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Mule Deer






hope everyone had a safe and blessed Thanksgiving. It is absolutely my favorite family holiday—hunting with the grandkids, enjoying great food and trying not to feel guilty about eating too much. December is always such a busy month for me: Christmas parties, shopping for all of the family even though I must say my wife takes care of most of this, family gatherings for gift exchanges and special church functions to attend. These activities really create havoc with my deer hunting schedule during the prime of our South Texas rut. I’m always looking for a way to sneak in a few days of hunting before Christmas Eve, and it seems that each year this becomes more and more challenging. I wonder if the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has the power to postpone the rut until after Christmas. I doubt it, but somehow I always manage at least one hunt; and, if I’m lucky, I may get two hunts before Christmas. If you haven’t put your shooting team together for the TWA Sporting Clays Fun Shoot on Dec. 18 at the Greater Houston Gun Club, it’s not too late. The event will be conducted by TWA Team Houston, and there will be door prizes, snacks, drinks and a lot of broken clays. Additionally, this is an opportunity to make new friends who share a common interest in hunting and wildlife. For details on how to enter your team, contact David Brimager at TWA headquarters at or (800) 839-9453. You can also see the ad on page 22 for details. The last TWA fun shoot was held in Houston, and it was a huge success with participants encouraging TWA to host future shoots. Since some schools will already be out for the Christmas holidays on Dec. 18, consider putting a youth team together. This is a great way to introduce young people to TWA. Remember, these youths will be our future wildlife managers, making decisions about hunting and other private lands matters in the years ahead. At TWA, we are already hard at work preparing for the 2019 Legislative Session. It is never too early to begin thinking and strategizing about the issues that will impact wildlife and landowners. Getting much needed eminent domain reform will certainly once again be one of our primary focuses. I encourage you to get to know your state legislators, through personal contact or e-mail, so that when the time comes to call on our members to make our voices heard, you will be ready. A letter or an email to your elected representatives can influence how he or she votes. I must put on my Christmas shopping hat and get myself to the mall. Our anniversary, my wife’s birthday and Christmas are only 10 days apart. I’m able to shop for all three at the same time. If I am going to get any deer hunts in before Dec. 25, I better get busy. I wish each of you a Merry Christmas and a safe New Year. Please remember as you celebrate this holiday season to honor our Lord Jesus Christ and thank him for all the wild things we enjoy in Mother Nature, as well as those many blessings HE has given to each of us.

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

OFFICERS J. David Anderson, President, Houston Tom Vandivier, Vice President, Dripping Springs Dr. Louis Harveson, Second Vice President for Programs, Alpine Dr. Neal Wilkins, Secretary/Treasurer, San Antonio 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, CWB®, Director of Public Relations Luke Sammons, Director of Communications Kristin Parma, Membership Coordinator

Conservation Legacy and Hunting Heritage Programs Kassi Scheffer, Director of Education – L.A.N.D.S. Outreach Program Elanor Dean, Education Program Specialist Adrienne Paquette, L.A.N.D.S. Educator Jo Picken, L.A.N.D.S. Educator Toni Purnell, L.A.N.D.S. Educator Phil Salonek, L.A.N.D.S. Educator Elisa Velador, L.A.N.D.S. Educator Marla Wolf, Curriculum Writer Leslie Wittenburg, Director of Education – L.A.N.D.S. Intensive Program Sarah Grella, Education Program Specialist Brian Robert, Education Program Specialist Courtney Brittain, Website Consultant COL(R) Chris Mitchell, Texas Youth Hunting Program Director Bryan Jones, TYHP Field Operations Coordinator Bob Barnette, TYHP Field Operations Coordinator Briana Miles, TYHP Field Operations Coordinator Kim Hodges, TYHP Program Coordinator Kara Starr, Texas Big Game Awards Program Coordinator

Advocacy Joey Park, Legislative Program Coordinator

Texas Wildlife Association 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 2017 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.




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

Texas Wildlife





8 Texas Mule Deer



28 Plant Profile




16 Hunting Heritage

30 A Quail in the Hand

Twenty Years of TYHP Support



36 Sustainability

20 Conservation Legacy


Year in Review


44 Freezer Full?

24 Caesar Kleberg News



54 Back at the Ranch

A Wild Game Feast for the Holidays by WHITNEY KLENZENDORF

Photo by Russell A. Graves

Magazine Staff



The Texas mule deer is a species in decline. However, as conservation groups and scientists look to unlock the secrets of what makes the species thrive, there is optimism that the decline can be reversed. With funding help from the Mule Deer Foundation, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) is trying to determine why, of all places that mule deer are found, the Panhandle herd is actually showing signs of expansion. Read more in Russell Graves’ article on page 8.

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

On the Cover


Mule Deer

Photo by Russell A. Graves





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, 2018

JULY, 2018

DECEMBER 14, 2017

MAY 19, 2018

JULY 12-15, 2018

Wildlife for Lunch Webinar: The Benefits to Wildlife in Stream and Wetland Mitigation Banks, presented by Mike Petter, Eastbay Farms. For more information, contact Kassi Scheffer at (800)839-9453 or

DECEMBER 18, 2017

TWA Sporting Clays Shoot, Greater Houston Gun Club. See details on page 22. For more information, contact David Brimager at (800) 839-9453 or

Texas Big Game Awards Sportsman’s Celebration, Regions 5-7, Pitser Garrison Convention Center, Lufkin. For more information, contact Kara Starr at (210) 236-9761 or

WildLife 2018, J.W. Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort and Spa. For more information contact David Brimager at (800) 839-9453 or

JULY 13, 2018

Statewide Texas Big Game Awards Banquet, during TWA’s Annual Convention,WildLife 2018, J.W. Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort and Spa. For more information, contact David Brimager at (800) 839-9453 or

JUNE, 2018 JUNE 16, 2018

Texas Big Game Awards Sportsman’s Celebration, Regions 1-3, Abilene Civic Center, Abilene. For more information, contact Kara Starr at (210) 236-9761 or

JUNE 23, 2018

Texas Big Game Awards Sportsman’s Celebration, Regions 4-8, Willie DeLeon Civic Center, Uvalde. For more information, contact Kara Starr at (210) 236-9761 or


for Lunch

2017 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.


The Benefits to Wildlife in Stream and Wetland Mitigation Banks Presented by Mike Petter, Eastbay Farms IT’S EASY! This webinar series can be viewed from the comfort of one’s home, office or anywhere with a computer and internet connection. Broadcast during the lunch hour, the goal is to provide educational content without interrupting a normal work day. To log on, simply go to on the day of the webinar and click the presentation you wish to access. NO NEED TO TRAVEL! Each web-based seminar is fully interactive and allows you to engage the experts, make



comments and ask questions during the course of the presentation. MISSED THE SCHEDULED WEBINAR? If you missed the initial webinar or would like to see what other topics have been offered in the past, each webinar is archived on TWA’s website for future viewing.They can be found at QUESTIONS? Contact Kassi Scheffer at (800) 839-9453









e’s a deer I’d been searching for over two days. Driving through the rugged badlands of the Tongue River Country of northwest Texas, mule deer are numerous but the big ones are rare. On the flat fields where canyon draws feed to and from the area’s agricultural grounds, mule deer often congregate by the dozens to feed on fresh green shoots of tender wheat. Their pattern is predictable: they travel and bed in the rugged breaks and crags that were created by incessant forces of wind and water,

and when it’s time to eat, they move out to the open areas where humans cultivate the land and provide an easy meal for a variety of wildlife. Mule deer are especially fond of this loosely symbiotic relationship. Their behavior seems at odds with the usual wariness that wild deer typically exhibit. Whitetails, the cousin of mule deer and the source of the ascendant DNA in which the mule deer evolved over millennia, are more paranoid and like to stick close to cover in order to flee if danger presents itself.




