• December 26, 2014

The Hunting Camp

Sunday 03/02/2014
The rewards of small game hunting

One of the most rewarding, and probably most underrated, of hunted species are those categorized as small game.

In Texas there are a variety of small game species available for hunting including (but not limited to) wild rabbits, squirrels, upland game birds such as quail or pheasants, or migratory game birds like ducks, geese, mourning doves, or white-winged doves.

Regardless of the chosen species for your small game hunt, this type of hunting can prove to be action-packed and rewarding.

This can especially prove true when compared to hunting big game such as white-tail deer or turkey, which is typically subject to a narrower set of ideal conditions and can sometimes only yield a harvest after many invested hours.

Small game hunting can make for a nice change of pace, with favorable odds for a plentiful game harvest.

Particularly, rabbit and squirrel hunting can comparatively keep on giving more to hunters throughout much of the year, as there is generally no closed season or bag limit for either species in the state.

My first experiences as a boy with rabbit and squirrel hunting made for many good memories and taught me about gun safety and responsibility.

During these early outings, I started with my first rifle; a Marlin Glenfield Model 15 bolt-action, single-shot .22 caliber.

This made for a good first gun for such hunting, and it also taught me to make each shot count.

Not only do I still own this rifle, but it still fires as dependably and accurately as it did when it was new.

The .22 caliber is ideal for this sort of hunting in that it is an accurate small caliber that penetrates well for the kill, but with minimal damage to the meat of these small target animals.

Do you have your own good memories of your first small game hunt? If not, it’s never too late to start making those memories.

Posted in Hunting camp on Sunday, March 2, 2014 10:30 pm. | Tags: Hunt , Hunting , Game , Hunting Weapon , Texas , Hunting Season , Small Game Comments (1)

Friday 02/21/2014
Predator impact on wild game

Of the many ongoing threats against wild game, predators stand as one of the most historical and significant of these concerns.

Although they have been known for the predation of whitetail fawns, yearlings, and smaller adult deer through occasional pack behavior, bobcats may be likened to fox in generally feeding on rabbits and other rodents, as well as certain fruits.

In Central Texas, in addition to small or young livestock, large game like whitetail deer are especially vulnerable as prey to coyotes.

All of the above mentioned predators also often act as scavengers and in packs, but coyotes in the area and beyond have been known to impact wild game in greater numbers than all the others.

All of these predators are known to generally feed far away from any human activity and near their various den sites. They are also known to often drag their prey to an obscured location before feeding.

Bobcats are known to often make attempts to bury or partially cover their prey. Coyotes are known to often leave little more than patches of fur and tiny bone fragments behind after feeding.

That said, there are exceptions to every rule.

Upon a recent jaunt into the wilderness---no more than 450 feet away from my home---I spotted a curious-looking, large, round clearing in the brush, approximately 35 feet in diameter.

The area was littered with the fully intact skeletal remains of one or more young large game animals.

Upon further investigation, I saw scenting impressions---made as predators test the ground in a trail for the scent of their prey---padded tracks, scat that was consistent with that of predators, and areas near close by trees that might serve as den entrances.

This scene was obviously not the work of animals such as vultures, which are solely scavengers.

It was obvious to me that this was the unorthodox work of one or more predators, although pinpointing the exact culprit has so far proved to be inconclusive.

It would be interesting to trade notes with others who have found similar evidence in the wild.

Those involved in controlling and managing these predators likely hold a wealth of information based upon their own personal observations and experiences.

Their work is also valuable in managing and balancing the numbers of wildlife to protect our game animals as natural resources.

Posted in Hunting camp on Friday, February 21, 2014 2:00 pm. | Tags: Central Texas , Deer , Coyote , Game , White-tailed Deer , Hunting Comments (2)

Tuesday 02/11/2014
Trapping in central Texas

Although they are separate and independent practices, especially in consideration of legality, it’s still hard to have a very long conversation about hunting without some discussion about trapping and vice versa.

In central Texas, trapping is generally practiced to control nuisance animals or to harvest other nongame or exotic animals on private property.

Some commonly trapped animals include feral hog, rabbit, opossum, badger, beaver, fox, mink, muskrat, nutria, otter, raccoon, ring-tailed cat, and skunk.

