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The South Texas

Turkey Standard

MARCH 2019

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ot long ago I heard a wise man compare weather vanes to clocks as an analogy for personal conviction. The weather vane swings with the wind, responding to external forces. The clock ticks away, driven entirely by its own internal mechanics. His point was that we should strive to be driven by our own principles and not bend with whichever way everyone else seems to be going. The comparison struck me, and I reflexively laid it over the business of wildlife and natural resource conservation. Our trade is a complex one. We must all have our internal convictions, informed by experience, values and goals. There is great merit in being a “clock” that stays on task and perseveres despite public opinion, quick fix junk science, short cuts or political expediency. However, wildlife stewardship and membership association service demand we have a little “weather vane” in us as well. Nothing is ever easy, as the old saying goes. The wildlife steward must respond to the winds, both literal and figurative, when dealing with conservation goals. In the face of droughts, floods, economics, regulations, neighbors, partners and other external pressures, we are often forced into judgment calls, making the best of imperfect circumstances outside of our own control. So too must TWA’s volunteer leadership and staff respond to the voices of our members, partners, regulators, elected officials and others. Our job is serving our mission and our members, which oftentimes requires both “clock” and “weather vane.” No place is that more evident than in the realm of public policy work. TWA’s mission is the shoreline, brought into sharper focus by decisions carefully made by our governance committees on specific issues such as wildlife disease management or eminent domain reform. Pursuing those goals with conviction is critical to achieving success and maintaining credibility through the process. But conviction can slip into dogma so easily that we may not even notice it in ourselves. Understanding the myriad external pressures of public policy work and how to best shepherd TWA’s convictions through them is the alchemy of effective public policy work. When it comes to religious faith and matters of the soul, it is best to be a clock. But when it comes to just about everything else in life, it might make sense to glance at the weather vane now and then. Your TWA’s volunteer leadership and staff take our duties with extraordinary seriousness. We are here to serve our mission—and you, our members—to the very best of our abilities. Rest assured that we carry that ethos into the field, classroom, office and Capitol every single day. Best,

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 Quita Hill, Director of Finance and Operations Shannon Hasan, Office Administrator

Outreach & Member Services David Brimager, CWB®, Director of Public Relations Kristin Parma, Membership Coordinator Mimi Sams, Engagement Coordinator

Conservation Legacy and Hunting Heritage Programs Kassi Scheffer, Director of Education – L.A.N.D.S. Outreach Program Elanor Dean, Education Program Specialist Gwen Eishen, L.A.N.D.S. Educator Adrienne Paquette, 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 Brian Robert, Education Program Specialist Iliana Peña, Director of Conservation Programs Laura Calhoun, Women of the Land Program Coordinator 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 2019 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.

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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 The South Texas Turkey Standard




30 Guns & Shooting


Bagging Springtime Toms Requires Shooting Skill plus Lady Luck by RALPH WININGHAM

16 Hunting Heritage TYHP Huntmasters

32 Pond Management


The Weeds Are Coming!

18 Lessons From Leopold


The Heart of Conservation

36 Borderland News


Carrion and Scavenger Dynamics in the Davis Mountains



2018 Texas Outdoorsman of the Year by CAROLINE MCALLISTER

22 Conservation Legacy

40 Five Rs of Habitat Management

24 Member Profile

46 NAVHDA Field Tests


Women of the Land


David K. Langford


54 Back at the Ranch

Picture Perfect Wildflowers by WHITNEY KLENZENDORF Photo by Nate Skinner

Magazine Staff


David Yeates, Executive Editor Kim Rothe, Consulting Publications Coordinator/Editor David Brimager, CWB®, Advertising Director

Publication Printers Corp., Printing, Denver, CO

On the Cover Springtime in South Texas and wild turkeys go hand in hand. These creatures put on their Sunday best during this special time of year that falls within their peak breeding season. Their actions and gorgeous arrays of feathers are a sight that hunters, outdoor enthusiasts and all Texans can’t help but appreciate. Read more about efforts to maintain good turkey habitat in Nate Skinner’s article, The South Texas Turkey Standard, starting on page 8.


Lorie A. Woodward, Special Projects Editor

MARCH 2019

The South Texas

Turkey Standard

Photo by Butch Ramirez





FOR INFORMATION ON HUNTING SEASONS, call the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department at (800) 792-1112, consult the 2018-2019 Texas Parks and Wildlife Outdoor Annual, or visit the TPWD website at






AUGUST 23-25

Texas Brigades 2019 Fundraiser at the Witte Museum; event information at https:// .


Texas Brigades Application Deadline. See Texas Brigades application and camp dates in the brown box on this page, and apply online at


Quail Appreciation Day, Long Acres Ranch Education Center, Richmond. For more information or to register, visit, and click on Program Areas to navigate to adult education events.


Texas Soil Health Short Course, Victoria. For more information, visit

TBGA Sportsman’s Celebration, Regions 5-7. Pitser Garrison Civic Center, Lufkin. For more information, contact David Brimager at or (800) 839-9453.


TBGA Sportsman’s Celebration, Regions 4 & 8. Village Venue at Freiheit, New Braunfels. For more information, contact David Brimager at or (800) 839-9453.


TWA’s 6th Annual Private Lands Summit, J.W. Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort and Spa. For more information, contact Iliana Pena at (210) 826-2904 or ipena@

JULY 11-14


WildLife 2019, J.W. Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort and Spa. For more information contact David Brimager at (800) 839-9453 or

MAY 4-6


Women of the Land—South Texas Workshop, Welder Wildlife Refuge, Sinton. For more information, visit www.texas-wildlife. org/programareas/women-of-the-land.

MAY 18

TBGA Sportsman’s Celebration, Regions 1-3. Cabela’s, Fort Worth. For more information, contact David Brimager at or (800) 839-9453.


Statewide Texas Big Game Awards Banquet, during TWA’s Annual Convention, WildLife 2019, J.W. Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort and Spa. For more information, contact David Brimager at (800) 839-9453 or dbrimager@


Texas Brigades Experience, during WildLife 2019; ages 9-17 are welcome to explore the outdoors with us.

MARCH 2019

Women of the Land—Trans-Pecos Workshop, Caldwell Ranch, Fort Davis. For more information, visit www.texas-wildlife. org/programareas/women-of-the-land.

2019 TEXAS BRIGADES Summer Camps Applications & Dates (Application deadline is March 15, 2019. Apply online at applications/)

Rolling Plains Bobwhite Brigade June 7-11 South Texas Buckskin Brigade June 16-20 South Texas Bobwhite Brigade June 22-26 North Texas Buckskin Brigade July 7-11 Coastal Brigade July 16-20 Bass Brigade July 17-21 Ranch Brigade July 22-26

Forage for cattle. Habitat for the hunt. Get mesquite control that does both. You know clearing mesquite creates a healthier habitat for livestock. Now you can do the same for deer and quail. With Sendero® herbicide, you get the best chemical control of mesquite available,1 with the selectivity to help preserve browse and cover plants essential to wildlife. So you can get more from your land in every season. Visit to learn more about Sendero. The new standard in mesquite control.™

Cummings, D. C., V. B. Langston, and P. L. Burch. 2012. GF-2791 [Sendero], a new herbicide containing aminopyralid and clopyralid, for honey mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa) control in southwestern rangelands. Technical Presentation, 65th Annual Meeting and Trade Show of the Society for Range Management, Spokane, Wash.


™Trademarks of Dow AgroSciences, DuPont or Pioneer, and their affiliated companies or their respective owners. Sendero is not registered for sale or use in all states. Contact your state pesticide regulatory agency to determine if a product is registered for sale or use in your state. Always read and follow label directions. ©2018 Dow AgroSciences LLC R38-890-009 (12/18) BR DAVM8VEGM057




MARCH 2019



he drumming sound of a strutting tom pierced the silence of the calm, serene morning. It caught me completely off guard. Immediately my heart began pounding, with nearly the same deep, cadence as the turkey’s cadence. The beating noises seemed to shake the ground under the tree I was tucked under. He was approaching from behind me, and although I couldn’t see him, I knew the turkey was pretty close. Gripping my shotgun, I anticipated his arrival into my line of sight. Seconds later, the tom came strutting in from the left, putting on a glorious display for what he thought would soon be his mate. Unbeknownst to him, the hen was a fake; and, as the show progressed, my appreciation for lifelike decoys continued to increase.

As he closed the distance to his lady, he realized a challenger stood between him and his prize. Sizing up the jake decoy that was positioned just past the hen, the tom’s neck and head turned blood red. Instantly, the strutter jumped on top of the jake and commenced to giving the look-alike a good beating. He spurred it and slapped it with his wings until he was sure he’d won the fight. The jake decoy now laid on its side, and the tom returned to strutting and drumming for the hen. As the scene continued to unfold, I realized I could’ve harvested the long beard several minutes ago. The show, however, was much more exciting. Springtime in South Texas and wild turkeys go hand in hand. These creatures put on their Sunday best during this special WWW.TEXAS-WILDLIFE.ORG



time of year that falls within their peak breeding season. Their actions and gorgeous arrays of feathers sights that hunters, outdoor enthusiasts and all Texans appreciate. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s (TPWD) Small Game Harvest Survey suggests there are approximately 15,000 turkey hunters in South Texas, and they harvest around 10,000 birds annually across the fall and spring seasons. According to the TPWD Turkey Program Leader Jason Hardin, recent wild turkey banding efforts in the region show that these harvest rates are extremely low in comparison to the rest of the country. WILD TURKEY MANAGEMENT Hardin said the key to wild turkey management, or survival and recruitment of new birds, is timely rainfall and average to below average summer temperatures. These factors are obviously out of landowners’ hands. Landowners are responsible for managing grazing pressure and making sure brush management practices are meeting the wild turkeys’ needs. According to Gene T. Miller, a wildlife biologist for the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF), this is especially important for nesting cover. “Planned or rotational grazing practices are a necessity,” he said. “Otherwise, herds of livestock may completely wipe out the precious nesting cover in an area needed by turkeys to hide and protect their clutch.”

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Surface water is another key component in wild turkey management. Miller said surface water availability is important for turkey hydration and vital for producing greenery and insects that make up a turkey’s diet. Hardin said the primary goal of land managers should be protecting existing roosting habitat, since that is the most limiting factor for wild turkey distribution in South Texas. “The tallest available trees make prime roosting sites for turkeys,” he explained. “In the South Texas region, these are typically hackberry trees and live oaks which are usually located along rivers, creeks and other drainages, as well as in the oak motte country of the Coastal Sand Plains.” If landowners have noticed a loss of historic roosting habitat, Hardin suggested they consider replacing known roost sites with artificial roosting cover. “This is a temporary fix, and should coincide with the management of future native roosting cover,” he said. “Property managers should be continually planting native roost trees and protecting the natural regeneration of those species.” Hardin warned that camps, lodges and houses should not be built under or adjacent to existing roosting cover. In addition to preserving roost habitat, landowners must ensure that there is adequate herbaceous cover that can hide young poults while still allowing them to move around easily.