Mule deer, on the other hand, evolved in the western United States and out on the open plains where they could see danger well in advance. Of the two primary Texas deer species mule deer are the more claustrophobic, preferring to stick to the wide open areas where danger is easily spotted. While the mule deer’s range is huge compared to the whitetail, winter and the mammal’s ultimate proximity to food sources make their pattern a little more predictable out here. So with two days left in the old year, I roamed this ranch in search of a postrut buck, tapping into his likely travel corridors where he goes back and forth to feed and bed. The first morning I caught a glimpse of him bedded in a grassy draw just off the dirt trail that connects the ranch headquarters to a remote pasture, where cattle are grazed in what’s arguably the finest cattle country in the nation. His ivory-colored antler tips were raised just above the grass. I knew he wasn’t a whitetail because of the way his main beams dichotomously branched. Whitetails typically have a main beam in which each tine originates. The prototypical mule deer is a 10-pointer with a wide inside spread, smaller brow tines in relation to his overall antler size and a split main beam that sports two tines at the end of each branching section.




The ranch road is a big loop and for two hours, I circled the buck and he never stood up. With the light flat and my patience thin, I made the 40-minute drive back home with plans to return the next day. The next morning, I drove through a cut that transitioned from the flat open ground on top to the river bottom below. That’s when I saw him. He was loafing down a ridge where he’d fed all night to the bedding area where I saw him the day before. He’d traversed topography that whitetails would avoid; mule deer are sure-footed denizens of the rough country, and he deftly walked the cuts and crags of the badlands. He was parallel to my truck when he saw me, but he was not alarmed as mule deer are comfortable with seeing danger from a distance. In the broken country in which they tread, if danger gets too close, they can stot away in a bounding retreat. This fourlegged hop allows them to cover a massive amount of ground in a short burst and by jumping from all four legs, it’s a more stable way of traveling in scabrous terrain. So as he steadily made his way back to his bed, I photographed him off the ridge with a predawn blue sky contrasting him and the native vegetation around him. To me, it’s my most iconic photograph of the less common of the two species of Texas deer.





A NEW DEER EMERGES The whitetail deer is the oldest deer species in the western hemisphere appearing in the fossil record as far back as 4 million years ago. In the book Mule Deer Country, Valerius Geist writes that there’s a great deal of evidence in the fossil record concerning the whitetail deer. “Undisturbed pre-glacial deposits of four to six million years of age are found beyond the southern margins of the glaciers, namely in the continental United States, and again at the northern edge of glaciation in Arctic Canada,” he writes. “It is in these deposits that paleontologists have found the scant evidence that does exist of our earliest whitetails. However, no other deer of any description are found in any of these deposits that predate the fossil appearance of whitetails and their relatives.” Its biological success can be attributed to the fact that the whitetail has changed little since the earliest fossils were discovered. That means the species is very adaptable to wide variety of biomes. And, through the ages, the deer expanded across the continent. As the whitetail moved west, a separate species emerged: the black-tailed deer. After a million years species evolved along the west coast as a distinctly separate cousin to the original whitetail. According to Geist, the mule deer is a hybrid of the black-tail and the whitetail. Because mule deer share almost identical mitochondrial DNA as whitetails, it’s suspected that the original mule deer hybrid had a whitetail as a mother and a blacktail as its father. Therefore, scientists believe that the mule deer is relatively new to the biological landscape—the product of crossbreeding by an east coast deer and a west coast deer. As such, the mule deer has, in large part, been a biologically successful hybrid until the dawn of the 20th century. However, not all is currently going well for the animal. A SPECIES IN DECLINE As far as Texas deer, the desert mule deer is the less common cousin of Texas’ most prominent deer—the whitetail. Because its range is found in the least populated regions of Texas, many aren’t as familiar with the deer who roams chiefly in the





Texas Panhandle and the mountains and basins of the TransPecos. It’s a cousin to the more manic whitetail, and that’s part of the biological problem. The mule deer as a species isn’t as adaptable as the whitetail, doesn’t breed as quickly or as often as a whitetail, has a narrow range of acceptable habitats and doesn’t feed or breed as aggressively as the whitetail and therefore is more easily extirpated. Historically, mule deer resided in nearly every Texas county west of the 100th meridian. By the middle part of the 20th century, over-hunting and habitat mismanagement reduced their range substantially and pushed them into the desert mountains of western Texas and tiny pockets in the Panhandle. Currently, due to a trap and translocate program that ended in 1988 and stricter adherence to sound habitat and population management philosophies, their numbers and range have expanded from the low point of the 20th century. In body size, mule deer are slightly larger than whitetails and the first thing you’ll probably notice are its large namesake ears that resemble those of a mule. A main physical characteristic that makes mule deer easy to spot is the white rump with a blacktipped tail. Whitetails generally prefer wetter and vegetatively dense habitats found in the eastern two-thirds of Texas. Mule deer prefer dry, open country and range over as much as 10 times more area than whitetails and their diet varies as well.




Because of the inherent differences in whitetail and mule deer, management strategies vary between the two species. “The mule deer is the only big game species in decline in North America,” said Charlie Stockstill, regional director of the Mule Deer Foundation, a Utah-based conservation organization whose purpose is to ensure the conservation of mule deer, black-tailed deer and their habitat. “Habitat decline seems to be the biggest culprit of their slow demise,” he said. “Every time we build a road, an oil platform or some other type of development, we fragment their habitat. They are not a real adaptable species as compared to whitetails. Weather also plays a big factor. The Trans-Pecos herd is way down because of an eight-year drought.” As Stockstill and I talk, he tells me about his organization’s partnership with private landowners and public entities to provide funding for a variety of habitat and research projects including planting grasses in dry stream beds for fawning habitat in Hall County to providing water guzzlers for landowners in the Trans-Pecos near Fort Stockton. “Habitat improvement,” Stockstill said, “is key to keeping the species populations viable across its historic range.” With funding help from the Mule Deer Foundation, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) is trying to determine why, of all places that mule deer are found, the Panhandle herd is actually showing signs of expansion.