There are some pretty elaborate ideas out there for traps and trapping, but I’ll leave all of the skunk trapping for you, the reading audience.

All jokes aside, there are many available types of traps and trap designs, specialized for all the animals in the list above and more.

Especially for small animals, there are many existing designs for primitive traps and snares, (especially in survival situations) including the dead fall trap, bow trap, spear trap, bottle trap, noosing wand, squirrel pole, twitch-up snare, and treadle spring snare, among others.

For those who simply wish to control the population of small nuisance animals, the simple cage trap, or live trap, is generally the most popular choice.

I’ve personally caught many raccoons that had previously killed at least one of my home-raised chickens or ducks per night before I set out a live trap, baited each evening with any pet food or table left-overs that happened to be on hand.

In this area, feral hog trapping is a world to its own, with more elaborate designs being developed by the day.

Some hog traps are designed to be portable, and some corral-type traps are designed to be stationary.

In either case, these traps are best placed in areas where feral hogs are known to cause damage, such as near crops or in areas they are known to regularly frequent, such as in discovered paths or near water sources.

It should be noted that according to Texas state law, it is only necessary to possess a hunting license to trap fur-bearing animals (for which there is no bag or possession limit) but one must possess a trapper’s license if they wish to sell any part of the trapped animal.

Also, a landowner or authorized agent is not required to have a hunting license to trap nuisance animals that are in the process of causing loss or damage to personal property.

Posted in Hunting camp on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 9:15 pm. | Tags: Trapping , Animal Rights , Animal Trapping , Hunting , Central Texas , Outdoors Comments (2)

Tuesday 02/04/2014
Learning wild game habits by following their trails

A lot of useful knowledge about wild game can be gained by learning their distinctive tracks and then simply following their trails.

Every species of wild game leaves a unique and distinctive track (or footprint) where they have traveled, however subtle their differences.

When these animals have traveled across soft, and/or moist soil, these tracks appear all the more clearly and distinctively.

Many digital resources and publications are now available to assist one in learning the varied sizes, shapes, and depths of tracks left behind by the many species of wildlife that roam any given area.

It’s also possible though, to learn their differences the old-fashioned way; by simply thinking of tracks in terms of the unique size and shape of a given animal’s foot or hoof.

In central Texas, a feral hog, for example, has an overall relatively oval shaped, cloven or split hoof, longitudinally divided in the middle. In a hog’s track, the two halves of the hoof can be seen as two individual oval impressions in the soil. Often, the lateral toes (or dewclaws) can be seen as two smaller impressions to the rear and each side of the print.

Deer tracks are very similar in appearance to hog tracks, except that they are generally smaller, and have an overall shape that is more triangular than hog tracks, because the two main cloven impressions are curved and tapered from wider to narrower from back to front. While the lateral toes of deer hooves can also sometimes be seen in their prints, they are much smaller and less defined than those of hog tracks.

Alternately, species of animals such as the bobcat and others in the feline and rodent families have padded feet and claws that leave behind a much different impression in their path.

Once you know by their tracks which animal trails you’ve spotted, you can follow those trails to learn things such as estimates of animal numbers, sizes, and ages in an area, where they bed down in underbrush, from what point they regularly enter a property, or the areas where they otherwise generally travel.

Such knowledge can be used to strategically plan how and where to hunt, thereby bettering hunters’ odds for a successful hunt.

    

Posted in Hunting camp on Tuesday, February 4, 2014 10:17 pm. | Tags: Veterinary Medicine , Game , Hoof , Wild Boar , Central Texas , Hunting Comments (4)

Monday 01/27/2014
Hunting blinds as far as the eye can see

As with game feeders, there are many varieties of hunting blinds available to meet the specific needs of hunters.

Various blinds are designed to accommodate the type of game hunted, the mode of hunting, fine-tuning toward these ends, personal comfort and preference, or a combination of any of these considerations.

Also, as with game feeders, almost any imaginable design of hunting blind can either be purchased from several manufacturers or retailers or built at home.

With some exceptions, most blinds designed for small game and fowls, such as turkeys and ducks, are made to be set up at ground level, with open or semi-open tops allowing for range of motion to follow moving targets.

This roomy design is especially important in the case of archery hunting.

