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The Iconic White-tailed Deer

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president’s remarks


TEXAS WILDLIFE ASSOCIATION 2800 N.E. Loop 410, Suite 105 San Antonio, TX 78218 Internet: (210) 826-2904 FAX (210) 826-4933 (800) 839-9453 (TEX-WILD) OFFICERS Glen Webb, President, Abilene Greg Simons, Secretary, San Angelo Marcus T. Barrett IV, Treasurer, San Antonio For a complete list of TWA Directors, go to

Let US Second, the Second Amendment


I must admit: I like my AK-47. I like my sports, I like my rights, I like my freedoms, and so do you. This country and this state remain unique in regards to those matters. I pray it stays. Yet, I see storms gathering on the horizon.

Outreach & Member Services

I recently read where a flamboyant lawyer dedicated his legal practice (in between his lucrative tort cases) to gun control. The impetus for the counselor’s decision rested on a prominent self-defense case in Florida. The lawyer believed it was atrocious that individuals have a right to bear arms and defend themselves. Moreover, a state law, heaven forbid, made that practice legal. That struck me as an odd comment from a lawyer – a profession dedicated to the rule of law – due to the fact the case in question has not gone to trial, and the facts remain in dispute. Sadly, we witness more and more of these types of liberties with our liberties. It is so tempting for some of us to prevent the rest of us from speaking and thinking and acting like US: a free people! Potentates arbitrarily shedding the freedoms the U.S. Constitution guarantees all of US, in order to conform most of us to a standard equitable to none of US. You see the thing about freedom is that it is not free. Rather, it is costly. Sometimes it is ugly. Many times it is rowdy; yet, in the end, it is the only guaranty between a free people and tyranny. History proves my case. Freedom is like a rose in bloom, a beautiful thing that can only be peeled away so many times, until nothing remains. Sometimes, we bear the means of others, even though we do not agree with their ends. You see this in the free speech cases. We abhor those who march down Main Street campaigning for the morally repugnant, yet we know that may be US in the streets tomorrow exercising the same freedom, with a different verse. We trust a free people. As vital as free speech is to a free society, the Second Amendment is equally vital. Therefore, we should refrain from picking and choosing how Americans exercise their Second Amendment rights. Remember, you may not like my AK-47, but you love your Remington 870 or your Winchester 243. Hypocrisy prevents a defense. The rationale for gun control is to keep guns from the hands of criminals. Rational people agree guns do not belong in the hands of criminals. Yet, I am not a criminal, and neither are you. The irony is that if we outlawed every gun in the world, the AK-47 (and others) would only be in the hands of criminals, the government, and not US. At the Texas Wildlife Association, we believe every sportsman, sportswoman, and American has the right to bear arms. Therefore, let US Second the Second Amendment.

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.



November 2012

Gary Joiner, Chief Executive Officer Tamara Trail, Principal Consultant, Programs & Development Quita Hill, Director of Finance and Operations Kari Hudspeth, Office Administrator Kendra Roller, Director of Member Relations David Brimager, Director of Marketing and Partner Special Events Relations Kathy Dalgleish, Membership Coordinator

Programs Helen Holdsworth, Conservation Legacy Program Director Koy Coffer, Education Program Specialist Kassi Scheffer, Education Program Specialist Courtney Brittain, Web Program Consultant Mary Pearl Meuth, Education Program Contractor Lynnsey Dohmen, Education Program Contractor Leslie Wittenburg, Education Program Contractor CeceliaDean, Elanor Adams, Education Education Program Program Contractor Contractor Justin Dreibelbis, Hunting Heritage Program Director COL(R) Jerry B. Warden, Texas Youth Hunting Program Director COL(R) Chris Mitchell, TYHP Field Operations Coordinator Barbara Scheib, TYHP Administrative Assistant Kara Starr, Hunting Heritage Program Assistant

Advocacy Kirby Brown, Senior Policy Analyst Advocacy

Joey Park, Legislative Program Coordinator


Gary Gary Joiner, Joiner, Executive Executive Editor Editor Kim Kim Rothe, Rothe, Consulting Consulting Publications Publications Coordinator/Editor Coordinator/Editor David David Brimager, Brimager, Consulting Consulting Editor Editor Lorie Woodward Woodward Cantu, Cantu, Special Special Projects Projects Editor Editor Lorie Cross Timbers Timbers,, Design Design & & Layout Layout Cross Publication Publication Printers Printers Corp., Corp., Printing, Printing, Denver, Denver, CO CO


Ralph Ralph Winingham Winingham Henry Henry Chappell Chappell Lorie Lorie Woodward Woodward Cantu Cantu Dale Dale Rollins, Rollins, Ph. Ph. D. D. Billy Billy Higginbotham, Higginbotham, Ph. Ph. D. D. Borderlands Research Research Institute Institute for Borderlands for Natural Natural Resource Resource Management, Sul Ross State Management, Sul Ross State University-Alpine University-Alpine Caesar Caesar Kleberg Kleberg Wildlife Wildlife Research Research Institute, Institute, Texas Texas A&M A&M University-Kingsville University-Kingsville Texas Wildlife is published monthly by Texas Wildlife Association, 2800 NE Loop 410, Suite 105, San Antonio, Texas 78218. E-mail address: POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Texas Wildlife Association, 2800 NE Loop 410, Suite 105, San Antonio, Texas 78218.

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 2011 Texas express written permission from the publisher. Copyrighted 2012 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 2800 NE Loop 410, Suite 105, San Antonio, TX 78218 or e-mail

Mission Impacts Hello Koy: Thank you for the note of Congratulations! You have to know that a large part of this milestone is due in no small part to you and the L.A.N.D.S. program. I was hooked from the beginning with its energy and mission. I have lived many new experiences, met and worked with such wonderful, caring people, and visited beautiful places. I never imagined that this would be happening at this time of my life. On top of all that, the reward for volunteering in the L.A.N.D.S. program is when you hear and see the lights go on in the youngsters who are involved and recognize that the seeds have been planted in fertile minds. Tom Hynes Kerrville


november Volume 28 H Number 7 H 2012

8 Status of Texas

White-tailed Deer by steve jester

36 World's Best Deer Hunting by brandon ray

40 Texas White-tailed Deer –

What Do They Eat?

Editor’s Note: Tom is a Hill Country Master Naturalist who has been a TWA L.A.N.D.S. Volunteer for several years, helping with everything from Field Investigation Days to Teacher Workshops and Trainings. He is a new recipient of a Golden Dragonfly pin, which is awarded to a Texas Master Naturalist who volunteers at least 1,000 hours on their time to various projects. Tom’s note to TWA Education Program Specialist Koy Coffer is very much appreciated, as well as his support of TWA’s education programs!

by steve nelle

44 Changing Landscapes and

Changing Dynamics by Mary O. Parker

48 CWD Confirmed in West

Texas Mule Deer

Ms. Meuth,

by john jefferson

My name is Ann Seawright, and I attended the L.A.N.D.S. workshop you did in Goose Creek on the 17th of August.


Issues and Advocacy

I wanted to tell you how impressed I was with the workshop. Your passion for your work was apparent in every aspect of the presentation, and I appreciate the huge amount of preparation it took for the day’s activities and materials. I truly enjoyed every minute of the day.


hunting heritage

I work at Ashbel Smith Elementary here in the Goose Creek district as a Science Instructional Specialist. We are a Pre-K to 5th grade Title One campus, with a deaf education program (Pre-K to 5) that serves several surrounding districts. I would like to schedule you for a Science Family Night we are planning for the Spring semester. I know the students and staff here would be so enriched by your presentation. I feel it is so essential to help students understand the responsibility we all have in creating a balance between human needs and the needs of wildlife. Thank you for doing this in such a professional and caring way. Ann Seawright Science CIS, Ashbel Smith Elementary GCCISD Baytown Editor’s Note: Thank you, Ann, for the nice note to TWA Education Program Contractor Mary Pearl Meuth and for your participation in the L.A.N.D.S. workshop on August 17. Your interest and enthusiasm in the L.A.N.D.S. program is very much appreciated!

by Gary Joiner

Texas Big Game Awards by Justin Dreibelbis


Conservation legacy Generations of Texas Brigades by Kassi Scheffer


Members in action by Kendra Roller

26 Range Danger by Ralph Winingham

28 On-the-Job Training by Henry Chappell

32 Water In – Water Out by Dr. Billy Higginbotham

34 The Toughest Plant in Texas by Maria Williams and Bonnie J. Warnock


Coming next month

On the Cover

The December issue features articles on predators – bobcats, coyotes and more; mule deer research, and the latest technological advances in wireless traps and ranch gate security. Plus, much, much more.

The white-tailed deer may be the most iconic wildlife species in Texas today. While wildlife managers across the state share some habitat challenges, like the effects of the drought, some must deal with issues that are unique to their parts of the state. Beginning on page 8 of this issue, Steve Jester writes about the status of whitetails in the Rolling Plains and Edwards Plateau regions and issues that are important to the future of white-tailed deer in those areas. (Cover photo by Hardy Jackson)

NOvEMbEr 2012

The Iconic White-tailed Deer



Meetings and events

For information on hunting seasons, call the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department at (800) 792-1112, consult the 2012-2013 Texas Parks and Wildlife Outdoor Annual, or visit the TPWD website at




november 8-10 Conference for the Advancement of Science Teachers (CAST), Corpus Christi. Your TWA will be there! For more information or to volunteer, contact Koy Coffer at

January 14-15 Session V: Beginning Farmers and Ranchers: Women in Texas. Who: For Texas women in agriculture 10 years or less What: Free training in Holistic Management Whole Farm Planning Where: South Central Texas Agricultural Region - all 5 meetings within an hour of Austin. For more information: Contact Peggy Cole at pcole@holisticmanagement. org or (512) 847-3822, or visit http:// featured-blog-posts/.

February 21 Wildlife for Lunch Webinar, Waterfowl Management presented by Kevin Kraai. For more information, contact Courtney Brittain at

January 17 Wildlife for Lunch Webinar, Wildlife Tax Valuations presented by Linda Campbell. For more information, contact Courtney Brittain at

March 21 Wildlife for Lunch Webinar, Quail Management presented by Dale Rollins, Ph.D. For more information, contact Courtney Brittain at cbrittain@

november 15 Wildlife For Lunch Webinar, Endangered Species Management. For more information, contact Courtney Brittain at

november 30–Dec. 1 Session III: Beginning Farmers and Ranchers: Women in Texas. Who: For Texas women in agriculture 10 years or less What: Free training in Holistic Management Whole Farm Planning Where: South Central Texas Agricultural Region - all 5 meetings within an hour of Austin. For more information: Contact Peggy Cole at pcole@holisticmanagement. org or (512) 847-3822, or visit http:// featured-blog-posts/.

december december 20 Wildlife for Lunch Webinar Forestry Management for Wildlife. For more information, contact Courtney Brittain at

January 25 Natural Resources and Environmental Literacy Plan Summit, San Antonio. For information, contact Koy Coffer at January 27 “Kids Gone Wild!” at the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo, Fort Worth. To volunteer, contact Helen Holdsworth at

February February 7-24 San Antonio Livestock Exposition, San Antonio. For more information, visit February 11-12 Session IV: Beginning Farmers and Ranchers: Women in Texas. Who: For Texas women in agriculture 10 years or less What: Free training in Holistic Management Whole Farm Planning Where: South Central Texas Agricultural Region - all 5 meetings within an hour of Austin. For more information: Contact Peggy Cole at pcole@holisticmanagement. org or (512) 847-3822, or visit http:// featured-blog-posts/.

Don’t miss a thing! Follow us on:



November 2012

February 26-march 2 Houston Livestock Show Ranching & Wildlife Expo, Houston. TWA will have a booth at the Expo. To volunteer, please contact Helen Holdsworth at


July July 11-14 WildLife 2013, TWA’s 28th Annual Convention, JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort and Spa. For more information, visit or call TWA headquarters at (800) 839-9453.




Article by Dr. Billy Higginbotham Professor and Extension Wildlife and Fisheries Specialist, Texas AgriLife Extension Service

MOURNING DOVES Disk fallow fields to stimulate native sunflowers.

DUCKS If a hard freeze has occurred, flood greentree reservoirs 2 to 3 feet deep. Flood another one-third of moist soil areas and diked crop areas to 10 inches. MANAGEMENT TIP OF THE MONTH Begin “painting an antler picture� of the various age classes of bucks on the property you hunt. Take a photograph of all bucks harvested, and mark each with its age (from jawbone measurements) and antler measurements. Post the photos on a bulletin board. Over time, you will be able to use your age data to help identify younger bucks. If increasing your buck herd age structure is important, the data can help you protect younger age classes of bucks so they have time to mature to their full antler potential.

DEER Go deer hunting! Continue observing deer and recording the number of bucks, does and fawns seen through the opening weekend of deer season. Continue to feed corn, making sure it has been tested and meets the requirements for aflatoxin content. Collect harvest data for all deer harvested. This includes age, sex, dressed weights, lactation status and antler measurements.

