MAGAZINE OF THE TEXAS WILDLIFE ASSOCIATION
Hunting for Predators
TEXAS WILDLIFE TEXAS WILDLIFE
p r e s i d e n t ’ s r e ma r k s
G RE G S I M O N S
Survive and Advance
and, water and wildlife. Those are a few of the essential elements of a healthy earth. Those same features have been integral in defining many of the qualities that make Texas a special place to call home. Land, water and wildlife also shape the sideboards which help define the mission of Texas Wildlife Association. And, when it comes to preserving the integrity of Texas’ land, water and wildlife, in the words of former TWA Executive Vice President David K. Langford, “Failure is not an option.” But, we live in a world today where protecting the qualities of land, water and wildlife are at odds with pressures that seem to grow and evolve daily, putting at risk the very things that a healthy Texas society depends upon. Land fragmentation, diminishing water supplies, a growing urban disconnect which seems to foster natural resource illiteracy, questionable ethics regarding the use of our state’s important and valuable wildlife resources, and balancing the needs of a growing human population against the production capacity of land, water and wildlife. This battle is the mission of our organization, and it will certainly not be won overnight; and, in fact, the game that TWA plays is one that will always be on-going. We’ll always be fighting a current while we work our way upstream, and we’ll always be in a position where we must push harder and harder each day simply to “survive and advance” our mission. In ESPN’s documentary of North Carolina State’s unlikely national championship run in NCAA basketball during 1983, the film follows an amazing journey of a Cinderella team that had several comefrom-behind and one-point victories; “survive and advance” became their motto as they clawed their way into the national championship game and miraculously knocked off a heavily favored University of Houston team. Here is my take on a few of the factors which allowed the NC State team to complete this amazing feat. They Believed. As the season advanced, the team galvanized their belief that they could accomplish the impossible. Play As a Team. NC State certainly did not have the level of talent pool that other teams had that season. But, they trusted and believed in one another, each stepping up to the plate in times of need and contributing whenever and wherever they could just like the San Antonio Spurs during last season. This makes me reflect on the definition of synergy… “The whole is greater than the sum of all parts.” Play With Passion and Emotion. NC State’s coach was Jim Valvano, whose life was taken early by cancer. On the verge of death, Valvano provided one of the most moving and amazing speeches, and in that speech he said, “There are three things everyone should do every day. Number one is laugh. Number two is think. Number three, you should have your emotions move you to tears.” It is that type of passion and emotion that carried the NC State team during their struggles. Never Give Up. Another statement in Valvano’s famous speech was, “Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.” Are there lessons for our TWA team to learn through those thoughts above? I think so. We must continue to believe in the importance of our mission. We must wisely use all of our resources including our membership talent pool, and play as a team. We should use the emotions that are stirred from our work as the fuel to help energize our work. And, we must recognize that the mission of our work is so important that we should never give up…never, ever give up! The 84th Texas Legislature is now in session. I call on each of you to help support our public policy efforts. Through your time, money and sphere of influence, you can help make a difference for TWA. Efforts to protect the integrity of Texas’ land, water and wildlife are more important now than ever before. And, “Failure is not an option.” 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.
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 Leslie Wittenburg, Education Program Specialist Clint Faas, Conservation Program Coordinator Courtney Brittain, Consultant Kayla Krueger, Education Program Contractor Elanor Dean, Education Program Contractor Toni Purnell, Education Program Contractor Amanda Crouch, Education Program Contractor Elisa Velador, Education Program Contractor 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: email@example.com POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Texas Wildlife Association, 3660 Thousand Oaks Dr., Suite 126, San Antonio, Texas 78247.
The Texas Wildlife Association (TWA) was organized in 1985 for the purpose of serving as an advocate for the benefit of wildlife and for the rights of wildlife managers, landowners and hunters in educational, scientific, political, regulatory and legislative arenas. TEXAS WILDLIFE is the official TWA publication and has widespread circulation throughout Texas and the United States. All rights reserved. No parts of these magazines may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without express written permission from the publisher. Copyrighted 2014 Texas Wildlife Association. Views expressed by contributors are not necessarily those of the Texas Wildlife Association. Similarities between the name Texas Wildlife Association and those of advertisers or state agencies are coincidental, and do not indicate mutual affiliation, unless clearly noted. Members who move should send new address and current membership classification to headquarters. TWA reserves the right to refuse advertising.
For advertising information, contact David Brimager at (800) 839-9453 3660 Thousand Oaks Dr., Suite 126, San Antonio, TX 78247 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mission Impacts Hi, Elanor. We have come to expect excellence when we register for sessions from the Texas Wildlife Association, but today’s was SUPREME! What a fascinating, clear, amazing and wonderful L.A.N.D.S. distance learning presentation on the monarch butterfly. In each of two sessions our students were mesmerized. They liked listening, watching, and many were very busy writing down notes about things they found interesting, valuable and amazing. Thank you so much for each of your fine programs and especially today’s outstanding sessions. These are such valuable additions to our curriculum that no book, video or website can match. Thank you for the additional information to extend the excitement and interest you generated! I would like to receive the Critter Connections again this year. Thanks!
february Volume 30 H Number 10 H 2015
8 Hunting for Predators by Russell Graves
14 Stormwaters Brewing on the Llano River by Bill Neiman
16 Big Changes for 2015 TBGA Sportsman’s Celebrations by TWA Hunting heritage staff
18 Desalination: Fix Or Fantasy by Henry Chappell
22 Proud To Be Partners by Helen Holdsworth
26 Members in Action by Kendra Roller
Best Regards, Carol Scott Media Technology Director Mustang Valley Elementary
28 Kleberg News
by Michael Tewes and Randy DeYoung
by Steve Nelle
Hi Leslie! We just want to say how truly grateful we are to you for supplying the rest of the items we needed for our new Wildlife Management Class. We did the class for the first time today and the skins and skulls were so vital to a quality program. I have attached a couple of photos from the class. Who would I send a thank you card to? Thanks so much for sending our newsletter along. Without you sharing, our new class would not be what it is! Thanks again.
34 QuailMasters 2015: Ode to Calypso by Dale Rollins, Ph.D.
36 The Changing Science of Managing Brush for Water Yield by Lorie Woodward Cantu
42 So, You Want to Run a Hunting Lease? by Todd J. Steele
46 Brush Management Guidelines and Considerations by Steve Nelle
Linda Dunn Education Manager Bunker Sands Wetland Center
MAGAZINE OF THE TEXAS WILDLIFE ASSOCIATION
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 female bobcat was photographed by Russell Graves. In this issue, Graves writes about tracking, calling and hunting for predators in Texas. His article begins on page 8.
Hunting for Predators
Meetings and events
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.
February 7 Rainwater Harvesting Workshop, Brenham. Presented by TWA’s Women of the Land. For more information, contact TWA at (800) 839-9453.
March 16 Texas Brigade application deadline. To apply, log on to the website at www.texasbrigades. org/Applications/applications.html.
june 20 Texas Big Game Awards Sportsman’s Celebration, Regions 4 and 8, SSGT. Willie De Leon Civic Center, Uvalde. For more information, contact David Brimager at (800) 839-9453 or email@example.com.
February 10 TWA Board of Directors Meeting, Sheraton at the Capitol, Austin. For more information, contact David Brimager at (210) 826-2904 or firstname.lastname@example.org. February 10-11 Boots on the Ground, Sheraton at the Capitol, Austin. For more information contact David Brimager at (210) 826-2904 or email@example.com. February 12-March 1 San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo, San Antonio. Your TWA will have a booth in the Wildlife Exhibit. If you would like to volunteer, please contact Helen Holdsworth at firstname.lastname@example.org. February 19-21 Texas Chapter of the Wildlife Society, Corpus Christi. For information, go to http:// tctws.org/
march March 2-22 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, Houston.
March 26-29 Advanced Women of the Land Workshop, Brackettville. For information, contact Clint Faas at email@example.com.
April April 9-10 Texas Deer Study Group, Palestine. For information, contact Clint Faas at cfaas@ texas-wildlife.org. April 11 Harvey Weil Sportsman Conservationist Award Dinner, Welder Wildlife Foundation Refuge, Sinton, Texas. Honorees are Blair and Joseph Fitzsimons, Conservationists of the Year; Dr. David McKee, Professional Conservationist of the Year; and Herb Booth, Living Legacy Award. Reservations must be made in advance. For more information, please call (361) 882-8672, email lysa@ rotarycc.com, or visit www.rotarycc.com April 22-24 Bennett Trust Land Stewardship Conference, Kerrville. For more information, contact Dr. Larry Redmon at firstname.lastname@example.org.
March 3-7 Ranching and Wildlife Expo at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, Houston. For more information, contact Clint Faas at email@example.com.
May 16 Texas Big Game Awards Sportsman’s Celebration, Regions 5, 6 & 7, Pitser Garrison Convention Center, Lufkin. For more information, contact David Brimager at (800) 839-9453 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
june 27 Texas Big Game Awards Sportsman’s Celebration, Regions 1, 2 and 3, McNease Convention Center, San Angelo. For more information, contact David Brimager at (800) 839-9453 or email@example.com.
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. july 10 Texas Big Game Awards Statewide Banquet, during the TWA Convention, WildLife 2015, J.W. Marriott Hill Country Resort and Spa, San Antonio. For more information, contact Kara Starr at firstname.lastname@example.org or (210) 236-9761.
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
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. 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.
Contact Clint Faas at (210) 826-2904 or email@example.com
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.
WEBINARS FROM NOON–1 P.M.
Urban Wildlife Jessica Alderson
Eastern Wild Turkeys in Texas Jason Hardin
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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A pair of Gambel's Quail forage for food in an area with woody vegetation growing in gravel-filled soil.
