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Duck Holes






he dog days of summer are over, and I am sure that all of you are as happy as I am to have made it through another Texas summer. With cooler temperatures upon us, I hope that all of you will be blessed with frequent rain this fall. The fall is a great time of year to get involved with one of the Texas Wildlife Association’s Conservation Legacy or Hunting Heritage programs. The lineup of adult education, youth hunts, membership events and seminars is shaping up nicely. One of the highlights of my year last year was a Texas Youth Hunting Program event at our ranch in Webb County. I look forward to hosting it again this year. I’m probably just as excited as the youth hunters and volunteers. Keep your eye out as well for news on this year’s Boots on the Ground event in Austin. Many are focused on the very important national political scene as we approach the presidential election, but keep in mind that the 85th Texas Legislative Session is just around the corner. Numerous, significant natural resource and conservation issues will be on the table. TWA will be asking for your input and involvement with these issues. Your time, talents and contributions will help TWA impact decisions that affect landowners and outdoor enthusiasts. There are many folks who work in front of and behind the curtain to make TWA’s programs run smoothly and ensure that your voices are heard in Austin. TWA staff, directors and volunteers work extremely hard to achieve our mission, but some folks deserve extra gratitude because they take on such heavy workloads and approach their tasks with extreme dedication and enthusiasm. One such person is TWA Director Deborah Clark. Several years ago, after a restructuring of the membership committee, Deborah agreed to come back to serve on the Executive Committee and become membership chair. She’d already done an incredible job serving as chair several years prior. Under her leadership over the last two years, we have seen a meteoric rise in membership levels. TWA membership has more than doubled in the last 10 years to a number that sits just north of the 10,000 mark. Deborah initiated membership incentive programs, the first of which was a Life Member drive, which resulted in a record number of Life Member sales in 2015. She and her committee implemented positive changes to our membership structure. These changes added more benefits to all TWA membership levels. Deborah’s time is up on her second tour as TWA membership chair, and she will be missed greatly. Thank you, Deborah, for all you have done for US at the Texas Wildlife Association. Because of you, that US is a lot bigger.

Marko Barrett President, Texas Wildlife Association

Mission Statement of the Texas Wildlife Association

Serving Texas wildlife and its habitat, while protecting property rights, hunting heritage, and the conservation efforts of those who value and steward wildlife resources.




TEXAS WILDLIFE 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 Dr. Lisa Flowers, Director of Programs 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 Nicole Greaney, Director of Membership 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 Grella, Education Program Specialist Brian Robert, Education Program Specialist Julia Farmer, Education Program Contractor Jo Picken, Education Program Contractor Marla Wolf, Curriculum Writer Olivia Sanchez, Conservation Legacy Program Assistant 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


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. TEXAS WILDLIFE is published monthly by the 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 2016 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. 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

OCTOBER Volume 32 H Number 6 H 2016

8 Developing Texas Duck Holes by NATE SKINNER

16 Hunting Heritage


18 Conservation Legacy

Growing Deeper Through Partnerships by SARAH GRELLA

The Jobe Ranch hosted six Texas game wardens at a TYHP Huntmaster Training.

20 Members in Action

Aflutter Over Monarchs

Texas Game Wardens Become Huntmasters Texas game wardens regularly offer youth outdoor activities. In doing so, they are fulfilling the portion of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department mission statement: “…and to provide hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation opportunities for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations.” Some TPWD game wardens are getting more involved with the Texas Youth Hunting Program by becoming huntmasters. Several game wardens already lead TYHP hunts every year. Recently, TYHP trained six new huntmasters at an all “Game Warden Huntmaster Training Course” in far West Texas. TYHP seems to be a great avenue for game wardens to serve youth in the outdoors, especially in areas where game wardens patrol multiple counties. As always, the partnership between TWA and TPWD is mutually beneficial, positively impacting Texas.


28 Caesar Kleberg News Panhandle Muleys


34 Plant Profile

Rusty Blackhaw by RICKY LINEX

36 Silver Bullets


40 The Bow and the Oak by TJ GREANEY

46 The Art of Taxidermy by JUDY BISHOP JUREK

ON THE COVER Learn More About TWA

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



This gorgeous lab plunges into a Texas pond, expertly retrieving a downed duck. Small bodies of water such as Texas farm ponds, tanks and reservoirs are quickly becoming the largest waterfowl habitat on the continent. The future looks good for Texas duck hunting. Photo by Todd Steele


Duck Holes





FOR INFORMATION ON HUNTING SEASONS, call the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department at (800) 792-1112, consult the 2016-2017 Texas Parks and Wildlife Outdoor Annual, or visit the TPWD website at


MAY 2017


MAY 20


JUNE 2017

Wildlife for Lunch Webinar: Coffee Shop Quail Talk: Common Myths and Misconceptions, presented by Robert Perez, TPWD. For more information contact Clint Faas at (800) 839-9453 or Regional Women of the Land, Welder Wildlife Refuge, Sinton. For more information contact Clint Faas at


Texas Big Game Awards Sportsman’s Celebration, Regions 1, 2 and 3, Abilene Civic Center, Abilene. For more information, contact David Brimager at (800) 839-9453 or


Texas Big Game Awards Sportsman’s Celebration, Regions 4 and 8, Willie DeLeon Civic Cener, Uvalde. For more information, contact David Brimager at (800) 839-9453 or

Wildlife for Lunch Webinar: Because Ranching and Wildlife Go Together, presented by Tyler Campbell, Ph.D., East Foundation. For more information contact Clint Faas at (800) 839-9453 or



JULY 2017


JULY 13-16

Wildlife for Lunch Webinar: Patterns of Supplemental Feed Consumption in White-tailed Deer, presented by Emily Belser, CKWRI. For more information contact Clint Faas at (800) 839-9453 or

Texas Big Game Awards Sportsman’s Celebration, Regions 5,6 and 7, Pitser Garrison Convention Center, Lufkin. For more information, contact David Brimager at (800) 839-9453 or

WildLife 2017, J.W. Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort and Spa. For more information contact David Brimager at (800) 839-9453 or


Statewide Texas Big Game Awards Banquet, during TWA’s Annual Convention,WildLife 2017, J.W. Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort and Spa. For more information, contact David Brimager at (800) 839-9453 or dbrimager@

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



OCTOBER 20 Coffee Shop Quail Talk: Common Myths and Misconceptions Presented by Robert Perez, TPWD NOVEMBER 17 Because Ranching and Wildlife Go Together Presented by Tyler Campbell, Ph.D., East Foundation DECEMBER 15 Patterns of Supplemental Feed Consumption in White-tailed Deer Presented by Emily Belser, CKWRI


On the day of the webinar, simply go to, and click on the title of the webinar you wish to attend. The webinar series provides sound, science-based wildlife management options delivered by experts to you in the comfort of your own home or office.


Each web-based seminar is fully interactive and allows you to engage the experts, make comments and ask questions during the course of the presentation.


Contact Clint Faas at (210) 826-2904 or

For first-time users of the WebEx webinar program, advance log on (up to one hour before the presentation) is recommended to address any potential problems. Users may be prompted to download WebEx software to run the program correctly. There is also a test site to setup and test WebEx any time, day or night. Please visit to join a test meeting, today.




Photo by Todd Steele







he hike over the tank dam presented the greatest obstacle to our morning set up, and this was a mere speed bump on the road to a great hunt, considering we had driven right up to this pond toting only a couple dozen decoys along with our guns, ammo and calls. Rare is the occasion that duck hunts involve this little work. Whether it’s traversing swamp-like mud or hauling a ton of gear in unpleasant conditions, work and duck hunting go together. After easily topping the dam, we tramped down to the pond’s shallow end to chunk out decoys and create a brush blind out of the vegetation surrounding the hole. Things seemed to be a little too easy. “This has to be too good to be true,” I thought to myself because I couldn’t remember the last time I’d driven a truck right up to the hunting grounds and set up in 10 minutes. The other hunters in the group were optimistic. We situated ourselves among the piled brush and waited on the sun. The first rays of light brought whistling wings cutting through the air like jet engines, interrupting the morning silence. The wad of gadwalls dropped like rocks. Safeties were clicked off and the first volley of shells sent my Labrador plunging into the water to retrieve multiple birds. We reloaded quickly as another wave of ducks—this time it was teal—zeroed in on our small spread of decoys. The green wings buzzed around us twice before diving towards the floating fakes. It was shaping up to be a memorable shoot. Birds continued to funnel into the small tank. Pintails cupped and circled, floating seemingly in slow motion back and forth towards the water. Widgeon followed in sync, and redheads and other diver ducks scoped out the pond’s deeper end. At morning’s end, one thing was for certain—there’s something to be said for Texan-made duck holes. The Lone Star State has an abundance of manmade ponds, tanks and reservoirs of all sizes that serve many purposes. Many serve as a hydration source for livestock and wildlife on range lands, while others provide water storage for irrigation. In addition, some of these ponds are created for fishing and other recreational purposes on private properties. Regardless of their purposes, many have attracted waterfowl.

