MAGAZINE OF THE TEXAS WILDLIFE ASSOCIATION
Return of the Wild Turkey
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TEXAS WILDLIFE TEXAS WILDLIFE
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TEXAS WILDLIFE ASSOCIATION 3660 Thousand Oaks Dr., Suite 126 San Antonio, TX 78247 www.texas-wildlife.org (210) 826-2904 FAX (210) 826-4933 (800) 839-9453 (TEX-WILD) OFFICERS
T B G A! Over the last 10 years, as a Texas Wildlife Association Member, Director, Region 3 Leader, Officer, and now as President, I have been a Big supporter of the Texas Big Game Awards (TBGA). The TBGA is a joint program sponsored by the Texas Wildlife Association and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to recognize the critical role hunting and private land stewardship play in habitat conservation. Make no mistake, the TBGA proudly proclaims hunting is Good! If you want to understand why Texans love hunting, attend a TBGA Sportsman’s Celebration. There, you will find the heart and soul of the Texas hunting community. Men and women who love Texas, who love to hunt, and believe Texas habitat remains special. The event and the recognition mean a great deal to them. But, their satisfaction is derived from much more than a certificate of recognition. These hunters realize they are playing a greater role in the future of our state and the protection of our hunting heritage. TBGA realizes a “Trophy” means different things to different people. For me, the thrill has always been the recognition of first-time harvesters. These hunters run the spectrum from age 5 to age 85. I love watching these hunters receive their deserved recognition for continuing the Texas hunting tradition. They come to the podium by various means, some in hand with their parents, others in hand with the aid of a walker. But, every one of them is a Texas Hunter and is proud participant in the TBGA. Moreover, every one of them has a story, and every story is special. In addition to first-time harvesters, we recognize Youth Division entries, and those hunters with the skills, ethics, and patience to harvest quality Boone and Crockett scored game animals: white-tailed deer, mule deer, pronghorn antelope, javelina, and Texas bighorn sheep. TBGA celebrates the hunters who harvest these animals, and we say thank you to the private landowners of Texas for their stewardship. Over the years, I have had the privilege of watching my children participate in the TBGA: in 2010 my son, William, received a First-Time Harvest award for a doe harvested in Throckmorton County. In 2011, William shot a seven-point buck in Shackelford County and received recognition in the Youth Division. In 2012, my little 8- year-old, Ella, will be recognized for her first harvest, a 3½-year-old buck from Shackelford County. Proud parents remain one of the TBGA greatest constituents. You see, we believe encouraging and recognizing young people for their hunting skills is a great service to Texas. Notwithstanding, I must admit over the years I suffered from a bit of envy. Watching all of those hunters receive recognition for their high Boone & Crockett scored entries will do a number on your confidence. Those magnificent trophies haunted me each and every hunting season. One day, I wanted to be a scored entry in the TBGA and not simply a speaker or volunteer or a proud parent. Goal accomplished. This year, I am proud to finally join the TBGA ranks with a 150 gross Boone & Crocket deer from our family ranch in Throckmorton County. Thank you TBGA. Keep up the Good work.
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.
Glen Webb, President, Abilene Greg Simons, Vice President, San Angelo Marcus T. Barrett IV, Treasurer, San Antonio Vacant, Second Vice President for Programs For a complete list of TWA Directors, go to www.texas-wildlife.org
PROFESSIONAL STAFF/CONTRACT ASSOCIATES Administration & Operation 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, 3660 Thousand Oaks Dr., Suite 126, San Antonio, Texas 78247. E-mail address: email@example.com POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Texas Wildlife Association, 3660 Thousand Oaks Dr., Suite 126, San Antonio, Texas 78247. The Texas Wildlife Association (TWA) was organized in 1985 for the purpose of serving as an advocate for the benefit of wildlife and for the rights of wildlife managers, landowners and hunters in educational, scientific, political, regulatory and legislative arenas. TEXAS WILDLIFE is the official TWA publication and has widespread circulation throughout Texas and the United States. All rights reserved. No parts of these magazines may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without express written permission from the publisher. Copyrighted 2013 Texas Wildlife Association. Views expressed by contributors are not necessarily those of the Texas Wildlife Association. Similarities between the name Texas Wildlife Association and those of advertisers or state agencies are coincidental, and do not indicate mutual affiliation, unless clearly noted. Members who move should send new address and current membership classification to headquarters. TWA reserves the right to refuse advertising.
For advertising information, contact David Brimager at (800) 839-9453 3660 Thousand Oaks Dr., Suite 126, San Antonio, TX 78247 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
TWA at Work
by Gary Joiner
The Texas Wildlife Association was honored to say “Thank You!” to TWA Life Member Tamara Trail on January 15 at the TWA Executive Committee in San Angelo. Volunteer leaders and TWA professional staff at the meeting expressed their sincere appreciation to Tamara, thanking her for her many outstanding contributions to both TWA and the TWA Foundation. She has a long and distinguished professional history with both organizations. Since 2008, Tamara served TWA as its Principle Consultant for Programs and Development and served TWAF as a development assistant. Tamara asked if she could continue to serve TWA and TWAF in 2013 as a passionate volunteer and Life Member, and not in a formal contract capacity, in order to better focus on family priorities and other opportunities. We respect and totally understand her decision, and we wish her only the best in the future. Tamara began working with TWA as a graduate student in the “early days” of the Texas Youth Hunting Program and then as a partner while employed with Texas the Wildlife and Fisheries unit of Cooperative Extension Service (now AgriLife Extension) with educational field days and symposia, TYHP hunts, and Huntmaster trainings and other efforts.
Volume 28 H Number 11 H 2013
8 Save the Wild Turkey - Hunt One by Russell a. graves
36 Cutting-Edge Research Gives
Biologists New Insight into Rio Grande Turkey Ecology in the Cross Timbers by jesse oetgen
40 Prescribed Burning, A Necessity for Creating Eastern Turkey Habitat by janelle fears
44 Challenges and Changes: How Oil and Gas Activity Affect Deer and Other Wildlife by judy bishop jurek
50 Hydraulic Fracturing and Protecting Groundwater by Lorie woodward cantu
TWA Life Member Tamara Trail with her family in Albany.
In November 2000, Tamara came to work for TWA as Director of Education, under the leadership of David K. Langford and a visionary Officer team and Executive Committee. They strategically planned for what they wanted TWA’s education message to be moving forward. All programs would have a private lands stewardship message, be based on sound scientific and educational principles, challenge program participants to become engaged in conservation wherever they lived, and illustrate the importance of the hunter’s role in Texas conservation. These basic tenets still hold true in TWA’s Conservation Legacy and Hunting Heritage programs. Around 2004, she became Assistant Vice President for Programs and Development, then later becoming Vice President of Programs and Development. Her work and efforts contributed to remarkable program growth and success in new and established areas, including Conservation Initiatives, Learning Across New Dimensions in Science (L.A.N.D.S.), and Foundation Council development, among others. I and the Texas Wildlife Association and Texas Wildlife Association Foundation know that Tamara will continue to be a trusted resource and contact who is only a phone call away. For that, we are very blessed and grateful. Please join me in saying “Thank You” to Tamara Trail!
Issues and Advocacy
by Gary Joiner
Blame It On the Hog by Giselle Galletti
Developing Leadership in Your Son by Meredith Lamberton
members in action by Gary Joiner
26 A Turkey Too Far by Ralph Winingham
30 Dog-Eared Favorites by Henry Chappell
32 Fishing for Answers by Dr. Billy Higginbotham
34 Use of Artificial Water by
Translocated Pronghorn in Trans-Pecos by Daniel Tidwell, Justin Hoffman, and Louis A. Harveson
MAGAZINE OF THE TEXAS WILDLIFE ASSOCIATION
Coming next month
The April issue features articles on pond management; planning for a “Slam” hunt; the Images for Conservation Fund’s Pro-Am Tour of Nature Photography of White-tailed Deer; and, a review of how the New York City water supply is a “winwin” for both private landowners and the city. And, in addition to our regular columns on native plants, quail and the Caesar Kleberg News, we’ll present the second installment in a six-part series that focuses on conservation easements as a tool that can help keep ranches intact and facilitate their passage to the next generation of land stewards.
On the Cover
This gobbling, strutting Rio Grande turkey was photographed by Russell Graves. In his story, Save the Wild Turkey, on page 8, Graves talks about the role that hunters, landowners, state wildlife agencies, the National Wild Turkey Federation, the Pittman-Robertson Act and more played in the rise of the turkey population in Texas. return of the Wild Turkey
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.
March 15 Deadline to apply for Texas Brigades Wildlife Education and Leadership Development program. For information, contact Kassi Scheffer at email@example.com.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.rotarycc.com/harvey-weilbanquet/. (See page 18 of this issue for more details.)
May 16 Wildlife for Lunch Webinar, Predator Control presented by Mike Bodenchuk. See details on page 22 of this magazine. For more information, contact Helen Holdsworth at email@example.com.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. March 21 Wildlife for Lunch Webinar, Quail Management presented by Dale Rollins, Ph.D. See details on page 22 of this magazine. For more information, contact Helen Holdsworth at email@example.com. March 24 QuailMasters 2013. A series of intensive, hands-on training sessions designed to expose participants to the best of the best quail habitat in the state of Texas and make them ‘masters’ of the art and science of quail management. QuailMasters will enhance your decision-making skills relative to three phases of quail management; Habitat Management, Population Management, and People Management. Session I will be held in Roby, Texas. Other session dates: Session II--May 5-7, Location TBD; Session III--July 7-9, Location TBD; and Session IV--Sep. 15-17, Location TBD. Cost: $400, includes most meals and all materials. Lodging and travel are the students’ responsibility. March 31 Deadline to submit nominations for Texas Big Game Awards Landowner of the Year. For more information, visit www.TexasBigGameAwards.org.
april 18 Wildlife for Lunch Webinar, Waterfowl Habitat and Management presented by Kevin Kraai. See details on page 22 of this magazine. For more information, contact Helen Holdsworth at firstname.lastname@example.org. april 18-19 Texas Deer Study Group, Glen Rose. For information, contact Helen Holdsworth at email@example.com. april 19-21 Women of the Land Workshop, Cedar Mountain Lodge, Scurry. For information, contact Helen Holdsworth at firstname.lastname@example.org. april 25 Texas Weed & Brush Symposium, Abilene. For more information, contact Joe Franklin at (325) 944-0147 or Cody Scott at (325) 482-6744.
May 18 TBGA Sportsman's Celebration, Regions 5, 6, 7. Fireman's Training Center, Brenham. For more information, contact Justin Dreibelbis at email@example.com.
June june 1 TBGA Sportsman's Celebration, Regions 1, 2, 3. Abilene Civic Center, Abilene. For more information, contact Justin Dreibelbis at firstname.lastname@example.org. june 20 Wildlife for Lunch Webinar, Small Acreage Wildlife Management presented by Rufus Stephens. See details on page 22 of this magazine. For more information, contact Helen Holdsworth at email@example.com.
July 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. July 18 Wildlife for Lunch Webinar, Water for Wildlife presented by Steve Nelle. See details on page 22 of this magazine. For more information, contact Helen Holdsworth at firstname.lastname@example.org. July 27 TBGA Sportsman’s Celebration, Region 4 & 8, Y.O. Ranch Hotel and Conference Center, Kerrville. For more information, contact Justin Dreibelbis at email@example.com.
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Wild Turkeyhunt one
article and photos by Russell A. Graves
A successful turkey hunter with a Rio Grande turkey.
Spring of 2004 found my brother and I walking through the ash trees in a broad and muddy bottomland in Fannin County, Texas. Just off a deployment to Afghanistan, his time on leave from the United States Army was brief. Luckily, however, it coincided with the new spring turkey season in Fannin County.
Only the second year in existence at the time, the season was short: a five-day work week, bookended by weekends, gave us only nine days to hunt eastern wild turkeys. For years, we’d seen small flocks and single birds on the Caddo National Grasslands in the northern part of the county. But, until the second year of the county’s newly created spring turkey season, we’d never seen many turkeys in the mid-county area where we hunted most of our lives. Just a year before this hunt, I saw a few turkeys slipping through the dark timber and heard several gobbles in response to a distant barred owl’s iconic call. This was the first time I could conclude that turkeys were indeed on the property. On opening morning, we stood and waited and listened in the dark in a thick grove of red cedars that creates a boundary between the upland oaks and the bottomland hardwoods. As the sun burnished the eastern sky, we heard a couple of toms gobble about 200 yards away. Moving in their direction, we eventually set up in the timber to call the birds the rest of the way to us. Vernally fresh, the trees were adorned with Virginia creeper, while the air was filled with the pungent smell of wild onions. We sat, called, and five minutes later, a trio of toms slinked in from the east. With a single trigger pull from my pump shotgun, my turkey fell 22 yards from my feet and 10 minutes after sunrise. As we talked, we heard another solitary tom calling from the north.
A turkey hen with a pair of suitors strutting for her attention.
