANCHING ROOTS Smith grew up in Tomball when it was a small town. “We still got out of school for lunch, and we had two choices, either Sonic or Dairy Queen,” he said. His paternal grandparents were ranchers, so he grew up on the land and hunted every chance he got. His dad wasn’t an active participant but an avid supporter. “By the time my brother and I came along, dad was ‘hunted out,’” Smith said. “He had grown up on a ranch hunting and had his


fill, but he always supported us. He made sure we had guns, gear and opportunities.” Smith has made a concerted effort to keep the hunting heritage alive in his own family. He and his five children have been afield since the kids were old enough to toddle along. “All our kids are enthusiastic hunters and anglers,” Smith said. “Being together in the outdoors has been another family priority. As my dad told me, ‘It’s a lot cheaper to let kids hunt and fish than it is to hire attorneys to get them out of trouble.’” The family also gathers on their ranch near Coleman. They are raising deer and sheep. “I wish that I had paid more attention to what my grandparents were doing,” Smith said with a chuckle. “I’m having to learn all those lessons the hard way now.” In the process, the family is managing the land so it remains in a natural, productive state. Two of the current priorities are removing invasive species and improving water availability. “As landowners, we have a responsibility to keep the land as natural and productive as possible,” Smith said. “We also have a responsibility to be vigilant. We have to pay attention to what is going on in the policy arena, or we could lose everything we hold dear.” THE VOICE OF LANDOWNERS In 2005, when GameGuard was in its infancy, the Smiths elected to become a Texas Wildlife Association corporate partner. “We’ve chosen to support conservation organizations such as TWA that protect landowners, safeguard our hunting and engage our youth,” Smith said. “As long these organizations keep on doing what they’re doing, we’re proud to be supporters.” For more than 10 years, GameGuard has quietly been providing TWA’s camo and merchandise. As a 10-year Texas Big Game Awards sponsor, GameGuard has donated products for auctions, custom caps for all scorers, and more. The company has also outfitted all cadets graduating from the Texas Brigades with custom shirts. “In Texas, landowners are fortunate that TWA is good at what it does,” Smith said. “The organization is respected in Austin and its leaders know how to navigate the

system, which is something the average person can’t do on their own. “TWA pays attention on our behalf and moves to address threats to our heritage before they can become laws or come to a public vote. It’s scary to me to think what we could lose if we didn’t have organizations like TWA.

“Personally, I think more people should support TWA’s efforts, either with handson involvement or by writing a check. The group can’t support us—can’t protect us—if we don’t support it.”



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Make it Fit

The Key to Shotgun Shooting Success Article and Photos by RALPH WININGHAM

Ken Rucker of Speedbump Stockworks checks out the gun fit of Dan Whitehead of Lake Ivy who is having his first fitting session after a lengthy hunting and shooting career in order to improve his performance in the field and on the range.


ob Brister was eight birds into a 10-bird race at a South Texas pigeon shoot when he walked back behind the shooting range pavilion to shave down the comb of his shotgun with a wood rasp. Although he had killed all eight birds, he wasn’t happy with the hits made with his high-dollar over and under, believing a little on-site gun fit work was required. Several of his fellow competitors at the livebird event were stunned that the legendary outdoor writer and championship-level shooter could submit a shotgun worth more than some of their vehicles to such treatment, particularly when he was doing so well in the event. When Brister’s turn came to pit his shooting skills against the final two birds of the day, he center-punched both pigeons to go 10 for 10.



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To say that Brister was a leading advocate of proper gun fit would be the understatement of the century. In his book, Shotgunning: The Art and the Science released in 1976 and still considered the definitive guide to shotgun shooting, Brister devoted a entire chapter to “How to Make Your Gun Fit” that should be a mustread for any wingshooter or clay buster. To lead off the chapter, Brister describes the uncanny ability of Bill Jordan, another legendary shooter and author, to adjust to an out-of-the-box shotgun despite his towering, long-armed physical characteristics. “Wal,” he drawled in an accent as thick as Cajun coffee. “I reckon it’s about the same as that ol’ Border Patrol hat I was issued years ago. Damned thing felt like a bear trap on my head. I did everything but stomp on it and it never stretched an inch. But after about 20 years, it started feeling fine: best I

Ken Rucker of Speedbump Stockworks works on a stock for a Browning Citori Model 525 that he will transform into a properly fit shooting platform for Dan Whitehead of Lake Ivy in order to help him improve his range and field skills.

