Texas Wildlife - January 2013

Page 1


The Quest for Quail

january 2013

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president’s remarks


TEXAS WILDLIFE ASSOCIATION 2800 N.E. Loop 410, Suite 105 San Antonio, TX 78218 www.texas-wildlife.org (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 www.texas-wildlife.org


Stay Big TWA It is the Big Things in life that really matter. Small things come and go and lose altitude on their own merit. When they go, nobody really notices and nothing really changes. Sometimes the Cynic will try to make a small thing big, but he will always fail. The Big Things change things: economies, cultures, and countries change…forever. Tectonic sociopolitical shifts that occur in the blink of an eye with enormous consequences to individuals and history. The Texas Wildlife Association has always stood shoulder to shoulder with the Landowner when it comes to the Big Things. As we survey the situation today, Big Things loom large on the horizon: • Over the last three years, the State of Texas has received the least amount of moisture since the drought of the 1950s. Check your local forecast and then read the history regarding the Dust Bowl. A Big Thing. • For the first time in my lifetime, there is no Farm Bill. Talk to a Landowner, a Rancher, a Steward, a Hunter, a Conservationist or better yet your local NRCS official, and ask them the benefits of EQUIP, WHIP, CRP, et al., to wildlife habitat and land stewardship and agriculture economics across the state of Texas. A Big Thing. • The United States Estate Tax exemption per person is scheduled to be reduced by over $4,000,000 per person, the largest estate tax exemption reduction in the history of our country. Simultaneously, the estate tax rate is scheduled to increase from 35 percent to 55 percent. Let’s do a little math. Take $1,000,000 and divide it by the average price of rural land in Texas. Next, multiply the remainder of your farm or ranch or land value by 55 percent. The factor equals fragmentation. A Big Thing. • The United States border between Texas and Mexico remains more porous and more violent than at any time in the history of our state. Moreover, this country has no comprehensive immigration policy. As a result of this public policy double debacle, South and West Texas landowners lack basic due process. Property rights evaporate before their eyes. Texas farmers, ranchers and every other business owner remain in legal jeopardy when searching for competent labor. A Big Thing. What drew me to the Texas Wildlife Association, over a decade ago, was our unquestioned advocacy and leadership for the private landowner vis-à-vis the Big Things. Landowners look to us to protect them, their lands, their families and their way of life. That is the spirit that made us great! A spirit that should never be forgotten or lost. At a time like this, we should avoid addition by subtraction. We should avoid the Cynic’s call to the small. We should stay focused on the Big Things. Stay Big TWA.

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.

Gary Joiner, Chief Executive Officer Quita Hill, Director of Finance and Operations Kari Hudspeth, Office Administrator

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

Programs Helen Holdsworth, Conservation Legacy Program Director Koy Coffer, Education Program Specialist Kassi Scheffer, Education Program Specialist Courtney Brittain, Web Program Consultant Mary Pearl Meuth, Education Program Contractor Lynnsey Dohmen, Education Program Contractor Leslie Wittenburg, Education Program Contractor Elanor Dean, Education Program Contractor Toni Purnell, Education Program Contractor Amanda Crouch, Education Program Contractor 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 Joey Park, Legislative Program Coordinator

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

COLUMNISTS/CONTRIBUTORS Ralph Winingham Henry Chappell Lorie Woodward Cantu Dale Rollins, Ph. D. Billy Higginbotham, Ph. D. Borderlands Research Institute for Natural Resource Management, Sul Ross State University-Alpine Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute, Texas A&M University-Kingsville Texas Wildlife is published monthly by Texas Wildlife Association, 2800 NE Loop 410, Suite 105, San Antonio, Texas 78218. E-mail address: twa@texas-wildlife.org 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 express written permission from the publisher. Copyrighted 2012 Texas Wildlife Association. Views expressed by contributors are not necessarily those of the Texas Wildlife Association. Similarities between the name Texas Wildlife Association and those of advertisers or state agencies are coincidental, and do not indicate mutual affiliation, unless clearly noted. Members who move should send new address and current membership classification to headquarters. TWA reserves the right to refuse advertising.

For advertising information, contact David Brimager at (800) 839-9453 2800 NE Loop 410, Suite 105, San Antonio, TX 78218 or e-mail dbrimager@texas-wildlife.org.



January 2013


Mission Impacts


Gentlemen, I would like to take a moment to also express what an awesome time Travis and I had this weekend. I am always amazed at the people we meet. It seems that over all the years I have been fortunate enough to participate in these youth hunts, I learn new things from all of the people we meet, whether they be experienced seasoned veterans of the hunting world or first-timers. I will have to say that this was one of the most enjoyable hunts I have attended. All you Huntmasters were so knowledgeable and helpful, and all you hunters were so friendly and enjoyable. It brings me great comfort and relief to know that in the world we live in, there are still honest and caring people who are willing to give of themselves and their time to give to others, while asking for nothing in return. Thanks, and God Bless all of you. John Davenport San Antonio

Volume 28 H Number 9 H 2013

8 The Quest for Quail by eileen mattei

42 Wildlife Valuations by Mary O. Parker

48 Zoonotic Diseases by mary o. parker

Editor’s Note: Mr. Davenport’s nice note to Texas Youth Hunting Program (TYHP) Huntmaster Rick Laden and the TYHP volunteers and participants who assisted and enjoyed a TYHP hunt in mid-November was well received following a successful weekend. The Texas Youth Hunting Program is a special program with very special impacts! For more information, go to www.texasyouthhunting.com Ms. Meuth, Thank you so very much for the amazing “Let’s Talk Turkey” presentation today! I have heard only the best feedback from my team members, and the students all seemed to enjoy it too! Again, we were all very excited to see the information was provided at the Kindergarten level, easily understandable and completely relevant. The turkey calls were great fun to make, and my students were quite the professional turkey callers by the day’s end. Without a doubt, we would welcome you back any time you have an opening in your schedule – we appreciated your time and efforts today and were so happy to have you at Gleason!


Issues and A dvocacy Texas Wildlife Association Identifies Legislative Priorities by Gary Joiner


hunting heritage


Conservat io n legacy

Texas Big Game Awards

The Importance of Partners by Koy Coffer


Members in actio n by Kendra Roller

26 Make it Light by Ralph Winingham

30 Desert Dogs by Henry Chappell

Thanks again! Karen Brown Kindergarten ESL Teacher Gleason Elementary, Houston Cypress-Fairbanks I.S.D.

34 Managing Your Pond in 2013 by Dr. Billy Higginbotham

Editor’s Note: The “Let’s Talk Turkey” presentation is one of the popular offerings of TWA’s Conservation Legacy Wildlife by Design Outreach Program. TWA Education Program Contractor Mary Pearl Meuth (left, in photo, with Karen Brown) provided the presentation on Nov. 5 to 160 Kindergarten students in four sessions at the elementary school. For more information about Wildlife by Design, Distance Learning, and Discovery Trunks, contact Kassi Scheffer at kscheffer@texas-wildlife.org.

38 Evaluation of Survey Techniques for Desert Mule Deer in the Trans-Pecos Region of Texas by Justin Hoffman


Coming next month

On the Cover

The February issue leads off with a species profile on pheasants and pheasant management in Texas. Also featured is Steve Nelle’s article When Art and Science Aren’t Enough, an examination of the need for a deep-seated land ethic as the cornerstone for truly successful land and wildlife management. And, Russell Graves discusses the outcomes of conservation plans involving the Lesser Prairie-Chicken. Plus, much more.

The battle to keep quail on the land is being fought across millions of acres. At stake are family traditions of hunting bobwhites and the pleasures of hearing bobwhite calls and seeing coveys rise. Sustaining and expanding bobwhites' survival in Texas is a challenge that many have accepted. Read about the status of bobwhites and conservation efforts to sustain them in Eileen Mattei’s article on page 8. (Photo by Larry Ditto)

jANuAry 2013

The Quest for Quail




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 www.tpwd.state.tx.us.



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:// holisticmanagement.org/category/ featured-blog-posts/.

February 7-24 San Antonio Livestock Exposition, San Antonio. For more information, visit www.sarodeo.com.

January 17 Wildlife for Lunch Webinar, Wildlife Tax Valuations presented by Linda Campbell. For more information, contact Courtney Brittain at cbrittain@texas-wildlife.org. January 25 Natural Resources and Environmental Literacy Plan Summit, San Antonio. For information, contact Koy Coffer at kcoffer@texas-wildlife.org. January 27 “Kids Gone Wild!” at the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo, Fort Worth. To volunteer, contact Helen Holdsworth at hholdsworth@texas-wildlife.org.

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:// holisticmanagement.org/category/ featured-blog-posts/. February 15 Texas Big Game Awards entry deadline. For more information, visit www.TexasBigGame Awards.org. February 19-20 TWA Boots on the Ground Legislative Event, Texas State Capitol, Austin. For more information, contact Joey Park at joeypark@austin.rr.com. February 21 Wildlife for Lunch Webinar, Wildlife Plants presented by Ricky Linex. For more information, contact Courtney Brittain at cbrittain@texas-wildlife.org. 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 hholdsworth@texas-wildlife.org.

march March 15 Deadline to apply for Texas Brigades Wildlife Education and Leadership Development program. For information, contact Kassi Scheffer at kscheffer@texas-wildilfe.org. March 18-22 Star of Texas Rodeo, Austin. TWA is looking for volunteers to assist with presentations for the school tour groups visiting the Star of Texas Rodeo. Contact Helen Holdsworth at hholdsworth@texas-wildilfe.org for more information. March 21 Wildlife for Lunch Webinar, Quail Management presented by Dale Rollins, Ph.D. For more information, contact Courtney Brittain at cbrittain@ texas-wildlife.org.

April april 6 The Harvey Weil Sportsman Conservationist Award Dinner, Welder Wildlife Foundation Refuge, Sinton, Texas. Honorees are Ellen and Buddy Temple, Conservationists of the Year, and Dr. Fred Bryant, Professional Conservationist of the Year. Reservations must be made in advance. For more information please call (361) 882-8672, email lysa@rotarycc.com, or visit www.rotarycc.com/harvey-weilbanquet/. april 18 Wildlife for Lunch Webinar, Waterfowl Management presented by Kevin Kraai. For more information, contact Courtney Brittain at cbrittain@texas-wildlife.org. april 18-19 Texas Deer Study Group, Glen Rose. For information, contact Helen Holdsworth at hholdsworth@texas-wildilfe.org. april 19-21 Women of the Land Workshop, Cedar Mountain Lodge, Scurry. For information, contact Helen Holdsworth at hholdsworth@texas-wildilfe.org.