In the case of deer hunting, a raised hunting blind or “stand” is beneficial to both rifle and archery hunters for the purpose of stealth and trajectory, but open tree stands also afford archers needed room and range of motion.  

As for personal preference and comfort, a near countless number of hunting blinds and ideas for designs are available to hunters of most all seasons and types of game.

Some models of blinds and stands offer designs including attachments for supporting or extending the hunter’s chosen weapon.

Some are built to accommodate a single hunter, two hunters, or multiple hunters.

Some 25 years ago, I started hunting with a two-seater ground blind made from an old shipping crate, and although it is no longer in use, it is still standing.

Probably the most impressive line of hunting blinds I’ve ever seen, especially for ground-level hunters, is offered by the folks at Ghost Blind.

Their blinds are constructed of reflective panels that mirror their surroundings, no matter where they are placed.

Visit their website, by the same name, and tell me if this is not the coolest thing you’ve ever seen.

Any feedback you’d like to offer about hunting blinds and stands is also welcome.  

Posted in Hunting camp on Monday, January 27, 2014 6:45 am. | Tags: Hunting , Windows , Recreation , Hunting Blind , Archery , Tree Stand , Deer Hunting , Window Blind , Outdoors Comments (6)

Tuesday 01/21/2014
The exploitation of traditional hunting

I’ve offered commentary here before about the heritage of hunting and the need for its preservation, but those who value this practice should understand the full scope of this task at hand.

For most considerations toward historical preservation, it’s only necessary to build public awareness of such a need and to secure plans for restoration.

In the case of hunting preservation, these things are needed, but beyond that, a war of ideas and influence is being waged between preservation and oblivion.

The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was clearly intended to preserve Americans’ “right to keep and bear arms.” The amendment stated that this right “shall not be infringed.”

Armed with a basic understanding of history, it should be obvious that the men who penned this founding document understood that the foremost need for this right was for the preservation of human lives and property.

Hunting was then still a way of life for the majority of citizens in our country, and it was surely at least second in the minds of our founders when they established this principle.

Historically, though, when a government disarms its people, the previously armed are labeled as dissidents, and their doomed fate is soon at hand.

In case there is any additional need for concern, without the ownership of weapons, hunting is rendered practically impossible.

That’s why hunters should especially be concerned.

There is a now a growing movement in the U.S. that believes that certain firearms are just not “needed” by average, law-abiding American citizens.

They argue that hunting is the only need for citizens to own firearms, and that many of these firearms are just not suitable for this purpose.

The firearms in question are often nothing more than alternatively-dressed semi-automatic rifles no different from other comparable rifles of the same caliber in any other way than their appearance.

The argument against this movement, if not already established, is that the founders did not establish the Bill of “needs,” but they did establish the Bill of Rights.

This document more specifically defines the rights of Americans when it comes to the ownership and usage of firearms.

If you’re a hunter who aspires to one day introduce your growing children to firearms and hunting, it would be advisable for you to support one or more of the many organizations who stand to preserve your right to do so. It is also advisable that you support those for public office who likewise support this right.

Otherwise, not only may you soon lose the legal right to take your child hunting, but under certain unforeseen circumstances, you may even lose that child or another family member altogether.

Posted in Hunting camp on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 12:15 pm. | Tags: Second Amendment To The United States Constitution , War_conflict , Right To Keep And Bear Arms , United States Constitution , Politics , Firearm , Hunting , Hunter Comments (0)

Sunday 01/12/2014
Gun care in the off-season

Most hunters realize that even simply handling a firearm warrants some simple polishing before putting it away, but some of the worst damage to firearms happens in storage.

It’s that initial polishing after handling that can be vital to protecting the steel or alloy finish and integrity of your gun’s or rifle’s barrel and action.

Beyond that, though, during the long periods of storage between uses, your firearm needs some additional attention.

Especially for hunters, this period of time can begin at the start of hunting off-seasons; when you will not be using that particular firearm again for as long as a year.

With at least bi-yearly cleaning, significant rust, which threatens the integrity of the piece, can usually be thwarted. But to keep even surface rust at bay, you may need to add another cleaning or two to your yearly maintenance schedule.

Affordable and universal cleaning kits, readily available at many retail outlets, are suitable for the cleaning needs of all sizes of shotguns and calibers of rifles.

