Fall’s Hunting Forecast
Texas Parks and Wildlife has released their 2012-2013 Hunting Forecast, and the prognosis is good for this season’s Whitetail Hunting in South Texas. Timely rains this past Spring have helped the deer populations and habitat bounce back after last year’s horrific drought, and the best wildlife biologist in the state expect better hunting conditions this Fall. Check out they have to say about this season’s hunting: http://www.tpwmagazine.com/archive/2012/oct/ed_1_huntforecast/?utm_campaign=oct102012&utm_medium=email&utm_source=hunttexas
New Law for Hunting with Suppressors
Hunting with a silencer has been a topic of debate lately. Since September 1, 2012, it is now lawful to hunt any bird or animal with a silencer in Texas. Keep in mind, all federal, state and local laws still apply to suppressors.
Those opposed to the new law fear that other hunters or individuals in the same area as a hunter will not be able to hear the shot, which could create danger from a lack of warning. Those in support of the new law feel this will reduce noise pollution, help protect again hearing damage and also increased accuracy due to reduced recoil.
Those wanting to use a silencer to hunt must still go through an application with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) which requires a criminal background check and payment of $200.
West Nile Virus and Hunters
The recent outbreak of West Nile Virus in North Texas has caused some major concerns lately for those that love the outdoors. Hunters especially should be aware how to protect themselves and prevent this nasty illness since they may be at risk due to increased outdoor exposure.
West Nile Virus is an infectious disease from birds that can be transmitted to humans or other animals through mosquito bites. It is believed to be mostly seasonal with outbreaks occurring during the summer and continuing to the fall. Most cases are contracted in July, August or September. Approximately 80% of people infected do not actually show any symptoms. However, for those less fortunate, symptoms may be flu-like and include headache, muscle aches, fever, nausea, vomiting, stiffness in joints, and sometimes even skin rash or swollen glands. In severe cases symptoms may include disorientation, tremors, convulsions, vision loss, numbness or paralysis and the disease can actually develop into the more serious West Nile encephalitis, meningitis or even poliomyelitis. Symptoms will typically develop between 3 to 14 days after becoming infected.
The easiest way to avoid contracting West Nile is to prevent mosquito bites. Mosquitoes are most active at dusk and dawn, so be especially cautious during these times and wear long sleeves and long pants, socks and boots or tennis shoes. When outdoors, always be sure to use an insect repellent with EPA-registered active ingredients. When at home, check all window and door screens and search entryways for spots that are not sealed. Repair holes or replace weather stripping where necessary. Be cautious of areas with stagnant water. Look around your house for standing water in places such a flower pots, buckets or barrels. Empty excess water from these areas, as well as children’s play pools or bird baths, and be sure to frequently change out water in pet bowls.
Currently, there is no specific treatment for cases of West Nile Virus. Those with mild symptoms may clear up on their own within a few days. However, those with more aggressive and severe symptoms should seek medical attention immediately.
More information about West Nile Virus is available online at http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvbid/westnile/index.htm. Hunters should protect themselves this season and be especially cautious every time they are outdoors.
In Case of Emergencies
The past week’s horrific shooting in Aurora, Colo., proves that no matter where we are or what we are doing, tragedy can strike at any time. Our hearts and prayers go out the victims and their families of the Colorado movie theater attack. While no one ever expects a disaster to strike, when it does, would you be ready?
During a hunting or outdoors trip, many things can go wrong, but most people don’t seem to prepare for many of the “What If’s”. In just a few minutes time, hunters can add a couple of items to their gear bag that just might one day save their lives.
Extra food and water should always be considered. Adults can possibly survive weeks without food, but only days without water. For hunting or wilderness trips, you do not need to include huge amounts of either, however a couple of extra protein bars or fruit snacks and extra water might sustain you long enough for help to arrive if the situation became dire.
Another important item to include with your hunting equipment is a first aid and/or survival kit. Many, many things can go wrong on a hunt. Anything from a sprained ankle to a broken arm, or a cut hand to a firearm accident can occur. Not every hunter has to be CPR and First- Aid certified, but it might not be a bad idea to search the internet briefly to familiarize yourself with how to make a splint or stop bleeding. Survival kits usually include basic items such as a knife, fire kit, and flares or whistles to signal for help. If you do not already carry similar items with you on your excursions, then consider picking up one up for your next hunt.