“Open, bare ground under an umbrella of herbaceous cover is the silver bullet scenario,” Hardin said. “This cover should be tall enough to hide poults, but short enough for adult turkeys to see over.” It is also important that this type of cover surrounds roosting sites. Brush-choked roost habitat will quickly lose its appeal to turkeys. The birds must be able to see their surroundings in order to stay away from predators, and they must have some open areas to take off from and land on when flying to and from their roosts. Planned disturbances and brush management practices will prevent brush encroachment around roosting sites. THE CURRENT STATE OF WILD TURKEYS IN SOUTH TEXAS Hardin estimated there are approximately 150,000 wild turkeys in South Texas this year. “Early rains provided some nesting cover and early breeding during the spring of 2018,” he explained. “However, those conditions soon turned to drought, which stopped South Texas

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short of an average production year. Rain returned to South Texas in the fall of 2018 and conditions improved significantly, but it was too late for additional nesting and recruitment.” Despite this scenario, Hardin said that autumn precipitation enabled wild turkeys to put on some much-needed fat that helped carry them through the winter, setting the stage for the upcoming spring and summer nesting season. “Some timely rainfall this spring will promote recruitment and give wild turkeys in south Texas a chance to grow their populations,” he said. WILD TURKEY RESTORATION IN SOUTH TEXAS Over the past decade, there have been some tremendous efforts to enhance and restore South Texas wild turkey populations. Much of this work has e been headed up the Las Huellas Association. The Las Huellas Association advocates for the benefit of South Texas wildlife and for the rights of South Texas wildlife managers, landowners and sportsmen in educational and wildlife habitat-related arenas. The organization is dedicated to educating people of all ages, especially South Texas youths, about the conservation, management and enhancement of wildlife and wildlife habitat to ensure the preservation of cherished resources for future generations. Las Huellas President Rob Cackley said the organization restocks turkeys in portions of Cameron County every year. “These efforts begin in January each year, when we trap birds in areas of South Central Texas,” he explained. “We are typically able to trap about 50 birds to transplant in the Rio Grande Valley along ranches in Cameron County.” Cackley said that Las Huellas has teamed up with wildlife biologists at the Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute (CKWRI), Texas A&M University-Kingsville to develop guidelines for potential ranches to restock with turkeys. “The folks at CKWRI help us examine a given ranch for certain aspects of wild turkey habitat to determine if restocking turkeys in the area will be successful,” Cackley said. “Once a property is chosen and used for restocking, biologists from CKWRI are available to revisit the ranch and provide the landowner with insight on how to continue to improve the success of wild turkey restoration across the terrain.” According to Cackley, Las Huellas has experienced several successes with the ranches they have worked with over the past 10 years. “One ranch in particular received birds from our restocking efforts about five years ago,” Cackley said. “Since then, we’ve heard nothing but positive reports from the landowner. Each year he informs us that the turkey population on his property continues to increase. He also claims that landowners from the surrounding properties are reporting seeing plenty of turkey activity in places that just a few years prior, were completely void of wild turkeys.” Cackley said that there are numerous success stories from landowners that they work with just like the one he mentioned above.

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“We are constantly receiving photos of both mature birds and poults running around on properties that we have stocked turkeys on,” he added. “This type of feedback ensures that we are helping restore populations of wild turkey in South Texas back to their historical numbers. We are continually trying to become more efficient and successful with our efforts each year, and we’ve got more work to do!” To get involved with Las Huellas, access the “Contact Us” tab on their website at In addition to partnering with Las Huellas, wildlife biologists, professors and grad students at CKWRI have conducted some other turkey restoration projects in South Texas. The majority of these have focused establishing artificial roost sites to help combat the loss of roosting habitat in the region. CKWRI Executive Director David Hewitt, a TWA member, said that his colleagues have helped develop some remarkable practices for sustaining wild turkey populations in areas with significant roosting habitat loss.

“The artificial roosting sites that our teams consisting of biologists, professors and graduate students have helped create have been extremely successful,” he said. “The artificial roosts look similar to a telephone pole with artificial branches extending from their sides. We receive countless reports from landowners with artificial roost sites on their properties, informing us that the birds are regularly roosting on the structures.” Wild turkeys face plenty of challenges in South Texas. From inconsistent weather patterns to habitat destruction and loss, population increases will not occur without the species clearing several hurdles along the way. The right land and habitat management practices combined with population restoration efforts give turkeys a fighting chance. A collective, Texas-sized movement from landowners, hunters and all those that appreciate the outdoors to continually protect and preserve wild turkey habitat will ensure that strutting long beards will put on their springtime show for years to come.



TYHP Huntmasters Paying It Forward


TYHP Huntmasters “pay it forward” by helping parents and youths create great memories.


untmasters are special folks. In fact, one of the best parts of my job on the staff of the Texas Youth Hunting Program is training and working with Huntmasters— they are some of the finest people I know. Huntmasters are not only willing to help with youth hunts, they choose to lead hunts, which is a much higher commitment. They are responsible for overseeing every aspect of planning and conducting hunts, ensuring all have a safe and educational experience while coping with all sorts of weather in often remote places. Who is willing to take on such a challenge? Why do they do it? Most hunters have been introduced to the sport by family members or friends. Research has shown that hunter motivation typically evolves over time, reaching a point where they become interested in sharing with or mentoring others. TYHP Huntmasters truly take this to the next level—they “pay it forward.” Paying it forward means rewarding kindness you have received by extending it to other people. I reached out to several long-time, passionate Huntmasters and asked them, “Why do you devote your time, energy and

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resources to serving as a Huntmaster, and how has serving as a Huntmaster impacted you?” Responses included very detailed answers that were insightful and eloquent, and several Huntmasters also included post-hunt email comments from parents and even school essays written by youth hunters. Here are a few excerpts: Austin Stolte on a West Texas adventure: “After playing cat and mouse with a giant mule deer buck, we were finally able to connect with a 300-yard, perfect lung shot. We spent over two hours putting on a stalk through rugged terrain and just at last light were able to set up for the shot before the buck slipped over the top of the mountain. Our hearts were racing and legs burning from a combination of hurrying up the mountain as well as the increasing flood of ‘buck fever.’ Once we approached the downed buck, there were tears of joy from all of us. We were almost a mile from the nearest road, so we quartered the young hunter’s buck and packed it out on our backs…in the dark. That night, we enjoyed some thinly sliced backstrap, fried on the skillet. That is why I volunteer my time for TYHP.” David Baxter provided an essay describing the anticipation of a hunt written by a former student who has helped him with hunts and become a Huntmaster: “On the road to Stonewall, I begin to get more and more excited about this weekend, and I’m not even hunting. Then I realize that the thing that’s got me excited is that I’m going to get the chance to be with a young kid when they get their first deer, and I’m as excited about this as I am when I’m going to get a chance to shoot a deer myself. I can’t wait to get to Stonewall…I can’t wait for this hunt to begin…I can’t wait for Saturday morning…and I’m not even hunting.” The same writer recounting evening action: “…my hunter is ready; and we see some deer. I call the shot, and my hunter takes the shot… and as he realizes that he has his first harvest, I realize that I have never been so excited about hunting as I am right now…That feeling, right there, makes me want to do all I can do to help out with TYHP…and I’m not even hunting.” Shirley and Harry Odell have served as Huntmasters since 2003. Shirley noted their involvement with their own children’s activities, helping them earn all possible awards in scouting and 4-H, and she said: “…none of that compares to our involvement in TYHP, and we do it for other folks’ kids! Our gratification in the program is seeing the thrill and smiles


from the kids that harvest their first animal on our hunts. We know they will not forget that day for the rest of their lives, and we have the gratification of knowing that maybe we will be part of that memory also.” The Odells work tirelessly to recruit local youth, certify them in Hunter Education, teach them to shoot and often loan them gear to prepare them to hunt—definitely going the extra mile to provide opportunity. “We do this because we believe in the program and the need to get kids into the outdoors and away from cell phones and games,” they said. “They make memories with their dad or mom that last long after the venison is gone…and that’s something nobody can take away from them!” Linda Campbell wrote of the benefits of time outdoors: “I do this because I enjoy seeing families spend quality time in the outdoors together. I believe strongly that these outdoor experiences instill a life-long appreciation of nature and a conservation ethic in our youth participants. And, it strengthens parental and family bonds. TYHP teaches values…including personal responsibility, respect for and enjoyment of the natural world, patience, discipline and understanding/empathy for others. I also like to watch kids (and sometimes their parents) challenge themselves with new experiences and knowledge. We provide more than nutritious protein for the family. We provide positive personal growth opportunities for kids and families. And that is what keeps me motivated.” Rick Laden forwarded several comments from parents, including this powerful note: “I’m not sure if words can express the gratitude we feel for this wonderful weekend we were able to spend with y’all. I don’t think we’ve had the opportunity to realize the imprint that the interactions with everyone has had on our lives yet. I look forward to looking back to see how my son and I have grown through the experiences that we shared this weekend, and the experiences that we had with each of you. He doesn’t realize it yet, but this was not about killing a deer. This was about advancing his

Above is the 2019 TYHP Huntmaster Training Schedule. You will find this course valuable and rewarding no matter what volunteer position you choose…guide, cook or hunt leader.

respect for the land, the animals and the people. It’s about learning patience and self-control. It’s about helping others and getting help from others when in need. It’s about learning to be comfortable in an uncomfortable environment... It’s about sharing with others. Each and every person we met this weekend has left us with something that has made us better people. For that, I don’t think we can thank y’all enough.” Laden said, “We pay it forward for these kinds of responses from hunters we take out…Most of my helpers and I grew up hunting and loving being in the great outdoors. So many of the kids of today have not, and are so focused on the electronics that surround them, they miss the world as we know it, outdoors. I am amazed often when around the fire on a clear sky night, they are in awe of the amount of stars in the sky. To think that we might make a small difference in some of their lives is why we pay it forward.” Don Coxsey let parental comments speak for themselves. From a single mom: “I am so truly thankful this program exists, otherwise my son never would have been able to experience hunting in such a positive way. Now it is all he talks about.” From a grateful father: “I can’t thank you enough for the investment made in my daughter and my relationship with her.”

Andy Sobotka spoke of sharing love of hunting with kids and parents: “Sometimes…you just have to… experience the immense spiritual rewards that words cannot fully explain.” Space constraints limit the comments we can share, but you get the idea—time shared outdoors by parents and youth is impactful on a multitude of levels, and TYHP Huntmasters work extremely hard to facilitate such opportunities. Although their motivations are selfless, their personal rewards are priceless. When I conclude a Huntmaster training class, my parting words to the group go something like this: “When you run a hunt as a Huntmaster, you will spend a lot of time preparing and planning. You’ll be the first to arrive and the last to leave. First to wake up and last to bed. You’ll coordinate endless details and change plans constantly on the fly. When the hunt is over and you close that ranch gate, you’ll be exhausted, frazzled, worn out, in need of a shower, and will question many of your life choices. Then you’ll think about all that happened in the past couple days, and a huge smile will appear. And you’ll say to yourself, ‘I can’t wait to do this again!’” If you wish to “pay it forward” as a Huntmaster, please consider attending one of our training classes in 2019. It just may change your life while you help others change theirs.