Many varieties of “gun oils” are available in the packages of many brands, but the interior and exterior blued or polished metals of your firearms can be well protected by the periodic application of most any medium-weight oils or penetrating oils.

Based upon personal experience, even the slightest variation between storage locations for your firearms can make a big difference.

I once stored my shotgun and rifles in a wall rack. This worked well until that rack and its treasures were moved nearer to a less than satisfactory insulated window.

I discovered they suffered some significant surface rust as a result of this slight change.

Sealed cabinets or safes can help safeguard against these problems, but in any case, you can’t go wrong with regular cleanings.

Posted in Hunting camp on Sunday, January 12, 2014 11:00 am. | Tags: Firearm Safety , Firearm , Gun , Rifle , Shotgun , Hunting Comments (2)

Thursday 01/09/2014
The unexpected hunt

We've discussed the need to expect the unexpected in the wild, but sometimes, even when we think we’re prepared, we can be caught off guard.

In some instances, unexpected animals might make appearances, and we might find ourselves safely hunting an animal of an entirely different species than we had planned to hunt that day.

In worst case scenarios, we could even find ourselves in eminent danger.

Even species we might not immediately think of as dangerous can turn that way under certain conditions.

I’m reminded of a video I saw recently, featuring a hunter who stumbled upon two whitetail buck deer in rut—one alive and one dead - with their antlers tangled and stuck together from a bout of sparring.

The man had found the pair while trailing a deer he had shot that morning. He managed to successfully and safely free the two deer by hand. Afterward, as his friend filmed him, he told his story, mentioning that he was amazed that the freed buck was still standing motionless, just feet away from him. The hunter then seemed to get lost in the moment and couldn’t resist finding out just how close he could get to this deer with his camera.

As you might guess, eventually the buck charged him, but fortunately, he was able to escape injury. Many people, though, haven’t been so lucky and have been injured or killed by charging animals.

I also remember a story related by a friend about a deer hunt gone wrong, when he and his hunting partner were faced with a charging feral hog.

My friend was perched in a high stand, and his partner was set up on the ground, at the base of the stand.

The hog charged straight for the ground-based hunter. He took a shot and missed. The above hunter knew that his buddy only had one shell in his rifle!

Appreciating the seriousness of the situation, he took careful aim at the head and made a clean shot.

The hog came to a rest, just a few feet away from the rattled hunter on the ground.

We can never be too careful or too prepared in the wild.

Posted in Hunting camp on Thursday, January 9, 2014 9:30 am. | Tags: Hunting , Deer , Orthography , Hunter , Deer Hunting , Recreation , Guides And Outfitters , Muzzleloader Comments (2)

Monday 01/06/2014
Little-known hunting and wildlife facts

There are some wildlife facts and hunting regulations that most people know, even if they’re not hunters, and then there are those points that many of us would have never guessed.

I’m only using myself as a case in point, because, had I not studied up about certain wildlife matters, I would have guessed wrong.

For example, most people probably realize that there is no closed season in Texas for certain animals, such as rabbits and squirrels. But you do need to have a valid and current hunting license in order to take these animals, unless they are causing loss or damage to personal property.

You may not know, though, the traditional rule of thumb about the best part of the year to eat such rodents. Although, with proper cleaning and cooking, they are said to be safe throughout the year, the rule says that September through April, or all months with an “r” in their name, is the period when these animals are generally free of parasites.

Also, did you know that, in addition to feral hogs, there is no closed season or bag limit in Texas for exotic animals and fowls?

What about the fact that, although rarely sighted, mountain lions are not protected from hunting or with closed seasons in Texas?

Such is not true of the rarely sighted black bear in the state.

With either animal, however, state wildlife authorities insist that you report any sightings.

There is also no bag limit for fur-bearing animals in Texas, although valid hunting or trapper’s licenses or the “nuisance” clause concerning personal property damage does apply.

Finally and sadly, there are no real jackalopes, but have you heard of a practice called “snipe hunting?”

Well, as a kid, I was once taken on such a jaunt--complete with spoons, pots, and pans--by my brother-in-law, but in the right parts of the state, very real snipe are regulated and hunted.

Did you know?