Photo by Todd Steele





Photo by Nate Skinner

If it holds water, it has the ability to attract ducks, but in addition to offering a water source, a pond must offer some sort of food to consistently attract and sustain ducks. Former hunting guide and Ducks Unlimited Senior Regional Director for the Houston Metro Area Tim Soderquist said that food and hunting pressure play key roles in whether or not a body of water will attract ducks. “Most ponds, regardless of their purpose, have a good natural seed base,” said Soderquist. “Sometimes these seeds just need a little stimulation to produce vegetation. Combine food with no hunting pressure and a pond becomes a huge magnet for ducks.” Manmade holes across the state have the potential to become duck havens. Those in areas with few hunters can provide a refuge for birds at the hunting season’s peak. When the habitat and birds are allowed to rest between hunts, hunters can be assured

Emergent vegetation in and around ponds provides food for waterfowl.




of memorable shoots on these smaller bodies of water during the season. The shape and structure of a pond has a lot to do with how vegetation will grow and affects the hole’s attractiveness to ducks. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) Technical Guidance Biologist for the Cross Timbers and Prairies Jesse Oetgen, said steep edges around a pond are not conducive to vegetation’s growth. “Emergent vegetation in and around ponds provides food for waterfowl,” Oetgen explained. “Gradually sloping edges and shallow backwater areas that dry up in the summertime allow for the growth and stimulation of emergent vegetation around a pond.” Besides the pond’s shape and structure, the management practices implemented on the surrounding land also play a major

Photo by Nate Skinner


Texan-made duck holes offer waterfowl hunters fast action shooting and memorable hunts.

role in waterfowl use. For ponds and tanks on rangelands a key practice is rotational grazing. Limiting the disturbance around a duck hole is key, especially around the shallow backwater areas where stimulating vegetative growth is necessary. For smaller tracts of rangeland where only a limited number of tanks are available for cattle and rotating between tanks is not an option, Oetgen suggested sectioning off the shallow ends with a fence and limiting livestock’s access to a small area where the water is a little deeper. “Lining the edge of the tank with gravel or rock on the end that the cattle are using is a good way to prevent erosion and limit turbidity within the pond as well, preserving its water quality,” he added. Keeping a healthy brush-to-grassland ratio on the land surrounding a hole is another land stewardship practice that allows for the natural percolation and filtration of water across

the terrain, improving the pond’s water quality. Incorporating native grasses into the landscape surrounding the pond will enhance this process and prevent erosion and sediment buildup within the duck hole. Above all, the more a pond functions as a natural wetland, the more likely it will become a waterfowl mecca. According to TPWD Waterfowl Program Leader Kevin Kraai, some of the largest concentrations of productive duck holes are located within the Oaks and Prairies Region. “The majority of these duck-attracting bodies of water fall within the triangle of College Station, Paris and Breckenridge and many of them embody similar characteristics,” Kraai said. Although there doesn’t seem to be a silver bullet recipe for these duck holes, Kraai said they all have some shallow water areas with emergent vegetation and disturbance from cattle is limited. “We’ve found that some cattle disturbance is good for a pond,



Photo by Todd Steele


Retrievers will have their work cut out for them during successful hunts on private ponds that provide great habitat for ducks.

but that too much creates negative results in terms of duck numbers as does too little,” Kraai said. “We’ve seen the evidence of this by observing more waterfowl on tanks where cattle are present versus ponds where there is absolutely zero cattle disturbance.” Kraai said the ponds and tanks within the Oaks and Prairies Region are quickly becoming the largest waterfowl refuge in North America. Kraai and TPWD are working with Texas Tech University to study and classify waterfowl usage on these ponds and stock tanks. TPWD and Texas Tech are doing some of their studies on ponds located on the MT7, a 22,000-acre ranch in Stephens County. The ranch is managed by TWA Director Ty Bartoskewitz who has experienced great success in attracting ducks to the ranch’s ponds while employing good land stewardship practices




and managing the land for the good of all inhabiting wildlife. “We practice rotational grazing, brush control and the enhancement of native vegetation on MT7,” said Bartoskewitz. “I also like to manage the ranch for all wildlife. Everything is intertwined and managing the land in a way that helps benefit the entire system brings prosperity and growth to the entire ranch.” When it comes to the duck holes on MT7, Bartoskewitz said shallow ends and backwater areas where the enhancement of aquatic vegetation such as smart weed and barnyard grass can take place has been the key to attracting a variety of duck species. Bartoskewitz said maintaining the visibility within these ponds has played a major role in this process. “I prefer to have 18 to 24 inches of visibility in my ponds to help control vegetation growth,” he said. “If the water is too clear it


the last intact rice complex of its size in Texas, and more than 1 million ducks rely on these rice lands as their wintering grounds each year. Due to a change in agricultural practices and land leveling over the years, many of the natural ponds along the mid-coast rice prairies are gone. Because of this, Texans have been forced to create their own duck ponds within these prairies to continue to attract ducks season after season. On the Garwood Prairie, veteran hunting guide and owner and operator of Red Bluff Prairie Hunting Club Mike Lanier said he builds his ponds on the low end of a rice field to catch drainage

Photo by Todd Steele

will result in too much vegetation growth, and if it is too dirty it will result in none at all.” Bartoskewitz maintains this visibility through timely fertilization, aquatic weed control and managing cattle disturbance. “Our cattle are rotated through our wetland areas very quickly. I like to employ high intensity grazing for very short periods of time,” he explained. Another area where Texan-made duck holes have sustained large populations of wintering ducks for decades is the mid-coast rice prairies. According to Ducks Unlimited biologists this is

Manmade ponds and tanks are quickly becoming one of the largest waterfowl habitats in North America.



Photo by Todd Steele


Photo by Nate Skinner

When vegetation is allowed to grow on the shallow end of a tank or pond, the hole becomes very attractive as a feeding area for puddle ducks.

Cattle tanks and ponds within the Oaks and Prairies region of the state provide an excellent habitat for wintering waterfowl.




water after large rains. During the spring and summer, Lanier likes to drain some of the water from these ponds to enhance vegetation growth along the banks and edges. “I’ll also plow the shallow areas of these ponds to get rid of the weeds and allow natural grasses and vegetation to grow,” Lanier said. “The natural vegetation growth processes work best for attracting ducks. I just cut down the weeds to enhance this growth and let Mother Nature do her thing.” Enhancing natural vegetation growth during the spring and summer combined with well-managed hunting pressure is makes Red Bluff Prairie Hunting Club’s ponds great during duck season. Lanier rotates his hunting parties through a number of different ponds creating long rest periods between hunts on any one of them. This allows his ponds to hold ducks throughout the entire season. The recipe for developing a Texas duck hole can be quite simple. Employing land stewardship practices, enhancing natural vegetation growth and natural wetland processes, and managing the hunting pressure around any tank or pond can turn it into a memorable hunting hole over time. The more productive duck holes there are, the better the future looks for Texas duck hunting.

FEDERAL DUCK STAMP DOLLARS FOR DUCK HABITAT In 2014, Congress raised the price of the federal duck stamp from $15 to $25. This was first time the price of the stamp had increased in 23 years. Historically, Federal Duck Stamp revenues have generated over $900 million and conserved more than 6.5 million acres of duck habitat nationwide. The recent increase in the stamp’s price is expected to create $14 million in additional revenue that will be put towards conservation. Ninety-eight percent of Duck Stamp revenues go back into conservation and are reinvested into long-term habitat enhancement, preserving the future of our beloved duck holes.

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TYHP Gets in Sheep Shape Article by BRYAN JONES Photos courtesy of GAINES SLADE, BOB BARNETTE and BRYAN JONES

Welcome to West Texas.