can figure, my head changed,” Brister quoted his shooting friend. “By just such a system many shooters adapt to shotguns: their heads change (in position over the barrel) until no matter how unusual the stance it begins to feel natural. Such shooters may have outstanding reflexes and may even be the best shots in their hunting crowd. They may scoff at the need for any sort of special stock or rib, making comments to the effect that the problem of shooting is not the stock, but the ‘nut’ behind it. “This is unfortunate, perhaps, because a shooter of such reflexes could probably be a terrific shot with a gun that fits. He may learn to scrounge around the stock, raise his head slightly, crawl the stock forward or whatever is required to hit game. But he can never be quite as precise and consistent as with a shotgun that comes to the shoulder

Photo by Alix Godar


Photo by Alix Godar

Proper gun fit advocate Ralph Gates, left, checks out the shooting performance of Harvey Winingham of Phoenix, AZ, to make sure his shotgun will put an effective pattern in the right place at the right time.

Explaining what tweaks will be necessary to make sure Dan Whitehead's shotgun will fit properly, Ken Rucker of Speedbump Stockworks goes over a procedure he conducts hundreds of times each year to help shooters improve their performance on the range and in the field.

with the head naturally and comfortably against the stock and that certain ‘lockedin’ feeling, which means that wherever the shooter looks the barrel must follow,” Brister wrote. Those words are as true today as when Brister wrote them, and the concept of being able to shoot where you look was the foundation of his shooting, coaching and writing endeavors until his death in 2005.

the Outdoors Editor of Houston Chronicle from 1954 until 1998; and Shooting Editor of Field & Stream from 1971 until 1985, Brister practiced what he preached and was a force to be reckoned with whether he was shooting birds or clays. While many shooting instructors provide basic assistance in making sure a shotgun is properly fit to an individual shooter, Ken Rucker of Speedbump Stockworks is one of the few stock-crafting experts in the local area who specializes in custom stock fitting and recoil reduction. “A shotgun out of the box fits about 30 percent of the shooters, with about 70 percent requiring some sort of adjustments for proper gun fit,’’ Rucker said. “To fit a shotgun to a shooter, you have to look at where the shooter’s face is on the stock. You have to factor in the length of a shooter’s neck, the height of the cheekbones and other features,’’ he said. Rucker, who has fitted hundreds of both veterans and newcomers looking for an edge in busting clays or hitting birds, lists three elements that are necessary for putting each shot in the right place at the right time. “A shooter has to have a gun that fits, doesn’t kick the snot out of you and shoots where you look,’’ he said. The gunsmith has developed a patented recoil system that permits him to fine tune each firearm’s length of pull, cast and comb height—all of which determine how well the stock fits into a shooter’s shoulder. Proper gun fit also allows for better handling ability of a firearm so the shotgun movement is smoother and more effective.

He said that fitting a firearm to an individual shooter is not a complicated process, but is a necessary one for any shooter to be able to reach peak performance on the range and in the field. “You have to be able to shoot where you look, and that means your face has to be in the right place on the stock,’’ Rucker said. “Naturally, mental ability also has something to do with good shooting.” He explained that if a shooter has made sure the shotgun shoots where he or she looks, that helps build confidence and helps improve performance. Rucker recommends a break-in period of about two flats of shotgun shells (about 500 rounds) after a gun fitting to make sure the firearm is doing its job. “Then you should really start seeing an improvement in your scores,’’ he said. Veteran shooting instructor and champion shooter Ralph Gates, who owns and operates the Prairie Grove Shotgun Sports Club in Columbia, MO, has an interesting take on proper gun fit that he has used to tweak the shooting performance of many clay busters. He said that no matter what the skill level of a shooter, knowing the fundamentals and using the proper form to break targets will produce less than stellar performance unless the shooter has faith in his ability. “Faith is the key. You have to have faith that you will do what you have to do in order to hit the target,’’ he said. His demonstration of this philosophy is interesting and impressive. After sliding a 4-inch square piece of cardboard with a hole in the middle just large enough to fit over the barrel of his trusty and well-worn Model 12 pumpaction shotgun, Gates moves to the Station 4 shooting position on one of the skeet fields at his range. “I don’t have to see the barrel to know where I will be shooting. With a properly fit shotgun, all I have to do is look at the target and rely on faith,’’ he said. Smashing target after target with his barrel obscured is a convincing argument for even the most skeptic shooting enthusiast. When putting a pattern in the right place at the right time is the goal, proper gun fit is the only way to go.