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January 2013

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

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January 2013

Articl e by Eil een Matt ei


obwhite coveys once scurried down the caliche road and ducked into bunchgrass as I approached. I don’t see or hear bobwhites anymore. The grass forms a tall, tangled mat now, and a mesquite, hackberry and tepeguaje canopy shades the one-time cotton field. The quail habitat is gone and so are the quail, a scenario repeated frequently across Texas. Yet, when all the factors are right, bobwhites are reproducing machines, hatching large clutches repeatedly, resulting in two to seven surviving juveniles per adult bobwhite by fall. Unfortunately, “Bobwhite survival is naturally low,” said Fidel Hernandez, a quail research professor at Texas A&M UniversityKingsville and Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute. Only about 20 percent of the birds alive in January of one year will still be alive, 12 months later. “Managers can best help bobwhite by providing suitable habitat and plenty of it,” said Dr. Hernandez. Large expanses of suitable

habitat are the ultimate determinant of the presence and dispersal of bobwhite quail. Bobwhite abundance, on the other hand, is ultimately determined by rainfall. Texas’ declining bobwhite population is a direct result of fragmentation of habitat and longterm drought. Over the last 50 years, changes in land use, such as permanent barriers like highways and housing or temporary ones

photos by l arry dit to

like dense woods and agricultural practices, have turned much quail habitat into parking lots and isolated wildlife islands. The lack of consistent spring rains for the past 25 years has paralleled the decline of the game birds. Habitat

Ideal quail habitat looks like a crazy-quilt, combining bare ground, forbs, perennial grasses, low woody plants and trees. In the



t h e q u est f o r q u ail

mix are native bluestems, ragweed, croton, partridge pea and similar legumes, hardseeded barnyard grass and plains bristlegrass, winter greens, lotebush, spiny hackberry, and mesquite. Bobwhites glean seeds from open ground. Chicks grow fat on insects found on the seed-producing forbs whose low canopy provides brood cover. Basketball-sized clumps of native grasses supply nesting cover. Short vegetation offers coveys overnight roosts. Taller woody plants shield the birds from predators and weather extremes, while providing loafing areas for digesting their crop contents. From trees and fence posts, male quail seek mates. Although bobwhites do not need surface water, they will take advantage of ponds and tanks. When it comes to habitat, size matters. The nation’s last two great bobwhite habitats



are in South Texas and the Rolling Plains. South Texas has immense contiguous properties that include pastures of 6,000 to 8,000 acres, covering millions of acres across Kenedy, Brooks, Jim Wells, and Kleberg counties. The Rolling Plains contain a more fragmented but still vast habitat. With all the differences between the two

January 2013

regions, quail populations are dependent on good habitat and rainfall. How much land does it take to have a viable habitat? “It’s a tough question,” Hernandez said, offering ballpark answers, “Maybe 1,600 acres or 5,000 acres. Or, maybe 500 acres, if adjoining land is quality quail habitat, also.” Dr. Dale Rollins, Professor and Texas AgriLife Extension Wildlife Specialist and Director of the Rolling Plains Quail Research Ranch, developed the tongue-in-cheek Softball Habitat Evaluation Technique to field test good habitat. When you throw a softball, ideally there should be 25 to 30 clumps of bunchgrasses within that 45 to 60 feet radius, Rollins explained. The ball should roll when it hits the ground to indicate open ground for bobwhite travel. His method works out to approximately

t h e q u est f o r q u ail

The more diverse the habitat, the better it is for bobs, reducing their travel to shelter or food. Nevertheless, bobwhites adapt to terrain. 300 nesting clumps or one every tenth step. (Although, in rainier years, the more bunchgrass there is, the higher the bobwhite reproduction.) “Without cover, food, and interspersion (of different plant types), it’s three strikes, and you’re out of bobwhite habitat,” said Dr. Rollins. The Rolling Plains is not South Texas, in many ways. For one thing, bobwhites flush and fly as much as 300 feet to reach cover in the Rolling Plains. In the southern habitat, their flights average only 130 feet. The proportions of brush, ground and native grasses, and the plants themselves, vary with the terrain. While no perfect proportions exist, experts recommend at least onequarter of the habitat be open so bobwhite can forage. In addition, in “Beef, Brush, and Bobwhites,” Hernandez and his co-authors recommend 15 to 25 percent brush cover. While hunters prefer less brush cover, land with more brush for quail can be grazed more heavily. The more diverse the habitat, the better it is for bobs, reducing their travel to shelter or food. Nevertheless, bobwhites adapt to terrain. They can thrive even when one element of bunchgrass, forbs or woody vegetation is weak, a concept that biologist Fred Guthery labeled slack. He also popularized the idea of useable space for bobwhite management: quality habitat that meets the needs of quail year round. A protective, less intrusive approach to habitat management can work in arid regions to develop stands of perennial grasses, while more aggressive

methods are common in wetter regions. Although grazing helps keep open ground where there’s abundant rainfall, drier rangeland risks having too much bare ground with insufficient nesting cover due to overgrazing. The first steps in achieving a sustainable balance require knowing the land and knowing the plants used by quail and other wildlife for food and shelter. More than ever, best management practices for quail habitat focus on making more space bobwhite-useable by means of the traditional ax, plow, cow, and fire. Depending on the season, both prescribed burning and disking keep vegetation from getting too dense and, more importantly, trigger a succession of different forbs and plants, such as sunflower and ragweed, plants whose value is in their bug population, the sole diet of chicks in their first weeks. Alternating grassy strips with narrower strips of woody plants



mesquite mottes. “If it ever rains again, or mottes have been linked to more abundant bobwhites in productive The Quail-Tech Alliance we’re ready to plant native grasses,” he rangeland in rainy years. The same at Texas Tech University said, aiming for a habitat that supports cattle, quail and other wildlife. productivity has not been proven in works with 28 anchor Landowners seeking quail habitat semi-arid regions, where root plowing management advice have several opcan reduce the diversity of good ranches that control tions. Last summer, the Quail Coaligrasses. Around Steve Bentsen’s ranch in Starr County, his neighbors disc 1.7 million acres across tion, South Texas chapter, launched a habitat consulting program that pays a strips to encourage growth of forbs 38 counties in the quail habitat expert to spend a half day for seed production or plant strips Rolling Plains. on site with the landowner. Discusthat might be quail friendly. They do sions of the ranch’s goals and its strong some half-cutting of trees in open areas to provide refuge from predators and encourage increased points and shortcomings as useable quail habitat are followed by utilization of those areas. Bentsen himself was planting a mix of written reports of the findings and recommendations. The Quail-Tech Alliance at Texas Tech University works with 28 native grasses and forbs. David and Eline Haunschild have plowed up the dense brush on their Kleberg County land, leaving some anchor ranches that control 1.7 million acres across 38 counties



January 2013

t h e q u est f o r q u ail

in the Rolling Plains. Research studies aim to merge the needs of ranches with habitats that sustain bobwhite and blue quail populations. The Wildlife Habitat Foundation’s Habitat Action Team likewise matches a biologist with a landowner. Together, they determine the optimum bobwhite restoration and management practices, such as deferred grazing and prescribed burning. In the long run, the program hopes to connect suitable tracts of south central Texas habitat. The University of North Texas is working with landowners, particularly in Clay County, to develop a quail corridor across 170,000 acres.


Texas has approximately 100,000 quail hunters seeking bobwhites, which have not been that easy to find. “What we have right now are grandmothers trying to bring back the species and working overtime,” Dr. Rollins said in September. The devastating drought of 2011 led to a no-chick crop in the Rolling Plains. But one average rainfall year like 2012, or even two good years, cannot restore a population. “We’re already hearing ranches will be curtailing hunting this year,” he continued. “The anchor ranches are very serious about the quail population and the overall dyTrying to Help namics.” With factors like rainfall beDuring a drought year, sucyond human control, people cessful nesting rates drop by hanker to take action to help more than 50 percent in South bobwhites. Water tanks and Texas. On top of that, chick surfeeders concentrate bobwhites, vival is significantly decreased, but they don’t increase their because without rain, the innumbers. Supplemental feed- sects essential for the chicks’ ing, food plots, and increased diet fail to appear. Those facedge of habitat have not made a tors reduce the replacement difference in overwinter surviv- population, as successive dry al, even if supplemental feed- years postpone the anticipated ing has resulted in more nest- rebound to abundance. Fewer coveys reDuring a drought sult in fewer birds taken. Hunters who year, successful raise fewer than two nesting rates coveys an hour often the quail drop by more than determine are not worth hunt50 percent ing. This self-regulation allows a low in South Texas. population to wait ing attempts. Predator control for the next breeding season. doesn’t change the year-to-year In fact, numerous quail huntbobwhite survival numbers or ers, landowners and leaseholdthe covey size and density in the ers alike, decided to sit out the fall, either. In normal years, the current season. John Kelsey, population increases without who founded the Quail Assopredator control. In drought ciates program, decided not to years, coyotes, badgers, rats, hunt quail this season in hopes and snakes are hunting reduced that reducing the harvest of the numbers of bobwhites. While surviving bobs will help maxiimplementing these sometimes mize the number of breeders in costly tactics make landowners spring 2013. He is not alone in feel better, the practices haven’t foregoing the hunt. “It’s amazreversed the decline in quail ing. People are continuing to populations. pay their leases (which range



t h e q u est f o r q u ail

from $2 to $20 per acre), but they are not hunting.” Another longtime hunter in Kleberg County agreed with Kelsey. “I plan to hold on, not hunting, and letting it build back up,” he said. Although he pays over $8,000 to hunt birds on his lease, he improves the land himself, rather than relying on the landowner. “I spend a lot of energy, time and money on good quail habitat. I’m disking all I can, waiting for rain. It’s too dry to burn.” In the meantime, he’s hunting farm-raised quail. After the first hard freeze has knocked back the vegetation, Danny Pierce guides quail hunts east of Amarillo. “I’ve gone to

After the first hard freeze has knocked back the vegetation, Danny Pierce guides quail hunts east of Amarillo. “I’ve gone to where I’m leasing ground for grazing in order to control the best habitat, and it’s worked pretty well.” where I’m leasing ground for grazing in order to control the best habitat, and it’s worked pretty well,” he said. “Nowadays, if you can get eight or nine coveys up and take home seven or eight birds, those are good numbers. A lot of guys hunt just to run their dogs and be out here. If we don’t like what we’re seeing, then it’s time to go home.” Or to shoot skeet or feral hogs. While some ranches keep their own records of the number of coveys flushed and hours hunted, citizen scientists have found more direct ways to add to the database of quail ecology. In 2001, Kelsey started the Quail Associates Program to collect data about quail on the hunterlevel for CKWRI researchers and to raise research funds. “We’ve captured a lot of information and have documented the



history of quail populations on very large ranches scattered over many counties,” he said. Hunters on over 50 ranches, along with non-landowners, have participated by submitting data on quail weight and sex, along with wings of their harvested birds, to the Richard M. Kleberg Jr. Center for Quail Research. From the wing plumage,

January 2013

researchers can determine the bird’s age. According to the 10-year summary of the Quail Associates program, the largest and most dynamic population variable by far for bobwhites in South Texas is annual age ratios, which indicate annual productivity. Depending on the year, the harvest has ranged from less than one juvenile per

adult to more than eight juveniles per adult. And what made the difference? “Annual bobwhite abundance tracks rainfall in a hand and glove manner,” says the report. The Quail Research Center determined that 93 percent of annual production variability, in South Texas, at least, is attributable to April to August rainfall.

