Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A Weekend For the Birds - January 17-18, 2009

This past weekend was spent bird hunting at the lease with Lee and Shane. We primarily focused on ducks, but also managed to get a quail hunt in on Saturday.

The first morning we got an early start and had our decoys set up in our favorite spot well before legal shooting hours, which happened to be at 7:07 Saturday morning. The waterbody we were hunting is surrounded almost entirely by cattails and is a hotspot for ducks and teal to roost on, so most of the ducks take off and leave before legal shooting light or come back late in the evening after sunset. Just as we expected, several large groups of ducks - probably 80 to 100 in all - took off about 10 minutes before legal shooting hours.
We did have several other groups of ducks come in throughout the morning and bagged a total of seven. This was Shane's first duck hunt ever, so we set him up in a prime spot to try to make sure he got plenty of shots.
It didn't take him long to get his first duck. He dropped the first one that came in - a very pretty drake Wigeon. Even after my dog retrieved the bird it was still in really good shape, so Shane decided he is going to have it mounted.

Scooter did an excellent job retrieving the ducks.

After duck hunting, we checked the status of our protein feeder in the deer sanctuary and got the game camera so we could view the most recent activity at the feeder. The deer have finally begun to hit the protein and the best buck that was seen this season is one of the most frequent visitors. I can't wait to see how his antlers develop this spring and summer.

Just before lunch we decided to walk through the pasture with my birddog to see if we could find a covey of quail. We stumbled across one covey and then chased the singles after the birds scattered from the initial covey rise. I was able to knock down one bird and Sioux retrieved it for me.
Saturday evening we went back to our duck hunting spot and got three more birds. Lee got the trophy bird of the weekend, a beautiful drake Pintail. It was Lee's first Pintail, so he too is going to have this bird mounted.

After the evening hunt we set up on the side of a ridge where we would have a good vantage point to try to call in some predators. After four series of calling with a jack rabbit in distress mouth call, I was able to lure in a grey fox.
Sunday morning's hunt ended up being really slow. We only had one bird come in, a green-winged teal that Shane was able to bring down. So we ended up with a total of eleven for the weekend.

Another highlight of the weekend was the double-meat double-cheese burger at Herd Hamburger (est. 1916) in Jacksboro. If you ever pass through Jacksboro I highly recommend stopping by and trying one.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

TPWD Public Scoping Meeting - Grayson County

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department held a public meeting in Grayson County on Thursday night to address possible changes to the deer hunting regulations for next season. The department is considering adding a firearms season for deer in Grayson County, which is a topic of much controversy. Currently Grayson County is the only county in the state which allows archery equipment as the only means of harvest for the general deer season.

My Dad and I attended the meeting to hear what TPWD had to say concerning the matter as well as to hear what the majority of Grayson County residents had to say. TPWD Executive Director Carter Smith, TPWD Commission Members John Parker and Ralph Duggins, and TPWD deer biologist Mitch Lockwood were all present to represent Texas Parks and Wildlife. Local officials were also in attendance - a county judge, the district attorney, all four county commissioners, and mayors from several cities. There were also about 200 members of the general public there as well.

TPWD began the meeting by explaining the process by which they evaluate their regulations and the biologist gave a presentation detailing how the department has the entire state broken down into Resource Management Units, or "RMU's". The RMU's do not relate to political boundaries and are grouped based on common factors such as soil type, vegetative cover, and land use practices. There are 33 RMU's across the state. TPWD believes these RMU's will help them more accurately collect biological data and better monitor the deer herd. The department has Grayson County lumped in with several other surrounding counties, all of which either allow a firearms season or have no deer season at all. The idea that TPWD was trying to express is that it would make the regulations simpler by creating a firearms season in Grayson County to streamline it with the rest of that specific RMU.

The biologist himself acknowledged the fact that the state currently has little to no data concerning Grayson County and the local whitetail herd. TPWD has used data collected from Hagerman Wildlife Refuge, which is managed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service and represents a very small portion of the county. The proposal to create a firearms season in Grayson County is based on the idea that there is no biological data which suggests the deer herd could not sustain a firearms season, when in fact the biological data to support the change does not exist.

Grayson County is very unique when it comes to whitetail deer. The county does have a growing deer population, but it is still small relative to other parts of the state. The deer are primarily located in the northern part of the county, near the refuge and Lake Texoma, as well as in the southwestern part of the county near Ray Roberts Lake. However, the population is expanding to other parts of the county throughout habitat that has been heavily fragmented by development. Over the last decade this county has produced numerous record book bucks, primarily due to the fact that the county is restricted to archery only. This has allowed the deer to mature and reach their full genetic potential.

Grayson County has received national fame over the last few years with the harvest of several deer that score right around or above the 200" mark. The following links are just a few examples of the mature deer that have been harvested in Grayson County over the last few years.





I personally would like to see the regulations remain the way they are. I feel like the deer herd would be drastically diminished within a few short years if a firearms season was implemented. I know TPWD is not in the business of managing for "trophy" deer, but they are in the business of managing for a healthy deer herd that produces quality animals. I think the pictures in the articles above speak for themselves. If it ain't broke, don't fix it!

Monday, January 5, 2009

The End of a Good Season

Sunday was the last day of deer season here in North Texas. This turned out to be a pretty good season for us. There were six deer harvested off our lease, which is the most we have taken in the four years we have hunted this property. We also saw more young bucks this year than we have seen in years past, which is promising for next year. In the overall management scheme, I believe we did ourselves a big favor by reducing the number of does and passing on all of the young bucks, especially the borderline "shooters", as well as bringing the buck/doe ratio closer to where it needs to be.

On the last weekend of the season I saw deer each of the three times I was in a stand. I saw lots of wildlife, but forgot to bring my camera with me to the stand, so I apologize for not having any pictures. I saw squirrels, armadillos, a barred owl, lots of cardinals, blue jays, mockingbirds, another beautiful bird known as the rufus-sided towhee, and lots of ducks. But I still didn't see a shooter buck. I can't wait for next year, and hopefully I won't have to miss archery season again. We still have several weeks of duck season left and quail season is also still open and I plan to get my dogs some work in over the next few weeks.