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MAGAZINE OF THE TEXAS WILDLIFE ASSOCIATION

East Texas Quality Whitetails

NOVEMBER 2014


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TEXAS WILDLIFE TEXAS WILDLIFE

president’s remarks

G RE G SIM O NS

84th Texas Legislature Just Around the Corner On Jan. 13, 2015, the 84th Texas Legislature will convene at the big granite building in Austin. Though all legislative sessions in Texas are “western” and full of fireworks and drama, to some degree, this session has the makings of having a level of uncertainty and mystery like few that we have witnessed in the past. We will have many new leaders in our statewide elected positions, including governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, comptroller, land commissioner, railroad commissioner, and agriculture commissioner. This, in itself, represents a huge transition of mega-power leadership for Texas. Further, throw into the mix a large number of freshman and sophomore legislators, and you have even more new talent that is ascending into positions of public policy leadership. Additionally, as time moves along, Texas has fewer and fewer elected officials who come from rural upbringings, which certainly begs the questions regarding fair and important representation of rural affairs. It is as important today, as ever before, for TWA to be strong. Land, water and wildlife issues are evolving daily and so are the political landscapes which characterize impacts on policy, ultimately affecting the allocation and regulation of these resources. The dynamic tension that exists between stakeholder groups who value these resources will continue to escalate, and the debates and fights which surround these matters will become even more complex and intense. TWA has been an advocacy group from day one and with that comes a responsibility to provide leadership and direction in the various public policy circles. In recent months, there have been heightened efforts to increase the public policy capacity of TWA. Through the financial support of its membership, TWA has added more horse power to its paid governmental affairs team, and it is currently positioning various resources to allow the association to become a stronger and more effective special interest group in Austin and elsewhere. TWA has been actively vetting legislative priorities, and it will continue to do so over the next few months. TWA’s paid governmental affairs team, along with volunteer leaders, continue to construct important network plans and develop strategies for integrating TWA’s legislative packages into the working process as it moves forward. TWA is conducting key meetings, collaborating with other groups and laying some necessary groundwork that relates to our evolving legislative agendas. I anticipate that TWA will be actively involved with eminent domain work. I’m certain there are various water-related legislative issues that will demand our time and resources. There will be an assortment of wildlife and hunting heritage bills which TWA will engage, and it will participate in other legislative areas that are relevant to the TWA mission. The association will invest in advancing good bills, while working to help kill bad pieces of legislation. TWA will deploy its paid lobbyists, while also engaging its volunteers and accruing support from concerned citizens. It will utilize media outlets to promote its positions and to create needed awareness on certain issues. TWA will be as strong as ever in 2015, regarding its deployment within the 84th Texas Legislature. As they say, “The world is led by those who show up,” and it is important to remember that the strength of democracy lies within the citizenry who makes up the body. With this in mind, TWA needs your sphere of influence through your personal network; it needs your willingness to attend public events and provide testimony; and, it needs your financial support. Feel free to contact me or an appropriate TWA staff member at (800) 839-9453 if you would like to help make a difference for TWA as it serves as a voice and vehicle in advancing the TWA mission. Cheers!

Mission Statement of the Texas Wildlife Association

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

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TEXAS WILDLIFE

November 2014

TEXAS WILDLIFE ASSOCIATION 3660 Thousand Oaks Dr., Suite 126 San Antonio, TX 78247 www.texas-wildlife.org (210) 826-2904 FAX (210) 826-4933 (800) 839-9453 (TEX-WILD) OFFICERS Greg Simons, President, San Angelo Marcus T. Barrett IV, Vice President, San Antonio Dr. Louis Harveson, Second Vice President for Programs, Alpine J. David Anderson, Treasurer, Houston For a complete list of TWA Directors, go to www.texas-wildlife.org

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

Outreach & Member Services David Brimager, Director of Marketing and Partner Relations Kendra Roller, Director of Member Relations Kathy Dalgleish, Membership Coordinator

Programs Helen Holdsworth, Conservation Legacy Program Director Koy Coffer, Education Program Specialist Kassi Scheffer, Education Program Specialist Clint Faas, Conservation Program Coordinator Courtney Brittain, Consultant Kayla Krueger, Education Program Contractor Lynnsey Dohmen, Education Program Contractor Leslie Wittenburg, Education Program Contractor Elanor Dean, Education Program Contractor Toni Purnell, Education Program Contractor Amanda Crouch, Education Program Contractor Elisa Velador, Education Program Contractor Justin Dreibelbis, Hunting Heritage Program Director COL(R) Chris Mitchell, Texas Youth Hunting Program Director Bryan Jones, TYHP Field Operations Coordinator Barbara Scheib, TYHP Administrative Assistant Kara Starr, Hunting Heritage Program Assistant

Advocacy Joey Park, Legislative Program Coordinator

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

COLUMNISTS/CONTRIBUTORS Ralph Winingham Lorie Woodward Cantu Dale Rollins, Ph. D. Billy Higginbotham, Ph. D. Steve Nelle Henry Chappell Borderlands Research Institute for Natural Resource Management, Sul Ross State University-Alpine Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute, Texas A&M University-Kingsville Texas Wildlife is published monthly by Texas Wildlife Association, 3660 Thousand Oaks Dr., Suite 126, San Antonio, Texas 78247. E-mail address: twa@texas-wildlife.org POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Texas Wildlife Association, 3660 Thousand Oaks Dr., Suite 126, San Antonio, Texas 78247. The Texas Wildlife Association (TWA) was organized in 1985 for the purpose of serving as an advocate for the benefit of wildlife and for the rights of wildlife managers, landowners and hunters in educational, scientific, political, regulatory and legislative arenas. TEXAS WILDLIFE is the official TWA publication and has widespread circulation throughout Texas and the United States. All rights reserved. No parts of these magazines may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without express written permission from the publisher. Copyrighted 2014 Texas Wildlife Association. Views expressed by contributors are not necessarily those of the Texas Wildlife Association. Similarities between the name Texas Wildlife Association and those of advertisers or state agencies are coincidental, and do not indicate mutual affiliation, unless clearly noted. Members who move should send new address and current membership classification to headquarters. TWA reserves the right to refuse advertising.

For advertising information, For advertising information, contact David Brimager at (800) 839-9453 contact David Brimager (800)126, 839-9453 3660 Thousand Oaks Dr.,atSuite San Antonio, TX 78247 3660 Thousand Oaks Dr., Suite 126, San Antonio, TX 78247 or e-mail dbrimager@texas-wildlife.org. or e-mail dbrimager@texas-wildlife.org.


Mission Impacts

TEXAS WILDLIFE

November Volume 30 H Number 7 H 2014

8 East Texas Quality Whitetails by matt Williams

16 Captive Deer Breeding Legislation by david yeates

18 Texas Big Game Awards by Justin dreibelbis

20 Texas Brigades Address TPW Commissioners

by Ike Garcia, Kalyn Stephens, and Micayla pearson

24 Long Eyes

by Ralph Winingham

28 TWA Member Profile by lorie woodward cantu

30 Lessons From Leopold by steve nelle

32 What's Your Fish and Fisheries Management I.Q.?

by dr. billy higginbotham

36 Borderlands News

by Thomas s. janke, carlos gonzalez, joshua cross, dr. louis a. harveson, and Froylan Hernandez

38 The Ogallala Aquifer by henry chappell

42 Beautiful, Bountiful Brush by Steve nelle

48 Urban Deer Problems Growing by colleen schreiber

On the Cover Learn More About TWA

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

This majestic buck was photographed by Grady Allen in Grimes County. East Texas has become a contender when it comes to producing top-shelf whitetails in the Lone Star State. The Pineywoods region alone produced a near-record 242 TBGA entries last season, including a 31 point Houston County giant that ranks as highest-scoring free-range whitetail ever reported to TBGA in its 23-year history. Read more about it in Matt Williams’ article on page 8.

MAGAZINE OF THE TEXAS WILDLIFE ASSOCIATION

NOVEMBER 2014

East Tex Deer Huntin East Texas Quality Whitetails

www.texas-wildlife.org

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For information on hunting seasons, call the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department at (800) 792-1112, consult the 2014-2015 Texas Parks and Wildlife Outdoor Annual, or visit the TPWD website at www.tpwd.state.tx.us.

TEXAS WILDLIFE

Meetings and events

NOVEMBER

january

November 19-22 Conference for the Advancement of Science Teaching, Dallas. Your TWA will be there in full force! To volunteer at the booth, contact Koy Coffer at kcoffer@texas-wildlife.org.

january 25 Kids Gone Wild, Fort Worth. Come join us for the 3rd Kids Gone Wild at the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo. For more information, contact Helen Holdsworth at hholdsworth@texas-wildlife.org.

November 20-21 Water, Wildlife and Wide Open Spaces: A Texas Summit on Climate and the Environment, City of San Marcos Conference Center, San Marcos, Texas. The summit is hosted by Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute, Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies, and The Meadows Center for Water and the Environment. For more information, visit www. waterwildlifeconference.org, or contact Anne Brady Thurwalker at (361) 593-4120 or ann. thurwalker@tamuk.edu.

february February 7 Rainwater Harvesting Workshop, Brenham. Presented by TWA’s Women of the Land. For more information, contact TWA at (800) 839-9453. February 12-March 1 San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo, San Antonio.

march

TEXAS BRIGADE 2015 CAMP DATES Rolling Plains Bobwhite Brigade – June 13-17 South Texas Buckskin Brigade – June 14-18 South Texas Bobwhite Brigade – June 26-20 Bass Brigade – July 7-11 Ranch Brigade – July 14-18 North Texas Buckskin Brigade – July 19-23 Waterfowl Brigade – July 19-23

july july 9-12 TWA Annual Convention, WildLife 2015, J.W. Marriott Hill Country Resort and Spa, San Antonio. For more information, visit the TWA website at www.texas-wildlife.org, or call the TWA office at (800) 839-9453.

March 2-22 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, Houston.

january january 16-February 7 Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo, Fort Worth.

March 3-7 Ranching and Wildlife Expo at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, Houston. For more information, contact Clint Faas at cfaas@texas-wildlife.org.

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

DATES WEBINARS FROM NOON–1 P.M.

QUESTIONS?

November 20

December 18

Wildlife Photography

Nuisance Wildlife Control

Russell Graves

Michael Bodenchuk

Contact Clint Faas at (210) 826-2904 or cfaas@texas-wildlife.org

IT’S EASY!

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

NO NEED TO TRAVEL!

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

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TEXAS WILDLIFE

November 2014

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


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Photo ŠChase Fountain, TPWD

While a number of outstanding whitetails have been killed by Pineywoods and Post Oak Savannah hunters in the past, the last few seasons have yielded several bucks that are in a league of their own.

Playa lakes are a primary wetland feature of the Texas High Plains, havens for birds and other wildlife.

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TEXAS WILDLIFE

novemBER 2014


East Texas Quality Whitetails

I

(Š Chase Fountain, TPWD

f there is one thing I have learned in nearly 30 years of covering the outdoors in East Texas, it is to always expect the unexpected when deer season rolls around. True. There was a time when the region had so few deer that most hunters felt lucky to see one. Just as there was a time not so long ago when a buck whitetail that was able to live beyond 3 1/2 years old on an open range, without getting shot, was more of an anomaly than ordinary. But, that is not the way it is anymore. Life is good for deer and deer hunters in East Texas. And, it appears to be getting better. In fact, many hunters are now beginning to speculate that East Texas might one day rival the fabled South Texas brush country when it comes to producing bucks with antlers so big that they shock the imagination. When you take into consideration what has gone on around here lately, that day may have already arrived. While a number of outstanding whitetails have been killed by Pineywoods and Post Oak Savannah hunters in the past, the last few seasons have yielded several bucks that are in a league of their own. Interestingly, the majority of these deer have come from counties with very little history of producing bucks with big racks. Even more impressive is the fact they were all killed on open range with no high fences. In September 2012, bowhunter A.J. Downs of Conroe arrowed an enormous buck in San Jacinto County. The buck ranks as the highest scoring free-ranging whitetail ever taken by an archer in the state of Texas. Sporting 28 scoreable points, the buck nets 256 4/8 Boone and Crockett (B&C) points and ranks among the Top 5 whitetails taken by any method in all of North America from 2010-2012. Later that same season, Robert Taylor of Aubrey arrowed an incredible Region 5 buck in Grayson County that carried 44 points and netted a B&C score of 254 4/8. Amazingly, that deer came off a tiny four-acre tract of property Taylor owns near Tioga, well south of the magical corner of the bowhunting-only county that is well known for producing bucks upwards of 180 inches. Had it not been for those two genetic freaks, 15-year-old Colby Shaw of Leverette's Chapel would have received a heck of a lot more attention that year than he did. On his first-ever deer hunt, Shaw blasted a 20-point Rusk County

bruiser that netted 202 7/8 B&C points. Amazingly, the Shaw buck was harvested on 40 acres that his father had leased less than a month earlier. It ranked as the biggest buck ever taken by a youth hunter in Texas since the Texas Big Game Awards Program began keeping records in 1991-1992, but not for long. On opening day in 2013, 15-year-old Makayla Hay of New Waverly topped Shaw's record with a Region 5 bruiser that carried 23 points and scored 203 1/8 B&C points. In a "normal" deer season, the Hay buck probably would have ranked as the buck of the year for East Texas. As it turned out, the 2013 season was anything but normal. The Pineywoods region alone produced a near-record 242 TBGA entries last season, including a 31 point Houston County giant that ranks as highest-scoring free-range whitetail ever reported to TBGA in its 23-year history. Harvested by Mark Lee of Crosby, the spectacular whitetail somehow managed to grow a freakish set of antlers that look like something straight out of a fairy tale book. Again, there were no tall fences involved. No breeding programs‌just Mother Nature and a whacked out mix of DNA molecules that somehow blended together to create a tremendous maze of tines and thick mass that posed a major challenge for veteran scorer Homer Saye of Cypress. Saye, 70, said that he pondered over the gnarly rack for several hours just trying to determine how to tape it correctly. Once he figured it out, the main frame 10-pointer netted 268 4/8 B&C points. There have been a couple of larger free-range bucks reported in Texas in the past, both of which were recorded by B&C, long before the inception of TBGA. Those deer, as listed in the B&C registry, include the 284 3/8-inch "Brady Buck" taken in 1892 in McCulloch County by an unknown hunter and a 272-inch whitetail that was found dead near Junction in 1925. News of the Lee's new state record sent shockwaves throughout Texas' deer hunting community, but nobody was more surprised than Shelton Booth of Marshall. Booth, 19, harvested a 218 1/8-inch net 20-pointer in Harrison County last December. It seemed a shoo-in to be the biggest TBGA Region 6 non-typical of 2013 until Lee's score entered the data base in late-January.

www.texas-wildlife.org

Photo by Russell Graves

Article by Matt Williams

9


Quality bucks were scarce in East Texas counties prior to the implementation of the antler restriction. Those restrictions have helped make a real difference in the number of quality bucks in the field today.