The wings are used not only to age the birds but to build a DNA base. Other quail hunters have submitted harvested birds for parasite and crop-content studies. The battle to keep quail on the land is being fought across millions of acres. At stake are family traditions of hunting bobwhites and the pleasures of hearing bobwhite calls

and seeing coveys rise. Sustaining and expanding bobwhites survival in Texas is a challenge that many have accepted. “Habitat is the only hope,” repeated Dr. Hernandez. And, of course, rain.



issues and Advocacy


Texas Wildlife Association Identifies Legislative Priorities Article by gary joiner

The Texas Wildlife Association has identified a core list of policy issues as Legislative Priorities for the 83rd Legislature. The TWA Legislative Priorities were approved by the TWA Executive Committee on Nov. 14, 2012. The 140-day legislative regular session begins on Jan. 8. TWA is a trusted source of information and influence in Austin, and our organization is committed that its advocacy effectiveness continues in 2013.

Eminent Domain

Several bills and constitutional amendments have been part of our TWA eminent domain reform platform for many years. We have made great strides in assuring the laws of this state protect private property owners from government intrusion and unfair takings. We will continue to monitor these efforts to ensure that nothing occurs to amend or lessen the reform accomplishments and protections that have been achieved, and if additional opportunities become available to further strengthen these laws, TWA will support passage and ensure that our member’s needs are addressed in the legislative effort.

Funding for Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and Fund 9 appropriations

We have watched in recent sessions as the department’s budget has been cut due to statewide budget shortfalls. Programs and personnel have been reduced, even though hunting and fishing license sales have provided more revenue than has been appropriated. Fund estimates are as high as $75 million in unappropriated revenue from these funds. There will be efforts to reduce these fund balances and restrict the Legislature from certifying the budget with these unexpended balances. TWA will support these efforts and ensure that the money paid by sportsmen and sportswomen are available to TPWD for the programs and personnel in which the funds are intended.


Water issues continue to be a dominant area of Texas policy discussion. Recent droughts have left many parts of this state in a critical situation. Finding a source of revenue to fund the State Water Plan will be prominent in many of the water discussions this session. There may also be additional issues pertaining to the State Water Plan, as well as possible changes to issues related to groundwater management and groundwater conservation district rules. TWA will evaluate each of these proposals to ensure that our member’s interests are addressed and protected. TWA will also ensure that there is nothing done that will reverse or weaken the positive changes made in SB 332 last session (clarified that



January 2013

landowners own the groundwater below their land as real property). Surface water management will also be an issue, as lakes continue to dry up. Agriculture water rights have been altered in recent years to protect surface water levels in certain parts of the state.

Deer and Wildlife Issues

Deer management and deer breeder issues continue to be at the forefront of many discussions throughout the hunting community. We will continue to advocate for TWA positions on Hunting Heritage and fair and safe management of our state’s wildlife resources. TWA will promote its “Public Values of Wildlife on Private Lands” statement as a model for the Legislature and decision makers to guide any changes that may occur. This issue might also involve animal welfare protection efforts by the antihunting and HSUS groups. TWA will ensure that no changes are made that would negatively affect hunting or hunting rights for the people of this state. In summary, each legislative session features thousands of filed bills. Most of these bills will not pass. It is the job of TWA professional staff, in consultation with TWA volunteer leaders and advisory committees, to monitor and evaluate each of these bills to determine what impact the proposed legislation might have on the members of TWA. There will be a variety of bills whose subject matter will not fit into any of the subjects listed above. Land stewardship, landowner liability, rural development, unmarked burials, prescribed burns or just general property rights issues are always a frequent subject matter for the Legislature every time it convenes. TWA will work with its allied partners and friends to address any statutory or regulatory changes that are proposed in the 83rd Legislature. TWA has been part of several interim hearings and studies that will likely result in proposed legislation. 83rd Legislature At A Glance

Texas Senate: 31 members (19 Republicans, 12 Democrats) Texas House of Representatives: 150 members (95 Republicans, 55 Democrats) (Note: Bill filing began on Nov. 12, 2012)

Great Resources For You

TWA Advocacy Center - www.capwiz.com/texas-wildlife/home/

You can make a big difference in just five minutes. That's all it takes to learn the issues and send an email or print and mail a letter to your elected officials or to local media contacts. Join our Action Network, and we'll send you important updates regarding our issues and how you can speak out on in a timely manner.

Texas Legislature Online - www.capitol.state.tx.us

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


Texas Big Game Awards 2012-2013 Hunting Season Off to a Good Start


unters across much of the state have taken advantage of the good habitat conditions during the spring and summer and connected with some quality animals during the early part of the 2012-2013 hunting season. As you can see, we have already received some excellent pronghorn and white-tailed deer entries, and the mule deer are starting to make their way in, too. You can stay up to date with the latest TBGA news by following us on Facebook or browsing through field photos on our website. One especially encouraging trend so far has been the early arrival of several Youth and First Harvest entry forms. These nonscored categories are very important to the program, because they recognize first-time and youth hunters for accomplishments early in their hunting careers, giving them a positive first experience and an opportunity to interact with other hunters in their area. Receiving recognition for a first deer at a TBGA Sportsman’s Celebration is a great way to celebrate the accomplishment of a new hunter and educate them on the importance of hunting in Texas. You can download a Youth/First Harvest entry form on the website at TexasBigGameAwards.org.

Robert Buker Jr. with a giant early season non-typical from the King Ranch.



January 2013

Randall Ross with a great Panhandle pronghorn.



Ariel Burmeister took her first buck at the Muse WMA in October.

Region 6 hunter Drew Middlebrook proudly displays his great youth division buck.

Allan Childs with a great mule deer taken in Gaines County.

Whitney Smith and her mom Jerri both took their first deer in October at the RRR Ranch in Mills County.

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corporate partners program

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TWA has partnered with these quality companies to offer our members quality products and/or discounts, with a portion of the proceeds to support TWA’s mission efforts!

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TWA members receive 5 percent off any new Exmark mower. TWA receives 2 percent of each member’s purchase to support its mission. All purchases must be made through a Texas dealer, which can be found at www.exmark.com. A complete list of conditions and exclusions available by visiting www.exmark.com/partners.

willie’s t’s embroidery

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

Texas Wildlife Association texas-wildlife.org

For information on how to become a TWA Corporate Partner, contact David Brimager at (800) 839-9453 or dbrimager@texas-wildlife.org. ** Some conditions and exclusions may apply to these partnerships. ** offers valid through 01/31/13



January 2013

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


The Importance of Partners article and photos by koy coffer

Nongovernmental Offices Junction, one of the students spoke about his (NGO’s), and individuals personal experience going through a fire at who share their knowledge his ranch and how he now understands the and skills with the students. importance of proper land management. – Interaction between the Joyce Moore, Texas Parks and Wildlife Destudents, the volunteers, partment, Harper and the L.A.N.D.S. program When a community invests in a program benefits the Texas we know like L.A.N.D.S., they are investing not only now and the Texas of the in their students, but ultimately in the future. Youths who have a whole community, as well. From their initial better understanding of our investment, they will gain a partnership natural resources become amongst community leaders, officials, knowledgeable landowners Joyce Moore teaches a class on Plant ID at Llano Springs Ranch near Junction. volunteers, agencies, educators, and students and conservation leaders of that might never develop, otherwise. As an tomorrow. That is a win-win agency leader, programs like L.A.N.D.S. he other day, someone asked me the for all parties involved. –Ricky Linex, Natural Resources help us reach an audience that we might not definition of partner, so I looked normally have access to. Also, it has helped it up. A partner is one that is united or Conservation Service, Weatherford me identify community leaders and partners associated with another in an activity or L.A.N.D.S. strengthens our community that I can reach out to, when needed, to assist a sphere of common interest. Why would that be important to the Texas Wildlife by educating and inspiring our youth about private landowners. –Veronica O’Donnell, natural resources, conservation, and land Natural Resources Conservation Service, Association (TWA)? Our education programs called “Learn- stewardship. Natural Resource professionals Caldwell ing Across New Dimensions in Science” work together with TWA staff members to To find out more about L.A.N.D.S. or (L.A.N.D.S.) cover many topics and are identify and train volunteers, as well as plan, how to become a partner, contact Koy found in classrooms K-12, as well as at implement, and evaluate the L.A.N.D.S. Coffer, TWA Education Program Specialist, adult workshops across Texas. Many of the program in our community. –Larry Pierce, at kcoffer@texas-wildlife.org. topics concentrate on educating Texans Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, about wildlife, natural resources, conser- Brenham vation (local, state, and national), and the Through programs like importance of being a good land steward. Through the help of partners who strive to L.A.N.D.S., communities become reach many of the same goals, we are able closer because they share a comto reach more people (students and adults) mon bond. Students learn the and share more information, which is es- importance of natural resources and how we are all connected to sential for the future of Texas. As many people are well aware, an edu- the land. They learn about wildLinex teaches students the importance of land management cational program is only as good as its lead- life, habitat, and why it is so im- Ricky at Cedar Mountain Lodge in Scurry. ers and volunteers. To find out first hand if portant to be a good L.A.N.D.S. is truly helping make a differ- land steward and manence within a community, we asked several ager. Volunteers help promote that message of our partners to give us their thoughts: by assisting at events, I see the value of L.A.N.D.S. as a therefore, students see pathway to help expose students to outdoor adults “walking the experiences and learning opportunities. talk.” Recently at one These opportunities involved dedicated of the L.A.N.D.S. Field Brenham volunteers, including Larry Pierce and Veronica O’Donnell, help make learning fun at Kerr Creek Farm in Burton. volunteers from Natural Resource Agencies, Investigation Days in




January 2013

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


Articles by kendra roller

TWA Co-Hosts Event with Houston Safari Club


TWA CEO Gary Joiner (left) congratulates TWA Members Deb and Ralph Cunningham of Houston, recipients of the William L. Searle Lifetime Achievement Award from the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation.

Texas Wildlife Available to TWA Members in a Digital Format! TWA members may choose between receiving a printed copy of the monthly publication at their mailing address or receiving a digital page-turn version of the publication on a website for their retrieval. Please email TWA at twa@texas-wildlife.org if you would like to choose the option of the digital publication. The December 2012 issue of Texas Wildlife was the first issue distributed to TWA members who have opted for the digital delivery of the magazine.