FISH Fish activity will slow as water temperatures cool. Feed bluegill and catfish only on warm afternoons. Log all fish caught into the angler catch records for PSD and Relative Weight (Wr) analysis Stock new or renovated bass ponds with forage species such as fathead minnows and bluegill at 1,000 each per surface acre. Bass ponds also can be stocked with 8-inch or longer channel or blue catfish at a rate of 50 to 100 per surface acre. Catfish should be restocked every 3 to 5 years. Stock Florida bass fingerlings at 20 to 50 per surface acre to introduce the Florida gene into the population. Stock grass carp for weed control, if you have a permit. If a siphon tube is in place, begin drawing down bass lakes to 2 to 4 feet below full pool. This will make forage fish more accessible to the bass. Drawdowns also expose submerged vegetation to winter temperatures, which helps with weed control. Plant exposed areas by broadcasting ryegrass seed at 20 pounds per acre. This will provide good nursery habitat for young fish when the areas are reflooded next year. TURKEYS Continue supplemental feeding with corn and milo.

QUAIL Maintain records of the quail harvested and the age of the birds. Collect the crop contents from harvested birds to identify the seeds they are consuming.

DID YOU KNOW that the wings of bobwhite quail can indicate reproductive success? Examine the feathers called the primary coverts. They are located in the outer portion of the top of the wing toward the leading edge. If the tips of these feathers are somewhat pointed and buff in color, the quail is a juvenile or a young of the year. In adults, the primary coverts are usually more rounded and uniformly gray. A ratio of three or more juveniles per adult harvested indicates that it was a good year for quail reproduction.

Status of Texas White-tailed Deer:

Edwards Plateau and Rolling Plains Article by Steve Jester, Wildlife Biologist Photos by David J. Sams



November 2012


he white-tailed deer may be the most iconic wildlife species in Texas today. One hundred and fifty years ago, it was probably the American bison; 40 years ago, it might have been the nine-banded armadillo; and, 30 years from now, it may well be the feral hog. But, I think many Texans might name the white-tailed deer as the wildlife species most representative of the state today. They have certainly increased their range both across the state and across the nation. Texas hunters generally harvest more than 500,000 white-tailed deer annually. This is quite a statistic given the fact that some authorities estimate only 500,000 white-tailed deer were left alive in the United States in 1900. While deer numbers were greatly reduced in Texas, like everywhere else, they never disappeared from the state. There were always deer left in the Edwards Plateau region of Texas. One area that likely had few white-tailed deer in 1900, or 1750 for that matter, is the Rolling Plains. So, it might be interesting to compare and contrast these two parts of the state in regards to the current status and management of white-tailed deer, one the “heartland” of Texas whitetails and the other an area where white-tailed deer have only recently become a near ubiquitous part of the wildlife tapestry. Landowners and wildlife managers who

Until the middle of the last decade, TPWD’s Wildlife Division monitored white-tailed deer populations using a combination of aerial and ground-based transects based on counties. As a result of a science review in the mid-2000s, TPWD transitioned to a new method of monitoring populations based on resource management units (RMUs) that share similar soil types, vegetative communities, wildlife ecology and land use practices and using distance sampling, a modification of the transect method used previously.

Texas hunters generally harvest more than 500,000 white-tailed deer annually. This is quite a statistic given the fact that some authorities estimate only 500,000 white-tailed deer were left alive in the United States in 1900. work in these areas share some challenges, like the effects of drought on their habitats, but they also deal with issues that are unique to their part of the state. First, it is helpful to try to define the geographic extent of the Edwards Plateau and the Rolling Plains. The Edwards Plateau is a somewhat circular area bounded by I-35 on the east, Highway 90 on the south, the Pecos River on the west and a line running from San Angelo east to the Colorado River on the north. The Rolling Plains is a more linear area running roughly southwest on a line from Wichita Falls to the Colorado River, back west north of San Angelo to a point east of Midland-Odessa, north along the Caprock east of Lubbock, continuing all the way north to the Oklahoma border with east-west extension that follows the valley of the Canadian River. This takes in a pretty good chunk of Texas. Monitoring deer populations in this area is a big job for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), which conducts both annual population and harvest surveys for white-tailed deer.

As TPWD Big Game Program Leader Mitch Lockwood said, “The use of RMUs as our sampling framework, along with the incorporation of distance, has resulted in less variability in our annual population estimates. While harvest regulations are still set by county, we now have a much better idea of how deer populations differ within and between individual ecoregions, and we are much closer to being able to evaluate the effects of a harvest strategy on a population than was the case previously.” e dwa r d s p l at e au According to the latest data available from TPWD, the whitetailed deer in the Edwards Plateau account for more than 48 percent of the statewide population (while only making up 10 percent of the state’s area). It is also the most densely populated,


stat u s o f texas w h ite - tailed dee r

with an estimated 90 deer per 1,000 acres of habitat. The deer numbers are so dense in the Edwards Plateau that in the latter half of the 20th century, several droughtrelated die-off events were documented. Too many deer is a common management issue for biologists and landowners in this part of Texas. In recent years, it has also become a problem for others, such as city administrators and homeowners in urban areas along the eastern boundary (I-35 corridor) who now deal with human/ wildlife conflicts that result from having a large number of deer in close proximity to residential areas. It has been argued that this part of the state was where many white-tailed deer management and hunting innovations were developed, and it has long been a destination for white-tailed deer hunters. Keeping white-tailed deer numbers in balance with the available habitat is just one of the issues facing landowners and deer managers here. Fielding Harwell has been working with white-tailed deer in the Edwards Plateau and South Texas



November 2012

for almost 50 years, first with TPWD and currently as a consulting biologist. During a recent conversation, Fielding brought up several current and looming issues related to white-tailed deer management. First, historic drought conditions during 2011, close on the heels of dry conditions in 2008-2009, heavily impacted both whitetailed deer and their habitat. “In 2011, I saw deer densities fall from a deer to nine acres to a deer to 12 acres in one year, and fawn crops were reduced from 0.8 fawns per doe to 0.4.” Harwell said. “Even with livestock numbers greatly reduced and heavy deer harvest, deer quality went down.” Still referring to the series of drier than normal years, Harwell said that he has been surprised to not see or hear of any largescale “die offs” of adult white-tailed deer like those that occurred during similar drought events in the 80s and 90s. “This is probably the result of the large number of landowners involved in intensive deer management today, compared to the earlier years,” he said.

stat u s o f texas w h ite - tailed dee r

Another trend Harwell has noted over the last 25 years, particularly in the central Edwards Plateau, is that some localized white-tailed deer populations appear to be less resilient than in the past. The typical management scenario of too many whitetailed deer, treated by initial heavy harvest to reduce pressure on habitat, followed by dramatic improvements in habitat condition, white-tailed deer health, antler production and productivity has not been as foolproof recently. “What I’ve seen on some places is that after the initial heavy white-tailed deer harvest, exotic ungulates, such as axis and sika, are responding and filling the space

“August 2007 was our last big run-off rain. Llano Springs had a measured flow of 1,500 gallons per minute several years ago, and it has been bone dry for the last two years,” he said. The ranch and its wildlife have been hard hit by the landscape-changing drought. The ranch has been in an intensive habitat management program for years, and over half of the ranch has been managed to reduce cedar coverage, with mechanical treatments and prescribed burning. “Of our remaining cedar, probably 50 percent to 60 percent died during the summer of 2011,” Vandivier said. “We also had a historically low fawn crop, and the deer were in poor condition.” He also noted

Texas white-tailed deer, and the ecoregion also makes up for about 15 percent of Texas’ land mass. Current TPWD monitoring protocol actually splits the Rolling Plains into eastern and western portions. In 2011, deer density was estimated to be about 22 deer per 1,000 acres in the eastern Rolling Plains and 39 deer per 1,000 acres in the western portion. Historically, the deer most commonly found in the Rolling Plains were Texas’ other native deer, mule deer. Mule deer, which are also found in the westernmost portion of the Edwards Plateau, are a species better suited to habitats less brushy than white-tailed deer can typically tolerate. As the brush has gotten denser

“August 2007 was our last big run-off rain. Llano Springs had a measured flow of 1,500 gallons per minute several years ago, and it has been bone dry for the last two years.” at the expense of native whitetails” he said. This is not just a phenomenon of gamefenced ranches but also open range ranches where exotic populations have become established. Other potential causes for this muted response by white-tailed deer could be increases in predator numbers as the sheep and goat raising has declined and the rapid increase in the density and distribution of feral hogs, another competitor for food resources. TWA Director Tom Vandivier, owner of the Llano Springs Ranch in Edwards County, has noticed changes on his ranch, as well. He has owned the ranch for 18 years, and this extended dry period has been one of the major events he has experienced.

that the axis deer on the ranch did better than the whitetails during the drought, no doubt, at least in part, to the exotic species’ ability to utilize more grass in their diet, when compared to white-tailed deer. Wildlife conditions are much improved this year due to the rains that started in the fall, but Vandivier has a caution for other landowners: “We did all the prescribed livestock, wildlife and habitat management practices to improve conditions on our ranch, and we probably weathered the drought better than some, but we could not escape the drought’s impacts.” Rolling Plains TPWD estimates that the Rolling Plains ecoregion contains about 15 percent of


stat u s o f texas w h ite - tailed dee r

and mesquite, ashe juniper and redberry juniper have successfully invaded more upland sites, white-tailed deer habitat has been created in many areas over the last several decades. For this article, I was able to speak with two TPWD biologists that have both been working in the area for 20 years or more. Raymond Sims works in the eastern Rolling Plains where grasslands have been steadily encroached on by ashe juniper, mesquite and other woody species. “When I started working here, whitetailed deer habitat was more scattered in the Rolling Plains counties where I worked” Raymond said. “As brush continued to increase, and as good rainfall years produced forbs, white-tailed deer expanded into new areas to the point that now most usable areas have been filled by white-tailed deer.” The natural expansion of white-tailed deer distribution was also assisted directly by TPWD, which stocked deer into some Rolling Plains counties up until the 1980s.



Dana Wright, working in the western Rolling Plains, has also seen white-tailed deer expand their range during her tenure. “Brush encroachment, landowner interest and management specifically for the species have been major drivers here,” she said. “White-tailed deer numbers have increased in areas that we historically considered mule deer country. While I have seen an increase in both species of deer, there are some areas where increased brush density has helped whitetails at the expense of mule deer.” Both biologists observed drought impacts in their areas. “A lot of this country depends on stock tanks for water, and when those dried up, landowners did not see as many deer,” Wright said. Low fawn survival was the rule in both the eastern and western Rolling Plains in 2011. “Even with good spring rains in 2012, the habitat has not recovered completely, and drought impacts are still being felt,” Sims said. Interest in white-tailed deer among landowners and hunters in the area has moved beyond supplemental feeding and into managing habitats to benefit both livestock and wildlife. “Ranchers generally understand the need to harvest more deer during a drought and understand that whether it is whitetails or white-faced Herefords, there is a need to reduce pressure on the range during times of drought,” Sims observed. In the western Rolling Plains, some landowners are looking towards a future with more white-tailed deer with some trepidation. “Many landowners are

November 2012

concerned about increasing white-tailed deer densities and the impact that will have on the quality of both the deer and their habitat,” Wright continued. “However, if the drought continues, Mother Nature will take care of that problem.” The McKnight Ranch in Throckmorton County is one place where they have been dealing with drought and other management challenges for over 100 years. According to Trent McKnight, the fifth generation of the family who runs the ranch with his father Ross, white-tailed deer were first observed in any numbers on the ranch only 30- 40 years ago. “We run a very intensive range management program, primarily for cattle, focusing on reducing mesquite coverage through grubbing and prescribed burning,” Trent said. “About eight years ago, we began to focus more on wildlife management and modified our range management program, slightly, leaving about 10 percent of the ranch in mesquite and not spraying for weeds around the draws and other wooded areas,” he continued. These modifications allow for more cover for white-tailed deer and improve production of forbs, an important part of deer diets. The Rolling Plains and Edwards Plateau regions are both important to the future of white-tailed deer in Texas. They are both dealing with “invasions” of either plants or animals that are creating both management challenges and opportunities for landowners and white-tailed deer enthusiasts. White-tailed deer and their habitats here have responded similarly during the recent drought with lower reproduction, reduced deer quality and impacts on habitat. The one prescription ranchers, biologists and everyone agrees on at this point is rain, and lots of it.

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issues and Advocacy


TWA Discusses Legislative Issues with Lieutenant Governor Dewhurst

Texas Wildlife Association Legislative Committee Chairman Mac Stringfellow of San Antonio and TWA CEO Gary Joiner visited with Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst about legislative issues of interest at a private luncheon at the Capitol on Oct. 2. Stringfellow and Joiner were among about two dozen agriculture and wildlife representatives invited to attend the luncheon, which provided Gov. Dewhurst

an opportunity to discuss the upcoming session of the Texas Legislature and likely legislative issues impacting farmers, ranchers, and private landowners. The 83rd Legislature convenes on Jan. 8, 2013. The TWA Executive Committee is determining TWA legislative priorities for the session, following the consideration of recommendations and input from the TWA Legislative Committee.

Texas Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst (center) is joined by TWA Legislative Committee Chairman Mac Stringfellow (right) and TWA CEO Gary Joiner (left) at the Oct. 2 luncheon in Austin.