The 2016 TYHP aoudad hunt group.


henever I cross the Pecos River I feel like I have entered another world. Time seems to move a little more slowly, colors are more vivid, and the smell of the Chihuahuan Desert takes me to a different place all together. The Trans-Pecos Region is as beautiful as it is mysterious. Many Texans may never see the majestic vistas of this rugged habitat where one is likely to discover remnants from the past such as tattered barbed wire, old cans or an



old windmill straining against the wind. This was the backdrop for the Texas Youth Hunting Program’s last hunt of the 2015 – 2016 season. As soon as TYHP Lead Huntmaster Andrew Skipton requested guiding assistance on the hunt, I jumped at the chance. Along with TYHP Huntmaster and game warden John Apgar, Skipton had been working diligently to set up this TYHP hunt. The crew of guides included fellow TYHP staff member Bob Barnette,


long-time Huntmaster Nathan Pettigrew, unofficial hunt photographer Gaines Slade and Game Warden Calvin Christian. Of course, no hunt crew is complete without a cook. It was Ron Peña’s first time to cook for a TYHP hunt, and he racked up accolades in the process. Our fantastic youth hunters were a cross section of the state. Gracie was the local, only 10 miles from her home in Van Horn, while the distance award definitely went to my hunter Wyatt, who came all the way


Travis and his javelina harvest.

from Houston. Travis and Grant and their dads made the long trek out of Dallas, while the resident sharpshooter of the weekend, Kalyn, made her way from the Hill Country town of Ingram. The group quickly bonded over a shared love of the outdoors and hunting, as well as a little bit of good-natured competition. The youth hunters probably didn’t know what to expect from West Texas or an aoudad hunt, but anyone who knows sheep hunting or the rugged Big Bend region can attest that it is one of the most challenging hunts in Texas. All of the TYHP volunteers and I were thrilled and honored to spend our time with such a great group of dedicated and hard-working youth hunters. From Day One when Apgar took them to the range to teach them about long-range shooting techniques, I could tell that we had a great group. Advanced shooting principles can be quite challenging, especially for those new to the ideas, but it didn’t faze these hunters. Thanks to this great training, and the hard work from the hunters, guides and ranch manager, the total harvest for the weekend included four javelinas and three aoudads. The awesome long-range shots, exceeding 300 yards in some cases, were taken without hesitation from a couple of these youth hunters. I know many long-time hunters who would be envious of the firearms skill displayed at this TYHP hunt. Although anyone in the TYHP office will tell you that it is always a task to keep me away from the Trans-Pecos Region, I will say that this hunt and all of the memories made along the way will make that task all the more difficult. Seeing the smiles on the faces of these future hunting ambassadors during the course of the weekend was well worth the miles of hiking in the desert’s summer heat. As we try to expand the THYP footprint in the state’s western portion, the program is in good hands. Together with the generous landowners and selfless volunteers, I have no doubt that THYP in the Trans-Pecos Region will provide amazing opportunities to promote our hunting heritage for years to come. To unlock the potential of this area for Texas youth, please contact TYHP at (800) 460-5494.


Grant with his 26.5-inch ram.

Kalyn and her dad glassing at dusk.





Growing Deeper Through Partnerships Article and Photos by SARAH GRELLA


o achieve the remarkable success of reaching over one-half million young Texans per year, the Texas Wildlife Association nurtures and relies heavily on countless partnerships, both personal and professional. In North Texas, more than half of all TWA field investigation days are made possible through the successful partnership with Imagination Fort Worth. Imagination Fort Worth is an independent non-profit organization that creates curriculum and educational programs that seek to enhance students’ engagement in history, science, math and language through the creative integration of art, dance, music and theater. Since its establishment in 1989, Imagination Fort Worth has, reached more than 5 million Texas students through their free programing in Tarrant County.

Two years ago, the enthusiasm and creativity of Imagination Fort Worth and TWA came together with the common mission of exposing students to new outdoor experiences in the hope of creating a brighter future across Texas. TWA had recently created a program to educate students within the Trinity River watershed about water ecology and stewardship in their local communities. Around the same time, a monument of Major Ripley Allen Arnold, the founder of Fort Worth, was erected on the banks of the Trinity River just north of downtown at Panther Island Pavilion. This provided a prime opportunity to expand TWA’s Trinity River Program by educating students about the modern day river by first starting with its historic past. Through their expertise in integrating science, history and art, Imagination

Fort Worth developed a lesson about the importance of the geographical location of Fort Worth and its relationship to the Trinity River. They further integrated arts into this activity through a theatrical performance by local actress and story teller Sheran Keyton. For this lesson, Keyton appears in costume and persona as a time-traveling black American from the 1800s. She imparts the integrated history of Fort Worth and the Trinity River, fully engaging students and leaving younger participants believing that she might have actually traveled through time to teach them. The successful partnership between Imagination Fort Worth and TWA did not stop at the Trinity River’s banks. As they continued to develop an understanding of each other’s needs and goals, collaborations for field investigation days

Adaptation Artistry student creations are displayed in the classroom. Pulling from their newly acquired ecological experience and knowledge, students are provided crafting materials to create their own species of bird that is physically adapted to its imaginary environment.






Students from the Applied Learning Academy (Fort Worth ISD) are about to begin a field investigation day on the Dixon Water Foundation's Bear Creek Ranch.

Fort Worth performing artist Sheran Keyton teaches about the founding of Fort Worth through song and storytelling.

expanded to local ranches. These land ecology and stewardship field days focus on bobwhite quail, as they are an important indicator species for native Texas rangeland health. Students explore the life history, anatomy/physiology and adaptations of the quail in their native environment on the Dixon Water Foundation’s Bear Creek Ranch, 20 miles west of Fort Worth. Following the field investigation day, Imagination Fort Worth and TWA further engage students using Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s (W.I.L.D.) lesson—Adaptation Artistry. Pulling from their newly acquired ecological experience and knowledge while activating their creativity through art exploration, students are provided crafting materials to create their own species of bird that is physically adapted to its imaginary environment and completed with a descriptive scientific name.

Aside from providing the pivotal creation and implementation of arts integrated lessons in the classroom, Imagination Fort Worth has made it possible for students to attend these outdoor field investigation days. Although the programs we have partnered to create are cost free, many school districts do not have the transportation budget to allow students to participate. Imagination Fort Worth has removed this cost barrier through their partnership with FWISD, providing free programing for their students over the past 25 years. In response to the years of programing, buses for all Imagination Fort Worth programs are provided as an in-kind donation from the FWISD Visual and Performing Arts Department. Without these crucial contributions we would not have the explosive success we continue to experience through our invaluable partnership with Imagination Fort Worth. For the past two years and continuing into a third, this partnership has grown to serve around 1,200 students per year, providing each with a novel experience and knowledge of their local watershed, rangeland and community, all while encouraging students to creatively apply their knowledge. As TWA’s partnership with Imagination Fort Worth continues to grow, we are exploring the development of new arts integrated lesson plans in order to reach a broader spectrum of young Texans. Despite these field investigation days, we acknowledge that not every student will grow up to work in natural resources or as an artist, but we are confident they will grow up to be active community members. Through its partnership with Imagination Fort Worth, TWA aspires to develop a multi-faceted emotional connection between Texas youth and their ecological community. If you would like to engage in this successful partnership, please reach out to us at (800) 839-9453. Your passion has a place in making our impact stronger.





Aflutter Over Monarchs


WA members Dan and Ruth Flournoy, who live in Houston and ranch near San Angelo, hatched an idea that left the students at Irion County Elementary School in Mertzon aflutter over monarchs—and conservation. “Monarch populations and children’s connections to nature are declining at alarming rates,” Dan, a TWA director and life member, said. “Ruth and I began to consider how we might address both issues.” The answer, which turned out to be an extended unit on butterfly biology that culminated with a “pep rally” for monarchs and a multi-bed hilltop butterfly garden, resulted from a perfect storm of people and opportunities. “To get this going, we just had to connect the dots between people with a passion for children, education and conservation,” Dan said. Initially, Dan discussed the idea with Irion County’s Game Warden Justin Jackson, whose wife Alexis is the science teacher for fourth – sixth grades at Irion County Elementary. “Justin came home and said, ‘A landowner I work with wants to do some hands-on conservation with the school. You interested?’” Alexis said. “I jumped on the chance because there’s nothing that I like better than getting our students outdoors and getting their hands in the dirt.” Dan and Alexis talked and e-mailed off and on for a year putting the pieces of a plan in place and building their team, which grew to include Steve Lewis, owner of Native Ornamentals Nursery in Mertzon. Knowing that success comes from dividing and conquering, they divvied up the responsibilities: Alexis acted as the liaison with the school and coordinated the pre-event education effort; Dan and Ruth underwrote the event’s cost and planned the morning program; Lewis grew the necessary plants, which numbered almost 1,000 and included a “take-home” milkweed plant for every student; and Justin handled “other duties as assigned.” The fact that the school had already installed beds in anticipation of an outdoor gardening project was key to the project’s implementation. The Tom Green County Master Gardeners provided a $500 grant for supplies; the eighth grade ag class built and installed the retaining boxes, while the local 4-H Club provided the soil and the labor to fill the boxes. The garden’s final use hadn’t been determined when Alexis approached the school administration with the idea of butterfly gardens. “We had empty gardens on the school grounds that were just waiting for plants,” Alexis said. “Having these in place was crucial because when Dan asked me, ‘Do you have somewhere suitable for planting?’ I could answer yes.”