My brother was scheduled to leave again in just a few days, so we exchanged gear. He took the shotgun, while I handled the calling. We slowly hiked for 10 minutes and made a stand on the south side of a small creek. Just minutes after I first made the slate call purr, a huge, mature gobbler stood 10 yards across the creek from us and strutted. Bubba sealed the deal. Regulations mandated that we haul the birds into a check station near Bonham. At around 9 a.m., the attendant measured the beards, spur lengths and the weight of each one. Then, he recorded my bird in the first space and my brother’s bird was right below it — the first turkeys harvested in the county that season. Soon, a small crowd of a dozen or so people gathered at the unusual sight of Eastern wild turkeys. The species made a triumphant return to the county, and our harvest was a tiny testament to the hunter’s role in saving the wild turkey.
a species in trouble
A turkey hunter calls for Eastern turkeys in a northeast Texas bottomland.
Around the turn of the century, the wild turkey species as a whole was in trouble. Regardless of subspecies, unregulated hunting, 19th century market hunting and habitat loss pushed the nationwide population of wild turkeys to the brink. While population estimates weren’t scientific, the numbers of wild turkeys at the turn of the century were thought to be around 100,000, and the number dipped to around 30,000 birds nationwide by the 1930s. Originally found in 39 states, the bird was extirpated from all but 21 states at its low point.
S a v e t h e wild t u r k e y
In 1937, the fate of the wild turkey and other recognized game animals began to change for the better when U.S. Sen. Key Pittman of Nevada and U.S. Rep. Absalom Willis Robertson of Virginia ushered a bill that was signed into law by President Franklin Roosevelt. Officially, the measure is known as the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act of 1937; but, popularly, it is called the Pittman-Robertson Act. The Act, which has been amended several times since its inception, places an 11 percent excise tax on firearms and ammunition. Distributed by the U.S. Department of the Interior, the tax money is apportioned to each state based on the number of hunting licenses sold in each state. In other words, the more hunters a state has, the bigger piece of the PittmanRobertson Act pie the state receives. The money each state receives helps fund wildlife research, habitat restoration and hunter education classes. Each year, Texas receives approximately $9 million. Since the inception of the PittmanRobertson Act, the wild turkey (along with other species like the white-tailed deer and waterfowl species such as the wood duck) benefits greatly from money collected through the excise tax. Essentially, because of a self-imposed tax, any wildlife thatâ€™s
Rio Grande tom turkey.
sa v e t h e wild t u r k e y
A turkey hunter sets out a decoy at first light.
A pair of Rio Grande turkeys during the spring breeding season.
hunted (and those species that are not hunted but live in the same habitat as game animals) ultimately benefits from the gear that hunters purchase. “In late years, before the advent of restocking by the Texas Game, Fish, and Oyster Commission,” explains the 1945 book Principal Game Bird and Mammals of Texas, “wild turkeys were confined to the southeastern Texas, along the lower reaches of the Neches and Sabine River, the Edwards Plateau or ‘Hill Country’ centering around Kerr County and in lower southern Texas principally in the counties of Kenedy, Kleberg, and Brooks.” When the book was released, the modern wildlife management movement was in its infancy, and aggressive trapping and restocking programs were commencing. “Wild turkey” is a ubiquitous term, and Texas is home to three sub-species of turkeys: the Eastern wild turkey that is found primarily east of IH-45, the Merriam turkey that lives in the Davis Mountain area of Western Texas, and the Rio Grande turkey that’s found just about everywhere else. In 1942, the Texas Game, Fish, and Oyster Commission (the predecessor to the current iteration — the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department) estimated that there were less than 100 Eastern wild turkeys in the state, even though hunting was allowed in 24 East Texas counties. Prior to the 1940s, hunting all species of game went largely unchecked and was practiced indiscriminately. Turkeys, and their penchant for roosting in large flocks, made them especially vulnerable to the free-for-all mentality of some
sa v e t h e wild t u r k e y
A successful hunter crosses a northeast Texas creek with a harvested Eastern wild turkey.
early Texas hunters. Anecdotes of excess harvests abound from those early days. In the 1890s, in Frio County, for example, 500 turkeys were shot from roosts in a single night. When hunters finally teamed up with state wildlife agencies nationwide around the end of World War II, the tide for wild turkeys started to turn.
hunters to the rescue
“Hunters have provided the boots on the ground and the dollars in the bank that have fueled America’s conservation movement,” says National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) public relations director Josh Fleming. “Hunters fund conservation by purchasing hunting licenses, the voluntary excise tax on guns and ammunition, and their financial and time donations to groups like the NWTF.” Since the modern wildlife management movement came of age in Texas and elsewhere in the 1940s, and the state of Texas began an earnest program of capture and restocking wild turkeys into suitable habitats, the practice has continued to varying degrees since. In 1969, groups like the NWTF entered the wildlife management scene, and in the ensuing years, has raised more than $412 million to promote turkey hunting and carry out conservation projects on 17 million acres of habitat. “Thanks to the partnership between the state wildlife agencies, groups like the National Wild Turkey Federation and its dedicated volunteers, over the years, we were able to support an innovative trap and transfer program that placed wild turkeys in 99 percent of suitable habitat to date,” says Fleming, “Today, there are almost 7
million wild turkeys, and 49 states allow turkey hunting.” The only state that doesn’t have a huntable turkey population is Alaska. Trap and relocation programs are proven to be by far the best method of establishing wild turkey populations. However, since the first birds were trapped and taken to new homes, the growth of the wild turkey’s range hasn’t been an exponentially steep curve. Releasing pen-raised birds was tried and, generally, failed over the course of nearly two decades. The pen-raised release policy, according to some, set back the wild turkey restoration for two decades. In 1979, a study compared the survivability success of both wild-trapped and farm-raised birds. Of the 30,000 wild-trapped birds released and analyzed in the study, 83 percent of the sites established new turkey populations. Conversely, during the same period, 330,000 pen-raised birds were released on 800 sites, and only about 5 percent of the birds survived. The reason pen-raised turkeys don’t do well is congruent to many factors. Chief among them is the lack of parental influence to teach a wild chick how to be a wild adult turkey. In 1994, the state agency-sponsored practice of releasing penraised birds was all but eliminated nationwide, and state wildlife agencies began to trap and relocate earnestly. In the ensuing two decades, the results have been phenomenal — especially in Texas. Trapping and relocating has been a huge success in Texas,” says Jason Hardin, Upland Game Bird Specialist for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. “When it was started, there were virtually no Easterns and only a handful of Rio Grande turkeys in the Hill
sa v e t h e wild t u r k e y
Country.” Around the turn of the 20th century, Hardin says that there were only about 10,000 Rio Grande turkeys. “Exploitation of turkeys in Texas and the habitats they occupied reduced the population to the point that less than 12 percent of the species original range was occupied by the early 1900s,” he says. Today, the trapping and restocking of Rio Grande’s has been overwhelmingly successful. Now, the Rio Grande occupies much of Texas west of IH-35 to the High Plains (including river drainages with significant roosting sites) and the eastern Trans-Pecos. As a result, the statewide Rio Grande population now stands around 500,000 birds. While there is some debate whether the Merriam’s is truly a Texas native, a small pocket of them live in the high elevations of the Guadalupe Mountain range and are doing well. One of the most remarkable hunter-funded success stories is the Eastern wild turkey. Once almost entirely extirpated from eastern Texas, the Eastern strain is a true survivor. Since the turkey makes its home in big timber, suitable habitat isn’t as readily available as it is for their Rio Grande cousin. Therefore, restocking has historically been a bit more problematic. “From 1978 to 1986, less than 200 wild-trapped Eastern turkeys were released into Texas,” explains Hardin. “The block-stocking era ramped up in 1987, and by 2002, over 7,000 wild-trapped Eastern turkeys had been stocked into over 50 East Texas counties in the Pineywoods and the Post Oak Savannah. Today, the Eastern turkey population is estimated at 8,500 to 10,000 birds.” Hardin says that one of the key factors in deciding on a release site for Eastern wild turkeys is their use of the habitat suitability
A Rio Grande tom in full strut.
index. Essentially, the index is a way of measuring the quality of habitat and serves as a predictor for turkey success if released into an area. In 1995 and 1996, Red River County was the only county with an open season,” Hardin explains. “From 1997-2005, more counties were added almost annually. The Eastern wild turkey stocking effort has been a real success.”
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issues and Advocacy
MAKING A DIFFERENCE Articles by gary joiner
TWA Identifies Bills in Austin for Support or Opposition The Texas Wildlife Association continues to identify legislation filed in the 83rd Texas Legislature for organizational support or opposition. The bills in which TWA has taken a position include: HB 4 by Ritter: Relating to the creation and funding of the state water implementation fund for Texas to assist the Texas Water Development Board in the funding of certain water-related projects. (TWA Supports) HB 11 by Ritter: Relating to the appropriation of money from the economic stabilization fund to finance certain water-related projects. (TWA Supports) HB 162 by Larson and SB 175 by Estes: Relating to the allocation of the proceeds from taxes imposed on the sale, storage, or use of sporting goods. (TWA Supports) HB 332 by Guillen: Relating to tort liability arising from a volunteer's operation of a Parks and Wildlife Department motordriven vehicle or motor-driven equipment. (TWA Supports)
HB 507 by Guillen: Relating to the discharge of a firearm across the property line of an educational facility. (TWA Supports) HB 677 by Geren: Relating to the regulation and enforcement of dam safety by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. (TWA Supports) HJR 40 by Larson and SJR 17 by Estes: Proposing a constitutional amendment relating to the appropriation of the net revenue received from the imposition of the state sales and use tax on sporting goods. (TWA Supports) SB 96 by Nichols: Relating to prohibiting the use of eminent domain to take private property for recreational purposes. (TWA Supports) For a complete list of bills supported or opposed by TWA, go to the TWA Advocacy Center at http://www.capwiz.com/texaswildlife/home/.
HB 401 by Aycock: Relating to the discharge of a firearm or fishing with certain archery equipment in or on the bed or bank of a navigable river or stream in certain counties. (TWA Supports)
State Rep. Kyle Kacal Reflects on Early Days of Session TWA Director Kyle Kacal of College Station is enjoying his first legislative session as the new State Representative from District 12. State Rep. Kacal offered these thoughts one month into the 140-day session in Austin. "My experience in the Texas Legislature over the past month, while incredibly busy, has been very insightful and productive,” he said. “With a schedule that is clearly different than the time spent managing the ranch, it is such an honor to focus on representing the constituents in this large rural district. With many challenging tasks ahead for the 83rd legislative session, I look forward to tackling these issues to help Texas and the constituents in House District 12." State Rep. Kacal was appointed as a member to the House Committee on Agriculture and Livestock and the House Committee on Environmental Regulation. It’s a big state Capitol, and State Rep. Kacal has the footsteps data to prove it. He says he has been averaging 7,000-10,000 steps per day during his time in Austin.
ISSUES AND ADVOCACY
The Texas Wildlife Association continues to be actively engaged in landowner and habitat management issues related to the lesser prairie-chicken in the Texas Panhandle and South Plains. TWA is promoting voluntary conservation practices and measures for landowners to address federal concerns over species populations. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to list the lesser prairie-chicken as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. Continuing efforts supported by TWA to craft voluntary conservation agreements that provide landowner flexibility and assurances are gaining support among Congressional leaders. “These voluntary agreements help protect species’ habitat and promote smart conservation practices,” said U.S. Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-Lubbock) in a letter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
photo by Russell Graves
TWA Engaged on Lesser Prairie-Chicken Issues
“When stakeholders can agree on voluntary measures like this, everybody wins. There are fewer costs imposed by the government. The industry has the flexibility it needs
TWA Promoting Protection of Second Amendment Rights The Texas Wildlife Association is articulating its strong support for the protection of Second Amendment rights with elected leaders from Texas in Washington, D.C. TWA is assisting the offices of U.S. Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz with TWA information regarding support for the Second Amendment and the right to keep and bear arms in anticipation of increased Congressional activity aimed at increasing federal gun control regulations. "As vital as free speech is to a free society, the Second Amendment is equally vital," said TWA President Glen Webb in a Feb. 12 letter to the Senators. "Therefore, we should
refrain from picking and choosing how Americans exercise their Second Amendment rights." TWA believes every sportsman, sportswoman, and American has the right to keep and bear arms. The constitutional right to keep and bear arms protects the means by which the vast majority of American hunters equip themselves to go afield. Efforts to preserve our Hunting Heritage can be undone if new barriers to hunting are added by limiting the tools that the vast majority of sportsmen depend on to hunt.
to continue to operate. And it promotes healthy wildlife habitat.”
TWAPAC is Important Advocacy Tool The Texas Wildlife Association Political Action Committee (TWAPAC) is a state political action committee that supports candidates for state office who support TWA philosophies and policy goals. Candidates selected for TWAPAC support are first recommended by the TWA Legislative Committee and then approved by the TWA Officers. Contributions to the TWAPAC are voluntary. TWA members wishing to contribute to the TWAPAC may do so by calling the TWA headquarters office at (210) 826-2904. Thank you for adding strength to the TWAPAC with your contribution! Your support is greatly appreciated!