Golf Tournament, Dove Hunt Assist TWA Advocacy Program Efforts

The 1st Annual TWA Capital Classic Golf Tournament in Austin and a special dove hunt near San Angelo were two successful fundraising events in September to benefit TWA’s public policy and advocacy program efforts. The TWA Capital Classic Golf Tournament at the Hills of Lakeway Golf Club, Flintrock Falls TWA Director Monty Martin of Course, on Sept. 13, attracted over Flower Mound was the winner 70 players, the largest number of of the putting contest prior to the TWA Capital Classic Golf participants ever in a TWA golf Tournament on Sept. 13. event. Unfortunately, heavy rain suspended play after only two holes, and the tournament was not able to continue after several delays and unplayable conditions at the course. All players were provided a certificate to play the course at a later date or a generous discount on merchandise at the course’s Pro Shop. A special thanks to all sponsors and players who made the event a financial success for TWA’s public policy and advocacy program efforts!

A TWA dove hunt near San Angelo on Sept. 15 allowed TWA members and guests a great hunting opportunity and experience, with all event proceeds benefitting TWA’s advocacy program efforts. About 30 individuals participated in the hunt. A special thank you to Crockett National Bank for its generous sponsorship and support of the event (provided a terrific lunch to all attendees), as well as to TWA Secretary Greg Simons of San Angelo for his coordination and logistical support for the hunt. It was a great and enjoyable afternoon!

TWA Senior Policy Analyst Kirby Brown has departed the Texas Wildlife Association after 10 years of outstanding professional service in order to accept a new opportunity with Ducks Unlimited. Brown began his work as DU’s new Conservation Outreach Biologist on Oct. 1. He will work from Austin. Brown first joined TWA’s professional staff as Executive Vice President on Feb. 11, 2002. In addition, he served the organization with distinction as TWA Vice President of Public Policy and then, most recently, as TWA Senior Policy Analyst. TWA is very grateful for Brown’s commitment and passion for TWA’s mission and message. “We are sad to see Kirby depart TWA at this time, but we

are excited for Kirby and his new opportunity, and we wish him the very best in this new chapter in his professional career,” said TWA CEO Gary Joiner. “Kirby is a proud TWA Life Member, and we know that we will continue to consult and work with Kirby as a DU representative on conservation issues relating to wildlife, waterfowl, and water resources.”

TWA members and guests enjoyed an afternoon of dove hunting near San Angelo at a fundraising event to benefit TWA’s public policy and advocacy program efforts. The vast majority of the birds harvested that day were Eurasian Collared-Doves, a species with no seasons, bag limits or regulations.

Brown Departs After Decade of Service



November 2012

Kirby Brown (r) is presented a plaque of appreciation by TWA President Glen Webb at the TWA Executive Committee meeting on Oct. 10.

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


Texas Big Game Awards The Beginning of the 22nd Year Article by Justin Dreibelbis | Photos courtesy of Texas Big Game Awards

hunting in the state of Texas in order to keep our hunting heritage strong, keep hunters hunting, and to recruit and retain new hunters. These engaged hunters will continue spending money to support our state economy and make wise natural resource decisions in the voting booth; both of which will ultimately benefit the general public (whether they realize it or not). The volumes of data collected through the TBGA program each year helps the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department track weather and land use trends to determine their effect on the wildlife resources of the state. TBGA has been going strong for 21 years, recognizing landowners and hunters (young and old) for their contribution to wildlife conservation in Texas, and we are looking forward to another great season. Paige Feild with her First Big Game Harvest entry from the 2011-2012 season.

The leaves are falling, the weather is beginning to turn cooler, and if you are anything like me, you are having a hard time thinking about anything other than getting out in the brush and chasing whitetails. This time of year is special for an outdoorsman, because it marks the first opportunity to hunt native big game; but, more importantly, it presents an opportunity to spend time with family and friends in nature. With the pronghorn and whitetail/mule deer archery opener on September 29, hunting season officially began. Outdoorsmen/ women are coming out of the woodwork, many flocking from their urban homes and businesses to the country to do what they love best…hunt. In a recent United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) report on hunting numbers and hunting related expenditures, it reported that 13.7 million people (16 years and older) hunted in 2011, up 9 percent from 2006. While that seems like a large number, the impressive figure was that those 13.7 million hunters spent $34 billion on hunting-related items. With these kinds of numbers, it shouldn’t be a secret to anyone that hunting is a huge economic driver in the U.S., and especially here in Texas, where well over 1 million people buy a hunting license every year. The Texas Big Game Awards (TBGA) was designed to promote



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As we enter year 22, here are a few things to keep in mind: • Get entered in TBGA – It’s free! Through the generous support of our statewide sponsors, we are able to offer TBGA as a free program. All you have to do is get your animal scored by one of over 1,200 certified scorers located all over the state, and send us your form. It’s that easy. • It’s not all about the score. One of the most important things about TBGA is the recruitment and development of the next generation of hunters. The First Harvest and the Youth Division categories are designed to keep new hunters engaged in the hunting community. If you know a youth hunter that harvests a native big game animal this season or a brand-new hunter that takes their first big game animal, get on the TBGA website and print a youth/first harvest form, get it filled out, and send it in. Again, it’s free! • Play by the rules. We at TBGA are serious about passing a responsible and thoughtful hunting ethic on to the next generation. Because of this, we thoroughly investigate all state and regional top scoring animals to make sure everyone is playing by the rules. Please help us maintain the integrity of this great program by reading and understanding the rules before entering animals. • Take the time to take good field photos. Pictures are how a hunt lives on forever…it’s also how everyone else gets to see

texas big game awards


2012 – 2013 Texas Big Game Awards Field Photo Contest

A youth hunter proudly displays his TBGA certificate among 350 other hunter conservationists in Bryan at the Region 5, 6 and 7 TBGA Sportsman’s Celebration in May.

how you hunt. Take the time to clean up your animal, and place it in a good environment for a photo. This will show respect for the animal and provide an everlasting memory for you and your family. Remember to use the new photo upload feature on the website at By uploading your photo, you will be entered in the TBGA field photo contest. See sidebar for more details. All signs point to the 2012 - 2013 season being a good one. Good luck to you this season, and remember to share the gift of the outdoors with someone new this year.

Drake Shurley with his winning photo from the 2009 – 2010 TBGA Field Photo Contest. Notice the light, presentation of the animal, position of the hunter and use of native habitat – all of the things that make a great field photo.

The Texas Big Game Awards (TBGA) will recognize exceptional field photos submitted by hunters who have entered animals in the program for the 2012 – 2013 season. To be eligible, the hunter must enter the animal in TBGA for that season and upload the photo to the TBGA website at Winners will be recognized in a number of different outlets, including Texas Wildlife magazine, and will be eligible for great prizes.

Judging will take place throughout the season and will be based on a number of factors that make a great field photo: • Light • Backdrop • Placement and presentation of the animal in a respectable manner • Position of the hunter • Use of habitat in the photo

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Partnership Pays Dividends

The Texas Youth Hunting Program (TYHP) has had a great partnership with Safari Club International-Austin for a half-dozen years. It started with SCI-Austin providing the superb chefs and food for the annual Cave Creek Super Hunts. Each year, this team of dedicated chefs, consisting mainly of SCI-Austin present and past officers, prepares an excellent meal on camp stoves for over 200 participants. SCI-Austin has also loaned TWA various animal mounts that were used to educate thousands of Christo Kaiser Conservation Award winner and TYHP Huntmaster Tom Hewitt of SCI-Austin (left) presents a Texans about wildlife. check for the Texas Youth Hunting Program to TYHP Each year since 2009, the SCI-Austin Director Jerry Warden. Christo Kaiser Conservation Award winner has been a TYHP Huntmaster. The award allows the winner to allocate their prize of $2,000 to their favorite charity or non-profit organization. TYHP has been fortunate to receive a generous amount of prize monies associated with this award. In addition to the prize funding this year, TYHP was pleasantly surprised to have been awarded an unrequested grant from SCI-Austin, an organization that fully understands and supports the value of TYHP.

Thanks to SCI-Austin for its great partnership and all that it and its members do for the Future of Hunting.

SCI-Austin President Rick Welch (right) surprises the Texas Youth Hunting Program with an unrequested grant in support of TYHP efforts.

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Generations of Texas Brigades Article by kassi scheffer | Photos courtesy of texas brigades

Dr. Dale Rollins (center) is joined by past Cadets, spanning over 20 years, at the Rolling Plains Bobwhite Brigade anniversary celebration in August in Abilene.


Chinese Proverb often used when describing education, and more so fitting to natural resource education, states: “One generation plants the trees, and another gets the shade.” Twenty years ago, Dr. Dale Rollins planted the tree that is now the Texas Brigades. Many people use the word generation to describe a period of time between parents and offspring or to describe a group of people all similarly aged. However, “generation” in regards to Texas Brigades takes place in a myriad of ways, over very different spans of time. Quite ironically, generations in Texas Brigades mimic the stages of succession, from a stable community to new growth. Those professionals who volunteered their time 20 years ago are the tree planters. They are the generators. They are the stable community. Not only have they influenced and educated 20 years worth of teenage Cadets, they also planted the desire in other professionals to educate the next generation. Herein lies the first Texas Brigades definition of generation, “belonging to a specified stage of development, usually implying



improvement.” Without these innovators and the foundation they have created, there would be no structure for both current and future generations. Consequently, “new growth” is what emerges after development, and so a camp is born. The next definition of generation, “origination by a generating process,” is twofold in this case. Not only is a camp formed, but every year, a new class or generation of Cadets is born. Without each instructor’s desire to instill their passion for the land in those that will one day become the “Conservation Leaders in Every Community” (the Vision Statement of Texas Brigades), the Texas Brigades would cease to exist. What remains is the core of the Texas Brigades, the most dynamic stage of the generational succession, everything that happens between the new growth and the stable community, the process of coming or bringing into being. Involvement in a Brigades camp influences each Cadet’s life and how he or she interprets natural resource

November 2012

conservation. This is the reason for the Texas Brigades; not to train wildlife professionals, but to create confident, well-educated leaders. The Texas Brigades’ mission is to educate and empower youths with leadership skills and knowledge in wildlife, fisheries and land stewardship to become conservation ambassadors for a sustained natural resource legacy. The generation of the empowered is the soul of the organization, the energy that ignites the generators. "Tell me, I forget. Show me, I remember. Involve me, I understand." This is the South Texas Buckskin Brigades motto, and what it means is that the instructors and volunteers who look forward to this camp all year long try to get the campers, or Cadets, as involved as possible. They will achieve this goal by doing whatever is necessary, even if it means cutting open three deer on the first day of camp, as it was in my case. Although this camp was about our native white-tailed deer, a majority of

generations of texas brigades


2012-2013 SCHEDULE The return of a Former Cadet, providing “shade” for the current generation.

what we were taught was leadership. Some people may think that leadership skills can't be taught; but, at this phenomenal camp, we were allowed the opportunity to see just how important and essential leadership skills are in life. This camp has really changed my perspective on life and how I approach things, and I doubt I am the only person who has experienced this change. – Kayla Poorman, South Texas Buckskin Brigade Cadet The majority of the empowered will return to their communities and immediately plant their own tree by sharing their newfound knowledge and enthusiasm. Their participation in a Brigades camp consciously brings to them a new level of understanding, and the way they interpret natural resources is forever changed. “The main goal of the Texas Brigades is to teach the next generation of youths, ages 13-17, how important it is to manage and conserve the Texas wildlife. These camps have made a huge impact on my life. They opened up a whole new world of possibilities for me. Learning about wildlife showed me that I have a passion for conservation and helped me discover what I want to pursue in college.” – Myca Reed, South Texas Bobwhite and Buckskin Brigades Cadet Finally, to link all the parts of the succession cycle, there are the empowered, which span the succession. Many Brigade instructors have witnessed Cadets making a difference in their home communities. In addition, hundreds of Cadets have returned

to camp to continue to learn and begin to lead the next generation of their peers. They are the ones that reassure their mentors that the future of conservation is in good hands. Then there are those who planted their first generation of trees years ago, that return to join the stable community, to cultivate the new growth. They are the lifeline, the assurance that 20 years of Texas Brigades has made a difference and will continue to make a difference. The greatest product of the Texas Brigades? Recall the Chinese Proverb: “One generation plants the trees, and another gets the shade.” Only in the Texas Brigades will you find generations of conservationists so eager and prepared to plant their trees, while still enjoying the shade. If you or someone you know would like to become a generation of the Texas Brigades, please visit our website,


Endangered Species Management Brian Hays


Forestry Management for Wildlife


Wildlife Tax Valuations Linda Campbell


Waterfowl Management Kevin Kraai


Quail Management Dale Rollins, Ph.D. The Texas Wildlife Association and Texas AgriLife Extension Service sponsor lunchtime webinars one 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, and click on the title of the webinar you wish to attend. The webinar series provides sound, sciencebased wildlife management options delivered by experts to you in the comfort of your own home or office.

NO NEED TO TRAVEL! Each web-based seminar is fully interactive and allows you to engage the experts, makes comments and ask questions during the course of the presentation.

