GATESVILLE — A group of about 40 landowners from Coryell, Lampasas and Hamilton counties walked the native pastures of the Hannah Ranch and stood on the cool bank of Cowhouse Creek on Tuesday, watching, listening and learning how to manage their ranches for livestock and wildlife.
The Range and Wildlife Management Field Day started at the Harman School Community Center north of Copperas Cove. Experts from the Texas A&M AgriLife extension service and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department were there to talk turkey — as well as quail, deer, feral hogs, cattle, sheep, goats, grasses, forbs and herbicides.
Derrick Wolter, a TPWD wildlife biologist, briefed the group on how to qualify for wildlife management tax appraisal status.
Land currently appraised for agricultural use may qualify for wildlife management status, which is a subset of the agricultural-use appraisal, Wolter said.
The landowner must submit a plan that includes at least three of seven wildlife management practices, such as providing habitat, shelter, food, water, predator control, erosion control or collecting census data for certain wildlife species.
Wildlife management can work hand in hand with livestock management and may be an option for ranchers who want to reduce their herds due to economic setbacks from the current drought.
Jim Cathey, an assistant professor and wildlife and fisheries specialist with the Texas A&M AgriLife extension service, provided tips on managing habitat for wild turkey.
Mike Marshall of the extension service talked about managing habitat for bobwhite quail.
James Jackson of the extension service spoke about brush management techniques, including fire, mechanical and chemical. The field day activities qualified participants for three continuing education units needed to maintain a private herbicide applicator license.
After lunch, the group drove to the Hannah Ranch to get a look at native flora and see a demonstration on feral hog traps by extension assistant Dan Gaskins.
The participants and experts wandered the land, plucking plants and talking about striking a balance to enable livestock and wildlife to thrive together.
“Good wildlife habitat is good for water quality,” said Marshall, who is the Leon River Watershed coordinator.
“I really enjoyed going out to the ranch,” said Ryan Bay, one of the participants. “I didn’t know anything about the wildlife tax valuation. That was all new to me and was very interesting.”
Bay and his wife, Santanna, earned the Texas Young Farmers and Ranchers Excellence in AG award for 2012. The couple operates a pecan orchard near Mound.
The Bays help run the family business, Coryell Feed and Supply in Gatesville, and Ryan holds a commercial herbicide applicator license.
“We manage habitat for bobwhite quail on our land, so that information was interesting to me,” he said.
Coryell County Extension Agent Pasquale Swaner hosted the event in coordination with Hamilton County Extension Agent Chelsea Dorward and Lampasas County Agent Heath Lusty.