Hunting for Predators Article and photos by Russell Graves
en seconds after I turned on my predator call, I knew the spot was good. Dressed in a ghillie suit, the sun at my back and the wind in my face and an open field falling away from me, I knew the location was money. To my east, a brushy creek winds its way through the wide open West Texas country - a perfect spot for bobcats or coyotes to hunt for mice and small birds. So 70 yards up a slight slope from the creek, I settle in next to a lotebush. I’ve seen plenty of predators in the area and having a good understanding of the various prey species that abide here, I chose a cottontail in distress sound. Just before pressing the “on” switch, I glass the creek bottom one more time to check for animals that may have already spotted me as the last thing I want to do is educate them. Not seeing anything, I turn the call on, crank up the volume and blare the distressed cottontail sound across the small valley. Three minutes later a big, mature bobcat slinks from the brush that I’d just glassed and heads towards the call that’s making the ruckus. The light is perfect and he is a mere 15 yards away for at least a minute as he stalks the fur decoy that spins errantly on top of the game call. He’s so enamored with the decoy, he all but ignores me as I snap picture after picture of him. I am pleased to see the bobcat but am perplexed as to how I never saw him in the brush I’d just glassed. The lesson I learned? Predators can hide anywhere. A few months earlier, Byron South showed up at my Panhandle home to go coyote hunting. Byron, now an East Texas guy, grew up just half an hour east of my home in Childress so he understands the wide open terrain and, more importantly, how to hunt big country predators. The thing that impresses me about
Byron is that he’s hunted coyotes and bobcats all over the country and understands the nuances of location and the relationships of how the animals use their habitat. Therefore, it’s no surprise that I pick his brain every chance I get. Out West On the left side of the 100th meridian, the countryside opens wide. Broad landscapes and big skies dominate and predators are abundant in areas where cattle outnumber people. Case in point: I was on a piece of property in mid-October and saw six coyotes from an elevated deer blind and heard at least 10 more – all in an area of about 400 acres. As the sun came up, I could barely hear coyotes wailing far to the southeast. Like audible dominoes falling, the sounds of coyotes barking and yapping came closer and closer – each coyote triggering the next to howl in a grand game of leapfrog – until the song dog symphony reached a crescendo around me and the invisible sound wave crashed by me and filled the brush to the northwest. No doubt – I am in good coyote country. On a coyote hunt with Byron, he read this slice of land like a book and had us on a promising set-up within minutes of our arrival. Byron likes hunting coyotes out west and on this hunt, he likes what he sees. “Since coyotes have less contact with humans in western Texas, they are often easier to call,” says Byron. “Combine this naivety with the fact that out west, you can choose a set-up that offers you better visibility to see the coyotes you do call.” Byron explains that he prefers coyotes in wide open country because eastern coyotes are fewer in numbers, and since they live in closer proximity to people, they've learned to evade humans and live undetected. Since eastern coyotes are super elusive and
HUNTING FOR PREDATORS
they often live in wooded, undulating terrain, South says that makes them trickier to call. However, western coyotes can be just as tricky in some locations. “Western coyotes that are pressured by ranchers and hunters can be tough as well,” advises South. “The key is to never underestimate the coyote’s intelligence and consider the variable for which he’s adapted (hunting pressure and terrain). use this information to form a plan. even though hunting strategies may be a little different when comparing eastern coyote
hunting to western coyote hunting, the basics of the hunt remain the same.” EASTERN PREDATORS “I think a lot more bobcats live around here than we could ever imagine,” advises William graves. William’s not only my brother but he’s an accomplished hunter who’s pursued game of all sorts around North america. While he’s hunted grizzlies from alaska and coyotes in Kentucky, he spends most of his time hunting the hardwoods of Northeast Texas. “bobcats are sneaky,” he advises. “I’ve been deer hunting and concentrating on
one spot in the woods and all of a sudden a bobcat appears. They live right under my nose around my house yet I rarely see them.” William, while he often hunts for both coyotes and bobcats around his home near bonham, says he has to be careful not to overcall. The parcels where he hunts are modestly sized. Therefore, he has to pace his efforts so to not educate the predators on sounds or setups that may make them wise to his pursuits. “I have to really watch how much I call in an area,” he says. If I call in a coyote in
HUNTING FOR PREDATORS
the woods and miss a shot at him, he’ll remember the sound and learn not to make the same mistake again,” he says. “If that’s the case, I have to wait for several months before trying an area again.” William says to combat educating coyotes or bobcats he tries to mix up the distress sounds he uses and calls at various times of the day or night to keep the intelligent mammals from honing in on his tactics. lOCATiON SCOUT “It's really kind of simple: I look for out of the way areas that should hold coyotes and bobcats,” South confides. “by ‘out of the way’ I mean areas where predators feel safe from human contact like heavy pockets of brush. I then look for a way to get close and go undetected in order to get to a vantage point.” South says that while most people look for scat and tracks to confirm coyotes in
the area, he prefers to get his intel from ranchers as they are on the land everyday and can advise where they see most of the coyotes. He does say that walking through an area and scouting is a good tactic if second-hand observations aren’t available. However, he says that it’s not a good idea to scout and hunt on the same trip as the predators are sensitive to any disturbance in their habitat. “If I scouted a place by walking through it, I would probably wait a few days before coming back to call. Keep in mind that coyotes adapt very quickly. your best bet to call him is the first time you attempt it. If you go back and repeatedly try to call and kill the same coyote, he will get very educated to your tactics.” THE SET-UP The day byron and I hunted coyotes, we were also joined by call maker rod Haydel and remington arms brand manager,
John fink. Once out of the truck, I could tell that byron had the place figured out and a plan in mind. Surprisingly, his set-up is relatively straight forward: a high vantage point so we can see over the open sage prairie and the wind in our face. Our route to where we set up wasn’t a direct one. Instead, in an attempt to remain out of sight and ear shot from any predators, we carefully used the terrain and snaked our way through the brush to our location. It is important, South says, to not travel through the area in which you intend to call. William agrees. In an eastern area he intends to hunt he’ll usually show up cold having not pre-scouted. Slipping into an area of woods quickly and quietly, he is careful not to make too much of a ruckus. Stealth, he says, is the key.
HUNTING FOR PREDATORS
THE GEAR TO GO “I keep it simple as I want to be as mobile and quiet as possible. I usually just have my calls,” graves explains. “for calls, I use both electronic and mouth calls to add some variety.” graves uses Johnny Stewart electronic calls and mouth-blown calls. Due to the small size of the foxPro, he says that it is very easy to carry both types of calls in the field to mix up his audible offerings. He hunts with a .243 rifle or, when he’s really up for a challenge, shoots a longbow from a brushy blind or a treestand. South hunts with Mojo electronic calls and Haydel brand mouth calls. add to that the ar-type predator rifle, shooting sticks, and terrain-matched camouflage clothing from head to toe, and South disappears in the brush and is a lethal and mobile predator killing machine. Of all his gear, South explains that the shooting sticks are especially important. “I've found that shooting sticks are a critical part of my gear. The sticks keep my muzzle up and pointed in the direction I suspect the coyote will appear and this keeps movement down to a minimum.
In addition the sticks keep one hand free so I can blow my hand call or run the remote for the electronic caller. finally, the stability of the shooting sticks aid in making a good clean shot.” On our hunt, byron led me, John and rod around the property in textbook fashion. While our first two stands were futile (as often happens when calling smart coyotes) the third stand was interesting. Overlooking a broad creek bottom carved into a sigmoid and lined with juniper, prickly pear and other semiarid plant life, we eased into place on a point where two draws feed into the bottom. after a few minutes, byron cranked up the call and the awful sounds of an injured rabbit filled the scrubland with an usual syncopation. Since there were four of us together, our set-up was a bit unorthodox. rod set up front since he was the primary shooter. byron was behind him as he filmed the set in high-def and operated the call. John sat behind byron to cover the left flank in case a coyote slipped from behind, and I sat a few yards behind all of them as my aim was to photograph the whole affair in digital stills. a few minutes after calling commenced, I saw movement to our west. at first I thought it was a coyote slipping through the little bluestem - burnished orange by winter’s tinge. Instead it was a raccoon that lumbered down the game trail. at first, I thought the raccoon was simply attracted to the sound out of curiosity and perhaps an easy meal. In the few seconds I watched him, I surmised that as soon he winded us or saw rod huddled behind the tree, he would scamper away. as the raccoon rounded the juniper, however, he saw rod and attacked. Chaos ensued and it took about a half dozen, point-blank .223 rounds to stave off the blitz. In fact, rod used the rifle’s muzzle to initially halt the raccoon’s offensive. While I watched in disbelief, rod caught his breath and laughed nervously about what transpired. While our coyote hunt was over, it didn’t matter to any of us. The spectacle we just witnessed will probably be a first and a last for any of us.
i ss u e s a n d A d v o c a c y
MAKING A DIFFERENCE
Stormwaters Brewing on the Llano River Article and photo by Bill Neiman
Editor’s Note: While the sentiments expressed in this article are shared by many TWA members, an official TWA position on the underlying water/private property issue is still being developed. The author of the article, Bill Neiman, is a long-time member of TWA and a stakeholder in the Llano River issue. The following are his thoughts.
ool, calm, no wind and a slow lifting fog down by the river this morning. Sitting by the big live oak at the site of the first homestead built in 1877. We’ve got about a mile of the river here on the place. An old-style aluminum canoe just slipped into view. We never see more than about three boats a year as we’re many miles either direction from public access points. In it are two people I’ve never seen before: a dad, quietly dipping his paddle, skillfully gliding the canoe over the water with distinct awareness of the ecological richness of his surroundings. Sitting in front is his 12-year-old son. The boy is also quiet, casting a rod with a certain confidence under dad’s watchful eye. The boy has that sacred elemental connection to the river, the line and the fish. Between the two of them, a lot of hope floats by. The dogs and I stay motionless and silent. Only watching. The canoe, almost without a ripple, slips smoothly out of sight. They never saw us 32 feet above in our birds-eye perch on the high bank of the Llano. A big-picture conversation has been
opened up by Lonn Taylor with his October 2014 article, “When Property Rights Clash with the Public Good.” He is stepping up to the plate, publishing this message in the Big Bend Sentinel from far West Texas. For us stakeholders here on the Llano River, it seems we are witnessing the end of an era. Almost everyone can plainly see the incompatible land use and absolute disrespect of responsible stewardship that allows a landowner in absentia for 50 years and a $30 billion Tennessee transnational corporation to build a truck stop in the Llano River floodway. The system is broken when we cannot protect our most basic elemental resource – clean water. I am a rural Texan family farmer. I am a downstream stakeholder/landowner. I have surface water rights that run with my land. These rights and this river I guard intensely, for they are integral to my livelihood and my children’s future. As some say, they are “golden.” Personally, I have inherited no property; instead, I have worked a lifetime to own and operate this land. When I was a youngster,
my dad moved us to El Paso the year after Kennedy was killed. Laid-off from his job building fighter aircraft at Grand Prairie, he took a job at White Sands Missile Range driving 80 miles to work and back just to keep our family living in Texas. I left home in the summer after 11th grade and hitchhiked across America for two years. These must have been my college days, since I never spent much more of my time in an indoor classroom. At age 19, I borrowed a shovel, a rake and a lawnmower and started working for myself. I set up a homestead and small business in Denton County near the places I had learned to hunt and fish with my dad as a kid. But then, like now, Texas was in full economic bloom. During those days of the 1970s, massive human migrations of downsized middle class Americans were fleeing the Rust Belt…hordes of people descending on the Sun Belt. In the unfolding socio-economic process, I witnessed the total destruction of the farms, ranches, creeks and rivers where my dad had taught me land stewardship and
STOrMWATerS breWinG On THe llAnO river