Photo by Jeff Parker



According to Alexis the project came together without a major hitch. “It wasn’t hard,” she said. “Our administration and our teachers were onboard immediately. Everyone else on the team was passionate about the project, so there was never any concern about people doing their respective parts. From the beginning, it was all about the kids and conservation.” Milkweed for Monarchs The team determined the best time for the Milkweed for Monarchs morning was the last week of school, so on May 23 every student and teacher in first – sixth grades gathered in the school courtyard, a caliche hilltop dotted with empty raised beds. Unseasonal cloud cover and a cool breeze combined to make a perfect morning for being outdoors. The excitement was palpable. It was like being a visitor inside a beehive. “My number one fear was that the students wouldn’t focus or want to participate,” Alexis said. “This generation

doesn’t plant plants, they play video games and watch TV.” Her fears were unfounded. With the panache of a seasoned ringmaster, Dan drew them in. When the question was asked, “Why did the silly student throw the butter out of the window?” The students responded to the time-worn joke with laughter and a collective groan as they answered, “To watch the butter fly.” Instead of a one-sided lecture, Dan opted for interactive Q&As, demonstrations and created a showcase for students to share what they had learned about butterflies. Student after student took the microphone and explained nuances of the monarch’s life cycle, its habitat requirements, and even the physical differences between the monarchs and their look-alike counterparts, the viceroys. The volume rose to a high-pitch as Dan led them in a responsive chant. “Why are we here?” he asked. “Milkweed for monarchs,” they responded thunderously. The seriousness of humans’ roles as

Photo by Lorie Woodward Cantu

TWA Life Members Dan and Ruth Flournoy (l) joined forces with Irion County ISD Upper Elementary Science Teacher Alexis Jackson and Game Warden Justin Jackson to create “Milkweed for Monarchs,” a hands-on conservation education opportunity for local school children.




conservationists didn’t get lost in the funfilled atmosphere. When Lewis took the microphone to reiterate the basics of the monarch’s life cycle and the importance of diverse vegetation to the species, he made it crystal clear that the morning’s activities were vital. “We’re planting milkweed today for our own survival,” Lewis said. “Habitat is disappearing. When habitat disappears so do butterflies, birds, animals and people.” Armed with instructions, each class received plants to transplant in their preassigned gardens. Some were milkweeds and others were flowering plants that could sustain adult butterflies. The primary goal was creating a nourishing rest stop for the monarchs that pass through the Concho Valley on their twice annual migration. It had secondary benefits. “The butterfly garden is a perfect complement to the vegetable garden we




maintain on campus,” Alexis said. “It gives our teachers another location—and another reason—to get their students out of the classroom into a natural learning environment.” Because teachers embraced the well-orchestrated plan, there was laughter, chatter and teamwork instead of chaos as the planting began. Students of every age were busy doing their part for monarchs. Dan, Ruth, Justin, Alexis and Lewis walked throughout the grounds lending additional assistance when needed. Ruth, who prefers to work behind the scenes, was grinning as she observed, “This is what nature does for kids. This is what hands-on conservation education does for learning. This is what it’s all about.” Dan concurred, “Today we connected kids with the basis of life. As landowners, we need to plant the seeds of conservation and stewardship everywhere we can every time we can. Epilogue I touched base with Alexis several months after the event for a follow-up interview. It was the height of summer. She had been tag teaming watering the gardens with her colleague who teaches science to first – third graders. In a town the size of Mertzon, population 788, the interaction between teachers and students doesn’t stop in the summer. They bump into each other in the course of daily living. Because of the event, 120 students took home 120 milkweed plants. “This summer the kids are stopping me in town and telling me, ‘Mrs. Jackson, my milkweed is still growing,’” she said. “It’s been months since the event and kids are still thinking about what they learned. As a teacher, that’s what you live for.”

Photo by Lorie Woodward Cantu

Photo by Jeff Parker







The students at Irion County Elementary aren’t the only ones aflutter over monarchs; the butterflies regularly claim a spot in headlines and policy discussions. I touched base with Dr. Ben Hutchins, an invertebrate biologist who heads up TPWD’s Monarch Response Team, to get an update on the iconic species. TWA: What has happened to monarch populations that has put them in the spotlight? BH: While scientists knew that monarchs migrated for decades, it was about 40 years ago that it was discovered the monarchs overwintered in a localized area near Mexico City. This discovery changed everything. Scientists began monitoring the population by measuring the total area where the species overwintered. Since the winter of 1994 – 1995, the monarchs’ overall population has dropped precipitously. Two years ago, the area inhabited by the overwintering monarchs dropped to about one acre, which was a 90 percent decline. It sent alarm bells throughout the scientific community. It has since rebounded slightly and is back to the 80 percent decline, which has been the most constant trend. TWA: What factors do scientists think have contributed to this steep population decline? BH: There are multiple factors in play. Scientists debate how important each one is in relation to one another, but agree that each of these is having an impact. The roosting sites in Mexico have been degraded by illegal logging, even though the area has been designated as a nature preserve. In recent years, the monarchs have been hit by a one-two punch of bad weather—cold, wet winter storms in Mexico and prolonged drought in the United States that has affected food supplies for both caterpillars and adults. The proliferation of monoculture farming and “Roundup® resistant” plants, which has increased the widespread use of glyphosate, has impacted the diversity of plants and availability of milkweed, particularly in the Midwest. In Texas, because so much of our land is rangeland, milkweed availability is not the primary concern in rural areas. In rural Texas, we’re contending with large-scale land conversion, encroachment of woody species and non-native plants, and the ongoing drought that has depleted the diversity



of flowering plants impacting food supplies for migrating adults. TWA: What is the status of the species’ potential listing as an endangered species? BH: In 2014, the USFWS received a petition asking that the monarch be designated as a threatened species, which put the butterfly on the federal radar. It’s important to note that the monarchs’ decline coincided with a decline of other native pollinators, primarily managed honey bees as well as native bees. USFWS reviewed the request and determined it had merit. Currently, the request is undergoing the required “12-month review,” but USFWS is drastically behind because of the number of petitions for listing various species and the attendant legal challenges. Federal staff estimates that they won’t have a final decision on the monarchs until sometime in 2019. The good news is that it gives us some time to take management action and hopefully stabilize the population, which could render any discussion of listing unnecessary. TWA: Why is Texas “ground zero” in the effort to stabilize monarch populations? BH: If you look at the migratory pathway, Texas acts a funnel to and from Mexico. When the butterflies are flowing north, Texas is the center of the first generation. Texas is where they breed and the first generation of caterpillars grows to maturity. That first generation is the “seed stock” for the next three generations that will populate the area from the Rocky Mountains to the Atlantic Ocean and north into Canada. When the Methusaleh generation, the one that lives the longest, heads south for the winter, Texas is a crucial energy resupply station for the final leg into Mexico. Plants that bloom in early to late fall are a vital component to a successful migration for the generation that will overwinter and then begin the migration north the following spring. If there aren’t enough flowering plants, fewer members of the Methusaleh generation reach the overwintering grounds and those who do arrive are often in a weakened state making it less likely they will survive the winter. TWA: What efforts and/or programs have been established in Texas to help conserve monarchs and their habitat? BH: The monarchs are an iconic species and people


are mobilizing in ways that are unprecedented especially for an invertebrate. Literally, there are more efforts and programs than can be easily kept up with. I’ll speak to what TPWD is doing. First, the department received a $244,000 grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation for habitat restoration on both public and private land. It was matched with $360,000 from TPWD and other conservation partners. While a tiny portion is being used to establish additional stands of milkweeds, the majority of efforts are being focused on opening the land up through brush management, controlling invasive non-natives to help increase vegetative diversity especially flowering plants, and reseeding with native flowering plants. Second, TPWD staff recently completed management guidelines for monarchs and other pollinators that will qualify for wildlife tax valuation. It is a direct incentive to encourage and incentivize additional conservation on private land. We hope this will appeal to landowners who are at the smaller end of eligibility for wildlife valuation because a small tract of land might not have significant impact on a large mammal like whitetails but can have a tremendous impact for invertebrates. TWA: What can Texas landowners do to help? BH: To help monarchs, landowners should maintain or restore native prairies, grasslands and savannas that historically covered much of Texas, manage their land for maximum vegetative diversity and use herbicides and insecticides as judiciously as possible. The good news is that the native rangeland and the land management techniques that benefit wildlife species also benefit native pollinators. TWA: Where can landowners find additional information about monarch conservation? BH: Start by googling “TPWD and monarchs.” This will take you directly to the agency’s monarch page where you’ll find a variety of resources including our “Management Recommendations for Native Pollinators in Texas,” the “Texas Monarch and Native Pollinator Conservation Plan” and USFW’s Pollinator Fact Sheets.