Behold the Mighty Bluegill Article and Photos by DR. BILLY HIGGINBOTHAM, Professor and Extension Wildlife and Fisheries Specialist, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service

A male bluegill prepares a nest for spawning in the shallows.


hat I know about fishing can be traced back to the bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus). I don’t remember how old I was when I caught my first fish, but I am sure it was a bluegill. Watching that bobber disappear beneath the surface as a 3-inch bluegill departs with your worm or cricket is an exciting thing for a grade schooler. In fact, even now, watching that bobber drifting along the water’s surface provides soothing therapy for me that cannot be gained elsewhere. As a kid, I gained access to fish in the Creme Lure Company pond on the outskirts of Tyler. (Yep, that is the same Nick Creme that invented the plastic worm that revolutionized bass fishing as we know it today). Before moving on to largemouth bass, I spent hours fishing for ‘gills in that little two-acre pond that was only a fiveminute bike ride from home. My favorite way to fish for bluegills is



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during spawning season when they bed up, beginning in late May. The shallows of East Texas ponds would be honeycombed with their dish-shaped beds in water as little as 6 inches deep as spawning season commenced. I loved to “sight fish” for the big mature bluegills that sometimes reached 10 inches in length. So if you haven’t figured it out, the bluegill is my favorite freshwater fish species. Its original native range did not push westward much past Texas, but numerous introductions have occurred across the United States and into southern Canada and northern Mexico. The world record ‘gill was caught in 1950 from Ketona Lake in Alabama. At a whopping 4 pounds 12 ounces. That record may stand for another 65 years. So what role does the ubiquitous bluegill play in Texas ponds and lakes? One thing we biologists agree on, especially when it

comes to private water management, is the importance of bluegills to largemouth bass fisheries. As sure as the sun rises in the East, the bluegill is an integral forage component for developing a largemouth bass fishery. Their value as forage lies in their fecundity coupled with a protracted spawning season.

A bluegill can be easily distinguished from other sunfish by its dark ear flap, vertical bars along its sides, small mouth and visible “ink blotch” at the rear of the dorsal (top) fin.


It may begin in as early as April and extend into September. A 5-inch long female may produce 80,000 eggs annually. This trait is the engine that makes a bass population go. With bluegill lifespans reaching 5 to 6 years of age, this species is the only one available that can sustain itself through annual reproduction and meet the needs of a largemouth bass population 12 months out of the year. And while they can be supplemented with species like redear sunfish, threadfin shad and even tilapia, they cannot be replaced as the forage mainstay for largemouth bass. So, if you don’t know if you have bluegills in your bass pond, now is the time to break into “cane pole and cricket” gear. Verify that you have bluegills present, because it is tough to manage successfully for bass without them. But how do you differentiate bluegills from the “imposter” sunfish species that may also be present? Simply look for these four characteristics to confirm the bluegill’s presence in your pond: 1) small mouth, 2) vertical bars running along the sides, 3) a small opercular (ear) flap that is black or dark blue and 4) at the rear of the dorsal (top) fin, there will be a small ink blotch when it is held up to a light background, such as the sky. Please note that the “coppernose” is a Florida subspecies of the bluegill. They are often sold by southern fish farms because they may reach larger maximum sizes while producing abundant spawns of offspring. The main thing to remember is that coppernoses ARE still bluegills. We seldom have to supplementally stock bluegills if they are already present in a bass fishery. However, intermediate-sizes bluegills (3 to 6 inches) are sometimes stocked to help alleviate a stunted bass condition. When we stock bluegills into a new or renovated pond (no fish present), we typically recommend from 500 to 1,000 one to three inch long fingerlings per surface acre stocked in the fall prior to stocking largemouth bass fingerlings the next Spring. The stocking rate chosen is largely dependent upon whether the pond owner plans to fertilize the pond on an annual basis. (See the March 2016 issue of Texas Wildlife magazine for an article on pond fertilization). However, more recent data have suggested that doubling these