January 2013

he Texas Wildlife Association was honored to co-host a Nov. 7 meeting and reception of the Houston Safari Club in Houston. The focus and topic of the meeting was Texas Hunting Ranches: Ownership to Stewardship. Several TWA members attended the reception and meeting, and TWA leaders participated in the panel discussion that addressed the current landscape of hunting ranch ownership in Texas. The panel included Chris Susilovich, Executive Director of Houston Safari Club; Gary Joiner, CEO of Texas Wildlife Association; TWA Director Charles M. Davidson of Republic Ranches; Mike Tippit of Capital Farm Credit; Dr. Charles Gilliland of Texas A&M University Real Estate Center; and Dr. Randy DeYoung and Tim Fullbright of Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute. Nearly 150 people attended the event at the Houston Racquet Club. The evening included a special presentation by the Board of Trustees of the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation. The U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation awarded TWA Members Deb and Ralph Cunningham of Houston the William L. Searle Lifetime Achievement Award. The award was established in 2006 and is bestowed upon individuals who display exceptional leadership in the protection and advancement of outdoor sports traditions.

New Membership High for TWA TWA concluded November 2012 with 6,055 members, an alltime high for the organization! December 2012 membership numbers are looking to be even more impressive. We appreciate all of the support our current members give the organization by recruiting new members, telling your friends and neighbors about the good work of TWA, and encouraging our past due members to renew their membership. Spreading TWA’s message through its current members is the best way to bring new members to our organization. In 2013, member recruiting efforts will be rewarded and recognized as part of a TWA Membership Drive. More details are in this issue of the magazine and are also available on the front page of our website in the News section. If you would like more information, please contact Kendra Roller at kroller@texas-wildlife.org.

TWA 2013


RECRUIT YOUR FRIENDS AND NEIGHBORS TO JOIN TWA IN 2013! TWA’s Membership Drive Begins on Jan. 1 and Ends on June 28.

Results of the Membership Drive contest will be announced on July 13 during the Grand Auction at TWA’s WildLIfe 2013 convention in San Antonio. Recruiter Prizes: The member who recruits the highest number of new members will receive a full-day deep sea fishing trip for two people out of Port Aransas on a 47-foot Viking and receive a YETI cooler. This fishing trip is being donated by Jason Ardoin of Southern Technical Control. The member who recruits the most membership dollars will receive a three-day goose and duck hunt for two hunters in Eastern Alberta, Canada, with Great White Holdings. Thank you to our donors Lloyd McMahon & Jon McMahon of Great White Holdings. *Travel not included with these donations.

New Member Prizes: TWA will reward two new members who join Jan. 1 – June 28. All new members will be entered into a drawing, and two winners will be announced on July 13 at the Grand Auction during WildLife 2013 in San Antonio. One member will receive two half-day bay fishing trips out of Corpus Christi for four people, available July 2013 – June 2014. Thank you to our donor Southern Technical Control. A second new member will receive one Remington Model 700 BDL .270 rifle. Thank you to Remington for this donation.

Thank you to our donors Southern Technical Control, Great White Holdings, and Remington!

How To Participate: New members can join online or mail/fax their membership application or call the TWA office directly to join. New members MUST mention the name of their sponsor (current TWA member) at the time they join or include the sponsor name on their membership application. If the sponsor is not mentioned or listed, the recruiter will not receive credit for the new member for purposes of the TWA Membership Drive contest. To find printable membership forms, visit the News section on the front page of our website www.texas-wildlife.org. If you have questions, please contact Kendra Roller at kroller@texas-wildlife.org.


G u n s & S h oo t i n g

Make It Light Article and Photos by

ralph winingham

Although the Benelli Ultra Light semiautomatic 28 gauge is designed to reduce weight and recoil for youngsters and women, the shotgun worked well for the author during an afternoon hunt near Falls City.

While there may be a few professional weightlifters in the ranks of the dove and quail hunting crowd, most shotgun swingers try to avoid pumping iron as they engage in their outdoor pursuit. Holding a 7-8 pound shotgun for hours or having to lift it up to your shoulder a hundred times or more while tracking birds just doesn’t make the top 10 of pleasure factors for those of us with a few seasons under our belts. The solution for some seasoned veterans has been to set aside their heavy 12 gauge shotguns to try out some sub-gauge action



with lighter, quicker 20s or 28s. A couple of pounds of hardware may not seem like much at first, but many of us have found that a day of lugging around an 8-pound 12 gauge shotgun is a lot different than a hunt where we were toting a 5 or 6 pound sub-gauge smoke pole. Offering an even lighter option this past year, Benelli has introduced their new Ultra

January 2013

Light semiautomatic that is billed as the lightest semiautomatic on the market. The 12-gauge version tips the scales at a modest 6 pounds, while the 28-gauge weighs only 4.9 pounds. Featuring featherweight alloy receivers and shortened magazine tubes, the shotgun also sports a Crio System barrel and chokes that cut back on after-hunting cleaning duties. Science Note: The Benelli barrel is cryogenically treated by lowering its temperature to minus 300 degrees

G u n s & S h oo t i n g

A lightweight 28 gauge like this new Benelli Ultra Light semiautomatic, a couple of boxes of ammunition and a Mojo dove decoy can be the right combination for some quality time in the field for hunters interested in moving on from heavy hardware.

Fahrenheit, where gases become liquids and solids; ceramics become conductors of electricity; and steel is changed at a molecular level. This process relieves all of the stresses caused by hammer forging, and the surface of the bore takes on a more even-grained, slicker surface, offering less resistance to wads and shot charges, reducing foiling of the barrel and chokes. Back to the Review: To start a testing session with the new Benelli 28 semiautomatics — they list for $1,759.99 and can be hard to find in the San Antonio area — a visit to Dury’s Gun Shop was the first step on a path that led to some dove hunting and clay-target busting last October. At first glance, the Ultra Light appears to be a miniature version of many of the popular models of semiautomatics on the market. The Benelli’s light weight is very noticeable when put it into your shoulder for practice swings and caused a slight concern about how the shotgun would perform in the field. As veteran shotgunners know, a light firearm can cause a shooter to whip through targets, rather than smoothly glide through birds and clays, resulting in lost or unbroken targets. That concern was quickly dispelled on the first field test during a pleasant afternoon dove hunt near Falls City, where good numbers of mourning doves offered some fine wingshooting action. Dr. Catherine Cook of San Antonio,

Putting the Benelli Ultra Light semiautomatic 28 gauge to good use, Dr. Catherine Cook of San Antonio tests her shooting skills against some mourning doves circling a water tank near Falls City.

One more downed dove goes into Dr. Catherine Cook's bird pouch during a hunting session with a Benelli Ultra Light 28 gauge semiautomatic near Falls City.



G u n s & S h oo t i n g

who volunteered to help put the Benelli through its paces, found that while very lightweight, the semiautomatic was very well-balanced and nearly effortless to move through targets. It should be noted that Cook is 5 feet, 2 inches tall and weighs about 110 pounds soaking wet, so like many women and youngsters, she is more sensitive to recoil than your average male shooter. “This is probably the most fun that I have had shooting birds in a long time,’’ she said after the hunt. “I really like the way the Benelli handles, and it seems to really smack those doves.’’ The Ultra Light also provided some entertaining dove action for yours truly and was a good fit even for my 5-foot, 10-inch, 215-pound frame. The session was a good example of how one nicely proportioned shotgun can offer quality shooting time for both small and larger members of the shooting crowd. Similar results were obtained after a session of sporting clays at the National Shooting Complex in western Bexar County, where a variety of clays set for a 12-gauge competition were handled with effectiveness by the smaller 28-gauge loads. Those two sessions with birds and clays led to a trip to the patterning range, where the cryogenically treated chokes – also advertised as producing tighter patterns – were used to put some pellets on paper. For the test, Winchester AA Super Sport Sporting Clays loads of threequarters of an ounce of No. 7.5 shot

Very effective patterns were produced when the Benelli Ultra Light 28 gauge semiautomatic was taken to the patterning range.



The result of some fine wingshooting with a fine firearm is examined by Dr. Catherine Cook of San Antonio during an afternoon dove hunt with the Benelli Ultra Light 28 gauge semiautomatic near Falls City.

Good handling and target breaking results were obtained by Dr. Catherine Cook of San Antonio with the Benelli Ultra Light 28 gauge semiautomatic at the National Shooting Complex in western Bexar County.

January 2013

were fired with both the improved cylinder and modified chokes. Both chokes performed beyond expectations. While each choke produced an average of 233 hits in a 30-inch circle at 30 yards down range (a three-quarter ounce load contains about 270 pellets), with the improved cylinder choke pattern as the most uniform. There were only four 3-inch holes in the pattern, mostly in the outer edge of the circle, with the tighter modified choke, and just two 3-inch holes with the improved cylinder choke. The results were some of the best, most uniform patterns seen after many years of putting pellets on paper. The uniformity of both chokes lived up to the advertising and were testament to the hard-hitting results on both the dove field and on clay targets. It should be noted that 28-gauge shotguns are not known for recoil, which is one of the reasons many shooting instructors recommend a 28 for youngsters and women just entering the wide, wonderful world of shotguns, but even with its light weight, the Benelli was a pleasure to shoot. Another concern with shooters using semiautomatics is the possibility of malfunctions or failure to properly feed ammunition, particularly when the shooter is using a variety of bird and clay loads. Once again, the Benelli lived up to its billing, and there were no malfunctions of any kind when putting the shotgun to the test in both the dove-shooting scenario and on the sporting clays course. In addition to the Winchester AA shells, the Benelli easily handled B&P three-quarter ounce No. 7.5 shot loads and the one-ounce Rio Game Loads in No. 7.5 shot. There was no difference in the recoil with any of the loads, which ranged in muzzle velocity from 1,200 to 1,300 feet per second. When the time came to clean the 28 – those duties were politely declined by the smaller shooter in our test group, by the way – disassembly, cleaning and reassembly were a breeze, compared to experiences with other semiautomatics on the market. In the case of the new Benelli, it truly does seem that light is right.


Spo r t i n g Do g s

Desert Dogs Article by

henry chappell

Photos by

russell graves

An English pointer works typical desert quail habitat. Versatile desert dogs may do as much herding of running birds as pointing.



January 2013

s po r t i n g d o g s

Small injuries, such as this pointer’s bloody tongue, are common in the desert. Carry water and basic first-aid items in the field. After a drink and a short rest, this tough pointer will be ready to go again.


ld Heidi could hold blue quail on vast creosote and tarbush flats. According to conventional wisdom, this is impossible. On flat, open ground, blues run like deer, peeling off left and right, until the dogs are left trailing a single bird that finally flushes out of shotgun range. But somehow, late in her career, my diminutive, careful German shorthair learned to ease up on coveys and pin them, usually after a bit of pointing and careful trailing. My much classier, big-running dogs were hopeless on blues, except in very specific situations in which proletarian sprinters sometimes hold. In general, though, if you want to hunt desert quail — blue or “scaled” quail, and Gambel’s quail — you’ll have to help your dog by choosing cover amenable to dog work. First, though, understand that no matter how well-conditioned your dogs are to bobwhite country, desert conditions will grind them down. On their first trip to southern Arizona, back in the mid-1990s, my two Rolling Plains-hardened German shorthairs could barely get in and out of the trailer by the third morning. Much of the best desert quail habitat is very rocky. Unless you’re a local who hunts every day, you’ll need to boot your dogs, preferably with hard, molded rubber boots.