H u n t i n g H e r i ta g e
T YH P
Blame It On the Hog Article by Giselle galletti Photos by natalie galletti
y name is Giselle Galletti, and I'm an 11-year-old hunter. I got accepted to go on a Texas Youth Hunting Program youth hunt with my friend, Lucy, in February of 2012. I had wanted to go on one ever since Lucy's siblings went on a TYHP hunt two years ago. So, when we were 10, we took the Hunter Education Course at Cabela's and signed up for one of the final youth hunts of the season. We were going to hunt white-tailed does. I was so excited; it would be the adventure of a lifetime. We went to Sycamore Creek Ranch all the way out in Del Rio, four hours away from home. There were five youths on the hunt, three boys and two girls. All of us, including our Huntmaster and the adult helpers, were from our church. Lucy rode out with my mom and me on Friday afternoon. That Giselle, a typical 11-year-old, having evening, we practiced fun on her hunt. at the shooting range
before the next day's hunt; and, afterwards, we found out who our guides would be for the weekend. I ended up with my guide being Mitchell; it's his family who owns the ranch. Saturday morning, we got up at 5:30 a.m. to go to our hunting areas. Wow, that was early! As we drove to our hunting area, Mitchell saw a hog in the hog trap. We left it there, and settled in. Once the sun came up, a few deer came close, but the hog kept scaring them all away. Eventually, it was time to go back to camp; I hadn't harvested anything, and I was really cold. We went down to see the trapped hog which turned out to be a good-sized sow. Mitchell took it to be processed; he said that it wouldn't be right for my first animal to be shot in a trap. We weighed the sow. She was 100 pounds! My friend Lucy had taken a large doe, the first out of the five to harvest a deer. After breakfast, we processed the sow and the doe. My mom and I were excited about all the hog meat we'd be taking home. Later, two Texas Game Wardens came by to give us a talk about safety, laws, and what they really do at their job. It seems like it's pretty hard. Then, we went to the shooting range and practiced on cardboard deer cutouts, before setting out for the evening hunt. This time, we went to a hunting area that was literally on the edge of a cliff. I saw a few aoudads that were too far away and some
other game which we were only allowed to observe and enjoy. We didn't see anything else, and I came back empty-handed again. We sat around the fire pit eating dinner and joking around until 10 o'clock. Two of the boys had brought in good-sized aoudads that evening. That left one boy and me who still hadn't harvested anything, so we were depending on Sunday morning for everything. Sunday morning was the same as Saturday; we got up at 5:30 a.m., had a snack, hit the road, and settled in once more. Around 7 a.m., I finally saw a large sow with three piglets, but they disappeared in the brush before they came into range. By then, I was really anxious. Before the trip, my dad had said that I didn't have to take anything if I didn't want to, but I really did want to do this and didn't want to return home with just the hog. We spotted a white-tailed doe in the woods; it was just what I wanted. She made her way into the clearing but never turned for me to get a clear shot. Finally, she turned and stood still. Mitchell said I could take aim, so I positioned my rifle and just waited. Then he said I could go for it, so I fired. The deer ran away. I wasn't sure I had hit it, but you always need to make sure. We searched far and wide for a very long time with other guides and hunters helping us, but we never found any trace of her. We decided that I
blame it on the hog
had made a clear miss. After breakfast, we had to pack up, because the hunting weekend was over. Mitchell said that no one had ever gone home empty-handed from their ranch, and he was taking it personally that two of us hadn't harvested anything yet. So, he and his friend, Quatro, took the two of us on a mobile hunt in an old ranch vehicle. We spotted a herd of aoudad on the bank of a large pond and crept up on them from the brush — just like hunters you see in the movies. We searched riverbeds, we climbed hills, we hid in the brush, and we trekked through the trees. We hunted all over the
ranch for our quarry, but every time we got near our game, it just seemed to disappear. At 2 p.m., we called it quits, so we could get back home and Mitchell could get back to A&M. Mitchell made me promise to come back for another hunt, and I plan to do just that. I had the best weekend of my life so far, out there at the TYHP Hunt. While I was disappointed that I never got a deer, I had a lot of fun because I tried every style of rifle hunting possible. I think everyone should try to go hunting at least once, even if you have bad luck like I did, because it's fun. You might even be as lucky as my friend Lucy — she harvested that doe in the first 30 minutes of her first hunt. I jokingly blame all of the spooked animals on the hog that was caught in the trap the first morning. She may have jinxed the hunt for me, but she turned into really good sausage patties, shredded pork for tacos, and bones for my dog. It was definitely a weekend I will never forget and, hopefully, the first of many more hunting trips.
HU N T I N G H E R I T A G E
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c o n s e r vat i o n l e g a c y
MAKING A DIFFERENCE
Developing Leadership in Your Son Texas Brigades-Style Article by meredith lamberton Photos by texas brigades
hen our 13-year-old son, Davis, announced he wanted to go to Texas Brigades Bobwhite Quail Camp, a camp that he had independently found on the Internet, I have to admit I was more than apprehensive about packing him up and sending him off to a West Texas camp and hunting lodge. Thankfully, his father and I capitulated to Davis’ protestations that the Brigades was “safe,” and so our family’s relationship with one of the finest, and most unique learning and leadership experiences, began.
The 1st Battalion of the Waterfowl Brigade.
Since moving to Texas eight years ago, Davis has become an avid wildlife enthusiast, fisherman, hunter and conservationist. He discovered the Texas Brigades while checking out his regular wildlife sites one day after school. After completing the requisite essays and gaining acceptance to Texas Brigades, Davis was unsure of what was in store when we dropped him at camp; seven hours away from suburban Houston for 4 1/2 days in the Rolling Plains of Texas for an “intensive wildlife leadership camp.” Little did we know how dramatically the Bobwhite Brigade experience would profoundly change our son! The Texas Brigades’ official mission is to
“educate and empower youths with leadership skills and knowledge in wildlife, fisheries, and land stewardship to become conservation ambassadors for a sustained natural resource legacy.” Not only are these lofty goals achieved within a short, fourand-a-half days (and four long, long nights of study), amazingly, the Cadets take this knowledge and continue building on it through independent activities they select to promote the Texas Brigades and to teach conservation in their own communities during the next year. What is the golden carrot for a Cadet to complete the requisite number and quality projects? Cadets earn the chance to secure an invitation on a hunt and a return to the camp as an Assistant Leader, the first leadership rung in the Brigades Program. The Bobwhite Brigade is a project-centered and handson curriculum surrounded by numerous adult volunteers who teach the Cadets about an area of specialty. The formula is simple. The Texas Brigades finds teenage boys and girls who are interested in wildlife and conservation and teach them everything about their interest. From plant identification to quail dissection, biology to botany, and radio telemetry to riflery, the Cadets thoroughly immerse themselves in bobwhite quail and its conservation. Topics and sessions include everything from the anatomy of a quail (learned through hands-on dissection and taxidermy) to evaluating quail habitat and documenting the reasons for the current bobwhite quail population decline. The Cadets also learn about wildlife funding and Texas wildlife restoration history.
The frenetic pace of Cadet life is astounding; reading and class-time learning is followed by hands-on activities with anything and everything related to quail. At night, the Cadets study the day’s information in order to prepare for the rapid-fire, jeopardy-style quiz shows the Cadets compete in the each day. Dr. Dale Rollins, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, San Angelo, estimates the camp content to be the equivalent of 6-8 hours of master-level coursework. My son was 13 and LOVED every minute. To cement the learning material and to keep things lively, cadences fill the Cadets’ and leaders’ time throughout the week; funny lyrics about quail and their lives emphasize salient learning points on wildlife and ranch management. I can hear them now as Davis’ covey entered into the outdoor pavilion marching in time. A quail’s life is full of tests. Many critters break up their nests. Possums, skunks and raccoons too. It’s enough to make a bobwhite blue. Bobwhite cadets give many talks Everything from plants to hawks. Displays, speeches, seeds and slides, About a habitat where the quail resides. (Taken from Texas Brigades Cadences) During the 4 1/2 days, every Cadet strives to be the best he or she could be. The Cadets learn and accept personal accountability for their efforts. If a Cadet is unable to accomplish a task at hand, he knows it is his responsibility to figure it out. Blaming failures on others, the pervasive theme sung by so many of today’s teenagers, simply is neither entertained nor tolerated.
developing leadership in your son
Bobwhite Brigade fosters healthy competition among the Cadets. The 30 boys and girls are grouped into smaller groups, coveys (of course) in which the Cadets band together to compete for the coveted Top Covey Award. All Cadets, Assistant Covey Leaders, and Covey Leaders take this competition very seriously. Cadets’ performances in a variety of daily activities throughout the week are scored. Making beds with hospital corners, cleaning camp bathrooms and bedrooms, marching and chanting in unison, each of these behaviors contributes points toward the muchrevered Top Covey Award. “I don’t think there is any other place where you can have fun cleaning up a bunkroom and marching at the crack of dawn. My favorite activity was tracking down a quail (which we named Bernard) with a radio telemetry device. We put a radio transmitter on a quail and released it, then tracked it back down and caught it (unharmed) with a net,” Davis wrote in a thank you note to a program donor. I can picture his huge smile while remembering and writing this in a note to the leadership of one of the sponsors. Each cadet wrote several typed, pagelong, three-paragraph thank you notes to Brigade sponsors – replete with (corrected) grammar, amusing anecdotes and chock full of detail about the Brigades experience. These notes differ markedly from the short, handwritten (illegible) notes Davis had produced at home before attending Texas Brigades. At the completion of the Rolling Plains Bobwhite Brigade, the scores are tallied, and the Top Covey is awarded. Only these cadets win automatic admission to a special weekend at the Rolling Plains Quail Research Ranch for their efforts. Although the
Davis and his covey-mates learn how wildlife professionals track quail predation in the field.
other coveys and Cadets wished they had earned the honor and had tried their hardest to win it, they nonetheless, appreciated and celebrated their fellow Cadets earned success. Not one Cadet argued with the decision. No parent attempted to have the rules changed. Non-winning Cadets did not receive a runner’s up prize or the ubiquitous gold trophy for showing up at the right time. Texas Brigades is a welcome departure from the current “everyone-gets-atrophy” mentality of our current extracurricular programs. Our shelves at home are littered with trophies, bobble heads, and plaques from sports in which my children barely remember and of which they did not particularly deserve. At the Texas Brigades,
just showing up is not good enough. Demonstrating first-class effort and excelling at the task at hand are what are, correctly, rewarded at Texas Brigades camps. Drawing on the project-focused nexus with the students, the Texas Brigades accomplishes what is its true goal – an unapologetic leadership institute for teenagers. Davis came home equipped with an incredibly neat and detailed trifold presentation of quail predation, the most impressive and organized work I have seen him do yet, and clear expectations of what he needed to do during the upcoming school year. Working hard at his educational projects and speaking engagements, Davis filled his fall toting along his trifold about Quail
toni purnell Hello, I am Toni Purnell, and I joined TWA in November of 2012 as an Education Contractor for the D-FW area. I will be distributing Discovery Trunks and visiting schools throughout Dallas, Ellis, Johnson, and Tarrant counties with our amazing hands-on wildlife classroom presentations. I was born and raised in Ft. Worth, Texas. After college, I lived in San Diego and spent some time traveling, mostly in the western United States. I have always loved
the outdoors and have spent as much time as possible hiking, biking, camping, and exploring nature. As a classroom teacher, I introduced nature to my students often by working in our school garden and utilizing the outdoor classroom. I have always enjoyed children’s excitement and sense of curiosity about the outdoors and the “critters” that inhabit it. As an environmental educator, I taught Nature School, summer camps and home
school programs based on Texas ecology and Texas native plants and animals. I also developed and taught a home school program that integrates life and earth sciences with art. This year, I completed my Texas Master Naturalist certification. I am excited to continue learning, teaching, and advocating for Texas wildlife, land, ecology, and conservation with the TWA team.
developing leadership in your son
Davis receives his Bobwhite Brigade certification after a heartily recited Silver Bullet.
Predation to myriad meetings of Quail Forever, the Wildlife and Fishing Extravaganza at Bass Pro Shops, Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, and several school events. Davis secured his requisite number of activities and spent hours patiently crafting a scrapbook page for each completed activity to send to the Selection Committee. Sending his Brigade notebook in on November 1, he anxiously awaited the panel’s decision, and it was positive. With more excitement than I can convey, Davis once again packed up his bags for the Rolling Plains and embarked on a weekend with Dr. Rollins, a cadre of researching Master’s students, one other Cadet, and Dr. Rollins’ bird dogs. What did Davis learn from this weekend at the Quail Research Ranch? Davis knows he must continue to study hard in science and math, keep on top of his activities, and keep pushing himself if he wants to go to a university and study wildlife and/or fishery management. This is
priceless advice and camaraderie for a now 14-year-old son. Dr. Rollins explained to us parents at graduation, “The cadets are like pieces of coal. What does coal need to become a diamond? Pressure, time, and heat.” Because the cadets are at Texas Brigades for such a short time, Dr. Rollins explained that they have to turn up the pressure and heat while the cadets are at camp. As each cadet accepted their Bobwhite Brigade Pin at graduation, they introduced themselves to the large crowd of parents and siblings and delivered their Silver Bullet, a motivational quote. “I am Davis Lamberton, and I am a student of quail. My Silver Bullet is by Thomas Edison who said, ‘Good things come to he who hustles while he waits.’” I know Davis knows what this quotation means, I have watched him embody its intent as he hustles to his Brigades commitments and carves out higher personal aspirations while he waits to study and research wildlife full time in the future. Since his first Brigades experience, Davis was selected to return as an Assistant Covey Leader for the 20th Battalion of the Bobwhite Brigade and as a Cadet (and proud member of the Top Flock) at the inaugural Waterfowl Brigade in 2012. Certainly, Texas Brigades has afforded Davis opportunities and experiences that have forever changed his future vocation, avocation, and work ethic. From a parental perspective, I can assure you that Texas Brigades gets it right.