stocking rates may be even more beneficial to a largemouth bass population. If both bluegills and fingerling largemouth bass are stocked simultaneously in the spring, the pond owner should opt for stocking 30 to 60 adult bluegills (3 to 6 inches) per surface acre, so those fish will begin spawning their first summer in the pond. The size structure of your bass population can be a reflection of your bluegills’ size structure as well. Bluegill populations tend to be density dependent—as their numbers increase (within limits), their average size decreases. When stocked as bass forage, a good rule of thumb is for the bluegills to be present in all sizes so they can provide forage for all sizes of bass. Big bass need large bluegill present, just as small bass need small bluegill present. As a general rule, a bass can only swallow a bluegill about one-third its own length. Therefore, a 12-inch largemouth bass can literally starve if the only bluegills present are all 6 inches or larger. Another general rule is that it takes about 10 pounds of bluegills to grow one pound of bass. The cattleman knows that the key to growing more beef per acre is dependent upon their ability to provide more grass per acre. The same holds true for a pond. Fertilize that pond properly and you will double or triple the standing crop of your bluegill population, which means you double or triple the standing crop of the largemouth bass population as well. In the most intensively managed waters, 500 pounds of bluegills per surface acre can support about 50 pounds of bass in that same acre. So the moral of the story is if you want more pounds of bass, then grow more pounds of bluegill. A typical condition in many private bass ponds is that the bass population is underfished. That is to say there are not enough 8-12-inch-long bass removed annually to reduce competition and keep the bass growing as they should. The result is a fishery that produces lots of hungry and easy to catch small bass but few larger fish. Sound familiar? When I get these calls, I never confirm that this is a problem. If the goal is lots of fast fishing action for these hungry and easyto-catch small bass, it makes for an ideal kid fishery. But, if the pond owner is trying to

produce some trophy-sized largemouths, it’s maybe not so desirable. Fortunately, there is an amazing byproduct of this stunted bass fishery. The hungry small bass keep the bluegill reproduction cleaned up and fewer bluegills make it through the gauntlet to reach large adult size. These fewer (remember the density dependent thing?) bluegills that make it have the potential to become real whoppers. Enhance this by increasing carrying capacity through fertilization and you can produce some trophy bluegills, although admittedly you will never produce the next state record largemouth under this scenario. To really stack the deck in your favor, add an automatic feeder to the mix. Bluegills respond well to supplementation using a small pelleted floating ration. Set your feeder to go off three times a day, feeding as much as the fish will clean up at each feeding from April through November. Sure, your catfish will respond as well, but supplementation can really boost a bluegill population, produce some really big ‘gills and indirectly result in more bass, too. Pond owners just interested in stocking bluegill alone face an uphill battle. The population can grow rapidly; and, eventually, competition for the food supply decreases average size, even under a supplementation program. In these ponds, I also like to stock largemouth bass—not for bass production itself but rather to put sufficient pressure on the bluegill to decrease their numbers, which can increase their average size. A better route may be to stock hybrid sunfish and place them on a pelleted ration. They exhibit some hybrid vigor and do not reproduce as rapidly as pure bluegills. However, you may need to stock the aforementioned bass in this scenario as well since subsequent generations of the F1 hybrids will revert back toward their parentage, one of which is typically a bluegill. Now I know they are not in the crappie league when it comes to eating, but fillets of large bluegills are white, flaky and truly tasty. And, there is no better way to start a new angler out on a lifetime of fishing adventures. Behold the mighty bluegill, my favorite fish species forever and ever.



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Scaled Quail

Habitat use in association with supplemental feed and water Article by ERNESTO GARCIA ORTEGA and RYAN LUNA PH.D. Photos courtesy of ERNESTO GARCIA ORTEGA

This Scaled Quail forages in the Trans-Pecos region of Texas. In addition to being photogenic, this species is a challenging quarry for hunters as well as bird dogs.


est Texas, or as some people refer to it “God’s country,” is a very unique region that encompasses a portion of the Chihuahuan desert ecosystem. It consists of 92,815 square miles and is one of the most wildlife diverse areas in Texas. Among the species found in this area, there is one that stands out as an icon—the Scaled Quail (Callipepla squamata). It is one of the most charismatic species of the Trans-Pecos. In addition to being photogenic, this species is a challenging quarry for hunters as well as bird dogs. Scaled Quail, also known as Blue Quail, is an upland game bird considered as one of the most ecologically and economically important wildlife species in the TransPecos region. Its distribution encompasses roughly the western half of Texas, inhabiting the western portions of the Rolling Plains, Edwards Plateau and South Texas Plains. However, populations of the Scaled Quail have been in decline since the 1960s. Although it is unknown what specifically has been



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responsible for this decline, suggested causes have included severe weather events, changes in landscape characteristics resulting from woody brush encroachment, overgrazing practices and wildlife diseases or parasites. In order to better understand what factors might be influencing quail populations in the Trans-Pecos, the Borderlands Research Institute created the Desert Quail Research Program. Current desert quail research is obtaining data that yields information on the ecology, population dynamics and survival of scaled, Gambel’s (Callipepla gambelii) and Montezuma (Cyrtonyx montezumae) Quail in the Trans-Pecos. Having support from private landowners and quail advocates such as Park Cities Quail, Quail Coalition, Quail Forever and Dow AgroSciences, projects are being implemented to help restore habitat and provide landowners valuable information on management tools to improve quail habitat. One practice currently implemented on many ranches in the Trans-Pecos in an effort to improve survival and recruitment is the