“It’s really early in the study and we don’t have any definitive answers, but agriculture does seem to help with the food problem that mule deer face,” said Dana Wright, a TPWD biologist and principal investor for a six-year study regarding the influence of agriculture on mule deer movement and survival in the Texas Panhandle. The study’s purpose is determining how agriculture and its presence in mule deer habitat in the Texas Panhandle impacts deer movement and survival. By monitoring radio-collared mule deer, researchers can determine movement distance, home range sizes, survival rates and habitat use. Using this information, along with information about crop growth and nutritional value of vegetation in the area, it’s hoped that researchers will learn more about how deer use crops and how that affects mule deer movement, productivity and survival. This information will ultimately help produce more accurate mule deer population surveys, provide appropriate deer harvest recommendations and develop effective habitat management strategies in agricultural/rangeland mosaic landscapes. While Wright said that they are only into year two of the study, so far they are uncovering some surprising issues regarding the mule deer. “I think the most surprising thing is the fawn mortality. It’s a lot higher than we thought it would be,” Wright said. “We catch them around the first of October and they do good for a few


months but around the first of the year, they begin to die off. We don’t really know why but we think it’s a combination of poor nutrition coupled with a winter event like illness. We don’t think it’s predation or hunting-related problems.” Wright said that in 2010, survey numbers showed mule deer at their highest level ever in the Panhandle. During the drought, however, that number sharply declined. Post-drought mule deer numbers seem to be back on the increase and Wright thinks that the mule deer’s proximity to winter grown agricultural crops may have some benefit. The increase in usable forage helps the mule deer make it through cold Panhandle winters. As Wright and her team of researchers study some of the vexing problems that mule deer face, brush encroachment and their slow biological clock are working against mule deer success in the Panhandle and Rolling Plains. As the team studies the preliminary data, it does seem that the presence of agriculture affects the deer’s travel patterns. GPS collared-mule deer show researchers that bucks’ seasonal movement patterns take on a dumbbell shape that’s scattered over a five square mile area. In essence, they have a large spring and summer habitat and a large fall and winter habitat that favors

cultivated farmland. Each of these broad, circular areas are connected by a narrower travel corridor in which the mule deer bucks concentrate their movement. In the end, Wright concludes, there are still a lot of mysteries in regards to how mule deer utilize their habitat, and this early in the project, they are still unsure of how deer seek out and utilizes food and cover sources to their benefit. What the future holds for Texas’ other deer is a guess. As conservation groups and scientists look to unlock the secrets of what makes the species thrive, there is optimism in people like Charlie Stockstill. He sees that informing the public about the mule deer’s plight is a big step in reversing the species range wide decline. To that extent, he enjoys being on the front lines of the effort. “Solving the mule deer problem is not a quick fix but we are doing our part and trying our best to help interested parties,” said Stockstill. “My focus is to try to get people aware that there is a problem and over the next 10-20 years, we want to be the next big game success story. As long as we have enough people trying we’ll make progress.”



Twenty Years of TYHP Support Article by BRIANA MILES Photos by TYHP TEXAS WILDLIFE ASSOCIATION FOUNDATION Helping with operational costs as well, the Texas Wildlife Association Foundation strives to provide ethical environmental education about wildlife and habitat conservation for all Texans. TWAF works constantly to find grants and donors to help sponsor TYHP and generously provides additional funds as needed. Without TWAF, we would be lacking a large portion of our support system that enables us to be as successful as we are.


n the midst of its 20th season, TYHP continues to take the youth of Texas afield to teach them safe, responsible and ethical hunting. Since its inception, TYHP has impacted almost 22,000 youths on more than 2,400 hunts. TYHP could not thrive without the generosity of its volunteers, landowners and financial supporters, many of whom have made it possible for TYHP to grow and expand its reach to more and more young people for 20 successful seasons. TYHP staff is humbled by the ongoing support—and appreciates each and every person who has contributed their land, their leadership, their time and their money. Please read about some of our supporters recognized below.



TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE DEPARTMENT One of our greatest alliances and supporters is Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD). TYHP is the brain child of TPWD and Texas Wildlife Association (TWA) and has enabled youth to continue to attend safe, mentored hunts ever since its inception in 1996. TYHP also serves as TPWD’s youth hunter recruitment and retention program, securing the hunting heritage for future generations. Financial support from TPWD provides funds for our operational costs such as staff salaries, travel expenses and meals. TPWD helps this program to function and grow in a way that would be impossible otherwise, and TYHP is proud to have our logo beside theirs.


HOUSTON SAFARI CLUB American Conservation and Education Society (ACES) has been a long time donor to TYHP, providing scholarships for Houston-area youth to participate in hunts as well as helping to fund volunteer training events for the area. MCBRIDE FOUNDATION In conjunction with Austin Woods and Water Club (AWWC), this foundation has been a long-time supporter of TYHP. The McBride Foundation provides funds for TYHP to send youth on hunts and provide volunteer training. AWWC also runs their own sector of hunts under the TYHP umbrella, helping TYHP grow even more. In addition, many AWWC members are TYHP volunteers and donate their time to the program. ROCKY MOUNTAIN ELK FOUNDATION This foundation’s donation is utilized to


meet a variety of TYHP’s program needs. A supporter since 2000, RMEF’s support is also shown through volunteers and time donated. ROTARY CLUB OF CORPUS CHRISTI The Harvey Weil Sportsman Conservationist Award has helped to support hunts since 2005 in the Coastal Bend and South Texas regions while honoring Mr. Weil’s legacy and love of wildlife and the outdoors. G.R. WHITE FOUNDATION This foundation’s long-time support focuses on hunter scholarships and Huntmaster training as well as volunteer appreciation. CABELA’S The well-known orange caps all participants wear on our hunts are generously provided by Cabela’s. Every year the business donates these caps so our hunters and volunteers can continue to have a safe hunting experience. THE ALFRED S. GAGE FOUNDATION This foundation has provided funding for TYHP hunts across Texas, helping to alleviate program costs.

TEXAS FARM BUREAU As a unified voice of agriculture in Texas, the Texas Farm Bureau provides general funds for TYHP use as well as a unique platform for promoting TYHP. Members of Texas Farm Bureau have also served on our Advisory Committee. GILLESPIE FARM BUREAU This local office of Texas Farm Bureau has provided funds for area youth to attend hunts, giving them a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. With Gillespie County holding the most hunts of any county, this donation allows the record to continue to stand— and expand. FREDERICKSBURG SALUTES OUR WOUNDED WARRIORS FSOWW supports youth on the Harper W.M.A. Hunt in Memory of Jacob Krebs, which was created for youth family members of fallen or wounded veterans. MULE DEER FOUNDATION In a partnered hunt with TYHP, the Mule Deer Foundation provided the financial aid for

youth to experience mule deer hunting—a new experience for many of our youth. SAN ANGELO SAFARI CLUB INTERNATIONAL CHAPTER This SCI local chapter has helped to provide financial aid for youth in its area to participate in the program. San Angelo, TX SCI CHAPTER

HOUSTON SAFARI CLUB INTERNATIONAL CHAPTER This is another local SCI chapter that has helped to take youth in the Houston area on hunts across Central and South Texas. In addition to these foundations, organizations and businesses listed, there are numerous individual donors who graciously provide additional funds to TYHP. We could not do what we do without the donation of time by all of our volunteers who are on the ground, doing the work, all in the name of preserving Texas’ hunting heritage. Thanks again to all who make TYHP possible.



DONATE Please consider making a tax-deductible investment to TWAF, and help us as we continue to change minds and lives, through natural resource education. Together, we can make sure that Texans understand the importance of wild things, wild places, and the stewards who care for them.

Thank you in advance for supporting your Foundation. Texas Wildlife Association Foundation, Inc. is increasing natural resource literacy and promoting conservation and educational programs that connect Texans to the land. Together with those who donate, we are making a difference and ensuring a legacy of conservation and the heritage of hunting through education.