Photo Courtesy of the Aldo Leopold Foundation,

The Heart of Conservation

The first thing to grasp is that government, no matter how good, can only do certain things. Government cannot bring to bear … that combination of solicitude, foresight, and skill which we call husbandry. Husbandry watches no clock, knows no season of cessation, and for the most part is paid for in love, not dollars. Husbandry of somebody else's land is a contradiction in terms. Husbandry is the heart of conservation. ~ Aldo Leopold


n this 1942 article published in Audubon Magazine, Leopold reminded his readers that governmental conservation programs can be useful, but they can never compare with private conservation carried out by the hands of private landowners. During the New Deal era of big government, it was common for agencies and bureaus to take over some of the jobs that private enterprise and private landowners could be doing on their own. In the 75 plus years since Leopold penned these words, some things have not changed. Government agencies still have programs to assist, entice or subsidize conservation activities. But these government programs too often fall short because they do not touch upon the long term sense of private husbandry that must accompany responsible and successful land management. Leopold uses the word “husbandry” to describe the quality by which private landowners voluntarily take long term care of their land. Although we do not use the term as much these days, husbandry is the same idea that we now call sustainable stewardship. It is the inner conviction that inspires and motivates landowners to be trustworthy caretakers of the lands entrusted to them. Conservation does not occur just because landowners have enrolled in a conservation program which compensates then for doing some conservation practice. The landowners are naturally glad to have financial help to clear brush, plant grass or install water. Likewise, they are grateful to receive incentives to better manage their deer herd or livestock grazing, but without the underlying ethic of husbandry, the benefits are likely to be superficial or short lived. Unless there exists the deep internal sense of husbandry on the part of the individual landowner, government programs will never achieve the lasting benefits for which they were established. As a 35 year employee of a federal conservation agency, I observed the plain truth of Leopold’s statements. Government

agencies can do some beneficial things, but never at the same level or with the same effectiveness as can be accomplished by the conscientious landowner. There can never be the same degree of attentiveness, insight or enthusiasm from the conservation agency as there is from the landowner Part of the reason for this is explained by Leopold: “Husbandry of somebody else's land is a contradiction in terms.” There are many well-trained, dedicated employees of government conservation and wildlife agencies. Most of them do the best they can within their agency’s parameters, but rarely do you find a government employee with the inner drive, work ethic or love of the land that is exhibited by the conservationminded landowner. There is something much different being a professional agency conservationist or wildlife biologist than being the actual landowner. The agent can observe, suggest and provide guidance and expertise. The agency can provide cost-share, grants or other managerial incentives, but without the daily involvement, interaction and investment with the land, the most essential element is missing. Leopold added, “When we lay conservation in the lap of the government, it will always do the things it can, even though they are not the things that most need doing.” This is not so much a criticism of government, but simply expresses the obvious truth that government is unable to do the most important thing—husbandry. In Texas, we are fortunate that private landowner stewardship ethics are healthy and growing. In 42 years of working with private landowners, I have seen a deepening of the husbandry which drives true conservation. Government programs and priorities ebb and flow, their funding is erratic and the bureaucratic rules can be exasperating, yet they can serve a beneficial purpose when combined with the husbandry ideals of private landowners.

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

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(L-R) Tio Kleberg, Helen K. Groves and Dr. Fred Bryant.

2018 Texas Outdoorsman of the Year Helen Kleberg Groves



ast fall, Helen Kleberg Groves was honored as the 2018 Texas Outdoorsman of the Year. Friends and family gathered at The Argyle Club in San Antonio to commemorate Groves’ induction into the distinguished group known as Outdoorsmen. A most deserving recipient, Groves has spent her life connected to the land and instilling an appreciation of the outdoors among others. Groves is the only child of Robert J. and Helen C. Kleberg and was raised on King Ranch in Kingsville, Texas. Throughout her life, she has been awarded countless honors and has served on the board of various family foundations and

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has been the director and president of numerous horse and cattle associations, including Lifetime Vice President of the Texas and Southwest Cattle Raisers Association. She is the recipient of the prestigious Order of Australia, bestowed by the Governor General on behalf of the Queen, as well as many distinctive honors from museums, boards and foundations. Groves is a successful rancher, raising Santa Gertrudis and crossbred cattle, and she continues to breed and race Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses, primarily of King Ranch AQHA registered strains.


TWAF Leadership (l-r) Greg Simons, Alan Curry and Charles Davidson.

(L-R) John Alexander, Stephanie and Presnall Cage.

Past Texas Outdoorsmen of the Year.

(L-R) Caroline McAllister, Sheila Barrett and Paula Stumberg.

HISTORY OF THE OUTDOORSMAN In 1959, the Anglers Club of San Antonio began a tradition of honoring individuals who demonstrate superior outdoorsman skills and exhibit an equal dedication to giving back to conservation and/or hunting heritage in Texas. In 2006, the former Outdoorsmen decided to rename the honor as Texas Outdoorsman of the Year expanding the program to include outstanding sportsmen from across the entire state. When making the award, the selection committee places 50 percent on the candidate’s outdoors skills and 50 percent on the candidate’s contributions to conservation and/or hunting heritage in Texas. In conjunction with the name change and the expansion, the role of the host and benefactor was undertaken by TWAF, which supports TWA’s education programs.



Texas Wildlife Association hosts women-led workshops that combine information on land management with skill-based outdoor recreation in venues that encourage women to become active land managers, develop and hone their management skills and network with women of similar interests.

WOMEN OF THE LAND is an inclusive, yet unique, fellowship of ambassadors across the state of Texas. Whether a cattle farmer, wildlife photographer, hunting outfitter, wildlife or ag valuation property owner, hiker, birder, vegan, hunter, student or just a woman like me with a bunch of ducks trying to make dreams come true there is a commonality and binding relationship between us and the land. We continue to educate ourselves, each other and those around us by sharing our stories and being positive Texas land stewards throughout our journeys. WOMEN OF THE LAND gave me so much more than I expected sharing information with others and learning from some of the top Texas natural resources instructors. Women who are involved in positive land stewardship are vital to Texas conservation and the passing on of our valued ranching and hunting heritage.


FROM THE GROUND UP—These workshops will focus on the study of healthy habitat fundamentals that work to support healthy wildlife populations, agricultural practices and water. TOOLS OF CONSERVATION—These workshops will be based on one of the five management tools (axe, cow, plow, fire and gun) and will provide greater hands-on opportunities such as operating ranch equipment, wildlife harvest management, building ranch improvements such as rainwater harvester systems, rotational grazing systems and more.

For dates, locations and registration information, log on to

RENEW TODAY to receive your NEW

Membership Decal! 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)



Photo courtesy of David K. Langford Back row, from left, son Keith Langford, his wife Courtney, granddaughter Lilly Russell, daughter Robin Russell, her husband Kevin, grandson Guthrie Russell. Front row, from the left, grandson Huck Langford, grandson Harlan Russell, Myrna, and David K. Langford.

DAVID K. LANGFORD Called to This Work



avid K. Langford couldn’t say no to Texas’ wild things, wild places nor the people who take care of them. “The bottom line is that I had to do what I couldn’t not do,” said Langford, who, with his wife Myrna, manages their portion of his family’s seven generation ranch near Comfort. “I was called to do this work.” Although he was reared in San Antonio, he spent weekends and every summer working on Hillingdon Ranch with his grandparents and extended family. He, alongside family and neighbors, would doctor livestock infested with screwworms, fix fences, cut hay with a horse-drawn cutter, shear sheep and goats, and do everything else that comes with ranch life.

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“I grew up surrounded by land stewards—my immediate family, my extended family and all their friends and their families,” Langford said. “Their passion for the land sparked a lifelong fire in me.” His affiliation with TWA began as one of the earliest members in 1985. “I was one of a few dozen early joiners,” said Langford, an award-winning wildlife, nature and western life photographer. “I served on the original board and executive committee along with the founders Larry Weishuhn, Murphy Ray and Gary Machen and future presidents MacLean Bowman, Richard Butler and Steve Lewis as well as others.”


IN THE BEGINNING For those like Langford, who have been part of the organization since its inception, the new building marks how far the organization has come. For the first two years, TWA was housed in McLean Bowman’s garage. When Langford took the reins, he and Charly McTee, who at Langford’s insistence was hired to serve as General Manager, moved to the association’s office at the Catholic Life Building in San Antonio. The men divided the responsibilities. McTee kept the administrative fires burning, while Langford burned up the road. “When we hired Sharron Jay as the office manager a little later, I moved into a 10’ x 10’ storage room because I was always on the road—and we didn’t have the luxury of space,” Langford said. In the beginning, Langford traveled from San Antonio to Austin almost every day because the organization was neither recognized nor welcomed by most of the state’s power structure. Knowing his job was to sway opinions and influence policy, Langford enrolled in a seminar that taught the basics of lobbying. The audience included everyone from housewives and retirees to buttoned up attorneys. The overview touched on everything from how to navigate the elevators in the Capitol complex to the protocol of testimony, but an observation from the

instructor about worthy causes turned out to be the day’s most lasting takeaway. “He said, ‘A worthy cause is what everyone comes to Austin with, and their cause is more important to them than anything else,’” Langford said. “In that statement, our legislative reality became clear. As worthy as funding conservation is, other people are asking for money for education, sick children, homebound seniors or other equally compelling causes.” Langford left knowing he needed an elevator speech, a short, hard-hitting presentation that encapsulated the importance of TWA’s efforts delivered with enough punch to capture attention and prompt action. “Conservation doesn’t lend itself to oversimplification, so coming up with the right words wasn’t easy,” Langford said. THE ELEVATOR SPEECH AND ITS IMPACT The “eureka moment” occurred a couple of months later during the interim between sessions in fall of 1990. Andy Sansom, newly selected executive director of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, was testifying before the Senate Natural Resources Committee. He was one of many that day. Most speakers, many of whom were from “green groups,” characterized landowners in less than glowing terms because they were equating land stewards like TWA members with sprawl-spreading developers. The rancor fueled by misunderstanding directed at private landowners stymied Langford because the portrayal was just flat wrong. The Capitol’s environment was decidedly hostile. “Andy finally had his chance at the microphone and I heard him say, ‘There is a difference between landowners—those who give to the land and those who take from the land,’” Langford said. “I knew TWA was made up of givers—and thanks to Andy, I knew how to make our case.” Photo by David Smith

In 1990, the fledgling organization needed an executive director. At the time, Langford was the photographer of choice for premier ranches across the state, a career that gave him flexibility. Plus, Myrna was a respected government documents librarian at Trinity University, a job that provided necessary family benefits such as insurance, and both their children were away at college. “I agreed to do it for a couple of months until we found somebody else,” Langford said. “Let me be clear right here, I couldn’t have done it for any length of time without Myrna’s help and support. She was—and is—my partner in conservation and life.” The proffered couple of months turned into a 12-year stint as Executive Vice President. In 2002, Langford “sort of” retired, but was asked to continue to shepherd crucial water issues as Vice President Emeritus. In 2007, he retired from TWA completely to concentrate on photography and conservation publishing. He still holds the title Vice President Emeritus and provides input on issues when asked. “The call to serve TWA spoke to my heart,” Langford said. “I got to work on behalf of all of the land stewards who are quietly and selflessly conserving Texas to the benefit of everyone else. That was important to me.” TWA’s new headquarters building, slated for completion in late 2019 or early 2020, will bear his name. The David K. Langford Center is a lasting tribute to his service. “I cannot imagine the honor of having the TWA headquarters bearing my name,” Langford said. “It seems unbelievable to be recognized for doing what my heart wouldn’t let me not do.”