"I couldn't believe it," Booth said. "I guess that just goes to show you what can happen around here." Indeed, East Texas has become a contender when it comes to producing topshelf whitetails in the Lone Star State. And, what's spooky is that some experts believe we may have only seen the tip of iceberg at this point. "In my opinion, East Texas has the potential to rival South Texas when it comes to trophy class deer," said Charlie Muller, a veteran Texas Parks and Wildlife

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Department wildlife biologist and TBGA/ B&C scorer based in Longview. "We may never produce the numbers, but as far as overall quality, there is absolutely no question in my mind. Personally, I don't think we hear about all of the big deer that are killed here. A lot of people are afraid they'll get priced out of their lease if word gets out about a big deer. It has happened." Past To Present Knowing what I know about the troubled history of white-tailed deer and deer hunting in East Texas, it has been really

November 2014

cool to see how our East Texas hunting heritage has evolved into what is today. In the early 1900s, deer that were native to the region were over-harvested by early settlers who lumbered their habitat and subsistence hunters who shot the animals year-round. Restocking efforts began as early as the 1940s and continued throughout the late1980s using surplus deer trapped in South Texas. Sadly, those deer met with their own struggles that were inherent with the times. Not only were they poached and chased with dogs, they also suffered as the result of disease and drought. Furthermore, hunter attitudes regarding buck harvest caused age structures in deer herds to become so badly skewed that 1 1/2-year-old and 2 1/2-yearold bucks did a high percentage of the breeding. In looking back, Kevin Smithhart of Lufkin says he can remember a time when "letting a buck" walk was about as popular with East Texas deer hunters as "catch and release" was with bass fishermen. It just didn't happen very much. Smithhart, 60, is a veteran TWA member who grew up hunting in East Texas during the 1960s and 1970s. He says you didn't see many deer in East Texas back then, unless you had land to hunt near a place that had been restocked, and the deer were protected. "Back when I was in junior high school in the 1960s, deer hunting wasn't about the size of deer you killed on opening day," he said. "It was more about killing a deer with antlers. If you killed a five pointer, you went to school and bragged about that dude. A 16-inch 8-pointer was considered a big ol' buck back in the 1970s. If a buck lived to be 5 ½ years old, it was a miracle. Most of them were harvested by the time they were two." Dallas Morning News outdoors writer Ray Sasser has deep East Texas roots, as well. Sasser, who grew up in the 1950s and 1960s in the rural town of Pineland, says he can remember a time when it came as a shock to cross paths with a whitetail in Sabine County. "It stunned you when you saw one – it was almost like you'd seen Bigfoot or something," Sasser said. "There probably weren't 200 deer in the entire region at that time, and those were laying low for fear that Photo by Russell Graves

photo by Grady Allen

east texas q u alit y w h itetails


photo courtesy of TBGA

photo courtesy of TBGA

east texas q u alit y w h itetails

On opening day in 2013, 15-year-old Makayla Hay of New Waverly harvested this Region 5 bruiser that carried 23 points and scored 203 1/8 B&C points.

Ushering In Antler Restrictions and Management Plans What started out 12 years ago as an experimental regulation in six counties in the lower Post Oak has since played a huge role in helping to put more quality bucks in the woods all across East Texas. It has also proven a point that wildlife experts have been preaching for years – if you want big bucks, don't shoot the young ones. Prior to the 2002-2003 season, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department implemented a buck harvest regulation

(l-r) Executive Director of TPWD Carter Smith, TWA President Greg Simons, TWA Awardee Mark Lee of Crosby and Chairman of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission Dan Allen Hughes Jr. at the TBGA Statewide Sportsman’s Celebration held during TWA’s WildLife 2014 in San Antonio. Lee harvested this 31-point Houston County buck that ranks as highest-scoring free-range whitetail ever reported to TBGA in its 23-year history. The main frame 10-pointer netted 268 4/8 B&C points.

photo courtesy of TBGA Photo by Russell Graves

somebody was fixing to fry them up." While the mentality changed a little as more properties "clubbed up" and deer numbers finally began to blossom as the result of intensified logging operation and more restrictive harvest regulations, getting many hunters to avoid harvesting young bucks proved to be a long, uphill battle throughout the 1980s and 1990s. One of primary reasons was a lack of trust among neighbors. "A lot of people were of the belief that if they let a young buck walk, it would jump the fence and their neighbor would shoot it," Smithhart said. "And, a lot of times that was exactly what would happen. It's still something people worry about today, but it's not near as bad as it used to be; because, now, we've got regulations in place to protect those younger deer from harvest."

TWA Convention photo by Jon King Kiesling

In 2012, on his first-ever deer hunt, 15-year-old Colby Shaw of Leverette's Chapel harvested this 20-point Rusk County buck that netted 202 7/8 B&C points.

In September 2012, bowhunter A.J. Downs of Conroe harvested this enormous buck in San Jacinto County. The buck ranks as the highest scoring free-ranging whitetail ever taken by an archer in the state of Texas.Sporting 28 scoreable points, the buck nets 256 4/8 Boone and Crockett (B&C) points and ranks among the Top 5 whitetails taken by any method in all of North America from 2010-2012.

www.texas-wildlife.org

11


photo by Matt Williams

east texas q u alit y w h itetails

More evidence of how well the quality deer management concept has been accepted across East Texas can be seen in the TBGA database. Run jointly by TWA and TPWD, the program hosts banquets each year to recognize hunters who harvest noteworthy bucks and the landowners responsible for producing them.

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hunters to avoid harvesting young bucks. While the regulation has met with opposition in some areas, TPWD District 6 wildlife biologist Gary Calkins of Jasper says it has been very well-received across the region overall, mainly because it works. “The proof,” he says, “is in the puddin'.” "There is no doubt the antler restriction has done more than anything to change hunter attitudes about buck harvest," Calkins said. "In the last nine years, I've seen more change in hunter attitudes than I have seen in my entire 22-year career with TPWD. It's been pretty neat to watch it happen and to see the difference it can make

Embracing TBGA More evidence of how well the quality deer management concept has been accepted across East Texas can be seen in the TBGA database. Run jointly by TWA and TPWD, the program hosts banquets each year to recognize hunters who harvest noteworthy bucks and the landowners responsible for producing them. According to TWA’s Justin Dreibelbis, TBGA hunting heritage program director, Region 6 accounted for more TBGA entries last season than any other region statewide. He added that the annual East Texas Hunting Heritage banquet, which includes Regions 5, 6 and 7, is always a packed house. The 2014 banquet in Brenham drew a crowd of 450 people – significantly more than any of the other regional banquets. "The hunters in East Texas have really photo by Matt Williams

for Austin, Colorado, Fayette, Lavaca, Lee and Washington counties that restricted hunters to one buck per season. Harvest criteria described a legal buck as one with a hardened antler protruding through the skin and at least one unbranched antler, or an inside spread of 13 inches or greater, or six or more points on one side. Quality bucks were scarce in those counties prior to the implementation of the antler restriction. In fact, a decade of harvest data indicated that only 20 percent of the 5,000 bucks harvested annually by hunters were 3 1/2 years old or older. Sadly, yearling deer accounted for more than 50 percent of the annual buck harvest. Shift to the 2004-2005 season. Hunters in the six counties shot about the same number of bucks. However, 71 percent of those deer were 3 1/2 years old or older. In a nutshell, the regulation worked wonders. Not only were hunters seeing more and better deer, they also began to witness rutting activity that they'd never seen before, and they liked it. The antler restriction has since been implemented in more than 100 additional East Texas counties, but not before it was tweaked to include two bucks. One of the bucks must have an inside spread of 13 inches or more, while the second must be a spike or have at least one unbranched antler. Essentially, the antler reg is built-in management, because it more or less forces

in the number quality bucks in the field." Equally encouraging has been the significant number of hunting clubs in East Texas that are now adhering to formal deer management plans, Calkins said. "Back when I was field biologist in 2000, I thought I was doing well when I wrote my seventh management plan for the fivecounty area I worked," he said. "Today, the biologist that has that job is writing about 70 management plans in those same counties. Every biologist in the field has seen that type of growth."

The use of feeders in the Pineywoods provides landowners with the opportunity to attract deer for the purpose of viewing and judging antlers.

novemBER 2014


photo by Matt Williams

east texas q u alit y w h itetails

Photo ŠChase Fountain, TPWD

According to TPWD, the growth in the number of hunting clubs in East Texas has resulted in a significant increase in the number of formal deer management plans being written by TPWD field biologists.

embraced this program," said Dreibelbis. "It's plain to see the people there love their deer, and they love their deer hunting. They get excited about big deer, and they get excited about kids hunting. There has definitely been a cultural shift in East Texas. People are spending more time hunting; they are paying more attention to how old the deer are before they pull the trigger, and they are paying more attention to their numbers. Obviously, it has made a huge difference." No argument, here. Indeed, times are good for East Texas deer hunters. My guess is that things are just going to get better, too.

Life is good for deer and deer hunters in East Texas. And, it appears to be getting better.

www.texas-wildlife.org

13


$300

is what it costs to provide a weekend of hands-on hunting experience for a youth & family member.

Please consider giving the gift of hunting through a tax deductible donation that will be used to provide memorable experiences that expose Texans to nature, conservation, and responsible and safe hunting. The Texas Youth Hunting Program (TYHP) has taken over 19,000 youths and over 23,000 parent/guardians and family members hunting since the program’s inception in 1995. For many participants, this is their first opportunity to explore nature’s classroom and most become life-long supporters of Texas’ rich natural resources. TYHP teaches all participants about the important role that landowners and hunters play in wildlife conservation. Youth Hunts are available to youth ages 9-17 who have completed Hunter Safety and possess a valid Texas Hunting License

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Call Us at (210) 826-2904 or Visit Online @ www.tyhp.org T E X A S W I L D L I F E November 2014

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issues and Advocacy

MAKING A DIFFERENCE

Captive Deer Breeding Legislation Photo Credit: goodcat / Shutterstock.com

Article by david yeates

O

n Jan. 13, 2015, the 84th Regular Texas Legislative Session will begin. Here at the Texas Wildlife Association (TWA), we have been preparing for many months to address several key issues as well as any that may come up during the unpredictable session. While we are working on core private property rights issues such as eminent domain reform and groundwater matters, we will also be focusing on wildlife

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matters. One specific wildlife issue that has been a source of friction over the last few years is the matter of captive deer breeding. As a relative newcomer to the topic and TWA staff, I have spent quite a bit of time reading up on this complex issue and its legislative history. I thought it would be helpful to provide an outline of that history and TWA’s positions on captive deer breeding in hopes of clearing up some misconceptions.

november 2014

In the 2011 82nd Legislative Session, eight bills relating to five different deer issues were introduced. The first issue was to allow for microchips to be used as the sole identification for liberated breeder deer, removing the requirement for visible external identification. The second was to allow for the commercial sale of native game venison. The third was to allow for the privatization of captive breeder deer,


captive deer breeding legislation

transferring ownership from the Texas public to private individuals. The fourth was a modification to the existing captive deer breeder permit review process. The fifth was to allow Deer Management Permits (DMP) for mule deer. TWA opposed and testified against all eight bills. Only the mule deer DMP bill was passed and became law. It should be noted that the mule deer DMP bill called for a scientific study conducted by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) before issuing permits. Since that time, Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) has been discovered in far West Texas resulting in no mule deer DMP permits being issued to date. In the 2013 83rd Legislative Session, twelve bills relating to nine different deer issues were introduced. The microchip identification bills, commercial sale of venison bill, and deer breeder permit review bills were all reintroduced from the previous session. The first new issue was to transfer regulatory oversight from TPWD to the Texas Animal Health Commission. The second was to extend captive deer breeder permit renewals from one year up to five years. The third new bill was to force TPWD to issue mule deer DMP permits. The fourth was to authorize an interim study of human health hazards from consumption of venison with pharmaceutical residues from medications (over 50 identified) used in the captive deer breeding industry. The fifth was to increase the minimum amount of time from when a captive breeder deer is released to when it may be hunted from 10 days to 60 days (phased in over three years). The sixth was an omnibus bill encompassing identification, release times, and permit review. TWA supported the increased minimum release time bill, the meat study bill, and the final amended permit review bill. TWA opposed and testified against all of the other bills. Only the amended permit review bill passed and became law. TWA proudly stands for private property rights, preserving our hunting heritage, and keeping wildlife wild. Nearly 30 years ago, TWA was formed to fight proposed legislation to ban the use of “game proof ” high fences in the state of Texas. TWA defeated that legislation and we continue to support the use of high fencing as a “tool in the toolbox” of landowners and wildlife managers. TWA is not opposed to captive deer breeding. However, TWA does have

TWA proudly stands for private property rights, preserving our hunting heritage, and keeping wildlife wild. animal and human health concerns arising from the increasingly intense and progressive practices used in the captive deer breeding industry. We have been working diligently toward sensible regulatory solutions with as many partners and diverse viewpoints as possible and we will continue to pursue that goal in the upcoming 84th Legislative Session. The TWA Position Statement on “Ownership of Deer” approved by the Executive Committee on Oct. 15, 2008 and reaffirmed on Feb. 12, 2014 is quoted in full below. I believe that is sums the matter up well. All of our Position Statements can be found on our website www.texas-wildlife. org.