Hello! My name is Amanda Crouch, and I have recently started a position as a Contract Educator for the Texas Wildlife Association. I am working in the Ft. Worth area covering Tarrant, Parker, Denton, and Wise counties, and I am teaching elementary school-aged children about our native Texas wildlife and land conservation. I attended Sul Ross State University in Alpine, Texas, and received both a Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Business and a Master of Agriculture in Rangeland Management. After working for a time as a Range Specialist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service, I accepted a teaching position with a small private school. During my years teaching, I taught Kindergarten, 5th, 6th and 8th grades. As a native Texan, I have an intense love for our beautiful state. My father, who was a District Conservationist with the NRCS, taught me about land conservation my whole life. It was no surprise that I wanted to follow in his footsteps when I grew up. I also have a love for children and enjoy spending my time surrounded by them. I never would have thought I would find a job that combined both my passion for land conservation and wildlife and my passion for working with young children, but this position has done just that. I truly look forward to working with all of the amazing TWA staff to teach our young Texans about the importance of protecting the legacy of this beautiful state.
2013 SCHEDULE MARCH 21
Quail Management Dale Rollins, Ph.D.
Waterfowl Habitat and Management Kevin Kraai
Predator Control Michael Bodenchuk
Small Acreage Wildlife Management Rufus Stephens
Water for Wildlife Steve Nelle 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 Helen Holdsworth at (210) 826-2904 or email@example.com
LIVE WEBINARS NOON - 1 P.M.
t wa m e m b e r s i n a c t i o n
MAKING A DIFFERENCE
Articles by gary joiner
TWA Announces New Officer Positions, Membership Dues Rate, and Membership Type
he Texas Wildlife Association Executive Committee and the TWA Board of Directors each gathered in San Angelo, January 15-16, as part of important leadership meetings for the organization. The Board of Directors considered and approved two action items of particular importance among its business agenda on January 16. New TWA Officer positions of Vice President and Second Vice President for Programs were created with approved amendments to the TWA By-laws. As a result of the By-laws changes, TWA now has Officer positions of President, Vice President, Second Vice President for Programs, and Treasurer. The proposed By-
laws amendments had been approved and recommended for Directors approval by the TWA Executive Committee in October 2012. The new Vice President position blends the duties of a traditional organizational Vice President and the duties of the previous TWA Secretary position. Greg Simons of San Angelo is the new Vice President, having previously served the organization as Secretary since 2011. The new Second Vice President for Programs position is currently vacant. It shall be performed by an individual who is currently employed in an academic setting (university or college) as a wildlife and/or natural resource professional or researcher. The positions of President, Vice President, and Treasurer shall be elected annually by the Board of Directors at the regular annual meeting. The Second Vice President for Programs position shall be elected every three years at the regular annual meeting, and the individual serving as Second Vice President for Programs is eligible for re-nomination to the same position. The Second Vice President for Programs shall be an Officer contact and representative for all organizational
education program efforts. The Second Vice President for Programs shall be a member of the Conservation Legacy Advisory Committee and the Hunting Heritage Advisory Committee. The Second Vice President for Programs shall serve as an organizational liaison and resource in matters relating to wildlife and/or natural resource research at the university and college level and with state and federal agencies. The Board of Directors on January 16 also approved a dues increase of $10 for the TWA Associate membership level, based on a recommendation from the TWA Membership Committee. Effective April 1, 2013, the TWA Associate membership is $50 per year. In addition, the Board of Directors created a new “online” membership level for $35 per year. The “online” membership level provides all TWA communication and materials to the member in an electronic format. The new membership level becomes available on April 1, 2013.
Success celebrated at “Kids Gone Wild” in Fort Worth he Texas Wildlife Association was proud to partner again with the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo on a successful “Kids Gone Wild” event on January 27 on the Stock Show grounds. It is estimated 10,000-12,000 people visited the second-annual “Kids Gone Wild” event, with approximately 1,200 youths enjoying the archery activity sponsored by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and 400 youths enjoying the air rifle activity sponsored by the Texas State Rifle Association.
Photo by Helen Holdsworth
Texas Youth Hunting Program Huntmasters and TWA Conservation Legacy staff and contract educators were among the many exhibitors and volunteers providing hands-on activities and information at the special event in the Cattle Arena. The activity was coordinated by TWA Director of Conservation Legacy Programs Helen Holdsworth, in partnership with the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo.
MEMBERSHIP DRI VE NEW PRIZES AND INCENTIVES!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Guns & Shooting
A Turkey Too Far Article and Photos by
lthough smooth, pracThey either pulled off the tarticed swings are required get, or they did not know where for most winged targets pursued their shotgun was hitting.’’ by shotgun-shooting enthusiCunningham said that his asts, spring turkey hunters norpatterning practice is conducted mally shift into their rifle mode on a range where targets are set in hopes of bagging a big tom. at an established distance; he Steady, accurate shots putting does not have to guess at the a lot of fatal pellets into the head range of his target like some turand neck area of a turkey are rekey hunters. quired to bring down a bird as it In addition, he recommends eases into range. Knowing how a good set of optics, such as the far is too far and what distance is EOTech holographic sights that just right are the keys to success. utilize an adjustable dot, or illuJust like a good rifle shot can minated front and back sights to accurately determine the right improve the changes of putting a hold point for a target at various load of shot in the right place at ranges — either through expethe right time. rience or by relying on quality “You have got to know where range-finding optics — a turkey your shotgun shoots, and that hunter should be range-educatis hard to do just using a bead,’’ ed while in the field. Cunningham said. “With a dot“If you are hunting the edge of type sight, you can dial it in so a wide-open weed patch, a turthe dead center of the core is key at 60 yards can look just like hitting exactly where you want a bird at 30 yards — that is where it to hit.” you can really screw up,’’ said Jim His tricks for determining Cunningham, co-owner of the where a shotgun will pattern is Ahern Group in New Braunfels. to fire at least five shots at the Turkey targets set at ranges of 20, 30, 40 and 50 yards, marked through the use of The sales representative for same patterning board from a range finder, demonstrate how a hunter should know where and when a big tom turkey has stepped into the right kill zone for a clean, accurate shot. Browning and Winchester, along a distance of 20 yards, use the with EOTech optics, has hunsame turkey choke to be used in dreds of used shotgun patterns in storage that he has shot to de- the field, and take the shots from a rest. termine exactly where his scatterguns will pattern at various yards. Once a hunter is satisfied with the shotgun’s performance at a “Knowing exactly where your shotgun will pattern and having specified distance, transferring that knowledge to the field is just 100 percent confidence in it is what you want in any kind of situa- a case of accurately determining ranges in the field by relying on tion,’’ Cunningham said. high-tech equipment like a range finder to exactly establish a kill “With the tight turkey chokes used by a lot of hunters, you are zone for his specific firearm. putting out a pattern about the size of a grapefruit at 20 yards and One handy range finder that has provided excellent service durmaybe something the size of a basketball at 40 yards. ing spring turkey season for many is the Nikon Buckmasters Laser “I hear from a lot of guys that say: ‘That turkey was only 20 yards 800 8x28 Rangefinder that can accurately measure distances down away. I can’t believe I missed it,’’’ he said. “I know why they missed. to one-tenth of a yard from as close as 16 yards out to 800 yards.
Guns & Shooting
This group of young jakes attracted to an area near a hunter's blind is scattered at various ranges that should be determined through the use of a range finder or other methods to make sure the hunter can confidently bag a bird.
With the average turkey hunter keeping their shots from as close as about 15 yards out to a choke-stretching 40 yards in order to reliably bag a big tom, the range finder can be an invaluable tool. Range finders have been around for quite some time, generally receiving more use from rifle and archery hunters, but the devices do have a place in a turkey hunter’s gear bag. Science Note: As a short explanation about how a range finder works, the device sends out the laser pulse and measures the time it takes to bounce back. Since light travels at about 186,000 miles per second, the measurement is instantaneous and reads out in the view finder. Users should note that the coded pulse of light emitted by the device is an eye-safe laser that can be blocked by heavy
rain, smoke, a twig or tree branch, so multiple readings are recommended. One of the most simple and effective methods of determining distance from a turkey blind is to put the range finder to good use when first setting up in a location. Sitting in the same position that would be used to fire a shot at a turkey, use the rangefinder to determine the distance to a bush, tree, spot on the ground or various other nearby objects. Mentally record those ranges so when a big tom steps near that spot, there is no question about whether or not a killing shot is possible. As noted by Cunningham, ranges of 40 yards and under — depending upon the performance of a hunter’s specific turkey shotgun — are generally considered the optimum distance for dropping a tom turkey in its tracks. Jay Brown of San Antonio, an avid turkey hunter and former Mississippi turkey calling champion, said his goal
Spending a little range time with his turkey shotgun (note the red dot sight being utilized on a target set at 20 yards), Harvey Winingham of Murray, NE, makes sure he knows the best range — for him — to drop a spring tom turkey.
Checking out the ranges to various objects in view of your turkey hunting spot as you set up your hunt is a good idea to make sure a hunter knows when and where to pull the trigger to bag a spring tom.
Guns & Shooting
Tools of the trade for a successful turkey hunt include a shotgun that has been patterned to know where it will shoot and a good range finder to know what distance the wary spring tom has walked into as the ideal kill zone.
on any turkey hunt is to be able to make a clean kill at 40 yards or less. “I fired at 78 targets with three different types of shot in selecting my turkey shotgun,’’ he said. His firearm of choice is a Benelli with a 24-inch barrel topped with day-glow sights and using 3-inch shells loaded with No. 5 HEVI-Shot. Based on patterning tests, he has selected screw-in Comp-N-Chokes as his go-to turkey killers.
“I can shoot at a two-inch square target set up at 40 yards and put 27 pellets into something about the size of a playing card. I’m from the old school where a good hunt is measured by calling in a turkey to within 25 yards and shooting it without putting a single shot into the breast or body of the bird,’’ he said. Brown, who estimates he has killed about 300 turkeys during the many years he has been plying his skills against the wary birds,
said that putting a fatal charge of shot into a target about the size of a lemon requires practice, knowledge and skill. Knowing how well a turkey shotgun will shoot at specific ranges is a big part of that formula.
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Dog-Eared Favorites Article by Henry Chappell • Photos by Laurie hall
The author’s dog-eared dog books have traveled all over Texas in pickups, backpacks and duffel bags.