For worse case scenarios, a light weight tent or sleeping bag can help protect you, especially during extreme temperatures. Many camping stores offer varieties that only weigh a few pounds and can roll up incredibly tight to not take up much space in a bag. Some are made from lightweight synthetic material that can provide shelter and warmth, yet still dry quickly.
There are some things in life that absolutely nothing can prepare us for. However, with a little careful planning and additional items to your normal hunting equipment, you can give yourself a slightly better chance at overcoming many disasters that may occur during your hunt.
Be Physically Prepared for Your Hunt
Whether your next great hunting adventure is for a monster Trophy Whitetail in Texas, or a record-setting Brown Bear in Alaska, you should be fully prepared for the physical challenges your hunt will entail. Each hunt that you go on will have different physical demands, depending on a variety of factors from location and climate to the specific species you are seeking and the hunting techniques used.
Talk to your outfitter and educate yourself on exactly what methods they use to hunt, such as incorporating blinds or spotting and stalking. Discuss the terrain and weather conditions, and make sure that you are fully prepared with the proper equipment you might need. If you have any physical restrictions or limitations, be sure and let your outfitter know well in advance of your trip so they are properly prepared to make any modifications necessary. This will ensure that your hunt goes as smoothly as possible.
Know the physical demands that your body will endure and start training months in advance if possible. If you know that your trip could include lots of hiking on rough terrain, then practice on hiking trails closer to your home. Conditioning your body prior to your trip will help prepare you for the challenges of your next hunt, and help bring you success in harvesting that record trophy!
How Rainfall Affects Whitetail
Precipitation throughout the year can affect deer populations in many ways. Rain not only influences deer movements and activities, but it is also much more closely linked to the whitetail herd’s survival rate. Annual rainfall impacts plant growth which provides nutrients and food sources as well as brush cover and safety for the deer.
Proper nutrition will directly affect the antler growth and size of the deer for the coming season. If not enough food sources are available the deer will lack the nutrition to grow to their fullest potential. This is especially important during times of extreme drought. Many ranchers today provide extra help by supplementing protein with food plots and corn to provide enough nutrition to sustain populations.
Lush plant life also provides an excellent source of cover. If this extra ground protection is not available throughout the year, this will lessen the whitetail chances for survival. Healthy brush is especially critical to growing fawn populations. Without the cover they are much more susceptible to predators, and fawn populations of the current season will directly affect herd populations for years to come.
So far, rainfall in Texas has improved over the past year and has helped alleviate some of extreme drought conditions from last summer. Though the state is still dry and lake levels are low, there has been some improvement since 2011. Right now Monte Cruz Ranch conditions look green and favorable, and this should lead to a profitable hunting season in the fall.
Pictured above are several free range whitetail that were harvested from Monte Cruz and are excellent examples of how rain and proper game management can affect whitetail growth.
New Regulations for Exotics Hunting
As of April 4, 2012, ranches and other captive breeders in the US are now required to obtain permits for activities involving scimitar-horned oryx, addax and dama gazelle due to changes in certain regulations under the Endangered Species Act for these three species. In 2005, the US Fish and Wildlife Services had allowed owners of captive herds to freely buy, sell, trade, transport and even hunt these animals. These new permit regulations on breeders and ranchers will take that away, and in doing so will drastically affect not only the Texas Exotics hunting industry, but also the survival of the species…. but not in the way the you might think. And not in the way that many animal rights groups believe.
Without the monetary value that exotic hunting gives these species (ranging from approximately $4,000-$10,000 each), these beautiful animals will become nothing but an economic burden to most of the ranchers and breeders who have worked to increase the herds. If they do not have the financial means that were once provided from care for these animals, then they will not be able to continue their efforts to help increase the species populations.
For example, though the scimitar-horned oryx is a species that once thrived in the African desert, over the last 50 years this species has become virtually extinct in the wild. However, because the arid Texas climate is very similar to that of Africa’s, the species have flourished in the Lone Star State thanks to a global captive breeding program that was started in the 1960’s. Many ranches here in the state have worked to raise healthier populations of these animals and some have even worked to reintroduce them back to their native lands. In 1996, there were believed to be only about 1,200 Oryx throughout the world in captivity at zoos and parks. At this same time, it was believed that there was almost double that amount on Texas ranches alone.
Approximately 15 years later, it’s estimated there are over 10,000 scimitar horned oryx in Texas according to the Exotic Wildlife Association. Much of that growth occurred during a time when hunting the species was legal and free of permit restrictions.