Š D.K. Langford

For more information on how to enter, find a certified scorer and much more, please visit

YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE As members of the Texas Wildlife Association, we are asking our neighbors who are fellow conservationists, ranchers, and hunters to join our vital efforts. Your membership will help promote Texas’ hunting traditions and develop opportunities for new generations to know the pleasures of Texas outdoors. By joining, you will strengthen our work with legislators, educators and wildlife biologists to protect private lands and the many species of wildlife they support. The future of our wildlife populations depends on you.

For more information on becoming a member of the Texas Wildlife Association, please visit

Photo by Russell Graves

Join your neighbors today!



Thank you everyone for your in

Experience by experience, we are successfully building the TWA lega




























nvolvement and support in 2017!

acy of conservation through our youth and adult education programs.


















december 18, 2017 1 pm - 7pm

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White-tailed Deer, Cattle and Nilgai Sharing the Landscape



hite-tailed deer share the landscape with cattle and nilgai in much of the southeastern part of South Texas. Nilgai are large (males can weigh 600 pounds) antelope from India that were introduced in 1929 and 1930 on King Ranch; the population has expanded from an original introduction of 12 animals to more than 38,000 today. An obvious question is: “Can all of these animals share the same vegetation and survive?� Part of the answer to that

question deals with the specific types of plants that each of the three species prefer to eat. Scientists refer to white-tailed deer as concentrate feeders, which means they eat the most nutritious parts of plants. Specifically, they move about on the landscape consuming tips of shrub twigs and broad-leaved weeds known as forbs. Cattle are grazers rather than concentrate feeders and primarily eat grasses, which are lower in nutritional

quality than shrub twigs and forbs. Cattle have large rumens that can ferment fibrous grasses for a long time, enabling them to glean the nutrients from them. Nilgai diets fall in between the two species, thus scientists refer to them as intermediate feeders. They eat shrub twigs and forbs, but they can switch to a diet that is mainly grasses, because they have a much larger rumen than deer do. So these different species can share a common vegetation resource because they eat different things.






They also tend to use different portions of the landscape. White-tailed deer spend a lot of time in dense brush, whereas cattle tend to avoid dense brush. Cattle like to use open grassland, although they may retreat to shade provided by brushy areas when it is hot. Nilgai spend some time in brush, but they also use open areas of grassland. So, the spatial separation among the three species is incomplete, but does contribute to their ability to share the same forage resource. We have explained the theory behind

why deer, cattle and nilgai diets should not overlap much. But, the important question is: What about the real world? How much do their diets overlap in reality? We examined this question in a research project led by Stacy Hines Adams on East Foundation lands in South Texas. The East Foundation supported Stacy’s education and her research through its charitable program. The Houston Safari Club also partially supported her work. Stacy employed a novel approach to comparing diet composition using stable

isotopes of carbon and nitrogen. Isotopes are atoms of the chemical element that differ in the number of neutrons. Once an animal eats a plant, the atoms in the plant are absorbed and used to make animal tissue. Therefore, the stable isotope signature of animal tissue and feces reflects the composition of the atoms that comprised the plants the animal ate. Because different classes of plants have different isotope signatures, we can detect differences in animal diets for groups of plants such as shrubs and forbs versus grasses. Stacy and a cadre of undergraduate students collected deer, cattle and nilgai feces on six different study sites on East Foundation lands, ranging from along the Laguna Madre in Kenedy County to the brushland of Jim Hogg County during 2013-2015. They found that diets of cattle and deer did not overlap in more than 94 percent of the comparisons that they examined. Surprisingly, diets of deer and nilgai strongly overlapped during winter (90 percent) and overlapped in 57 percent of comparisons made in autumn and spring. Cattle and nilgai had separate diets in 100 percent of autumn comparisons, 86 percent of spring comparisons and 90 percent of winter comparisons. Conventional wisdom before Stacy’s study was that nilgai diets were more similar to cattle than to deer. Stacy’s work showed that the reverse was true; nilgai diets overlap with deer more than they do with cattle. Rangelands in South Texas were still in recovery from an unprecedented drought during 2011 while Stacy was doing her study, and this may have had some influence on her results. Regardless of the effects of drought, an important takehome message for wildlife managers in South Texas is that having too many nilgai is potentially detrimental to white-tailed deer. We recommend, based on Stacy’s research, that wildlife managers interested in maintaining productive deer populations should keep nilgai populations at levels that minimize potential for competition between the two species.




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WORLD’S FIRST OPTICAL VIBRATION REDUCTION LASER RANGEFINDER* Nikon’s groundbreaking VR system was engineered to stabilize the image in the viewfinder caused by slight hand movements and then align the viewed image with the activated laser beam. The result is a rock- solid view of your target together with faster, more precise ranging. • 1000-yard Capability • ½-yard Accuracy out to 700 yards • First/Distant Target Priority Modes • ID (Incline/Decline) Technology • Waterproof/Fogproof

Without Optical VR [vibration reduction] System *As of September 5, 2016, among dedicated hunting laser rangefinders that have already been released. Researched by Nikon Vision. **The effect of Vibration Reduction: Vibrations of the image in the viewfinder caused by hand movement [sinusoidal waves] are reduced to approx. 1/5 or less [Based on Nikon’s measurement standards]. All Nikon trademarks are the property of Nikon Corporation.

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Gayfeather Article and photos by BRADLEY KUBECKA


here are about 12 different species and seven varieties of gayfeathers (Liatris spp.) widespread across Texas. Gayfeather is a perennial plant that can occasionally be found in clay loam and sandy soils but are most often found growing on shallow, gravelly sites in full sun. However, species in Southeastern states (Florida, Georgia), such as L. spicata, commonly grow in sandy soils. Of all the gayfeathers, dotted gayfeather (L. punctata), is the most widespread in Texas. Other common gayfeathers include tall gayfeather (L. aspera), narrowleaf gayfeather (L. mucronata), pink-scale gayfeather (L. elegans) and scaly gayfeather (L. squarrosa). The latter species are most commonly found in areas of Northcentral and East Texas. Depending on the

The inflorescence of gayfeathers provide a rationale for the Greek name, Liatris, meaning crowded.



site and species, gayfeathers can grow to 4 to 5 feet tall. Most species of gayfeathers are known for their tight inflorescence, or flowering heads. The plants actually get their scientific name from the Greek word Liatris, meaning crowded, and referring to the tight cluster of flowers along the plant’s central axis. Gayfeathers bloom in latesummer to early fall and offer a pleasant sight on the landscape when all other wild flowers have already bloomed and warmseason grasses are beginning to brown. The flowers of gayfeathers are typically purple to pinkish-white, and the leaves are narrow (1/8 inch) and sometimes punctate (covered with dots). Species other than dotted gayfeather can also have punctate leaves.

Butterflies such as the Queen relish the flowers of dotted gayfeather.



The root system of Dotted gayfeather (L. punctata) is characterized by an elongate root structure.