Posted in Hunting camp on Monday, January 6, 2014 8:15 pm. | Tags: Hunting , Texas , Law , Environment , Cougar , Wild Boar , Wildlife , Hunting Season , Recreation Comments (6)

Monday 12/30/2013
Options in deer feeding

Once you’ve made the decision to feed deer for hunting purposes, or even if you’re well experienced in feeding, there are many options out there from which to choose.

When it comes to feeders, whether you’d rather build your own feeder, using existing or personally devised designs, or purchase a ready-made feeder, several options are available.

For feeding whitetail deer in central Texas, spin-cast feeders (usually for feeding dry corn) are the most popular.

Generally, these feeders are elevated above the ground by any one of several tripod designs.

These feeders are available with battery-operated/mechanical or battery-operated/solar timer mechanisms that allow for single or multiple daily feed disbursements.

Primarily, this type of feeder is only limited to one’s resources, wallet and imagination.

There are storage capability features with such feeders ranging from a 5-gallon bucket to a 100-plus gallon hopper.    

This is by no means, though, the only feeder option.

There are many available varieties of covered trough-type feeders (in one-piece or two-piece styles) and creep feeders.

I’ve seen creep feeders and gravity feeders with up to four feed spouts designed to allow deer to walk right up and help themselves to the feed.

I’ve seen feeders with built-in ladders for easy filling.

I’ve even seen feeders with grain augers incorporated into their design to bring just the right serving of feed to the level of a hungry deer.

While corn remains the most popular whitetail deer feed, protein-supplemented pellets and soybeans are also popularly used with various feeding systems.

The planting of a strategically-placed food plot (usually .5-3 acres in size) is also a popular means of feeding and nourishing a deer population.

Small grains, such as oats, wheat and rye grass are most commonly used with this method.

With all these available options, it’s possible for a hunter to try combinations of many different types of feed and feeding methods until they’ve found the best formula for their particular wildlife operation. 

Posted in Hunting camp on Monday, December 30, 2013 9:24 am. | Tags: White-tailed Deer , Deer , Feeder , Central Texas , Strategically-placed Food Plot , Hummingbird , Hunter Comments (10)

Tuesday 12/24/2013
Whitetail baiting and debating

When it comes to legally baiting whitetail deer, opinions vary as to what does and doesn’t count as baiting and about whether or not it is even an ethical practice.

We won’t attempt to end the old debate here, nor decide what’s best for every hunter, but some discussion might clear up some aspects of this subject.

First, when it comes to the right or wrong of baiting, figurative lines have been drawn in the sand.

Those who support baiting typically practice it just as any other necessary part of hunting. They generally don’t express any sense of guilt or fault, nor offer any apologies for the practice.

Those against baiting, on the other hand, are usually very adamant in their stance that it is an unethical, selfish, lazy or harmful practice.

Curiously, it seems that many folks in this corner tend to live in areas where conventional baiting is illegal.

Some say baiting deer is unnecessary, that it creates harmful competition among hunters, that it upsets the balance of nature, or that it gives hunters an unfair or easy advantage in harvesting animals.

Most hunters realize deer are most readily found where there’s plenty for them to eat.

We may call it management or baiting, but in either case, we intend to find deer in their pantries.

For some hunting sites, where agriculture yielding a healthy whitetail food source is regularly implemented, additional baiting may not be necessary. But in “dry areas” without this utilization, feeders or food plots may very well be necessary for hunting purposes, if it is agreed that hunters deserve a fighting chance to hunt in these areas.

Also, even within the region we refer to as central Texas, the landscape and climate vary--even from one county to the next. Therefore, there is not necessarily a one-size-fits-all method for managing or attracting whitetail deer in this region.

As hunters with experience in these dry areas, we can attest that baiting does not in itself make for an “easy” or “uneven” practice.

Whitetail deer hunting in these areas is still very challenging.

Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion, but arguably, these opinions should not be formed through hearsay, assumption, or envy, but rather through knowledge about wildlife, hunting and a varied landscape.

Posted in Hunting camp on Tuesday, December 24, 2013 10:19 pm. | Tags: Hunting , Animal Rights , Deer Hunting , White-tailed Deer , Dog-baiting , Bait , Texas , Hunter , Healthy Whitetail Food Source Comments (2)

Saturday 12/21/2013
Choosing the right deer hunting rifle

As long as choices of rifles suitable for big game have been available, there has been an ongoing debate among hunters as to which one is best.