QUESTIONS? Contact Courtney Brittain at (210) 826-2904 or

Twenty years of Texas Brigades.



new twa staff

introducing elanor dean Elanor Dean joined TWA in September as an Education Contractor for the Conservation Legacy program. Her duties include Discovery Trunk distribution, running the Distance Learning program, and she will be in charge of the upcoming Youth Education Webinars. She was born in Cambridge, England, but moved to Texas in 1992. She grew up in Houston, Texas, and became enthralled with the outdoors at a young age. This progressed into a love and admiration for wildlife, which led her to pursue an undergraduate degree in Wildlife Biology from Texas State University. Continuing in her education, she most recently received her Master’s degree in Wildlife Ecology at Texas State University. Her thesis research focused on Roost Site Characteristics of Great-tailed Grackles in Texas. She has worked with youth as a volunteer at educational events and as a camp counselor at an outdoor summer camp. She also taught biology to college students at Texas State University and trail guide information to adults. She is very excited to join the TWA team and spread her knowledge and appreciation of wildlife and conservation.

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Membership Receptions Welcome New Members

Article by kendra roller


exas Wildlife Association Region 4 hosted a successful Membership Reception on Thursday, September 20, at Joshua Creek Ranch near Boerne. Over 90 TWA members and guests were in attendance to enjoy the evening with special guest speaker Ted TWA Life Member Ann Cruz, Republican candidate for Kercheville of Joshua Creek Ranch spends time with Ted Cruz, U.S. Senate (supported by TWA). Republican candidate for U.S. The organization welcomed 14 Senate (supported by TWA) and special guest speaker at the TWA new members at the reception. We Region 4 Membership Reception at Joshua Creek Ranch. would like to thank the following hosts and sponsors for making this evening possible: Timekeepers, Inc., Amegy Bank, James Barrow, Beth Cross-Watson, Walton J. Heimann, Jim Gardner, Sean F. Gunn, Ann Kercheville, Jonathan Letz, Myrna and David K. Langford, Steven and Susan Lewis, Arthur Mandry, Bruce McNabb, Greg Simons and Doug DuBois Jr.

Several University of Texas TWA Student Members attended and enjoyed the membership reception in Austin

TWA welcomed 21 new members to the organization at the TWA Team Austin Membership Reception in Austin.

Over 90 TWA members and guests attended and enjoyed the membership reception at Joshua Creek Ranch near Boerne.

TWA Team Austin hosted a successful Membership Reception on Tuesday, October 2, at Abel's on the Lake. TWA welcomed 60 TWA members and guests at the reception and signed-up 21 new members and two upgrades in membership. Texas Commissioner of Agriculture Todd Staples was the featured guest speaker at the event. We would like to thank the following hosts and sponsors for their contributions to this event: Capital Farm Credit, Dynamic Systems, Inc., Russell and Tamera Rehmann, Randy and Debbie Rehmann, Richard Hill, Keith Crawford, Bill and Janie Knolle, Doug DuBois Jr., and Carl Young.

TWA Sets New Membership Mark TWA completed the month of September 2012 with 6,044 members. That’s a record membership high for the organization! We would like to thank all of our members for their outstanding efforts in recruiting new members to the organization. We are



also thankful for the great support of TWA members who continue to renew their memberships. The membership renewal percentage for the month of September was 83 percent, and we hope to maintain that high renewal percentage in the coming

November 2012

months. If you have an interest in working with the TWA Membership Committee, please contact Kendra Roller in the TWA office or TWA Membership Chair Jackie Serbus.

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Interested in joining these banks in support of TWA and seeing your logo featured monthly in Texas Wildlife Magazine? Contact TWA Director of Member Relations Kendra Roller at (210) 826-2904 or Photo by D. K. Langford


Guns & Shooting

Range Danger Article and Photos by

Ralph Winingham In the many years that Wes Reed operated a rifle range in San Antonio, there were quite a few times he uttered his trademark phrase: “Expect the unexpected.” Fortunately for Reed, his mantra prevented any serious injuries to inexperienced or improperly trained shooters visiting his range to sight in or practice with their shooting irons. “I remember one day when a guy came out to the range and said he had found his grandfather’s old Winchester lever action in a closet,” Reed said. “He said he wanted to fire a few rounds with the old rifle to get ready for deer season. He was actually beaming when he handed me the rifle and a new box of .30-30 ammo he planned to fire in ‘Grandpa’s gun.’

always willing to help out anyone to make sure they were safely sending lead down range. “It always pays to think before you act,’’ Reed said. “Most accidents don’t just happen – somebody does something wrong to make them happen.” While the chance of damaging a firearm or causing injury to a shooter or bystander is remote because of the safety factor stressed on shooting ranges, there are reports each year of some type of firearm accident somewhere across the country.

This split barrel of a Winchester Model 70 in .375 Holland & Holland Magnum fortunately did not cause any injury to the shooter but left a lasting impression about how an accident on the shooting range or in the field can happen in less than a second.

“Good thing for him, because the Winchester he handed me was a Model 95 and not the Model 94 he thought it was; and, it was chambered for .30-40 Krag and not .30-30. I was able to set him straight and avoid something bad happening on the range. It wasn’t the only time that somebody needed a little supervision before hitting the range.” Even after he left the shooting range business, Reed was a stickler for firearm safety and shared his knowledge and wisdom with a multitude of fellow hunters at the Big O Ranch near Pearsall until his death at 81 in 2004. He was constantly aware that even a minor slip or act of carelessness could result in a major tragedy on the range and was



November 2012

A good share of these accidents or incidents occurs when hunters, like the one set straight by Reed, are getting ready for deer season. One of Reed’s main rules when assisting both beginners and veteran shooters was to only have ammunition of one caliber on the shooting bench at one time. If you are sighting in your trusty .270 before the season, just have the .270 ammunition for that rifle in reach as you fire enough rounds to make sure the rifle is performing satisfactorily. Put that rifle and ammunition away when you break out your old reliable .30-06, .308 or other smokepole to put it through its paces on the range. “Mixing ammunition on the shooting table is a major no-no,’’

Guns & Shooting

can injure you or someone near you,’’ Reed said. “Be safe, be aware of what you are doing, and always be focused on the task at hand. Remember that you have an explosion going off just inches from your face when you pull the trigger.” Here are some of Reed’s range rules that are designed to help insure that firing a rifle, whether at the range or in the field, is a safe, enjoyable experience: Sighting in a one rifle at a time with only one caliber of ammunition on the shooting bench is one of the basic guidelines in helping prevent a possible accident. Note the hearing protection and protective shooting glasses – a must for anyone on the range and a good idea for anyone in the field.

1. Always make sure the firearm and its proper caliber ammunition are well-maintained and in good working order before any attempt is made to load and fire the firearm. Always keep different calibers of ammunition separated, particularly at the range – one rifle and one caliber of ammunition at one time. Separate rifle cases and separate ammo boxes are a small price to pay for safety. Always check the barrel of any firearm, particularly those that have been stored or unused for any length of time, for any possible obstructions that can be removed before a round is ever chambered. Always use quality eye and ear protection anytime you are discharging a firearm. The loss of vision or hearing can happen in a fraction of a second, if something goes wrong and your eyes and ears are not protected. Always ask a knowledgeable person about anything you don’t understand or know about proper firearm protocol. Veteran shooters, range owners and others all want to make sure your shooting experience is safe and fun for both you and anyone who might be near you when you are sending lead down range.

Reed said. “There are a lot of similar calibers that might chamber in 2. a rifle, if you work at it hard enough, but you won’t be happy when you touch off that trigger. “Working with one rifle and one type of ammunition at a time is the smart way to be safe,’’ he said. 3. Reed told the story of a friend who had travelled to Alaska for an extended hunting adventure and had brought a .300 Winchester Magnum bolt-action rifle as his big bear gun. His hunting companions, including one who had just purchased a .300 4. Weatherby Magnum, carried various other firearms. “They were making sure their rifles were still sighted in after their airplane flight, and something went very wrong,’’ Reed said. No one knew for sure whether the hunter with the .300 Winchester 5. Magnum had an over-charged reload or had inadvertently slipped a .300 Weatherby Magnum into the chamber of his rifle before his shot. When he squeezed the trigger, there was a loud explosion, the rifle scope went sailing into the air, and the rifle bolt imbedded itself in the door of a vehicle parked about 20 feet from the shooting bench. Fortunately, neither the shooter nor his companions were seriously injured, although they were a bit shaken by the experience. The markings on the head of the cartridge had been obliterated, so there was no way to tell what caused the accident. “That still was a hard way to learn a valuable lesson,’’ Reed said. A similar situation occurred at a South Texas ranch just a couple of years ago when the ranch owner was at his range practicing with his old Winchester Model 70 chambered in .375 Holland and Holland Magnum and using factory ammunition. For some unknown reason, his final shot caused the rifle barrel to split into two parts all the way from the chamber to the muzzle, sharply dinging the rifle scope and sending half the barrel high into the air. The startled but unhurt shooter was left holding the shattered rifle in his hands with a “What just happened?” look on his face. No determination was ever made about the cause of the Except for the .270 Winchester Short Magnum on the right, it is easy to see how a damage, but the shooter was very thankful he was not injured. rifle shooter might mistakenly try to place one of these rounds, from left, .300 Weatherby Magnum; .270 Weatherby Magnum; 7 mm Remington Magnum; and .270 Winchester in “Anytime you are at the range, you have to expect the the chamber of their rifle, if they don't make sure to only use one caliber at a time on the unexpected, and take steps to help prevent an accident that shooting bench.



Sp o r t i n g D o g s

On-the-Job Training article by Henry Chappell | photos by Russell Graves


makes a bird dog. It can also unmake a bird dog if you’re so focused on filling your bag that you forget to enforce basic discipline. Trust me; dogs pick up bad habits a lot faster than they pick up good ones. Here’s a typical scene. You drop the tailgate, and open the crate door; a young pointer shoots out as if fired from a cannon, jumps on everyone in the hunting party, then blasts off down the ranch road for a quarter- mile sprint while the guns are being uncased. Now where’s the dog? After a couple Establish control before the start of the hunt. Don't let dogs just bolt from their crate. minutes of furious whistle blowing and yelling, a white dot appears way down the road. A few seconds later, your pointer arrives wild-eyed, tongue minute while your buddies are gathering water bottles and locating dangling, and dashes off in the general direction of the hunt. Sure, gloves and shooting glasses. she’s a little crazy – just charged up. She’ll settle down shortly. She You, on the other hand, are still dog training. Let her run around knows the game. Or, so you tell yourself. for a minute or two and empty out. If she gets too far out, say, “Ah! Then she runs over a covey and chases the birds in complete Ah! In here!” After she has taken care of business, call her to heel, disregard of your “whoa!” commands. From there, the hunt and make her sit and stay while you uncase your gun and don your unravels as the dog seems to have gone deaf and developed a hunting vest. By now, your buddies have gathered up the shells they preference for deer and jackrabbits over quail. accidently dumped in the floorboard and are swilling the last of the Now, you have a problem. It’ll likely get worse until you stop coffee, oblivious to your subtle mastery. everything, and deal with it. Best thing to do is catch her, snap on Now, you’re ready to go hunting. Tap her gently on the head, and a lead or check cord, run her through a few commands, then take release her with a quiet “Right on.” She’ll blast off like a flushed deer her back to the truck before things get any worse. – fully aware that the boss is in charge. Let’s back up. You drop the tailgate, open the crate door, A few minutes into the hunt, blow your whistle to get her command “whoa” and stop your pointer just as she’s coming out. attention and change directions, or direct her to promising cover – Stop her with your hand, if necessary. Sweet talk her. She’ll be not because she doesn’t know what to look for but to remind her to quivering with anticipation. Make her keep her feet still. Now back pay attention. If she complies, get on with your hunting; she’s in a away a bit, and call her to the edge of the tailgate. Whoa her again. groove and unlikely to give you problems. This is a good time to buckle on her beeper or e-collar. Praise her, About the time you’re congratulating yourself, she runs over a and release her with “right on.” All of this takes place in less than a downwind covey. These things happen. Most likely, she’ll stop. She



November 2012

sporting dogs

may slam into an uncertain point. Don’t shoot at the birds! She knows how it’s supposed to work and knows she made a small mistake. If she gives chase, stop her with “whoa!” If she continues, don’t stand there and yell, go catch her. Give her a rough shake or two and a good cussing, if it seems called for. (Dogs understand profanity perfectly.) If it’s not too far, and you’re able, carry her back to the point of the mistake, plunk her down, and whoa her for half a minute or so. She’ll be apologetic. Release her with “Right on!” Now she’s on point, and you’d bet your side-by-side that the birds are there. Sure enough, a covey flushes, and you and your buddies down three. If you’re like most weekend hunters, you don’t keep your dog steady to wing and shot, so she’s probably out there snorting around for the downed birds. Then again, pointing dogs aren’t Labs; they rarely mark well, so she may be romping out there after the escaping singles. Hit your whistle, and make her come in and “hunt dead.” Walk out to the general area of the falls and command, “Dead!” or “Fetch,” or whatever she’s accustomed to. She’ll probably ram around and find your birds. Be patient. If

What it's all about. Getting to this point takes methodical training and diligent reinforcement in the field.