TWA supports public ownership of wildlife resources, and is, and will remain, opposed to any efforts that result in conversion of Texas' wild deer to private ownership. TWA strongly supports the position that our native whitetailed and mule deer are to remain publiclyowned wildlife regardless of the natural or manmade situations in which they are found; and that deer intentionally released from breeder pens upon release remain the property of the people of the state of Texas. We believe deer breeders should continue to enjoy and benefit from certain privileges extended by statutes governing deer breeder permits. TWA also believes reasonable TPWD oversight as provided through statute is desirable for both the continued integrity of the breeder industry and the protection of wild deer.

ISSU ES AND ADVOCACY

techniques & technologies workshop Hosted by Texas Chapter of the Wildlife Society and The Omni Hotel. We are pleased to announce a Techniques and Technologies Workshop will be offered for all wildlife professionals, students and faculty. View presentations and interact with vendors demonstrating the latest technological advances in wildlife research and management.

February 18-19 American Bank Center (immediately preceding the Texas Chapter of the Wildlife Society Mtg)

http://tctws.org/annual-meeting/

texas chapter of the wildlife society If you have questions or would like to attend, present information or purchase vendor space, please call 830-238-4483.

www.texas-wildlife.org

17


H u n t i n g H e r i ta g e

MAKING A DIFFERENCE

Texas Big Game Awards: 2013 – 2014 Field Photo Contest Winners

H

unters are the ultimate conservationists. They pay the bills for conservation of game and non-game wildlife habitat and help drive the state and national economy. One of the best tools that we as sportsmen have to tell our conservation story is high-quality field photography. Texas Big Game Awards (TBGA) holds an annual field photo contest to recognize those hunters who go the extra mile to capture that special moment in the field in a tasteful and respectful manner.

Our judges met back in March and reviewed over 280 photos that were submitted electronically on our website at www. TexasBigGameAwards.org. The photos were judged with a number of factors in mind including light, backdrop, presentation of animal in a respectful manner, position of hunter and use of native habitat. Congratulations to the following hunters for submitting winning photos for the 2013-2014 TBGA Field Photo Contest.

Overall Winner: Jenna Kelley Leon County, First Harvest

XIT Ranger provided a central meeting place, kitchen and lodging.

Pronghorn Antelope: Tyler Brimager Hudspeth County, Youth Division

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TEXAS WILDLIFE

november 2014

Youth Division: Bradin Hanselka Burnet County, Youth Division


2013-2014 FIELD PHOTO CONTEST

HU N T I N G H E R I T A G E

Mule Deer: Alice Abraham Hemphill County, Net Score – 175 6/8

White-tailed Deer: Clayton Bonner Callahan County, Net Score – 131 4/8

Honorable Mention: Dr. William Kyle Hudspeth County, Net Score – 83

Honorable Mention: Robert Sanders Duval County, Net Score – 176 3/8

Honorable Mention: Blake Martinez Freestone County, Youth Division

Be sure to participate in the 2014-2015 TBGA Field Photo Contest by submitting a picture of your entry at www.TexasBigGameAwards.org. Deadline to enter is Feb. 15, 2015.

www.texas-wildlife.org

19


c o n s e r vat i o n l e g a c y

MAKING A DIFFERENCE

Texas Brigades Address TPW Commissioners Photo by Davee Garcia

Article by Ike Garcia, Kalyn Stephens and Micayla Pearson

Nov 09-1: (l-r) Mikayla House (North Texas Bobwhite Brigade adult leader and former student worker), Kalyn Stephens (South Texas Buckskin Brigade), Micayla Pearson (South Texas Buckskin Brigade and South Texas Bobwhite Brigade), and Ike Garcia (Rolling Plains Bobwhite Brigade) addressed the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission.

Editor’s Note: In August 2014, several Texas Brigade graduates addressed the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commissioners during the annual public hearing held in Houston. Below is the testimony from a few of them.

T

hroughout the years, I’ve learned that life is a road trip. You will make new friends and learn new things. But, every once in a while, you see a road: it may appear new, familiar, weird, grand or just demented. But, the little daredevil inside you or spark of curiosity

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TEXAS WILDLIFE

takes control of the wheel. I am Isaac Garcia, and this is my journey of going down that very road. My road trip started about three years ago when my dad found out about this program from a local friend. The guy had talked about his daughter going to these Texas Brigade camps and how she learned more about fish, deer and quail from some experts! My dad and brother were deeply intrigued. So, my brother sent in his application and got accepted into the Bass Brigade. On the way home from camp,

November 2014

he talked about all the leadership skills and wildlife knowledge he had gained. He told us he had only gotten about 15 hours of sleep, because he was consumed with conservation projects and assignments. I would have to wait 24 months before I was eligible. But, patience and time are partners in crime, and they picked at me like buzzards on a deer carcass. Another year passed, and I watched my brother leave for the South Texas Buckskin Brigade. Finally, it was my turn! We fought over the laptop to get our essays done. This


Photo courtesy of Texas Brigades

Texas Brigades

The Brigade motto: Tell me, and I forget. Show me, and I remember. Involve me, and I understand. The Brigade curriculum emphasizes hands-on learning experiences.

year, he attended Ranch Brigade while I headed to the Rolling Plains Bobwhite Brigade. Even after my brother’s pep talks, I was nervous and unsure of what to expect. I entered the Centennial Lodge and was greeted by the Founder of the Texas Brigades Dr. Dale Rollins. I met my covey and group leaders… then, camp started. Knowledge immediately took the place of energy in my body, and there is a lot of energy in here. I learned what it meant to be a true leader and how to apply it in every aspect of my life. The brigade’s motto is: “Tell me, I forget. Show me, I remember. Involve me, I understand.” Not one time did they ever just tell us or show us. The volunteers of Texas Brigades and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department had us high knee and elbows to help us understand what we were doing and how it was beneficial to the environment. On the last day, most brigade camps honor a top cadet. This person is voted on by their peers and the staff for being an outstanding cadet at camp. After a run-off and an impromptu speech, I received that honor. At age 13, it is one of the best achievements I’ve ever accomplished. I assure you that this isn’t simply a “title of the past,” but rather a motivation to continue the conservation efforts. This program is more than just a camp to me; it’s a huge part of my life. It is paving my road and the roads of many others.

Through the Texas Brigades and TPWD, many young men and women are putting forth effort to protect and improve our resources. We would like to give a big thank you to TPWD for partnering with the Texas Brigades to ensure a brighter tomorrow. Your support guarantees that there is indeed a conservation leader in every community. Ike Garcia 22nd Battalion, Rolling Plains Bobwhite

G

ood afternoon to the members of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission. My name is Micayla Pearson, and I am from La Vernia, Texas, where I am a sophomore at La Vernia High School. Today, I am here to express my gratitude for the Texas Brigade program and the impact it has made on my life and my future goals. To begin, I am excited to share with you a bit about my Texas Brigades experience. I am a graduate cadet of the 2013 South Texas Bobwhite Brigade and the 2014 South Texas Buckskin Brigade. Additionally, I served as an assistant covey leader for the 2014 South Texas Bobwhite Brigade. My Brigades experience began in 2005 when I was 6 years old. Much too young for camp at that time, but, this was the year my oldest brother was accepted to his

CONSERVATION LEGACY

very first Brigades camp. This set off what has become a Pearson family tradition! I am now the third member of our family to participate in the program. Since my first camp, I have had the opportunity to participate in many different programs as a representative of Texas Brigades. Whether I am speaking to a 4-H club, a wildlife management association or assisting with a program on quail at a master naturalist convention, I am always asked the same question, "What is Texas Brigades? And, what did you do there?" Of course, I love to share my family tradition story. But, I also love to talk about my week at camp and how it was packed with botany, telemetry, leadership, team building, habitat management and so much more! Brigades has not only provided educational opportunities but also developed a skill set which has enabled me to do things I never believed I would do. I am empowered to communicate confidently with professionals in the wildlife field. I have organized programs and given presentations. Most recently, I assisted my county TPWD Natural Resource Specialist with a presentation to the Wilson County Wildlife Management Association, and I gave them a lesson on aging deer using jaw bones. Definitely different experiences from those of my peers! I am thankful to Brigades for helping me to develop skills which will make me a better college applicant and a more marketable job candidate but mostly a better steward of the land. Thank you, Texas Parks and Wildlife; and, thank you, Texas Brigades. The Pearson family has developed a passion for wildlife and conservation which has been cultivated in the Brigade program. Micayla Pearson 16th Battalion, South Texas Bobwhite 15th Battalion, South Texas Buckskin

I

want to thank the commissioners for being here today and allowing me to share my experiences with the Texas Brigades and what the program means to me. My perspective is a little different than most, I would guess, because I have literally been a part of the Brigades my entire life. My dad is a wildlife biologist and was

www.texas-wildlife.org

21


CONSERVATION LEGACY

Texas Brigades

managing La Bandera Ranch in 2000, when the first Battalion of the South Texas Buckskin Brigade was born. Coincidentally, Feb. 29 of the same year, so was I. Since then, we have shared two other ranches as a common home, and I have continued to be a part of the camps. So, not only have I been fortunate enough to grow up on some great ranches, but I have also grown up with the instructors, student workers, and cadets over the past 14 years. I guess I have always been a kind of camp mascot, being called on to give silver bullets when some of the cadets were too shy to stand up; or coming up with cadences with my little sister to put on marching demos. I have always felt blessed to be allowed to share in the magic of the camp. For as long as I can remember, I knew I wanted to be a cadet, but nothing could prepare me for the week I had coming. Attending the 15th battalion gave me a whole new idea and respect for wildlife by showing me the complexity of taking care of the land and animals. That week

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was without a doubt the longest, yet most memorable week of my life. I learned all about conservation and management, as well as good ethics and leadership skills. It was a tiring and intense week. Who would have thought that hours in a class room followed by sleepless nights and homework could be fun? The monotony was broken with many fun and challenging games, which helped me become close friends with many of the other students. My personal favorite was a massive water-balloon fight where one of my friends dumped a large bucket of water on me when my back was turned. That may not be a good example of a bonding experience, but it was refreshing! All of the instructors have been inspirations to me personally, and I hope to one day follow in their footsteps. Each cadet had a saying which we had to memorize called a silver bullet. My silver bullet was an anonymous quote, “Every job is the self-portrait of the person who did it.� And, to me, this means I should strive to

November 2014

do my best in everything, because society judges us based on our actions, and no one ever gets a second chance to make a first impression. I took this to heart, and I want to show the instructors who supported me how they changed my life with my accomplishments. I owe the Texas Brigades a big thank you for giving me this experience and the opportunity to better myself as a future wildlife conservationist. I also want to thank the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department for their involvement with these programs and their dedication to our wildlife heritage. Kalyn Stephens 15th Battalion, South Texas Buckskin

If you would like to apply for a Texas Brigade camp, please log onto www.texasbrigades.org. Applications for 2015 are now available.