use of supplemental feed. Therefore, one of the goals of our research is to evaluate the influence of supplemental feed on habitat use, nest site selection and survival. In order to assess habitat use in the area, 80 female quail were equipped with Very High Frequency (VHF) telemetry units during 2014 and 2015. Females were tracked via VHF, and their locations were recorded with a Global Positioning System (GPS) unit. Scaled Quail females were tracked and monitored from mid-April to early September each year. Additionally, during the nesting season, nest site location, nesting cover type, clutch size and nest success were also documented. A portion of the study examined the distance quail travel from supplemental water and feed sources. Supplemental feed has always been a subject of contention. Some research has shown that it is beneficial to survival, while other studies indicate that it has no bearing on quail survival and only concentrates quail in the area.


Ecological sites and spatial distribution of Scaled Quail during the summer season of 2014 and 2015.

Distance from feeders and spatial distribution of Scaled Quail during the summer season of 2014 and 2015.

Legend Legend Quail Locations 2015 Quail Locations 2014

Feeders Quail Locations 2015 Quail Locations 2014

Flagstone Hill, Desert Grassland


Gravelly, Desert Grassland


Gravelly, Hot Desert Shrub


Igneous Hill & Mountain, Desert Grassland


Igneous Hill & Mountain, Hot Desert Shrub


Loamy, Desert Grassland

901-1,200 1,201-1,500 1,501-1,800

Distance from water troughs and spatial distribution of Scaled Quail during the summer season of 2014 and 2015.

Legend Water troughs Quail Locations 2015 Quail Locations 2014

Water Distance 0-300 301-600 601-900 901-1,200 1,201-1,500 1,501-1,800

It is known that supplemental feed or water will concentrate quail in an area. As a result, it is used as a management tool for hunting. Regardless of whether or not supplemental feed improves quail survival in the long run, it is another tool in the toolbox available to landowners and can benefit populations when forage is in limited supply. During these time periods when rainfall is limited, providing supplemental feed and water can help to maintain the current population of Scaled Quail so that when rains return, there is more breeding stock on the landscape. Several studies have documented that up to 70 percent of the quail’s water requirements can be satisfied through pre-formed water (water in forage items) and metabolic water (from metabolism). In the arid environment of the Trans-Pecos region, standing water can be a key component influencing quail habitat use. Habitat use was similar across years of the study with 43.55 percent of the locations being concentrated within 300 meters of a supplemental feed or water source. The area 301-600 meters from the feed and water sources accounted for 38.99 percent of the quail locations. Distances 601-900 meters, 901-1,200 meters and 1,201-1,500 meters accounted for 11.32 percent, 5.03 percent and 1.01 percent, respectively. Vegetation associations were also assessed in terms of ecological sites. The Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) has defined ecological sites as “a distinctive kind of land with specific soil and physical characteristics that differ from other kinds of land in its ability to produce a distinctive kind and amount of vegetation and its ability to respond similarly to management actions and natural disturbances.”




For this particular study, 46.38 percent of the Scaled Quail locations were recorded in the Gravelly-Hot Desert Shrub followed by 21.77 percent in the Flagstone Hill-Desert Grassland, and 13.12 percent in the Igneous Hill and Mountain-Desert Grassland. More research is needed to determine the preferences among ecological sites within this study area, but it seems this selection has been driven by the amount and diversity of vegetation that can be provided by these areas. Thermoregulation, predator avoidance, nesting cover and food are among the most important characteristics for quail habitat. Of these characteristics, cover seems to drive whether or not a quail will attempt to nest. In terms of monthly nesting attempts for 2014 during the summer season, the greatest peak was in July having 14 (56 percent) of 25 nests. For 2015, the greatest peak was in May with 15 of 35 nests found during this month. The early peak in nesting could be a result of early monsoonal rains during the spring of 2015, whereas in 2014, this phenomenon occurred later in the summer. During 2014, the effects of previous year’s

drought were still evident in many places across the landscape; therefore, nesting cover was limited and mostly restricted to succulents. As a result, the top three preferred nesting cover types for 2014 were prickly pear (Opuntia spp.) with 32 percent of identified nests being found in this vegetation, followed by tobosa grass (Pleuraphis mutica) with 24 percent, and tasajillo (Cylondropuntia leptocaulis) with 12 percent. Conversely, 2015 was marked with early precipitation and abundant vegetation growth; therefore, the types of nesting cover utilized by Scaled Quail females were more diverse. During 2015, 54 percent of nest sites were located in grasses such as tobosa grass, purple threeawn (Aristida purpurea) and black grama (Bouteloua eriopoda). Prickly pear was still utilized and accounted for 22.85 percent of total of nests found; however, we did not find any nests in tasajillo during 2015. In addition to identifying the predominant nesting cover, we also wanted to determine clutch size for potential population recruitment rates. Reproductive output it is believed to be one of the most important