The most common of these rifle calibers are the .243, .270, 300 mag., 7mm mag., 30-30, 30-06, and .308.

To simplify this old debate, all of these rifles can work well for hunting large game, (specifically whitetail deer) especially when used in the proper landscape settings and target distances for which they are designed to produce the best performance.

Generally speaking, the smaller of these calibers in the list, from the .243 to the 7mm mag., (higher velocity rounds) are best suited to longer-range, well-placed shots, while the larger calibers in the list, from the 30-30 to the .308, are lower velocity rounds, best suited to shorter-range and slightly less specifically-placed shots.

Because of their qualities of flat-shooting, low recoil, and accuracy, the smaller caliber rifles make for a good choice, up to a shot range even greater than 150 yards.

On the other hand, the larger caliber rifles produce higher recoil, with accuracy limited to shorter distances, but they offer greater power and knock-down potential, up to a maximum range of 100-150 yards.

Of course there are other factors to consider, such as iron sights versus optic sights. Generally, iron sights are best suited for closer shots, and optic sights are best suited for long-range shots.

Also, the specific choice of round is another consideration. Generally, lighter, low-grain rounds are more accurate, while heavier, high-grain rounds offer more power.

Finally, the specific action of the rifle (bolt-action, lever-action, pump-action, semi-automatic, etc.) is also a choice to consider.

Any combination of these available choices must be made based upon a hunter’s particular abilities, scenario, and personal preference.

Personally, for my typical whitetail hunting scenario, in a heavily-wooded area, my Marlin 30-30 lever-action rifle, equipped with a Simmons 3-9 X 32 variable scope and loaded with Remington 150-grain, soft-point ammunition, has worked out very well.

Posted in Hunting camp on Saturday, December 21, 2013 4:49 pm. | Tags: Ammunition , Rifles , Firearm Actions , Weapons , Military Technology , Scout Rifle , Varmint Rifle , Hunting , Gun , Hunter Comments (0)

Saturday 12/14/2013
Tricky white-tail tracking

Any experienced white-tailed deer hunter has surely had to track one at one time or another.

This practice, sometimes referred to as trailing, can be a tricky undertaking, even for the seasoned hunter.

Theories and preferences abound as to what portion of a deer makes for the best target, especially with consideration toward the particular weapon, arrow, or round that is used.

Most hunters would prefer that their chosen methods would result in a quick kill with minimal time spent locating or moving the animal.

Most hunters also realize that even the slightest unintended movement or inaccuracy of the weapon or aim upon firing can result in failure to hit the exact intended target area.

This, in turn, can make the difference between an easy hunt and a difficult one.

Time is of the essence when a hunter leaves his perch and sets out to begin preserving and processing a harvested animal, and this is especially true when faced with warmer temperatures.

My personal white-tailed deer tracking experiences have been futile efforts more often than they have been rewarding. Even so, this season provided a positive tracking experience.

I found the makings of a perfect shot at a good doe that allowed for a calculated aim taken with a variable scope at that personal choice of a target area—the heart.

It was a clean shot by any personal standard.

Still, my deer ran away. I was perplexed. Then, the second-guessing began. Had I jerked the trigger of my Marlin 30/30, over compensated, or misaimed? All answers seemed to be “no.”

I found some initial impact sign and began to feel some relief. Then, I found a trail, but the trail seemed to lead to nowhere, only a few feet away from the starting point.

I followed the trail a second time and the trail seemed to lead me a little further before coming to an abrupt halt.

How was this possible? How could this deer leave such a trail and still get so far away? I gave up and turned to leave when my better judgment forced me to turn around and try again.

The third time proved to be the charm. I found more of the choppy, crooked trail that finally led to the deer that lay about 150 feet, through the thick brush, away from the starting point.

Alas, it turned out that the intended heart shot landed in a lung. The cause will only be fully determined upon the next sighting-in of the rifle, but my bet’s on a slightly low aim on my part.

My advice for white-tail tracking is “don’t be too quick to call it a loss.” Have you had similar experiences? What are your thoughts? 