Cordura boots work well, too, so long as you pad your dogs’ feet with layers of gauze and vet wrap or duct tape. Even then, expect your dogs to be tender-footed after a few days. Hard-hunting desert dogs may destroy two or three sets of boots in a week of hunting. Carry a quart of water per dog, even if you’re planning to hunt only a couple hours. Productive hunts have a way of stretching out, as coveys are busted up and singles are trailed. What starts as a short hunt can end up with dogs on point miles from the truck. Desert temperatures often reach 80 degrees, even in January. Hard-charging dogs will have to be called in and made to rest and drink, preferably in a patch of shade. Don’t wear your dogs down during the hottest, least productive time of day. Unless it’s cool and overcast, get started a little after sunrise. By late morning, dogs should be well-watered and resting in the shade, while you and your buddies relax, read, or nap. Save your dogs (and your own tired feet) for the last three hours before dark, when the birds are active and rattlesnakes generally aren’t. You can push that schedule if you have plenty of dog power. A couple hunters with four to six dogs between them should set a conservative pace if they’re planning to hunt more than two or three consecutive days.

In camp, keep water available at all times. If you get up during the night, check on the dogs, and offer them water. Several years ago, on a week-long hunt in the Little Florida Mountains, in Southern New Mexico, Brad Carter and I put our dogs in the trailer and turned in after a fine day of working Gambel’s quail in the brushy arroyos. The dogs all seemed well-watered. They’d been lying around the campfire after supper, occasionally rising to drink from the big water pan we kept close-by. During the wee hours, awakened by our own searing thirst, we crawled out of our sleeping bags and headed for the cooler. The dogs were whining. We let them out and they ran straight for the water pan and drank like they were out of their heads with thirst. They’d have been in bad shape by morning. Those beloved old friends passed on years ago, but I’m still bothered by the thought of them suffering in their trailer compartments, waiting for their bosses to help them. Experienced Texas bobwhite hunters know all about prickly things. Desert cacti are at another level. Carry a hemostat for plucking quills, and check the dogs often. In general, conserve your dogs’ energy for the most productive habitat and times. Yes, you may find quail up on the flats, and, if you’re very lucky, one of your dogs



s po r t i n g d o g s

may develop a knack for handling them. More likely, your rangy Texas horizon seeker will run himself into the ground in 20 minutes. Like all upland game birds, desert quail prefer edge habitat. Their basic needs are no different than those of bobwhites: space at ground level for feeding and easy movement, and overhead protection from avian predators. Veteran bobwhite hunters will look at those brushy desert arroyos and dry washes and instinctively know that they’re birdy. So call those thoroughbreds off the flats, and make them hunt the brushy edges. They’ll find the birds there far more agreeable. Sure, the blues will still run, but they’re more restricted and more likely to hold. In good habitat, I’ve found Gambel’s quail much like late season bobwhites: challenging, more likely to run than not, but almost sure to eventually hold for a careful dog. Don’t expect classic dog work. Desert quail call for adaptable dogs that know when to relocate. Expect a lot of creeping and pointing interspersed with nerve-jangling, high-speed trailing. If birds flush wild, don’t blame the dogs. Whoa them for a few seconds to get them under control, then send them after the singles. My old friend Web Parton, a long-time desert quail guide based on Oracle, Arizona, once got after me for blaming my Molly, a reliable old campaigner, for a wild flush. “We’re not hunting bobwhites,” he said. “In the desert, even bumped birds are birds we wouldn’t have seen without the dog’s help. Now we can A desert quail hunter tapes molded rubber boots on his pointer. Rocky desert terrain is murder on dogs’ feet. A hardgo after the singles.” going dog may wear out a couple sets of boots on a week-long hunt. Blue quail tend to hold relatively well on steep hillsides. If your dogs find stock tanks and guzzlers. Start around the gets birdy, give her plenty of time. If the trail a covey in an arroyo, try to position water source; then, work the dogs outward seems to diminish, encourage her to make yourself and your buddies so as to work in concentric circles. If birds are nearby, the another pass or two. Field trailers would be the birds uphill. It won’t work every time dogs will scent them right away. horrified, but a hardworking dog deserves — sometimes the birds will just disappear Hardcore desert quail hunters live for every chance to get her mouth on a bird. over the hilltop — but you’ll be helping nasty weather, when birds are more likely The best desert dogs aren’t the genteel your dogs. The best desert dogs “herd” as to hold and the sun isn’t beating down on shooting dogs long celebrated in art and much as they point. the dogs — a rarity early in the season. literature. They’ll do whatever it takes to Desert quail don’t require surface water There are fewer coveys late in the season, put the bird in the bag. In other words, — they get adequate moisture from their but those coveys can hold 20 or 30 birds, they’re hunting dogs in the truest sense. food ­­— but they won’t pass it up, and neither so persistence often pays off. Don’t be too should you. Concentrate on windmills, quick to give up on a covey. When your dog



January 2013

community bankers in support of twa

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 kroller@texas-wildlife.org. Photo by D. K. Langford


fish & fishing

Managing Your Pond in 2013

Getting Off on the Right Fin! Article and Photos by

Dr. Billy Higginbotham, Professor and Extension Wildlife and Fisheries Specialist, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service


here did 2012 go? While this past summer was typically hot and dry in most regions of the state, it was nothing like what we suffered through in 2011. And now, much of the state has been blessed with timely fall rains, and many ponds have been recharged to the point that fishing is back on the minds of Texas landowners. As we enter the season of management for Texas farm and ranch ponds and lakes, what is on the “to do” list for landowners to manage their water resources in order to “shorten the time between bites”? — My personal definition of “fisheries management.” Let’s take a look at the list of bite shortening tactics for 2013. Water Quality Lots of landowners took advantage of low to non-existent water conditions to renovate shallow or sediment-laden ponds by cleaning them out. Once these ponds refilled with runoff rains, some ponds became muddy with suspended clay particles. Should the landowner take steps to clear these ponds? It depends on goals for that pond. If it is a small pond (< one acre) and it is being managed for fish species that readily accept a pelleted ration (e.g., channel catfish),



clearing the pond is not necessary, as long as the fish are being fed that floating feed. However, if the pond is larger and/or intended to be managed for a sight-feeding predator species such as largemouth bass, the pond should be “cleared” to facilitate at least 18 inches of visibility to allow a food chain to develop and for the A key component of angler catch records is total length of all predators to efficiently largemouth bass caught. utilize their prey species. Gypsum and alum are the most common applied to pastures and hay meadows in chemical compounds used to clear muddy your county, then soils are potentially ponds. However, if the watershed has acidic, and it is worth the effort to have a been grazed down to the soil or erosion is water sample analyzed to determine if your clearly evident in the immediate watershed pond would also benefit from agricultural above the pond, chemical applications will limestone applications. Do-it-yourself test provide only limited benefits, as the first kits, lake consultants or your local county course of action is to restore watershed Extension agents are all options for having health, then clear the pond as required to a sample analyzed for ponds built in the meet fisheries goals. acidic soils of East Texas. For pond owners in East Texas, a January Fertilization to a pond is like a prescribed test of pH and total alkalinity (the buffering fire is to forest and rangeland. It provides capacity of the water) is a good place to start needed nutrients that cause a flush of managing water quality. If lime is routinely vegetative growth in a pond, in this case,

January 2013

fish & fishing

Total weights of largemouth bass (caught in the fall) helps the pond owner to assess fish condition.

phytoplankton, which is the base of the aquatic food chain. A properly executed annual fertility program can double or triple the pounds of fish that a pond can support. Never fertilize a muddy pond, a pond in need of agricultural limestone or a pond suffering from extensive aquatic weed growth. Do your homework first as to the benefits that fertilization provides; then, be prepared to make multiple applications between late March/early April and the end of September, if you want to maximize the benefits achieved. Oxygen depletions were rampant across the state in the summer of 2011, as ponds lost water and suffered from extremely high temperatures. For those ponds that chronically suffer from low oxygen leading to fish die-offs, the pond owner may want to consider adding a supplemental oxygenation system, if that helps to meet the objectives for that pond. Aquatic Vegetation According to numerous Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service surveys, aquatic “weeds” are the number one problem

Fertilization to a pond is like a prescribed fire is to forest and rangeland. that Texas pond owners face. So, when does an aquatic “plant” become a “weed?” Simply stated, when vegetative growth interferes with the uses of the pond for livestock watering, irrigation, recreation OR negatively impacts the fish populations present, you have a weed or weeds in your pond. Once control has been deemed necessary, the key is proper weed identification. Thousands of dollars are wasted annually on purchasing biological controls (e.g. triploid grass carp) or chemicals that had no chance of being effective because the weed was identified incorrectly. All “mosses” are not created equal when it comes to control, so be sure, and do not guess! There is no excuse for misidentification of aquatic weeds. The best source of help for the landowner is the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service Aquaplant website found at http://aquaplant.tamu.edu. Once you have identified the pesky plant, chemical,

biological and mechanical control options are provided. Other avenues available to identify aquatic weeds include emailing clear and closeup digital photos to a fisheries biologist and/or your county Extension agent or simply mailing your expert a fresh sample wrapped in a moist paper towel and sealed in a baggie. The keys to aquatic weed control are: 1) first and foremost, positive identification; 2) proper calculation of the application or stocking rate; and 3) strict adherence to all directions and restrictions provided on the product label (should a herbicide be selected for control). Angler Catch Records For those readers that are actively engaged in a deer management program, you already know the value of collecting harvest data. Collecting angler catch data and recording it is no less important for our finned wildlife species – and, it costs



fish & fishing

If I were King, I would decree that none of my loyal (or disloyal, for that matter) subjects could wet a hook in the private waters of Texas without collecting catch data. virtually nothing to collect these valuable data! A number of years ago, I was involved in a long-term study on a club lake where anglers kept meticulous catch records, in addition to a professional lake survey that was conducted annually. Over time, the size structures of various fish species based on the data collected via angler catch records and surveys provided the same results! This cemented my belief that well-kept catch records will accurately “paint a picture” of your fish populations over time and, therefore, chart the course for management. If I were King, I would decree that none of my loyal (or disloyal, for that matter) subjects could wet a hook in the private waters of Texas without collecting catch data. These data become the cornerstone to guide the management efforts designed to improve fish populations and, therefore, provide better fishing. Total numbers caught and total length of each individual fish (especially largemouth bass) are the minimum data that should be recorded. If bass management is the goal, then total lengths of the primary forage species (bluegill) should also be recorded. Furthermore, from September through December, total weights of all largemouth bass caught, whether kept or returned, should also be recorded.