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factors driving Scaled Quail population; thus, data were recorded to predict changes in population dynamics. A total of 60 nests (25 in 2014 and 35 in 2015) were found during the summer of 2014 and 2015. The average clutch size was 11.67 eggs per nest, with four being the least number detected in a nest and 21 eggs the maximum. The average hatching success across both years was 43.04 percent. Hatching success in 2015 was greater than 2014 with 53.66 percent hatch success versus 32.44 percent in 2014. These figures indicate how crucial the timing of precipitation is to this species. Early rains give a jump start to the nesting period but if rains come late or not at all, Scaled Quail play catch-up which results in low recruitment for that year. Rainfall is particularly important during the nesting season, because it triggers the emergence of insects which are the main source of protein for chicks during the first six weeks of their lives. Although not well-documented, precipitation plays a vital role during the breeding season encouraging Scaled Quail to be segregated in pairs of male and female until a successful reproductive outcome is achieved. Scaled Quail are a highly regarded upland game bird in Texas, but actions need to be taken to help bolster current populations to ensure future generations are able to witness the spectacle of a large Scaled Quail covey flush. Although it would be nice to be able to control precipitation events each year to help bolster populations, we must rely on creating good habitat that will respond quickly to precipitation events and provide nesting cover that will help facilitate high nest success and potential recruitment into the population. This wildlife species is not only part of Texas heritage but also a keystone and umbrella species with other species benefiting from quail management practices. By assessing factors influencing survival and recruitment, we gain a better understanding of what might be influencing quail populations. Each research project is an opportunity to identify a factor that is either detrimental or favorable in influencing population trends. Ultimately, research will identify factors responsible for quail population decline over the past decades and offer innovative ways to increase current populations so that Scaled Quail continue to be a valuable resource for generations to come.

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In Texas, surface water law is derived from property law. In the event of a shortage, rights to quantities are allocated in chronological order, with oldest rights receiving highest priority.

WATER PLANNING OR BATTLE PLANNING? Article by HENRY CHAPPELL Photos by WYMAN MEINZER “… in Texas as in most of the West water development ranks with mothers and anticommunism as an automatically positive subject.” John Graves, The Water Hustlers


arly Anglo-Saxon settlers in Texas brought from the well-watered British Isles strong notions of ownership and precedent long enshrined in English common law. Settle a place; improve it; live on it; take steps necessary to retain title; gain the right to most or all of that place’s natural bounty. Thus, settlement



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along a stretch of major stream or river came with the right to virtually unfettered use of its waters. As groundwater grew in importance, an early 20th century Texas Supreme Court decision ruled groundwater too “mysterious and occult” to regulate, leading to the “Right of Capture,” or the right of a landowner to pump without limit. For the first couple decades after the Texas Revolution, Anglo settlement beyond the relatively moist Pineywoods adhered to the Brazos, Colorado, Guadalupe and Trinity rivers and their major tributaries. As the frontier gradually pierced the

Comanche barrier, Yeomen farmers took their chances west of the 98th meridian, throwing up drafty cabins and planting subsistence crops around stumps their mules couldn’t jerk out of stubborn soil. As long as populations remained sparse, creeks and springs, some of them artesian, and hand-dug wells proved adequate in the droughty Cross Timbers, Blackland Prairie and the western reaches of the Hill Country. Prior to the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, Hispanic South Texas relied on Spanish and Mexican era approaches ranging from feudal to communal. Along the Rio Grande,