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TEXAS WILDLIFE

G un s & S h ooting

Long Eyes

Good Optics Help Hunters Avoid Sometimes Costly Ground Shrinkage Article and Photos by

Ralph Winingham

P

EARSALL – Having been given a green light to shoot any mature eight-point white-tailed buck as a game management effort, when a nice brush buster stepped into view, there was no hesitation before the shot. The deer dropped in its tracks, downed by a neck shot taken from a tower blind about 150 yards away, and another Big O Ranch buck was on the ground. Unfortunately, what had appeared to be a classic eight-pointer as it eased its head and shoulders out of the brush had magically grown a ninth point on the left side of its rack – the side away from the shooter and partially obscured from view in the rifle scope. What would have been a 150-class Boone and Crockett score dropped by several points because of the deduction for the kicker that barely measured over an inch in length. Worse still, shooting the nine-point buck violated an iron-clad

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TEXAS WILDLIFE

Big O deer management regulation that weekend prohibiting the killing of any mature buck with more than eight points. That little kicker ended up costing the hunter a cool $800 in fines. One of the best ways to avoid this type of costly mistake is to rely on good optics that can help a hunter clearly locate and positively identify any potential buck. There are no mulligans in deer hunting – once an animal is downed, there is no catch and release. Being able to determine the size and potential B&C score of the buck deer roaming across South Texas ranches is an absolute necessity when a hunter is paying $5,000, $10,000 or even more for the right buck. “Using good optics is how I make all the decisions, especially at first light and last light, when I am telling a hunter it is the right deer,’’ said veteran guide Gene Naquin of the Nooner Ranch. “As much as I use them, if you don’t have good optics it can be really bad on your eyes,’’ he added. Naquin, who has been guiding at the 1,500-acre, high-fenced hunting operation just north of D’Hanis since 2002, said he favors Swarovski optics – binoculars for anything under 100 yards and a spotting scope for the 400-500 yard distances. The Swarovski optics do carry quite a price tag, with the binoculars running about $2,000 and the spotting scopes costing from about $2,600 to $3,600. As invaluable tools of his profession in putting hunters on B&C class deer, the guide said he is more concerned with performance than with price. “You have to know what you are looking for and you have to be able to clearly see Nooner Ranch guide Gene Naquin knows from years of what you are looking at,’’ he said. experience that good optics are a necessity in the success “I’ve seen a lot of people make mistakes, of hunters who want to take down the right buck. most of the time shooting younger or

November 2014


G un s & S h ooting

Harvey Winingham sights in his rifle, while Wade Winingham checks out his target, as they put good optics to use on the rifle range.

smaller deer than they are supposed to, but they sometimes do kill bigger bucks than they should,’’ Naquin said, adding that hunters are required to pay for what hits the ground, so mistakes can be costly. “Good optics are a necessity to make good decisions,’’ he said. One of the leaders in providing highquality, moderately priced optics to consumers, Vicki Gardner, vice president of Alpen Optics based in California, said that there are several factors anyone relying on good glass should consider in selecting their rifle scopes, binoculars or spotting scopes. “There is nothing more fun than picking up your binoculars and seeing everything clearly,” she said. “Good optics are a tool that you need to get the job done.” While many consumers make selections solely based on the hit to their wallets, other considerations such as ease of use, dependability and being able to clearly see images even in low-light conditions are

important, she said. Gardner explained that the reason certain binoculars, rifle scopes and spotting scopes provide a crisper, brighter image with higher color fidelity is not about price, but involves improved technology on the coating of the lens and prisms in the optics. The varying levels of quality such as fully multicoated, multi-coated or coated provide different ED ratings, referring to Extra Low Dispersion glass. The lenses are able to concentrate and direct the wavelengths of light more effectively, enabling them to control and minimize aberrations.

In order for the hunter to put the right buck on the ground, good optics are essential.

www.texas-wildlife.org

25


Guns & Shooting

Good quality optics are a must when field judging big game such as this whitetail buck, especially when those animals are located in escape cover.

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TEXAS WILDLIFE

“In the middle of a bright sunny day, everyone will see the same amount of light and the eyes can only accept so much light. But in low light conditions, good optics will be able to gather 99 percent of the available light to provide the user with a clearer image,” she said. “We are very selective when it comes to quality. We pay a little more up front for products from the factories that we use, but don’t pass that along to our customers,” she said, explaining that is how her company holds down their products’ price tags to under $500 in most cases for optics providing the same or better images as higher priced competitors. Once a hunter has selected his or her optics, Naquin has a few tips on what to look for in order to determine the potential B&C score of a buck on the hoof. “The size of the eyes will help you determine the mass of the antlers,’’ he said, explaining that the round part of a deer’s eyes is about four inches in diameter. Using that measurement as a guide, the hunter should be able to determine how big around the antlers are at their base and along the beams. Mass measurements; tine and beam lengths; and rack width are major parts of the official B&C score. To help determine the possible width

November 2014

of the rack, Naquin said that the distance from ear tip to ear tip when a buck’s ears are flared out is about 17 inches, and the inside of the ear measures about six inches. “That is a good way to measure the spread and the inside ear measurement will help you estimate the tine lengths,’’ he said. “Add to that the average beam length on these deer is about 22-24 inches and you are starting with a pretty good base for your estimate. “In most cases, the bottom measurements (mass and width) will be about 85-90 points, so all you have to do is figure up the tine measurements to get a good rough estimate.” The B&C Club has been the official record keeper of North American big game trophies for the past 75 years. To be listed in the B&C record book, a typical white-tailed buck’s rack must score at least 170 points and a non-typical rack must score at least 195 points. B&C also requires that the deer be taken from a low-fenced property. As a final note, a hunter should be sure to always know exactly how many points that big buck is sporting – that little bit of knowledge can become quite valuable on ranches where a mistake can put a big dent in a hunter’s wallet.


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t wa m e m b e r s i n a c t i o n

MAKING A DIFFERENCE

MEMBER PROFILE: Tom Vandivier – Llano Springs Ranch Article by Lorie Woodward Cantu

T

om Vandivier has had a bird’s eyeview of nature since childhood. During the summer, the lifelong Texan would return with his father and the rest of his family to their ancestral home in Indiana to visit grandparents. For two weeks each year, Tom and his dad would tend the native timber on the family’s 75acre holding, known as “The Woods.” Tom would climb walnut and wild cherry trees and cut limbs, ensuring the trees would grow straight and strong to provide furniture-quality lumber. Once Tom was aloft, his father would bend the limber trees over and Tom would jump from tree top to tree top. At eight-years-old, Tom was part lumberjack and part squirrel. The Vandivier family still owns The Woods, but Tom has passed along the legacy of trimming to younger generations. “I don’t think I would bounce as well as I used to,” Tom, who is a real estate attorney in Austin, said, laughing. But The Woods and later, a 250-acre tract of Navidad River bottom in Lavaca County, Texas, served as the foundation for 28

TEXAS WILDLIFE

Tom’s love of nature. In high school, Tom and his family worked the farm. He spent his weekends tending trees and hunting critters, instead of exploring the nightlife of Houston, where the family made their home. “My dad always loved trees, so as a teenager, the pecan farm seemed like a natural extension of his lifelong passion,” Tom said. “In hindsight, though, I think it was his secret plan to keep his teenage son off the streets.” Keeping Tom off the streets and in the woods fostered his love of hunting. “I don’t know where my hunting gene came from,” he said. “To my knowledge, no one in my family was a hunter before me, but I got bitten by the bug in a big way.” His father and family friends stoked the fire of his passion by providing opportunities to go afield beyond the boundaries of the pecan farm. “Even as a kid, I dreamed of owning my own ranch,” Tom said. Upon high school graduation, Tom left Houston to attend Southwestern University

November 2014

in Georgetown earning a BBA degree in business and economics. Then, he returned to the University of Houston law school graduating with a JD degree and practiced law in Houston for seven years before relocating to Austin in 1985. In 1980s, Tom and his father acquired a warehouse in Austin and built a pecan shelling plant, eventually expanding it into a wholesale, retail, mail order and valueadded business. After growing the business to maturity, they sold Navidad Farms Pecans and the pecan farm. Tom’s family began looking for a small recreational property where they could maintain their ties to the land. From the outset, the family had some specific criteria for the purchase. They wanted a place where they could work and play together. The land didn’t have to be a showplace, because part of the family’s interest was taking a raw piece of land and sculpting it into productivity. The ranch also had to be economically self-sustaining because the family didn’t want to fund its operation out of their wallets. And, the ranch needed live water as the family considered water the value for the future. Their hunt took them to the Llano Springs Ranch. At almost 5,100 acres, it was more land than the family had anticipated buying, but once they saw it, nowhere else would do. “With more than 100 years of sheep and goat production, the land had been used hard,” Tom said. “It was solid cedar breaks, bare rocks, falling down fences and an overhunted, undermanaged deer herd.” But it contained the headwater springs of the South Llano River, giving the future owners control of both banks and the upper reaches of the watershed, he said. “It was obviously a one-of-a-kind opportunity to steward a pristine stretch of the river,” he said. “We knew that our efforts wouldn’t just benefit us, but everyone downstream.” The South Llano eventually drains into Lake LBJ and the Colorado River, supplying water for fast-growing Austin and smaller communities scattered all the way to the Gulf Coast. Although it was a financial stretch and a gamble, the family chose to take it. In


TWA MEMBERS IN ACTION

1994, Tom, his father, and his sister, Ann Vandivier Brodnax, jointly purchased the ranch. Then, they rolled up their sleeves and went to work to make Llano Springs Ranch function financially and ecologically. “With the exception of an occasional contractor and the help of good friends, we’ve done all of the work ourselves,” Tom said. The work crew included his parents, his sister and her family, and his wife, Sonja, and their daughters, Laura Sherrod and Jessica Camp. Through the years, the family has grown to include two son-inlaws, Greg Sherrod and Brandon Camp, and grandsons, Lukas and Kaleb Sherrod. For years, Tom worked in his law office Monday through Thursday, exiting the city on Thursday evening, so he could dedicate the weekend to ranch work. The schedule hasn’t always been easy, but leaving the stress of the office and bustle of Austin behind as he heads west is a perk. “I untangle other people’s problems every work day,” Tom said. “When I get in my truck and head to the ranch, I can feel my stress evaporating. Nature, physical labor and visible results are good for the soul.” Adopting Leopold’s land management tools of axe, plow, cow, fire and gun, the family began reclaiming the landscape. Through the years, they have rebuilt fences, conducted prescribed burns, implemented rotational grazing, harvested excess deer, and cleared cedar, lots of cedar. By Tom’s estimate, they have selectively cleared almost 2,800 acres of the thirsty encroacher. “Like David Bamberger, whose example we’ve followed, we’ve worn out a barn full of chain saws,” Tom said. To help fund their management efforts, the family took advantage of conservation programs such as EQIP through NRCS and LIP through the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD). The Kerr WMA also served as an example for the Vandiviers’ efforts. The land has responded spectacularly. Today, side oats grama, little bluestem and other native bunch grasses now thrive on what was once bare rock and cedar. As grass cover has increased, so has water infiltration, meaning that new springs have emerged and older ones have gotten stronger. Thanks to the deer management program that keeps whitetails, axis and fallow deer populations in balance with the habitat, high-value brush species have filled in what used to be a very evident browse line. The family has collected and hand-planted acorns of Chinkapin and

Lacey oaks that have become so rare that they no longer propagate in the wild. The endangered Tobush fishhook cactus is also part of the vegetative mix. As plant diversity has increased, so has the wildlife. Llano Springs Ranch is home to a vast array of birds including endangered species. When the selection committee for the 2008 Statewide Aldo Leopold Conservation Award program was touring the ranch, the group spotted the first golden-cheeked warbler recorded on the property. The Vandivier family qualified for and earned the Leopold Conservation Award in 2008, by being named the 2007 Lone Star Land Steward for the Edwards Plateau. The conservation community isn’t the only one who has noticed the ranch’s natural abundance. Llano Springs Ranch has become an ecotourism destination for birders, catch-and-release anglers, kayakers, hikers, photographers, and porch-sitters, who just want to soak up the solitude. In addition, the family operates a commercial hunting enterprise and regularly hosts Texas Youth Hunting Program hunts. Various universities and Scout troops have used the ranch for field trips. “One of the great pleasures of owning this ranch is sharing it with other people,” Tom said. “It’s fun to educate our guests about what we’ve done and why we’ve done it – and then to let them discover things about the land that we’ve discovered ourselves. As Texas becomes more urban, landowners need to tell the story of stewardship and its societal benefits every time and in every way we can.” Early on, the Vandiviers teamed up with natural resource professionals from TPWD and other agencies. Because of Fielding Harwell, a retired TPWD biologist who has been the ranch’s consulting biologist since it was purchased, Tom became involved with TWA. “Fielding told me, ‘You need to belong to TWA,’” Tom said. “I took him at his word. TWA is an advocate for wildlife and habitat just like we are on the ranch. It made sense to get involved.” Initially, Tom was a selfdescribed “passive” member, but over time became active. He now serves as a director, Executive Committee member, Texas Youth Hunting Program Advisory Committee member, and chairs the White-tailed Deer Management Committee. In 2011, the Texas Legislature was considering a host of bills related to deer breeding and management. As Tom

learned more about the proposals, he became concerned about the long-term implications for hunting, so he made a trip to the Capitol. He had never testified before. “I just stood in front of those Committee members and told it like it was,” he said. “Honestly, I think they were surprised to have an ordinary citizen testifying.” He left disturbed by the treatment of TPWD personnel and the unanswered questions raised by the proposed slate of legislation including the “10-day Rule.” Penraised bucks released during the hunting season or within 10 days of the season’s opening, must have their antlers removed. The short timeline has allowed pen-raised breeder bucks to be released into the wild just days before the hunting season opens, allowing them to be shot. From Tom’s perspective, the legality of this practice raises serious questions for the hunting industry. Does releasing pen-raised deer onto the range just days before hunting season constitute fair chase? What does the public perception of this practice mean to hunting’s reputation and sustainability? What is the long-term impact of this practice on hunting? What about keeping wildlife wild? It spurred him to call like-minded individuals and return with a larger group at the next legislative hearing. Over the course of the session, the group grew and became fully engaged in the issues. They, along with TWA leadership, have coalesced and grappled with these issues since 2011, during sessions and in between. The issues will be front and center during the 2015 session as well. “There are a lot of people who are interested in getting these issues resolved, and participation from the TWA membership is imperative,” he said. “When it comes to the Legislature, numbers really do matter. A few of us can’t do it all.” Even if TWA members don’t testify verbally, they can attend hearings and fill out the position cards, or simply link other TWA members who are active in the issue with legislators to whom the members might have a connection. “Stepping outside our comfort zone isn’t easy, but the changes we’re trying to make are important for all hunters and in line with TWA’s mission,” Tom said. Legislative advocacy is just one more way that TWA members can work for tomorrow’s wildlife…today.

www.texas-wildlife.org

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Leopold WHAT IS A TROPHY? by Steve Nelle

Photo courtesy of the Aldo Leopold Foundation. www.aldoleopold.org.