David K. Langford at TWA’s WildLife 2018 Awards Luncheon giving a brief history of TWA to the throngs in attendance.



Photo by Paul Morse


David K. Langford with President George W. Bush in the Oval Office.

The statement and recognition of how to use it turned out to be pivotal for TWA. “It embodied what became TWA’s mantra and philosophy,” Langford said. “It gave me an elevator speech that was unique to us—and differentiated the givers from the takers.” The philosophy inside TWA was evolving too. The organization, like so many, was founded on a single issue. In the mid-80s, white-tailed deer management was just becoming established. The initial group came together to defend newly emerging intensive techniques and tools to manage deer and game populations. “Originally, TWA existed to talk about big deer and high fences,” Langford said. “As discussions continued around campfires, we recognized our core message should be: wellmanaged habitat was not only good for deer, but for every other critter—and for Texas and Texans. As Dale Rollins says, ‘We broadened the choke pattern.’” Even with an expanding choke pattern, TWA’s only friends in Austin were those groups representing production agriculture. The overlap of wildlife habitat and working lands was still slightly foreign to them, so Langford and then-TWA President Steve Lewis started introducing the world of conservation from a hunting and wildlife perspective close to home. The members of Ag Council, including Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers and Texas Farm Bureau, soon came to understand the common ground. The working relationship 26 T E X A S W I L D L I F E

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that emerged from those weekly Wednesday “Beans and Cornbread” lunches was TWA’s foundational alliance—and it provided a blueprint for building other alliances that would prove crucial. As TWA was earning its seat at the Ag Council table, the organization began knocking on the door at the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. It took a lot of knocking before TWA was welcomed inside 4200 Smith School Road. “TWA certainly had friends within the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, but they were few in number—and nobody was rolling out a welcome mat,” Langford said. “Lee Bass was instrumental in changing that.” At the time, Bass was a junior member of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission. According to Langford, Bass served, learned and matured into an exceptional chairman who always personally carried the message of private land stewardship to people at the highest levels of state government. “Over time, people in government and people in nongovernment organizations, even ‘green-tinged’ ones, began to understand the difference between landowners who give and those who take,” Langford said. That understanding was a fundamental building block of TWA’s later success. In the early 1990s, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service attempted to designate a huge swath of Texas as critical habitat for golden-cheeked warblers and black-capped vireos. Private


designation. It was a shared victory with lasting implications. “Because we were willing to identify common ground, TWA helped build some bridges that others were able to walk over,” Langford said. THE BIG FIVE By establishing the difference in the public’s mind between landowners who give and landowners who take, TWA laid the groundwork for future conservation success. “If we hadn’t established that private land stewards were givers not takers, we would have never been able to accomplish anything else,” Langford said. “That fundamental shift in understanding allowed us to take some big steps forward on behalf of Texas landowners.” The passage of Proposition 11 in 1995, which created a special tax valuation for wildlife management, tops his list of significant contributions. When the idea surfaced, TWA’s friends gave it little chance of success. “From its inception, the purpose of Proposition 11 was always to rest lighter on the land,” Langford said. “No one ever contemplated people getting out of the ranching business, but we wanted to give people the opportunity to cut back on their stocking rates, which in a lot of counties were driven by the ‘intensity test’ of local tax districts, without being penalized.” By politely telling people to either get on board or stay out of the way, TWA built unlikely coalitions of agriculture and traditional environmental groups. They barnstormed Texas. “Texas voters passed the measure 62 percent to 38 percent,” Langford said. “With its passage, land stewards could manage to help wildlife and livestock and not be penalized by the tax code. It changed the landscape of Texas.” Limiting landowner liability is another major accomplishment because it opened gates across Texas. “Before there was a cap on landowner liability, landowners were afraid to open their land to people outside their families,” Langford said. “The risk was too great.”

Once there was a limit to the potential damages and insurance became readily available to provide additional security, landowners became more willing to share the results of their stewardship with the public. “Without landowner liability limits, there would be no Conservation Legacy or Texas Youth Hunting Program,” Langford said. “Yellow school buses would have never been allowed inside the gates.” TWA’s Conservation Legacy programs also earn a spot on Langford’s list of major milestones. Developing and offering conservation education programming to Texans of all ages was a goal from the beginning. During an interview with Tamara Trail, the person tasked with creating the Texas Wildlife Association Foundation and its attendant education programs in the early 1990s, Langford outlined his vision for conservation education.

Photo by Karl Wolfshohl

landowners and landowner groups as well as state leaders and state agencies faced off against the federal government and its large regulatory hammer. “In protest, I marched on the Capitol with Myrna and our daughter Robin— and thousands of other landowners from across the state,” Langford said. It was an intense period of time for Texans interested in conservation. According to Langford, Sansom made another statement that changed the dialogue permanently. “Andy said, ‘If we had all of the money in the state budget every year, we couldn’t buy enough habitat to save all of the birds and animals—and even if we could, those purchases would put the land in government hands and that’s not necessarily the best management,’” said Langford agreeing with the sentiment. Traditional environmental groups who were genuinely interested in the birds’ wellbeing instead of an agenda began seeing some Texas landowners as allies instead of enemies. “Mainstream environmentalists began to realize that if they wanted to save the vireos and the warblers in Texas, they were going to need the help of the people who owned and managed the habitat,” Langford said. Langford often used the example of his extended family to paint a picture of private land stewardship for urban audiences. Like so many families, his cared for the land and improved it with their own efforts and money, all while paying their taxes and contributing to their communities. “The green groups and urban legislators came to understand that voluntary private land stewardship could be a superior alternative to government ownership,” Langford said. “They learned that the ‘giving’ landowners weren’t looking for rewards for their efforts, but they did need the regulatory disincentives removed, so they could do what was best for the land in their care.” Eventually, the Texas conservation community including landowners, the agriculture industry and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, came to a workable solution that avoided the mass

David K. Langford with his Hillingdon Ranch project after retiring from TWA and returning to his photography career.



Photo by David Smith


(L-R), Myrna Langford, David K. Langford and Texas State Photographer Wyman P. Meinzer (David’s good friend of over 40 years) The photo was taken during TWA’s 2018 Convention at David and Myrna’s booth promoting his latest book, Seasons at Selah, another compilation of David’s marvelous outdoor photography—a passion that David continues to pursue.

“My vision and dream is that sometime in the future the foundation will have a 20-story office building with TWA officed in the basement,” Langford said. “Conservation education is where we will establish the need for conservation and from where all of the necessary changes will come.” He continued, “Most of the voting public doesn’t know the difference between a cottontail or a pintail or even which one is the duck. Elections will only have favorable results for TWA if the voters fully understand the natural world and land stewards’ role in it.” Since 2009, Conservation Legacy programs have reached more than 4 million Texans. “These are hard touches, not marketing numbers—butts in seats at seminars and boots on the ground at field days,” Langford said. The Texas Youth Hunting Program also rates mention on the top five list of accomplishments. “Because of liability issues, each child had to be accompanied by a parent or guardian,” Langford said. “We quickly learned that the adults didn’t know any more about nature than the kids. TYHP has succeeded as a hunting program, as a two-pronged education program and as a national model for getting people engaged in the outdoors.” Since its creation in 1996, TYHP has hosted 3,130 hunts for 17,400 youths and their accompanying adults. Rounding out the top five accomplishments is TWA’s stature at the Legislature and in other seats of power in Austin. “These days there is not a meeting in Austin about conservation where TWA isn’t included,” said Langford, noting

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that the first time TWA ever requested a meeting at TPWD the agency’s leadership hosted it in a broom closet. “We earned our spot at the table using what is best for Texas wildlife and Texas landowners as our litmus test—and by doing what we said we would do. We kept—and continue to keep—our word.” State leaders have come to trust TWA and as result TWA has been able to exert influence on issues where originally the organization had no standing. Water policy is a prime example. “Our stature with water issues was not contemplated,” Langford said. “In fact, originally staff was told to stay out of it.” Then, in 2002, a comprehensive water plan known as SB 2, rose to the top of the state’s agenda. Langford came out of retirement to ride point on the issue for TWA. The relationships built earlier made the hard work of common-sense conservation easier. “Sen. Ken Armbrister, then-chairman of the Senate Natural Resources Committee, used to yell across the Capitol as we passed in the halls, ‘Hey Langford, I gave your water speech last night,’” Langford recalled. Langford apologized for repeating himself to which the senator replied, “We like hearing from you. You come to the microphone, open a vein and bleed all over us. Your heart is behind your words.” TWA made sure that policy makers understood the relationship between the condition of the land and the quality and quantity of the water supply. But no significant language was included in SB 2. The team wasn’t deterred and continued to work for five years until SB 3 emerged in 2007. “Working together, we were able to codify in state policy the contribution that voluntary land stewardship makes to water quality and quantity,” Langford said. “Essentially, state policy says land stewardship benefits all water resources in Texas, and the Texas Code recognizes and fosters that beneficial relationship.” With the passage of SB 3, Langford completely retired, although to this day he remains “on call” to provide back stories, context, history and input when asked. THE MOST IMPORTANT THINGS While the 21st century brings its own set of challenges for landowners, they are standing on solid ground. “Today most of the people who understand the difference between the moon and stars also understand the difference between landowners who take from the land and landowners who give,” Langford said. “This essential knowledge didn’t exist in the public consciousness before the emergence of TWA— and now, with the impact of the TWA Foundation’s education efforts, more people understand that conservation in Texas cannot exist without private land stewardship.” He continued, “It is almost unfathomable how far TWA has come from where we started.” Passion and people brought TWA to this point. “Philosophically you have to believe in the mission and the message or you—and the organization—will not succeed,” Langford said.


During his tenure, Langford reminded every search committee of this before they began interviewing candidates for staff or volunteer leaders. “Obviously, people have to have the skills that meet the criteria for a job, but more importantly they must have a philosophical match or the organization will not move forward,” Langford said. “If people don’t have passion, they will drag the organization down instead of lifting it up.” Through the years, Langford was surrounded by staff members, volunteers and leaders who believed in TWA with a fervent passion. “I was the conductor,” Langford said. “I didn’t play the instruments. I pointed the baton.” He continued, “I had an incredible amount of the right kind of help from people who had the same heart as I did. When I asked for help, regardless of what needed to be done or who needed to

be reached, I was never turned down. Because people believed, they did things within their circles of influence that I would’ve never been able to do. “Together, we changed Texas for the better.” His pride in what TWA accomplished in the past is matched by his confidence in what the organization will achieve in the future. With each passing day, the mission becomes more critical. “TWA is ideally positioned to accomplish great things for conservation at a time when they are more crucial to the state than ever before,” Langford said. “I sleep well at night knowing that failure is no more an option for David Yeates and his talented team than it was for the generations of leaders who came before them. TWA’s future is in good hands.”