everal years ago, Dallas art dealer Bubba Wood told me about a book signing he held at Collector’s Covey, his gallery, for beloved Field & Stream columnist Gene Hill. The line of fans extended out the front door and far down the walkway. “Everyone who came in that day, whether he was duck hunter who threw out a few decoys at Tawakoni or paid a fortune at Stuttgart, said the same thing: ‘Mr. Hill, your writing speaks to me.’” Gene Hill hunted and fished all over the world and wrote about his experiences in his long-running Sports Afield column “Mostly Tailfeathers” and, later, “Hill Country” in Field & Stream. Big game hunting in Africa; bobwhite hunting in Texas; fly fishing in New Brunswick — all excellent, some of the best outdoor essays ever written. But many of his best columns, and the ones that I believe will endure, addressed familiar pleasures close to home. His essays are collected in several books including Mostly Tailfeathers, A Hunter’s Fireside Book and A Listening Walk. Longtime readers of this column won’t be surprised that my favorite Gene Hill book is Tears and Laughter: A Couple Dozen
Dog Stories. Twenty-six dog stories, actually. I would have loved twice that many. In “Brown Dog,” Hill describes the familiar all-purpose farm dog, which needn’t be all brown: “Some run a little orange in the coat, and others have a pronounced grayish, but lackluster coat … They have a peculiar threequarter sideways gait as if the front wheels are out of alignment, and they tend to use only one back leg at a time, resting one or the other alternately unless an emergency occurs requiring full power. “No farm can be said to be properly run unless there’s a brown dog in some position of authority. They will herd cows and pigs, keep the chickens out of the house garden, and keep the area free from skunks — which accounts, in large measure, for their distinct odor. No boy can be properly raised without one.” There are the requisite tear-jerkers. If Hill skirts dangerously close to sentimentality, he never lapses into the mawkishness of some of the most famous dog writers of the previous generation. Dogs die, and men weep; and, sometimes, there’s a story. In “The Dog Man,” Hill writes of a cold-
eyed hunter looking over a litter of setter puppies. “Years of experience have prepared him for this moment. He can recite the conformation and peculiarities of every fine dog of the breed.” Yet, after a systematic examination of every puppy, a little female attacks his shoe laces, drawing his attention from a scrappy male. “She has chosen the Dog Man.” Gene Hill was a Dog Man, one of us. Tears and Laughter belongs on every dog lover’s bookshelf. Charley Waterman and his wife, Debie, were wide-ranging bird hunters. If Gene Hill evoked grouse and woodcock coverts, English-built side-by-sides, and rustic hunting camps, Waterman brought to mind faded and patched blaze orange vests, fleabag motels, mud-spattered station wagons, Spartan camps in big, dry country, and workaday dogs. When I was a young outdoor writer, I modeled myself after Charley Waterman. If he could hunt on public land, with quirky pointers, and feel good about bagging a couple dog-wise birds, then so could I. The longtime Gun Dog columnist and frequent Gray’s Sporting Journal contribu-
but, if not, we have at least one. Fred Gipson’s Old Yeller may be classified as a kid’s book, but I consider it a masterpiece written from a boy’s perspective. I can think of no work in the Texas liter“No farm can be said to be properly run unless there’s a brown dog in some position of authority.” Gene Hill ary canon that evokes a more powerful sense of the Texas frontier. As a published in Texas Monthly, and includlongtime lover of “yeller cur-dogs” — one ed in From A Limestone Ledge, was pubis resting on the floor just behind me as I lished in book form in 1981 by Encino write this — I find Gipson’s descriptions Press. Long out of print, and fetching a handperfect. Here, the young protagonist tells of nights spent protecting the family corn some price on the used book market, Blue and Some Other Dogs is the story of dogs field: that touched the lives of Graves and his Get him, Yeller,’ I’d holler, ‘Tear him up!’ And that’s what Old Yeller would be trying family as they transitioned from suburban to do; but a boar coon isn’t an easy thing to to rural living and the decades they spent tear up. For one thing, he’ll fight you from on Hardscrabble, their small, rough, hill sundown till sunup. He’s not big for size, but farm near Glen Rose. The essay is also inthe longer you fight him, the big- cluded in A John Graves Reader, available in trade paperback from University of Texas ger he gets… …But, generally, when the Press. There’s Watty, an irascible, flatulent fight was all over, the coon went one way and Old Yeller the other, dachshund (“the Passenger” in Goodbye both of them pretty well satisfied to a River); Pan, a fearless, but occasionally work-shy Basque shepherd bitch; and to call it quits. We didn’t get much sleep of a her son Blue, self-anointed protector of night while all this was going on, the Graves corn patch, all-around varmint but we had us a good time and fighter, and yeomen stock dog. “On a cool still night last March, when the saved the corn. To gentle, modern souls hor- bitterest winter in decades was starting to rified by such atavistic plea- slack its grip and the first few chuck-will’ssures, John Graves, Texas’ fin- widows were whistling tentative claims to est writer, replies, “But Man the nest territories, the best dog I ever owned Hunter’s association with dogs simply disappeared.” Between those opening lines, and the is very, very long-standing, and anyone who can watch a slash- spare, beautiful denouement, Graves shows ing battle between his own dogs us a life lived with loyal, hard-working, anyand something wild and tough, thing-but-perfect farm dogs. He writes that when it does occur, without after Blue’s disappearance, he plans to keep feeling a flow of the old visceral more than one dog, for he does not want to joy, is either quite skilled at sup- “face so big a dose of that sort of emptiness pressing his emotions or more again.” That’s my top four. Hopefully you have different from me than I think your own list of favorites. Dogs enrich our most men are.” Cate, a mountain cur, the author’s “Old Yeller,” keeps her boss’s Graves’ Blue and Some other lives in so many ways; they surely deserve a afternoon reading spot warm. Dogs, a long essay originally rich literature of their own.
tor wrote several books on hunting and flyfishing. His classic Hunting Upland Birds may be the best all-around bird hunting book ever written. But, if I had to own only one Waterman book, I’d choose Gundogs & Bird Guns: A Charley Waterman Reader, a collection of short essays. We meet Dutch — the Duchess of Doonesbury — his beloved pointer; a clownish but deadly Brittany named Michael McGillicuddy; another Brittany, Tex, who specialized in fish retrieving; and, most memorably, Waterman’s beloved Kelly, a Brittany who successfully worked all 18 species of North American upland game birds. In “Kelly, He Got Them All,” Waterman wrote, “Long ago, Kelly went to where I like to think all of the bones are juicy and the birds never flush wild. They say a man is entitled to one good hunting dog in a lifetime. I guess I’ve had mine.” Charley Waterman passed away in 2005. I like to think he went to where chukars are forever calling from the rimrock, and even snipe will occasionally hold for a careful little Brittany named McGillicuddy. I hope we’re entitled to more great birddog books;
fish & fishing
Fishing for Answers Article and Photos by Dr. Billy Higginbotham, Professor and Extension Wildlife and Fisheries Specialist, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service
am a big believer in landowner-directed management, which means that you should (or at least could) unlock the keys to better fishing if you simply know what to look for and ask the questions that are in need of answers. Assessing landowner goals and habitat quality are as important to largemouth bass management as they are to white-tailed deer management. The third assessment is analysis of the population itself, which reveals demographic information; and, in this case, the population assessment that should be utilized involves the fine art of angling. Unless you have experienced a long history with the water to be managed, it is unlikely that you know the stocking history of the farm pond or other private impoundment in question. More likely than not, it may be a recently acquired piece of property containing ponds where management requires starting way back at Square One. The best way I know of to kickoff landowner-directed fisheries management is to simply go fishing. But. ahhhh… This fishing adventure must be done with a purpose. The fact is, we are not really fishing, but rather sampling our fish populations via hook and line. The first puzzle piece that falls into place using this approach is the species composition present. Do you have compatible species present, or do they represent interspecific competition? Species composition can also speak volumes regarding the existing predation-prey relationships, as well as reveal the presence of potentially “undesirable” species that may negatively impact your ability to reach your pond management goals. The next puzzle piece is the size structure
of the key species. That simply means you must determine the size ranges of those species you are highlighting in your management plan. It takes some time to develop the size structure picture by species and may require angling (sampling) efforts over multiple seasons, if not multiple years. Probably the most important size structure relationship is in those waters managed for largemouth bass and their principal forage species, the bluegill. For example, you may have a pond full of big bruiser bluegill, but if they are more than one-third the total length of the majority of your bass present, they are inedible (just like brussel sprouts) to those bass. Bass cannot eat what they cannot swallow whole. So, not only do you want bluegill present…you want bluegill of the appropriate sizes for all sizes of the largemouth bass that are also present. Over time, the size structures of largemouth bass and bluegill populations will require additional analyses to chart the course for management. This is especially true in order to determine the harvest strategies for the two species in order to keep both species in good condition, growing and reproducing — all on a sustained basis. In short, an example of a good size structure for bass and bluegill would be whenever 40 percent to 70 percent of the largemouth bass caught are at least 12 inches in length, while 40 percent to 60 percent of the bluegill caught are at least 6 inches in length. Of course, all of this requires logging the species caught into catch records, regardless of whether the fish are kept or released. In addition, total lengths and, perhaps, weights on key species must also be recorded.
All largemouth bass caught from August through December should we weighed for relative weight calculations.
This will require easy access to catch record forms, digital scales and a measuring instrument for all anglers. It is impossible to know where you are going, if you don’t know where you have been. So, data collection, via catch records, should be a requirement of all anglers. The best way to get started is to unleash a swarming horde of anglers on the targeted pond or lake, practicing catch and release initially, until you get a handle on what is present. There is nothing better than to have a variety of anglers utilizing different fishing styles and baits, lures and tackle to unlock the mysteries of the fish species
fish & fishing
swimming below the surface. For example, fly rodders with small popping bugs, streamers and flies can effectively probe the shallows for largemouth bass and other sunfish species from April through October. Ultralight spinning enthusiasts with their offerings of tiny jigs, spinners, crank baits and surface lures will have year-round appeal to several predator species present, including bass and crappie. Conventional bait casting and spinning tackle capable of throwing lures weighing from 1/4 -3/4 ounce or more are the staples of bass sampling gear. Soft plastics, spinnerbaits, crankbaits, stickbaits and topwaters in a variety of weights and lengths will sample your largemouth bass population across the board as long as lure size is varied adequately. However, I am not a proponent of fishing private waters with live minnows, until a picture begins to form regarding fish species present. Small jigs are an ideal tool sample for those species that make their living off of small minnows — especially crappie. The presence of crappie in impoundments less than 10 acres is especially important to know. Unless the water is fairly clear, there is a strong forage base present, and the bass population is strong, crappie have a tendency to overpopulate and stunt. In most cases, in these smaller waters, the rule is: “A crappie caught is a crappie kept [regardless of size].” Take the time to specifically fish for crappie to determine if they are indeed present. The above-mentioned strategies will reveal much about the sportfish species present but little about the whiskered favorites of many anglers that inhabit many Texas private waters. Totally different techniques are required to determine which, if any, catfish species are present. In general, a channel or blue catfish population is seldom selfsustaining in a private impoundment if largemouth bass and bluegill are present. The predation pressure exerted on the eggs, fry and fingerlings will typically limit recruitment of the catfish into the fish population. The best way to sample your catfish population is to dunk some catfish bait. Scented baits such as stink, cheese or punch baits are a good place to start. Even small live sunfish or cut fish or entrails can be used to sample catfish species. Several nights of soaking trotlines with a variety of bait offerings can place catfish assessment on the fast track. Hopefully, no bullheads (mudcats) or flatheads (yellow or opelousas cats) will show up in the catfish sampling. However, if no channel or blue catfish are caught, and the landowner desires catfish present, supplemental stocking will be required to maintain a population. It really is okay to maintain a residual population of blue or channel catfish in a bass-bluegill pond. In most of these private waters, the addition of 25 to 100 eight-inch or larger catfish fingerlings per surface acre will maintain a population. Depending on the fishing pressure applied to the catfish population, a three- to five-year stocking cycle is desirable. Successful angler sampling also requires the ability to differentiate between the various fish species finning around your pond… But, that is a topic for the next article on “Fish and Fishing” in Texas Wildlife!
Besides assessments made with standard fishing tackle, a trotline or even the unusual "yo-yo" can be employed to sample catfish populations present.
Fly fishing tackle allows the manager to sample various species of sportfish because of the wide variety of lure patterns and sizes available.
Both ultralight and heavy spinning tackle, utilizing various lure styles and sizes, can adequately sample largemouth bass populations.
B orderl ands news Borderlands Research Institute for Natural Resource Management
Use of Artificial Water by Translocated Pronghorn in Trans-Pecos Article, photos, and graphics by daniel tidwell, (Undergraduate McNair Fellow), Justin Hoffman (Research Assistant), and Louis A. Harveson (Director and Professor), Borderlands Research Institute
Three female pronghorn drinking from a cattle trough in the Marfa Plateau.
ronghorn antelope populations in the Trans-Pecos region of Texas have declined to 2,700 individuals in 2012, since peaking in the late 1980s at 17,000. Like other wildlife species, pronghorn populations fluctuate with precipitation. Pronghorns are capable of consuming one gallon of water per day; but, when they are deprived of water, they will exhibit stress in both health and reproduction. Pronghorns can obtain water from three sources, including free, performed, and metabolic water. Metabolic and preformed water sources generally make up a small fraction of the water pronghorns use. In drought conditions, these two sources of water are almost nonexistent. In 2011, the Borderlands Research Institute and the Texas Parks
and Wildlife Department translocated 200 surplus pronghorns from the Texas Panhandle to the Trans-Pecos Region to supplement the declining populations. In so doing, we wanted to evaluate how translocated pronghorns utilize their new habitats. For this aspect of the study, our objectives were to (1) quantify artificial water utilization and (2) document spatial use around water sources. Accordingly, we evaluated pronghorn water utilization in relation to ambient temperature, diurnal versus nocturnal use, gender, and breeding and fawning seasons. We analyzed 15 (eight male, seven female) radio-collared pronghorns. We utilized GPS radio collars that recorded one location per hour. This allowed locations to be separated into different time frames to quantify how their water
utilization evolved through time following initial release and to note influential factors that affected water utilization. We recorded a high utilization during the first five weeks, which makes us believe the pronghorns kept a closer proximity to artificial water sources while they were familiarizing themselves to the new environment. Due to the dispersal of individuals, we saw a gradual trend of an increasing proximity to water sources after the first month. Proximity to artificial sources was not different relative to ambient temperature or between diurnal or nocturnal locations. We noted the difference between water use by bucks and does. Females during fawning were Using GIS, researchers with the Borderlands Research Institute are able to map and delineate generally closer to water sources than males. Bucks were pronghorn movements following their reintroduction to the Marfa Plateau. The graphic displays water sources (blue), individual pronghorn locations (magenta), and the home range polygon also further from water sources during breeding season (green). In this example, the northern and eastern extent of the home range polygon are obstructed by Highway 90 and net-wire fences. than other seasons. Because of the nutritional demands of pregnancy and lactation, we believe that does stayed closer to water sources. Likewise, rutting bucks were less likely to is imperative, due to the hindrance of pronghorn movements. A be near water during rut as they tended to does and defended ter- pronghorn-friendly fence is defined as a fence that has a minimum bottom wire height of 16 inches. Because pronghorns gravitate toritories. Most management guidelines throughout the western states sug- ward fence corners, immediate fence improvements should focus gest that water sources should be spaced at one-mile intervals. For on corners. We strongly suggest that pronghorn-friendly fences our study, we found that 62 percent of pronghorn locations were and supplemental artificial water sources be key components to within one mile of a water source. Based on the one-mile spacing management schemes for pronghorn restoration. Supplementing recommendation for water, the Marfa Plateau had better than aver- artificial water sources and pronghorn-friendly fences will facilitate pronghorn movement across the ample habitat and improve age water distribution but had room for improvement. Establishing pronghorn-friendly fences for future translocations pronghorn survival.
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also a commercial prescribed burn manager
A GPS transmitter is attached using stretchable nylon cord tied around the wings to resemble a backpack worn by the turkey for the next several months.