Lessons from

“We seek contacts with nature because we derive pleasure from them. We begin with the simplest and most obvious: the physical objects that the outdoorsman may seek, find, capture and carry away. In this category are game and fish, and the symbols or tokens of achievement such as heads, hides, photographs and specimens. All these things rest upon the idea of trophy. The pleasure they give is, or should be, in the seeking as well as the getting. The trophy, whether it be a bird’s egg, a mess of trout, a basket of mushrooms, the photograph of a bear, the pressed specimen of a wildflower, or a note tucked into the cairn on a mountain peak is a certificate. It attests that its owner has been somewhere and done something – that he has exercised skill, persistence, or discrimination . . . These connotations which attach to the trophy usually far exceed its physical value.”

A

ldo Leopold was an avid hunter, fisherman, naturalist and outdoorsman by any measure, but he seemed to care little about our modern concept of the trophy. The excerpts above, from his essay Conservation Esthetic are a reminder of the wide array of values ascribed to the pursuit of trophies. This time of year, many hunters turn their focus toward the pursuit of a trophy animal. Many definitions are offered of trophy big game; but, nowadays, it often boils down to the numerical score of antler or horn dimensions on male animals. This narrow emphasis is unfortunate and diminishes the value and perception of a trophy. Our views of a trophy have changed just in the past generation. Not many years ago, a nice chunky six-pound native largemouth was considered a trophy bass by most ordinary fishermen. Now, it barely gets a nod and is certainly not regarded a trophy catch. Likewise, the average Texas deer hunter did not become engrossed in calculating antler scores until about 30 years ago, and it was not the primary measuring stick of a trophy. Dale Rollins, a quail expert, is fond of proclaiming “every quail is a trophy.” That statement is certainly true during these times of quail scarcity, but I’m not sure if he felt that way when quail were plentiful and a limit was easy to bag. Rarity does seem to make special things more special. Not only does rarity elevate the value of a trophy but also does wildness and the skill involved in the taking. Most will agree that pen-reared quail, pen-raised deer, put-andtake catfish or trout are different from and inferior to their wild, native counterparts.

In the absence of a physical token, a trophy experience can live in the mind of the hunter, fisherman, bird watcher, botanist or naturalist. We all have memories of special times outdoors, and we can recall the details and picture them in our minds. My own trophy experiences are numerous, and there is not a trophy room large enough to accommodate them; yet, I have no big bucks or big bass hanging on the wall. My first dove, taken with Dad at my side with his 12-gauge Stephens single shot, is a trophy memory. Likewise, the memory of Mom taking me out to the field to hunt dove when I was in a wheelchair and with my arm in a cast is special. Shooting doves one-handed is a special challenge; but even more special was the love and dedication my Mom demonstrated in making the trophy class hunt possible. The memory of hunting doves with Al Brothers and his three young sons at a dirt tank on Rancho Blanco; the first Green-winged Teal shot on the Elm Fork of the Trinity; pintails coming into decoys; the thrill of hearing thousands of Sandhill Cranes leaving the roost – these and a hundred other memories fill my trophy room. As Leopold wrote, trophies involve more than the pursuit and taking of game. A trophy can be the finding of a rare orchid or the discovery of heartleaf hibiscus in full bloom in a thicket of guajillo. These can be as memorable as rattling up a big South Texas whitetail. Collecting deer hair, squirrel tails and turkey feathers; tying them on to a number four hook in the form of a muddler; the perfect fly-cast over a sunken log on the Llano followed by the big strike of a Guadalupe bass – these are the pieces of the trophy experience. Watching my young daughter delight in

catching sunfish on a cane pole, and 25 years later, watching her children do the same. The memory of my son winning the annual family carp tournament when he was 8 years old. He could barely hold up the huge fish. The memories of fishing with my brother and Grandpa Stephan on the Trinity River are still fresh and clear. Even when we did not catch a big tub full of catfish, the memories of being with Grandpa and watching the river are still trophy-quality experiences. Seeing the monstrous alligator gar rolling in the turbid waters is etched in my mind as if it was yesterday, although it happened 45 years ago. You can be a trophy hunter with or without a shotgun, bow, fly rod, camera or binoculars. With natural curiosity, eyesight or hearing, anyone can have a trophy experience with nature. A trophy experience can happen while hunting, fishing, bird watching, camping, hiking, canoeing or sitting alone on a ridge watching a distant thunderstorm, sunrise or sunset. For many outdoorsmen, a certain amount of grace is involved in the collection of trophies. A recognition that they are mostly undeserved and unexpected moments; being in the right place at the right time to observe or find something special, rare or unique. As we enter the hunting season, let us not forget that the seeking of the game and the experiences we collect along the way are the true measure of trophy value. May every day spent in the woods or beside the river be a trophy day, whether or not we pull the trigger or set the hook. May your hunting season never end and your trophies be many and special.

Writer’s Note: Aldo Leopold (1887 – 1948) is considered the father of modern wildlife management. More importantly, he developed and Steve Smithinsky became a described many of the concepts of conservation, ecology and stewardship of natural resources. Leopold an amazingly newwas member of TWA. 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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Kerrville attendees heard comments from State Representative Doug Miller.

TWA President Greg Simons (l) with new Executive Committee member and Region 8 Co-Chair Vannie Collins in Kerrville.

www.texas-wildlife.org

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fish & fishing

What’s Your Fish and Fisheries Management I.Q.? Article and photo by Dr. Billy Higginbotham, Professor and Extension Wildlife and Fisheries Specialist, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service

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t has been more than a year since the first Fish I.Q. Exam appeared in the pages of TWA’s Texas Wildlife magazine. Forge ahead on this true/false and multiple choice test to determine your current knowledge about Texas fish and their management in our private waters. Who knows? Maybe you will score higher this time around! 1. Pondowners can expect to produce how many pounds of channel catfish per surface acre annually in ponds with good water quality, a regular feeding program with a 28 percent crude protein floating ration and no other fish competitors? a. b. c. d. e.

100 300 500 700 1,000

True False

4. This chemical, called a piscicide, is used to remove unwanted fish populations.

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Crushed green walnuts Rotenone Hydrated lime Gypsum Copper sulfate

TEXAS WILDLIFE

Forage abundance and size structure Water quality Condition of your bass population a&c a&b

6. The presence of parasites on your bass or catfish is a sign of poor health a. True b. False

a.

3. One surface acre contains ____________square feet, while one acre-foot of water contains ________ gallons of water. a. 4,356 and 210,000 b. 43,560 and 3,260 c. 43,560 and 503,000 d. 326,000 and 435,000 e. 43,560 and 326,000

a. b. c. d. e.

a. b. c. d. e.

7. Which of the following statements are true:

2. The best way to combat poor large-mouth bass fishing is to restock more bass. a. b.

5. Calculating the relative weight (Wr) of your largemouth bass harvest provides clues about:

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Florida bass have the genetic potential to grow larger but are generally more difficult to catch than the northern largemouth bass b. Channel catfish need running water in a pond in order to spawn c. 10 pounds of forage fish is required to produce 1 pound of largemouth bass d. Threadfin shad grow larger than gizzard shad e. Largemouth bass can swallow a bluegill up to one-third of its total length f. a, b, e g. a, c, e h. all of the above are true i. none of the above are true 8. The use of a spreader-sticker agent used in conjunction with an aquatic herbicide: a. Increases the cost of aquatic weed control b. Breaks surface tension and allows the herbicide better contact with the plant c. Allows a contact herbicide to kill plants like a systemic herbicide d. Increases the number of plant species susceptible to a herbicide e. All of the above


fi s h & fi s h ing

9. Shoreline seining in the summer months provides information on: a. b. c. d. e.

Aquatic insect populations Minnow species present Largemouth bass and bluegill reproduction Channel catfish reproduction All of the above

10. Angler catch records provide the pondowner with information about: a. b. c. d. e. f.

Who is fishing in their pond Species composition susceptible to hook and line harvest Total biomass (pounds/acre) of the fish population present Population size structure and condition of key sportfish and forage species a, b and c b and d

11. Bluegill as a largemouth bass forage species can be: a. b. c. d. e.

Replaced by stocking redear sunfish, tilapia and fathead minnows Supplemented by stocking fathead minnows annually Supplemented by stocking hybrid sunfish Cannot be replaced but can be supplemented by stocking threadfin shad and/or tiliapia None of the above

14. A consultation with your local Natural Resources Conservation Service representative can: a.

Determine if the soil has sufficient clay content to hold water at a potential pond site b. Determine if a potential pond’s watershed is of the appropriate size c. Determine if the pond site is considered a “wetland” under PL-404 and requires permitting from the Corps of Engineers d. Provide specifications for your perspective pond such as dam and spillway recommendations e. All of the above

15. Taking this Fish I.Q. test has convinced you to: a. Fill in my pond and retire my fishing tackle b. Read new and archived TWA articles on fish and fish management c. Fish only public waters in the future d. Assess my pond resource and goals and chart a course for success e. b and d Editor’s Note: The answer key for this quiz can be found on page 41.

12. A pond with large bluegill and an abundance of 8-inch to 12inch bass is indicative of: a. b. c. d. e.

Too many bluegill Poor water quality Not enough aquatic vegetation to provide adequate escape cover for forage Under-harvest of 8-inch to 12-inch bass All of the above

13. Channel catfish: a. b. c. d. e. f.

Should only be stocked in small ponds where they are being fed Should be encouraged to spawn in catfish-only ponds to avoid the expense of having to re-stock additional fingerlings in the future Can be supplementally stocked into bass-bluegill ponds Spawn in both the Spring and Fall Reach sexual maturity at two years of age

Over-abundant small largemouth bass is a common scenario in Texas ponds

www.texas-wildlife.org

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hoffpauir polaris As the number one volume Polaris Ranger dealer in the U.S., if you purchase a Polaris ATV or UTV from Hoffpauir Polaris you will receive a free one year Associate membership to TWA. Hoffpauir Polaris also supports TWA through various donations to our annual convention, educational programs, and much more. Visit www.HPolaris.com to learn more about how you can get a great deal at Hoffpauir Polaris.

icehole coolers

willie’s t’s embroidery

Whether you’re hiking in the mountains or exploring the urban jungle, hunting, fishing, or tailgating, make your adventure last longer by using a military grade, 100% American made, ICEHOLE High-Performance Cooler. TWA Members receive 10% off any style cooler. Visit www.iceholecoolers.com or email twa@iceholecoolers.com for more information.

TWA’s official merchandise supplier, Willie’s T’s is the place for all things TWA logo apparel and gift related. An annual contribution is made by Willie’s T’s on each item sold. For more information visit www.texaswildlife.gostorego.com.

tecomate wildlife systems

rios of mercedes boots

TWA’s newest corporate partner Tecomate Wildlife Systems is the leader in food plot based nutritional management. Tecomate’s new strategy in 1993 helped open an exciting new chapter in whitetail management history. Now TWA members can receive 10 percent off select food plot seed products. To purchase any of these specific products, please visit http://store. tecomate.com and use the coupon code: TECOMATE-TWA2014 at checkout.

Rios of Mercedes boots are known worldwide for quality and durability. Since 1853, these boots have been made by hand with only the best materials and attention to detail that is second to none. Made with all leather construction, Rios of Mercedes boots are American-made, as proved by the tag sewn into each boot. TWA Members receive a 10% discount on Rios of Mercedes, Anderson Bean, and Olathe brand on the shelf boots. Visit www.txtacknrags.com for more information on how to order.

twa corporate partners program

game guard As an official camo partner of TWA, GameGuard supports all of TWA’s educational and hunting programs with various donations, and much more. Visit www.gameguard.net to learn more about the “Official Camo of the Lone Star State.”