north to the Nueces Rivers, the old practices slowly died as the Tejano way of life gave way to Anglo-American commerce. (For a description of the challenges surrounding the Rio Grande, see “Rio Grande: River of Strife,” Texas Wildlife, August 2014.) After Quanah and his starving Quahada Comanche band surrendered at Fort Sill in 1875, what had been the howling wilderness of the Rolling Plains and High Plains stood wide open to farmers and cattlemen. By the turn of the 20th century, informal, frontier era water use schemes had grown dangerously vulnerable to drought and other natural calamities. In 1904, the Texas Legislature added article 3, section 52 to the state constitution, authorizing defined districts to collect taxes and issue bonds to raise money for the improvement of rivers, creeks and streams to prevent overflows and to permit navigation and irrigation, and for the construction of dams, reservoirs and canals for water storage and diversion. Article 16, section 59(a), added in 1917, authorized conservation of all Texas’ natural resources. Section 59(b) authorized formation of conservation and reclamation districts. Consistent with human nature, Texas water planning has developed less from foresight than from emergency response to drought. Consider that average annual precipitation varies from about 56 inches in the Beaumont area to eight inches around El Paso. Consider, too, that historically, deep East Texas has possessed more than enough surface water to meet its needs while projected shortfalls loom over drier parts of the state. Understandably, East Texans have long worried that today’s surplus, diverted to distant watersheds, might turn into tomorrow’s shortfall as local needs increase. Conditions for legal disputes— another great Anglo-Saxon tradition—are more than ripe. In response to the 1954-1956 “drought of record,” the Texas Legislature, created the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB), and voters approved a constitutional amendment authorizing issuance of $200 million in bonds to fund water development. For the first 40 years of TWDB’s

In Texas, groundwater remains subject to the “rule of capture,” meaning that farmers and ranchers own the water beneath their property. Prudent planning by groundwater districts and regional planning groups helps ensure adequate supplies for future generations.

existence, water planning was a top-down affair. Agencies took a broad view of water needs and proposed solutions. In 1913, Texas had only four major reservoirs; 66 in 1950; currently, we have 188. Engineering mania peaked in the 1960s, when High Plains growers realized they were mining fossil water from the Ogallala Aquifer some 10 times faster than its natural recharge rate. A 1968 water plan called for a 12-13 million acre-foot diversion, via canal, from the Mississippi River, plus other inter-basin transfers, saltwater barriers and 62 major reservoirs to be implemented by 2020, at a cost of some $9 billion in 1967 dollars. The plan, placed on the election ballot, was narrowly defeated in the 1969 election, thanks largely to opposition from conservationists. In The Water Hustlers, John Graves called the plan “a projection of the most wishful dreams of the state’s boosters and boomers and builders over the decades, and a rather slick sales package.” Slightly less ambitious interstate transfer plans failed in the 1970s. By the 1980s, water developers and planners had reached a degree of accommodation with conservationists. The 1984 state water plan proposed construction of 44 major reservoirs by 2020. Only a few of those have been built. In 1997, after another year-long drought, the 75th Legislature passed Senate Bill 1 which designated 16 regional groups to plan for the state’s water needs over the next 50 years. Plans are updated on a five year basis

and submitted to the Water Development Board for approval and inclusion in the State Water Plan. Ideally, this approach encourages grassroots water planning. Each regional group, composed of 23 members representing the region’s stakeholders— agriculture, business, water development, industry, environmental and others— ensure that their region’s needs are met and their resources are protected. Critics contend that some of the planning groups are self-electing boards dominated by representatives of water and urban business interests with little regard for rural and environmental concerns. Battles rage: Unlikely teams of East Texas landowners, timber and farming interests, and environmental groups, against business interests in thirstier urban and suburban areas to the west; coastal communities dependent on freshwater inflows versus booming suburbs; rice farmers and surrounding communities dependent on irrigation releases versus upriver cities. Yet, water planners are charged with a grave responsibility. Texas’s urban populations are projected to double by 2060, and rural and small town economies, especially on the High Plains, continue their dependence on groundwater pumping for irrigation. We can’t afford apathy. We’d best bone up on the rudiments of water planning and get involved if we expect our beloved state to be a welcoming home for future generations.



Photo courtesy of Texas Brigades

Rio Grande Wild and Scenic River at Big Bend National Park (Big Bend Country)


A NATURE TRAVEL GUIDE by Mary O. Parker; photographs by Jeff Parker; Texas A&M University Press, College Station, Texas; 2016; 285 pages; $28/Amazon Book Review by EILEEN MATTEI Photos by JEFF PARKER


t Santa Clara Ranch in Hidalgo County, Dr. Beto Gutierrez had four pit blinds built to allow photographers to focus at eye level on the wildlife coming to the waterholes about eight feet away. “You always want to shoot eye-to-eye,” said the wildlife photographer, family physician and Texas Wildlife Association member. “You never know what is going to come out of the bush— an armadillo, bobcat or a coyote with a rabbit in its mouth.” Western diamondback rattlesnakes slither past frequently. The Santa Clara also provides a double-decker raptor blind and lodging for the photographers who come from around the world to take pictures of the birds and animals that inhabit the 300 acres of low-fenced, old-growth brushland.