ethics to hunt and fish. In my 20s, I had decided my purpose was to “clean up behind the bulldozers.” With persistence, diligence and thrift, I built a tree farm, production greenhouse/nursery and a landscape construction company, eventually managing 45 employees. as time marched on, I learned the foolishness of my chosen life-purpose, cleaning up behind those dozers as if we could doze on forever. During the dry spell of 1980, 100 days of 100 degrees with no rain, all my work began to fail. Not enough water for all that sprawl. I’d planted and constructed all those exotic alien landscapes complete with automatic sprinkler systems. asian Jasmine, Chinese Holly, Pakistan Crepe Myrtle, african bermuda and Caribbean St. augustine required more water than the land could sustainably provide. It was then I noticed the resiliency and survivability of native plants. amidst the droughts, floods and freezes in the 1980s, I married and we had two births in our old wooden home on the prairie near argyle, Texas. by the late 1980s, I was conducting my first native seed harvests. Native american Seed was hatched. focus and purpose shifted, prompting me to “get in front of the dozers” to save Texas’ legendary genetics by collecting prairie seeds. I had learned how to help others clean up their land by putting it back like it was. Landscape construction was traded in for eco-Logical restoration. Today, we offer this experience on a large landscape scale. Our work translates directly to restoring wildlife habitat. Twenty years ago, we bought a parcel of fragmented farm and ranchland on the main stem of the pristine Llano river. a few work years passed, and we bought two more parcels, re-assembling all the original 1877 patented pieces back into one whole. Our Native american Seed farm operation employs about 20 people full-time. both kids grew up here in the Junction schools. They both went to real colleges and got real degrees, never hitchhiked. after trying their hands at big city living, both our daughter and son, on their own schedules, came back to work here on the farm. We’ve weathered plenty of ups and downs here. I reckon we’ll never forget the drought of 2011. but, the summer of 2014 is also deeply imprinted. This is the summer we lost the river to Pilot flying J, a truck stop/ travel center. a large extended community of several hundred citizens came together forming the “Land of Living Waters.org.” The group formed a facebook page to
communicate and document the process. as the public discourse began to unfold, three men staunchly advocated support for the truck stop by defending the absentee landowner’s property rights to do business as she pleased. One of the men bought the back page of our local newspaper and called the citizen’s group a socialist cancer that should be stamped out. One of the men owns a local land clearing and the only paving company in town. The third man, a lawyer and Junction councilman, demanded that the city attorney issue a ‘cease and desist’ order to the Land of Living Waters.org, with the claim that the city owns the slogan and in defense of its “intellectual property rights.” Our citizen group respected the city claim and changed the facebook name to Llano river Watch. as we fought to locally protect the river, my wife and grown kids witnessed the wholesale disregard of Texas’ last clean river. We are heartbroken. Our extended family and neighbors are left stomach sickeningly disappointed in our dysfunctional local, state and federal laws, or lack of law. No agency was willing or able to apply one iota of regulatory oversight to adequately protect the floodway, prevent construction in the floodway or stop discharge of polluted storm waters directly into the river. Pilot flying J submitted a Spill Prevention Plan to Texas Commission on environmental Quality (TCeQ) that outlines what will be done in response to a scalable spill…concern remains regarding accumulative long-term effects of hydrocarbons flushing to the river during each rain event. The truck stop features 14 lanes of fueling stations with 74 overnight berths for 18-wheelers, all situated in the floodplain and floodway. The eight-acre site was cleared of encumbrances, including the 400-year live oak where the first Kimble County Court was held. a pall of smoke hung over the city for days while it burned, along with hundreds of old-growth bottomland pecan and mesquite trees. Now in their place is a 40-year lease to Pilot flying J with eight acres of asphalt designed to eventually flow water into a 1968 vintage TxDOT concrete drainage ditch (with only recent repairs to the concrete side walls), then directly into the Llano. The company projects annual sales of ten million gallons of diesel beginning this Christmas when the facility opens. The local community has demonstrated a perfect “poster child” case. Texas’ state laws are non-existent when it comes to protecting water quality from storm runoff. Neither
ISSUES AND ADVOCACY
the federal Clean Water act, Section 404, united States army Corps of engineers (uSaCe), environmental Protection agency (ePa), federal emergency management agency (feMa), nor state TCeQ provide any clear distinctive provision (to apply in our four-month effort) to protect water quality in the Llano river. This is a case where well-designed regulation coupled with stiff penalties should apply when our commonly held elemental resources are violated. It is time for grown men and women leaders such as ourselves to zoom out for a holistic look at who is at the controls of this monster, for it is us. We still have our democratic legislative process. We need to join the many forces together and confront this gaping hole in the stewardship of Texas’ most priceless natural resource, clean water. I acknowledge this is a delicate issue, one of ditches to streams to rivers to lakes to bays. I understand there are many vested stakeholders to educate and align along the way. This IS a property rights issue. Downstream Llano river landowners have had their property rights violated by this incompatible land-use, especially those exercising adjudicated water rights for agricultural irrigation. This is not a local Junction municipal or a Kimble County issue. The Llano flows in five counties and four municipalities before emptying into the Highland Lakes. The river base flow is 85 percent of austin’s drinking water. The issue of storm water quality in the Hill Country is a state issue deserving legislative attention. Perhaps there are other waters in the state that have been degraded to a degree of disregard; but, in the Hill Country region, our springs and rivers are legendary for their quality. The clear, pristine quality can be attributed entirely to the historic stewardship of local ranchers and landowners fortified by rock-solid commitments to hand their land over to the next generation. but, those days are quickly coming to a close. With accelerating Texas population, land fragmentation, loss of vibrant agricultural communities, flight of youth to cities and blight in the future of rural landscapes, where will that 12-year-old boy in the canoe take his son fishing 20 years from now? It is our responsibility as Texas land stewards to answer this question. This is not just about little boys fishing in the future. It’s about all of us now and what we say about ourselves today.
H u n T i n G H e r i TA G e
MAKING A DIFFERENCE
Big Changes for 2015 TBGA Sportsman’s Celebrations Building off of a great 2014 summer banquet season, the Texas Big Game Awards will be moving to new parts of the state in 2015.
Texas Big Game Awards 2015 Regional Banquet Schedule Region 5,6,7 May 16 – Lufkin, TX Pitser Garrison Convention Center 601 N 2nd St Hotel Block: Best Western Crown Colony, 936-634-3481 Code: Texas Big Game Region 4 &8 June 20 – Uvalde, TX SSGT. Willie De Leon Civic Center 300 E Main St Hotel Block: Hampton Inn, 830-278-1300 Holiday Inn Express, 830-278-7300 Code: Texas Big Game Awards Region 1,2,3 June 27 – San Angelo, TX McNease Convention Center 500 Rio Concho Dr. Hotel Block: Clarion Hotel, 325-658-2828 Code: TBGA
For more info visit www.TexasBigGameAwards.org
TBGA Sportsman’s Celebrations are a great opportunity for the whole family to spend time together around other hunters and learn about wildlife habitat. Be sure to check out the Sportsman’s Celebration nearest you in 2015. SFL 2015 AD TWA third SK.pdf
New Activities: along with the always popular trophy display, raffle and awards banquet, we will offer some exciting new education activities for attendees to enjoy. Hunter Ed: Hunter education classes will be offered at each of the three banquets in 2015. The classes will start at 8 a.m. on Saturday and wrap up just in time for the Tbga Sportsman’s Celebration banquet. Separate registration will be required for these classes. Contact the Tbga office at (800) 839-9453 for more information. Wild game cooking: Texas Parks and Wildlife Department biologist Larry Lebeau will offer an informative wild game cooking demonstration during the afternoon at the Lufkin banquet. Lebeau's cooking skills paired with his wildlife knowledge will make this seminar a real treat for hunters looking for new ways to prepare wild game dishes. Wildlife photography seminar: Well-known Texas wildlife photographer Larry Ditto will offer a wildlife photography seminar at the uvalde banquet on June 20. Ditto has traveled the world photographing wildlife and will share many of his wildlife photos and stories during this presentation. Planning is now underway for all three events. If you have other activities that you would like to see at your regional sportsman’s celebration, give us a call or shoot us an email. We always look for ways to improve the events for the hunters and landowners of Texas.
Desalination: Fix or Fantasy Article by Henry Chappell Photos courtesy of Texas Water Development Board
n Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” an undead sailor tells a cautionary tale. A storm drives his ship and crew south to Antarctica. An albatross appears and leads them to safer waters, but the mariner shoots the bird with his crossbow. This violence toward a gift of nature – the albatross – angers the spirits. The wind blows the ship into perfectly calm, uncharted waters. Now, out of fresh water, lost and dying of thirst, the crew revolts and forces the mariner to wear the dead albatross around his neck. The mariner recalls the misery: Water, water, everywhere, And all the boards did shrink; Water, water, everywhere, Nor any drop to drink. If these famous lines seem too foreign to our technological age to evoke terror, recall that less than one percent of earth’s water is drinkable or “potable.” Oceans account for 96.5 percent of our planet’s water. Of the remaining 3.5 percent, about 1 percent is brackish. About 1.7 percent takes the form of polar ice. That leaves only 0.8 percent in the form of rivers, streams, lakes, marshes and groundwater – fresh water available for use by humans and wildlife. Literally, we have water, water, everywhere, but little can we drink. Desalination – the process of removing salt and other unwanted minerals from seawater or brackish water – can increase available drinking water, either directly or by providing water suitable for industrial and agricultural use, thereby relieving pressure on natural freshwater sources. According to the Texas Water Development Board, “[Texas’s] 367-mile coastline along the Gulf of Mexico [provides] access to a limitless supply of seawater for desalination.” Reality check: Current desalination
Brackish Groundwater Treatment Facility for the Southmost Regional Water Authority in Brownsville, Texas. Texas boasts 46 brackish water desalination facilities.
technologies are energy intensive. The two most common desalination techniques are thermal desalination, which is the heating of saline water to produce vapor which is then condensed and collected as freshwater,and reverse osmosis, a process in which saline or brackish water is pressure driven through a semipermeable membrane, which filters solids. The collected salt and other minerals, the “concentrate streams,” can then be disposed of via deep well injection, evaporation ponds and controlled return to the ocean. Concentrate stream disposal is a significant environmental concern. Availability of means of safe disposal is a major factor in determining the feasibility of a proposed desalination facility. As TWDB readily admits, the high cost of desalination poses a challenge to
large-scale implementation. Production of one acre-foot of desalinated water from seawater costs from $800 to $1,400. Then there’s the cost of moving water from our “unlimited source” to users. A gallon of water weighs about 8.3 pounds. Imagine the energy required to pipe that gallon of water from the Texas coast to the thirstier regions of the state – the High Plains for instance. Not only must the water travel several hundred miles, it must gain some 3,000 feet of elevation. Short of a safe nuclear future of super cheap energy, we probably won’t be irrigating Lubbock County cotton fields or Austin lawns with desalinated seawater. Yet desalination has proved effective at augmenting local and regional freshwater supplies. Texas is underlain by some 2.7 billion acre-feet of brackish groundwater,
Desalination: Fix or Fantasy
Desalinated water stored and ready to be sent to the distribution system.
which can be readily mined. Currently, 46 municipal desalination plants provide Texans with a design capacity of 123 million gallons per day. All of these plants desalinate brackish water. Presently, 34 plants process brackish groundwater; 12 plants desalinate brackish surface water. The largest facility, El Paso Utilities’ Kay Bailey Hutchison Desalination plant boasts a capacity of 27.5 million gallons per day. Because brackish water contains less undissolved solids than seawater, it’s less expensive to desalinate -- $357 to $782 per acre-foot. Texas currently has no seawater desalination facility. Not surprisingly, the major obstacles are financial rather than technological. In 2002, Governor Rick
These cartridge filters remove suspended solids from the water before entering the reverse osmosis system.
Perry directed the Texas Water Development Board to develop a desalination demonstration project. Studies performed under the resulting Seawater Desalination Initiative identified several feasible sites along the coast. In 2010, TWDB exhausted its seawater desalination study funds. However, in May 2011, voters in the Laguna Madre Water District authorized issuance of bonds to finance construction of a 1 million gallon per day seawater desalination plant. Currently, no date has been set for construction. The 2012 State Water Plan projects seawater desalination at 125,514 acre-feet in 2060 – only 1.5 percent of the volume of all
water management strategies. In Coleridge’s great poem, the ancient mariner experiences temporary grace when he blesses the sea creatures and praises their beauty. As he prays, the albatross falls from his neck. We’d do well to learn from the mariner’s curse by avoiding the moral hazard inherent in technological optimism. Though desalination can and is providing relief from our water shortage, we should see our rivers, lakes and freshwater aquifers as irreplaceable gifts to be lovingly conserved. Prudence and humility in our assessment of our ability to forestall limits could save us from an eternity of regret.
Reverse osmosis trains desalinate the brackish water by removing most of the dissolved salts.
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photo by Russell Graves
YOUR Property Rights
WHERE IT BEGAN — Texas Wildlife Association was founded in 1985 to fight efforts in Austin that would’ve denied Texas landowners the opportunity to use high fences as wildlife management tools on their properties.