The birds have moved. This attentive pointer is checking back with the boss for permission to relocate.

she starts to drift out of the area, and doesn’t appear to be trailing a cripple, call her back, and make her keep looking. An experienced dog understands that you don’t find every bird. A young dog must find something every time. Otherwise, she will never develop the confidence to hunt hard for downed birds. If, after a diligent search, she comes up empty, slip a dead bird out of your game bag, drop it in cover, and let her find it. If you don’t have a bird, use that small canvas training dummy you carry in your game bag. It’ll smell like birds. She’s into the singles now. Unfortunately, they lit in low shinnery and are running like jack rabbits. She’s trailing a bird, pointing, creeping, pointing. You’re trying to stay close. About the time she gets her bird pinned, you walk up a nearby single. Do you shoot it? That’s a judgment call. If your dog is an old timer, go ahead take the bird. If her bird flushes, or the gunfire causes her to lurch into her bird, no problem. She knows how it all works. With a young, excitable dog, however, you’d better take care, and shoot only birds that she handles properly. This kind of restraint takes discipline, and buddies don’t always understand, but it’ll pay off down the road. Wild-flushing birds and copious gunfire can reduce


sporting dogs

a well-mannered youngster to a confused, bug-eyed, bird-chasing mess. Learn to read your dog; each one is different. Some are extremely animated – lots of tailwhipping, snorting, and dashing about while working game scent. Others are very deliberate. If a normally well-behaved dog seems to be ignoring your commands, she may be working birds. Don’t stand there and whistle and holler. Go see what she’s up to. Reliable old timers always deserve the benefit of the doubt. And, you certainly don’t want to Water breaks are great opportunities for bonding and training reinforcement. After watering, make your dog sit be squalling at a youngster with a Strong emotional bonds make training easier and more with you for a few minutes. Exhausted or severely winded snoot full of bird scent. rewarding. A dog that loves you will want to hunt with you. dogs tend to get sloppy. Use water breaks to reinforce control. Call your dog in, and offer her shoved into the kennel is a nuisance. Love campaigner onto the tailgate. water. Make her sit or stay close by for a few your dog up for a job well done, offer water, These small, seemingly insignificant minutes. This is especially important on check for cactus spines and sandburs, then details carry over to discipline in the field. warm days. Tired or severely winded dogs insist that she kennel smartly. A youngster If you can’t control your dog when she’s at tend to get sloppy. should jump into the bed of the truck and hand, you certainly won’t be able to control Don’t put up with nonsense at the end of go straight into her crate. After a hard her when she’s 300 yards away. the hunt. A dog that has to be caught and hunt, you might need to lift your graying



November 2012


fish & fishing

Water In – Water out Article by Dr. Billy Higginbotham, Professor and Wildlife and Fisheries Specialist, Texas AgriLife Extension Service

If there is anything that the drought of 2011 taught us, ponds can and will go dry, even in normally rainfall-rich East Texas. Ponds that normally lost only a foot or two of water, at most, during a typical Texas summer were better suited for raising tomatoes than largemouth bass during that record-setting drought.

Surface water exiting a pond during a period of high flow.

New ponds should have a bottom release drainpipe included during construction.

Even statewide, ponds with adequate watersheds and suitable clay content could not offset the ravages of insufficient rainfall, sustained triple digit temperatures and high winds during the summer of 2011 that lasted from April through November. But drought or no drought, there are several lessons that should be learned when managing water flow into and out of a pond.



First, pay attention to your pond’s watershed and what goes on in it. Remember, everything runs downhill; therefore, the watershed will dictate not only the quantity but also, to some extent, the quality of water entering your pond. By practicing good range and pasture management and controlling livestock numbers and access, pond sedimentation due to erosion can be greatly reduced. On my daily commute, I recently followed the action as a The bottom drainpipe allows excess flow to exit off the bottom, retaining the best quality water landowner repaired an eroded pond watershed by bringing in and spreading topsoil and then re-vegetating neighbors to determine drilling depth the area – a smart move on his part. necessary to reach a reliable supply of water. Pond owners all across Texas were quick I also urge them to submit a sample of that to react to last year’s drought conditions. water for testing prior to going through the I have never encountered so many ponds expense of drilling a well. using well water to counteract drastically The main issue I encounter with falling water levels. In East Texas, an many well water samples that are from unprecedented number of new wells were the Carrizo-Wilcox aquifer (runs from drilled in order to maintain ponds for northeast to southwest Texas) is related to livestock watering, irrigation and, of course, pH. The chemistry of water from this strata recreational fishing. can have extremely high total alkalinity but A common misconception among pond extremely low total hardness. owners interested in using well water to fill The disparity between these two or maintain ponds is the belief that if water parameters can lead to wild swings in pH, is good to drink, it must be good for fish, which can be tough on your fish population. too! Nothing could be farther from the Fortunately, a couple of mathematical truth, in many instances! calculations can determine the amount Before an existing well is used to fill/ of gypsum (calcium sulfate) necessary to supplement a pond, I urge pond owners increase total hardness and buffer the pond’s to have the water tested to determine pH against these severe fluctuations. its suitability for fish. The Soil, Water Another issue of water quality has to do and Forage Testing Lab at Texas A&M with a common characteristic of any and University can provide this service. (For all well water. Well water is groundwater, more information, call (979) 845-4816 or and it contains no oxygen; and, therefore, it visit should not be piped directly into the pond For those seriously contemplating drilling without aerating it first. Allowing the water a well as a supplemental water source for to splash against rocks or even fall through their ponds, my advice is to check with a roll of net wire breaks serves to expose

November 2012

fish & fishing

it to the air, thereby oxygenating it before entering the pond. While well water quality is certainly important, quantity is also a consideration. A one-quarter surface acre pond (one surface acre = 43,560 square feet) that averages 4 feet in depth has a volume of one acre-foot of water. That’s the equivalent of almost 326,000 gallons. It is doubtful that a well pumping 20 gallons per minute will ever have much impact and may scarcely offset the effects of evaporation in our example pond. Do your homework and have an idea of the volume of water a well is capable of producing at a given depth before moving forward with the actual drilling process. So much for water in. How about the water flowing out of your pond? Many pond owners breathed a sigh of relief last December when they saw their ponds actually flowing over the spillways for the first time in a year or more. But, is that really the water you would “choose to lose” during periods of high flow? You see, the best quality water in any farm or ranch pond is that top few feet of water nearest the surface. This is where the oxygen is produced via photosynthesis and where wave action and nutrients are most available to incorporate in the food chain up to and including the fish species you desire. On most ponds, a spillway routes overflow around one side of the dam in order to protect the dam structure itself. Ideally, a spillway is constructed so the exiting surface water leaves the pond in

Well water contains no oxygen, so aeration is necessary prior to pumping it into the pond. Breaking well water into smaller droplets, increasing its oxygen content as it enters the pond.

However, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has come to the rescue with some nifty drainpipe designs that can be incorporated into many existing ponds, without draining them prior to installation. Even with a bottom-release drainpipe, the spillway is still a vital portion of the dam structure in case of extreme flooding. However, the idea is for the drainpipe to kick in and remove excess water off the bottom prior to water levels ever reaching the spillway elevation. First and foremost, candidate ponds must have some lower ground below the pond so the gravity flow drainpipe systems can work. So, if you have a dugout with no adjacent ground at lower elevation, the bottom-release drainpipe is simply not an option. Your local NRCS office can also give

a wide and shallow flow pattern, which reduces its velocity and, therefore, reduces potential erosive action on the backside of the dam. That is why narrow spillways that force a large volume of water along a constricted path need a concrete apron or rocks where the water exits to protect the back of the dam. When given a choice, you would much rather retain that top few feet of water whenever excess water leaves the pond. To accomplish this task, a bottom-release drainpipe is required. The bottom-release drainpipe should be engineered so that it is activated prior to the water level ever reaching the spillway elevation. That way the bottom layer of water, where waste products accumulate and oxygen content is lowest, exits the pond first. By removing excess water off or near the bottom, instead of the A surface drainpipe is inferior to having a wide shallow spillway that facilitates the removal of water, while reducing surface layer, the water quality of the its erosive force on the back of the dam. pond is maintained or improved. Better quality you advice on designs and drainpipe water translates into a specifications based on your watershed, better environment for pond size and rainfall patterns in your your fish, too. Because area. Again, the idea is that if water will be of this, I would never leaving the pond, always choose to lose the recommend building a new poorer quality water present, first. Water coming in and water going out – pond without a bottom release drainpipe, if fishing seems like a nice problem to have following what happened to us last year! Just rememis a primary goal. But what if your pond ber that the Texas pond owner can have does not have a bottom a big say in the impacts of water flow and release drainpipe? I would manage those events to the benefit of this estimate that better than important farm and ranch resource. 95 percent of our existing farm and ranch ponds Water in and water out. Note the bottom release drainpipe below in Texas do not have this the dam and the well adding water to the upper end of the pond. feature.



B orderl ands news Borderlands Research Institute for Natural Resource Management

The Toughest Plant in Texas Article and photos by Maria Williams and Bonnie J. Warnock

Terlingua Creek Cat’s-eye (Crypantha crassipes) is an endangered plant species found only in south Brewster County, Texas. With its bristly, hairy leaves, and silvery green appearance, it stands out against the creamy yellow limestone hills where it is found. All known populations of this endangered species are located in what has been described as the harshest part of the Chihuahuan desert. This species continues to persist in a very narrow ecological range on privately owned land in southern Brewster County. Current attempts to locate this species in nearby Big Bend Ranch State Park and Big Bend National Park have not resulted in locating any new populations on public lands. Credible sources from both parks verify that this is the case. The geologic area where Terlingua Creek Cat’s-eye is located is a rock unit called the Fizzle Flat lentil with high occurrences of gypsum and barite, referred to by locals as a “moonscape.” No records of Terlingua Creek Cat’s-eye have occurred outside of



this substrate. This reduces the chance of a recovery, as plants with restricted distributions are the most vulnerable to habitat loss or degradation. Plants range in size from 10-30 centimeters tall. The flowers form capitate clusters with white corolla lobes and a yellow opening at the throat. Terlingua Creek Cat’s-eye has two distinct flower types. This characteristic usually requires that the species receive pollen from the opposite flower type in order for fertilization to occur. First blooms are noted in March, possibly providing an early nectar source for insects. Terlingua Creek Cat’s-eye is capable of producing four nutlets with achene-like mericarps. Individual seed units are light and aerodynamic. In the United States, a federally endangered species requires a written recovery plan. The Borderland’s Research Institute undertook a study, partnering with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,

November 2012

and private landowners, with the goal of collecting much needed information for recovery, as defined by TPWD. The privately owned areas that Terlingua Creek Cat’s-eye inhabits have a sparse but interesting vegetation community that includes other rare plants. Protecting and assessing Terlingua Creek Cat’s-eye habitat may benefit the recovery of a target species, but it also supports its associates with whom it may have evolved. How Terlingua Creek Cat’s-eye has evolved adaptations that allow it to survive in an area nearly devoid of vegetation is not completely understood. Through analysis of herbivory patterns and chemistry, our research found that Terlingua Creek Cat’s-eye has a poisonous hepatotoxin, a pyrrolizidine alkaloid, in its leaves and roots that make it not only unpalatable, but deadly, if eaten by mammals. This may have conferred protection against herbivory. This adaptation may be related to a tolerance for a specific soil or substrate. Through our research, we verified that

borderl ands news

Terlingua Creek Cat’s-eye grows in an area with a higher percentage of gypsum than in the adjacent soil areas. Terlingua Creek Cat’s-eye’s restricted distribution may be related to the gypsum present within its habitat but for more reasons than the gypsum provides chemically. Terlingua Creek Cat’s-eye soil, considered sub-optimal for a variety of reasons, has soil characteristics that may have coevolved with this endemic species, providing the biological niche that it now inhabits. Although the Endangered Species Act requires a recovery plan for the conservation of endangered plants, it does not require that owners of the property where the plants are located comply with recommendations or measures intended to protect it. The harsh, isolated Chihuahuan desert habitat of this endangered species confers protection through limited access and limited human desirability! Terlingua Creek Cat’s-eye habitat is being mined and developed for bentonite in a relatively small portion of the habitat. At the same time, private property owners in Texas have collaborated to allow an assessment of previously unmapped or unknown populations, thus protecting the plants on a larger scale. They have built fences to protect this endangered species from off-the-road vehicles and have become citizen scientists helping to increase the level of awareness about the species. Without this level of commitment, the chances of a recovery for this species are considered low. By protecting what may be the toughest plant in Texas, landowner conservation allowed for more in-depth research of a variety of factors that may have contributed to Terlingua Creek Cat’s-eye’s successful adaptation to its particular niche.