As perennials, gayfeathers have large roots reaching depths up to 15 feet. The extensive root system is useful to accumulate a large store of carbohydrates and renders Liatris as a drought-tolerant species. Most species of gayfeathers are characterized by having corm-like roots, and specific root morphology (elongate or globose) can help in species identification. For example, L. punctata usually have an elongate root, whereas L. mucronata tends to have a globose, or round, root structure. The roots of various species of gayfeathers have historically been used by Native Americans for a variety of purposes. The Kiowa would eat the young roots of dotted gayfeather for sustenance whereas the Blackfoot and Omaha tribes would boil the roots for stomachaches. The roots of other species of gayfeathers (L. pycnostachya) were also used as a poultice by various tribes to treat snake bites, giving yield to gayfeathers’ alternate name, button-snakeroot. When dried

in a cool dark place, gayfeather flowers tend to retain their color and form. Thus, gayfeathers have also gained a place in contemporary flower arrangements. Gayfeathers’ most prominent wildlife value is that of pollinator attraction. Bees and butterflies of all species relish gayfeathers. Hummingbirds have also been reported to frequent the flowers. Gayfeathers are in the sunflower family (Asteraceae) and have seeds called achenes. In a study on Gambel’s quail diets in Hudspeth County, researchers noted 15 percent of the quail crops to contain dotted dayfeather achenes. Deer, antelope, cattle and especially sheep are known to eat gayfeather when the plant is young and tender. When the plants mature, the leaves are eaten by deer. While the plant is growing during April, crude protein has been measured at 17 percent. Though seemingly a less desirable forage because of its woodiness, gayfeathers are considered a decreaser under continuous, heavy grazing.




Every quail is a trophy as former graduate student Michelle Downey will concur. She bagged her first bobwhite on this hunt. Dale Rollins (r) takes graduate students on a quail hunt each year. Good light, good dogs, good memories!






hile quail season opened a month ago, it doesn’t typically hit its stride until December. So, what’s the first thing you do when you take that quail from your retriever’s mouth? I hope the first thing you do is say, “Good dog. Gonna miss you someday.” That was my acknowledgment to Li’l Annie for the last six years of her hunting life. And since I buried her that December day in 2013, I have indeed missed her. Her retrieves on wounded birds led me to declare that she was the best “dead bird” dog I’ve ever seen. Next, perhaps you hold the dapper bobwhite or scaled quail and admire the intricacies of their plumage. Now’s a good time for a picture of you and your dog afield (thank goodness for smartphones, eh?). And let’s not forget an utterance of gratitude for the opportunities we’ve had and shared. My hunting buddy Steve often comes up to me while we’re overlooking a scenic vista or perhaps at the end of the day, puts his hand on my shoulder and declares, “We are blessed men.” Indeed we are. THE LAST MEAL After these rituals, now it’s time to delve into the quail’s life. What was it finding for food? Was it a hatch-year (juvenile)

or adult bird? What do these seemingly trivial items mean for my bird hunting? The first thing I do with my quail in hand is feel the bird’s crop. Take your forefinger and rub the area of the “pulley bone” to determine the crop’s status. If it’s a morning hunt, odds are it’s empty. If it’s the last hour of the day, it may be incredibly full (larger than a golf ball) of various seeds, greens and insects. Becoming a “Student of Quail” means to learn from any and every opportunity— one of which is to become a student of seeds. Inquiring minds want to know. But, for now, I’m just curious as to whether the birds are feeding. Any more formal “crop analyses” can wait until we clean birds after the hunt is over. When it’s time to clean the birds, I pull out any crops with a significant amount of food and either (a) spread the contents out on a paper plate for immediate inspection, or (b) put the entire crop into an empty shotshell box for later dissection. A casual inspection of the crop contents may reveal seeds of ragweed or broomweed or less common items like the red tunas of tasajillo. A crop full of larger seeds (chittam) suggests the riparian habitats would be a good area to focus the next day’s hunt. If you find seeds you cannot identify (you will!) snap a




picture of them with the name of the county on a paper plate and e-mail the photograph to me ( and I’ll help you. If you hunt where bobwhites and blue quail occur “sympatrically,” meaning their ranges overlap, note the relative size between the blue quail’s crop and that of the bobwhite. I’ll wager the blue quail will be twice as full, regardless of the time of day it was harvested. Blue quail are better “hustlers.” So, what did I learn from crop contents from the population superboom of last year in West Texas? First, our generally reliable western ragweed must’ve been a complete bust. Even the earliest quail (taken in November) had no ragweed seeds, but instead almost exclusively broomweed seeds. Greens were common in early crops and comprised nearly all of February’s samples. Had the boom of seed-

eating cotton rats depleted the availability of other desirable seeds? Perhaps. ON THE WING After palpating the crop, I extend the quail’s wing to determine its age. To age a quail, look at the “primary coverts” on the top side of the wing (see illustration). For more information, see the Youtube video https://www. youtube .com/watch?v = Ci9 p 0R aF9g4 or the handout “Sexing and Aging the Northern Bobwhite” (http://baylor.agrilife. org/files/2011/06/Sexing_ Aging_The_ Northern_Bobwhite_23.pdf ). We can only recognize two age classes: hatch-year (juvenile) and adult. In a good year such as 2015, the “age ratio” might be 5:1 (juveniles:adult) but in a poor year such as 2011 the ratio may be fewer than 0.5 juveniles per adult. Graphing these data over a period of years permits one to evaluate relationships,

typically the impacts of rainfall on the annual “quail crop.” Recent analyses suggest rainfall, typically from April – August, accounted for 74 percent in the Rolling Plains to 93 percent in South Texas of the variation observed in age ratios. Preliminary data (August 2017) from a small sample of 86 birds suggests low production (0.41:1) at the Rolling Plains Quail Research Ranch (RPQRR). These data suggest what September roadside counts later confirmed—fewer and smaller coveys. A look at age ratios from bobwhites at RPQRR shows an average from 2008 – 2017 of 2.5 juveniles per adult. The situation ranged from “dire” in 2011 where there were only 0.1 juveniles per adult to “incredible” in 2015 where there were 6.2 juveniles per adult. How does the population ratio translate to hunting conditions? You’ll see fewer coveys and wilder birds. Why wilder?

Checking the crop contents of quail last year on a lease near Big Spring revealed heavy use of greens and seeds of broomweed. The crop on the left is from a blue quail while the one on the right is that of a bobwhite. Note how the crop of the blue quail has more seeds and more variation (always) in the foods consumed.





Quail can be aged by examining the “primary coverts” (circled here). Note the white-tipped coverts on the juvenile bird (r).

As the quail population is an older one, there are fewer juveniles that I refer to as “BooBoo quail” and more adult or “Yogi quail” that are smarter than your average quail. Expect quail to run more and flush at greater distances than what you’ve encountered over the past two years. THE UPSHOT Perhaps I hold TWA members to a higher level of responsibility, but we should be leaders and teachers on many fronts. It doesn’t take but a minute to learn how to age the quail in hand. Your hunting colleagues will likely be impressed with your knowledge of the quail as you point out the “primary coverts.” And, you’ll feel good knowing you enlightened them about the biology of one of our favorite game birds. Toast the end of the day with the acknowledgment that “every quail is a trophy!”

Age ratios observed at the Rolling Plains Quail Research Ranch, Fisher County, TX, 2009-2016.



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Photo by Steve Nelle


Healthy, diverse landscapes on private land are the key to ecological sustainability.




SUSTAINABILITY It’s Not Just a Buzzword Article by STEVE NELLE


ustainable” has become a very popular word in recent years and it seems like everyone has jumped on the sustainability bandwagon. Large corporations, small businesses, cities, colleges, organizations, agencies and investors all want to be thought of as sustainable. This trend is driven by many well-meaning consumers who want to feel good about the perceived sustainability of the things they purchase and are involved in. But there is a big difference between this new, popular perception of sustainability and the type of sustainability that is important to landowners.