Cutting-Edge Research Gives Biologists New Insight into Rio Grande Turkey Ecology in the Cross Timbers article and photos by
Jesse Oetgen, Technical Guidance Biologist, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Weatherford Maps created by Texas A&M University’s Institute of Renewable Natural Resources The first time I was presented with a wildlife management concern and given the opportunity to conduct research and present management recommendations based on the results was as a graduate student at Louisiana State University. Since then, I have spent my career managing Texas’ natural resources as a biologist at a Wildlife Management Area and providing technical guidance to private landowners and managers through Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s (TPWD) Private Lands Program. The guidance I provide to TPWD cooperators is based on either personal experience or, more often,
data collected and published by university researchers. Since February 2012, I have had the opportunity to return, if only for a few days a month, to the tasks reminiscent of my days as a graduate student. TPWD’s Wildlife Division saw an opportunity to share a leading role with Texas A&M University’s Institute of Renewable Natural Resources in acquiring firsthand knowledge of Rio Grande wild turkey roost and nest site selection, movements, brood habitat, and the effects of land fragmentation and extreme wildfires in the Cross Timbers and Prairies ecosystem.
With excitement resembling school kids on the first day of summer, TPWD biologists set out, with transmitters in hand, to trap and begin tracking wild turkeys on two study sites in North Central Texas. Within weeks, we trapped and placed transmitters on six adult hens, one gobbler, and one jake in the center of the LBJ National Grasslands in Wise County and seven adult hens and three gobblers on a private ranch in Palo Pinto County. We have, at least part time, returned to the activities of our youth and are not only conducting research but also collecting data that has never been collected in our region of the state.
The fact that TPWD has regulatory and technical guidance biologists conducting research is only the first of many unique aspects to this project. Quite possibly the most notable are the backpack-style GPS transmitters we are using to collect the fine scale data unparalleled by traditional telemetry. Traditional telemetry using VHF transmitters requires the researcher to use a process called triangulation to estimate the location of the bird at any given time. Due to time and manpower constraints, traditional telemetry usually allows for a bird to be located only one to two times per day. Additionally, because the researcher must get within a reasonable distance to the turkey to achieve an accurate location estimate, the bird may be disturbed from its normal behavioral patterns, biasing conclusions about habitat use and movements. The 18 turkeys in our study are fitted with transmitters that use GPS technology that has only recently been developed and tested on turkeys. Our transmitters are capable of taking hourly GPS fixes for eight to 10 months and small enough to fit on a turkey’s back without affecting flight or strutting activities. Latitude and longitude coordinates identifying each turkey’s exact location are recorded every hour for almost a full annual cycle! The locations are exact, and habitat use and movement data are completely unbiased. Another unique and exciting aspect of this research is the study sites. Thanks in large part to existing relationships that TPWD biologists have with local landowners, we collected data from 10 turkeys within the burn scar of the 2011 Possum Kingdom Wildfire Complex that burned more than 170,000 acres. Following the catastrophic 2011 wildfire season, biologists assured concerned wildlife enthusiasts that turkeys had survived and would flourish after the fire. But would they continue to use the charred landscape or move to more suitable areas? How would survival, nest success, poult survival, and habitat use differ among turkeys in burned and unburned landscapes? The combination of data collected from this site and data collected by Texas A&M University researchers on an unburned ranch approximately 20 miles away are lending answers to a host of questions just like these. We capitalized on a very unique opportunity! Our other study site is not so unique,
but the results could have even greater number of roost locations and distance management implications. LBJ National between them, even before spring dispersal, Grasslands is comprised of many small, was remarkable. She only used the same federally-owned tracts of land interspersed roost location consecutively once between with small privately owned tracts. Native February 20 and March 13! The maximum tall grass prairie and post oak-dominated distance between roosts on consecutive woodlots are maintained through nights was 1.01 miles, with an average prescribed burning, rotational grazing, and of 504 yards. Most roost locations were other quality land management practices, near a creek drainage or stock tank. The which should favor wild turkeys. The lesson learned is that turkey roosts are not neighboring private land tracts vary in confined to short stretches, and riparian habitat type and condition. Some contain management should, therefore, provide homes. Many have been converted to suitable roost trees along lengths of a mile introduced grasses or are native rangeland or more! degraded from years of continuous grazing. Hen dispersal from the winter flock apAlthough still a part of the Cross Timbers peared to occur on March 13. All six hens and Prairies Ecoregion, the topography made at least one nest attempt. Two of those and dominant plant communities are were successful on the first attempt and quite different than those of the Palo Pinto hatched the week of May 20-26. Three of the County study site. This site provides the remaining four hens made a second nesting opportunity to evaluate turkey habitat use, attempt after the first was either abandoned survival rates, and movement patterns in or depredated. None of the re-nesting ata fragmented landscape and also make tempts were successful. Earliest nest inicomparisons between different landscapes tiation occurred on March 24, and the final within the ecoregion. documented nest was initiated on June 27. In the nine months since beginning Had it been successful, it would have hatched this project, we have had just four hen as late as August 3! Clutch sizes ranged from mortalities. That’s 90 percent survival on six to14 eggs, with an average of nine. These the wildfire site and 63 percent survival dates suggest that managers should delay or on the Grasslands. That is remarkably high use caution when conducting shredding and survival on the wildfire site! All three hen brush removal activities prior to August 1. mortalities near the Grasslands occurred I have always assumed that when hens disduring nesting season, but it is unclear as to persed from winter flocks and began roamwhether depredation was a result of nesting ing the pastures and woodlots, they were activities. The one mortality on the wildfire searching for the best available nest site — site occurred 41 days after the transmitter a place that would offer concealment from was attached and before any noticeable predators and cover for poults following a nesting activity occurred. All five male successful hatch. Unlike what we might do turkeys survived the hunting seasons and when purchasing a new home, hens did not are still alive! Since the GPS data is stored in the backpack unit, until the bird dies or we trap the bird again, the data we possess is limited to weekly triangulations using traditional telemetry methods and observed nest sites. I will focus the remainder of this article on results and implications from the wildfire site. When examining the A successful nest is tucked safely under the canopy of mesquite regrowth and annual GPS locations of the broomweed in an area completely burned by wildfire the previous spring. deceased hen, the
c u tting edge r esea r c h
Six out of nine nests were located in burned areas. Distance between first and second nesting attempts was greater than 1.5 miles. One hen initiated a nest more than 3 miles from where we trapped her.
appear to visit several locations before returning to one determined to be the best. Instead, our data suggests that hens iniCharacteristic of what we saw with many of our nesting hens, this bird traveled tiate nests in places they have more than 2 Â˝ miles in the five days prior to initiating a nest in a location she had never been before. Either she never been before. knew what she was looking for and scratched out a nest the first time she came across it, or when the time came for her to lay an egg, she found a shady spot nearby and made it her new nest site. What is turkey nesting habitat? Where did they choose to lay eggs and raise young? Four out of nine nests (44 percent) were located under regrowth from mesquite trees that were top killed during the wildfire of 2011. Thirty-three percent were located under ash juniper canopy in areas unaffected by the wildfire, and the remaining 22 percent were located in Texas wintergrass and western ragweed 20 inches to 36 inches in height. Both of the successful nests occurred within areas affected by the wildfire and were sheltered by mesquite regrowth 3 feet to 6 feet high and 6 feet to 10 feet in diameter, surrounded by dense cool season forbs and grasses at least 24 inches tall. As such, turkey managers should be sure to leave adequate amounts of low growing and multi-stemmed brush (even mesquite and juniper) when conducting brush removal activities. Hens with poults traveled up to 0.8 miles from the nest site during the four weeks after hatch and often occupied areas where This hen roosted along more than a mile-long segment of creek drainage. Most of the roost locations were in unburned riparian burned and unburned landscapes met. areas surrounded by burned uplands. Unburned areas are characterized by nearly
100 percent overhead canopy of ash juniper with little or no herbaceous ground cover. The adjacent burned areas had zero leafy overhead cover but provided abundant cool and warm season grasses and forbs up to 3 feet tall. Perhaps hens were leading their young to the burned landscape for foraging but using the nearby unburned patches for escape and loafing cover. Analysis of GPS data is ongoing, but information gained through 41 weeks of field monitoring indicate that turkeys used the burned and unburned landscapes interchangeably during late winter, spring dispersal and nesting, and summer brood rearing. However, fall and winter flocks appear to be sticking to the more secure cover of unburned areas. The landowners indicate that turkeys are using their historic winter roost areas. It may simply be coincidence that these occur in drainages that were skipped over by the wildfire. At the time of writing this article, we have begun the process of trapping the radiomarked turkeys with the intent of attaching new GPS transmitters, allowing us to track the same birds for another annual cycle. We hope to detect changes in survival, nest site selection, nest success, brooding locations, and roost locations in response to different environmental and habitat conditions between years. We are excited to share findings and management implications of this research with landowners and managers who attend workshops or call our offices inquiring about Rio Grande wild turkey management in the Cross Timbers and Prairies.
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Interested in joining these banks in support of TWA and seeing your logo featured monthly in Texas Wildlife Magazine? Contact TWA Director of Member Relations Kendra Roller at (210) 826-2904 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Photo by D. K. Langford
Prescribed Burning, a Necessity for Creating Eastern Turkey Habitat
Article by Janelle Fears
Photo by Dale Bounds
Eastern wild turkeys on Simon Winston’s timberland property near Nacogdoches.
here are three subspecies
of wild turkey found in Texas — the Eastern wild turkey found in East Texas, the Rio Grande wild turkey in the Panhandle, Central, South, and West Texas, and the Merriam wild turkey in a few isolated mountainous areas in far West Texas. Eastern wild turkeys are reclusive by nature, have keen eyesight, and are larger than the Rio Grande. Gobblers usually weigh between 19 pounds and 21 pounds, with hens weighing half the size, 10 pounds to 12 pounds. In order to enjoy wild turkeys on your property, you must create and maintain their desired habitat. Large acreage is required for turkeys to remain on a piece of land throughout an entire year, because they are very mobile. They may move up to 10 miles from their wintering areas to summer nesting sites.
Habitat Requirements Vary With the Season “Different habitat is required during various times of the year,” says Jason Hardin, Upland Game Specialist with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. “Wild Eastern turkeys roost in trees year round. Roost trees should be around 20 feet tall; however, availability of tall trees is rarely a limiting factor for Eastern turkeys in Texas. Eastern wild turkeys occur typically in forest settings. A hen does not roost when she begins the incubation process or for about two weeks post hatch. Once poults fly, they begin roosting in trees. “Breeding season is from March through May. During this period, turkeys feed on seeds, new spring vegetative growth and insects. Open ground is needed for males to perform their mating ritual. They begin gobbling in late winter to announce
themselves to other males and to attract hens. The toms perform an elaborate strutting display for females, with their tails spread like a peacock, feathers puffed out and wings dragging the ground. Their caruncles, the fleshy, wart-like growths at the base of their necks, change to a brighter red and swell. The male, or tom turkey, gobbles during the whole ritual.” “Turkey hens nest from April through August,” says Hardin. “They lay one egg per day until a total of 11-12 eggs are in the nest. After all the eggs are laid, the hen incubates them by sitting on the nest 23-24 hours per day for 28 days. She spends up to one hour a day drinking water and eating; however, some days the hen may not leave the nest at all. If the nest is depredated, she can lay another clutch and re-nest without rebreeding.” The best nesting habitat is plant
Photo by Dale Bounds Prescibed burning keeps vegetation levels at desirable heights of less than three feet, which is very important for turkeys. The prescribed burn pictured was taken on landowner Simon Winstonâ€™s property near Nacogdoches. Winston is a National Wild Turkey Federation Diamond Life Member and a Life Member of the Texas Wildlife Association.
Photo by Robert Fears
P r esc r i b ed b u r ning
communities that consist of knee-high grasses and weeds that are native to the area, typically in conjunction with low-growing woody cover or other woody obstruction. Turkey hens nest in dense grass stands usually associated with tree tops left on the forest floor following a timber thinning, downed trees, woody shrubs such as American beautyberry, and even large, standing trees. Nesting habitats are not a limiting factor in properly- managed forests. A water source needs to be present near the nesting area, because hens will not leave their nests long enough to travel very far. This is why riparian areas with the right vegetation make good nesting sites. “Brooding season is May through September,” says Hardin. “The hen and newly hatched poults will stay around the nest for about 24 hours. At two weeks of age, poults can fly well for short distances and begin to roost in trees. They need knee-high vegetation for cover from predators and a good supply of weeds that attract insects. Small insects are especially important for the development of young poults by providing them with a high protein food source. Occasionally, the poults from one hen often merge with a second brood to form brood flocks.” Limiting Factors for Survival “Overall, turkey-nesting success is similar to that of other ground-nesting birds with weather being the main determining factor,” Ralph Suarez wrote in Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Bulletin No. W7000-827. “If there is insufficient ground moisture, the eggs will get too hot and dry during incubation, and the embryo will die. Some studies indicate that predators destroy almost one-half of all turkey nests. If weather conditions are good, however, a reasonably good turkey hatch can be expected, in spite of predators and other limiting factors.” “Nest predators include raccoons, gray foxes, skunks, crows, rat snakes, feral cats, bobcats, opossums and feral hogs,” says Hardin. “These same animals prey on young poults, as do raptors such as red-tailed hawks.”