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Panhandle Muleys Article by DRS. TIM FULBRIGHT, DAVID HEWITT and RANDY DEYOUNG, Caesar Kleberg Research Institute, Texas A&M University-Kingsville DR. WARREN CONWAY, Department of Natural Resource Management, Texas Tech University DR. LOUIS HARVESON, Borderlands Research Institute, Sul Ross State University SHAWN GRAY, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department he commented that “white-tailed deer run like dogs.” The bounding, fourfooted gait of muleys, which is referred to as “stotting,” is a unique characteristic of the species that sets it apart from white-tailed deer. Mule deer prefer more open areas, while white-tailed deer like brushy areas. In the Texas Panhandle, white-tailed

deer are often concentrated in the dense, woody vegetation (shrubs and trees) along drainages and streams and in brushy areas. Mule deer prefer areas where under 40 percent of the landscape supports woody vegetation; whereas, white-tails prefer areas with more than 60 percent woody vegetation. Mule deer are an extremely popular

Photo by Tim Fulbright


est Texas deserts are not the only mule deer habitat in the state. Mule deer have always been present in the Texas Panhandle but were almost extirpated by the start of the 20th century. Only a small population of muleys was present during the early 1950s when the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department began efforts to relocate mule deer from West Texas to the Panhandle. Stocking efforts continued through the 1980s in nine Panhandle counties, and these efforts in part have resulted in the current population of about 70,000 mule deer. Today, mule deer inhabit all 56 Panhandle counties and often share the landscape with their close relative, the white-tailed deer, the most numerous big game animal in Texas. Mule deer and white-tailed deer exhibit distinct differences in their appearance, habits and in the characteristics of the habitat in which they are found. Mule deer have larger ears than white-tailed deer and a black patch on the tip of their tails. Antlers of male mule deer typically have branches off the main beam that split into forks. Also, the metatarsal gland on the hind leg is large and bushy on muleys and smaller and more subtle on whitetails. This article’s senior author recalls that when his father-in-law moved to the Texas Hill Country from Colorado,

Thomas Janke of Sul Ross State University releases a mule deer buck equipped with a GPS collar to track movements.





Photo by Tim Fulbright


Dr. David Hewitt of the Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute uses an ultrasound to measure the depth of fat on a mule deer’s back as an indicator of the animal’s nutritional condition.

game animal. One outcome of this popularity is increased importance of mule deer hunting as an income source to landowners in the Texas Panhandle. Mule deer hunting is a boost to the economies of Panhandle towns because hunters stay in motels, eat in restaurants and purchase gasoline and other necessities. Hunting also provides jobs; for example, a host of outfitters make an income by providing Panhandle mule deer hunts. Although the increase in mule deer has clearly benefited the Panhandle, increased abundance of mule deer creates some issues that need to be resolved. One is the concern of Panhandle farmers that mule deer are eating their crops.

Twigs and leaves of woody plants, referred to as browse, are the mainstay of mule deer diets on Panhandle rangelands. Skunkbush sumac, littleleaf sumac, netleaf hackberry, mountain mahogany, ephedra, plum, plains cottonwood, grape, half-shrub sundrop, sand shinnery oak and sand sagebrush are among the most important woody plants in their diets. Forbs, or weeds, are also important, while grasses comprise only a small part of the diet. Bok Sowell, a graduate student working under Dr. Fred Bryant at Texas Tech University during the early 1980s, found that mule deer in the Canadian River drainage averaged about 62 percent browse, 34 percent forbs, and 1 percent

grass in their annual diets. Muleys near Clarendon in the eastern Panhandle averaged 56 percent browse, 28 percent forbs, and 11 percent grass. Sowell also found that mule deer readily consumed agricultural crops; wheat and rye were eaten by deer at Clarendon, which explained the higher percentage of grass in mule deer diets. Another Texas Tech student working under Bryant during the 1980s, Ben Koerth, found that mule deer congregated in agricultural fields near Clarendon during the autumn and winter. Koerth’s data suggested that mule deer may travel considerable distances to feed on crops. For example, he recorded a doe moving 1.5 miles from her summer home




food means that conflicts will inherently exist between farmers and deer—lush green crops represent a highly attractive banquet of nutritious, abundant and easily obtainable forage. Although the studies we mentioned conducted during the 1980s provided important information, there are many things about mule deer’s use of crops and the influence of agriculture on deer movements, home ranges and survival that we still do not know. For example, although we know deer will travel long distances to use agricultural crops, we do not know how far. We do not know if the availability of crops improves the overall nutritional status of deer, increases

Photo by Tim Fulbright

range to agricultural fields. Different crops may vary in their appeal to muleys. Of the cereal grains commonly cultivated in the Panhandle, mule deer preferred triticale over barley, rye, wheat and annual rye in a study done by Ernie Wiggers in the early 1980s. Annual rye was the least liked of the cereal grains. Mule deer use agricultural crops because finding good food that is abundant and high in nutrients is a primary driving force behind their daily activities. If there is good food around, they will find it. Hunters that plant food plots to attract deer have long been aware of that basic principle of foraging ecology. The instinct to search for and the necessity to find good

The stotting gait of a running mule deer helps to distinguish it from a white-tailed deer.




reproduction or improves their survival. We also do not know how productivity of the surrounding habitat affects use of crops. For example, if the surrounding habitat is in good shape, do deer use crops less than when food is in short supply in the habitat? In addition to these lingering questions, the landscape, farming practices and mule deer numbers have changed since the 1980s, and a better understanding of mule deer ecology on the current landscape is much needed. Learning more about use of these crops and their importance to mule deer may help us to improve our ability to manage Panhandle muleys. We initiated a multi-year research

Photo by Tim Fulbright


A young mule deer buck ready to go out and collect data for researchers using the GPS collar around his neck.

project in 2015 to address many of these questions about the use of agricultural crops by mule deer in the Texas Panhandle. The project is funded by the TPWD through Pittman-Robertson funds and involves collaborators from the Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute at Texas A&M UniversityKingsville, Borderlands Research Institute at Sul Ross State University, Texas Tech University and TPWD. Our objectives are to determine how agricultural crops influence mule deer movements and survival. A big advantage that our research team has over the researchers of the 1980s is that we have technological tools such as collars with global positioning systems (GPS) and geographic information system

(GIS) mapping that were unknown three decades ago. We hope to answer many of the pertinent questions regarding mule deer and crops such as how far deer will move to use agricultural crops, the period of time they spend using the crops and how crop type and developmental stage influence the degree to which they use crops. We are also placing transmitters on fawns to help determine if fawn survival is higher when does have access to agricultural crops. Over the course of the study we will monitor deer in the southern, northern and western portions of the Panhandle. The senior author of this article grew up hunting on relative’s property in the eastern Panhandle; back then he did not dream there would be mule deer there

in the future. Now, many years later, the possibility of harvesting a mule deer brings him back to the Panhandle every year. We hope that our research will ensure that mule deer have a promising future in the Panhandle and that many people will have the opportunity to enjoy hunting and observing this magnificent deer. This project is funded by TPWD through Pittman-Robertson funds and the Mule Deer Foundation. It involves collaborators from the Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute at Texas A&M UniversityKingsville, Borderlands Research Institute at Sul Ross State University and Texas Tech University.



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Rusty Blackhaw A Shining Star

Article and photos by RICKY LINEX, Wildlife Biologist, Natural Resources Conservation Service

Fruits of rusty blackhaw mature to a bluish-black color by mid-October of each year.


pon seeing a tree in the distance with shiny to almost waxy-looking leaves, I think of two species with those leaf characteristics—blackjack oak and rusty blackhaw. If the tree is tall and in a savanna setting, it often turns out to be blackjack oak. However if the tree is shorter than 30 feet tall and surrounded by other woody plants in moderately dense canopy, I will take a closer look because the species is usually the more uncommon rusty blackhaw or Viburnum rufidulum. This plant can be found throughout Texas except in the High Plains and South Texas Plains.