NEW SUSTAINABILITY TREND According to today’s business leaders, sustainability is not just something that the do-gooder environmentalist cares about; it has now become mainstream in many business sectors. The Wharton School of Business said, “Forward-looking corporations have figured out that a focus on sustainability is not just a bid to polish their image, but rather it is a necessity in today’s marketplace. Sustainability attracts more customers.” For today’s environmentally conscious consumer, driven in part by clever advertising, sustainability is largely about



Photo by Steve Nelle


Photo by Wyman Meinzer

Clean water and abundant wildlife are two of the primary benefits when land is managed in an ecologically sustainable manner.

Income generated from hunting helps keep many Texas ranches economically viable.




“green living.” This includes the whole array of popular ecoterminology—earth-friendly, all natural, organically produced, chemical free, fair trade, carbon neutral, recycling, alternative energy, biodegradable and other green jargon. According to Elizabeth Scharpf writing for Reuters, there is no consensus on what sustainability really means in the business world. She says “it has morphed into a blurry term that fits into whatever suitcase you want it to—a catchall for everything ‘socially good,’ whatever that means.” Dr. John Patterson, Beef Cattle Specialist at Montana State University, agreed, “So, what does “sustainability” mean? I’m not sure. To a large extent, the definition has been wordsmithed so much to promote a cause or sell a product that it has no clear meaning.” When words become popularized and over-used, their real meaning and impact is often obscured and diminished. Good words with a good message can easily become nothing more than a catchphrase or fashion trend. People repeat these words without even understanding what they mean. Such is the case with the current emphasis on sustainability.

Photo by Steve Nelle


Livestock grazing can be a primary or secondary source of income to help maintain economic sustainability.




rainfall soaks in. It means a healthy, productive soil with good porosity, structure and tilth which will store water. It also means keeping a good cover of desirable vegetation on the ground, to protect the soil and prevent erosion. It means maintaining healthy, diverse and self-renewing populations of native plants and animals. It means limiting disturbances which disrupt and expose the soil. It means careful and thoughtful consideration of side effects before any management decisions are made. It means having a sensitive conscience toward the land and a keen personal code of ethics in the way the land is treated. Ecological sustainability is an active, responsible, hands-on approach to land management; it is not about preservation or letting nature take its course. In practical terms it means flexible stocking rates which change with changing forage conditions. It means conservative grazing where the grass is kept ahead of the livestock. It means rotational grazing where all pastures receive rest and recovery following grazing. It means timely reductions in livestock numbers in drought. It means keeping deer numbers at a safe and conservative level to prevent over-use of desirable forbs and browse. Practical sustainability means keeping a shaggy stubble of previous year’s grass for nesting cover. It means retaining enough tree, shrub, brush, forb and weed cover across the landscape to retain native wildlife species, while keeping aggressive species in check. It means managing the degree of competition and

Photo courtesy of Conservation Legacy staff

To outsiders unfamiliar with farming and ranching, sustainable land management is perceived as protecting endangered species and wetlands, organic farming, all natural beef, or control of exotic invasive species. While these are important causes for some landowners, they do not begin to touch the true meaning of sustainability at the ranch level. For a large and growing number of landowners, sustainability is not just a feel-good concept, not a recent trend and certainly not a buzzword. Responsible landowners have been involved in true sustainability for generations and are always working to become more and more engaged in genuine sustainability. For these landowners, sustainable management is both a dayto-day lifestyle and a legacy. It involves continuing to do those things that have proven to be successful but always looking ahead to find newer and better ways and being willing to change, improve and adapt to new norms. For landowners, sustainability involves three facets—land, money and people—and is often stated as ecological, economic and social sustainability. The three facets are interconnected and synergistic, and a lapse in one area leads to weakness in the others. ECOLOGICAL SUSTAINABILITY Ecological sustainability involves managing and caring for the land every day in such a way that the soil, water, plant and animal resources are perpetually maintained, protected and renewed. It means managing for a healthy, functional water cycle where

When landowners invite school children to the ranch, they are able to see and study the benefits of good land stewardship.




Photo courtesy of J. David Anderson family


Passing along a land stewardship ethic to the next generation is a vital part of social sustainability. TWA President J. David Anderson and wife Brenda are pictured here with their grandchildren at their Las Colinas Ranch.

overlap between animals to prevent habitat damage. Ecological sustainability requires a good working knowledge of nature and how it is affected by our management decisions. ECONOMIC SUSTAINABILITY Economic sustainability is one of the great challenges of land ownership and land management. At the most basic level, it means that the land generates at least enough income to pay for maintenance, operation and taxes. Property that does not generate income is not sustainable in the true sense. Some will argue that many of today’s landowners do not need for the land to generate a profit and are willing to plow outside money into daily operations. That may be commendable in the short term, but it works only as long as the current owner is willing and able to do it. It is not sustainable in the long run. Because of increasing fragmentation, more and more smaller properties are unable to be economically sustainable. After a ranch becomes a collection of ranchettes, true sustainability becomes nearly impossible. For most landowners, economic sustainability means scrutinizing every dollar spent against its capacity to benefit the operation and create a return. Returns from the land usually do not justify nor support extravagant spending. On every piece of

land there is a never-ending and expensive list of things that need to be done, such as maintaining water, repairing fences, fixing roads and follow-up brush control. The high and increasing cost of labor, fuel, feed, machinery and materials has outpaced income on many operations. Natural disasters such as drought, wildfire, floods or disease wreak havoc on land and people and create even greater financial stress. Thank goodness for hunters and lease hunting. Many traditional ranchers are quick to acknowledge that hunting is what has kept their operation economically viable. Returns from livestock are up and down and somewhat unpredictable, while returns from hunting have proven to be more stable and predictable. Lease hunting in Texas has been one of the key reasons why mid-sized ranches are able to remain economically sustainable. SOCIAL SUSTAINABILITY Social sustainability for landowners has several components. One critical component is for current operators to be sufficiently rewarded by personal satisfaction and enjoyment to continue. Owning and operating land is hard work. It is physically, emotionally and mentally demanding and not for the




fainthearted. The hours are long and the rewards are sometimes meager. Landowners must find ways to get the never-ending work accomplished while also enjoying the ranch. Another important element of social sustainability is the ability to keep the land intact and in the family for multiple generations. Many old-time ranch families are now in their fifth or sixth generation of operating the same land. It is a testament of success when families are able to keep ranches together and to keep each succeeding generation interested and motivated to continue. These families have been successful in creating a culture of love for the land and a dedication to the family’s legacy. The third component of social sustainability involves doing things in a socially acceptable way. Landowners tend to be independent and self-reliant, not worrying too much about what others think. But in today’s world, public perception drives policy and landowners need to be concerned with their image and their practices. If the public strongly opposes certain practices they consider harmful or unethical, pressure will increase to regulate or prohibit those practices. Even where such regulations are not established, public opinion can still create negative sentiments which hurt landowners in general. When the public drives by a ranch that is visibly overgrazed or eroding, it is very bad advertising. A group of skinny cattle seen from the highway sends a message that the owner does not care about his animals. When a high-fenced ranch looks like a zoo or a feedlot, it creates the impression that landowners do not care about the land. When dead coyotes are hung from the fence, it sends a message than many find as offensive. A few bad actors