For information on how to become a TWA Corporate Partner, contact:

David Brimager at TWA has partnered with these quality companies to offer our members quality products (800) 839-9453 or and/or discounts, with a portion of the proceeds to support TWA’s mission efforts! Kerrville attendees heard comments from TWA President Greg Simons (l) withdbrimager@texas-wildlife.org new Executive Committee State Representative Doug Miller. member and Region 8 Co-Chair Vannie Collins in Kerrville.

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WHY I AM A TWA MEMBER! I am a longtime member of TWA, because it promotes important values and conservation efforts. Protection of private property, along with promoting a strong natural resource conservation effort, is very important to me. And, TWA accomplishes both admirably. I am always impressed at the work it does across the state as well as at the Texas capitol, as the members and staff inform and educate many urban legislators about these vital topics.

Susan Combs AUSTIN, TX MEMBER SINCE 1986 / TWA DIRECTOR AND LIFE MEMBER /TEXAS COMPTROLLER OF PUBLIC ACCOUNTS

www.texas-wildlife.org

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TEXAS WILDLIFE

B o r de r land s new s Borderlands Research Institute for Natural Resource Management

Using Science to Accelerate Desert Bighorn Sheep Restoration Article by Thomas S. Janke, Carlos Gonzalez, Joshua Cross, Dr. Louis A. Harveson (Borderlands Research Institute) and Froylan HernĂĄndez (Texas Parks and Wildlife Department)

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three of their formerly inhabited historic mountain ranges. Partnering with TPWD, the Borderlands Research Institute at Sul Ross State University has been at the forefront of desert bighorn sheep research in Texas. Since 2010, 154 bighorn (55 rams and 99 ewes) of the 246 captured and released have been fitted with GPS radio collars for research purposes. The collars are programmed to collect GPS locations every three to five hours for up to 25 months. This data helps us analyze movements, range sizes and habitats utilized by the bighorn. The collars also allow us to locate and monitor the bighorn in their everyday activities and determine causes of mortality. From our data and field observations at the three study sites of BBRSP, southern Brewster County and Sierra Vieja Mountains, we have learned many valuable lessons. Over the last four years, we have investigated 53 bighorn mortalities. Of the 53 mortalities, 19 were killed by mountain lions, one fell from a cliff, two died in a water catchment, one ewe died from birth complications, one ram died from toxic plants, one ram died from an injury it received while fighting, and 22 deaths were from unknown causes. There were also six documented mortalities of bighorn rams with skin conditions that we believe to be associated with the parapox virus (e.g., sore mouth). Five of the six cases consisted of mature rams. Although the causes of mortalities that we report above are typical, we believe the amount of mortalities associated with predation, toxic vegetation, drowning and unknown causes Photo by Joshua Cross

T

he thought of bighorn sheep invokes images of rugged mountains, hard hikes and exciting adventures to many enthusiasts. Although few people have had the opportunity to hunt such a regal creature, many individuals and organizations have been involved in restoring and conserving it. Throughout the 20th century, most of western North America suffered a huge decline (and, in some cases, a complete loss) of bighorn populations. Texas was no exception. In the late 1800s, there were Mixed group of bighorns at their new home in the believed to be 1,500 desert mountains of southern Brewster County. bighorn roaming throughout 16 restoration greatly accelerated in Texas. mountain ranges in the TransPecos region of Texas. By the early 1960s, In December of 2010, 46 bighorn were the last of the native bighorn were believed captured from the Elephant Mountain to be extirpated from the state. Starting in Wildlife Management Area (EMWMA) 1954, the Texas Game and Fish Commission and transported to Big Bend Ranch State (now Texas Parks and Wildlife Department) Park (BBRSP). BBRSP is currently the only initiated restoration efforts with cooperative state park in Texas occupied by bighorn. agreements between several agencies and The following December (2011), bighorn organizations. In 1957, desert bighorn were populations at BBRSP were augmented with captured from Arizona and translocated an additional 95 bighorn from the Beach, to Texas. Over the next 40 years, 146 desert Baylor and Sierra Diablo Mountains (Sierra bighorns were captured from Nevada, Diablo meta-population). Just one year later, Arizona, Utah and Mexico and released in 44 bighorn were captured from EMWMA Texas brood facilities. Over time, bighorn and transported to suitable habitat in southern populations grew within the enclosures, Brewster County. This restoration venture and excess individuals were liberated to the marked the 500th bighorn born and raised in open mountain ranges. Today, with the help Texas to be translocated from in-state sources. of numerous individuals and organizations, In January 2014, TPWD once again captured desert bighorn occupy nine of their 16 historic and translocated 61 bighorn from EMWMA mountain ranges and recent population and released them into formerly occupied estimates put their numbers at approximately habitats in the Sierra Vieja Mountains. With these last four captures, a total of 246 bighorn 1,400–1,500 individuals. Beginning in 2010, desert bighorn have been transported and released into


bo r de r land s new s Map of the bighorn capture (green stars) and release (yellow stars) sites with respective years in the Trans-Pecos, Texas. Created by Carlos Gonzalez

LYSSY & ECKEL FEEDS

BBRSP. The greatest recorded distance from the release site was by a ewe more than 40 miles north of the release site. Collectively, the translocated bighorns used over 1.25 million acres of habitat. Nearly 40 percent of the 54 collared bighorns were documented crossing into Mexico and 33 percent ventured onto private lands outside of BBRSP boundaries. The high percentage of bighorns crossing into Mexico demonstrates that our restoration undertakings are on a scale more grand than previously imagined. Just as Texas lost all of its native bighorn during the mid-1900s, the states of Chihuahua and Coahuila, Mexico did so as well. Unlike BBRSP, adequate accessibility on the two other study sites has allowed us to better monitor the translocated bighorn throughout the year. Interesting movements, behavior and ecology have been noted for both collared and uncollared Bighorn sheep have been able to freely cross the Rio individuals at these sites. We Grande and utilize habitat on both sides of this international have had bighorn from the

Photo by Thomas S. Janke

were likely higher than usual because of drought-like conditions. As many of you may remember, 2011 and 2012 were very hot and very, very dry throughout most of Texas; this was especially true for the Big Bend region. Even some of the most well adapted desert plants (i.e., cacti, lechugilla, sotol, mesquite and others) were either dead or dying during this time. Fortunately, the desert habitats that bighorns prefer respond quickly to rainfall. Most notably, we documented that bighorn mortalities decreased once measureable rains returned to the area. As habitat conditions improved with rain, desirable forage became more abundant and was better distributed. The improved habitat conditions also led to increased populations of small mammals and other big game species which likely helped reduce the mountain lion predation on bighorns. We are still actively monitoring bighorns in the Sierra Vieja and southern Brewster County Mountains, but have retrieved 54 collars from the BBRSP study. The collars have produced over 100,000 GPS points for our analysis, revealing that bighorns dispersed in all directions of the release site at

southern Brewster County mountains return to EMWMA and then go back to the translocation site. We currently do not know how many bighorn have traversed back and forth between these mountains, but we are hoping these movements continue. Movements and behaviors from ewes with and without lambs appear to differ during the lambing and nursing periods at these sites. Timing and investigation of the lambing season and the lambs’ survival is underway with more in-depth research planned for the future. Although the research and monitoring of these studies are short term, the knowledge gained will hopefully better our understanding of bighorn restoration and conservation efforts in Texas. One of the greatest lessons affirmed from our recent endeavors is the necessity for cooperation on all levels: public, private and international. Recent bighorn translocations have helped unite numerous individuals, landowners, organizations, agencies, properties, states and even countries for one of the most noble causes – conservation. Without collaborative conservation, the desert bighorn sheep restoration program would not be where it is today.

border between the United States and Mexico.

Supplementing the Habitat www.lefeeds.com

www.texas-wildlife.org

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The Ogallala Aquifer Article by

Henry Chappell, Photos by Wyman Meinzer

Playa lakes are the Ogallala Aquifer’s principal recharge points.

W

henever I fly into Lubbock, my favorite Texas city, I’m struck by cognitive dissonance. Looking out the window during the approach, I can’t help but admire the symmetry in the sea of crop circles, the grid of fields and roads. Here, on some of the most productive cropland on earth, High Plains farmers, through ingenuity and sweat, have imposed order on semi-arid shortgrass prairie. At the same time, my inner conservationist knows I’m looking at some of the most altered and tamed land in Texas. Decades after the South Texas Plains, the Hill Country, the Pineywoods, and Cross Timbers and Prairies had grown safe and settled, and cattlemen were pushing into the Rolling Plains, the flat prairie west of the Caprock Escarpment remained a howling wilderness of bison, plains lobos and antelope, an arid sanctuary into which

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Comanche raiders could disappear and flourish, and pursuing soldiers died of thirst. The Comanche and their Kiowa allies knew where to find water in “The Great American Desert.” Although they must’ve wondered at the source, the Comanche couldn’t have known that the seeps and canyon springs from which they sipped and filled their water bags overflowed from a giant subterranean reservoir, that they were drinking melted Pleistocene ice. As early as the 1850s, a Swiss geologist reported a vast groundwater supply beneath the Llano Estacado. By the 1890s, geologists understood the general range of the High Plains groundwater supply and could make educated guesses as to capacity. This giant underground reservoir, the Ogallala Aquifer, underlies some 174,000 square miles in portions of South Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska, Colorado, Kansas,

November 2014

Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Texas – about 27 percent of irrigated land in the United States. The aquifer rests on the Ogallala Formation, the primary geological unit beneath most of the High Plains. The Ogallala is the largest aquifer in the United States, and one of the largest in the world. During the late Miocene and early Pliocene, two to six million years ago, when the Rocky Mountains were still tectonically active, rivers flowing east to west carved great channels in what would become the High Plains. As the Rockies eroded over millions of years, rivers and streams deposited alluvium and other sediment, gradually filling the ancient river beds. Between one and two million years ago, the Pecos River cut northward, isolating the Texas Panhandle from sedimentary sources in the Rockies. Between ten and twenty thousand years ago, water from retreating glaciers saturated these sediment-filled


Groundwater conservation, in the form of more efficient irrigation, drought-resistant crops, and cooperation among farmers and agencies, is critical to meeting future water needs.

channels. The result: as much as 3 billion acre-feet of water beneath the layer of caliche known as the “caprock.” The Ogallala is an “unconstrained” aquifer; its water level depends on recharge, and wherever its upper saturated layer – the water table – intersects the surface, it flows forth in the form of springs. Depth ranges from about 400 feet in the northern ranges to about 100 to 200 feet in the southern ranges in Texas. Water leaves the Ogallala far more readily than it enters. The nearly impermeable layer of caliche covering most of the high plains, a high evaporation rate due to wind and heat, and low precipitation limit recharge to about .25 inches per year in Texas. Because of their more permeable bottom soil composition, playa lakes serve as important recharge points. In short, water pumped from the Ogallala is essentially “paleo water,” a non-renewable resource. Pumping amounts to mining. From the 1880s, following Comanche extirpation, farmers lured to the region by the booster, banker, and speculator’s lie

that “rain follows the plow” had virtually no access to groundwater. In wet years, the High Plains of Texas could indeed produce excellent wheat crops. But, in normal years of scant rainfall, let alone common drought

...primitive windmills, crudely made of broken machinery, scrap iron, and bits of wood, were to the drought-stricken people like floating spars to the survivors of a wrecked ship. years, farmers went deeper into debt or bust. Late in the 19th century, farmers began to exploit the aquifer with primitive

windmills. The largest of these could pump a maximum of about 37 gallons per minute from a depth of no more than 80 feet. Nevertheless, thousands of windmills, many homemade, sprang up on the High Plains, providing water for livestock and crops. In his masterpiece The Great Plains, historian Walter Prescott Webb describes the windmill’s importance: “In other words, it was the acre or two of ground irrigated by the windmill that enabled the homesteader to hold on when all others had to leave. It was the difference between starvation and livelihood. These primitive windmills, crudely made of broken machinery, scrap iron, and bits of wood, were to the drought-stricken people like floating spars to the survivors of a wrecked ship.” As important as they were to early High Plains agriculture, windmills had little effect on aquifer levels, and as was the case with the bison herds and passenger pigeons, the resource was considered inexhaustible. In 1914, Zenas E. Black, of the Plainview Commercial Club, described the Ogallala

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Q u ail mortalit y

The Ogallala is an unconstrained aquifer; its water pours forth from springs wherever its upper level intersects the surface. This spring spills from the Caprock Escarpment onto the Rolling Plains.