Posted in Hunting camp on Saturday, December 14, 2013 1:10 am. | Tags: Deer , Hunting , White-tailed Deer , Trail , Hunter , Game , White-tailed Deer Hunter , Recreation , Outdoors Comments (2)

Thursday 12/12/2013
Feral hogs, rattlesnakes: Questions, answers

Many of us have heard stories by word of mouth and chain emails concerning a supposedly new phenomenon related to the behavior of native rattlesnakes of the south and southwest, alongside the presence of a growing number of the more recently introduced feral hogs.

The story goes that a thriving and growing population of feral hogs in this region has introduced a new behavior in rattlesnakes to generally cease from rattling in order to avoid detection by the hogs that are supposedly known to charge at a rattlesnake giving such a warning, as a desired source of food.

This theory assumes rattlesnakes are known or proven to have previously rattled more often before the increase in hog population than they have in recent years. Some have said, though, that rattlesnakes simply do not rattle that often---only as a last resort when directly provoked.

It also implies that the snakes must have each personally or nearly encountered a threatening herd of feral hogs a number of times in order to develop this new behavior of self-preservation.

If this was true, and these snakes previously survived these early encounters before the new learned behavior, would they see hogs as posing a serious threat at all?

It also seems the popular emails devoted to this subject lose some credibility when comparing their stories to their attached photos. The most common emails, with stories related to Texas, feature a photo of a giant eastern diamond-backed rattlesnake, which is native primarily to Georgia and Florida. Some have rarely been spotted in eastern Louisiana, but certainly not in a natural setting in Texas.

It has been documented that feral hogs have been known to eat rattlesnakes, but this is apparently the exception and not the rule.

I’ll admit that before some research I had not experienced or learned enough about this subject to begin to form a personal opinion. After this research, though, I found that my peers make some compelling arguments based upon evidence and personal experiences.

I’m left with the opinion that this phenomenon is not impossible or absolutely discredited, but that it is unlikely to be true.

With a few exceptions by county regulation, there is no closed season for the hunting of feral hogs, as their prevalence and destruction to ranch and farm operations is common and widely known throughout the state. And as for rattlesnakes, well, you be the judge.

It would be interesting to gain some new insight on this subject from some folks who may have personally observed the behavior of either of these two species recently or over a number of years. 

Posted in Hunting camp on Thursday, December 12, 2013 11:55 pm. | Tags: Feral , Rattlesnake , Texas , Wild Boar , Hunting , Central Texas Comments (8)

Thursday 12/05/2013
Minding the Ps and Qs of antler restrictions

Texas deer hunters should be aware that in 2-buck counties, including Bell, Coryell, Hamilton, and others, “special antler restrictions” are included in state hunting laws, according to regulations specified by Texas Parks and Wildlife.

Spike bucks, or those with “at least one unbranched antler,” remain legal to take in these counties, but all other legal bucks must have “an inside spread measurement between main beams of 13 inches or greater.”

The rule of thumb in Texas Parks and Wildlife’s Outdoor Annual outlines that the outer tips of the ears are “approximately 13 inches apart and may be used to judge the inside spread.”

According to the Outdoor Annual’s illustration, the outer tips of the buck’s ears, in the alert position, must line up with the tip of the outer-most or middle point of his antlers’ main beam. This point also lines up with the lower area of the main beam from which all the outer antler points branch out. In other words, in order for a buck with more than one branched antler to be legally taken, the outer-most part of his antlers must extend out past his ears.

These relatively new regulations have been a part of state deer hunting laws for several years now and, in spite of their good long-term intentions, have stirred up some controversy among hunters.

The stated and fairly obvious intention of lawmakers, with these regulations, is to protect a segment of the younger buck population from over-hunting, allowing for an eventually greater number of fully matured bucks, animals that have been lacking in numbers in certain counties in recent years under former regulations.

The controversy comes with hunters’ questions such as, “Why are the youngest bucks (spikes) legal, while slightly older bucks (most 4-pointers, 6-pointers, and small or average 8-pointers) are now illegal to take?”

I’ve found myself in comical discussions among area deer hunters where the scenario is introduced that a buck is not going to wait for you to exit your deer stand, then kindly wait for you to reach him and gauge his antler spread with a tape measure to ensure he’s legal to shoot. Most hunters I’ve talked with simply see this as an extra and unwelcome challenge to an already challenged practice.