can overshadow the many good things done by other landowners. Landowners who take care of the land and who invite school groups, 4-H clubs or Boy Scouts out to the ranch are doing their part to create social sustainability. These young people are tomorrow’s voters and leaders. Likewise, ranchers who work cooperatively with groups such as Audubon Society, Nature Conservancy, or Master Naturalists are demonstrating to the environmental community that ranches can be profitable and ecologically sustainable at the same time. Landowners have been “donating” high value ecological services to society for many years—clean water, aquifer recharge, biodiversity, wildlife habitat and carbon sequestration to name a few. Every Texas citizen benefits when private land is well taken care of. The time may be coming when landowners will be compensated for some of the beneficial services they provide to the public. If a system of compensation is developed, funded by the private sector rather than the government, it will help landowners to be more economically sustainable. This in turn will help them be more ecologically and socially sustainable. In the meantime, conscientious landowners will still continue to take care of the land, water and wildlife, being careful to be a good example of stewardship to the public. Today’s landowner must be concerned with more than just raising livestock, wildlife, crops or timber. It is a complex and challenging job to work the land, take care of the land, generate a profit and keep doing it generation after generation. For many landowners, this kind of true sustainability is what they strive to do every day, year after year.



22 Waugh Drive


Houston, Texas 77007

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(C) 210.422.4676 (O) 325.294.4616




More hunters are expected to donate deer to Hunters for the Hungry after it received about $110,000 in donations during the purchase of licenses last season to pay for processing meat that will be distributed by food banks.




FREEZER FULL? Donate venison to help needy Texans Article and photos by JOHN GOODSPEED


en Allen faced a dilemma with a quickly growing deer herd on his 640-acre ranch near Pearsall. A volunteer at the San Antonio Food Bank for years, he told its president and chief executive officer, Eric Cooper, that he needed a plan to thin the herd. “Cooper said, ‘I know what we can do with them,’” Allen said, recalling the conversation from seven years ago. The food bank sent a refrigerated truck, and Allen’s family and friends dispatched 50 whitetails through the Managed Lands Deer Program that were delivered to a meat processor. The venison ended up on the tables of some of the one in six Texas households struggling with food insecurity. Since then, Allen’s friends take about 30 deer a year off the property. They keep two or three, and the rest go to the food bank. “One of my biggest dislikes of harvesting a deer has always been shooting the biggest buck I’ve ever seen and knowing that my family will eat half of it or less over the next two years,” Allen said. “It tugs at my heart to take an animal’s life and know we won’t consume all of it, and that’s a waste.

“It’s a feel good with the food bank program to know that the meat will go to feed people in need.” The San Antonio Food Bank is part of the Hunters for the Hungry program of Feeding Texas, an association representing 21 food banks working with about 3,000 partner agencies that prepare and serve meals in every county in the state. Last year, 55,140 pounds of venison from white-tailed and mule deer were donated. Since its inception in 1997, Hunters for the Hungry received 2,303,033 pounds. That equates to more than 9.2 million meals. While landowners and managers make a large contribution of venison to the program, individual hunters are expected to make a bigger impact this year with funds raised through monetary contributions when purchasing hunting and fishing licenses. Previously, a hunter donating a legally harvested carcass took it to a participating meat processor and paid a $30 to $40 fee to cover costs. Some processors did it for free. A new law that went into effect for the 2016-2017 hunting season allows hunters buying licenses to donate $1, $5, $10 or $20 to the program.




“That amounted to about $110,000 over the season. Now we have a way to reimburse the processors directly and no longer are relying on hunters or processors to pay for it. The way it was done before kept it from thriving,” said Celia Cole, CEO of Feeding Texas. “This makes it easy for hunters to donate to the program. We’re hoping it will help expand the program quite a bit.” District 27 Sen. Eddie Lucio, D-Brownsville, long a champion of Feeding Texas, came up with the idea for the license contributions, Cole said. District 17 Rep. John Cyrier of Bastrop, who is on the board of the Central Texas Food Bank in Austin, sponsored the measure in the House.

“Both of them come from very active hunting areas. They were very helpful, and we worked with them to help pass the law,” Cole said. While venison is small part of the overall donations to Feeding Texas, it is an important source of lean, healthy protein, she said. “Getting protein to the shelves is a challenge,” Cole said. “It’s what people most often ask for.” There is no common demographic for the approximately 3 million people helped annually by Feeding Texas. “We are serving people with a chronic struggle year-round to make ends meet. Some work but don’t earn enough. Some are white-collar workers who never

thought they would be in a food line but had problems after the recession,” Cole said. “There are families with young children, seniors, people in rural areas, veterans and people with disabilities. “Hunger knows no bounds.” Meat processors participating in Hunters for the Hungry grind the venison into 2-pound chubs and freeze it. Food banks, which cover different geographic areas across the state, pick up the chubs and distribute them to agencies that prepare meals or deliver it to those in need. Hunters can clean out their freezers, too, but only if the venison was processed at facilities approved by the United States Department of Agriculture, said Cooper of

Mule deer also are a source of lean, healthy protein that is sought by the Hunters for the Hungry program of Feeding Texas, which also provides relief in the wake of such disasters as Hurricane Harvey.





White-tailed deer hanging in a meat processing facility could be going to help needy Texans, who received 55,140 pounds of venison last year and more than 9.2 million meals since Hunters for the Hungry began in 1997.




When a carcass is donated to a meat processor participating in Feeding Texas’ Hunters for the Hungry program, the venison is ground and packaged into two-pound chubs, which are picked up by the area’s food bank and distributed to partner agencies.

the San Antonio Food Bank, which serves about 58,000 people a week in Bexar and 15 surrounding counties. “Some hunters store their venison at meat lockers and grab what they want over the year,” he said. “When they’re getting ready for the next season, they may want to clear out their locker for fresh stuff — first in, first out. “Food safety is always critical, but if it was processed by USDA standards and stored properly, it’s still good a year later.” Venison from home freezers also can be donated.



“It needs to be from a meat processor, and you need to take it from home to the food bank in a cooler. It still needs to be frozen when we receive it,” Cooper said. “But we can’t accept venison that someone processed themselves. “It doesn’t have to go to waste, though. It can be given from individual to individual. You can give it to family or friends or ask a neighbor or church member if they know of someone in need.” He thinks venison is more popular than pork, beef or poultry with the people the


food bank serves. It brings back memories to many. “A lot of senior citizens say it had been a long time since they had venison. One woman told me her father was a hunter and she remembered eating venison, elk or other wild game from his hunts,” Cooper said. “Many have family recipes and share those ideas. "It’s such a blessing when you think about our wildlife and good land stewardship combining with recreational hunting and the ability to donate a carcass that the hunter isn’t going to consume.