Many Texas ponds were cleaned out and re-shaped during the 2011 drought.

Small well-managed impoundments provide quality angling opportunities for Texans.

All that is required is a Big Chief tablet, a yardstick, and an inexpensive digital scale. The course of your management can be charted, based on the information these data provide. Water quality, aquatic vegetation and angler catch records. Let’s call them the three legs that quality fishing in our one million plus private impoundments can be built upon. Are you ready to get your fish off on the right fin in 2013?

January 2013

A good starting point to find private water fisheries management information is your local county Extension agent’s office or the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service’s Wildlife and Fisheries website at


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B orderl ands news Borderlands Research Institute for Natural Resource Management

Evaluation of Survey Techniques for Desert Mule Deer in the Trans-Pecos Region of Texas article and photos by Justin Hoffman, Graduate Assistant, Borderlands Research Institute; Dr. Louis A. Harveson, Director, Borderlands Research Institute; and Shawn Gray, Pronghorn and Mule Deer Program Leader, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department


to applying the Managed Lands Deer Permit (MLDP) to mule deer. However, research and relative knowledge of how to manage this species is generally lacking in Texas, especially when compared to its counterpart, the white-tailed deer. Generally, one may think the same management implications prescribed for white-tailed deer can also be applied to mule deer. However, the results are often variable and unsuccessful. Therefore, the Borderlands Research Institute at Sul Ross State University, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), and West Texas landowners have initiated several studies focused on mule deer management. One challenge that was acknowledged was how to effectively estimate and monitor mule deer populations in Texas. Due to their limited distribution and lower densities, accurate population estimates are critical. Although TPWD annually surveys mule deer populations, there still remains a strong dependency to rely on private landowners to both understand and effectively estimate and manage the mule deer herds (especially with the implementation of the MLDP program). As a result, we designed a research study to evaluate the standard survey techniques for estimating mule deer populations in the Trans-Pecos. Currently, TPWD utilizes helicopters to survey mule deer populations by flying pre-designated transects. Private landowners in this region often utilize a Desert mule deer have emerged a prized trophy by hunters across the western United States. The first step in their spotlight survey which simply involves management is having accurate and precise population estimates. driving a route with two observers with

ule deer are one of the most prized game species in the western United States. In the Panhandle and Trans-Pecos regions, area ranchers and landowners recognize mule deer to have both economic and aesthetic value and are regarded as a precious resource. More sportsmen realize the true trophy qualities that mule deer exhibit, from their larger body sizes and ability to grow massive antlers. In recent years, mule deer have gained more attention with more emphasis on their management. In the past decade alone, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) has made several regulation changes from season lengths and timing



January 2013

bo r d e r l a n d s n e w s

The rugged terrain of the Trans-Pecos provides a unique challenge to all survey techniques designed to survey mule deer herds. Well-designed survey routes, whether by air or land, are prerequisite to adequately monitoring your mule deer herd.

spotlights in the back of a vehicle counting deer that are observed. Another technique is daytime, roadside surveys that involve driving a route with two observers counting observed deer during daylight hours. We evaluated all three of these common techniques to determine their effectiveness in estimating mule deer populations, including herd composition (e.g., sex ratios, fawn productivity). The research study was conducted on three different sites in the Trans-Pecos region during winter and spring 2010. A total of 15 spotlight and roadside surveys were conducted. Helicopter survey data was provided by a concurrent study on two of the three research sites. We compared both population and herd composition data between each survey technique to determine differences and effectiveness of each. Essentially, we found that helicopter surveys provided the most consistent and precise population and herd composition data, when compared to the spotlight and roadside surveys. Roadside (daytime) surveys gener-

ally yielded a lower deer density compared to the other survey techniques, but herd composition estimates were similar to helicopter surveys. Spotlight surveys generally yielded the most variable herd composition estimates; however, population estimates were similar to helicopter surveys.

Helicopter surveys were the most effective in producing precise population and herd composition estimates. Precision of survey results are rarely questioned. However, disadvantages to this technique are high costs and sightability. Many studies have confirmed that helicopter surveys

Figure 1 A comparison of mule deer density estimates for one of the research sites evaluated. Note that roadside counts have the propensity to underestimate mule deer density compared to helicopter and spotlight surveys.



bo r d e r l a n d s n e w s

generally underestimate deer populations by only observing a proportion of deer that inhabit the surveyed areas. In fact, data from a recent mule deer sightability study conducted on several ranches throughout West Texas indicated that, on average, only about half of the mule deer flown over are observed during a helicopter survey. We found roadside (daytime) surveys to provide reliable herd composition estimates, but they generally yield much lower population estimates because of the cryptic nature of mule deer and sightability issues. Lastly, spotlight surveys (which are popular for their affordability and simplicity) provided reliable population

estimates but yielded often variable herd composition data because of visibility issues during the nighttime hours. Spotlight surveys, when designed and utilized correctly, are very effective in estimating reliable population and herd composition data. Variable or inaccurate survey results from spotlight surveys are usually a result of poor design or incorrect utilization. Each survey technique poses advantages and disadvantages and should be used to accommodate the unique features of each property. Although helicopter surveys can be costly, they did provide the most precise herd composition and population density data. However, our data suggest

that spotlight and roadside (daytime) surveys produce reliable population and herd composition data for adequate population management for mule deer. This is especially true if they are used in tandem (spotlights for density; roadside counts for herd composition). Along with the affordability and simplicity of ground surveys (spotlight, roadside surveys); correct design and utilization will produce reliable and accurate population and herd composition data to effectively manage your property’s mule deer population.


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Sunset Ridge Shopping Center 6450 N. New Braunfels San Antonio, TX 78209 (210) 824-8800

Wildlife Valuations 18 Years Later article by


The thing to be prevented is destructive private land use of any and all kinds. The thing to be encouraged is the use of private land in such a way as to combine the public and private interest to the greatest degree possible. –Aldo Leopold, 1934, writing for The Journal of Forestry


Flashback to November 1995: The cover of TWA’s newsmagazine celebrates the signing of HB1358. TWA played a key role in the bill’s passage and encouraged members to vote in favor of Proposition 11, which created an amendment to the Texas Constitution that allowed for the agricultural appraisal of land used to manage wildlife. Voters passed Proposition 11 with 62 percent in favor.



January 2013

early 18 years have passed since Texas voters approved Proposition 11, which created an amendment to Article VIII, section 1-d-1 of the Texas Constitution, allowing for the agricultural appraisal of land used to manage wildlife. I’d grown curious about how the tax code had fared since its November 1995 passage. Had it accomplished its objectives? Had there been glitches in implementation? And, now that 3,109,732 Texas acres fall under wildlife valuation, does it still have the support that it did when it garnered 62 percent of the vote? First, I wanted to know what had compelled former State Representative Clyde Alexander to not only author HB1358 — the bill that paved the way for the amendment — but to tirelessly champion what it represented. “I come from a ranching family, and I know the economic realities of trying to maintain land,” he told me. “That combined with urban/suburban sprawl, well, it was a no-brainer.” Apparently, in 1995, Texas voters also felt it a no-brainer. “It was supported by all demographics and showed that conserving rural land was important to people,” said TWA CEO Gary Joiner. “They recognized that wildlife valuations are conservation incentives.” That year, David K. Langford served as TWA’s Executive Vice President, and he and others from

Brian and Leslie Smith received a TPWD Lone Star Steward Award in 2011 for improving habitat on their Trinity Bluff Ranch. All open space of their 733-acre Navarro County ranch is under a wildlife valuation. From left: TPW Commissioner Ralph Duggins, Brian and Leslie Smith, and TPWD Executive Director Carter Smith.

“Our main purpose was to give landowners more choices, which included a way to rest a little more easily on the land.” TWA worked diligently to procure the bill’s passage. “In a lot of cases, the requirements for livestock are too heavy, and the whole idea was to balance the stress put on the land,” he explained. “Our main purpose was to give landowners more choices, which included a way to rest a little more easily on the land.” Senior wildlife biologist and TWA member Carl Frentress and Lee Tackett, who’s served Henderson County in many agricultural-related capacities, also played a part in the creation of wildlife valuations. “Lee and I realized that the government was a disincentive against habitat conservation because if you do something abusive in the name of agriculture, they’d reduce your taxes,” Frentress said. To address that issue, former State Representative Hugo Berlanga authored a 1991 bill. Ultimately, the legislation, which required that managed species must be for consumption, required a broader sweep that included other types of landowners (nature-tourism operators and those preserving endangered species). TWA representatives and others then approached Alexander to enlist his support in creating an updated bill, which Alexander did with HB1358.

After HB1358’s June 16, 1995, passage, Langford and others hit the pavement — and the airwaves — to generate support for Proposition 11, so that Section 23.51(7) Tax Code could include wildlife valuations. Langford said, “We promised the voters three things: that it would be for all species of wildlife, it would be revenue neutral, and that the landowner had to work at keeping it.” Within a year of HB1358’s passage, however, it became apparent that the third item — having to work at keeping it — needed stricter guidelines. “There were people cheating, and that was never the intent,” Frentress said. Enter HB3123, also authored by Alexander, which, in 2001, clearly specified how open-space land can qualify for wildlife valuation status. Langford explained, “In some cases, before 2001, it was difficult for landowners and appraisal districts to know exactly what to do. Now, it’s clear, and it’s the law; both sides — appraisal district and the landowner — have to abide.” Joiner admitted that consistency has been an issue all along. “When I came here [to TWA] in 2008, they were discussing the need for consistency. Since then, there’s been significant progress, much

Photo courtesy of Texas State Librar y and Archives Commission

Photo by Chase Fountain; ©2011, TPWD

Former State Representative Clyde Alexander served as author of HB1358 and the principal legislative champion for wildlife valuations. Alexander, who currently serves on the Texas State Parks Advisory Committee, remains a dedicated proponent.

of it accomplished with the help of State Comptroller Susan Combs and her team. They’ve done a great job of educating appraisal districts and being a resource for them,” he said. “Today,” stressed Frentress, “appraisal districts want to know you’re providing results.” To determine that, they look to a landowner’s wildlife management plan, which lays out the three of seven approved activities he or she will do to manage for targeted species. In order to place the open-space portions of his 733-acre Trinity Bluff Ranch under wildlife valuation, TWA member Brian Smith created his management plan with assistance from Frentress and Jay Whiteside, a technical guidance biologist with TPWD. Smith, who with his wife, Leslie, received TPWD’s 2011 Lone Star Land Steward Award for the Post Oak Savannah Eco-region, credits the switch from agriculture to wildlife valuation with making it possible to nurture his land back to health. “Before I bought it, they leased it for cattle, and it had been overgrazed.