Another consideration is , aside from a spike, a deer now legal to harvest would be considered the trophy of a lifetime for some areas of the regulations’ affected counties.

This is definitely an issue that has produced varied opinions.

It should also be noted that current law also states an antler point is only considered a legal point if it is at least 1 inch in length. So, that old rule of thumb that says, “If you can hang a ring on it, it’s a point,” is no longer such a relevant rule. That is, unless you happen to have really large fingers!  

What do you think?

Posted in Hunting camp on Thursday, December 5, 2013 11:26 pm. | Tags: Hunting , Antler , Deer , Deer Hunting , Spike , Texas , Outdoors , Recreation , The Outdoor Annual , Game , Big Game Comments (6)

Monday 12/02/2013
The heritage of hunting

Texas and the U.S. have a long history related to the hunting of wild game. In fact, historically speaking, the native inhabitants and early American settlers of these regions would have never survived without it.

Increasingly, in recent years, the practice of hunting and the tools of its trade have been observed under newfound scrutiny. If this scrutiny was all applied out of necessity and based upon legitimate concerns or problems, very little controversy would be attached to their related campaigns. Unfortunately though, it is obvious to most practitioners of hunting, as well as to firearms and weaponry enthusiasts and advocates, that much of this public disdain and protest is based upon hearsay and a lack of well-rounded education on these subjects.

I believe as hunters we should never intend to go all out "Rambo" on any species of wildlife. That didn't work out so well for the American buffalo at the hands of early European settlers. Instead, I believe we have been placed upon planet Earth as stewards of this wide variety of wildlife. As such, we are to use the practice of hunting as a means to manage and control overpopulation of certain species and to provide a healthy food source for one another, all while applying the utmost in informed and safe practices and abiding by all applicable laws.

If all of these parameters are in place, hunting will remain not as any threat, but as a responsible and rewarding practice for all of its participants and recipients.

Posted in Hunting camp on Monday, December 2, 2013 10:08 pm. Updated: 5:29 pm. | Tags: Hunting , Animals In Sport , Wildlife , Texas , Healthy Food Source , Outdoors , Recreation , Environment Comments (12)

Friday 11/22/2013
Wilderness meets the desktop

I've been a hunter for the last 25 years. Even so, I'd never consider myself an expert in this pastime, but I have learned much about hunting over the course of my experience.

I've learned that all wildlife live in both competition and cooperation with one another. In a sense, these animals can serve as examples for mankind as to how to make common-sense decisions in preserving life and livelihood.

They seek shelter from inclement weather, rarely travel far from their pack, herd, or flock, and only take what they need, and when they need it the most.

Overall and above all, I've learned that one can never truly know what to expect when they place themselves deep into the wilderness. Many times over, personal experience has proven that it's best to prepare for the unexpected.

I've stumbled upon some of the best opportunities to harvest wild game while making too much noise or after giving up on an outing. I've accidentally made a rare pheasant sighting while on a trek to a deer blind. I've watched as a family of bobcats crossed in front of me in the woods. In this case, the little one was left behind and meowed much like a young kitten until its mother returned to lead it back to the family's path through the underbrush.

Along with poisonous snakes, I've also learned that feral hogs are arguably the most dangerous animals that can be encountered in the deep country of Central Texas. Based on personal encounters, I can attest they are virtually fearless and very territorial. When an area of secluded ground ranging on average from 20-100 feet can be observed to have its grass, and even small trees, pressed down flat against the wooded perimeter of a clearing, you've likely just found a spot where these feral hogs bed down in their native environment.

My mind often travels back to times as a young kid when I would naively run through the woods, unarmed, and without a care in the world. My experience since then has caused me to wonder how I never found myself at odds with nature and its unpredictable wildlife. I can only credit this good fortune to good timing and divine intervention.

These days, I practice what I preach. Never wander too far into the country without some sort of weaponry (knife, bow, firearm, etc.) This preparedness should not only be reserved for hunting trips, but also for self-protection in the wild. 

Posted in Hunting camp on Friday, November 22, 2013 11:48 pm. Updated: 12:15 pm. | Tags: Wild Boar , Hunting , Central Texas , Hunter , Bobcats , Poisonous Snakes Comments (7)