It blesses the life of a family that doesn’t know where the next meal is coming from. It’s a wonderful program—it brings it all together.” For those who are unfamiliar with venison, the food bank does demonstrations on how to turn the ground meat into a variety of meals including stew, chili and spaghetti. “I wish we had more venison. That lean protein sure could nourish a lot more people,” Cooper said. “There is enough demand that what we do get goes quickly.” Feeding Texas also is a member of the state’s emergency response team that coordinates food banks during a disaster, such as Hurricane Harvey. “For us, the disaster continues long after the media reports die out, and venison will be a part of that,” Cole said. “We will need to bring in a significantly higher volume of food next year to the food banks in those affected areas.” Cooper and the San Antonio Food Bank were busy around the clock in the weeks after Hurricane Harvey providing three meals a day for evacuees at four shelters and shipping 18-wheeler truck loads of supplies to Rockport, Corpus Christi, Victoria, Houston, Galveston and smaller coastal communities. “When a disaster occurs, we make sure everyone in need is nourished and on the road to recovery,” he said. “We’re in it for the long haul. The venison will be coming at a good time.” Food bank volunteer Allen pitched in, too, handing out supplies in Gregory and other towns. He also provided some venison. “I took some 60 pounds from the freezer to a restaurant that was cooking for the guys working along the coast in the aftermath of Harvey,” Allen said. “That was another feel-good.” While that donation was not part of Hunters for the Hungry, it continued the spirit. “That’s the magic of this program,” he said. “You can harvest deer and feel good about it even if you don’t eat the venison.” Hunters who want to remove inferior bucks but do not want the venison can donate deer for free to Hunters for the Hungry, which pays meat processors with donations given when buying Texas licenses under a new law that went into effect last season.

For more information o how to donate wild game, visit the Feeding Texas website at



NEW WEST TEXAS L.A.N.D.S. EDUCATOR Hello all, my name is Phil Salonek, and I am joining Texas Wildlife Association as the newest Learning Across New Dimensions in Science (L.A.N.D.S.) Educator in the previously uncharted wilds of West Texas. I grew up in West Texas exploring the playas and arroyos on the outskirts of the Chihuahuan desert. After five years in the U.S. Navy, I went to business school in southern California and then on to study outdoor education at Central Wyoming College. During this time, I hiked, skied, bicycled, paddled and generally recreated all over the Rocky Mountain region of the United States. Seeking the path of a naturalist, I enrolled in a year-long immersion program focused on wilderness awareness and primitive skills. This led me through the forests and waterways of northern Maine identifying flora and fauna all while living

outside with minimal gear. I eventually earned my Registered Maine Guide license and led extended ecocentric canoe and snowshoe expeditions. I have worked in the oilfields of West Texas as a welder’s assistant, with a sawmill in the redwoods of California, as a forestry technician in western Colorado fighting wildfires, and have preserved historic structures in Arizona and Wisconsin. Texas has always been my home, and it is a great feeling to be back. I am excited to share my passion for youth education and the conservation of our natural world. Phil will be implementing L.A.N.D.S. Outreach and L.A.N.D.S. Intensive programs in 19 counties of West Texas. Funding for this venture comes from a new partnership with Noble Energy.

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Brask T-4 Ranches

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Long Term Hunters Wanted 3,450 ac, $15/ac, Park Rd 37 Lakehills, minutes from San Antonio and Medina Lake! 343 ac, $5k/yr, Medina, TX. Mountainous terrain with native wildlife. 9,170 ac, $11.50/ac, 10mi N of Brackettville, FM 674. Mountainous terrain with abundant exotics. 3,850 ac, $13.50/ac, Galvan - Webb County, South TX Hunting. Well maintained deer lease. Count South TX Hunting, 5,092 ac, $15.56ac, Runnels - 25 miles E of Encinal, Webb County, Water, Open Terrain.

Water & electric available on each lease.







A Wild Game Feast for the Holidays Article by WHITNEY KLENZENDORF Photo by NOEL STACEY lemon over the turkey breast. Sprinkle with rosemary. Flip the turkey breast when the edges turn brown. ~ Recipe courtesy of Noel Stacey, Leakey (full recipe on CHRISTMAS DAY LUNCH Venison Wreath Brown ground venison with salt and pepper. Chop one red bell pepper, 4 ounces of mushrooms, a small crown of broccoli, and ½ onion. (Optional: add jalapenos and cilantro.) Soften an 8-ounce block of cream cheese and stir it until smooth. Mix in vegetables. Arrange triangles of crescent rolls in a circle with the widest part on the inside. Lay the vegetable mixture in a ring on top of the crescent rolls and wrap the rolls over the top, tucking under to form a perfect ring. Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes. So delicious! ~Recipe courtesy of Noel Stacey, Leakey (full recipe on


appy holidays, TWA friends! This is such a wonderful time of year. I love the festive spirit that fills the air and always look forward to the decorations, lights, parties, gift-giving and family time this season entails. One of the highlights of this time of year is of course all of the delicious food. In my house, the holidays aren’t complete without a little wild game flavor, so I wanted to share easy, delicious and crowd-pleasing dishes to prepare this holiday season. Cooking wild game for your holiday feasts can be a great chance to introduce friends and family to hunting’s delicious outcomes. CHRISTMAS EVE DINNER Texas-Style Charcuterie Appetizer Venison jalapeno summer sausage, wild boar grilled sausage, cheddar cheese sprinkled with chili powder, Monterey jack cheese, pickled okra and jalapenos, chili lime pecans and New Braunfels Smokehouse Sweet and Spicy Mustard. ~Submitted by Ashley Amini, TWA Member, Austin Lemon Rosemary Wild Turkey Breast In a small bowl stir together 2 cups flour, ½ tsp. oregano, ½ tsp. parsley, ½ tsp. salt, ¼ tsp. pepper and ¼ tsp. paprika. Tenderize the meat and dredge it in the flour mixture. Melt ¼ cups butter with 2 Tbsp. olive oil over medium heat. Coarsely chop the leaves of four or five rosemary sprigs, and slice a lemon in half. Fry the turkey breast in the skillet, and while they are frying squeeze the




KIDS TABLE GONE WILD Venison Mac ‘n Cheese Brown ¼ lb. ground venison in a pan with bacon grease, salt and pepper. Add to your favorite mac ‘n cheese. After tastetesting this, you may wish you sat at the kids’ table. POTLUCK HOLIDAY PARTY Grilled Bacon-Wrapped Doves Wrap each dove breast with ½ slice of bacon. Grill for 1520 minutes at 400°F. This will be the first dish to disappear, I guarantee it! My Favorite Firecracker Recipe Mix 1.5 cups canola oil, 2 tsp. garlic powder, 2 tsp. onion powder, 1.5 Tbsp. crushed red pepper flakes and 1.5 packets ranch dressing mix in a small bowl. Divide one box saltines into two large Ziploc bags. Pour seasoning mixture over crackers and toss in bags until evenly coated. Venison jerky and spicy firecrackers make unique and inexpensive gifts for your long list of coworkers, friends and acquaintances. Put them in Christmas-themed bags and keep in your car or purse in case you run into someone deserving. (This goes well with the gift of a TWA membership!) Happy holidays to all of my TWA friends. Wishing you the very best of the holiday season! More detailed recipes from this article can be found on Whitney’s blog,, where she also shares gear and guidance for hiking, camping, hunting and shotgun sports. Follow her outdoor adventures on social media @whitswilderness.

It’s your dream. Let’s make it a reality. At Capital Farm Credit, we understand that a piece of land is more than a place to go hunting; it’s an escape where you create memories with family and friends. That’s why we’re with you every step of the way throughout the entire lending process. We’re a cooperative, and that means your goals are our goals. And our patronage dividend program means we share our profits and put money back in your pocket. Because we’re all in this together. And together we’re better.

Together we’re better. Partnership that really pays. | 877.944.5500 NMLS493828

Texas Wildlife December 2017 - Texas Mule Deer