THE DEEP BENCH In 1985, TWA began with about two dozen founding members, one employee and a frayed shoestring budget. Today, the organization and its sister foundation employ 26 people delivering three main programs including Advocacy, Hunting Heritage and Conservation Legacy on behalf of almost 8,000 members. “From the beginning, we knew TWA was important, but I’m not sure any of us ever imagined what this organization would become,” Langford said. “I certainly didn’t do it alone. We grew one good idea and one good person at a time.” He credits part of TWA’s strong foundation to a deep bench of staff talent, who worked alongside him in the formative years. Charly McTee: “I wouldn’t have come to TWA without Charly. He was a respected outdoor writer who knew everyone in Texas. He managed the office so I could hit the road. As a communicator, he honed our messages—the ones that first caught people’s attention.” Sharron Jay: “Our original team wasn’t complete until we hired Sharron. We brought her on to answer phones, but she grew into our CFO. When we lost Charly to leukemia, Sharron took over everything that he was doing, including transitioning us to a full-color magazine, and kept a steady hand on the reins. I traveled widely knowing TWA was in good hands.” Jim Chesnut: “When TWA started, personal computers and cell phones were a new thing. Jim moved us from the technological stone age and got us up to speed on the information superhighway. He was also instrumental in our magazine publishing efforts. He handled design and advertising sales and also provided membership retention advice at a time when every dollar of membership dues was crucial.” David Brimager: “David, TWA’s longest serving employee, came to TWA as a hunter and wildlife biologist,

who easily took over the Texas Big Game Awards Program— and grew it into what it is today. Along the way, he grew into the trusted right hand of every TWA CEO, handling everything from advertising, convention planning and management and sponsor relations. It’s hard to quantify the contributions of someone who capably rides for the brand every single day.” Tamara Trail: “With the permission of Don Steinbach who was her supervisor at Texas A&M, we hired Tamara to blaze TWA’s most important trail—conservation education. It wasn’t a little job. We asked her to create programs, build alliances and develop the foundation to fund it all. She was a force to be reckoned with as was Jenny Sanders who lent her talents to this effort a bit later.” Jerry Warden: “Jerry took Wallace Klussmann’s idea of a youth hunting program and created something that transcended Texas. Our program of education-focused, safe, responsible mentored hunting was so good that it not only opened gates across Texas, but serves a national model for getting youth into the outdoors.” Lorie Woodward: “You [Lorie] are my writing and testifying partner. Much of my success in Austin and on the back sendero can be attributed to your ability to write what I mean and help me distill my thoughts into their essence. With you and Myrna helping, I couldn’t fail.” Too Many To Name: “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I did nothing alone and would’ve been hamstrung without the committed leadership of every officer and every director who operated within their circles of influence. Volunteers from every walk of life who brought their own expansive networks and limitless passion fueled our success. And, of course, there was every staff member who added their own skills to our powerful mix. It’s been said, ‘You are who you ride with.’ And I’ve ridden with the best.”





Bagging Springtime Toms Requires Shooting Skill plus Lady Luck Article and photos by RALPH WININGHAM

Testing out a hunter's turkey shotgun and ammunition on paper targets at the range while in a shooting position similar to a concealed spot or blind waiting for a turkey to come into range is good practice for determining the best hunting tools and how to handle recoil.


he young jake’s first mistake was running straight toward a well-camouflaged spring turkey hunter as unhesitatingly as a chicken after a June bug. His second—and final mistake—was stopping in an open area just 30 yards from the muzzle of the hunter’s shotgun and picking up its head to take a look-see. Although the hunter took advantage of those two mistakes to bag a bird, he must have had Lady Luck sitting on his shoulder to overcome his own error on that hunt. After the fatal shot, the hunter discovered the 20-gauge pump shotgun he had borrowed from a hunting buddy

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was fitted with a skeet choke and the 2 3/4-inch shells loaded in the magazine were No. 7 lead loads. If Lady Luck had not intervened, the hunter, using a choke and shells more appropriate for doves coming into a tank instead of a big tom turkey, would have faced the prospect of a meal of canned tuna that evening rather than deep-fried turkey breast strips. Although a little luck is always a welcome, successful turkey hunters should not count on a visit from Lady Luck; instead, they should spend a little quality time researching and practicing with their favorite shooting tool.

MARCH 2019

Picking the right ammunition for the shooter’s particular shotgun should be a major part of this research and practice. Since most hunters will only fire one or two shots during the spring season, it is particularly important that the shooter know exactly how accurately and how effectively the shot of a specific shell will perform. Doing their part to assist in this effort, ammunition manufacturers conduct extensive testing to provide high-quality and effective loads of both lead and nontoxic shot for hunters’ annual review before the spring season. Among some of the latest ammo selections this year are offerings from both Winchester and Browning with their Xtended Range Bismuth loads that utilize Shot-Lok technology with bismuth shot. With density greater than steel, bismuth shot offers improved penetration very close to that of standard lead loads. Shot-Lok technology, first introduced in 2013 with Winchester Long Beard XR Shot-Lok loads, protects the bismuth shot from fracturing as it travels down and out the barrel. This improves pattern density and increases downrange energy, when compared to standard lead loads, with patterning tests indicating about twice the number of pellets striking in a 20inch circle at 60 yards. Another innovative ammunition offering is the Federal Premium 3rd Degree loads that provide improved turkey shot shell performance with the addition of the use of a Flitecontrol Flex wad. The system performs well through both standard and ported turkey chokes,


opening from the rear and staying with the shot column longer for full, consistent patterns. Unlike conventional loads, Federal Premium 3rd Degree shells feature a three-stage payload consisting of No. 5 copper-plated lead, No. 6 Flitestopper lead and No. 7 Heavyweight TSS shot to deliver larger, more forgiving patterns at close range, while still providing deadly performance at long distance. No matter which new or tried-andtrue turkey loads will be put into play this spring, hunters should plan to spend some range time testing several types of ammo with their turkey scattergun of choice to pick the best and most effective shooting tools. Experts have determined a shotgun pellet has to strike a turkey’s head or neck vertebrae with at least two pounds of energy in order to penetrate and produce a potentially fatal wound. That means shot in No. 4, 5 and 6 sizes are the most likely to drop a turkey in its tracks. In addition, potential turkey busters should heed the recommendation of officials with the National Wild Turkey Federation who maintain that 40 yards is the ethical limit most turkey loads are capable of delivering reliable killing patterns to a turkey’s vital area. In the case of the hunter favored by Lady Luck mentioned earlier, some extensive range time a few years ago determined that a Mossberg 500 Turkey Thug 12-gauge pump action shotgun fitted with a screw-in extra full choke and using Winchester Long Beard XR Shot-Lok No. 5 shot was his best turkey busting combination. Compared to a variety of other popular turkey loads, the Winchester ammunition produced the best overall patterning performance by a wide margin. The Long Beard shells fired from a sitting position similar to a standard turkey hunting scenario produced 76 killing hits in the head and neck area of a turkey target at 20 yards; 66 potentially fatal hits at 40 yards; and a surprisingly high 26 killing hits at 60 yards. The very impressive patterning during the hunter’s testing was quite similar to

the performance of the Winchester Long Beard’s at the 2014 National Wild Turkey Federation’s Still Target Competition. Winning both the 12-gauge Open Division and the Hunter Division, the Long Beard shells put 54 pellets within a three-inch circle on a target at 40 yards—setting a new world record in the competition. The innovative Shot-Lok technology developed for the Long Beard loads features a hardened resin that completely encapsulates the copper-coated lead pellets and now the bismuth shot. This resin eliminates air space around the pellets, preventing movement and allowing for virtually no pellet deformation during in-bore acceleration. As the shell is fired, the resin fractures, forming a micro-buffer as the shot pattern leaves the gun barrel. This buffer helps the pellets stay round to fly straighter and tighter, resulting in highly consistent payloads and improved knockdown at longer ranges. This Shot-Lok technology is also featured in Browning and Winchester’s new Xtended Range Bismuth shells, allowing the precision cast bismuth shot to produce dense, long-range patterns with better on-target performance than standard lead loads at 60 yards. Another factor to be considered in each hunter’s personal turkey-load testing involves recoil, which, in the lucky hunter’s case, was slightly less with the Winchester loads than the other 3-inch shells designed for turkey hunting. As anyone who paid attention to their physics class lessons will recall, Newton’s Third Law of Motion is that “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” This means that when a shooter fires a shotgun, the felt recoil is at the same magnitude as the force expelling the shot down the barrel. The recoil is the reaction force and the shot fired through the air is the action. While the old saying of “practice makes perfect” still holds true, spending practice time to adjust to recoil from the heavy turkey loads might just be the best reason to properly prepare to touch off the right load at the right time to bag a big bird.

The right shell in the right shotgun, determined by some quality practice time on the range, produces results like this fine tom turkey bagged during a hunt near Pearsall.

The excellent pattern produced with a Mossberg Model 500 Turkey Thug and using Winchester Longbeard XR turkey shells loaded with No. 5 copper-plated shot is a clear demonstration that these are the right tools for this particular hunter to put down a big tom during the spring season.





Not much fishing opportunity in a weed-choked pond such as this one covered in giant salvinia.

The Weeds Are Coming! The Weeds Are Coming! Article and photos by DR. BILLY HIGGINBOTHAM, Professor Emeritus, The Texas A&M University System


exas pond owners have been extensively surveyed through the years and aquatic vegetation management is always cited as the Number One challenge they face. Aquatic vegetation in water is a given when there is: 1) sunlight penetration and 2) nutrients present in the pond. The entire swimming

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pool maintenance industry is based on this scenario. If there were weed issues in 2018 and no corrective action was taken, it is more than likely those issues will reemerge in 2019. So how does one mount a successful campaign and win the War on Weeds?

MARCH 2019

First and foremost, some context is necessary before management is enacted. If the impoundment is at least one surface acre in size and has visibility into the water column of at least 15 to 18 inches most of the year, some aquatic vegetation can be more beneficial than harmful. (Continued on Page 34)





Giant Salvinia

Filamentous Algae

Water Primrose

White Waterlily





A reasonable amount of aquatic vegetation can be beneficial to both largemouth bass and bluegill populations by providing cover and harboring food items.