THE FIGHT CONTINUES... • To reform eminent domain laws so Texas landowners are seated at the decision-making table, ably protecting their rights, with full access and transparency • To reaffirm and maintain that groundwater is a vested property right of the landowner • To convince courts of law that property rights must be honored • To strengthen border security, and protect Texas landowners’ property and way of life • To maintain and improve landowner liability protections • To secure more transparent and predictable process for private landowners involved in navigable water proceedings and regulatory actions • To promote and defend the integrity of wildlife, including the importance of keeping wildlife wild • To promote and defend reasonable use of modern wildlife tools, including fencing, feeding, and other progressive practices
OUR FIGHT WILL NEVER END! Texas Wildlife Association serves Texas wildlife and its habitat, while protecting property rights, hunting heritage, and the conservation efforts of those who value and steward wildlife resources.
BE A PART OF OUR MISSION AND OUR SUCCESS!
c o n s e r vat i o n l e ga c y
MAKING A DIFFERENCE
Proud to be Partners
San Antonio Livestock Exposition, Inc. and Conservation Legacy Article by Helen Holdsworth Photos by Clint Faas, Elanor Dean, Koy Coffer, Amanda Crouch, and Kassi Scheffer
Using the bobwhite quail, the L.A.N.D.S. Intensive program brings to life current wildlife and natural resources issues in the classroom. A necropsy in the classroom is generally followed by a field investigation day to a private ranch.
S.A.L.E. has been a long-time supporter of Women of the Land, a land management education program designed for women landowners, land managers and wildlife/ outdoor enthusiasts.
Bobcat â€“ Distance Learning allows TWAâ€™s private land steward message to reach across the state and provides youths the opportunity to see some wildlife species up close and personal!
prOud TO be pArTnerS
Landowner and land manager education is important to maintain and enhance Texas’ wildlife and natural resources.
Exploring Adaptations is just one of seven different Discovery Trunks offered free of charge to teachers.
Supporting the next generation is S.A.L.E.’s mission. They are a long-time proponent of Wildlife Intensive Leadership Development (W.I.L.D.), the Texas Brigades’ advanced leadership development program.
S.A.L.E. funding supports CL’s ability to provide Wildlife By Design programs, which brings hands-on resources and TEKS-aligned lessons from a contract educator into the classroom.
Support from the San antonio Livestock exposition, Inc. (S.a.L.e.) touches each program area of Conservation Legacy (CL), from kindergartners to fifth generation landowners. Since 2004, S.a.L.e. has supported the Texas Wildlife association foundation, which enables TWaf to expand existing and deploy new conservation education programs across Texas. TWaf, TWa and Conservation Legacy are proud to be partners with S.a.L.e, Inc. Check out the back cover of this month’s Critter Connections; S.a.L.e. is the sponsor! for information about CL programs, visit www. texas-wildlife.org/program-areas/category/ conservation-legacy/.
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twa m e m b e r s i n a c t i o n
MAKING A DIFFERENCE
TWA Announces Life Member and Early Renewal Incentive Program for 2015 Article by Kendra Roller
his year, the Texas Wildlife Association will hold a drawing during the Grand Auction at its convention, WildLife 2015, for all individuals that join at, or upgrade to, the TWA Life Member Level. The prize for the drawing is an Argentina Dove Hunt generously donated by David Bodai and Custom Sporting. The hunt is for three days and nights for one hunter and one non-hunting guest. This hunt includes three days of ultra-high volume dove shooting, six professionally guided hunts, all lodge accommodations, all gourmet meals at lodge, open bar at lodge, all field fees, Cordoba Airport and lodge transfers and transfers to and from hunting fields. TWA Director Stephen Hill will also provide a $1,000 voucher to assist with travel
to Argentina. Thank you David Bodai and Custom Sporting for your generous donation! If you are currently a Life Member, we have a drawing this year for you, too! All Life Members enrolled by December 31, 2015 will be entered into a drawing for a shotgun provided by TWA. If you have ever considered upgrading your membership, 2015 is the year to do it! Our association sends out four renewal reminders to each member as their renewal date approaches. The first renewal you receive is mailed to you 30 days prior to your renewal date. In 2015, if you renew on your first notice, you will be entered into a drawing for a TWA Life Membership. A Life Membership currently costs $2,400, and as the winner of the early renewal drawing, this membership
would be provided to you at no cost. Be sure to check your mail and respond to your early renewal notice this year. If you have any questions about our Life Member or Early Renewal Incentive Program for 2015, please feel free to contact TWA Director of Member Relations Kendra Roller at firstname.lastname@example.org or (800) 839-9453.
TWA Life Member & Early Renewal Incentives for 2015
Life Member Incentives: Upgrade or join TWA as a LIFE Member by July 9, 2015, and be entered to win:
ARGENTINA DOVE HUNT donated by Custom Sporting/David Bodai
Three Day / Two Night Dove Hunt for one hunter & one non-hunting guest, includes: • Three Days Ultra High Volume Dove Shooting • Six Professionally Guided Hunts • All Lodge Accommodations • All Gourmet Meals at Lodge • Open Bar at Lodge • All Field Fees • Cordoba Airport / Lodge Land Transfers • Transfers to and from Hunting Fields • US-Based Hunting / Travel Consultation TWA will provide $1,000 travel voucher donated by Director Stephen Hill ALL current and new Life Members will be entered into a drawing for a shotgun at the end of 2015. If you are already a Life Member or if you join/upgrade to a Life Member in 2015, you are eligible to win a shotgun donated by TWA at the end of 2015.
Early Renewal Incentive ALL members that renew with their first notice (sent 30 days before their renewal date) in 2015 are entered in a drawing for a TWA LIFE Membership. This drawing will take place on Dec. 31, 2015. Make sure you renew your membership early this year to qualify!
CAESAR KlEBERG WilDliFE RESEARCH iNSTiTUTE TEXAS A&M UNIVERSITY-KINGSVILLE
Habitat Fragmentation Impacts Ocelot Mating System Article by MiCHAEl TEWES and RANDy DEyOUNG
ost of the 30 different species of small cats in the world, including ocelot and bobcat in Texas, share a similar mating system. Typically, a male ocelot will travel over a large territory that is two or three miles across and overlaps the territories of two or three female ocelots. The male patrols this large area to secure access to mates. It also frequently travels over this area to monitor when a female becomes estrus and is in suitable breeding condition. This condition will only last a few days, so the male must move frequently to monitor the females for signs of estrus. The male will typically deposit feces and urine along trails within its territory. besides searching for suitable mates, these patrols are designed to encounter prey and to inform the territorial male about the presence of rival males. Occasionally, male-male encounters occur, and territorial combat has been documented in Texas ocelots more than once. In contrast, the female ocelot has a different mating strategy. The female searches for a smaller territory, compared to the male, which has plenty of dependable food sources and dense cover to protect the den sites and young kittens. The final component of this mating system occurs when the young mature to dispersal age, usually in one or two years. Typically, the young female moves to an adjoining or nearby territory, and the mother may even allow partial tolerance or overlap of its female offspring. This use of nearby areas conveys an advantage to the new female territory because of its familiarity. The young female ocelot
knows where the prey are abundant, location of dense escape cover and areas to avoid that may pose increased risk such as roads or high pockets of coyotes. In contrast, the young male usually disperses from its natal area and may travel 10 or more miles to establish its own territory. The exact mechanism initiating this dispersal is not always known, but some levels of aggression or mother intolerance of her male offspring has been documented. Overall, this pattern of male dispersal and female philopatry are common in mammals and serve to maintain genetic diversity and avoid inbreeding. unfortunately, ocelots are
habitat specialists and strongly prefer dense thornshrub. Ocelots rarely move through habitats lacking dense brush, which prevents dispersal. Thus, populations can become effectively isolated by open landscapes. The entire population of ocelots in the united States exists in a small group of habitat patches in extreme South Texas. There are fewer than 80 individuals in two isolated sites, with about a dozen ocelots identified in Cameron County and another 35 in Willacy County. Texas ocelots have lost genetic diversity over time as the populations have become more genetically isolated due to lack of exchange.
Sponsored by JOHN AND LAURIE SAUNDERS
C aesar k l eberg w i l d l i fe research i nst i tute
For example, there was a 10 percent decrease historically retained greater genetic diversity, within its range in the Western Hemisphere. The acquisition of large samples of ocelots in genetic diversity in the Cameron population it has not been resistant to inbreeding events. over three decades required hard work by from samples taken in 1999-2005 compared Eight cases of inbreeding were identified in several biologists and represents a major to 2006-2013. Small, isolated populations lose the Willacy population, and six inbreeding team effort. In addition, long-term support diversity through a process known as genetic events in the Cameron population. by Tim and Karen Hixon and Frank Yturria drift, where random differences in mating and Both populations contained mother-son Additional grants were critical to this success. survival among individuals often results in pairings (Cameron-three events, WillacyGardens of San Antonio by SeaWorld-Busch the under- or over-representation of different two events), matings usually avoided in helped us gather this information. Finally, the genetic lineages. If an individual in an isolated carnivores by the dispersal of male offspring recent initiation of a major ocelot project by population leaves few or no offspring, its from the natal range. Matings between fatherEast Wildlife Foundation has provided the genetic material is lost forever. daughter combinations were identified in the important new insights into the ocelot The potential for inbreeding is another risk Cameron population (one event) and the populations of South Texas. for small populations, but has seldom been Willacy population (two events). The multiple inbreeding events and genetic documented in free-ranging populations. Most offspring were produced by a few erosion documented over the past 30 years Inbreeding includes mating between closely individuals, a classic case of genetic drift. In have critical implications in guiding the related individuals, such as parent-offspring, addition, the documented inbreeding events recovery of this endangered cat in the United between siblings or other close relatives. One provide another strong piece of evidence States. Translocation is an of the primary concerns important strategy that can about inbreeding is the provide temporary assistance. accumulation of recessive Moving ocelots moved from alleles, or alternate forms the genetically rich pool of genes. In animals, each in northeast Mexico is the individual has two copies of preferred option; however, most genes, one from each translocations between parent. Recessive alleles are the two ocelot populations present in many populations in Texas can also provide at low frequency and seldom some benefits. For example, cause problems because they ocelots sampled on the East are paired with a normal Sauz El Ranch had over form of the gene. However, 25 percent greater genetic if an individual inherits a diversity than the Cameron recessive gene copy from population and could assist each parent, the combination in genetic augmentation of could have debilitating or this depleted population. lethal effects. However, translocation Long-term capture and Two different offspring following ocelot Y1 a little after midnight on the San Francisco will only provide temporary monitoring programs for Ranch owned by Mr. Frank Yturria in extreme South Texas. relief because the continuing Photo by Michael Tewes, Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Institute ocelots at the Caesar Kleberg lack of prime habitat and Institute have collected blood isolation of the existing populations will and tissue samples from Texas ocelots over that the ocelot populations are isolated, with continue to impact the mating system. Most three decades. Doctoral student Jennifer limited pathways for dispersal to nearby wildlife managers agree that the ultimate Korn recently used genetic analyses to study available habitat. solution requires the restoration of several The normal mating system of wild small cats parent-offspring relationships of ocelots in large tracts of extremely dense thornshrub the Texas populations. Jenniferâ€™s research tends to avoid inbreeding and genetic erosion. Furthermore, increased resulted in a partial pedigree analysis and the This expected pattern or mating system is communities. connectivity of habitat on the landscape will first documented cases of inbreeding in wild not happening within the confined ocelot result in increased population survival. These populations in South Texas. Because of the ocelots. Results for the Willacy population found lack of suitable habitat for males to disperse tracts will be expensive to restore and should seven females produced one young, four into, they tend to stay in or near the maternal be created where they will be used by ocelots females produced two young and one female territory. We believe this explains, at least in or within dispersal distance (10 miles) of the (Y1) produced three young or 17 percent of the part, why genetic erosion has been occurring in two remaining ocelot populations. The conservation challenges are significant for identified offspring. In the Cameron population, the Texas ocelot and the numerous inbreeding the last ocelot population in the United States. a female ocelot (F88) and a male ocelot (M132) events that have been identified. However, we believe there is hope particularly produced 17 percent and 25 percent of the These results are the first to use genetic analyses with support expressed by key private offspring assigned to that population. to identify the mating system and parental landowners. We can only remain optimistic. Although the Willacy population has relatedness of an ocelot population anywhere
P l ant P rof i l e
Tasajillo Article and photos by Steve Nelle
asajillo is one of the most commonly found and frequently cursed plants in Texas. It grows in all parts of the state except deep East Texas. Tasajillo goes by several different names, including pencil cactus, Christmas cactus and turkey pear. The term Christmas cactus is descriptively appropriate this time of year since tasajillo has the traditional green and red color combination during winter when fruit are ripe. The abundance of needle-sharp spines is what gives tasajillo a bad name. The spines are covered with hundreds of minute and invisible barbs or ridges which make spine removal painful and difficult. The worst are the thousands of tiny spines that form in clusters and are almost impossible to remove. Tasajillo is closely related to cholla and dog pear, both of which also have nasty spines. The barbed spines are one common way that tasajillo is spread. Passing animals get stabbed by the spines and the entire joint of cactus breaks off and is carried by the animal. Eventually the joint falls off or is rubbed off. The joints frequently root where they fall forming new plants. In a similar fashion, when mechanical brush control is being done, it is common for tasajillo plants to be broken apart and spread. Some thickets of tasajillo are so dense that they render the land almost useless. Tasajillo is seldom the primary target of brush control, but it is often one of the secondary species that landowners wish to control. The same herbicides
that are effective on pricklypear can also be used to kill tasajillo but be aware of side effects. Broadcast spraying often damages non target species, but individual plant treatment is a good way to thin out tasajillo. Prescribed burning is also an effective way to reduce tasajillo; it is one of the easiest plants to kill with fire. The drought of 2011 killed a good bit of tasajillo in parts of Texas, but there is still plenty in most places. Despite its poor reputation and spiny attributes, tasajillo is a good plant for wildlife. The small red fruits are eaten by turkeys as well as quail and other fruit eating songbirds. Small mammals and rodents also eat the fruit. The green succulent joints are eaten by deer, pronghorn, bighorn sheep and javelina,
especially during the winter or during stress periods. The protein level of about 8% is enough to meet maintenance needs of ruminants and the level of carbohydrates is good on a dry weight basis. A dense cluster of large tasajillo makes a nice covert for protection of birds and small mammals. Cactus wrens, mourning dove, mockingbirds and roadrunners are some of the birds known to nest in tasajillo. On heavily grazed ranges, tasajillo is one of the plants that afford protection of desirable grasses and forbs. Tasajillo is a good example of plants which have both positive and negative qualities. The job of the manager is to seek the right balance â€“ appreciating the benefits but not letting it get too thick.