Close up of serrated leaf margins and five-petaled flowers of rusty blackhaw.

Rusty blackhaw appears as an irregularly shaped shrub and if protected from excessive browsing, can grow into a small tree. The bark is plate-like with 1/4 –1/2-inch thick gray to dark brown scales tinged with red. Young twigs are gray, appear opposite each other and have reddish hairs, while older twigs are reddishbrown and usually smooth. The leaves appear in pairs and give us clues to identify this species. The leaves are dark green with a shiny surface on top and pale green underneath, leathery in texture, oval and may be pointed or blunt at the tip. They have margins with fine sharp


teeth with red hairs on the veins, and they are 1 – 2 inches wide and 1 1/2 – 4 inches long. The flowers also offer excellent clues as to the identification. The numerous flowers are 1/4-inch across and white with five petals in flat-topped clusters that are 2 – 6 inches in width on the tips of branches. Rusty blackhaw may be easily confused with roughleaf dogwood during early spring when the white flower clusters become showy. Two differences are apparent: Dogwood flowers have four petals while blackhaw has five petals, and the margins of dogwood leaves are entire and often seen with a wavy edge. Fruits of rusty blackhaw are oblong drupes, 3/8 – 1/2 inch in length, forming in drooping clusters. Over the course of the summer into fall, the color of the fruits change from green to pale-yellow to pink and mature to bluish-black with a whitish powdery covering. Rusty blackhaw provides excellent browse for deer and is also browsed by livestock. This is why it is most often seen in the brush rather than out in the open. The fruits are excellent for turkeys and are readily eaten by quail as well as many species of songbirds and small mammals. The showy flowers are visited by many pollinators during the flowering period of late March through April. Rusty blackhaw can be found from rich bottomlands to the top of thin rocky hills, making it adaptable to most areas of Texas. To find blackhaw, look on the edges of woods, fencerows and brushy areas where it usually grows as an understory shrub.

The shiny green leaves transition to shiny red leaves at the approach of fall.



SILVER BULLETS Ammunition for Life



ny hunter knows that various game species require different kinds of ammunition. We don’t use birdshot for wild turkeys, nor No. 2 shot for bobwhites. If you hunt deer with a revolver, odds are you don’t use a wadcutter, instead you use a soft-point or jacketed hollow point bullet. What kind of ammunition would you use if your “hunt” involved targeting future leaders? My preferred ammo is “silver bullets.” The phrase “silver bullet” can mean several things. Mythically speaking they were the only manner of slaying werewolves. In more recent times silver bullets suggest the search for a nostrum or quick fix. In the slang of a beer-drinker, they refer to a specific brand of beer. One of my childhood heroes, the Lone Ranger, shot only silver bullets. His beloved steed’s name was “Silver.” His silver bullets served several purposes. First, they were his calling card. Even in disguise he could be identified by the silver bullets in his gunbelt. Secondly, the silver bullets were a symbol. They served as a reminder of the preciousness of life and the high cost of pulling the trigger.




Preciousness of life…now that’s poetic. As a reader of Texas Wildlife, I hope you’ve heard of the Texas Brigades Wildlife Leadership Camps. Silver bullets, as I use them here, have been standard issue since the first Bobwhite Brigade hatched in 1993— the ammunition of choice for empowering future leaders for conservation. Silver bullets, Brigades-style, are simply inspirational quotations. One is issued to each “cadet” at the beginning of the camp and must be repeated in his best speaking voice when requested by an instructor. But there are other requirements, at least at Bobwhite Brigade or QuailMasters, the adult version of Bobwhite Brigade. Cadets must state their name and hometown, profess that they are “a student of quail,” recite their silver bullet, then explain what the passage means to them. Then, and what is often the most difficult hurdle to a teenager, they must “punctuate” their silver bullet with their best, most guttural, war cry. Here’s my personal silver bullet: “Hello, my name is Dale Rollins. I’m from San Angelo and I am a student of quail. My silver bullet is by an anonymous author who said, ‘I had no shoes


and I complained until I met a man who had no feet.’ What that means to me is that when I am tempted to wallow in self pity, all I have to do is look around and I will soon see someone who has a much tougher row to hoe than do I, so pick up your chin, get over it and move on.” AaaaaaaRHHHUGGGGGGG! At Brigades, we have a saying: “Form ever follows function,” or “FEFF.” Everything we do has a purpose even if it isn’t apparent or fully appreciated at the time it is administered. The silver bullet is the cadet’s introduction to public speaking. Sounds easy, doesn’t it? Until you remember that most people have a greater fear of speaking in public than of dying. Did that run true for you when you were a 14-year-old? Perhaps still today? It takes a special ammunition to deliver the motivation we seek—silver bullets deliver. Evolution of the Silver Bullet My introduction to silver bullets came in 1971 as a junior at Hollis High School. Mr. Grady (Grade A) Byrd was the teacher for Future Farmers of America, FFA, generically referred to as Ag Science in today’s parlance. Mr. Byrd was a gentle giant who wasn’t afraid to share various philosophies with his students. Since you never met him I’ll offer up, with due reverence, our own gentle giant in Brigades’ circles, Ricky Linex, as his counterpart. For those of you who know Ricky, now you get the picture. Mr. Byrd’s classroom was encircled with placards of various quotations. Some of them might’ve seemed a bit cheesy at the time, but I can recite nearly everyone now some 45 years later. Some that stand out include “American ends in ‘I can’ not ‘I ran.’”

Another reminds that “when the going gets tough, the tough get going.” Over the next 20 years I became a quote-aholic. Whenever a passage caught my attention, I’d write it down. My sources included Aldo Leopold, Roosevelt (Theodore, FDR, and Eleanor), Will Rogers, Yogi Berra and many others. I lifted them off of church marquees, billboards, conversations and even the back of the men’s room door in Grape Creek, Texas (“Where you stand on an issue usually depends upon where you sit.”). Quotecollecting became a breeze when the internet came along,almost akin to shooting quail on the ground. In 1985, I signed up for Toastmasters International as a way to enhance my speaking, listening and thinking skills (Try it sometime; I highly recommend it). I salted my speeches with quotations—and still do. When I began writing columns for Livestock Weekly in 1995, almost all featured at least one silver bullet. When the Bobwhite Brigade hatched in 1993, my “magazine” was locked and loaded with silver bullets. You can review them at the Brigades’ website ( Silver-Bullets-and-Gold-Hooks.html). They have been fired by over 2,500 cadets since 1993, and each has hit their respective mark. What’s your favorite silver bullet? If you don’t mind, share it with me ( Who knows, the next time you hear it may be from the mouth of a Bobwhite Brigader. If so, I promise you, it will never sound sweeter.


The following are some of my favorites. As you recite them, ponder on how they relate to quail, quail management and life. • • • • • •

“A brook would lose its song if it had no stones.” (If it wasn’t for the years like 2011, we wouldn’t appreciate what we experienced in the jubilee year of 2015.) “Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what you want done and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.” ~ George S. Patton (Never underestimate the power of creative thinking.) “The only place that success comes before work is in the dictionary.” ~Vince Lombardi (With the possible exception of quail management during an El Nino year.) “Gardens are not made by singing ‘O how beautiful’ and sitting in the shade.” ~ Rudyard Kipling (It takes time and sweat equity to realize most of one’s goals in quail management.) “Every job is the self portrait of the person who did it.” ~ Anonymous (Think about this as you do brush sculpting.) “If you aim at nothing, you’re sure to hit it.” ~ Anonymous (Applies to your wingshooting as well as your goals—keep your eyes on the target.)

• •

• • •

“The largest room in the world is the room for improvement.” ~ Anonymous (Don’t boast of your success; remain humble. If you don’t, you’ll be humbled soon enough.) “There is a great deal of difference between the eager man who wants to read a book and the tired man who wants a book to read.” ~ T. Dewar (Approach your lessons in quail management with gusto; education is a lifelong process.”) “Every man that I meet is in some way my superior, and if I will listen to him I can learn from him.” ~Benjamin Franklin (Don’t let pride or prejudice keep you from learning wherever new information avails itself.) “I use not only all the brains I have, but also all I can borrow.” ~ Woodrow Wilson (A student, by definition, should always be in as learning mode.) “The dog in the kennel barks at his fleas, but the dog that is hunting does not notice them.” ~ Americana (Don’t sweat the little things in life.) “Always hunt with good dogs.” ~ D. Rollins (Surround yourself with people who are smarter, faster and harder working than you are; you’ll become better just by their presence.)