From a biological perspective, fish benefit from native macrophytic vegetation coverage of 25 to 33 percent of the impoundment’s surface area; however, once coverage of 50 percent or more is achieved, the plants turn into weeds and may be affording too much escape cover for forage fish. This can result in poor growth and even stunting of the largemouth bass population. The “social carrying capacity” of weeds in this situation is dependent upon the owner and/or user group. Tolerance for weeds may be well below the aforementioned biological levels and therefore management efforts may need to be initiated prior to any biological limiting factor emerges. Those ponds less than one surface acre managed under a single species strategy such as channel and /or blue catfish really need no macrophytic vegetation to achieve fish management goals. Management can be based on one’s personal level of comfort up to zero

JULY 11-14, 2019 JW MARRIOTT SAN ANTONIO HILL COUNTRY RESORT AND SPA 23808 Resort Parkway, San Antonio, TX 78261

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tolerance for any vegetation in the water. So, if aquatic plants are becoming weeds, it is time to put a game plan together. If fish are an important resource in a targeted pond, do not wait until the weeds are at their worst to take action (typically late summer). Treatment under those conditions may result in an oxygen depletion and loss of part or all of the fish population. When I was an undergraduate student at Texas A&M, my professors categorized aquatic vegetation into four distinct categories: 1) algae, 2) submergent vegetation, 3) floating vegetation and 4) emergent vegetation. As I began my Extension career with seminars and field days on pond banks in the spring of 1981, I quickly learned from pond owners that what I had been taught about aquatic vegetation at A&M was incorrect. They pointed out that there were actually just three types of vegetation: 1) scum (algae), 2) moss (submergent vegetation) and 3) everything that was not scum or moss was a weed (floating and emergent vegetation). Lesson learned and obviously remembered some 38 years later. Aquatic vegetation (weed) management begins with PROPER IDENTIFICATION. Once this is accomplished, then and only then can pond owners move forward to consider whether chemical, biological, mechanical control options, Fun for Everyone! or a combination thereof is best for the situation. Provide a fresh sample to a fisheries biologist or county Extension agent for proper identification. Another fantastic resource is Texas A&M AgriLife Extension’s AQUAPLANT website ( Pond owners can use this resource to identify the Come See All culprit(s) onYour theFriends! hit list and then select appropriate management options for those species. To get you ready for the 2019 War on Weeds, work to identify the aquatic plant images on the previous page, then consult the AQUAPLANT website for management options available. I guarantee it will be good practice for what’s just around the corner. Good fishing. Exciting and Exclusive Auctions!

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Black bears, state-listed as endangered in Texas, are known to utilize and sometimes usurp mountain lion kills. In this instance, a large bear feeds on what is left of an abandoned kill.

Carrion and Scavenger Dynamics in the Davis Mountains Article and photos by MICHAEL STANGL and PATRICIA MOODY HARVESON, Borderlands Research Institute


arrion is a unique resource that is widely available across all landscapes and has the potential to link virtually all biotic components of an ecosystem directly and indirectly. Though typically overlooked in traditional food web networks, carrion provides an

essential source of nutrition and energy to an entire suite of species. Indeed, carrion utilization is a fundamental ecological process observed by nearly all terrestrial predators, and thus nearly all terrestrial predators could be considered facultative


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(opportunistic) scavengers. A vast network of interactions, spanning species and trophic levels, reverberate out from these carrion deposits, scattered across the landscape. As a resource that is rich in nutrients yet requires little energy to acquire, it is

Supplementing the Habitat


understandable that carrion is sought by a variety of species. Yet how do so many species, which are typically viewed as competitors, successfully utilize a common resource? Certain species are better adapted at locating carcasses, and some species have evolved to associate the presence of one species with the presence of carrion, while other species are simply better equipped to utilize the carcass once it has been located. Furthermore, the presence, or absence, of a species may preempt the presence of another or, conversely, facilitate it. Carrion can thus be viewed as a fulcrum in ecological processes, promoting multi-level energy transfers via scavenging, as well as the intraand interspecific competition among vertebrate scavengers that subsequently structures the interactive communities associated with it.

A coyote and striped skunk feed simultaneously on a “closed” hog carcass in the winter; competing species may be more tolerant of each other at a common resource when other resources are slim.

In a healthy, intact ecosystem, carrion is introduced into the food web via natural faunal death, varying in scale from mass die-off events to individuals succumbing to adverse conditions, or as the unconsumed remnants of carcasses

from predation events. Considering the latter, it follows that apex predators may serve a deeper and more complex ecological function than simply suppressing prey populations. Other species that occupy lower trophic ranks


Thanks to a $1 million gift, the Borderlands Research Institute (BRI) has endowed a Conservation Biology chair at Sul Ross State University. Dr. Patricia Moody Harveson has been appointed to the James A. "Buddy" Davidson Charitable Foundation Endowed Chair in Conservation Biology. The endowed chair serves as program leader, spokesperson and chief strategist for the Conservation Biology Program at BRI. The Conservation Biology Program complements the

research being done by other BRI program areas that focus on big game, gamebirds and habitat. In recent years, BRI’s research emphasis has broadened to include information regarding songbirds, hummingbirds and carnivores. Landowners are seeking more information about managing the broad array of life on their properties. The Conservation Biology Program plays a critical role in understanding the ecosystem services for the region’s various nongame species. Dr. Patricia Moody Harveson is a Research Scientist with Borderlands Research Institute and a Professor in the Department of Natural Resource Management at Sul Ross State University (SRSU). She has worked at SRSU for more than a decade. Her research interests are carnivore ecology, systems analysis and modeling, environmental policy and landscape ecology. She has published more than 20 manuscripts ranging from carnivore studies, landscape connectivity, predator-prey interactions, population models and habitat suitability. Dr. Moody Harveson earned a Bachelor of Science in Biology from Tarleton State University and her Master of Science in Range and Wildlife Management from Texas A&M University. She earned her PhD in Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences from Texas A&M University where she was a Doctoral Fellow in the Hispanic Leadership Program in Agriculture and Natural Resources. Among her honors and awards, Dr. Moody Harveson received the Educator of the Year in 2016 from the Texas Chapter of The Wildlife Society.




A bobcat curls up next to its claimed “open” hog carcass; the leaf litter that can be seen on the carcass in the background is from the bobcat’s attempt to “cache” the carcass, an act common among felids.

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than apex predators, or are regarded as competitors, are incidentally provided a resource that would otherwise be unobtainable. Additionally, during adverse conditions, particularly the leaner winter seasons, many species may depend upon a regular supply of carrion to sustain themselves. Predators, however, are not the only species that are capable of regularly facilitating the introduction of carrion into the ecosystem. Roadkill events, the refuse of sport hunting or the destruction of an individual or species for management purposes, are only a few of the ways humans may incidentally supply carrion to scavengers. Little is known, though, about how anthropogenically introduced carrion is accepted into the ecosystem, and whether scavengers’ utilization or behavior at such carrion sites differ from the naturally introduced carcasses. In the Davis Mountains of Texas, the Borderlands Research Institute is

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investigating the interactive networks of scavengers surrounding two of the major sources of carrion in the region: (1) carcass refuse from mountain lion predation events, and (2) invasive feral hog carcasses culled for land management purposes. Through our investigations we aim to assess the relational structure, if present, of the scavenger community, as well as to observe and report upon the interactions and behavior of scavengers at the individual level. Mountain lion kill sites, inferred from GPS collar data, were investigated as quickly as possible, and motion-triggered cameras were deployed at the site in an effort to film all visiting and feeding scavenger species. Cameras were also set up at feral hog carcass sites with the same initiative. Additionally, hog carcasses were further subdivided into two groups: “open,” where entrails were exposed using a long incision, and “closed” carcasses. The videos filmed by these cameras were then reviewed and analyzed for presence or absence of a species, feeding and visiting times of species, and the expression of a set of behaviors. A total of 12 species has been recorded scavenging at mountain lion kill sites, with the spotted skunk being the most prevalent species, occurring at six of the nine sites investigated. “Open” hog carcasses hosted a greater variety of scavenging species than “closed” hog carcasses did, with eight and five different species documented, respectively. Turkey vultures were the most prevalent species observed at both “open” and “closed” hog carcasses. Rarer species of scavengers, documented at either mountain lion kill sites or hog carcass sites, include black bear, bobcat, golden eagle and ringtail. Further behavioral analysis seeks to understand the relationships between these species by observing their interactions at these carrion deposits. The inclusion of carrion and scavengers within our ecological investigations allows us to widen our inquisitive lens. With this and future studies, we hope to capture a more comprehensive understanding of the interactive ecosystem, with particular interest in food web and community ecology.

CONVENTION SUCCESS TWA Director Russell Marshall harvested this trophy sambar deer on the TPWD Powderhorn WMA this season. Russell purchased the exclusive hunt at TWA’s Annual Convention last year. Many thanks to Russell, TPWD and TPWF for all the support. You can look for all kinds of unique hunts, trips and exclusive items at this year’s 34th annual convention, WildLife 2019, July 11-14!



Photo by Steve Nelle Removal of livestock, at least temporarily, is sometimes the first logical step to help promote habitat recovery.



emove. Reduce. Rest. Restrict. Renovate. These five words can help remind us of some important concepts of successful habitat management. Many Texas landowners on millions of acres have used these principles to improve habitat for many species ranging from big game to songbirds. While there are no rigid habitat formulas that guarantee success, these principles can help landowners and wildlife managers be better caretakers of their land.

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REMOVE This refers to removing competing animals which interfere with big game habitat. Dietary competition among animals with similar feeding habits can cause serious nutritional problems and serious habitat problems due to overgrazing of preferred plants. Most habitat managers agree that the removal of sheep, goats and exotics is a good way to enhance habitat for whitetailed deer, mule deer, pronghorn and bighorn sheep.

Removal or reduction of competing livestock is often a good way to hasten habitat improvement for deer.

Photo by Steve Nelle

REDUCE Where complete removal of certain competing species is not desired it is often beneficial to reduce their numbers, sometimes significantly. Some landowners want to maintain a modest population of exotics while managing primarily for native game species. In this case, reducing the number of exotics, especially females, will help keep the desired balance and reduce stress on the habitat. Where competition exists, any population reduction will help, but large reductions pay bigger rewards for improving habitat. For example, it is common practice in the Trans Pecos to reduce the number of aoudad sheep in order to favor better habitat and better nutrition for mule deer and bighorn sheep. It is also common for landowners to reduce the cattle numbers when grazing becomes excessive, causing habitat problems. The need to reduce livestock numbers is most obvious prior to and during drought. Wise cattlemen reduce numbers as they see drought conditions start to develop and before there is a crisis. Adjusting livestock numbers according to growing conditions is one of the most challenging and important aspects of good range and habitat management. There is no such thing as the right stocking rate; it is always a moving target requiring flexibility and constant attention. Reducing cattle numbers can benefit nesting and fawning cover and can increase the food supply for big game. In addition to reducing the number of livestock or exotics, one of the greatest needs is reducing the number of white-tailed deer. In many areas, deer are overabundant and cause serious habitat degradation and poor herd performance because of poor nutrition. Reducing deer densities is one of the cornerstones of good habitat management including improved plant diversity, herd health and antler development. In some places, it is necessary to harvest 25 to 30 percent of bucks and 35 to 40 percent of does each year in an attempt to curb population growth and reduce the population. It takes extreme dedication and hard work to do this and with the help of TPWD and the Managed Lands Deer Program, many landowners are able to successfully manage deer numbers.

On many ranches, reducing the deer population has been the cornerstone of good habitat management.

Photo by Wyman P. Meinzer

Competition exists when the demand for a preferred food item such as forbs or browse exceeds the supply. Dietary overlap between species, such as white-tailed deer and axis deer does not necessarily mean they are competing. If a modest population of whitetails and axis deer lived in the same area and if there are plenty of desirable forbs and browse, there would be dietary overlap but no competition. However, this is usually a theoretical argument, since in most cases the demand for the more preferred plants does exceed the supply, which leads to competition. The classic studies done at the Kerr Wildlife Management Area provide clear evidence that some of the common exotics compete strongly with whitetails. Not only do they compete, but they often out-compete native deer because, like sheep and goats, exotics have the ability to switch their diet to grass when their favorite browse and forbs are gone.

Photo by Steve Nelle


Reduction in the number of exotics is needed on many ranches to improve habitat for deer and other big game.