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Discovery Trunks are just thatâ€Śtrunks filled with hands-on, curriculum-enhancing natural resource materials and lesson plans for students kindergarten through sixth grade. Trunks are shipped year-round to Texas educators at NO COST (thanks to underwriting). Last year, Discovery Trunks reached 77,952 students and due to such high-demand, there is a waiting list. Please consider giving the gift of education by underwriting the Discovery Trunk program. All trunk materials are aligned with the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) state standards. To support or learn more about Discovery Trunks visit:
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QuailMasters 2015 Ode to Calypso
Article and photos by
now one thing that’s wrong with today’s youth? Their paucity of hero figures. No, I don’t mean G. I. Joe, He-Man or Spiderman, I mean real heroes…the kind I grew up with – war heroes like Audie Murphy, and positive TV influences like Lucas McCain (The Rifleman), Clint Walker (Sugarfoot) or maybe even Clint Eastwood (Dirty Harry). Homer Simpson and Beavis and Butthead just don’t measure up for those of us from the glory days of black and white television. I was raised in a small town in southwestern Oklahoma awash with small town values. On the backroads thereof were cultivated my love for mesquite pastures, jackrabbits, .22 rifles and blue quail. Other than my adventures down “Potshot Road,” my travels were never very worldly. Perhaps that’s why I was always enamored with those old National Geographic adventures, especially those featuring undersea explorer Jacques Cousteau. His odysseys onboard the Calypso took this country boy on some memorable voyages, if only vicariously. So it’s no wonder that one of my favorite songs of John Denver’s is his tribute to
Dale Rollins, Ph.D.
Cousteau in his ballad Calypso. “Aye Calypso the places you’ve been to; the things that you’ve shown us, the stories you tell. Aye Calypso I sing to your spirit, the men who have served you so long and so well.” From the early days of the Bobwhite Brigade, I was often chided because there wasn’t such a bobwhite odyssey for adults. Well, for one thing, we can’t push adults like we do teenagers. But, the egg was laid to design a similarly intensive course and what hatched was “QuailMasters.” Instead of five intense days, the adult version would take place over four, three-day workshops scattered across Texas. The QM course is a joint effort sponsored by your Texas Wildlife Association and the Texas A&M Agrilife Extension Service. Students get up close and personal with bobwhites and the habitats on which they depend. A quail’s life is full of challenges and so is a QuailMaster’s. Quail anatomy, plants of the week, ranch tours, homework assignments, lessons from Leopold and tales of bird dogs. We enjoy a veritable quail odyssey. I remind you of the definition of odyssey: 1) an extended adventurous voyage or trip;
QuailMaster students “covey up” around ranch owner Justin Trail (in brown cap; a 2005 QM alumnus) to learn how he has promoted quail abundance in Shackelford County.
2) an intellectual or spiritual quest, i.e. an odyssey of discovery. Yep, that’s exactly what we share. My vehicle logged just over 2,100 miles en route to the finish line. And, some students logged almost twice that – Texas is a big state! QuailMasters steals from Bobwhite Brigade in many ways; after all, it’s a proven model! First, we ascribe to the Brigade’s motto (based on a Chinese proverb): “Tell me, and I forget. Show me, and I remember. Involve me, and I understand.” Teaching sessions are hands-on, fast-paced, challenging and ripe with Kodak moments. Lectures in the classroom are necessary evils but serve more to complement reading assignments, philosophies and proven principles. Homework assignments include plant and seed collections, reading assignments, management-oriented exercises and the recurring assignment (across various seasons) to “think like a quail,” i.e., put yourself in a quail’s perspective and identify habitat needs (in detail) and behaviors over a 24-hour period. When you learn to think like a quail, you see the world differently. Your perspective is no longer from six feet above ground but from six inches. You behave nervously in the knowledge that your enemies are everywhere. Catclaw acacia becomes a storm cellar; a basketball-sized clump of silver bluestem becomes a honeymoon castle; a stand of sunflowers becomes a daycare facility; and, insects become “MREs” (Meals Ready to Eat). Plants and seeds important to quail become key currencies for Students of Quail. Each session begins with a plant quiz, which often serves to humble the students. But, that’s okay. My teaching philosophy appreciates that a humbled
student is an attentive student. Students are required to assemble their own plant and seed collections customized to their area by mastering the “digital plant press” (a flatbed color scanner). The resulting field guides are very useful. The 2014 QM class focused on North Texas. Accordingly, we toured some of the best quail properties in the Rolling Plains, and then concluded our odyssey in South Texas near Hebbronville. The 2015 class will be our first to focus on South Texas and will feature sessions in Cotulla, Victoria, Hebbronville and a fourth site to be named based on the consensus of the participants. Diversity is a key ecological concept, and one that is exemplified in several ways in QM. We learn how plant communities can be shifted by knowledge of the “ax, plow, cow and fire” and how soils dictate what one’s management options may be most appropriate. But, diversity in the ecological sense is not the only application. One comment I hear repeatedly from alumni is how much they enjoyed the diverse group of QM students, from ranchers to agency biologists to graduate students. The diverse student body acts in much the same way a diverse habitat works. One “silver bullet” from Benjamin Franklin reckons, “Every person I meet is in some way my superior, and if I will listen to him, I can learn from him.” Our instructors are a varied lot, too. They range from ranch managers to university instructors and, yes, to bird dogs. Each shares his/her passion and knowledge of the “quail equation” and their passion for land stewardship. And illustrating another axiom of ecology, the whole is indeed greater than the sum of the parts. I’ve enjoyed commanding the QM ship since it first sailed in 2005, but the 2015 class will be my final voyage. As such, I will especially enjoy this session and invite all alumni to join us at one of the sessions. Aye Calypso I sing to your spirit, the men who have served you so long and so well. QM alumni speak out: “QuailMasters should be on top of the "to-do" list of any quail enthusiast. It does not matter if you are newly interested in quail and trying to learn the basics, or you
are a long-time quail hunter or manager trying to gain more knowledge to promote quail on your property—QuailMasters is for you!! - Irvin Welch, Manager, Wagner Ranch, Hebbronville “Nowhere can you find a more comprehensive study regarding quail, quail habitat and management practices while enjoying the comradery of the other participants, instructors and professionals that shape Texas wildlife habitat—a 1st class program.” - Jerry Hammon, quail hunter, Friendswood “As a landowner I am always searching for practices to implement that will save time and money. QuailMasters has provided not only a wealth of useful tools but access to good mentors with knowledge and experience that may save years of wasted effort. Leaving the final QuailMasters session, I realized that I have already changed my entire approach to land use by formulating a 'game plan' rather than guessing and hoping.” - Ted McKnight, landowner, Lakeway, TX “QuailMasters is an excellent course examining all levels of quail research, biology and management through a good mix of classroom, field and lab exercises. As a biologist in an area of the state where quail are virtually extirpated, it was good to receive not only a ‘refresher-course’ in quail biology and management, but also to learn of current research and management needs across the quail’s range.” - Billy Lambert, TPWD biologist, College Station “QuailMasters has given me a newfound appreciation for quail and quail management. I now find myself driving down the road assessing habitat, or looking at plants and their seeds to see if they may be beneficial to a quail.” – Ryan McClintock, NRCS biologist, San Angelo “QuailMasters brings to life the applications of a variety of management practices. For a visual learner, it was much easier to understand what quality quail habitat was while standing in the middle of it as opposed to reading various habitat parameters in a book. As a graduate student, QuailMasters provided me with a deeper understanding of quail life history, quail
Wagner Ranch manager Irvin Welch (a 2007 QM alumnus) shows off a quail-friendly water source near Hebbronville.
plants and quail management practices, plus some good meals with new friends as an added bonus. I would definitely recommend this course to other students in the wildlife field. – Andrea Bruno, graduate student, Texas A&M University - Kingsville “The graduate-level course framework was challenging yet presented in a fun and friendly manner. The homework activities zeroed in on exactly what is needed to impact an operation, large or small. As a student of quail, the access allowed by the teaching staff to the ranch operations we toured is unmatched and unattainable for most. Should you attend the next one? Yes. Would I attend again? Absolutely. Should you tell someone else to participate? You should if you want quail to irrupt like in years past. What we learned has no restrictions of state boundaries, age limits or intellect and the experience was priceless.” - Chris Cowlbeck, landowner, Ardmore, Oklahoma Tuition for the QuailMasters 2015 class is $500 per person which covers most resource materials and meals. For more information, or to register for the class, visit www.texas-wildlife.org/program-areas/ wildlife-ambassador-training, or contact Clint Faas at (979) 541-9803.