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Deer Hunting article and photos by Brandon Ray

The author photographed this quality 10-point buck in North Texas. Bucks like this 140-class deer are realistic expectations on good ground in Texas



November 2012

A successful hunter approaches a big 9-point shot in the Panhandle. Good hunting can be found across the state, not just in middle and southern counties.


was the first morning of my hunt in the Texas Hill Country, so I was in no hurry to pull the trigger. With the waking sun, dancing shadows turned into does, fawns and bucks. Deer were everywhere. Like giant umbrellas, the sagging canopies from several mature oak trees shielded me in my brush blind from the dripping rain. The dry landscape was soaking up the moisture like a thirsty sponge. The deer seemed giddy in the cool air. That December morning, I watched 10 different bucks. Two of them, one a big 8-point and the other a mid-sized 10-point, were good enough for most hunters, including me. But it was only day one. I quit counting does and fawns at 20. Only in Texas can you find such world class hunting. Texas is Best It’s said there are two kinds of deer hunters. Those that have hunted Texas and those that want to hunt Texas! So why hunt here? For starters, we have more deer than any other state. Current estimates put the statewide population close to 4 million. You’ll find the highest numbers in the Edward’s Plateau region. In this region, the average estimated deer density is 11.6 acres per deer. The highest deer

densities in the plateau are in counties like Gillespie, Burnet, Llano and Mason, although numbers are down from past high numbers due to the drought. Average natural densities are around eight acres per deer, with some localized areas supporting one deer per six acres in wet years. Those numbers are as high as any in the United States! The white-tailed deer population for the Hill Country constitutes over 50 percent of the white-tailed deer found in Texas. The brush country of South Texas is also home to high numbers. But you can find quality bucks from Laredo to Amarillo. North Texas has fewer deer, but continues to grow some bucks as big as anywhere, especially in the past 20 years. Given the value of quality hunting these days, and what people are willing to pay for good hunting leases, landowners have added incentive to manage their land’s habitat for deer. It’s not uncommon in today’s hunting economy for ranches’ hunting revenues to surpass that of their livestock’s. Texas is famous for big racks. According to statistics from the Boone & Crockett (B&C) Club’s Trophy Search, Texas ranks 9th in total number of B&C-entered typical whitetails that score over the 170-

Sitting around a fire pit after a long day of hunting is a Texas tradition in many deer camps.

inch minimum. The largest Texas typical whitetail in the B&C Records is a Maverick County buck shot in 1963 by hunter Tom McCulloch. That huge buck net-scored 196 4/8 and ranks 40th in the book. The highest scoring non-typical from Texas in B&C is a 1892 trophy from McCulloch County. The hunter is unknown, but that buck’s huge


w o r ld ' s b est dee r h u nting

it’s the diversity of game that makes Texas a notch above other top deer hunting destinations. rack scores 284 3/8 and ranks 9th overall. You can see it at the Buckhorn Saloon and Museum in San Antonio. Statistics from the Pope The author shot this symmetrical 10-point whitetail with a bow in November 2011 in the Texas Panhandle. The 6 ½-year-old buck’s rack gross-scored 157-inches and was entered in the Texas Big Game Awards. & Young (P&Y) Club, archery’s version of the record books, show Texas ranks 10th in Department for all those tags that make Unlike most western states that require total typical whitetail entries. Midwestern such feasts possible. On a standard Texas drawing a tag to hunt mule deer, a mule deer states like Wisconsin, Illinois and Iowa lead hunting license, you can shoot up to five buck tag comes standard on every over-thethe record books in total whitetail entries in whitetails, one mule deer and four turkeys! counter Texas hunting license. In order to both B&C and P&Y. Culling whitetails not only helps balance hunt them, you must have permission from But here’s what the record books don’t sex ratios and level carrying capacity, it also a landowner, lease land, or book a guided tell you. Texas might trail the Midwest on fills freezers and feeds the family! hunt. But, the quality of hunting can be total number of record book bucks, but Whitetails might be the main attraction, excellent. it exceeds expectations on the quantity but it’s the diversity of game that makes In the past two seasons, I’ve shot a 30-inch of “average” bucks. On well-managed Texas a notch above other top deer hunting 11-point mule deer that scored 180-inches ground, producing bucks with racks destinations. Here’s one example. and a 29-inch 11-point buck that scored scoring 130-inches or more is a realistic Last fall, I sat in a tripod stand on a quiet over 170-inches. Everyone knows about goal statewide. In Texas, we are spoiled and river bottom at the top of Texas. From my the quality of whitetails in Texas, but our sometimes forget that in the nationwide perch, I counted 15 hen turkeys meandering quality mule deer hunting remains mostly average of whitetail states, a 130-class buck down the creek. Later, a different flock of a secret. is a top-end trophy. Such racks are common seven longbeards eventually walked within Texas’ deer seasons are long. Starting these days in good Texas deer counties, even 20 steps of my hideout, but I elected not to with the month long archery-only season in plentiful in wet years on good ground. And, shoot, waiting on a big buck. An hour later, October, followed by the general season that racks scoring 150-inches or better get more a sounder of eight hogs walked down the opens in early November, some counties common every year. Look at data from the same creek. A few minutes later, I spied have seasons that last into early January. Texas Big Game Awards for more proof on three aoudad sheep high in the cliffs over That’s 3 ½ months of deer hunting! And, on the quality found every season in Texas. the river channel. At dark, a fine 8-point managed land deer (MLD) ranches, some Maybe you won’t find a Booner, but odds whitetail stood just 15 yards from my stand. seasons extend into February. Compare are good you’ll see a better-than-average I decided he needed another year to be that to other states where seasons are as buck on a Texas hunt. Most states can’t say his best, so I didn’t shoot. Where else can short as one week! that. a hunter have so many opportunities in a Texas is rich in hunting culture. Travel While big racks seem to get all the press, single afternoon? to middle Texas towns where dollars many hunters enjoy hunting for reasons Whitetails are king in Texas, but we from visiting hunters keep those small other than scoring antlers. If you like eating also have quality hunting for mule deer. town economies booming, and you’ll venison sausage, steaks and chili like me, Counties in the Trans-Pecos and Panhandle understand. Banners hung over main street you can thank the Texas Parks and Wildlife regions support stable numbers of mulies. that read “Welcome Hunters” are common.



November 2012

w o r ld ' s b est dee r h u nting

Whitetails are king in Texas, but the state also provides quality hunting for mule deer in counties in the Trans-Pecos and in the Panhandle regions.

In November, cafes in those same small towns open earlier and close later to feed hungry hunters. Every man in the cafĂŠ in November is likely to be wearing camo. Thousands gather around deer camp campfires to swap lies and enjoy the Texas night air. Where else but Texas can you buy a deer feeder, tripod stand, camouflage overalls and sacked corn at the corner convenience store? Texas hunting is

different, in a good way. On the third day of that soggy hunt in middle Texas, I found a buck that was too good to let walk. One bullet from 150 yards dropped the wide 11-pointer in the rainy mist. He lay to rest amid spiny yuccas, his chocolate-colored rack sticking high above the prickly spines. The 20-inch wide rack would look good on the wall, but I was equally excited about the back straps,

tenders and roasts for the grill. We like to eat venison at my house. The more I travel and hunt other states, the more I appreciate what I have at home. Nowhere else can you find the quality of bucks, the numbers of animals, the length of seasons and the friendly hunting culture like you do here in Texas. Texas deer hunting is truly world class.


Photo by Steve Bentsen


ne of the fundamentals that every wildlife manager must understand is the food habits of the species they are managing. The more specific knowledge we can gain, the better job we can do to manage the habitat to maintain or improve the food source. In the case of white-tailed deer, food supply drives the well-being of the population more than any other single thing. A large part of deer management in Texas is aimed at managing the food supply. For a state the size and diversity of Texas, deer food habits are equally diverse from place to place. Even though the specific plants that make up the deer diet differ from region to region, the basic types of plants eaten are similar. Deer consume browse, mast and forbs for the majority of their natural diet. Browse is the leaves and tender twigs of woody plants. Mast is the seed and fruit of woody plants and is often included in the browse category. The pads and fruit of pricklypear are also usually included in the browse category. Forbs are the broadleaf plants otherwise known as weeds, herbs and wildflowers. Grass is consumed in small amounts on a yearlong basis, but young tender grass may be eaten in larger amounts for short periods, especially if other foods are less available. In East Texas, mushrooms may make up an important part of their diet.

Texas White-tailed Deer –

Browse normally makes up the majority of the deer diet in Texas.



November 2012

What do They Eat? article by steve nelle

Deer Are Picky Eaters

South Texas

Photo by Steve Nelle

In the world of ruminant physiology, deer One of the best diet studies conducted in are known as concentrate selectors. This the Rio Grande Plains was done by Leroy means that deer are very selective in what Arnold and Lynn Drawe on the Zachry they eat, choosing those food items that Randado Ranch in Jim Hogg County provide a high concentration of nutrients. from 1972 – 1974. This study, published Their narrow muzzle, prehensile tongue, in the Journal of Range Management, was and flexible lips enable a deer to choose the one of the first studies to document the specific food items that will best meet their importance of prickly pear in deer diets. nutritional needs. Deer are nibblers, eating On this well-managed ranch, where there thousands of tiny bites each day to optimize was a large variety of available browse the intake of protein, energy, minerals and and forbs, pricklypear was by far the most other nutrients. Deer have the ability to cherry-pick individual tender leaves that have greater nutrient content while rejecting the more mature, less nutritious leaves. In order to understand why deer eat what they do, it is helpful to know something about their digestive system and the digestion process. Kent Mills, TWA Director, The breaking apart of deer pellets reveal an abundance of pricklypear seed – clear evidence that deer have been eating and Nutritionist with Hi-Pro, pricklypear fruit. explains that the rumen of a white-tailed deer is smaller in proportion to its body size than that of goats, important plant for deer, making up 21 sheep, most exotics or cattle. Furthermore, percent of the annual diet. Pricklypear was says Mills, “the rate of passage through the three times more important than the next digestive system is faster in deer, meaning most important plant during this 24-month there is less time to extract nutrients. Plants study. Seasonal consumption ranged from 5 eaten by deer pass completely through their percent in spring to 33 percent in summer. system in only 18 to 24 hours, while plants A total of 69 different species of plants were eaten by cattle take 48 to 72 hours to pass eaten by deer in this study. The results of through. This means that deer must select this study are summarized in Table 1. for a higher quality, more easily digested One of the yet unanswered mysteries diet than most other species.” of deer management in Texas is why deer Wildlife scientists have done a great in South Texas eat such large amounts of deal of work over the past 50 years to pricklypear pads, while deer in other regions discover what deer eat in different parts of eat much less, even though it is readily the state and under different conditions. available. Some have surmised that it is a These studies can provide landowners and different species or variety of pricklypear. deer managers a great deal of practical Others say it has to do with different soil information. The context and duration of types, which may give the plant a different the studies are important considerations. nutritional content. Yet others theorize that A study done in a drought year or a wet it may be a learned behavior from the long year will give a much different picture history of ranchers burning pricklypear compared to a more normal year. Likewise, in South Texas. One thing for sure, most the kinds and numbers of livestock present South Texas ranchers and wildlife managers and the deer density will influence the diet. revere their pricklypear (even though they The most valuable diet studies are those sometimes also curse it). conducted on free-ranging deer over a long From this study, it is interesting to note period of time, reflecting both seasonal that two of the most common shrubs in and rainfall variation. A few of the more the region were not among the important interesting and useful diet studies done for plants eaten by deer. Although guajillo South Texas, Edwards Plateau and Rolling and blackbrush acacia are common on Plains will be summarized. the ranch, they made up less than one-

Table 1. Deer Diet, Rio Grande Plains, 1972-1974. Study conducted by Leroy Arnold and Lynn Drawe

Browse & Cactus






Browse & Cactus Pricklypear




Catclaw acacia
























18 Other species


Forbs Lazy daisy (perennial)


Lazy daisy (annual)




Low menodora




Sleepy daisy


Ground cherry


Western ragweed




25 Other species


half of one percent of the deer diet. This emphasizes that just because a plant is common does not mean that it is eaten by deer. Scientists have since discovered that chemicals present in the leaves of these shrubs not only limit their consumption but also limits the digestibility of the browse. Edwards Plateau and Central Basin

High densities of deer are found in the limestone soils of the Edwards Plateau.


W h at d o t h e y eat ?

Even higher densities occur in the Central Basin, an area of granite soils located mostly in Llano and Mason counties. The Llano County Soil and Water Conservation District and the NRCS conducted a threeyear study to determine what deer ate on granite soils, compared to nearby limestone soils. This study, conducted from 1989 – 1992, was the first ever conducted on the granite soils of the Central Basin, and it provided some new and interesting information. It was no surprise that live oak was the number one plant eaten by deer in both the granite and the limestone soils, making up nearly 40 percent of the yearlong diet. Consumption varied from zero to over 70 percent. Although the nutritional value of oak browse is mediocre at best, the volume and availability is high. In addition to the oak browse, the consumption of highenergy acorns in fall is important for deer going into the winter, when food may be limited. On the granite soils of the Central Basin, the big surprise was that mistletoe was the second most important plant, accounting for 19 percent of the annual diet and 40 to 60 percent of the diet in the fall and winter.