Photo by Steve Nelle


Photo by Steve Nelle

Pastures need periodic rest from grazing in order to maintain good habitat for certain songbirds or big game.

Where livestock grazing has been completely removed, exotic invasive grasses can dominate causing a decline in native habitat diversity. Excessive rest is not necessarily good for wildlife habitat.

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REST Habitats need regular periods of rest after grazing. Continuous grazing with few or no rest periods leads to habitat degradation. The degradation may be so gradual that it is hard to notice, but a slow erosion of range and habitat condition is taking place when pastures receive no rest. When livestock are grazed continuously, they selectively consume the best plants, leaving the mediocre plants ungrazed or lightly grazed. Even if a pasture is lightly or moderately stocked, the animals are still preferentially grazing the better plants which leads to their decline because there is no rest period for recovery. The pasture may not look overgrazed to the untrained eye, but if you know what to look for, you will usually see the decline of the best grasses and forbs. The solution to continuous grazing is rotational grazing which provides regular periods of rest and recovery following grazing. Rotational grazing is really just a form of systematic rotational resting. The most beneficial types of rotational grazing involve only one pasture being grazed at any one time while many are resting. Short graze periods followed by long rest periods provide the best results for improving grassland habitat conditions. Another application of rest is the temporary resting of pastures for two to several years to jump start grass and range recovery. If a ranch or pasture has been grazed hard for many years, it is often advisable to remove livestock initially until a recovery has begun. Short term rest for a few years is also advisable after


severe drought, severe wildfire or after extensive brush control to allow a recovery to begin. Some landowners have adopted the position that livestock are detrimental to habitat and that pastures should be rested indefinitely. In some cases, long-term rest (ten or more years) is beneficial, while in other cases, it actually leads to range and habitat problems due to an overabundance of grass. This accumulation of grass, which may not decompose fast enough, blocks sunlight and reduces grass and forb growth. It can also become a significant fire hazard. Excessive rest is not necessarily good for wildlife habitat.

RENOVATE After the other four R factors have been implemented to the extent needed and after the benefits have accrued, it is often

Photo by Steve Nelle

RESTRICT Restricting brush control is often one of the keys to improved wildlife habitat. This not only refers to restricting the amount of brush control, but also restricting the method and pattern of control. In some places, the old ways of doing brush control are still carried out—clearing large blocks, and sometimes fence to fence, leaving little or no cover. This trend has been changing for the last 50 years due to increased interest in wildlife. Some of my earliest work in habitat management in Webb County was designing brush management patterns. The intent was to restrict brush control to find an acceptable compromise between good cattle habitat and good wildlife habitat. Under the

leadership of legendary wildlife champions like Murphy Ray and Al Brothers, brush control patterns became the accepted norm for most ranches in South Texas. These principles are now being adopted in other areas of the state with the increasing interest of “brush sculpting” principles developed by Dale Rollins. The ratio of cleared land to brushy habitat has changed as the emphasis on wildlife management has grown. Patterns have become more elaborate and creative, evolving from straight strips to contour strips to natural mosaic patterns. In addition to the use of patterns, selective clearing has become the rule; in South Texas this involves leaving desirable shrubs such as coma, guayacan, brasil, granjeno, colima and bull mesquite intact within cleared areas. Restricting also refers to selection of brush control methods that have the least detrimental side effects. For example most herbicides injure desirable forbs and browse, while mechanical methods are more selective and can be used to stimulate forbs. Herbicides such as Spike®, Tordon® and Velpar® with residual soil activity require more careful restriction since they have greater long-lasting effects on desirable species.

Restricting the extent of brush control is an important part of good habitat management.



Photo courtesy of Jason Hohlt, NRCS.


Photo courtesy of Morgan Treadwell TAMU AgriLife Extension.

Renovation of habitat by various mechanical methods can dramatically improve habitat for some species.

Prescribed burning can be an excellent habitat renovation tool.

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necessary to go to the next step of more aggressive habitat renovation. Renovation can include many forms of habitat manipulation customized and suited for the particular situation. One or more of the renovation techniques described below is often needed to achieve the desired habitat results. Fire is one of the most useful methods of habitat renovation. Prescribed burning stimulates the basal re-sprouting of browse plants which not only increases the availability of browse, but also improves its nutritional value. Fire is the most cost-effective way to provide increased nutrition to deer and other big game. Fire may also be used to remove an excess buildup of grass, which can stimulate greater forb diversity and production. Fire can be an excellent method to kill young cedar and is also effective to reduce pricklypear and tasajillo. Hot fires followed by drought can be harmful to habitat, but burning under the proper conditions can be a very beneficial form of habitat renovation. Many ranches employ a rotational burning schedule so that some burning is done every year or two.


TEXAS OFFICE LOCATIONS Roller chopping can also be a very good habitat renovation tool. Chopping of mixed brush will greatly stimulate new browse production and browse quality and can also be used to prepare a quick seedbed for planting of native grasses and forbs. Chopping should ideally be done in a pattern and on a staggered rotational schedule so that there are always some freshly chopped areas, as well as some older chopped areas. Sometimes brush control needs to be restricted and sometimes brush control needs to be accelerated. Proper, moderate brush control can be an excellent habitat renovation tool. Where brush is excessively thick, impeding hunt-ability, graze-ability or habitat quality, additional brush control is often needed. The method, amount and pattern of brush control needs to be carefully considered and planned in advance to get the most benefit. Obviously brush control, will be much different when done for quail habitat compared to deer habitat or when trying to achieve a compromise between grazing quail and deer. Where habitat has been badly overgrazed for many years, it is often necessary to re-plant a mix of native grasses and forbs. Grassland renovation by re-seeding can be expensive and is not without risk, but when properly done and with the right rains, it can turn habitat conditions around in a few years. Disking is commonly used renovation tool for quail habitat. The idea is to reduce grass cover and stimulate desirable weeds. Disking is usually done in strips and in close proximity to loafing cover and nest cover and can also be used to protect key loafing cover shrub clumps from fire. The five R’s do not cover all aspects of habitat management, but they are a good start for most operations. Not all five are needed on all ranches; sometimes only one or two are needed and they will be applied differently on every ranch. The five Rs do not tell you exactly how to manage habitat, but they are a helpful way to remember some of the key elements of successful habitat management.

Lubbock • College Station • Laredo • Mason GEARHART RANCH | FORT DAVIS, TX Gearhart Ranch is 9,155 acres± of productive grasslands in the Davis Mountains. Successful highland cattle operation for over 100 years. Exceptional game, stunning beauty, and starry nights. $30,457,953

LIVERMORE RANCH | FORT DAVIS, TX 4,772± acres in the heart of the Davis Mountains, with alpine elevations offering some of the most spectacular views in Texas. Exceptional big game, diverse ecology, and comfortable improvements. $17,500,000

MCCRARY RANCH | CALVERT, TX Four miles of Brazos River frontage with towering hills, fertile pastureland, abundant game, and producing minerals that will convey. Approximately 1,050± acres in Milam County with paved access and frontage. $5,200,000

STARR MOUNTAIN RANCH | WINONA, TX Offering 666± acres and the highest elevations in Smith County, Starr Mountain Ranch is square in the path of progress. Just six miles from UT’s Health Center North campus, the ranch offers beauty, recreation, and investment. $4,650,000

FAIRFIELD LAKE RANCH | FAIRFIELD, TX Fairfield Lake Ranch, 988± acres featuring Pilot Knob Hill which rises to 618’ and is the highest point in Freestone County, and also adjoins Fairfield Lake State Park. Excellent recreational ranch. $3,850,000

NUECES FALLS RANCH | BARKSDALE, TX Nueces Falls Ranch comprises 880± acres on the ever-flowing East Nueces River, two hours west of San Antonio. Nice cabins, deep and noisy water and legions of wildlife complete this unique offering. $3,478,370

HIGH LAKES RANCH | BLANCO, TX High Lakes Ranch is 493± supremely located acres between Blanco and Fredericksburg with gorgeous south facing hilltops and ridges. Cleared of cedar, the land includes a crystal clear, spring-fed pond. $3,919,350

WATER CANYON RANCH | GUTHRIE, TX Located in King County and the heart of the “big ranch” country of the Texas Rolling Plains, Water Canyon Ranch is a combination production ranch with excellent recreational appeal, with trophy whitetail deer and bobwhite quail. $2,575,000

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The truly finished versatile hunting dog is steady through point, flush and fall. Although NAVHDA judges reward no extra points for style, hunters love a classy shooting dog like this one.


Extend the Hunting Season with The North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association Article by HENRY CHAPPELL Photos by LARRY KRUCKENBERG


few years back, I heard a wealthy Texan dismiss a day afield that ended with a mixed-bag of a few bobwhites and a pair of ducks as a “boy’s hunt.” Having honed his quail hunting style to an efficient system involving teams of pointing dogs, retrievers, handlers, electronics and vehicles, he expected, during decent years, 15-bird limits with plenty of time to spare for pre-dinner drinks. I’ve experienced that style of hunting a few times. I can’t knock a 40-covey day, stylish dog work, solicitous guides and excellent

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wine after the guns are cased. If you believe the sporting press, quail rigs, big-running pointers and sweet 28-guage shotguns exemplify Texas upland bird hunting just as lavish blinds, duck boats, butt-ugly synthetic stocked autoloading shotguns, acres of high-tech fabric in various camo patterns, outsized decoy spreads and titled Labrador retrievers typify Texas waterfowl hunting. Never mind that most of the millions of hunters who live for a few stylish points in big country or a perfect retrieve in flooded


timber save their nickels for modest leases or a public hunting permit, inexpensive 12-gauge autoloaders and beloved, halftrained dogs that nevertheless earn their keep. Yet, even these workaday hunters tend to specialize and, until recently, would tell you that a versatile hunting dog is a pointer that, in a pinch, can work Blue Quail as well as bobwhites or a retriever that does yeoman work in the uplands. Hard as it may be for many Texans to admit, the genteel trappings and specialization that characterize “hunting in the grand tradition” arose not in Texas or the great plantations of the Deep South or tony duck clubs in the Upper Midwest, but in Europe, where landed gentry kept stables and large kennels of specialized hunting dogs, handlers and caretakers. During the feudal era, hunting was nobility’s exclusive privilege, notwithstanding poaching by peasants. In Medieval France, poachers looking for a close-working hunting dog that could be quietly called to heel developed a versatile pointing spaniel that became the rootstock of the modern Brittany. With the industrial revolution came the rise of the bourgeoisie–merchants, doctors, lawyers and other members of the middle-class who lived in cities and now had the right, money and leisure time to hunt, but lacked the means to keep kennels of specialized hunting dogs. To fill the need, European hunters set about developing generalist dogs that could follow foot scent, tree and fight bayed game, retrieve from land and water, and point small furred game and upland game birds. With the exceptions of older breeds suck as the Weimaraner Vizsla and Brittany, the versatile breeds—or Continental breeds—were developed late in the 19th century. As versatile breeds trickled into the United States in the 1920s, often with great fanfare, American hunters, accustomed to wide-open spaces and big-running dogs, found them ponderous and lacking in style. Nevertheless, the German Shorthair, German Wirehire and Brittany found fans among grouse and woodcock hunters who prefer methodical, close-working dogs and pheasant hunters who admire the dogs’ ability to track running birds. In the meantime, American breeders set about “improving” the versatile breeds, which usually meant speeding them up. Early efforts were disappointing. Big-running bobtails couldn’t compete with pointers and setters in open stakes field trials and couldn’t match the early import’s versatility. Gradually, rigorous testing, education and changing hunting conditions have given rise to truly versatile bird dogs well-suited to serious American hunters who choose to hunt a variety of species without keeping several specialist hunting dogs. What is a versatile hunting dog today? The North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association (NAVHDA) gives this definition: “…a dog that is bred and trained to dependably hunt and point game, to retrieve on both land and water, and to track wounded game on both land and water.” In North America, “game,” as specified in the NAHVDA definition, means waterfowl and upland game birds, while