Photo compliments of Brian Smith

wildlife v al u ati o ns

Under the terms of his wildlife management plan, Brian Smith carries out prescribed burns, one of seven activities which, under Section 23.51(7) Tax Code, helps qualify open-space land for wildlife management use.

The grass wasn’t over half an inch,” he said. “Now I can focus on working hard for wildlife habitat and enhancement.” “Smith’s land offers a lot of ecological benefits that don’t just benefit him. It includes land along the Trinity and, because of a large sandstone bed that goes across the river, there are rapids — riffles — downstream that lead toward Daniel Lake, an oxbow lake about 10 miles down. Paddlefish spawn on the riffle, then wash downstream,” Frentress said. Frentress’ point — that other Texans benefit from one individual’s wildlife valuation — is an important one. Dr. David G. Hewitt, TWA member and research scientist with the Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute, said, “Habitat overall is helped not just because people can focus on it and don’t have to treat it as a secondary effort, but because there’s a trickle-down



effect. The benefits move beyond game species. For example, one practice is water development, and in our arid environment, all kinds of species benefit from that. Another is the way brush is managed for deer. Since deer like brush, it’s managed differently than for livestock, resulting in benefits for songbirds, quail, doves, even rabbits.” But, unfortunately, these days convincing those in cities and suburbs of the benefits they receive can prove a challenge. The climate is different than it was in 1995, and, too often, the focus is on tax revenue lost rather than the subtle, but important, environmental advantages gained. When I first approached Langford for an interview, I’d told him I wanted to talk about “wildlife exemptions.” When he fired back an email telling me, “They’re not EXEMPTIONS!” I quickly gleaned the

January 2013

importance of using the correct language when discussing this topic. As Langford put it, many view wildlife valuations “as fat cats getting out of having to pay taxes.” To wit: a 2003 Austin-American Statesman article titled “Tax Breaks for Some; a Burden for Others,” gives the impression that Michael Dell used his wildlife valuation to shortchange the public. But nowhere does the article state that Dell paid property taxes on the market-value appraisal of the home and other structures located on the property discussed. The general public isn’t the only group that shows such resistance. Even some government agencies charged with helping landowners remain surprisingly resistant to the idea of wildlife valuations. Smith said that when seeking assistance, “I’ve actually been told, ‘You have a wildlife valuation, so you don’t need our help.’”

Photo compliments of Brian Smith

Photo compliments of Brian Smith

wildlife v al u ati o ns

Since 2002, TPWD’s 2011 Lone Star Steward for the Post Oak Savannah eco-region, Brian Smith, has created two wetlands on his 733-acre Trinity Bluff Ranch. Smith said summer brings lots of bird activity, “especially ducks, because they like the snails in the wetlands.”

And, while some appraisal districts, like ours here in Fayette County, are well-informed and have knowledgeable appraisers on staff, many others still need more experience working with the valuation. Joiner said, “The seven provisions are sometimes interpreted differently, depending upon how much experience the appraisal district — and sometimes the appraiser — has had with wildlife valuations. In some counties, they haven’t had a chance to gain much experience. Some of the practices aren’t familiar to them.”

Even worse, some appraisal district employees make no secret of their opposition. One example was Art Cory, chief appraiser for the Travis Central Appraisal District, who in the Austin-American Statesman article referenced above, said: “You can go out and cut some brush, put out some feed and count the deer once a year and qualify.” As if that wasn’t misleading enough, an April 14, 2011, article by Yasha Levin in The Nation uses Cory’s 2003 quote and follows it with this verbiage: “That’s exactly what Michael Dell did with the suburban

The general public isn’t the only group that shows such resistance. Even some government agencies charged with helping landowners remain surprisingly resistant to the idea of wildlife valuations. Austin ranch he uses as a second home. Periodically hunting and maintaining a ‘well-managed deer herd’ reduced the property’s 2005 market value from $71.4 million to an agricultural value of $290,000, which saves him — and costs Texas — $1.2 million a year.” Yet Levin didn’t say that Cory also stated about Dell that, "He's actually doing one of the better jobs," Cory said. "He has someone to manage it." This all relates to that second promise that Langford and others made to voters: that the provision would be revenue neutral. A foot-in-the-soil translation means that a landowner needs to have an agriculture valuation for at least five years before switching to wildlife. But this presents an inherent dilemma in cases such as my own property, which had an ag valuation that the previous owner let lapse. Because of that, we’d have to start over by running livestock for five years. (Considering the lay of the land, it would be our only viable agricultural choice.) With the county’s stocking requirements, and the fact that we have serious erosion issues, we’d end up treading too heavily on the land. So we’ve chosen not to pursue it in spite of the fact that because of activities we carry out for nature tourism, we would qualify for a wildlife valuation. In other words, it’s not in our own management interests to pursue practices for an agricultural valuation for five years before we could transition to a wildlife valuation. But, considering the attitudes against “rich” landowners like myself, the five-year conversion rule is here to stay. Alexander said, “[The bill] would’ve been dead in the



wildlife v al u ati o ns

Brian Smith, who credits wildlife valuations with allowing him to nurture his land, has focused on re-establishing the tall-grass prairie. “The goal is plenty of seedproducing native grasses, so the wildlife have plenty to eat,” he said. “Also, native grasses for the deer to hide and have their young in, and bunchgrasses to help the watershed.” Providing supplemental food and shelter are two of Section 23.51(7) Tax Code’s approved wildlife management activities.

water without it. And, considering our insubstantial tax structure and that we’re so strapped for funds, it’s never going away.” I’ve decided that’s a compromise I’m willing to make, especially when Joiner told me, “Because of wildlife valuations, we have a richer wildlife landscape in Texas. The state is better for it, and our land stewards are more accomplished because of it. I think it’s been a win-win.” “Wildlife valuations recognize the multiuse aspect of land. Many wise people recognized this, including those at TWA who worked so hard to make it like it is today,” Frentress said. “This gives those who hold that ethic choices — like farmers and ranchers who want to retire but still want to live on their land — it gives them a way to take care of their land without having to continue with agriculture.” Then, with emphasis, he added, “Wildlife valuations make it so we don’t have to throw the baby out with the bathwater.”



With 8,000 feet of river front (about 1 1/2 miles) on his Navarro County ranch, the wildlife management efforts of TWA member Brian Smith affect many other Texans.

"Because of wildlife valuations, we have a richer wildlife landscape in Texas."

January 2013


Wildlife Tax Valuations Linda Campbell

FEBRUARY 21 Wildlife Plants Ricky Linex


Quail Management Dale Rollins, Ph.D.

The Texas Wildlife Association and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension 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 https://texas-wildlife.webex.com, 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, make comments and ask questions during the course of the presentation.

QUESTIONS? Contact Courtney Brittain at (210) 826-2904 or cbrittain@texas-wildlife.org

LIVE WEBINARS NOON - 1 P.M. www.texas-wildlife.org


ZOONOTIC DISEASES Article by Mary O. Parker Photo courtesy of CDC

What You Should Know


ention the word “rabies,” and many people visualize the snarling snout of Old Yeller. That’s apropos, considering the word stems from the Latin rabere, which translates to “rage.” Thankfully, since the Civil-War era — the time frame of the Old Yeller story — scientists created rabies vaccines for animals. As a consequence, in 1957, the year they filmed the movie — set in East Texas — we had only one reported case of human rabies statewide. Rabies is what’s known as a “zoonotic” disease, the sort humans can catch from animals. Sometimes you’ll also hear them called “vector-borne” diseases, because pathogens are often carried by an animal that does not come down with the disease (e.g. a flea). According to the Texas Depart-

The odds of catching any vector-borne disease in Texas are low, but those with rural lifestyles — farmers,ranchers, hunters — stand a greater chance of pathogen exposure than city-dwellers.

While not the primary vector for Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF), brown dog ticks are one vector found in Texas. Ticks transmit the disease primarily by their bite. Less commonly, infections may occur following exposure to crushed tick tissues, fluids, or feces.



January 2013

ment of State Health Services (TDSHS), more than 150 such diseases have been identified statewide. Until the 2012 West Nile Virus (WNV) outbreak, nearly a decade had passed since Texans expressed a visceral reaction to a zoonotic disease. But considering the fact that by the end of October 2012 we had more cases than any other state — 1,665, with 75 deaths — the reaction made sense. However, the reality is that odds run in your favor; the number of cases cited constitutes only 0.00631 percent of the state’s population of 26,403,743, while deaths make up 0.00028 percent. In other words, all those zeros mean you’ve got a whole lot less than a one percent chance of getting WNV, let alone dying from it. Weigh that against the 2,251 fatalities — or 0.00852 percent of

Photo by Dr. B.M. Drees

Photo courtesy of CDC

Texas’ population — from statewide car accidents during just the first 10 months of 2012. The odds of catching any vector-borne disease in Texas are low, but those with rural lifestyles — farmers, ranchers, hunters — stand a greater chance of pathogen exposure than citydwellers. Therefore, in the spirit of prevention, and acknowledging that information provides a powerful defense, TDSHS zoonotic-disease specialist Dr. Edward Wozniak helped compile the following list. While doing so, Dr. Wozniak explained that many zoonotic diseases can be prevented, and he provided these general recommendations: “Don’t pick bats up off the ground. In fact, it’s best to try to avoid handling wildlife, Under a magnification of 6,408X – thanks to a scanning electron micrograph (SEM) – we can see these anthrax spores. especially skunks and raccoons. Anthrax occurs naturally in Texas, and its spores can live for many years, which allows the bacteria to lay dormant in soil. Use mosquito repellent. That works on ticks and biting flies, too. When field dressing an animal, wear disposable gloves. And, if you see any suspicious legions or abscesses, don’t consume the meat.” ANTHRAX Transmission: Said Dr. Wozniak, “Animals pick up anthrax from spores in the soil and vegetation, but once it gets started, there’s reason to believe that deer flies and horse flies act as mechanical carriers. Also, when an animal dies, blow flies eat on it and can spread [anthrax] when they land on neighboring vegetation.” Precautions: Always use gloves The conenose, or “kissing bug,” is the vector for Chagas’ Disease, a known issue in South-Central Texas. However, those living in one of 82 counties where it’s been found remain at low risk if they dwell in well-constructed homes with tight-fitting when handling deceased animals. window screens. “When you suspect infection,” said Dr. Wozniak, “burning [deceased animals] is preferred, or you should bury them deeply, if can spread to humans who come in contact with infected meat, the burning isn’t possible.” Burying enhances the survival of anthrax placenta of infected animals, or from ingesting unpasteurized milk spores. He added, “When tanning hides, be aware that spores can or cheese. Concern over swine brucellosis carried by feral hogs is aerosolize from beating on the drum.” increasing. Of Interest: Because their alkaline soils provide a favorable Precautions: People who often come in contact with animals or environment for long-term spore survival, the triangular area meat – slaughterhouse employees, hunters of feral hogs, farmers, roughly formed by Uvalde, Edwards, and Crockett counties marks and vets – face higher risk and should wear protective glasses and the region affected most by this endemic (naturally present) clothing, which protects skin breaks from infection. Avoid unpaspathogen. teurized dairy products, and be sure to vaccinate your cattle. BRUCELLOSIS Of Interest: Brucellosis is rare in the United States, with only Transmission: Brucella infects cattle, goats, dogs, and pigs and 100-200 cases annually nationwide. “Texas has an occasional case;




most of what we find here comes from stuff being smuggled across the border,” explained Dr. Wozniak. CHAGAS’ DISEASE Transmission: The feces, not the bite, of a conenose (triamonine) bug transmits Chagas’. Dr. Wozniak said: “Protozoa reside in the bug’s hindgut (intestinal-like) and