Browse Live oak


Cedar (ashe juniper)








Roemer acacia




5 Other species






Orange zexmenia




10 Other species








5% 39%













4 other species


Forbs Doveweed




Orange zexmenia


Tallow weed


11 Other species


Old-time hunters and deer managers have known that mistletoe is a favorite plant for deer, but no one imagined it was this important. The nutritional value of mistletoe is very high, and it remains green the entire year. Equally surprising was the importance of mesquite, which contributed 7 percent of the yearlong diet and as high as 45 percent during some months. This included mesquite leaves, as well as mesquite beans. It is also important to remember that the abundance of mistletoe is directly tied to the abundance of mesquite. A summary of the diet study on granite soil is presented in Table 2. On nearby Edwards Plateau limestone soils, the number two plant eaten by deer was cedar, making up 12 percent of the yearlong diet and 20 to 40 percent of the fallwinter diet. Even though cedar (juniper) is much maligned by many landowners and wildlife managers, it is often an important part of the deer diet, especially in dry winter periods. While cedar is not regarded as a preferred deer food, it is eaten in significant amounts on most Edwards Plateau ranges. A summary of the diet study on limestone soil is found in Table 3.

November 2012

Deer are selective feeders and are able to choose which plants have the highest concentration of nutrients. This buck is eating kidneywood, one of the more preferred browse plants. Photo by Steve Nelle

Live oak

Photo by Steve Bentsen


The flower stalks of yucca are an especially favorite deer food, providing very high nutrition.

Photo by Steve Nelle

Table 3. Deer Diet, Edwards Plateau Limestone Soil; 1989-1992. Study conducted by Llano Soil and Water Conservation District and NRCS

Table 2. Deer Diet, Central Basin Granite Soil; 1989-1992. Study conducted by Llano Soil and Water Conservation District and NRCS

Deep rooted, long-lived perennial forbs such as Texas snoutbean are an important component of deer habitat and are a reflection of good stewardship.

Photo by Steve Nelle

W h at d o t h e y eat ?

Rolling Plains

In 1999 – 2001, Kyle Burke conducted a diet study in Tom Green, Runnels and Shackelford counties in the lower Rolling Plains region as part of a master’s thesis at Southwest Texas State University.

Table 4. Deer Diet, Lower Rolling Plains 1991-2001. Study conducted by Kyle Burke, Southwest Texas State University

Photo by Steve Nelle

The best deer habitat will have a diversity of perennial forbs, such as bush sunflower.

Lazy daisy is an important deer food in South Texas.









Grain and Crops


Browse Pricklyash


Littleleaf sumac






Skunkbush sumac


Photo by Steve Nelle

Cedar (redberry juniper) 2% Mistletoe








28 Other species


Mast Mesquite beans


Pricklypear fruit


4 Other species



Photo by Steve Bentsen

The leaves of live oak, as well as the acorns, are a mainstay for deer in the Edwards Plateau.

The fruit of pricklypear, often called pear apples or tunas, are a favorite food of deer and many other species of wildlife.



Hairy tubetongue


Lazy daisy






77 Other species


Grasses Texas wintergrass


Japanese brome


Rescue grass




6 other species


Consistent with other previous studies done in this region, he found that deer made very heavy use of mesquite beans and pricklypear fruit. These two items were by far the most important foods eaten by deer during this comprehensive two-year study. It is interesting to note that while deer made heavy use of the pricklypear fruit, they made comparatively little use of the pads. A summary of this study is found in Table 4. Bottom Line

For the landowner or wildlife manager, there are several take home messages from these studies. One of the most relevant discoveries is that deer make heavy use of what many people regard as noxious brush species. In each of these studies, as well as other studies, deer routinely consume large amounts of “undesirable” plants, such as pricklypear, mesquite and cedar. One may argue that deer would prefer to be eating other more desirable plants, but the truth is that deer depend upon and benefit a great deal from these common native brush species – for food, as well as for cover. The astute manager who desires to maintain good deer habitat will be very cautious and thoughtful in the planning and use of brush control. Equally significant is the observation that while deer can survive very well in lowerquality habitat, they thrive best in highquality diverse habitat. The greater the variety of perennial forbs and shrubs, the greater the opportunity deer have to choose a more nutritious diet. For the manager who wishes to produce quality whitetails, the restoration of good plant diversity must be a strong emphasis. This will require a longterm commitment and careful attention to deer numbers, grazing management, brush management and other forms of habitat manipulation. For those who desire impressive antlers without the aid of supplemental feed, the old adage is especially relevant – “As the pasture goes, so goes the head.” Good deer management and good land stewardship go hand in hand. The manager who understands what deer eat and how to manage habitat to improve the food source will be able to produce good quality deer for hunters with lower inputs and greater sustainability. It’s a win-win-win for the landowner, the hunter and the habitat.


Meet Conservation’s New Pioneers

Changing Landscapes and

Changing Dynamics

Photo by Jeff Parker

article by mary o. parker

Two years ago the Abernathy family purchased 95 acres in Llano County and, in 2011, twin brothers, Robert and Matt, harvested their first bucks there. Left to right: Robert, Mark, Carolyn, Matt, and front: Maisy.



November 2012


Photo by Jeff Parker


he day I met the Abernathys, their of 24 short months, these young men had duction, profit-orientation, rural lifestyle, four-year old black lab, Maisy, established a strong sense of place, which financial investment, mineral extraction, gave such an exuberant welcome would forever play a role in shaping their and wildlife enterprise. According to these that she bolted from the Polaris while lives. motivations, we further organize landownit was still in motion. Considering her But, anyone who’s ever been enamored er types into three clusters: agriculturalenthusiasm, I’d expected a joyful pouncing, knows relationships take work. Sometimes production landowners, multiple-objective but Maisy proved herself well-trained and we even look to others with special landowners (own land mostly for investwelcomed me politely, instead. By the time expertise for help with making them work. ment purposes), and lifestyle-oriented the Ranger containing the other family Relationships with the land are no different, landowners. members rolled to a stop, we’d already and so when the Abernathys began this As of 2011, about 85 percent of Texas’ cemented our friendship. particular relationship, they wanted to do land not covered by water – 142,988,754 As soon as I met TWA members Mark it right. “We knew we wanted to be good acres – received special agricultural apand Carolyn Abernathy and their twin land stewards, but we didn’t know what that praisal. Thanks largely to our number one sons, 12-year-olds Matt and Robert, I meant,” said Carolyn. position in both beef and cotton, “open realized they all shared Maisy’s enthusiasm. TWA member and TPWD wildlife space land” still covers a large chunk of our Especially when it came to the 95 acres biologist for Llano County, Dale Schmidt, state; however, the number of agriculturalof Texas Hill Country they’d purchased said, “Most people who come to me want production landowners decreases each year. two years ago. In fact, I’d wandered to to do something good, so we talk about Overall, weakened agricultural economies Llano County to gaze upon this object of their goals and create a plan.” Schmidt continue to squeeze farmers and ranchers, their affection. I came also to learn more helped the Abernathys create such a plan. while increasing real market values brought about Texas’ new breed of landowner (TPWD biologists and landowners sign about by urban sprawl tempt them to sell and conservation’s new pioneers – those a confidentiality agreement, so he could all or part of their land. And, then, there’s purchasing property solely for lifestyle divulge nothing to me about that plan.) the issue of inheritance. Even if heirs don’t reasons. Mark and Carolyn told me some of their need to divide the property in order to pay We began our visit under the shade of goals include preservation of the property’s estate taxes, individual family members ofenchanting live oaks. Soon, I learned that natural springs, enhancing pasture quality ten want to cash out, and the land is divided Matt likes to carve, but he never knew that and controlling invasive species. Carolyn in order to do so. before acquiring the land. “Everywhere stated, “We’ve learned that by doing those As the number of agriculture-production I walk, I’m always looking for the right things, we’ll preserve and enhance the landowners decrease, multiple-objective sticks,” he told me with his shy smile. water, food and habitat for all kinds of landowners increase. Within the last And, with politely contained pride, Robert wildlife.” 14 years (1998-2011) the amount of shared handfuls of treasures discovered Typically, land ownership can be classi- agricultural appraised acreage in Texas fell while combing the property. “These are fied into six motivations: agricultural pro- by 1,083,403 acres, while over 1.5 million shells from a Henry Repeating Rifle,” he said. “I didn’t know what they were at first, but my granddad did. When he told me, I was very excited.” The boys also showed me tomahawks they’d fashioned from local ingredients: oak, cedar, stones, and dove feathers. “They like to shoot skeet,” said Mark, “and just started hunting a couple of years ago.” He shared another exciting event: In 2011, the boys harvested their very first bucks – an 8-pointer and a 10-pointer – here on the family’s property. The boys’ stories called to mind a 2006 Cornell study I’d recently read, which found a direct correlation between the “youthful experience of outdoors” to those who become The Abernathys’ stewardship goals include preservation of the land’s natural springs, enrichment of its pastures, and controlling passionate about conservation invasive species. “We’ve learned that by doing those things, we’ll preserve and enhance the water, food, and habitat for all kinds of wildlife,” Carolyn explained. as adults. Already, in the space

Matt (l) and Robert (r) Abernathy display treasures – both found and created – from the family land. The boys fashioned their tomahawk blades by patiently chipping away at the stones. Matt crafted the handle from oak, while Robert used cedar and capped his creation with dove feathers.


Carolyn admitted to feeling a bit deluged at first. “But, when you’re actually implementing what you’ve learned about, it’s fun, because Mark and Carolyn Abernathy said the joy the you see the effects,” family derives from the interacting with land inspires and motivates their involvement in she said. When I asked wildlife management and will continue to define their future plans. about her favorite effect so far, she gave an embarrassed laugh and answered, “Well, so far, the most satisfying has been the mesquite kills.” Mark explained: “The reason for that is that we’ve been prepping the land for quail, and we’re hoping that, at some point, after doing some habitat management, we’ll have more. We’ve seen some already, here or there.” “Yeah, and last year with the drought,” Carolyn continued, “nothing was growing, so we didn’t have to worry about controlling the mesquite, but this year…” She shook her head. “We’re trying to preserve the land for the grasses. Just even having no cattle, no horses, eating the grass all the time, that’s already had a large effect on helping to retain moisture. And, the grass by the springs was all eaten down, but we learned how it helps filter the water, so we want it there.” In spring 2012, the Journal of Arid Environments discussed how changing landowner dynamics might affect watersheds and ecosystems. One hypothetical example: lifestyle-oriented owners might view cover differently than agricultural-production landowners, which could result in brushy proliferation in areas historically dominated by grasslands. On the other hand, studies have indicated that lands owned by those in the lifestyle-oriented cluster could act as more effective riparian buffers and help restore hydrologic functions in dryland ecosystems (which make up the majority of the state). However, in the case of “ranchette” parcels (those very small parcels), fragmentation will result in a disruption in ecological services and wildlife habitat. For the 95 acres purchased by the Abernathys, the future looks bright. As Maisy’s gaze followed his every move, Mark pointed out bluebird houses they’d installed and said the first bat house would go up soon. “There are so many things you can do to create habitat for animals,” he explained. And while he uses his tractor at times to do so, he insisted, “We like to keep things wild, as much as possible.” “A big part of the fun we have out here all year long is observing animal tracks and signs, watching the different deer that come to the feeders, seeing a variety of birds of prey, finding turkey feathers, identifying the plants and wildflowers, and spotlighting at night. It wouldn’t be the same experience without continuing to see all those things. That’s what inspires and motivates us to take part in wildlife management and what will continue to define any plans we make for the land in the future,” Carolyn said. The Abernathy twins include Henry Repeating Rifle Then, with a grin, she added, “My shells – which each bear an “H” and two grooves from joke is that we’re Longhorns becoming the gun’s double firing pin – among the treasures they’ve unearthed while exploring the property with Aggies!” their granddad.

Photo by Jeff Parker

Photo by Jeff Parker

building permits for single-family homes (SFH’s) were issued. In 2011 alone, nearly 70,000 SFH’s received permits. As demand for housing has risen, so, too, has the value of land. The average price for an acre of Texas soil went from $809 in 1998 to $2,350 in 2011, increasing nearly 300 percent over 14 years. Meanwhile, during that same period, the average sized parcel of rural land purchased decreased by 284 percent – from 1,242 to 436 acres. The end result of all these figures? Today, Texas has more landowners owning smaller parcels of land than ever before, a trend which shows no sign of slowing considering population projections. According the State Comptroller’s Office, from 2000 to 2006, Texas’ population increased by 12.7 percent, nearly twice that of the national rate of 6.4 percent. The Texas Water Development Board predicts that, by the year 2060, we’ll have 46,323,725 residents. That’s almost double what we have now. That’s where landowners such as the Abernathys, who sit squarely in the lifestyle-oriented landowner cluster, come to the rescue. Folks like them may just hold the key to the future of habitat conservation and the restoration of watershed health. Schmidt said that as larger parcels of rural property continue to be split into smaller ones, he’s seeing more landowners like the Abernathys, and he stresses the value of such folks creating stewardship plans “whether it’s a couple acres or a couple hundred acres.” According to data included in the 2005 masters’ thesis of TWA Director Jenny Sanders, more than one-third (39 percent) of Central Texas landowners own land exclusively for lifestyle reasons. Sanders found this group had the greatest propensity to respond positively to the widest range of conservation programs but often didn’t know about available resources. Not knowing of resources rang true for Carolyn and Mark, but they credited Capital Farm Credit with nudging them toward their conservation journey. “They gave us a TWA membership, along with our loan for the property, and so we started receiving the [Texas Wildlife] magazine. Through reading it, we began to realize there was this world out there, this whole realm of things to be done,” said Carolyn. “And, then I went to TWA’s Women of the Land conference, and that taught me a lot,” she said. “It was actually almost overwhelming. I learned so much. I even learned about identifying plants and left understanding why that’s essential.” She looked at her sons. “We’ve had a lot of fun this spring with all the growth. Last year, with the drought, we had nothing to ID.”