Photo by Robert Fears
With the help of NRCS, landowner Mike Russell has designed and developed a large wetland area into a welcoming wildlife habitat, where he sometimes sees turkeys and other wild game on the other side.
Simon Winston with his dog and tour jeep.
For a turkey population to exist on any given piece of property, suitable habitat must be available. If there is an insufficient amount of habitat to support turkeys, a wildlife co-op may be considered where multiple landowners pool their land for habitat development. The members must have similar goals and destination for the co-op to work effectively. Hardin says, “A formal turkey co-operative exists when a group of landowners mutually agree in writing to work co-operatively by a set of bylaws determining the leadership and management of the co-operative. These co-operatives can consist of already established wildlife co-ops, or they can be created strictly for the purpose of restoring and managing wild turkeys.” Habitat Development in Nacogdoches County Simon Winston, National Wild Turkey Federation Diamond
Photo by Dale Bounds
p r esc r i b ed b u r ning
Life Member, Life Member of Texas Wildlife Association, co-op member and wildlife enthusiast says, “Burn, Burn, Burn! Prescribed burning keeps vegetation levels at desirable heights of less than three feet, which is very important for turkeys. I burn one-third of my acreage per year and use herbicide treatments to control small saplings that come back a year later.” It is very evident that Winston is a turkey enthusiast, with his turkey belt buckle, guest house — called the turkey room with turkey weathervane — turkey drink cooler, and a turkey license plate on his jeep. Winston owns and manages timberland near Nacogdoches, where he is transitioning from loblolly pine to longleaf pine — a better fire tolerant tree that withstands prescribed burning at a younger age. Open pads are built on approximately every 50 acres to provide log loading areas. After timber harvest, the areas are planted to native grasses and forbs for wildlife food plots. With a goal of creating Eastern wild turkey habitat, Winston thins timber stands and leaves open spaces for turkeys to forage and nest. Oak and other large native trees are left for turkey roosting. Riparian areas left natural around small creeks provide additional trees for roosting, as well as travel corridors and winter mast production. “A series of roads have been built to create tree management blocks and provide escape routes, if needed, during prescribed
burning,” says Winston. “The roads allow equipment access to all areas of the property. Turkey nests are always found within a short distance of the roads.” “The roads are signed and named to make easier mapping for workers unfamiliar with the property,” continues Winston. “Virginia Avenue was named after my mother, and John Winston, after my father. These are two of the main roads.” “Scotty Parsons, a National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) wildlife biologist, Jason Isabel of Stephen F. Austin State University, Al Schmidt of National Resource Conversation Service (NRCS), and Jeff Reid of U.S. Fish, and Wildlife Service, have contributed greatly to my efforts to establish Eastern wild turkey habitat,” says Winston. Until the late 1970s, stocking attempts were not successful due to a small number of Eastern wild turkeys for stocking and a lack of good turkey habitat. Eastern wild turkeys once inhabited the East Texas area and were plentiful until limitless hunting and dense pine forests grown for timber destroyed the habitat. Pen-reared turkeys were never successful in restocking efforts and are now illegal. In 2007, TPWD funded research that was conducted by Stephen F. Austin State University to test a super stocking model for restoring Eastern wild turkey populations, and Winston was one of the cooperating landowners. Three hundred twenty wild turkeys were trapped and transported from
South Carolina and Tennessee. Eighty birds were released in four separate areas managed by co-operatives with multi-owners and several thousand acres of viable habitat. The turkeys’ weight, age and gender were recorded before release. About half of the trapped turkeys were fitted with radio transmitters for this research. After super stocking, no hunting is allowed until after five years and populations are deemed large enough. Letters asking for turkey counts have been mailed to property owners. Habitat Restoration in Red River County Mike Russell is another wild turkey enthusiast who owns property near Clarksville, which is designated as the Eastern turkey capital of the world. Clarksville is located in northeast Texas, where the bottomland soils range from a clay loam to clay, and the uplands have sandy loam or sandy soil. The Post Oak Savannah eco-region is dominated by native bunch grasses and forbs, with scattered post oaks and some plateau live oak, black hickory, and blackjack oak. Woody plants eaten by wildlife include yaupon holly and sugarberry. Russell also favors prescribed burning for Eastern wild turkey habitat development. Using prescribed fire, he controls invasive trees such as cedar elm and eastern red cedar. He treats willows with herbicide. “How often I burn depends on the weather,” says Russell. “Sometimes it is too wet to burn; and, other years, it is too dry to burn safely.” With the help of NRCS, Russell has designed and developed a large wetland area into a welcoming wildlife habitat that is a popular destination for blue heron, various duck species and beavers. Russell has developed a large lake behind his home, and he sometimes sees turkeys and other wild game on the other side. “They seem to know they are far enough away to be safe,” says Russell. Landowners need to have a good management plan designed for creating and maintaining habitat for turkeys and other wildlife.
Article by Judy Bishop Jurek
Challenges and Changes
Photo by Wyman Meinzer
How Oil and Gas Activity Affect Deer and Other Wildlife
change is inevitable. The vast Lone Star State’s landscape is no exception, as it is constantly altered and transformed by man due to continued population growth, land fragmentation and all kinds of industry expansion. Texas’ abundant natural resources, namely oil and natural gas, are a critical part of the ever-changing scenery and environment across the entire state. East, north, west and the coastal plains have all had their share of oilfield* activity throughout the years since the first rupture of black gold spilled at Kilgore. (*For the sake of this article, both oil and natural gas operations are combined and referred to as oilfield or the oil patch.) With the United States trying to wean itself from foreign dependency, Texas is naturally on the forefront of continued exploration, development and production. Most recently, the discovery of the massive Eagle Ford Shale reserves has brought a tremendous boom to much of South Texas. Renowned for decades on behalf of its varied wildlife, most especially heavy-antlered whitetail bucks, the vast acreage south of San Antonio has changed dramatically. Once simply known as brush country, today, numerous business complexes, RV parks, and other venues have sprung up out in the middle of nowhere. The injection of oil patch cash into small communities across the state has always been welcomed with open arms. However, at the same time, it has caused headaches due to unexpected, and often unplanned, sudden growth. Formerly quiet towns and seldom-traveled back roads now host oilfield traffic 24 hours a day. Changes too numerous to list take place on a daily basis, affecting both humans and wildlife.
Deer and Wildlife
As Executive Director of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Carter Smith knows the importance of Texas’ wildlife and its oil and natural gas resources. “There is no doubt oilfield activity has transformed Texas in ways big and small,” he said. “The intensity and scale of the oil and gas development and its related infrastructure, now and to come, is unlike anything we have seen before, especially in the Eagle Ford Shale region.” Smith believes most Texas landowners care as much about the natural resources above ground as they do for those beneath it. “Both long-term heritage ranchers and newer land stewards place
Photo by Grady Allen
Hunting has always been a part of Texas history and heritage. Wildlife habitat and deer herd management began slowly but quickly became commonplace as results of good land stewardship proved successful. High fences allowed for the introduction of exotic wildlife to the Lone Star State; many non-native species have
flourished. Thus, another source of hunting was established for those not wanting to travel around the world yet desiring a unique adventure. Additionally, new commerce such as bird watching, photo safaris and other activity centered on wildlife has created recreational revenue. Many properties across Texas have long depended heavily on their hunting income to sustain them; now, others as mentioned above do, too. Despite the conditions Mother Nature imposes, Texas has never been better in regards to its wildlife diversity and the various recreational opportunities it provides. With the aforementioned in mind, one question is often asked: How does the oil patch affect whitetail deer and other wildlife? Glen Webb, Texas Wildlife Association President and a landowner who recently negotiated an oil and gas lease that will utilize fracking on his family's land in Throckmorton County, said: "Ultimately, the pump jack has been very, very good for Texas, for Texas landowners, and for Texas wildlife. The increased revenue prevents fragmentation and helps landowners make the necessary improvements to their lands, which benefits wildlife. Notwithstanding, there is no substitute for good counsel. At the end of the day, we need to trust Texas landowners to make the right decisions as Texas remains the beneficiary of vast natural resources."
Photo by Judy Bishop Jurek
The Oil Patch
Drilling sites need fresh water during the drilling process and often drill water wells with at least 4" casing, in addition to digging a pond or tank to hold the drilling mud. After drilling was complete, this landowner had the mud pit sloped for easy access by wildlife and livestock, as well as drainage created, should the tank be overfilled. A solar pump and water trough were installed; any overflow from the trough went into the pond. A float system on the trough allowed for either free flow during daylight hours or auto shut-off when the trough reached a certain level. Strategic negotiations such as this can be of great benefit for wildlife, livestock and improve land value.
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of all who set foot on ranch lands. That, of course, included oilfield personnel. In 1989, he became the manager of wildlife and hunting. Retiring from that position in 2011, Thompson now works on the ranch remediating old well sites and planting native grasses to further enhance habitat for both wildlife and livestock. Thompson credits good security, strict rules and guidelines, along with random searches, as a protection for their wildlife. “Deer naturally adapt well to Glen Webb, Texas Wildlife Association President and a landowner oilfield traffic,” said Thompwho recently negotiated an oil and gas lease that will utilize fracking on son. “You can often drive his family's land in Throckmorton County, said: "Ultimately, the pump within 10 yards of deer, turkeys and hogs. jack has been very, very good for Texas, for Texas landowners, and for “The bottom line is the Texas wildlife. The increased revenue prevents fragmentation and helps health of our deer, our wildlife. landowners make the necessary improvements to their lands, which I have not seen any problems benefits wildlife. Notwithstanding, there is no substitute for good counsel. or ill effects from King Ranch’s At the end of the day, we need to trust Texas landowners to make the continued oilfield activities, right decisions as Texas remains the beneficiary of vast natural resources." and they’ve been going on for many years,” Thompson said. the defining conservation issue for much of South Texas. Success He should know, as he continues to be a part of their range manin realizing that balance will have important implications for a part agement program. Dave Delaney is the Vice President of King Ranch South Texas of the state that many a landowner, hunter, wildlife biologist and Operations. To put it simply, Delaney said, “It’s vital to have a good wildlife enthusiast hold very near and dear.” surface use agreement.” Experience Counts The world-renowned King Ranch had oilfield activity beginning Ranchers, Businessmen, Landowners in the 1940s, and it continues today. Conceivably, it has more ex“The whitetail is an elusive, incredibly sensitive, yet, curious aniperience than most when it comes to balancing wildlife with pipe- mal. In most environments, deer learn to accept man-made noise lines and substations, as well as the related maintenance personnel and activity, as long as they are not directly affected,” said Frede required for each company’s facilities. Edgerton, a South Texas rancher and businessman with many oil Over 38 years ago, Butch Thompson went to work for the King patch dealings through the years. “If their food, water or lives are Ranch, providing security and monitoring the comings and goings threatened, they react by moving. However, if their basic needs Photo by Grady Allen
a huge premium on the quality of their wildlife, habitat and hunting opportunities. Therein lies both the opportunity and the challenge,” he said. Referring to Eagle Ford Shale, Smith added, “How the inevitable development of this intensive oil and gas resource play is balanced with the stewardship of what is widely regarded as some of the state’s most unique and varied wildlife habitat has quickly become
Photo by Grady Allen Photo by Judy Bishop Jurek
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remain intact, and they feel safe, they will likely remain in the area where the activity exists. Edgerton believes most companies are willing to compromise with landowners to do what’s best for the wildlife. “However, the biggest problem is many landowners don't really know what’s best or what they can require of companies and their workers,” Edgerton said. “I’m often asked by ranchers how and what they should ask of oilfield companies before signing a contract, easement, or allowing them on their property.” With a note of exasperation, he continued, “I am amazed how often landowners think they are obligated to let companies enter without making specific requests. Landowners should provide oil/gas companies access and permit work as the landowner sees fit. “Contract details of how companies move around and perform activities can often be dictated in ways to least affect the wildlife. Done with diligence and consistency, landowners will discover the two can work together for the benefit of whitetail deer, as well as all wildlife. The negative side of things: If not handled properly, wildlife and their environment can very much be affected and ruined.” Lifelong Liveoak County resident Terry Retzloff says he sometimes questions whether the development of the Eagle Ford Shale in prime South Texas buck country is worth it. “I remind myself constantly that the benefits of job creation, local economic impact and royalties offset the inconveniences,” he said. Retzloff assumes other areas of the state have experienced the same thing, with similar thoughts. Much like Edgerton, from what Retzloff has witnessed as a businessman working in the oilfield and experienced as a landowner himself, deer and other wildlife either move to undisturbed areas or simply adapt. “Change and growth are just a fact of life for all living creatures,” he said.
View from a Biologist
This tank battery at a well site sits in the middle of nowhere. Once thick brush country, it's now common to see a variety of wildlife in the area, once construction was complete.