When the land is healthy, the waters will be clear and the water cycle will perform optimally.
The Changing Science of Managing Brush for Water Yield Article by Lorie Woodward Cantu Photos by Steve Nelle
ature isn’t static and neither is the science that strives to help us understand how ecological processes function. “Science sometimes proves that we humans don’t know what we think we do,” said Dr. John Walker, Professor and Director of Research at Texas A&M AgriLife Research in San Angelo. “Science can turn up answers that are counterintuitive and may even fly in the face of things that people have witnessed on a local level.” Brush control as a means of large-scale water supply enhancement is a case in point, he said. Across the state, anecdotal evidence of landowners clearing brush and bringing back seeps and streams abounds. For years, the Natural Resources Conservation Service used Rocky Creek, located near San Angelo, as an example of the relationship between brush removal and water supply. In the late 1990s, policy makers and range managers made what seemed to be a logical leap: If removing brush in a small area would cause springs and streams to flow, then removing brush throughout a watershed should have the same impact on a much larger scale. Dr. Georgianne Moore, Associate Professor of Ecosystem Science and Management at Texas A&M University, said, “When I came to Texas 11 years ago it was clear that Texas had a problem with brush encroachment and with water supply. Frankly, though, I was surprised that people were making a connection between brush encroachment and water supply -- and moving forward without
science to back up what they thought they knew.” She, along with other hydrologists and range scientists, was motivated to discover whether or not the underlying assumptions were true. THE PILOT PROJECT The first large-scale brush control project was implemented in the watershed of the North Concho River, northwest of San Angelo. Between 2000 and 2005, according to Upper Colorado River Authority reports, approximately 432 square miles of the 1,413 square mile watershed was cleared of mesquite and juniper in hopes of increasing stream flow in the river. Dr. Bradford Wilcox, Professor of Ecosystem Science and Management at Texas A&M University, said, “The North Concho project was an important case study to determine if large-scale brush clearing would generate more water for cities.” Water planners projected that stream flow would increase three- to five-fold as a result of this $14 million program; however, there has been no perceptible increase in the flow to the North Concho to date. Scientists have identified several areas that help explain why clearing the brush didn’t yield the anticipated water. First, in the semi-arid environment of the Rolling Plains, brush control had to compensate for a high evaporation rate. Walker, who currently serves as President of the Texas Section Society for Range Management, said, “San Angelo has a potential evaporation rate of six feet
THE CHANGING SCIENCE OF MANAGING BRUSH FOR WATER YIELD
Extensive government funded brush control on the North, Middle and South Concho River watersheds has not resulted in increased stream flow to these rivers.
annually. If, on January 1, you have an open stock tank that is 72 inches deep and you get no rain during the year, the stock tank will be dry on December 31. On an average year, we get 21 inches of rain annually. When it comes to water, we’re clearly in a deficit situation.” Second, the water yield projections primarily were made using models with very little field research to support the numbers, Walker said. While modeling plays an important role in scientific research, models are only as good as the data they use and as the assumptions that they are built on. In the case of the North Concho project, water planners assumed that after brush control the North Concho would become a perennial river. It was assumed that removing woody vegetation would free up soil moisture and thereby increase stream flow. research showed, though, that stream flows in the western portion of the state, are actually enhanced by overland water during “big rain events.” groundwater makes up a very small percentage of stream flow. research also has shown that frequency and magnitude of floods has decreased over time. When floods do occur, the water is moving so swiftly over land that individual plants such as mesquite trees have very little impact on the overall quantity reaching the streams. Conversely, though, a diverse and healthy rangeland can slow water flow and increase infiltration, which improves water quality, but can limit stream flow. Stream flows in western Texas reached their pinnacle between
1880 and 1970, Wilcox said. During this time, the land was recovering from a period of historic overgrazing that occurred in the late 1800s. It is estimated livestock numbers were 20 times to 60 times higher than now. The land was barren and degraded. bare ground sheds more water, but the run-off carries valuable top soil with it silting in streams and reservoirs. from a watershed protection standpoint, a stand of mesquite, despite opinions to the contrary, is more valuable than bare ground, he said. “The good news in all of this is that Texas rangelands are in better shape than they have been since the 1880s,” Wilcox said. Third, according to Moore, some of the early models that planners used oversimplified natural processes. for instance, the models assumed that plants use the same peak rate of water every day and did not account for changes because of season and weather conditions. “Mesquite, juniper and saltcedar are not super plants,” Moore said. “They react to environmental conditions just like every other plant, so their water use rate isn’t constant. Despite popular belief to the contrary, they, too, are stressed by drought and limit their water use when it’s dry.” In addition, the plants’ physiology limits the amount of water that they can use in any given day. Plus, their roots generally don’t extend into the water table, preventing them from tapping directly into groundwater. Water planners also assumed that water “saved” by removing woody vegetation remained available as “free” water that would enhance stream flow or immediately recharge aquifers, Moore
THE CHANGING SCIENCE OF MANAGING BRUSH FOR WATER YIELD
said. They didn’t take into account the compensatory effect of other vegetation including grass or the evaporation that occurs when the canopy is removed. research has shown that both factor heavily into water availability. fourth, water planners also overlooked the economic value of brush, Walker said. as more landowners have included wildlife as a source of income for their operations, the once-valueless brush is now considered prime habitat. In the case of the North Concho project, planners used 100 percent brush removal in their projections and landowners, on average, removed only 50 percent, Walker said. Dr. Matt Wagner, Deputy Director of Wildlife at the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, said, “It all comes down to what are the costs, what are the benefits and what are the landowners’ goals? for most people, economic viability requires striking a balance between their wildlife and ranching enterprises, which means some brush will stay.” Maintaining an ecological balance is an important component to long-term water solutions, Moore said. It has been reported that private companies are proposing water schemes in the Hill Country that involve removing all brush on steep slopes to increase run-off into nearby streams and rivers. “I value land stewardship,” Moore said. “as the demand for water increases, I hope society doesn’t ever allow ‘salvaging water’ to trump the best management practices that have helped return our rangelands to good condition.” ADDiTiONAl RESEARCH FiNDiNGS The research since the North Concho river Pilot brush Control project was implemented in 2000 has provided a much more nuanced understanding of the relationship between the land, the
plants and the water cycle. researchers have tackled the relationship between brush management and water supply at sites across the state. While the research doesn’t support brush management as a large-scale water enhancement tool, it does demonstrate that brush control can have a positive impact on a smaller scale in areas with specific soil types and vegetative profiles. “Improved range conditions across the state have also benefited spring flows,” Wilcox said. “Spring flows, in areas that are protected from groundwater pumping, are higher than they’ve been since the late 1880s.” The connection between land management and spring flow is particularly evident in the edwards Plateau. Here shallow soils over Karst limestone create a unique hydrologic situation where recharge is very direct and very fast, Wilcox said. as livestock numbers have declined and vegetation has re-established itself thereby protecting the thin soil and facilitating infiltration, spring flows have doubled in all the Karst river watersheds since 1965, Wilcox said. Springs are more important in the Karst watersheds because they have a larger impact on stream flow, so intuition holds that brush clearing will allow better return. although people like oaks and dislike juniper, the trees play the same role from a hydrological perspective, Wilcox said. and, although springs are highly responsive to brush clearing, there may be built-in limits to the response. “The percentage of rainfall that becomes spring flow is already so high that I’m not sure that it will increase significantly with brush clearing,” Wilcox said. for instance, in the guadalupe and frio watersheds, 25 percent of the rainfall becomes stream flow. The eastern edge of the Carrizo-Wilcox aquifer, which stretches from Mexico to Louisiana, may also yield stream flow in response
Contrary to popular thinking, the flow of creeks is not greatly affected by the density of brush in the watershed.
With fewer livestock and better overall stewardship, watershed conditions have improved in Texas in recent decades. Runoff has been reduced and infiltration has increased.
THE CHANGING SCIENCE OF MANAGING BRUSH FOR WATER YIELD
to brush management. The area receives 25 inches – 30 inches of rain per year, it has deep, easily penetrable soils, and the tree roots extend past the roots of grass and other plants, Wilcox said. These are general indications that stream flow can be influenced by manipulating vegetation. “The greatest opportunity for water recapture occurs as you move east into higher rainfall areas over the CarrizoWilcox,” Wilcox said. “Ironically, though, brush management is not a priority here like it is in West Texas where it is less likely to have positive impact.” In addition to having higher rainfall, the eastern part of the state is a forest ecosystem and not a savannah, Moore said. There is a big difference between the amount of biomass in a forest and grassland. The biomass difference between a savannah and grassland is not so sizable. by removing more biomass on a percentage basis, theoretically it is more likely to yield more water, Moore said. iMPORTANCE OF NUANCES The nuances in the relationships between land, plants and water are crucial, especially when public funds are sought to support
brush management efforts in the name of water quantity. The research findings have prompted some people to ask: is this the best use of public money if scientists can’t demonstrate a measurable return? The state’s primary brush management program is the Texas Water Supply enhancement Program operated by the Texas Soil and Water Conservation board. The program, previously known as the Texas brush Control Program, was revamped and renamed during the 2011 Legislative Session. It is based on the idea that largescale brush clearing can yield enough water to increase water supplies for cities. “Debate continues to surround the role of brush management in water supply enhancement, but that debate is largely taking place outside scientific circles,” said Wilcox. “Most range scientists have accepted the reality that brush control doesn’t yield water on a scale that directly benefits cities.” The conversation gets complicated because the program is a significant source of funding that allows the Texas Soil and Water Conservation board to operate a popular cost-share program for landowners.
People, at least those in agriculture and land management, don’t disagree that brush management has tangible benefits. Wagner, former President of the Texas Section Society for range Management, noted the importance of well-managed rangelands for water quality. “There is no denying that healthy rangelands are vital to maintaining the quality of our groundwater and surface water supplies,” he said. In addition, brush management can enhance wildlife habitat for common and rare species. “Wildlife is a public resource on private lands,” he said. “good brush management can create habitat for all types of wildlife.” for instance, grassland birds are the species of greatest decline. brush management is the best way to restore their habitat. Then, there are aesthetics, oxygen production, carbon sequestration, increased forage productivity for livestock operations, support for rural economies and the list goes on. Perhaps the biggest benefit is that, as TWa Vice President emeritus David K. Langford noted, brush management helps keeps people on the land.
Some of the most impressive water producing areas of Texas also have an abundance of brush. Scientists are now showing that dense shrubland and woodland often provides excellent hydrologic conditions for springs and sustained base flows.
THE CHANGING SCIENCE OF MANAGING BRUSH FOR WATER YIELD
“When people stay on the land, they are able to keep it as productive open space,” Langford said. “as the demand for food, water, clothing and shelter continues to rise, the societal value of rangelands continues to rise, too.” unfortunately, though, many people don’t see the connection or the value. as a result, the conservation community must take care of the public trust. “Public funding sought with the promise of public good, such as an increased water supply, needs to deliver on the promise,” Langford said. “If science tells us that we can’t deliver on the promise, then we need to reframe the request so it showcases the true benefits of land management practices such as brush control.” Perhaps, the simplest fix is changing the program’s name back to the Texas brush Control Program, Langford said. Of course, the original name change reflects another reality, a political one. “In an urban-based legislature, it’s a whole lot easier to obtain funding for water supply enhancement than it is for brush control, despite its many benefits,” Langford said.
In some specific geologic settings, brush control may provide some localized increase in springs. While this is good for individual ranches, the increase is not a significant source of additional water for Texas.