November 2012

Photo by Jeff Parker

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n spite of all efforts by the regulations to insure their conservation and 521 game wardens Texas Parks and Wildlife Depart- to enforce those rules. Many small towns in Texas survive on ment (TPWD) and the Texas the annual fall infusion of capital that comes from hunters. And, Animal Health Commission (TAHC), Chronic Wasting Disease it gives outdoor writers plenty to write about. Even non-hunters (CWD) has finally been confirmed in Texas – along the Texas-New spend countless hours admiring and photographing deer. Deer and Mexico border. deer hunting are big deals, here. They’re resources that need to be It all started when CWD was discovered in captive mule deer protected. in Colorado. Then, 10 years ago, CWD concerns moved up on Earlier this year, New Mexico authorities reported that CWD had the priority list when it was confirmed in whitetails in Wisconsin. been found in three mule deer taken during the 2011-2012 hunting Other states soon detected it, and the alarm sounded off, big time. season in the Hueco Mountains. That range straddles the TexasImportation of northern deer into Texas for breeding purposes New Mexico border, and Texas wildlife professionals realized that from areas where CWD was detected or suspected spurred action it was highly possible that infected mulies also existed in Texas. by TPWD and TAHC. A 2002 emergency meeting of the TPW CWD had also been determined in deer and elk in the Sacramento Commission in San Antonio led to adoption of stringent rules Mountains south of Cloudcroft, New Mexico. prohibiting importation of any deer into Texas. “We knew it was a possibility,” TPWD Wildlife Director Clayton For the past 10 years, Texas has had an aggressive CWD prevention and monitoring program. More than 26,000 hunter-taken deer and 7,400 animals from the captive-deer industry have been tested. None proved positive. Several convictions of breeders who violated the importation regulations have been reported in the press. Large fines resulted; and, in one case, a number of the breeder’s deer were killed, in order to be tested. No reliable live animal test exists for the disease that destroys the deer’s brain. The disease can be confirmed only by testing the brain stem of the animal. At a joint press conference conducted by TPWD and TAHC in July, it was learned that a live test is being studied but, at present, is thought to be ineffective. The disease has an extremely long The raw terrain of the Hueco Mountains made finding mule deer for sampling difficult. incubation period (47-59 months), and a deer could have the prions in its body at the time of testing Wolf said, referring to infected deer occurring on the Texas side of that might not be detected, leading to a false negative. the mountains. A surveillance program was soon implemented in Texas has abundant deer, approaching nearly four million of the area. them. Recreational deer hunting has an estimated economic When TWA Director Dan McBride, DVM, realized where the impact of over $1.5 billion. Thousands of jobs exist on ranches infected deer had been discovered in New Mexico, he recognized where hunting is conducted and on farms producing grain for deer the distinct possibility that mule deer on a ranch he leased for feed. Many ranches now hire full-time wildlife biologists as wildlife hunting could also be infected, since there is nothing but a line on managers. Other biologists perform research on deer through the a map separating them from deer in New Mexico. He volunteered seven universities in Texas that offer wildlife science as a degree. his lease for sampling. He also volunteered to help guide the team, TPWD employs wildlife biologists to survey deer and recommend along with another TWA member, Pat Riddell, one of his hunters, article and photos by John Jefferson



November 2012

who also knew his way through the Hueco Mountains. Dr. McBride led one team; Riddell the other. “I knew that if I hadn’t taken the authorities out there, I could have been responsible for spreading it to other deer in Texas,” he told me. At the TWA Convention in June, Dr. McBride received the first Ray Murski Friend of Wildlife Award for his contributions to wildlife. He is wellrespected. Those who know him will not doubt his selflessness in bringing people to his lease to sample for CWD, although some might have been concerned about it being discovered on land or leases of theirs – and the impact that it might have. Samples were collected. Of the 31 brain samples obtained, two tested positive in deer from northern El Paso and Hudspeth counties. “This is definitely not a crisis,” Wolf said of the confirmation on July 9 by the National Veterinary Services Laboratories that the two samples tested positive. “Now that we have detected CWD in Texas, our primary objective is to contain this disease,” said Carter Smith, TPWD Executive Director. “Working collaboratively with experts in the field, we have developed protocols to address CWD, and implementation is already under way.” CWD is a progressive, fatal disease that often results in altered behavior due to small changes in the brain of affected animals. Caused by prions – mutated protein – it is a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy similar to Mad Cow Disease in bovines and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans. In later stages, animals display listlessness, lowering of the head, weight loss, repetitive walking in set patterns and a lack of responsiveness.

There is no vaccine or cure, but the disease is not known to affect humans. It is spread through natural movement of wild deer and human transportation of infected, captive deer. The disease is passed from animal to animal through contact with body fluids such as saliva, urine and feces. Also, “shed” prions can remain viable in the soil for an indefinite time and can infect deer that ingest the infectious agent while feeding on forbs or other low-growing vegetation. In deer herds where the disease has become established, as many as half the animals typically test positive for it. To minimize risks of the disease spreading to other parts of Texas, TAHC proposed regulations establishing a Mule deer photographed in New Mexico in the area where the CWD“containment zone” covering infected deer were initially discovered and north of where the infected deer were recently discovered in Texas for the first time. El Paso County and portions of Hudspeth and Culberson counties and a “high risk zone” covering sented at the November 7-8 Commission portions of Culberson and Reeves counties. meetings. At press time, the proposals were Movement of privately-owned cervids not available. Consult the TPWD website susceptible to the disease, which include for them and for Commission action at elk, would be prohibited or restricted. Sika the November meetings (www.tpwd.state. deer and red deer, both non-native exotic species, are also said to be susceptible to The CWD Task Force was appointed by CWD, but that has not been confirmed in TPWD Executive Director Carter Smith Texas at this time. TPWD proposed rules and TAHC Executive Director Dr. Dee Elsimilar to the TAHC rules, which would lis. It is comprised of wildlife health profescover movement of wild or captive deer sionals, like Dr. McBride, wildlife managers held under agency permits. Also included and deer and elk breeders. in the plan was a requirement that hunters Dr. McBride says TPWD has done a thorwho harvest deer from the containment ough and excellent job of proposing the new area this hunting season must take the rules. More sampling may be involved, and animals to one of two check stations to a third zone called the “Buffer Zone” may be set up in the area. Tissue be created, extending north along the New samples for CWD testing Mexico border to near Littlefield. Tighter rewere to be taken from those strictions about deer movement and changes hunter-harvested deer at in zone boundaries are also on the table. check stations in Van Horn “I am hopeful that the proposals will be and Cornudas. effective in containing CWD,” said TPWD At the TPWD Regulations West Texas Wildlife Regional Director Billy Committee meeting on Au- Tarrant. “We definitely need more sampling.” gust 29, TPWD Big Game Authority for check stations already exists in Program Leader Mitch Lock- previous TPWD proclamations, facilitating wood announced that the sampling through check stations this season. CWD Task Force had made “I hope that in five years, we find out that additional recommendations what we did was right,” echoed Dr. McBride. The Hueco Mountains east of El Paso straddle the New Mexico state line, an area where Texas mule deer have been confirmed with Chronic that would be incorporated Stay tuned. Wasting Disease. into new proposals to be pre-


C W D C o n fi r m ed i n W est T exas m u le dee r

Editor’s Note: The following Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) Fact Sheet from the Texas Animal Health Commission was provided on October 3, 2012. This information is published in order to provide TWA members with the most current information regarding CWD. Please note that the Texas Parks T and Wildlife Department (TPWD)Chas published its EXAS ANIMAL HEALTH OMMISSION proposed CWD rules in the Texas Register, and the rules will be considered for adoption by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission on November 7, 2012. The full text of the TPWD proposed rules can be viewed in the News section of the Ernie Morales A summary of the approved TPWD rules will be published Dee B. Ellis, M.P.A. TWA website at in the D.V.M., December issue Chairman Executive Director of this magazine. TWA continues to be very active and engaged in this very important animal health issue.

TAHC Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) Rules What you need to know

The Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) recently amended Chapter 40, entitled “Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD)”. The rule(s) affect certain cervid species and delineate movement restriction zones and other necessary disease management practices related to the control of CWD in far west Texas. CWD has been discovered in mule deer in the Hueco Mountains of southern New Mexico and western Texas. Samples from two mule deer recently taken in this area were confirmed positive for CWD. These are the first cases of CWD detected in Texas deer. What is CWD? CWD is not known to affect people, but a number of cervid species are susceptible. Besides mule deer, other susceptible species include white-tailed deer, elk, red deer, sika deer and moose. The progressively fatal disease is most commonly exhibited by chronic weight loss, and abnormal behavior such as disorientation. Prions are the infectious agent of CWD, and can be found throughout the body of an infected animal. The prions are present in the body fluids of infected animals, and can be shed onto the soil where they may remain infectious to other susceptible animals for many years. For this reason the TAHC rules apply to land as well as animals within the zones. What are the Rules? The rules are intended to define susceptible species, establish boundaries for a High Risk Zone (HRZ) and Containment Zone (CZ), restrict movement within the zones, establish surveillance systems within the zones, and also address requirements for new or existing herds ability to gain CWD monitored status designations by TAHC. Counties affected by the rules include El Paso, and portions of Hudspeth, Culberson, Reeves, Ward and Loving. •


Restricted movement within the zones: No susceptible cervid species may be trapped and transported from within either zone to another location. No susceptible species may be introduced into a herd within the HRZ or the CZ that does not participate in the TAHC Monitored Herd Program. No susceptible species may leave a herd within either zone until it has achieved Level C status of five years or higher. Establishing surveillance within the zones: No part of a carcass of a susceptible species (killed or found dead), within the HRZ or CZ may be removed unless a testable CWD sample from the carcass is collected by or provided to the TAHC or TPWD (excluding bones with no tissue attached). CWD Monitored Herd Status designations within the zones: o Monitored herds already in the zones may keep their existing status if they continue to meet program requirements o Susceptible species moved into newly established facilities in either zone will have their status reset to zero

Randy C. Brown Reta K. Dyess William Edmiston, Jr., D.V.M. Ken Jordan T E Thomas X A S WG.I Kezar L D L I F E November 2012 Coleman H. Locke


Charles E. “Chuck” Real Ralph Simmons Mike Vickers, D.V.M. Mark A. Wheelis Beau White R. W. “Dick” Winters, Jr.

CWD Confirmed in West texas mule deer

Where/What is the Containment Zone (CZ)? The Containment Zone (CZ) is the geographic area where there is a high risk of CWD existing. The CZ is defined as follows; beginning in Culberson County where State Highway 62-180 enters from New Mexico and thence in a southwesterly direction to the intersection with State Highway 54 and thence following that in a southwesterly direction to the intersection with IH 20 and thence following it in a westerly direction until Ft. Hancock to State Highway 20 and thence following it a westerly direction to Farm Road 1088 (east of Ft. Hancock), and thence following it in a southerly direction to the Rio Grande River to where it enters the state of New Mexico. Where/What is the High Risk Zone (HRZ)? The High Risk Zone (HRZ) is an area which serves as a buffer (surveillance) zone between the Containment Zone and the rest of Texas. The HRZ is defined as follows: beginning in Reeves County where the Pecos River enters from New Mexico and meanders in a southeasterly direction as the boundary between Reeves County and Loving and Ward Counties to the intersection with IH 20 and thence following it in a westerly direction until the intersection with State Highway 54 and thence following it in a northwesterly direction until the intersection with State Highway 62-180 and thence in a northeasterly direction to the border with the state of New Mexico and Culberson County. What Species do these Rules Apply To? The TAHC rules apply to the non-indigenous species of cervid species of Texas under its jurisdiction including moose, red deer, elk and Sika. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) also proposed similar rules for the cervid species it regulates (indigenous to Texas), including white-tailed deer and mule deer.

Map of the Containment Zones and High Risk Zones

Who do I call for more information? For more information visit or call 1-800-550-8242



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November 2012


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of the Month photo by Sean Fitzgerald

Sean Fitzgerald photographed this curious nutria huddled under a log on a small pond at Frank Yturria's amazing ranch outside of Raymondville. Nutria is a large rodent, nearly as large as a beaver, but with a long, rounded, scaly, rat-like tail and webbed hind feet. It is semiaquatic, preferring to exist in swamps, marshes and along shores of rivers, lakes and ponds. A nutria eats aquatic vegetation and was introduced in Texas as a "cure-all" for ponds choked with vegetation. However, it has become a nuisance species, because its high reproductive capacity has resulted in overpopulation, resulting in an inadequate food supply that has driven it to destroy vegetation that is valuable for waterfowl and other wildlife.

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November 2012

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"Texas Wildlife" - November 2012  

"Texas Wildlife" is the official publication of the Texas Wildlife Association

"Texas Wildlife" - November 2012  

"Texas Wildlife" is the official publication of the Texas Wildlife Association