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THE BOW AND THE OAK Article and Photos by TJ GREANEY Statistically there has been an increase in archery among young people. Fact: after the movie Hunger Games was released, archery became very popular and young hunters are keying into the idea.


he C-4 Ranch has been a blessing to our family for the last five or six years. There is a small live creek that runs just along the back edge of the north pastures. The old live oaks grow strong in the fertile soil there on the creek bottoms. Most of these hardwoods are hundreds of years old with




thick branches and bulging, peculiar extremities. The wildlife love to travel under the cover of the oaks through the tall grass along the creek bed. This is where my son, Jon-Michael, claimed his spot—Jon-Michael’s tree. Once he started shooting a bow he never went back to a rifle. He spent day after day in the front yard slinging arrows. He earned the right and opportunity to go hunt a deer with his bow. The tree he selected had a thick base with sweeping arms reaching out and down almost to the ground. There was one spot where two wide


branches merged with the trunk making for a sit spot just above a well-used game trail. A 30-yard shot, or 40-max, if needed. He could hunt in an almost 180-degree area from his perch 30 feet off the ground. His first weekend in the old oak saw a lot of deer, a lot. Our host only offered does and spikes so the lesson on selective harvest ate at him. It was the first evening as he sat quietly waiting to see what would meander by when a loud swooshing startled him. A large male barn owl flew down the game trail and landed directly in front of him. The owl was two feet from him and had little interest in the fact he was already occupying the perch. Jon-Michael watched the big bird quietly primping his feathers and looking about. Then, just as he had come, he opened his wings, dropped off the branch and flew away. The encounter solidified the bond between the tree and Jon-Michael. As evening came, the deer moved in and an opportunity to “stick” his first deer presented itself. Twisting from the waist to the right, he drew on the fat doe as she stood broadside. Trying to remember all the things that make a bow shot accurate, he drew back, sighting in just behind the front shoulder and released. The deer instinctively ducked and the arrow went over her back, burying itself in the soil. So goes deer hunting with a bow. Classic. The next morning came painfully slow. Reliving the missed shot over and over had kept him from a restful night’s sleep. Now he walked quietly through the darkness, all his senses on high alert. Just as he was turning the corner only 50 yards from his tree, he heard something off the trail next to him. The morning was dark, a sliver of moon just barely casting a dull harvest yellow glow. He stopped and stood still on the trail, listening, hardly breathing. Then he heard the snorting. The deep, low snorting got closer and closer. Jon-Michael knew what was coming up out of the creek onto the trail he was walking—a hog. A big hog. He quickly pulled one of his arrows and notched it. Turning to position himself for a shot if the hog came out, his heart raced and his breathing quickened. Then it happened. He could just see




enough of the big boar hog’s head to know it was coming right at him, and he knew that if he startled the boar, it might get crazy. He drew back and released fast. A loud squeal. The boar dropped and began kicking. Jon-Michael sprinted to his tree and climbed up. As the morning passed, a group of does came down the trail feeding. The dead hog was just a slight inconvenience, and they walked gingerly around it staying close to each other. When one of the mature does presented a shot opportunity, Jon-Michael drew back and released. The arrow passed straight through and




lay on top of the trail; the doe darted. Perfect shot. I drove the Mule down to meet Jon-Michael at the designated hour and he climbed down from his tree smiling. “I got one; it was a good shot,” he exclaimed with excitement. He walked over and picked up his arrow, the darkened blood covered the shaft and fletchings. We trailed good blood just a few yards and there she lay. “But that is not all,” he said. His eyes had a strangely calm look. I followed him back to the tree and then down the trail. “There,” he pointed.


Lying just off the trail in a thick batch of Prickly Pear cactus was a huge boar hog. A single arrow protruded from the skull, just above the right eye. I was stunned. Jon-Michael retold me the story. I had a tinge of nausea and fear as I visualized his encounter there on the trail in the dark. I questioned my parenting decision. Jon-Michael was raised on an asphalt farm. A house with a big yard but on the edge of one of America’s fastest growing cities. His saving grace was the woods in the front yard and across the street, and a family who went outdoors. Richard Louve, author of Last Child in the Woods warns us of a crisis around the world with the phrase he coined “Outdoor Deficit Disorder.” Kids losing the desire or opportunity to go outside, with neither a desire to be outside nor mentors to teach them. The new phenomenon Pokémon Go is not the solution our kids need to experience the outdoors. Chasing a virtual character cannot come close to an owl sitting on a branch next to you or the snort of a wild boar coming out of the dark. Yes, it helps get people outside moving their bodies, but they remain unaware of the nature around them. The National Parks Service warns that many of the people using the app are in danger of encountering wildlife that might take a dislike to them being between them and theiryoung . They warn of ledges, snakes and water hazards unseen by the “screen vision” focus. An old fellow told me once, “If a kid feels the adrenaline of a



fish on the line he will seek that out.” The problem is in providing those opportunities. Without fathers to take the kids outside, who will do it? Yes, some moms do, and in many cases grandparents have taken on the charge. The fact is there needs to be mentors, men and women who will give up their precious time alone in the woods to take a kid with them. Not just a one-time outing, but regularly. Aldo Leopold said, “I am glad I will not be young in a future without wilderness.” I have taken hundreds of kids on their first hunt or fishing trip and watched them over the years seek out time in the outdoors. Yes, Jon-Michael is a regular kid who does Snap Chat, Instagram and even Pokémon Go. But he has smelled the morning air at sunrise at the ranch. He has felt the adrenaline of the hunt and harvest. He is a hunter. This fall, introduce a kid to the outdoors and invest in your legacy—and in theirs. TJ Greaney is past-president of the Texas Outdoor Writers Association, co-hosts The Outdoor Zone radio show in Austin, Texas and is founder of Kids Outdoor Zone (KOZ). KOZ is a hunting, fishing and outdoor adventure ministry for boys. He trains men in churches to use the outdoors as an outreach tool. If you would like more information on KOZ or can offer your ranch for kids to learn hunting, fishing, etc. contact TJ@kidsoutdoorzone. com or call (512) 292-1113.




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Taxidermist Joe Hibler (r) and his grandson Joseph look on as final touches are put on this buck mount at Hibler’s Taxidermy in Kingsville. (Photo by Richard Hudson)



alking into the room I stopped short. A large bobcat sat upright in an oversized chair only feet away…staring at me with curiosity, its nose tilted up slightly as if sniffing the air. Our eyes locked. I hesitated. Was it real or was it a very fine specimen created by a skilled artistic taxidermist? I watched for a moment to see if the cat was breathing. No. I felt a sigh of relief. Still a tiny bit apprehensive I got closer. It was so real, so lifelike. Truly the bobcat was a work of art,



not simply a stuffed animal so to speak. The spotted coat was beautiful, eyes bright but not glassy, nose the perfect shade of orangey pink, the whiskers I expected to twitch at any moment. I had witnessed that pose in the wild when a pair of bobcats had no clue I was watching. It takes patience, perception and skill to reproduce what Mother Nature creates. Some people are born artists while for others it may take years of trial and error to fashion something that imitates real. Look around homes, offices, sporting


goods stores, museums and especially a taxidermist’s shop to see a wide variety of species and poses. According to the dictionary the word taxidermy is a noun meaning the art of preparing, stuffing and mounting the skins of animals and especially vertebrates; the skill, activity, or job of preparing, stuffing and mounting the skins of dead animals so that they look like they did when they were alive. It comes from the Greek words taxis (arrangement) and derma (skin). Supposedly, it was first coined in 1803 in a


reference book by Louis Dufresne of Paris. There are many theories as to when preservation of animals began, but it truly goes back to cavemen using hides for shelter and clothing. Preserving the hide is one of the first steps. This could technically be the earliest form of today’s taxidermy. The Egyptians mummified cats, dogs and other animals upon their owner’s death, a form of perpetuation. The first book on the subject was written in 1555 by Pierre Belon with several more recorded in the 17th century. During the 1800s, taxidermy grew in popularity everywhere as people desired to display all sorts of birds and mammals. Many were quite crude back then. The processes and procedures have advanced immensely over the decades. TWA Director Dr. Dan McBride

of Burnet is a well-known, respected veterinarian. In his spare time he’s also a taxidermist and serves as president of the Texas Taxidermy Association, Inc. (TTAI). “I’m just a jake leg guy, I don’t have a shop and I don’t make my living doing it, but taxidermy is something I enjoy,” McBride said. Born and raised in Llano County, the self-proclaimed Deer Capital of Texas, McBride began doing taxidermy at age 12. “I’m a hobbyist. I’ve never advertised, but I do about 150 pieces per year of mule deer, whitetails and pronghorn antelope,” he said. “Pronghorns are my favorite as they are unique, beautiful and hard to mount. To me they’re the most challenging. “It’s the creativity that appeals to me, recreating life as we see it in the field.