MANAGiNG BRUSH AND WATER FOR AUSTiN William Conrad works in the eversprawling shadow of austin. as the environmental Policy Program Manager for austin Water utility, he manages 42,000 acres of conservation land set aside by voters as part of the balcones Canyonland Conservation Preserve (bCP) and Water Quality Protection Lands (WQPL). “In 1992, the bCP got its start as a way to protect habitat for endangered species,” Conrad, who also serves as Second Vice President of the Texas Section Society for range Management, said. “Then, in 1998, WQPL was enacted to protect water quality for barton Springs, which is beloved by austin’s citizens.” by approving a series of bonds, residents provided funds allowing the land in the barton Springs recharge zone, located in western Travis County and northern Hays County, to be purchased outright or through conservation easements. The land holdings are not contiguous, but intermingled with existing housing and business developments. The terrain ranges from stony hills to steep canyons and overlays the Karst limestone, characteristic of the edward’s Plateau. “for each land unit, we’ve created a landscape vision,” Conrad said. “The land can be at different successional stages, but we have a goal for each tract.” for instance, if the goal is endangered species habitat, the staff manages for a closed canopy, oakjuniper woodland. On the other hand, if the goal is ensuring water quality, the staff shoots for 15 percent canopy, he said. generally, though they achieve a 20 percent to 25 percent canopy because of the demands of the endangered Species act, the expense of managing a heavy canopy and other factors, he said. The management plan begins with mechanical clearing, where most, but not all,of the juniper is removed. Then, two years later, depending on growing conditions, the staff manages the hardwood species with fire. “We’re one of the few places in the state that conducts urban prescribed burning,” Conrad said. “With the cost of mechanical
brush clearing running in the neighborhood of $300/acre to $350/acre, we can’t afford not to maintain our work.” In some instances, the range is re-seeded with native plants to enhance brush management efforts, diversify the vegetative cover and slow the advance of introduced grasses. “We manage the surface to protect the quality of the water underneath,” Conrad said. There is a direct connection, he said. Staff has conducted research where they have injected dye in caves on their properties and placed receptors in barton Springs to see how quickly the water moves from one place to the other. It’s not unusual for the water in the edward’s aquifer to travel 15-20 miles in two to three days, which really limits the ability of underground systems to deal with contamination issues, he said. “It’s hard to measure our impact on water quality in barton Springs,” he said. “While we manage a good portion of the watershed, we don’t control all of it and the springs are still subject to the influence of development.” Observation tells the staff that their efforts are making a difference. In the aftermath of a six-inch rain that fell within two hours, the staff watched crystal clear water pour from the rangelands into the caves. “again, we manage the surface for quality, but we feel that we are also having some effect on water quantity as well,” Conrad said. The staff ’s models and estimates indicated that the brush management efforts yields about five percent more water than the land would without it, he said. The staff has seen seeps and springs begin to flow again. “There is a big debate in the land management community on whether or not brush management can increase water supplies on a large scale basis,” Conrad said. “We’re confident that we’re positively influencing barton Springs on the local level. but is that enough to fill a reservoir? Probably not.” “for us, though, quantity matters less than quality,” he said. “Local voters passed bonds that set our management priorities. We’re doing exactly what the public asked us to do with their votes and their money.”
Prior to the formation of the lease or club, establish whether hunting blinds should be shared or private.
So, You Want to Run a Hunting Lease? Article and photos by Todd J. Steele
hen I first moved to Texas in the early 1980s, I was shocked that I could not walk freely onto private land and just hunt. But, I learned quickly that restricted access to private land was actually good, especially on the well-managed properties, as the quality of the hunting was unsurpassed. What I originally looked upon as a handicap to my hunting obsession quickly turned into the realization that everyone wins from hunting leases in Texas; wildlife prospers from private monies and matching government funds to enhance habitat; landowners realize a good source of revenue and enrichment of wildlife on their property; and, hunters experience some of the best hunting found anywhere in the country.
What are Your Expectations? I personally have managed the Thunderbird Hunting Club with my partner for close to 30 years. Outsiders look in with envy, but those who are closer to me see the daily challenges, frustrations and efforts that go into making our club run smoothly. I like to tell everyone that for every hour I spend in a blind, I spend 1,000 hours (many in front of a computer) getting ready. In talking with other managers of properties and landowners, the same applies to other leases in Texas; whether they are for deer, quail or dove hunting. Quite simply, it takes substantial effort to run a lease or a club and to find a good lease. It is a labor of love.
The Management of Expectations The single most important thing in managing a hunting lease is the expectations – on both sides. Expectations can only be handled by clear communications, both verbally and in writing. The landowner or lease manager needs to disclose up front what he expects from his hunting tenants or members; and, at the same time, the landowner or lease manager needs to paint a realistic image of what to expect in the quality of the hunting and the lease management plans down the road. The process should be carefully thought through as any items not addressed are subject to interpretation and subsequent contention in the future. According to Greg Simons, owner of Wildlife Systems, Inc. and president of Texas Wildlife Association, poor communication is the single biggest factor in the failure of any hunting lease. The Management of Wildlife Five conditions will determine the success of a hunting lease or club, regardless of the species pursued. They are food, water, cover, rest areas and gunning pressure. Game animals are somewhat predictable, and with sound management, good habitat creation and controlled hunting pressure, the results can be world-class. But, if a property is overhunted and the game is disturbed too much, the wildlife adapt accordingly. No animal likes to be shot at; this is an obvious statement but a hard concept to understand for the untrained or novice hunter. Too much hunting pressure can cause big bucks to become nocturnal and waterfowl and doves to disappear. I always tell people that we have a product that can fly away at Thunderbird; keeping birds on the properties
Antler size and establishing judgment criteria may be one of the biggest challenges for a deer lease manger. What is a cull buck?
attracts other birds. The famous quote, “Birds of a feather flock together,” is factual.
Work among lease members should be equally shared forming camaraderie in the process among its members.
Management of Hunters and Lease Rules I have heard countless times from managers of hunting leases, “The management of game is easy, even somewhat predictable. Managing people on the other hand is quite difficult, at times arduous.” Why? Each and every person has different needs, opinions and thoughts on how to do it best – animals, of course, do not. As a manager of a hunting operation, you balance the needs of the members, the wildlife resources and the landowner. Rob Grainger, who has run numerous large deer hunting operations and owns Grainger Ranch Recruiting, LLC, feels that your job as a lease or club manager is to be, in part, an educator. You have to share your wealth of knowledge with others, whether they are owners, hunters or guests, and demonstrate that your ideas are in their own best interest. Who will run the show? Will it be a benevolent dictatorship or a full vote by the membership? Getting a membership to agree on everything is almost impossible at best and very time consuming. The larger the group, the more opinions there will be. Electing one person in charge is often the easiest way to go, but not in every case. When it comes to rules, I can tell you from experience that you will never be able to cover all the situations that will arise, but you still need to try. In formatting the rules, remember to keep the
S O, YO U W A N T T O R U N A H U N T I N G L E A S E ?
Controlling hunting pressure on waterfowl is key to providing consistent and quality hunting. Nothing attracts waterfowl to a property like other waterfowl.
whole of the group in mind rather than the needs of one or two assertive members. you will go plumb crazy trying to keep everyone happy, so aim for the group as a whole. In interviewing numerous managers and landowners, here are some of the more common rule issues they face in managing a lease or club. Deer • antlers and their management will probably be a fireside topic to eternity. Talk to any deer manager of a lease or club, and they will tell you that there always seems to be debate regarding the judgment of antlers and difference in the criteria, especially for culls. establishing a clear set of parameters for how the deer herd will be harvested is a must on the front end of any lease or club; without one there will be a huge “point of contention,” says Simons. • Will a draw establish where everyone hunts? Or, will it be a private stand? grainger believes that a draw is best as it leads to more cooperation between the members.
Birds • Migratory birds, whether ducks, geese or doves will only tolerate so much gunning pressure. If you allow hunters to freely roam at will for seven days a week, then you probably will not have many birds left on the property. Tempering hunting pressure is a key component to providing quality bird hunting, and rules must be designed accordingly. • Will a draw establish where everyone hunts in the morning? Or, will there be assigned private blinds? Having personally tried three different methods of assigning duck blinds to hunters: private, draw and arbitrary assignment, the draw system is handsdown the fairest way to go. Guests • Here is how guests are viewed: everyone wants to bring them, and everyone wants everyone else to leave their guests at home. True? guests are a very big problem in running a lease or club; and, in the opinion of Simons,
it is the second most problematic issue on a lease or club. Per Simons, “you must be precise and detailed when it comes to the guest policy, and put it in writing so that it is crystal clear.” Will guests be allowed at all? Will there be a daily quota? Will there be a guest fee? How many times can the same guest come? Will children be allowed? What type of game may the guest shoot?” In one study on hunting clubs, the failure to address guests was the single largest factor in member discord and the subsequent failure of the club. Shared Work • running leases requires a lot of labor, especially on the front end, getting the camp setup, placing or fixing blinds, filling feeders, etc. a clear understanding on what is expected from each member is a must. for those who do not show up to help, there should be fines or assessments to cover their fair share of the work.
S O, YO U W A N T T O R U N A H U N T I N G L E A S E ?
lEASE CONTRACTS Dr. billy Higginbotham, Professor and Wildlife Specialist with Texas a&M agriLife extension, is vehement that all interests utilizing the land should be incorporated into the rules; these include landowners, neighbors of landowners, ranchers, farmers, other groups hunting different game, oil companies and even wind farms. under no circumstance should any lease or club be without written agreements between the lessor and the lessee, the club and its members. The contract written between parties serves as a legal document spelling out the exact terms, privileges and conditions of the lease in consideration of a payment or dues. lEASE BUDGET One of the worst things a lessor or lessee can do when it comes to a hunting lease or club is not to establish a written budget and perhaps even a long-term business plan for the hunting property. regardless of the lease, you will be able to only take so many game animals or apply so much hunting pressure before you have a negative
impact on the wildlife and subsequently the hunting. Professor Higginbotham feels that a budget balanced with a harvest strategy will establish a benchmark for the number of hunters and their lease costs or dues. lEASE liABiliTy Hunters and their recreational guests should have insurance that covers them while on the property. In addition, the landowner must be designated as an additional insured under the policy. Without such, the landowner may be sued by the insurance company after it pays for any injuries sustained by the hunters or guests. Parties entering into a hunting agreement should also consider an assumption-of-the-risk agreement and a Liability Waiver for everyone entering the leased land. a document covering these agreements along with their associated ramifications can be read in more detail at The Texas Deer Lease, written by attorney Judon fambrough, at www.texas-wildlife. org/files/publications/the_texas_deer_ lease.pdf. Spending a few dollars on legal
counsel in setting up a lease agreement, along with its associated documents, is just sound business. REWARDS as briefly touched in this article, there are a lot of considerations in putting together a lease or a club. an excellent document written by Tiffany Dowell at Texas a&M agriLife extension, called Texas Hunting Lease Checklist can be accessed at www. agrilifebookstore.org/Hunting-LeaseChecklist-p/eag-008.htm. It covers in detail many aspects of a lease or club that need to be addressed. although very taxing on the manager, running a lease or club has rewards that are unique and exclusive: spending time with the wildlife, creating habitat, seeing wild creatures that few get to witness and producing smiling faces on both the young and old is just â€œpriceless.â€? Hunting in Texas is just getting better and better with the proper management of leases and clubs preserving hunting for generations to come.
Guest policies should be clear and precise, eliminating any ambiguity within the membership on the lease.
Charolais herd members find out penning and then grabbing an individual goat is not as easy as it sounds as the animals are quite agile and strong. A series of smaller or medium size openings with soft edges, surrounded by brush is a good way to control brush for deer habitat.