in Europe, versatile hunting dogs are just that: hunting dogs capable of handling everything from wild boars to hares to waterfowl. In Germany, versatile dogs are expected to dispatch fox and even feral cats. Anyone who has tried to break a young pointing dog from running deer, rabbits, hogs and other furred critters knows that well-bred gundog pups come with a strong, unfocused prey drive. After all, the bird dog breeds were developed from hounds, spaniels and other generalist hunters. Even English Pointers and setters, archetypal upland game bird hunters bred for hundreds of generations for pursuit of feathered game, will hunt fur if not discouraged as pups or broken by sterner methods as adults. Few American hunters want their pointing dogs messing with rabbits or deer, let alone risking their lives baying feral hogs. When we refer to “versatile breeds,” we typically mean versatile bird dogs. Currently, the NAVHDA registry recognizes 27 breeds. Several of these, such as the Cesky Fousek, Stichelhaar and Bracco Italiano, are virtually unknown to American hunters. While serious dog people might recognize breeds like the wirehaired pointing griffon, Spinone and large Munsterlander, these dogs remain rare in the United States. True to its pragmatic, populist heritage, NAVHDA also allows English Pointers, English Setters, Gordon Setters and Irish Setters to earn titles in sanctioned hunting tests. Performance and versatility trump tradition.

The NAVHDA approach is to start early and work often. Although too young for rigorous training, this pretty baby already shows intensity.




In North America, the dock-tailed Continental breeds serve mostly as upland bird dogs, but competent versatile hunting dogs must be able to retrieve from water.

In Texas, five breeds—the German Shorthaired Pointer, German Wirehaired Pointer, Brittany, Vizsla and Pudelpointer— best represent the versatile ideal. In my opinion, they will best serve Texas hunters who want a dog that will point quail, woodcock and pheasants, and fetch ducks from sloughs, creeks and stock tanks and play with the kids on the den floor. THE NORTH AMERICAN VERSATILE HUNTING DOG ASSOCIATION Efforts to develop testing and breeding programs to produce true versatile hunting dogs suited to North American hunting conditions began in earnest in the early 1960s, when Bodo Winterhelt, a pioneering trainer and promoter of Pudelpointers, founded the “All Purpose Gun Club of Ontario,” in affiliation with the Ontario Bird Dog Association. Winterhelt and his friends worked out a program based on a fusion of German and North American field trial rules. The club lasted only a couple years, as the club’s field trial orientation didn’t match Winterhelt’s ideas about testing against a standard. Winterhelt and his friend Douglas Hume worked out rules for natural ability tests for young dogs, utility tests for mature dogs and held the first tests for Pudelpointers in 1965. In 1969, Winterhelt and a small group of versatile breed enthusiasts formed the North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association. From the beginning, NAVHDA leaders sought new members from the hunting community as opposed to traditional field organizations and refined their tests and training methods with actual field conditions in mind. NAHVDA held its first sanctioned tests in 1969. Today, there are NAVHDA chapters in nearly every state and Canadian province.

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Although the Natural Ability Test is still months away, this pup is already working planted Chukar.

Unlike field trials in which dogs compete against each other and judging is highly subjective, NAVHDA tests dogs’ abilities against a standard. There are no points for “style” or “class.” Dogs are tested one at a time. Passing grades are scored Prize I, Prize II and Prize III, with Prize I being the highest score and Prize III representing the minimum passing score. Testing is done at four levels: Natural Ability, Utility Preparatory, Utility and Invitational. As the name suggests, the Natural Ability Test evaluates the inborn ability of pups. Youngsters are tested for tracking ability (usually with a wing-clipped pheasant), pointing instinct (with a planted game bird) and love of water. The Utility Preparatory Test evaluates young dogs midway through their training for the Utility Test. To pass the Utility Test, a dog must locate planted birds and remain steady to fall—that is, steady until sent to retrieve. The dog must then deliver the bird to hand. Dogs must also demonstrate the ability to locate a duck by following a scent trail across a pond’s surface and in surrounding aquatic cover. Utility dogs are expected to handle crisply, heel reliably and maintain steadiness in the duck blind. A dog that passes the Utility Test must demonstrate ability and training far beyond what most hunters expect of their dogs. The Invitational Test is open only to dogs that have scored Prize I in a sanctioned Utility Test. These dogs are the elite of the versatile hunting dog world and will shine in almost any hunting situation. Much like their German counterparts, whose dogs ride quietly in floorboards of small cars and sit or lie politely in restaurants, North American versatile breed enthusiasts live closely with their dogs. Training, hunting, testing and community merge


into a lifestyle. Dogs are valued family members to be enjoyed year-round. Tests and training days bring experienced trainers and newcomers together for learning and friendship. The dogs are as happy to fetch pen-reared mallards on a sultry spring day as a wild pintail in December. The off-season work pays off big come November. Currently, Texas boasts two NAHVDA Chapters, the Texas Chapter, which draws most of its members from the DallasFort Worth area westward, and the Lone Star Chapter, oriented toward Austin, Houston and Louisiana. Brian Bush, a quail hunter and German Shorthaired Pointer man in Saginaw currently serves as president of NAVHDA Texas. The Texas Chapter holds frequent training days and Natural Ability and Utility Texas on two training grounds near Decatur. Interest in the versatile breeds and the NAVHDA program continues to grow in Texas as hunters experience the pleasure of training their own dogs as opposed to hiring a pro trainer. “We teach people to train their dogs,” Bush said. “They’ll come out on a training day and spend half an hour or so helping experienced trainers, learning to plant birds, and then the old hands will help them with their pups.” In recent years, NAVHDA Texas has maintained an active membership of 30 to 50 dog nuts and many more occasional participants.


Bush stressed that many NAVHDA Texas members are primarily quail hunters even though their dogs readily retrieve ducks and track running pheasants. Others are true mixed bag hunters, pursuing woodcock in the Pineywoods, bobwhites and blue quail in West and South Texas, and waterfowl as opportunity arises. The thousands of tanks that dot Texas quail country and the playas in pheasant country often abound with waterfowl. Those tough drought years when quail are scarce could be better endured with a dog that can handle several game species. The NAVHDA training and testing program will keep a dog sharp and ready for those rare “boom years.” Hunters often apologize for their dogs’ inconsistency with the lament, “I just need to get her into a few more birds.” The NAVHDA program offers an affordable way of doing just that through year-round training and by expanding the definition of “birds” from a single species to the abundance of species that grace Texas’s magnificently diverse habitats.

A FEW POINTERS North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association websites: • North American— • Texas Chapter— • Lone Star Chapter—


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Picture Perfect Wildflowers Article and photo by WHITNEY KLENZENDORF

Big smiles for the annual family bluebonnet photo.


is the season for wildflowers. Our state’s scenery really shines this time of year. One of the things I love about Texas wildflowers is they bring all of us—city folk and country folk alike—outside in appreciation of our rural private lands. For the rest of the year, most people zoom down the highway with just a passing glance out the window. But every spring, many drivers slow down to view and appreciate the beauty of our wildflower-strewn landscapes. It’s one of the multitudinous values private lands provide to the public good. This year we will take our baby’s first bluebonnet pictures, and I’m excited to start this family tradition. For those of you looking for a good spot to view the flowers, take a look at my list below. We all may have our favorite spot on our own 54 T E X A S W I L D L I F E

property, but here are some great places available to the public. Enchanted Rock State Natural Area: Wildflowers of blue, yellow and purple hues litter the park at this time of year. There is something so striking about the contrast of colorful wildflowers against the backdrop of pink granite. Inks Lake State Park: You will see lots of bluebonnets both here and on the drive leading into the park amid the same pretty granite. Round Top/La Grange/Brenham/ Chappell Hill: Everyone should at some point make a day trip through Fayette and Washington counties to see the flowers. This part of Texas is just so spectacular in spring! Thanks to the convergence of varying soil types and ecoregions, and just the right amount of rainfall, this area can be counted on year after year

MARCH 2019

to produce gorgeous flowers. Texas Highway 237 through Round Top is a good starting route. Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center: Located in Austin, this is a mecca for wildflower appreciators! Lyndon B. Johnson State Park & Historic Site: This property, which you can enjoy by car, showcases gorgeous wildflowers and views of the Texas Hill Country. George W. Bush Presidential Center Gardens: In the heart of urban Dallas, native blooms abound at this 15-acre property. Super convenient if you don’t have time to get out of town. Texas Botanical Gardens in Goldthwaite: Not only will you see wildflowers, but you will learn about Texas history. This garden in Central Texas offers an array of native plants and flowers as well as educational programs about how Texas’ people and history have been shaped by the landscapes of Central Texas. The History Center in Diboll: Spring looks a little bit different in each part of the state, but East Texas offers a stunning floral display in spring. Check out the History Center for impressive yellow coreopsis and pink cone flower, to name a few. My personal favorite wildflowers will always be the purple poppies that for some blessed reason, call our ranch home. I hope you find a big patch of bluebonnets, poppies, dogwood or whatever wild bloom you look forward to seeing each year and get the perfect picture with your loved ones. Whitney is a 6th generation Texan in Austin, Texas. She shares guidance for hiking, hunting and camping on her blog, Follow her on social media @whitswilderness.

TWA Protecting

photo by Russell Graves

YOUR Property Rights

WHERE IT BEGAN — Texas Wildlife Association was founded in 1985 to fight efforts in Austin that would’ve denied Texas landowners the opportunity to use high fences as wildlife management tools on their properties.

THE FIGHT CONTINUES... • To reform eminent domain laws so Texas landowners are seated at the decision-making table, ably protecting their rights, with full access and transparency • To reaffirm and maintain that groundwater is a vested property right of the landowner • To convince courts of law that property rights must be honored • To strengthen border security, and protect Texas landowners’ property and way of life • To maintain and improve landowner liability protections • To secure more transparent and predictable process for private landowners involved in navigable water proceedings and regulatory actions • To promote and defend the integrity of wildlife, including the importance of keeping wildlife wild • To promote and defend reasonable use of modern wildlife tools, including fencing, feeding, and other progressive practices

OUR FIGHT WILL NEVER END! Texas Wildlife Association serves Texas wildlife and its habitat, while protecting property rights, hunting heritage, and the conservation efforts of those who value and steward wildlife resources. BE A PART OF OUR MISSION AND OUR SUCCESS!


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Texas Wildlife - March 2019 - The South Texas Turkey Standard  

Texas Wildlife - March 2019 - The South Texas Turkey Standard