MAY 2016

Santa Clara Ranch is one of 96 noteworthy destinations showcased in Explore Texas—A Nature Travel Guide by TWA Member Mary O. Parker with photography by TWA Member Jeff Parker. Through words and images, the Parkers issue an irresistible invitation to explore the remarkable treasures and natural resources of Texas. The author singles out the best of public and private habitats, nature centers and preserves, wildlife refuges, hawk watches, wildflower trails and nature festivals. From the rivers, mountains, bays and forests to plains, deserts, brushland and urban areas, Parker offers a menu of memorable adventures and discoveries for the curious, adventurous outdoors lover. Carter Smith in the Foreword points out that Texas has “more species of birds, reptiles and butterflies than any place else in the


U.S.,” spread across its 11 ecoregions. Habitat diversity boosts the number of plant species and resident and migratory wildlife. Those in turn attract humans who have a “hankering for wild things and wild places.” Texas, more than any other state in the country, relies on private entities to preserve its habitats and native species. Parker’s destinations include properties owned by TWA members Hardy Jackson (Campos Viejos Ranch), Steven Bentsen (Dos Venadas Ranch), Annandale Ranch (Frio Bat Cave), the Collis family (Santa Margarita Ranch), and several others, all of whom cater to nature photographers. Others offer nature retreats or tours. “Nature tourism allows rural communities and individuals to maintain ways of life that might not otherwise be possible,” Parker says. “And when habitats are preserved, local species also get to maintain their ‘way of life.’” Destinations range from the obscure to the iconic, each with its own beauty and wonders conveyed by some 240 wildlife photographs. Color-coded icons identify each site’s prime activities, which might include wildlife or bird watching, stargazing, geology, flora fun, nature photography or water wandering. Parker clues you in on both easy hikes and energetic treks. You can board a Vanishing River cruise to view eagles at Canyon of the Eagles, sail from Rockport to observe whooping cranes or paddle yourself through the Big Thicket. Parker excels at directing your attention to the range of wonders in our own backyard.

Texas, known for superlatives, has the largest urban nature preserve at Armand Bayou Nature Center. (Alligators limit the raccoons which allows birds to nest successfully.) The University of Texas at El Paso’s Chihuahuan Desert Gardens contain the world’s largest collection of desert flora, and Franklin Mountains State Park is the nation’s largest urban wilderness park. The bald cypress at the Caddo Ramsar Wetland of International Importance is considered the oldest of its kind in the U.S. Padre Island is the longest undeveloped barrier island. Big Bend is one of 12 stellar dark sky parks in the world. But nature in small doses is equally beautiful. Parker tells you why and when to go to each destination and recommends multiple courses of actions: “Pet a blacktailed prairie dog (San Angelo Nature Center). Hold a bull snake. Expect to catch caracara in action here. Look for tri-colored bats ceiling-hanging (Inner Space Caverns). Visit after heavy rains for the best viewing.” Each destination has a “Learn” segment— an easily digestible, fact-packed look at topics ranging from burrowing owls and sideoats grama to cave development and American green tree frogs. At the Watson Rare Native Plant Preserve: “Find four of the five carnivorous plant groups know to grow in North America here… With such lush-looking environs, it might surprise you to learn that carnivorous plants thrive here because of acidic soil that’s poor in nutrients and low in oxygen. The plants get

Acton Nature Center, Granbury (Prairies and Lakes region)

Caddo Ramsar Wetland of International Importance, Karnack (Pineywoods section)

minerals from the bugs they eat.” With so many intriguing places to see and things to do, it’s time for a road trip. Cue background music of rumbling alligators, raucous red-crowned parrots and wind rushing through the Lost Maples. (Editor’s note: Explore Texas – A Nature Travel Guide is dedicated to TWA members Audrey and John F. Martin. It is included in the Myrna and David K. Langford Books on Working Lands series.)

Gene Howe Wildlife Management Area, Canadian (Panhandle Plains section)



community bankers


in support of twa

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

Photo by D. K. Langford



MAY 2016



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ICF —Your Images, Their Futur e

Save Camp Lula Sams


by Al Perry This photo of a northern blacktail rattlesnake was taken by Al Perry of Evansville, IN, on the Annandale Ranch in Uvalde County. The shot was captured during the 2006 ICF Pro-Tour of Nature Photography, Texas Hill Country. 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



MAY 2016

Listening. Understanding. Delivering. San Antonio • Laredo • McAllen • Refugio • Hondo • D’Hanis • 866.580.7262

Profile for Texas Wildlife Association

Texas Wildlife May 2016  

Texas Wildlife May 2016  

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