Brush Management Guidelines and Considerations Livestock – Wildlife – Water – Aesthetics Article and Photos by
xperienced ranchers know the long-term implications of brush control especially in terms of economics, livestock production and wildlife habitat. Additionally, brush control can affect future land value, aesthetics and water resources. The amount of brush control done and the way in which it is done will determine to what extent these things are affected positively or negatively. With this much at stake, careful planning and full consideration of the impacts, cost and benefits is important. Although many agencies and organizations offer generic brush control recommendations, there are no reliable all-purpose recipes for how to do brush control. Each ranch is different and each landowner has different land management goals; therefore, brush control decisions must be customized and site specific. To help guide your brush control plans, rank the following factors and priorities for your ranch as high, medium or low. The “right way” and the “wrong way” to do brush control will be determined by how you prioritize these six factors. 1. Improvement in livestock grazing 2. Maintaining or improving deer habitat 3. Maintaining or improving quail habitat and quail hunting 4. Achieving a balance between livestock grazing, deer habitat and quail habitat 5. Maintaining aesthetic appeal and future land values 6. Enhancing water yields For those factors which are a high priority for your ranch, find the corresponding section below to find out how brush control can be conducted to be most beneficial for your goals. These guidelines were developed based on 38 years of field experience and with the support and assistance of numerous well-respected range and wildlife professionals across Texas. The guidelines are not meant to replace on-site consultation from experienced professionals. The information is meant to provide a general framework to begin planning brush control to achieve specific objectives. Improvement in Livestock Grazing If improvements in livestock grazing are the highest priority and if wildlife considerations are not important, 90 percent or more of the brush can be removed on flat or rolling topography.
Steve Nelle However, since brush provides protection and browse for livestock, it is usually advisable to leave some tree and shrub cover. Wooded groves and clusters of shade trees should be left, as well as brushy windbreak areas for winter protection. Trees and shrubs should be left in draws and creek bottoms and on steep sites. A reduction in deer habitat will occur at this level of clearing; however, quail habitat and aesthetic value can be maintained if clumps or stringers of low mixed brush and scattered trees are left within cleared areas. Land value and wildlife habitat will suffer if large scale aerial spraying is used; however, herbicides are often the most economical method, especially for mesquite. The residual brush that is killed during mechanical operations may leave the pasture rough and cluttered. If gathering and working of livestock by horseback or four-wheelers is important,
This manner of brush control is conducive for livestock grazing objectives but is detrimental to deer habitat.
BRUSH MANAGEMENT GUIDELINES AND CONSIDERATIONS
Deer thrive well with an abundance of moderate to thick brush. If deer management is the primary objective, leave the majority of each pasture in brushy cover.
If quail habitat is the primary objective, selective mechanical brush control on 70 percent to 80 percent of the land is appropriate, making sure to leave plenty of low dense brush for protective coverts.
This landowner is very interested in creating ideal quail habitat and has carefully left motts of mixed brush. The mott in the center contains 12 different species of brush.
dead brush may be raked and piled to give a cleaner appearance. However, this is very expensive, and the restoration of native grasses is enhanced when woody slash remains scattered. If extensive re-seeding is to be done, these cleanup operations are needed to allow adequate seedbed preparation and seeding. iMPROvEMENT iN DEER HABiTAT If deer are the most important consideration and if livestock grazing is not a priority, it may be advisable not to do any brush control at all, depending on brush density. Deer usually thrive very well when brush cover is moderate to dense. However, if brush is excessively thick over large areas and if hunting visibility is poor, some patterned brush control can improve habitat. removing 25 percent to 40 percent of the thick brush in upland areas while leaving heavy brush along draws and creeks will usually improve deer habitat. If topography is rough, if pastures are large, or if hunting pressure is light, a somewhat higher percentage of brush control may be appropriate. If nearby hunting pressure is heavy, or if pastures are small, more brush should be retained. for deer habitat, the key is to ensure that openings are small or narrow and that deer are always within about 50 yards of protective cover. In rolling and rough terrain, leave a band of cover on ridges, saddles, hilltops, headers, canyons and draws, and clear numerous small openings in between these features. In flatter terrain, clearings can be straight or contoured strips 50 to 100 yards wide with adjacent brush strips about twice the width of the cleared strip. brush control maycan also be conducted with a series of irregular shaped clearings five to 10 acres in size surrounded by brush. Selective mechanical methods are recommended, such as excavating, grubbing or shearing. aerial spraying will often harm desirable forbs and shrubs. all desirable shrubs and trees such as bumelia, hackberry, oak, sumac, granjeno, coma, brasil, colima, guayacan, etc. should be left within the clearings as well as a few large mesquite or cedar. Setting aside undisturbed â€œbuck sanctuariesâ€? with large areas of thick brush is recommended if production of mature quality bucks is the goal.
BRUSH MANAGEMENT GUIDELINES AND CONSIDERATIONS
The proper amount of brush control is determined by the objectives of the landowner. Here, the landowner in west central Texas wishes to manage the ranch for a combination of livestock, deer and quail and has removed about half of the brush in patterns.
iMPROvEMENT iN QUAil HABiTAT If improvement in quail habitat and quail hunting are the highest priority, open up 70 to 80 percent of the upland areas, yet be careful to leave plenty of low mixed brush clusters for loafing cover or “quail houses.” Leave low brush such as algerita, lotebush, brasil, granjeno, plum, sumac, pricklyash, wolfberry, catclaw and scattered large mesquite within cleared areas. Mechanical brush control is preferred since the soil disturbance will stimulate the production of desirable quail food plants such as croton, spurge, pricklypoppy, buffalobur and others. a reduction of deer habitat and the ability to retain mature bucks will occur at this rate of clearing; however, grass production and grazing capacity will increase. Since quail require an abundance of large, lightly grazed bunch grasses for nest cover, livestock grazing will need to be managed accordingly. Quail can thrive equally well in many different densities of brush including moderately thick brush, but hunting is more difficult in thick brush. In many cases brush control is more for the enhancement of quail hunting rather than the improvement of quail habitat.
DEER-QUAil-livESTOCK COMBiNATiON If a ranch is interested in managing for a combination of deer, quail and livestock, a compromise will be required. With multiple and competing objectives, each will suffer some reduction relative to its maximum potential. for this triple objective, open up about 40 percent to 60 percent of the uplands but leave thicker brush in draws, bottoms, ridges and saddles. Clearings can be strips or blocks no more than about 100 to 200 yards wide. a reduction in the deer population should be expected and a decreased potential to retain mature bucks, especially if neighboring ranches have more cover. Quail habitat and hunt-ability will be enhanced in proportion to the amount cleared as long as low mixed brush coverts and shade trees are left within the clearings. aerial spraying will favor grass production over wildlife habitat, while mechanical methods will favor wildlife. Livestock gathering will be easier if a series of strips are planned which can help funnel livestock to fence lines, traps and pens. Clearing of narrow strips on both sides of interior fences is often recommended to aid in livestock management. Leaving
a buffer of brush adjacent to outside perimeter fences is often recommended as a visual barrier. an alternative to traditional brush control, is to thin the existing brush canopy by selectively removing a given percentage of trees and shrubs to attain the desired canopy density. This can be accomplished by selective mechanical or chemical IPT methods (Individual Plant Treatment). aesthetic appeal and future Land Value brush control can be done in a natural and visually appealing manner to enhance aesthetic value. To a large extent, aesthetic beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Land value is closely tied to aesthetic appeal as defined by the prospective buyer. In recent years, the value of ranch land is being driven more by wildlife habitat than livestock grazing value. Most land buyers are interested in quail and/or deer habitat and are willing to pay more for moderately to heavily wooded property. aesthetic appeal can be maintained if brush is removed in a more natural and irregular mosaic pattern. for greater aesthetic value, avoid straight line clearing and leave plenty of scattered trees and shrub clumps within cleared areas. “feathering”
BRUSH MANAGEMENT GUIDELINES AND CONSIDERATIONS
the edges of clearings to mimic natural soft openings will also add to aesthetic appeal. after a plan of brush control has been established, be certain to communicate very clearly ahead of time with contractors and equipment operators regarding your specific wishes. Check the progress and status of any brush control projects on a daily basis to insure your intentions are being carried out. Many horror stories can be told of brush control projects gone awry when contractors did not understand or comply with the wishes of the landowner. ENHANCiNG WATER RESOURCES There has been a great deal of recent attention directed to brush control and water. a good deal of myth and misunderstanding still persists on this topic despite new and compelling scientific research. There are two opposing approaches being promoted with the intent of increasing water supplies. The most traditional approach is to conduct brush control with the goal of improving the grass cover so that more water will soak in and eventually find its way into aquifers and/or the base flow of springs or creeks. Intuitively, this approach makes sense; however, in most cases that have been measured and studied, there has been little or no lasting increase in flow. The reasons for this lack of meaningful hydrologic response are complex, but suffice it to say that most brush control projects should not be expected to materially increase water supplies via increased rainfall infiltration and base flow. However, in some cases, in the right geologic settings, small localized seeps and springs have been revitalized following brush control. Where this occurs, it is beneficial to wildlife, livestock and land value. The second approach to increased water yields from brush control is to generate increased storm runoff. runoff is increased when there is an increased amount of bare ground. unfortunately, this also results in accelerated erosion, flash flooding, sedimentation and land degradation. runoff can be increased by a combination of aggressive brush control, especially on shallow or steep sites or with heavy grazing. When bare ground, sparse vegetation or short grasses are the predominant cover, there will be increased runoff
Brush clearing in straight lines detracts from aesthetic value and potential land value. Soft edges and contour clearing can be done in a way to retain visual appeal.
during and after heavy rainfall events. The result is faster shortterm runoff and the increased loss of water from the land. With some exceptions, this approach is not compatible with good overall land management, livestock production or wildlife management, and is the antithesis of responsible land stewardship. During prolonged periods of very heavy rainfall, there will be large amounts of runoff, no matter what kind of ground cover there is. These are the times when lakes and reservoirs are refilled and when aquifers are recharged. If the ground cover in the water catchment is good, runoff will be more slow, gradual and prolonged; the quality of water entering the reservoir will be good, and erosion and sedimentation will be minimized. This is the approach preferred by conservation minded landowners. OTHER CONSiDERATiONS In addition to these differing priorities and purposes for brush control, there are several other important considerations. The initial cost of brush control and the ongoing expense to maintain brush control are major concerns. In most cases, investments in brush control and follow-up maintenance cannot be recovered on an economic basis. Landowners usually conduct brush control in order to achieve desired ranch objectives, not necessarily to generate an economic return. Doing the least amount of brush control that will satisfy ranch objectives is a common sense way of reducing costs. Likewise, choosing less expensive methods that still provide adequate results is usually a smart business decision. for example, grubbing followed by raking and piling of dead brush and re-seeding with natives can provide impressive results, but can triple the cost of basic brush control. The myriad of financial, agricultural and ecological considerations associated with brush control is daunting and requires skill, patience, forethought and wisdom. brush control is never a standalone practice; it is just one piece of a complex puzzle with many other interlocking pieces. TWa member and ranch manager rory burroughs says it best: â€œbrush control is a process, not a project.â€?
Hydrologic research in Texas has shown that the flow of creeks, rivers and springs is usually not affected by the presence of brush or by brush control.
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ICf SNaPSHOT Of THe MONTH
by Jason Hahn This gray fox was photographed by professional photographer Jason Hahn of florida during the ICf Pro-Tour of Nature Photography-Coastal bend competition. The photo was taken on Pedrotti-Sargente ranch owned by TWa Member Danielle a. Pedrotti of Corpus Christi.
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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