Aquifer as “The Underground River [that] starts in the melting snows of the Rockies, sinks below the surface and at the urge of gravity starts southeast... There are no floods on the plains. And neither are there any droughts. ‘Underground Rain’ always rises just when and in just the amount that the man who starts the pump desires.” Water law provided little direction. An early twentieth Texas Supreme Court decision ruled groundwater too “mysterious and occult” to regulate, leading to the “Right of Capture,” or the right of a landowner to pump without limit, even while depleting water beneath a neighbor’s property. Even as pump technology improved through the Dust Bowl years, most farmers remained subject to the vagaries of weather. But during the New Deal, groundwater pumps switched from steam and gasoline power to natural gas and electricity. By the 1940s, efficient irrigation pumps were drawing as much as 1,200 gallons per minute from deep, small-diameter wells. On the High Plains in Texas, the number of irrigation wells increased from 8,400 in 1948 to 42,200 in 1957. By the 1980s, aquifer levels in parts of Texas and Kansas

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had dropped 150 feet. On average, levels beneath the Panhandle have dropped about a foot per year over the past four decades. Today, the Ogallala Aquifer provides water for about 20 percent of U.S. wheat, cotton, and cattle production. Entire industries, hundreds of thousands of livelihoods, and a way of life depend on groundwater. Americans need beef, grain and cotton. Pumping will continue.

Center-pivot irrigation has transformed semi-arid shortgrass prairie into one of the world’s most productive agricultural regions.

November 2014

Critics charge farmers with greedy, reckless pumping of a non-renewable resource. “Big Ag” is a big target for those who deplore industrial agriculture. At the same time, many committed to the Llano Estacado see mining of the Ogallala as an excellent use of a resource, no different than mining copper. Advanced civilization currently depends on large scale agriculture just as it depends on metals and minerals. To survive, farmers competing in the industrial economy must adapt to technological changes and economic forces over which they have little control. What can a third generation farmer do but continue to irrigate and hope for technological advances that will allow his heirs to keep and farm the same ground? Furthermore, no one is more aware of the Ogallala drawdown than High Plains farmers. Since its founding in 1951, the High Plains Water District, the first groundwater conservation district in Texas, has sought to manage groundwater use to ensure availability of water for future generations. The stated goal is to limit depletion in the Panhandle region to no more than 50 percent by 2060. Recently the board of directors voted unanimously to require farmers to start tracking and limiting underground water use in 2015. Sometime in the future, nature will impose a hard limit on withdrawal from the Ogallala Aquifer. In the meantime, we’d better be as resourceful in conserving groundwater as we’ve been in finding and exploiting it.


Fish and Fishing Quiz Answer Key (Quiz on pages 32-33)

1. e. Ponds with good water quality and no other fish species present can produce up to 1,000 pounds of catfish annually. Six inch fingerlings stocked in MarchApril and fed all they can eat in 15 minutes six to seven times per week with a good floating fish ration will reach weights exceeding one pound by December. 2. False. If there is a limiting factor holding the current bass population back, dumping more bass into the pond will not solve the problem. Check water quality, forage availability, aquatic vegetation and possible competition among the bass themselves to identify the problem. 3. e. Ponds are stocked, limed and fertilized on an area (surface acreage) basis and an acre contains 43,560 square feet. Ponds are treated with most herbicides on a volume (acre-feet or gallons) basis and one-acre foot of water is 43,560 cubic feet or approximately 326,000 gallons. 4. b. Rotenone is the only product listed that is registered as a chemical to remove fish from aquatic environments. 5. d. Relative weights (Wr) compare the weights of your fish at a given length to a standard weight. Wr values of 95-105 are considered ideal and are indicative of fish in good body condition. If the Wr of your bass population at various lengths fits into the ideal range, then your forage population is doing its job of feeding “all sizes of bass with all sizes of forage.” 6. b. Given a little time and a good microscope, you don’t necessarily have to be a fisheries biologist to find a parasite or two on any wild fish – if you know what to look for. Parasites only become a health issue when they are so numerous fish body condition declines. (See #5 above.) 7. g. Florida bass have the capability of growing larger than the northern subspecies provided adequate forage and water quality exist. Bass production means forage production, so for each pound of bass you want to grow, provide 10 pounds of appropriately sized forage. A largemouth can swallow a bluegill about one-third of its total length, therefore a pond full of 12-inch bass will be starving if all the bluegill in the pond are longer than 4 inches. 8. b. Numerous contact and systemic aquatic herbicides call for the use of an aquatically approved surfactant. If the product label calls for the use of a surfactant, please use one as it can greatly enhance the efficacy of the herbicide. 9. c. For many decades, fisheries professionals have relied upon the summer use of the common minnow seine to assess bass-bluegill spawning success. It is also an

excellent way to get the kids and grandkids involved in managing the pond. 10. f. Hook and line “sampling” is a terrific method for determining what sportfish species are present and their respective population size structures but you need to keep catch records for this information to be useful for making management decisions. 11. d. Bluegill cannot be replaced because they are the mainstay of the largemouth’s forage plate. However, redear sunfish (East Texas only), threadfin shad and tilapia can boost and diversify forage availability which will benefit the bass present. 12. d. Without a doubt, many lightly fished Texas ponds have this scenario, which is not bad if your goal is lots of hungry fish and fast angling action. However, if your goal is to produce the next state record bass, there are some management changes necessary to achieve success. These changes could include water quality enhancement, vegetation control, enhanced forage production and/or thinning the ranks of the abundant small bass. 13. c. This is the only correct answer choice. Channel catfish can be stocked into largemouth-bass-bluegill ponds to provide additional angling opportunity. However, stocking rates should be reduced to 50-100 eight inch or larger fingerlings per surface acre every 3 to 5 years. Supplemental stocking of catfish is the only way to maintain a catfish population over time because of the intense egg, fry and fingerling predation by bass and bluegill. 14. e. Anyone considering building a new pond should make a visit to their local NRCS office a priority. Answers regarding soil type, watershed size, pond construction specifications and potential permitting requirements on wetland sites can be obtained before the first dollar is spent on construction. 15. Of course the answer is e! Good fishing results from sustainable and balanced fish populations—balanced with their aquatic environment and balanced with the forage population required to sustain the fishery for years to come! So how did you do on the quiz this year? If you scored 13-15 answers correctly, we need to get you an honorary fisheries degree from Texas A&M University. A score of 8-12 means you are “fisheries literate” but need to brush up on your management skills a little. A score of 5-7 means you probably have a fisheries degree from either the University of Arkansas or Auburn University, while a score of less than 5 means you need to pour through fisheries articles in the on-line archives of TWA’s Texas Wildlife magazine and also visit Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service’s fisheries, aquaculture and pond management website at http://fisheries.tamu.edu. Good luck!

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Brush land can be beautiful or not depending on the eye of the beholder; but its value to wildlife is unquestioned.

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November 2014


Beautiful, Bountiful Brush Article and Photos by Steve Nelle

P

eople send beautiful nature postcards of rivers and creeks, big bucks, attractive birds, fall foliage, wildflowers, mountains, grasslands and desert scenes. People rarely send postcards of brush. “Beautiful” is seldom the word that people use to describe brush. “Bountiful” is used even less frequently. More often, we hear words such as nasty, worthless or unproductive to describe brush and brush lands. But, despite its unsavory reputation, many Texas landowners, wildlife managers, hunters and birdwatchers have come to appreciate, or at least tolerate, the values and virtues of brush. What is Brush? The term brush has no precise meaning. It is normally used in a derogatory sense to describe an area of shrubs and small trees growing thick enough to degrade or diminish the beneficial and productive use of the land. Sometimes, the term is used to refer to any miscellaneous species of tree or shrub that people do not know the name of. In other words, to the botanically unskilled, anything that is not a wellknown useful tree, such as oak, pecan, elm or cottonwood, gets lumped together as brush. For many traditional ranchers, brush is what happens when you let the land go untended; it is viewed as a sign of neglect. Although an oversimplification, there is some truth in that generalization, but it does not apply to most brush species. A few species, such as huisache, mesquite, cedar, pricklypear and whitebrush, can reproduce and grow fast enough to dominate and cause problems in just a few short years. Conversely, most species of brush are slow to establish and seldom get thick enough to be a management problem. This list includes hundreds of desirable species such as guayacan, coma, colima, kidneywood, elbowbush, desert olive, mountain mahogany, wild plum, Roemer acacia, Apache plume, ephedra, feather dalea, hawthorn and many others.

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B ea u tif u l , B o u ntif u l B r u s h

TWA Director, Kent Mills teaches landowners the benefits of brush at a TWA sponsored field day.

The term “good brush” is an oxymoron to many people. For the simple minded, the only good brush is dead brush. However, to the serious minded landowner and wildlife manager, brush is a complex enigma. It is both valuable and problematic. It is both a blessing and a curse. It needs to be preserved in some places and killed in others. It is not all bad and not all good, and it takes skill and wisdom to know when, where and how to manage it. Essential Habitat Value Beginning wildlife students learn that wildlife habitat consists of food, cover and water. Experienced wildlife managers, biologists and hunters will all agree that these are not just textbook concepts - they are essential. The beautiful thing about brush is that it provides both food and cover for many species of Texas wildlife. Stated more simply, “Wildlife needs brush; they eat it, and they live in it.” This dependence on brush is not true for every species, but it is true for many. Brush is the habitat foundation for many kinds of Texas wildlife. Without it, Texas would not be

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such a haven for wildlife. Brush provides a bountiful supply of food in the form of browse, flowers and fruit and indirectly from the abundance of insects that live on brush plants. Most species of brush produce fruit that is relished by birds and mammals. Mesquite beans,

... beautiful thing about brush is that it provides both food and cover for many species of Texas wildlife.

the productivity of grasses. The roughly 4 million deer in Texas consume an estimated 1.5 million tons of browse and mast each year. The monetary worth of that brush is immense. Yes, brush is bountiful, productive and valuable. Brush also provides structural cover for the survival and protection of hundreds of wildlife species. This includes nest concealment as well as the substrate for the actual construction of nests. Brush provides shade in the summer and protection from harsh winter weather. Brush is used for many species to hide and escape from predators and for loafing cover between feeding periods and for nighttime roosting cover.

cedar berries, acorns, persimmons, sumac fruit, chittam berries, hackberry fruit and pricklypear tunas are a few examples. Most species of brush provide browse that is eaten by deer, pronghorn, livestock and exotics. In fact, on many ranches in South Texas and the Edwards Plateau, the annual production of browse exceeds

Deer and Brush An especially important relationship exists between deer and brush, and the following two stories help illustrate this fact. Many years ago, a large South Texas ranch was seeking a few new hunters. The ranch owner was showing the ranch to a couple of prospective hunters. He drove the men around showing them the award

November 2014


winning habitat management work, as well as the creek bottoms, ponds, newly improved hunters camp, tower blinds and other features of the ranch. After five hours of driving around, the hunters turned to the rancher and said, “That’s all real good and we like it . . . but now show us your thick brush.” Nothing else seemed to matter to the hunters as much as seeing the thick brush areas of the ranch. Fortunately, the ranch had plenty of thick brush, but the rancher failed to fully appreciate how important it was to the hunters. Another story illustrates the effects of overzealous brush control. In the 1980s, a rancher in West Texas embarked on a program of brush control to improve livestock grazing. With help from SCS, he drew out a pattern of clearings for each pasture, leaving travel lanes, creeks and rough areas in brush. The extent of planned clearing was about 65 percent with the remainder left as brushy cover. The rancher began the project of rootplowing, raking and seeding. When the project was about two-thirds compete, the rancher began to realize how much it was costing and decided to stop the project. The western one-third of the ranch was still in brush, while the eastern two-thirds had the 65:35 ratio of clearing. Fast forward a few years and the rancher discovered that deer hunting was as profitable if not more profitable than cattle

ranching, and he began to be involved in deer management, including a high fence. With a confined deer herd, it would be a good experiment to see how the deer responded to the brush control. After numerous deer surveys and based on his personal knowledge of the deer population, the rancher determined that about onethird of the deer lived in the eastern twothirds of the ranch where the brush control was done, and two thirds of the deer lived in the western one-third of the ranch where the brush was thick. It turns out that the brushy portion of the ranch had a density of 7.5 acres per deer, while the east side of the ranch supported a density of 30 acres per deer – a fourfold difference where the brush was retained. Deer need brush! Quail and Brush Any respectable quail biologist or quail manager will tell you that the bobwhite is a grassland species. Sure, they admit that quail need some scattered brush as loafing or escape cover, but they will always emphasize that quail thrive best in healthy grasslands and that brush control is often needed to maintain the grassland. Few quail experts would disagree with this, but in real life, we know that quail also thrive well in brush land. When the going gets tough, quail head to the brush. It may not be their first choice, but they use heavy brush, especially during hard times.

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Every serious deer hunter knows that mature whitetail bucks have a special affinity for brush.

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youtube.com/user/texaswildlifeassoc

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B ea u tif u l , B o u ntif u l B r u s h

Carolina Buckthorn

Fragrant Mimosa

Most species of brush, including Carolina buckthorn, are beneficial for wildlife.

Brush is tough. In the midst of the worst drought in history, this fragrant mimosa resprouts three weeks after the 2011 wildfire near San Angelo.

Pricklyash

Red Berry Juniper Berries

The seed of pricklyash is relished by dove, quail and other birds.

Despite its poor reputation, red-berry cedar produces an abundance of berries, winter browse and cover for wildlife.

Mountain Mahogany

Texas Wild Olive

Most species of brush never become a problem and many species, such as mountain mahogany, provide exceptional quality browse for wildlife and livestock.

Several native brush species such as Texas wild olive are also very attractive landscape plants.