Though many animal rights activist believe that hunting diminishes animal populations (and without regulations and scientific surveys for wildlife management efforts this could be true), hunters actually help protect and preserve many species. The hunting industry provides economic value for these species by harvesting surplus numbers from ranches. Typically the amount of surplus animals being harvested each year ranged from approximately 10%-15% of a herd at most. When that is taken away, it’s harder for breeders to properly manage their herds. More importantly, the income those breeders relied on from selling excess animals vanishes. So for example, if one rancher had a herd of 100 antelope, and he sells only 10 animals to hunters each year, that rancher could make an extra $40,000 to $100,000 a year to cover the costs of caring for the entire herd. If ranchers and breeders are not making extra money from hunters or other outlets that were once available to them, why would they keep working to increase populations? In this economy, why would anyone even keep these animals at all if it only led them toward bankruptcy?
Though ranches may still apply for permits to allow hunting of the particular species, many will not because of the hassles and red tape to apply with the federal government. More ranches will not meet the strict requirements for obtaining the permits in the first place. Others may have wariness of personal information being public to make them easier targets for animal rights groups.
Though it is still legal to hunt these antelope species, options on where a person can hunt them has drastically diminished. After contacting US Fish & Wildlife Services, only 28 permits had been issued in the entire country. That is far less ranchers and breeders that are now able and willing to help increase populations of these exotics than there were a little over a week ago.
Without the past incentives and options theses breeders and ranchers had to raise scimitar-horned oryx, dama gazelle or addax, these species will suffer and may now actually become extinct, even in captivity. By prohibiting these once legal activities, it’s stripped these animals of any economic worth and limited ranchers and breeders. I know that animal rights activists believe they are helping these species, but they are in fact just doing the opposite. These same Texas ranchers and breeders they are punishing with these regulation changes are the exact same people that have kept these species from dying off over the last 50 years.
As a final note, the Exotic Wildlife Association has filed a lawsuit against the US Fish & Wildlife Services. Donations can be made to help in their legal efforts to preserve these exotic species. More information about the new permit regulations, as well as donation information is available on their website at www.myewa.org.
Spring Cleaning for Hunters
The end of hunting season is the perfect time for hunters to take a few extra precautions to prepare for next season. Hunters should do a little Spring cleaning of sorts for their own weapons and gear to keep everything fresh and in good condition during the off-season so that everything is ready to go next fall. This article by Doug Howlett of American Hunter has so many great, detailed tips on proper care and storage for an array of hunting equipment, we wanted to share with our clients: http://www.americanhunter.org/articles/keeping-hunting-gear-organized/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_content=OffSeason-text&utm_campaign=OffSeason
Tips for Texas Turkey Hunting
Turkey season is just around the corner!
Nabbing that monster bird takes patience, practice, and maybe even a little luck. Wild turkeys not only have a keen sense of daytime sight, they also have excellent hearing and are very fast, running up to 25 mph and flying up to 55 mph.
Hunters should practice their turkey calls weeks ahead of opening season. There are many different types of calls available today, including box, slate, tube, wingbone or mouth calls. All calls should be properly stored and cared for, because not following the manufacturer’s instructions can lead to accidental warping which can damage or change the tone of the calling instrument.
There are a variety of sounds a hunter should master to bring in cautious birds, including putts, yelps, purrs and gobbles. While hunting, a variety of situations may arise, and if one call isn’t working, hunters should be able to use various other natural turkey sounds at a moment’s notice.
Camouflage and ground cover are also key in bagging a trophy Tom. Turkeys have excellent eye site so hunters must stay hidden in order to successfully stalk and harvest birds. Camo suits, face masks, gloves and caps are extremely useful in this type of hunting. Camo vests with various pockets can also be helpful to store a variety of calls and other equipment. There are many options in colors and patterns available today so try and mix and match similar to the foliage patterns where you will be hunting. However, keep in mind that no matter how much camouflage you wear, you must limit movement as well. A turkey can spook very easily and will most likely flee at the first hint of danger.
Decoys can provide additional advantages to your hunt, but take extra caution when using decoys as they can be very realistic and even attract other hunters. Be sure to establish a clear line of vision to your decoys of at least 100 yards. Then you can set up the decoys around 20 yards from your position within your clear line of vision. Never transport the realistic decoys uncovered, and if you see another hunter be sure to call out in a clear voice so they know you are there.
Whether you’re a Gobbler rookie, or you’re looking to fulfill your Grand Slam Turkey hunt, keep these tips in mind to have a successful Spring Season.