You start with a one-dimensional flat skin and try to turn it into something three dimensional. Years ago laminated paper mannequins weren’t very good, the anatomy often wasn’t right. Today’s urethane forms can be molded, made more precise by sculptors resulting in better taxidermists.” “There are not many taxidermy schools out there,” McBride said. “Years ago taxidermists didn’t like to share their techniques. However, technology has created ‘how to’ videos, opening up taxidermy to everyone. A person can actually start in their garage relatively cheaply. More women are getting into taxidermy. Taxidermy is all about the eyes, ears and nose. Women are great eye artists.” The difference between older taxidermy

At Damuth Taxidermy in Brady employee Cody Weir puts finishing touches on a blackbuck antelope. (Photo by Judy Bishop Jurek)




and newer work is often obvious as is the ability to distinguish poor composition from that which is masterful. Part of the distinction is today’s mounts show much more detail, particularly in muscle definition. Critical points such as the eyes, nose, mouth and ears can vary greatly, making one mount breathtaking while another looks artificial. Then, too, an animal or bird simply “put on a board” looks totally different than the same poised in some sort of action. Many artists fashion sophisticated creations involving two, three or even more different species. Glass showcases and coffee tables. Underwater, forest, desert, snow and brush scenes are in demand. Today’s taxidermists create mounts for individuals but also supply work for museums, special exhibitions and sporting goods stores, some of which have awesome displays of creatures around the world. Beauty lies in the eye of the beholder. Some people want an animal posed a particular way in remembrance of how they first saw it. A friend’s buck is structured with its head down low, nose extended, ears pinned back, sneaking in behind a doe. Another has neck bowed with hair bristled, head cocked sideways, ears flat, ready for a fight. What was once more or less stretching a hide over a form is no longer so simple. Many taxidermists call themselves wildlife artists as indeed they are. Creating a mount you have to look at twice to see if it’s alive is certainly a form of art. Designing an action scene or a display involving more than one species involves artistic ability as well. Study a variety of taxidermists’ work before simply walking in to hand over your animal, bird or fish. Some specialize in certain species. Others are renowned for creatures from around the globe. Many wildlife artists create a style of their own, offering designs or a unique flair never considered in years past. Built on integrity and quality, today Hibler Taxidermy is known world-wide. It is synonymous with Kingsville and South Texas. Joe Hibler began his craft as a hobby but turned his talent into a fullfledged business in 1963. Now 80, Hibler



still works a full week doing what he loves. And, less than two years ago Hibler took up bow hunting. That in itself is a testament to this man’s desire, abilities and fortitude. “You’re never too old to learn something new,” Hibler chuckled. That attitude carries over into the family business as his sons and their wives as well as grandchildren, all play roles in the taxidermy and wild game meat processing enterprise that has evolved as well. Many of the very best whitetails, mule deer and elk taken in Texas, Mexico and elsewhere have passed through his renowned establishment through the years. Exotic wildlife from every continent has been preserved here. Throughout his career Hibler has seen the hunting industry continue to grow tremendously. “Taxidermy has greatly evolved. People demand more intricate and interesting mounts including exact replicas of antlers,” said Hibler. “Technology, technique and tools have changed and greatly improved, too. When I started, I used paper forms, but polyurethane has certainly made things easier. Taxidermy sometimes requires modification. I once adapted a tiger form to fit a lion.” Hibler stated they used to make their own forms, but now they buy the majority of molds needed. When creating mounts he’s always used a lot of his own natural instincts. “Things just keep getting better, always developing and progressing,” he said. “Today you’re not so much a sculptor as you are a technician putting it all together. Business is good and really just keeps getting better.” Asked what advice he’d give to hunters, Hibler replied, “Shoot it in the shoulder if it’s something you’re going to mount. Never cut an animal’s throat or into the breast plate. The hotter the weather, the more critical it is to get it in a cooler as soon as possible. Then get it to a taxidermist ASAP.” Another hobbyist turned his work into a distinguished wildlife business. Thirtysix years ago Gary Damuth, owner and founder of Damuth Taxidermy, Inc., opened his Brady studio in the center of the Lone Star State. Damuth got into


taxidermy as no one around his area was doing such work. It proved to be the right move on his part. Like many long time taxidermists, Damuth has seen many advances which he says have enhanced his craft immensely. “Over the years so much has changed and improved,” said Damuth. “Papier maché forms gave way to foam manikins which continue to improve due to competition between supply companies. Taxidermists used to do everything from tanning hides to painting glass eyes. However, today it is more about putting it all together while the artistic part comes in making it look alive.” To ensure a better mount, Damuth recommends talking with your taxidermist beforehand to know exactly what to do and not do. When field dressing, do not cut through the sternum (breast plate). For life-size mounts leave the genitals alone. Damuth has facilities for hunters to bring in big game animals whole, sans entrails of course, to ensure no mistakes are made when caping out the entire skin. Shortly after becoming a wildlife biologist for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, David Reid began doing taxidermy. It was 1968. Retired for many years, he enjoys his hobby today as much as when he first started. The Mico resident has never advertised, instead relying on word of mouth through satisfied customers. His small shop is always full, a testament to his ability. “I love working with birds. Quail are my favorite but I like waterfowl, too. I really don’t like doing birds larger than a goose although I once did a banded bald eagle for the state. It was found injured but later died, and I think it was displayed in Austin for a while. I’ve slowed down, but I still do 25 – 30 whitetail heads a year, including a few muleys and elk. It keeps me busy, out of my wife Hazel’s hair,” laughed Reid. Agreeing taxidermy has changed immensely over the years, Reid says whitetail antler quality and body condition improved, too. However, Reid stated many hunters are always looking for a deal of some sort. “A few people still ask about a neck


Photos courtesy of Hibler Taxidermy.




Martha Bennett with Damuth Taxidermy puts subtle touches on the eyes of an Impala while in the background Melissa Kekich prepares another animal for freezing. (Photo by Judy Bishop Jurek)

mount hoping for a cheaper price. I don’t do those anymore because a deer looks so much better in a shoulder mount,” Reid said. Everyone has an opinion and Reid’s is that whitetails look better with both ears forward, as if looking at you. He proved it to this writer and my husband John when creating John’s first shoulder mount. We walked in and out of Reid’s shop a dozen times as he moved the ears this way and that, settling on the style first seen—Reid’s preferred position. Reid tries to educate hunters bringing capes to him. “If a cape is ruined a replacement needs to come from the same area. For example, bucks from the Hill Country and South Texas have different spacing between the antler burrs. And there’s not enough skin on a doe’s head to substitute that cape for a buck,” Reid added. “Hunters taking good care of their animal means a better mount. The original is always best.” Anyone desiring a hide tanned is referred directly to a tannery




as pricing fluctuates and is more costly if Reid handles it. Many taxidermists agree that shoulder wall mounts remain the most requested position although pedestal creations are gaining popularity for being different and easily moved. Most outfitters and professional hunters know how to properly cape the various species they guide hunters to pursue. Hunters guiding themselves need to know how their taxidermist prefers to receive an animal. Learn from someone with experience before attempting to cape out a skin. That most exciting moment of a great adventure may be forever branded in a person’s memory. The preservation of the resulting trophy helps relive that special event time and again. The end result rests in the talent, ability, skill and masterful eye of the reproduction craftsperson selected, a wildlife artist also known as a taxidermist.


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by Bailey Sullivan Bailey Sullivan captured this photo of a Black-bellied Whistling-Duck during the Save Camp Lula Sams Photography Tournament. This tropical duck which was known to nest only in South Texas and into Mexico has recently moved north into Central Texas and as far east as South Florida. 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 through photography. The Save Camp Lula Sams conservation campaign was completed June 29 through the purchase of the camp by IDEA Public Schools and the donation of a conservation easement to Valley Land Fund. All campaign donations will be invested in an endowment to be used for monitoring the easement and protecting the habitat.




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Texas Wildlife October 2016 - Developing Texas Duck Holes