“The impact high-density, high-intensity drilling is having on whitetail habitation is variable,” said Greg Simons, wildlife biologist and owner of Wildlife Systems, Inc. based in San Angelo. Simons, Texas Wildlife Association Vice President, offers hunts and manages 900,000 acres across Texas and New Mexico. “Deer adapt quickly,” he
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Caught in the Middle
A spokesman for a leading acquisition company prefers to remain anonymous. Brister is an avid hunter of all types of game and a third generation landowner near Luling, an area long known for its underground resources. Negotiating the best contract for the oil/ gas company, as well as the landowner and any possible tenant(s), puts Brister in the middle. “The concerns for wildlife are a high priority among landowners, no matter what part of the state,” said Brister. “There are so many different equations depending on North, East, Gulf Coast, South or West Texas, and the wildlife each region holds. As a whole, I think the industry has gotten better about understanding the rights of landowners and respecting their limitations to activities during deer season. On hunting ranches, there are often specific clauses added.” From Brister’s endeavors, he’s placed landowners into two groups. Life-long resident landowners tend to be more open to activity due to the monetary incentive. They expect oilfield companies and personnel to be respectful of their property and wildlife. The other category is folks who moved out of the city to get away from hustle, commotion and traffic. These owners see activity as a nuisance and worry a great deal about their wildlife. Brister added that many companies are making efforts to be good neighbors by supporting local events and charities, including wildlife associations, special hunts, etc. “Of course, there are always a few bad apples in every group,” Brister said. “Typically, you don’t hear the good stories, only the disaster experiences someone had to deal with.”
Avid whitetail hunters Robert Burnett of Goliad and Phil Young of Johnson Bayou, Louisiana, have both hunted blinds with drilling activity only a few hundred yards away. In 2011, Burnett had a rig move in days before general deer season opened.
Stretching back to 1960, the Texas Drilling Statistics Chart is maintained by the Railroad Commission of Texas. That year, 15,601 drilling permits were issued across the state. The stats include new drill sites for both oil and natural gas, reentering existing well bores, and performing re-completions. Permit issuance doesn’t always mean drilling was actually executed. In the past 51 years (1960-2011), the highest number of permits granted was 47,940 in 1981 at the height of a decade-long boom that existed between 1975-1985. The lowest year was 199,9 when only 8,430 permits were written. Last year, the RRC dispensed 22,480 permits. The total issued from January 2012 to October 2012 (the latest data available) reached 19,436 and is expected to surpass that of the previous year. The active rig count as of November 21, 2012, was reported at 853 rigs working across the entire Lone Star State.
“Only if there was a really loud clang would the deer or hogs spook. But, they usually returned a short while later,” said Burnett. “An added benefit was that the lights allowed me to see game before the sun ever began to rise. It was actually kind of neat!” Young echoed what Burnett had to say, even though the two hunted several hundred miles and a year apart. “In late November (2012), a rig was setting up while I was in a stand on a friend’s ranch. The pad site had just been completed, so the deer were accustomed to noises. The game acted like normal, only occasionally looking up or around. I saw some good bucks, just nothing I wanted to shoot. I got to hunt and had a front row seat watching a rig go up.” There is a downside. For years, many landowners depended heavily on hunting revenue to help sustain their overall monetary health. The unexpected windfall bestowed from oilfield activity suddenly changes things. Some now view hunting income as discretionary, thus withdrawing their property from leased hunting. This lessens hunter opportunities and impacts hunting prices, due to decreased supply.
Environment groups constantly monitor activities that may impact all types of wildlife. Wind farms across the state are an example, as many believe the giant fans inhibit natural flyways of an assortment of birds, waterfowl, bats and other airborne species. Most recently, the dunes sagebrush lizard posed a serious economic threat to the huge West Texas Permian Basin oilfield. Producing approximately 20 percent of all oil in the lower 48 states, a multi-year lawsuit was finally settled when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decided not to list this particular lizard under the Endangered Species Act. Multiple wildlife and environmental agencies will continue to closely watch how various industries, not just the oil patch, may affect wildlife in every region of the Lone Star State.
Surprisingly, it appears whitetail deer do quite well with the ability to adapt to environmental changes, perhaps faster than humans faced with the exact same thing. Those interviewed for this article provided multiple views with many insightful opinions. The bottom line: Whatever oilfield activity takes place, from the very beginning to end, developing a good relationship between landowners, hunters, tenants, and all companies involved is of the utmost importance not only for the wildlife but for their habitat, as well. This photo was taken from a hunting stand less than 300 yards apart. The hunter stated no ill effects from the noise, lights and activity that took place right in the middle of deer season.
Photo by Judy Bishop Jurek
said. “Once drilling, construction of well sites and pipelines are in place, deer assimilate into these habitat changes quite well. “Various deer food plants tend to thrive in areas of soil disturbance or where plant communities receive manipulation. However, I’ve seen areas where deer habitat has been compromised to a great extent.” Simons stated that impact to other wildlife species is unpredictable, as each has unique habitat requirements while responding differently to human-related activity. Historic turkey roost sites have been lost, which can displace a localized turkey population altogether, if no other roost is available in the area.
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Hydraulic Fracturing and Protecting Groundwater Article by lorie woodward cantu
ears ago, mineral owners in Texas gave little thought to protecting the groundwater when negotiating an oil and gas lease. Oil companies simply drilled water wells near the drilling pads to provide circulation for the drilling mud. The amount of water used depended on the well’s depth. Ownership reverted to the landowners upon their assumption of the plugging cost. In most cases, everyone was happy. “Protecting the groundwater was just an afterthought, if it was considered at all,” said Judon Fambrough, an attorney and senior lecturer with the Texas Real Estate Center, who specializes in property rights including oil and gas. Those days are gone. Today, energy companies use hydraulic fracturing to unlock the vast amounts of natural gas trapped in shale formations bearing names like Eagle Ford, Barnett and Cline. Hydraulic fracturing has been a proven technique since the 1940s, but it has become a household word with the widespread development of shale fields across the country. Hydraulic fracturing uses a mixture of fresh water, chemicals and sand pumped under extremely high pressure to create extensive artificial fractures or cracks emanating from well bores allowing the gas to flow to the surface. Joseph Fitzsimons, a Texas Wildlife Association Director and attorney who specializes in real estate, oil and gas law with the San Antonio firm Uhl, Fitzsimons, Jewett, said, “As the name implies, the process uses water — lots of water.” It has been estimated that between three million and 13 million gallons of freshwater are needed to frac each well, depending on the shale’s structure. The Texas Water Development Board estimates that in 2010, the total amount of groundwater used statewide for hydraulic fracturing was about 80,000 acre-feet. The number is expected to increase as more fields are developed. Fresh water is the preferred carrier for the chemicals and sand, because the salt in brackish water interacts with the chemicals, limiting their effectiveness. Fambrough said, “While there are efforts underway to develop processes that use brackish water or no water at all to fracture the shale, the freshwater-based process is the currently the preferred method. This intensity of water use raises a new level of concern for mineral owners contemplating an oil and gas lease.” The Law Under Texas law, groundwater is part of the surface estate. As such, oil companies have the automatic right to use as much as of the surface and groundwater as they reasonably need without securing the surface owners’ permission and without having to pay
for it. This rule can be offset, though, with a surface-use agreement or surface-damage provision negotiated in the lease. Fitzsimons said, “The first priority for landowners, who own both surface and mineral interests, is reserving all the groundwater rights. If a landowner fails to do that, the groundwater rights pass to the lessee (energy company), allowing it to use as much groundwater as reasonably necessary to exploit the minerals.” The only limitation to this rule lies in areas governed by groundwater districts, Fambrough said. While energy companies can drill water wells for exploration and drilling purposes without a permit from the local groundwater districts, it is possible for the districts to limit the amount of groundwater used for production (fracking) purposes. According to Section 36.117 of the Texas Water Code, a district may restrict production from a water well if the groundwater withdrawals are no longer used solely to supply water for a rig that is actively engaged in drilling or exploration operations for an oil or gas well permitted by the Railroad Commission of Texas. “I am unaware of any groundwater districts limiting the use of groundwater for fracking. However, the Texas Water Code appears to provide them that option,” Fambrough said. “Because each groundwater districts makes its own rules, it is unclear when this limitation may be imposed. As an attorney who is working in this field, I learn something new every day.” Terms of Sale Landowners who reserve the groundwater rights in their leases may negotiate with the energy companies allowing them to pur-
chase the groundwater both for drilling and hydraulic fracturing, Fambrough said. Like all contracts, the terms must be drafted clearly to avoid confusion once production occurs, he said. Items that need to be agreed upon include: (1) the source of the water (does it come from the landowners’ existing well or from wells drilled by the oil companies, or both), (2) the price per barrel metered at the well, (3) the number of gallons per barrel for purposes of the sale (this may range from 32 gallons to 55 gallons depending on the negotiating power of the landowner), (4) where the water can be used (can it be used both on and off the leased premises), (5) limitations on withdrawals if the water table drops below a certain level, and (6) the duty of the oil company to lower any of the landowners’ existing wells at no cost if the withdrawals drop the water table below the existing pump levels. Selling the water to the energy company creates an additional revenue stream for landowners, but limitations still need to be imposed to protect the landowners existing supplies, he said. In addition to the sale of water, landowners should consider the possible surface interference. In most cases, the water wells cannot instantaneously supply sufficient amounts of water to support the hydraulic fracturing operation. Therefore, the energy companies construct frac ponds, allowing them to pump and hold the necessary amount of water. The frac ponds are generally two or three acres in size. According to Fambrough, the energy companies view frac ponds as short-term impoundments, locating them in proximity of the pads with little regard for topography, recharge or permanence. “Frac ponds could become a good stock pond or recreational area if the landowner has some input as to where they are sited and how they are built,” Fambrough said. A good contract would include requirements for locations in recharge areas and the dams constructed with clay core so they will not blow out during the first big rain. Hiring a consultant to design the dam would be highly recommended. Who pays the cost is negotiable. Another thing that landowners should consider is what happens to the recovered frac water, Fitzsimons said. Most is stored in deep injection wells, but the Texas Railroad Commission also allows it to be dumped into evaporative ponds on the land. “Landowners should require that the recovered frac water be hauled off of their property,” Fitzsimons said. “It contains chemicals that will remain in the soil long after the water has evaporated.” Once the hydraulic fracturing operations conclude and the oil companies no longer need the groundwater, the landowner may take possession of the water wells by assuming the plugging costs, Fambrough said. While that may seem like an innocuous decision, it is imperative to get the energy companies to disclose the depth, quality and quantity of the water before consenting. Likewise, making the energy companies responsible for filing and funding all the necessary paperwork with the Railroad Commission is another thing to consideration. While potential groundwater contamination is a pervasive concern in the media, Fitzsimons noted that the potential for contamination from hydraulic
fracturing is lower than most people assume. The reason is that the shale deposits are located much deeper than the freshwater sands. “The only way that contamination could occur is if the well casing fails,” he said. “Landowners should require a full casing through and 100 feet below the deepest freshwater sand to protect from well casing failure.” For those who are extremely concerned about contamination, it is possible to negotiate a presumption clause in the lease, Fambrough said. The clause specifies that if groundwater contamination occurs, the energy company will be presumed responsible. “Even with this clause, it may be difficult to hold the energy company responsible,” he said. For this reason, either the oil companies or the landowners should have all their existing water wells tested before drilling operations commence to establish a baseline for water quality, he said. Again, who pays the cost is negotiable. When it comes to damages of any type, the lease and surface-use agreement become tantamount, Fitzsimons said. “A landowner’s ability to collect for any damages is based on the specifics negotiated in the lease and the surface-use agreement,” Fitzsimons said. “Form leases provides for nominal damages and lack specifics.” As a side note, thanks to the Texas Rule of Capture, landowners and energy companies are generally immune from claims by neighbors for drainage, Fambrough said. “Neighbors whose water supply is negatively impacted by fracking have a tough burden of proof to collect damages,” Fambrough said. They must prove the water was (1) wasted, (2) drained maliciously to harm the neighbor, or (3) the drainage was negligent and caused subsidence. With that said, Fitzsimons noted that the energy companies have used their right to groundwater judiciously. “The last thing that they want are angry landowners standing up in front of the Legislature demanding that the laws governing groundwater and energy exploration be changed,” Fitzsimons, who has experience as both an attorney and a landowner in the Eagle Ford play, said.
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Final Thoughts When the surface and mineral ownership is split, legally speaking, oil companies do not have to negotiate with either the surface owner or the mineral owner for the use of the groundwater. The mineral owner has rights to it even though the groundwater belongs to the surface owner. Why? Because the mineral owner has an “implied easement” over as much of the surface estate as is necessary to exploit the mineral estate, and the groundwater is part of that surface estate that the mineral owner’s dominate estate has an easement over. The surface owner cannot limit the use, because the oil companies have the right to use as much of the groundwater as it reasonably needs to explore for and produce the minerals. The only exception is where the mineral owner and the landowner have negotiated a lease and surface-use agreement that specifically reserves all groundwater to the surface owner and excludes rights from the mineral estate. “Therefore, if the mineral and surface rights are split, both owners are at the mercy of the oil company, unless they have negotiated an agreement that requires and/or allows the mineral owner to negotiate for protection of the surface resources on behalf of the surface owner,” Fambrough said. “While in theory this may be a good idea, the devil is in the details. Any agreement would require
a great deal of cooperation and forethought. It is food for thought, though.” Thinking ahead is the key. Fitzsimons said, “In this rapidly changing industry, forethought is crucial. The best advice that I can give to landowners is: negotiate a good lease and good surface-use agreement before you need them. When the trucks are rolling and the rigs are turning to the right, it’s too late to consider all of the things that needed to be considered.
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