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Cedar

Brush Grass

Migrating monarch butterflies by the million use brush for resting and for travel corridors.

Brush helps protect grasses and other desirable plants from the effects of drought.

TEXAS WILDLIFE

november 2014


Ecological Function Less well known and less appreciated are the basic ecological roles of brush apart from wildlife habitat. Universities and agencies have spent a great deal of time and energy figuring out how to kill brush, but sadly, relatively little effort has been invested in trying to understand the natural functions of brush. Contrary to popular perception, brush often enriches the soil beneath it. Some species such as mesquite and various acacia actually add nitrogen to the soil. For other species, the annual dropping of leaves creates an accumulation of decaying leaf litter, mulch and compost, which also enriches the soil. It works like a slow release fertilizer. Numerous studies have shown that the organic matter content of the soil is higher under brush and soil microbes more abundant. This creates a soil that is more open and porous and which soaks up and holds water better and retains more nutrients. Another important function of brush is to serve as nursery sites for other plants. The most desirable species of forbs, shrubs and trees do not normally establish very

well out in the open, subject to hot sun, wind and herbivores. Many times, these more beneficial species establish near the protective cover of brush. The improved soils, partial shade, windbreak and physical protection from grazing and browsing are factors which provide enough protection for desirable plants to establish. Landscape Beauty Some species of brush are beautiful to the eye and routinely used as ornamental landscape shrubs. These include cenizo, mountain laurel, flame acanthus, yaupon, evergreen sumac, redbud, yellow bells, golden ball lead tree, Texas wild olive and desert willow. Many other attractive native species will become commercially available in the years ahead to help create attractive, water conserving, natural looking landscapes. Admittedly, many species of brush are not beautiful to the eye. Many are scraggly, spiny and unattractive. Species such as lotebush, wolfberry, skunkbush sumac, blackbrush acacia, tarbush, catclaw, elbowbush, algerita, whitebrush, amargoso, javelina bush, hogplum, granjeno and pricklyash will never win a beauty contest,

but they still have important ecological functions as well as value to wildlife. The Eye of the Beholder No one wants Texas to be a gigantic thicket of brush. That would be just as unnatural and undesirable as immense open grassland. Parts of Texas are naturally open grassland and other areas are naturally thick brush, but most of Texas is a mixture of both. The great challenge for landowners and wildlife managers is to find the happy medium that suits their particular objectives. Each landowner has to decide for themselves how much or how little brush they desire, what kinds, what densities and in what patterns they exist. There are no cookbook recipes to dictate how much brush to take and how much to leave. Brush management is very much an art and is very much subject to the eye of the beholder. TWA is an organization that values the diverse perspectives about brush and appreciates the differing and sometimes opposing views. Even the worst brush critic will admit that brush ain’t all bad, and if pressed, most will confess that the right amount of brush is a blessing.

Hydrologists are discovering that brush does not necessarily interfere with a healthy water cycle.

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November 2014


Photo by Kara Campbell

Urban Deer Problems Growing Fair Oaks Ranch Studies Options This article by Colleen Schreiber was published in the Aug. 28, 2014 issue of Livestock Weekly, and it is reprinted here with permission.

I

n the city of Fair Oaks Ranch, located some 25 miles north of San Antonio, over 400 white-tailed deer carcasses are removed from the city streets annually. This suburban community, population 6,700, is among a growing number of cities in the state trying to come to terms with the mounting problems associated with urban deer/human conflicts. Originally a 5,000-acre working ranch, development of Fair Oaks Ranch began in the mid-1970s. Before it was incorporated into a city in 1988, there were 500 homes on 5,000 acres. Today, there are about 2,700 homes on 8,200 acres, and the growth and density of homes in this area is only expected to continue. The fact that concrete is covering more and more of the state’s native wildlife habitat seems to matter little to white-tailed deer. In fact, according to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, the whitetail population is doing just fine. The population is at its highest levels in many decades. Deer are generalists, meaning they are very adaptable insofar as the kinds of habitats in which they can live and thrive. The suburban area is no exception. Here, there is an abundance of food, predators are limited and hunting is most generally banned. Consequently, the population oftentimes grows to the point that the deer become a nuisance and/or cause conflict between suburbia residents. TPWD’s Richard Heilbrun and his team of nine urban wildlife biologists are often on the front lines when it comes to resolving or at least offering solutions for human/deer conflicts. Though most of the suburban whitetailed deer issues are concentrated in the Hill Country, Heilbrun says, more and more problems are occurring in Houston and the DFW metroplex. “Lots of people ask TPWD how many deer is too many, or how many are enough, or how many deer should I have,” says Heilbrun. “In an urban setting, that answer is not as clear cut as some people would like. The answer is not a number of deer per acre. Rather, it is a number of conflicts per resident.” The tolerance level, he notes, varies from community to community and even within a community. When tolerance levels reach the breaking point, that’s typically when TPWD is contacted; and, they’re contacted sometimes because these communities mistakenly believe the state owns the deer and therefore should come and get the deer. “The people of the state own the deer,” Heilbrun reminds, “but cities determine their management objectives in terms of how they live with wildlife.” Urban wildlife biologists work with city leaders and residents to arrive at solutions. When urban wildlife biologists are called in to work with a city, their first task is to identify the issue. Second and most importantly,

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Urban D eer

Photo by Jeff Parker

and fences. “We’ve had more people move in from outside the state who enjoyed their azaleas and this and that … white-tailed deer will jump fences for azaleas,” says Mayor Landman. Currently, there is not a ban on supplemental feeding of wildlife. Residents are made aware that feeding the wildlife is not a good thing, and the mayor insists that most understand that feeding only perpetuates the problem when it comes to the deer. Though the mayor insists that a ban on feeding is not off the table, the city was interested in looking at other viable management options including trapping and transporting offsite. Some years ago they were permitted by the state to trap and transport a couple hundred whitetails to Mexico. They have not done any since. However, this past year they hired a trapper to remove some of the Axis deer. Considered an exotic animal and therefore

they must help the community determine if the issue has reached the point that intervention is needed. Because these issues have the potential to become so divisive within a community, TPWD encourages the city to first consider whether the situation warrants action. Are they willing to dedicate two years of homeowner association or city council meetings? Are they willing to have city council elections hinge on this issue? Are they willing to potentially divide their neighborhood? And, are they willing to take actions that are sometimes necessary to deal with the solutions? “If they’re not willing to go down that road, it hasn’t reached the boiling point yet,” says Heilbrun. Mayor Cheryl Landman has personally been dealing with the deer issue in Fair Oaks Ranch for the past 20 years, first as a board member/president for the Homeowners Association, then the city council and now as a three-term mayor. Calling it a “highly passionate issue,” Mayor Landman says the community is pretty well split right down the middle in terms of the citizens who love the deer and those who dislike them. In a community survey, they found that most residents really enjoy viewing the wildlife, but many of them simply don’t like the problems associated with having too many. Vehicle collisions with deer, which average about $3,000 in damages, are one of the issues. Other complaints include safety concerns in the fall during rut, disease and property damage, specifically landscape

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...the community is pretty well split right down the middle in terms of the citizens who love the deer and those who dislike them. not owned by the state, trapping and selling of these animals has become big business in Texas. In fact the city worked a deal with a trapper to split the profits from the sale of live animals trapped within the city limits. The sales proceeds covered all but $2000 of the $30,000 trapping cost. Another option on the table is sharp shooting. The problem with this option, the mayor says, is that many of the residents don’t like the idea of removing the deer even if the meat is donated to a good cause.

November 2014

Additionally, there is a general safety concern for the residents. Immunocontraception and surgical sterilization were two other options that the city was particularly interested in. However, they understood that any and all management has to be done within the confines of TPWD regulations and to date the state has never issued a permit for either of these possible management tools. Thus, in discussing the latter options with TPWD, the city agreed to first fund a research project designed to learn more about the community’s deer population. Dr. Charlie DeYoung with the Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute, Texas A&M University-Kingsville, and Kara Campbell, a master’s student at the Institute, headed up the project. The study was designed to estimate population size, survival rate and home range size for white-tailed deer throughout Fair Oaks Ranch. Another objective was to see if there was movement of these urban deer to neighboring rural areas and if so the degree of movement. Finally researchers were to model different management strategies to reduce the deer population. The study began in January 2012. Over the course of two years, 458 deer, 178 males, 280 females, were captured using drop-nets baited with corn. Each deer was sexed, aged and given an ear tag with a unique number. Also 36 bucks and 32 does were fitted with radio transmitter collars which enabled Campbell to track locations and ultimately calculate home range size. The majority of the deer with radio transmitters, Campbell found, did not cross any major boundaries. In fact, over the course of the two-year study, 83 and 77 percent of the collared deer stayed within the city limits. Deer captured near city boundaries overlapped city edges, but no deer with transmitters ever dispersed outside of city limits. The average buck home range in 2012 was approximately 80 acres, but it doubled the following year. The home range for does, however, was much smaller and relatively unchanged averaging 41 and 46 acres, respectively, over the two years. Other urban and suburban studies found average home range for does to be 106-153 acres. “The more developed or fragmented an area the smaller the home range is likely to


Photo by Kara Campbell

areas, she notes, makes it easier to ensure that the area is thoroughly covered. However, the distance sampling method, Campbell says, is preferred because marked animals are not required. Campbell used the population estimates to model the effectiveness and the cost of different management options for reducing the population. The methods modeled included Trap, Transport and Process whereby the deer are trapped, moved off site and processed and the meat is donated to charities. Other methods included immunocontraception, surgical sterilization and sharp shooting. Not surprising the most expensive was surgical sterilization, $605-$1,500/deer followed by immunocontraception at an estimated $455-$1,290/deer. Sharpshooting was estimated to cost $180-$200/deer. Trap, Transport and Process, Campbell says, was determined to be the most cost effective strategy because it would reduce the deer population the

quickest. TTP was estimated to cost $155$175/deer. The Fair Oaks Ranch City Council has not yet had time to review the final report issued by CKWRI. Citizens of Fair Oaks Ranch will have a chance to offer further input on any proposal or ideas brought forth from the city council. Should the city decide to proceed with surgical sterilization or immunocontraception, there is also the matter of securing a permit from the state. There is some speculation about whether TPWD would ever be willing to go down that road. Regardless, Fair Oaks Ranch is but one community and given the fact that the state’s population is expected to double by 2050 the urban wildlife/human conflicts are not going away. It will take a community of people working together with local and state officials to come up with creative ways to address what is surely to be a challenging issue long into the future.

Photo by Dave Hewitt

be,” she explains. “These factors can also cause seasonal changes to the home range.” Home ranges may also vary according to the density of deer within an area. Higher densities, Campbell says, typically result in smaller home ranges. To conduct population surveys, the city was divided into three driving transects ranging from 10.5 to 15 miles. Two methods, a mark-resight method and a distance method were used to estimate the population. Using the mark-resight method, the Fair Oaks Ranch population estimate was 1340 deer which yielded a density estimate of 3.81 acres per deer or 168 deer per square mile while the distance method indicated an estimated 1,284 deer which translated into 3.79 acres per deer or about 161 deer per square mile. The buck to doe ratio over 14 sampling periods was 1 buck to 2.2 does. The deer density in Fair Oaks Ranch is higher than what biologists would suggest as healthy for the overall ecosystem. However, as Campbell notes, the Fair Oaks Ranch density was in line with other urban and suburban deer populations. In fact the range is typically between 90 and 235 deer per square mile. “These higher deer densities are possible because of the supplemental feeding that’s occurring, and also because of a lack of hunting and a lack of natural predators,” she reminds. Both population estimators were equally effective in that they yielded similar results. Campbell attributes that in part to the fact that unlike their rural counterparts, urban deer tend to be highly visible, and they are accustomed to traffic and being around humans. Also the network of roads throughout these urban and suburban

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ICF –Your Images, Their Future

Saving W ildlife One Image at a Time

I C F Sna p s h o t o f t h e m o nt h

by Rolf Nussbaumer This gorgeous shot of a Killdeer with its eggs was taken by professional photographer Rolf Nussbaumer during the ICF Pro-Tour of Nature Photography competition in April 2010 on Los Lazos Ranch owned by Nick Benavides. Killdeer lay their eggs on the ground usually in rock or gravel. The eggs blend in to be perfectly camouflaged. The Nussbaumer/Benavides team was awarded first grand prize, and Nussbaumer presented with the prestigious William Henry Jackson Award. TWA and Vantage Bank are proud to partner with the Images for Conservation Fund in an effort to present some of the outstanding images captured during its nature photography competitions held on private lands in Texas. ICF is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization created for the purpose of conserving wildlife habitat and generating a sustainable income stream through the establishment and prosperity of the Private Lands' NaturePhotography Industry. Images for Conservation encourages private landowners to restore, preserve, conserve, and enhance wildlife habitat through the business of nature photography. For more information on ICF, visit www.imagesforconservation.org.

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TEXAS WILDLIFE

NovemBER 2014

STABILITY & SERVICE

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Profile for Texas Wildlife Association

Texas Wildlife November 2014  

Texas Wildlife is the official publication of the Texas Wildlife Association

Texas Wildlife November 2014  

Texas Wildlife is the official publication of the Texas Wildlife Association