A bug found feeding on a plant won’t be a kissing bug, since triamonines survive by sucking blood. LYME DISEASE Transmission: In Texas, transmission typically occurs through the bite of an infected blacklegged tick (sp. Ixodes scapularis), which tends to feed on wild rodents

Good sanitation and healthy snake populations help reduce rats, the primary hosts of infected fleas. and small mammals. Precautions: If possible, avoid wooded, brushy, and grassy areas during “tick season” (late-spring through early-fall). When not possible (for example, while hunting), wear clothing pre-treated with permethrin (reapply after four washings), apply DEETbased insect repellent to exposed skin, and check yourself and your clothing for ticks every couple of hours. When undressing, check underarms, behind your knees and other “hidden” spots. (Also see precautions for RMSF.) Of Interest: According to the Centers for Disease Control, as of September 15, 2012, Texas reported only 18 confirmed cases of Lyme Disease during the first eight months of 2012. Dr. Wozniak said, “It’s very rare in Texas. A lot of people test for it and get borderline results, usually not enough clinical data to support a case.” MURINE TYPHUS Transmission: This disease spreads

Photo by Jeff Parker

are shed in the feces. They can invade the body through the bite wound or through mucous membranes contaminated with the bug’s liquidy feces.” Precautions: “Chagas’ is a problem in South-Central Texas. I’ve tested a lot of the vectors, and there’s been contamination in about 50 percent of them,” reported Dr. Wozniak. But even those living in one of 82 counties where Chagas’ has been found face little risk if they dwell in well-constructed homes with tight-fitting window screens. Put pets indoors at night when the bugs circulate most, and keep your residence and your pet’s residence clean. Unfortunately, roach “motels” won’t help. Of Interest: Conenose bugs (triamonines) also have the moniker “kissing bugs,” because they tend to feed on a host’s face, often near the mouth. Before squashing a look-alike, make sure it’s not an assassin bug – “good” bugs that help control garden pests. Many times people confuse the two.

through cat fleas carried on domestic cats and rat fleas that live on rodents (particularly rats). Transmission typically occurs when, after feeding on a host, an infected flea defecates, and its feces contaminates a fresh wound or the bite site. Precautions: Good sanitation and healthy snake populations help reduce rats, the primary hosts of infected fleas. Also, said Dr. Wozniak, “…it is possible that dense populations of feral cats and their fleas could be a contributing factor in some exposures.” (See also precautions for Plague.) Of Interest: “Murine typhus is actually caused by a complex of closely related fleaborne rickettsia,” explained Dr. Wozniak. “There is one that is carried by rat fleas and another by the common cat flea. Both cause a similar disease in people.” PLAGUE Transmission: Human infection is from the bite of an infected rodent flea. Precautions: Free-roaming pets often bring fleas home to humans, so keep dogs and cats indoors, if possible. Also, keep them free of fleas with a once-monthly treatment designed to interrupt flea-reproductive cycles (available from your vet). Of Interest: Plague entered the U.S. in 1900 through the port of San Francisco. It’s extremely rare for humans to contact it in Texas. Plague has practically disappeared from cities and is now only found in rural and semi-rural regions.

With an estimated two million feral hogs in Texas, swine brucellosis has become an increasing concern. Brucellosis can spread to humans who come in contact with infected meat or from ingesting unpasteurized milk or cheese.



January 2013


Photo courtesy of CDC

Photo courtesy of CDC

oral vaccination program brought both of those strains under control, and we are now hoping to do the same with skunks.” ROCKY MOUNTAIN SPOTTED FEVER (RMSF) Transmission: In Texas, transmission usually occurs from the bite of an infected American dog tick or a brown dog tick. (In South Texas, it could be from a cayenne tick.) Transmission can also occur if body fluids enter through a skin abrasion when crushing a tick. Precautions: Do not crush ticks when you remove them. If possible, stay on trails, and wear light colored clothing (makes spotting ticks easier). Check pets weekly, especially dogs. (The brown dog tick’s nickname is the ‘kennel tick,’ because of its prevalence among Blacklegged ticks the species (Ixodes scapularis) are known vectors for Lyme Disease, a rare disease domesticated canines.) (Also, see precautions in Texas. The ticks, inoculated with the bacterium when they bite infected mice, squirrels and other small for Lyme Disease.) animals, subsequently pass the pathogen to humans. Of Interest: RMSF has been a reportable disease in the U.S. since the 1920s. The last decade In 2011, Texas reported 1,019 cases comprised of has seen an increase in the number of cases. infected domestic animals and wildlife. This included WEST NILE VIRUS 30 cases of infected cats, 37 cases of infected Transmission: Female mosquitos become vectors raccoons, 304 cases found in bats, and 567 in skunks. when they take a blood meal from an infected bird. “Many passerine birds [such as the American Robin] can serve as reservoirs,” Dr. Wozniak explained, “but there are RABIES Transmission: Transmission occurs through saliva when bitten probably others, as well. Further research on this needs to be done.” Prevention: The best way to prevent WNV is not to get bitten by or handling an infected animal. Even though wild animals now serve as the primary vectors, the majority of human cases are con- in the first place. Wear protective clothing, and use a DEET-based repellent when outdoors, especially at dusk and dawn when mostracted from domestic animals. Precautions: Vaccinate pets (Don’t forget cats! Thirty-six per- quitos are most active. In addition, eliminate containers in which cent fewer cat owners vaccinate). Don’t feed and/or handle wild water can collect, as they provide places for mosquitos to lay eggs. animals, even if they seem friendly. Properly dispose of trash, and Replace water in bird baths at least once a week. Of Interest: Not every mosquito carries the virus, and 80 perdon’t tempt wild animals to visit by putting pet food where they can get to it. To keep bats from entering your home, cap chimneys, and employ other techniques to prevent access. Of Interest: In 2011, Texas reported 1,019 cases comprised of infected domestic animals and wildlife. This included 30 cases of infected cats, 37 cases of infected raccoons, 304 cases found in bats, and 567 in skunks. No human cases were reported. Added Dr, Wozniak: “At the present time, TDSHS Zoonosis Control, in conjunction with the USDA Wildlife Services, is conducting a study on the effectiveness of an oral vaccine for controlling skunk rabies. In years past, we had fox and coyote strains that used to get into domestic animals, as The C. pipiens mosquito is a known vector for West Nile Virus. According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, 80 percent of those infected with West Nile Virus never develop symptoms. the skunk strain does now. The



Photo courtesy of Edward J. Wozniak, DVM, Ph.D





Dr. Edward J. Wozniak serves as a zoonotic diseases expert with the Texas Department of State Health Services. Dr. Wozniak holds a net used to capture small mammals so they can be tested for diseases.


DAVID E. CULVER dec@landtx.com

prevalence among domesticated canines.) (See precautions for RMSF and Lyme Disease.) Of Interest: Since 1999, when Ehrlichiosis first became reportable, the number of human cases nationwide went from 200 in 2000 to 961 in 2008. Texas, however, continues to have very few human cases—the last reported were in 2010 (less than 10). Texas reported no human cases in 2011 or 2012. Ehrlichiosis is in the rickettsiae family, which also includes RMSF and murine typhus. Diagnosis can be difficult because it is so similar to RMSF, but, said Wozniak, “A big difference… is that, in the tick, RMSF is transmitted to the next generation through the eggs whereas with Erlichia, it is not. It must be re-acquired from an infected host.”

Want to learn more? Explore these websites: • TDSHS West Nile Site: http://www.dshs.state.tx.us/idcu/disease/arboviral/westNile/ • CDC Chagas’ Disease Site: http://www.cdc.gov/parasites/chagas/gen_info/detailed.html • How Ticks Spread Disease: http://www.cdc.gov/ticks/life_cycle_and_hosts.html • Feral Hog Information: http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/huntwild/wild/nuisance/feral_hogs/ • TDSHS online PDF pamphlet “Zoonotic Diseases”: http://www.dshs.state.tx.us/idcu/health/zoonosis/disease/



January 2013

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photo courtesy of Chase Fountain TPWD

cent of people infected with WNV will never develop symptoms. Two diseases fall under the title of West Nile: West Nile Neuroinvasive Disease (WNND) and West Nile Virus (WNV). Of the two, WNND is the most serious. EHRLICHIOSIS Transmission: The lone star tick, which feeds on deer, wild and domestic dogs, domestic ruminants, and rodents serves as the primary means of Ehrlichiosis transmission in Texas. Precautions: Do not crush ticks when you remove them. If possible, stay on trails, and wear light colored clothing (makes spotting ticks easier). Check pets weekly, especially dogs. (The brown dog tick’s nickname is the ‘kennel tick,’ because of its

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of the Month photo by Larry Ditto

This snapshot features two collared peccaries (javelinas) fighting over food. It was captured at the Santa Clara Photography Ranch (www.santaclararanch.com) west of Edinburg, Texas. Dr. Alberto “Beto” Gutierrez and his wife, Clair, purchased the property as a habitat conservation project. The ranch has several photography blinds established near small ponds and feeders where wildlife comes to feed and drink. Often, when a herd of javelinas is feeding in a small space, an individual will try to dominate access to the food, or it will feel obliged to protect its young from others in the herd. It will warn a nearby competitor/aggressor with a vocalization or grunt. If the other javelina does not submit and back off, the encounter can escalate with one animal attacking the other, slashing with its canines (tusks). The mini-battle will usually last 5-10 seconds, and then the herd returns to its feeding. I saw these animals feeding in a tight group and heard their warning grunts, so my camera was positioned to capture the action when the fighting began.

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January 2013


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Brian K. Marschall

Making ranch loans throughout the state of Texas, we understand that each ranch is different, and so is each transaction. We are familiar with every situation, which allows us to tailor our services to your needs. We get loans approved quickly and expedite every step of the process for you. You’ll deal directly with one of our private bankers from application to closing. We’ll call when we say we will, and do what we promise.


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