HUNTING + FISHING
I don’t always tell people where I hunt, but when I do, it’s a lie. – Dos Equis
Fishing enables us to get closer to nature. ― Fennel Hudson
Fishing, Hunting, Protecting, Preserving
November 20, 2020
With the advent of November, sounds and activities around our rural home take a shift. Deer season arrives with a burst of rifle shot. Suddenly our calm deer show a frantic frenzy and dash about sensing something is happening in the open spaces they frequent on remaining ranches and open areas.
It leads me to ponder the considerable and impressive conversations I’ve had through the years with avid fishing and hunting friends, colleagues and relatives. It led me to reach out to a select few for their reflections on what nourishes their interests and enthusiasms for fishing and hunting.
I have noted considerable investment, a body of information and a lot of preparation for those who take all this seriously. I came away more convinced than ever that among those enthusiasts for fishing and hunting are folks with a depth and breadth of knowledge and commitment to conserving, protecting and enhancing our natural spaces. My highest regard is reserved for a precious few folks who go far beyond most to perfect fly fishing and bow hunting.
Like all hunting and fishing endeavors those most certainly cannot be entered into casually or without a disciplined training and preparation.
I have had conversations with fishing and hunting devotees who approach the sacred respect found in numerous indigenous peoples and their practices and traditions. In the more general realm, my Yoda-like young counsel said, “Just remember that hunting and fishing is about a lot more than the harvest!” My brother actually waxed poetic in a surprising burst of appreciation for the fish and fauna that he observes season to season along his Gulf Coast home away from home. I knew that as a youth he had a keen sense and expanding knowledge of all that was wild as he explored wetlands, lakes, bays, woods and prairies.
Every area had rich adventures to describe in detail for those who would listen. What I didn’t recognize until much later and with maturation was
that his differentiated investment of interest and time carried with it an accompanying appreciation for accessible wild space and healthy habitat on land, water and shoreline.
I have noted as well his willingness to invest resources and considerable monies to protect and provide for current and future naturalists, fishers, and hunters.
Accompanying photographers, sketchers, writers and journalists joined his pursuit with notable degrees of passion as well. His late life lunge into hospitality to provide a launching post for hunting and fishing and those observers has emboldened him to face and recover from nasty hurricanes and toxic polluting threats over time.
We of Comal County and the Texas Hill Country are endowed with a plethora of resources and natural gifts. Our challenge is to so cherish and protect that which we conserve and preserve for our future generations the legacies of our good fortune. Toward that end, I hope you will visit the website comalconservation.org. Find, too, time to look to the incredible wealth of resources offered by Texas Parks and Wildlife, Texas AgriLife, as well as the conservancies and other groups seeking to keep and nurture what out of control development could wipe away if not approached prudently. Watch, too, for policy discussions and proposals that impact all of this locally, statewide and nationally. Our voices make a difference!
Finally, do consider for holiday gift giving or occasions such as birthdays and anniversaries donations “in honor of” special folks to the CCCA Conservation Land Fund that will strengthen the means and will for those seeking a path toward protecting riversides, shorelines, habitats, and open space for dedicated public space and benefit.
Hunting + Conservation
Hunters Are Among the Most Ardent Conservationists Around
Theodore Roosevelt, the founder of the National Wildlife Refuge System and a hunter himself, knew it. "In a civilized and cultivated country, wild animals only continue to exist at all when preserved by sportsmen," the 26th president of the United States said years ago. "The excellent people who protest against all hunting, and consider sportsmen as enemies of wildlife, are ignorant of the fact that in reality the genuine sportsman is by all odds the most important factor in keeping the larger and more valuable wild creatures from total extermination."
Department of the Interior officials know it today. “Hunters are a driving force behind funding many of our
nation’s conservation efforts," a 2017 Interior Department blog said. "After the extinction of the passenger pigeon and the near elimination of the bison and many migratory bird species in the early 1900s, Americans realized the impacts humans could have on wildlife. To ensure that there would be animals to hunt in the future, hunters began to support programs that helped maintain species populations and protected habitat for wildlife."
Hunters – along with anglers – also were the driving force behind the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation, a set of wildlife management principles established more than a century ago that declare that wildlife belongs to everyone, not just the rich and privileged.
Managing Habitats for Wildlife & Hunting
Managed Lands Deer Program (MLDP)
The Managed Lands Deer Program (MLDP) is intended to foster and support sound management and stewardship of native wildlife and wildlife habitats on private lands in Texas. Deer harvest is an important aspect of habitat management and conservation. Landowners enrolled in either the MLDP Harvest Option or Conservation Option are able to take advantage of extended season lengths and liberalized harvest opportunities.
The Harvest Option (HO) is an automated, 'do-it-yourself' option for MLDP participation that provides landowners with a deer harvest recommendation, tag issuance and general guidance about wildlife and wildlife habitat management. Participation in the Harvest Option does not require habitat management practices, deer population data or the participant to receive technical assistance from a TPWD wildlife biologist. Read more Harvest Option details in the MLDP Information PDF for download below.
The Conservation Option (CO) offers program participants the opportunity to work with a TPWD biologist to receive customized, ranch-specific habitat and deer harvest recommendations and MLDP tag issuance for white-tailed deer and/or mule deer. This option does require the reporting of certain types of deer data as well as completion of specific habitat management practices each year in order to participate and remain in the program. Read more Conservation Option details in the MLDP Information PDF for download below.
The Wildlife Division of Texas Parks and Wildlife
advocates an ecological approach that blends social, physical, economic, and biological needs and values to assure productive and healthy ecosystems. No single species is targeted for enhancement but rather the habitat is managed to maintain ecological processes, functions, diversity, and productivity over time. This is achieved through Land Stewardship, caring for land and resources to pass on healthy ecosystems to future generations.
As Aldo Leopold wrote in his 1933 textbook titled Game Management, "The central thesis of game management is this: game can be restored by the creative use of the same tools which have heretofore destroyed it- ax, plow, cow, fire, and gun. Management is their purposeful and continuing alignment."
Hunting Ethics: The Hunt and Fair Chase
"Fair Chase," as defined by the Boone & Crockett Club, is the ethical, sportsmanlike, lawful pursuit and taking of any free-ranging wild animal in a manner that does not give the hunter an improper or unfair advantage over such game animals.
Use of any of the following methods in the taking of game is considered Unfair Chase.
Is Hunting Moral? A Philosopher Unpacks the Question
Every year as daylight dwindles and trees go bare, debates arise over the morality of hunting. Hunters see the act of stalking and killing deer, ducks, moose and other quarry as humane, necessary and natural, and thus as ethical. Critics respond that hunting is a cruel and useless act that one should be ashamed to carry out.
As a nonhunter, I cannot say anything about what it feels like to shoot or trap an animal. But as a student of philosophy and ethics, I think philosophy can help us clarify, systematize and evaluate the arguments on both sides. And a better sense of the arguments can help us talk to people with whom we disagree.
Three rationales for hunting:
One central question is why people choose to hunt. Environmental philosopher Gary Varner (Texas A&M) identifies three types of hunting: therapeutic, subsistence and sport. Each type is distinguished by the purpose it is meant to serve.
Joshua Duclos does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Boston University provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation US.
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Fishing + Conservation Challenges
What are some of the major challenges to conservation and biodiversity in Texas? Top issues include habitat loss and fragmentation, limited water for environmental flows, invasive species and climate change.
CHANGING DEMANDS ON LAND RESOURCES
Human population growth and resulting land fragmentation, or the division of single ownership properties into two or more parcels, have had profound effects on the Texas landscape. Changing land use and fragmentation alters natural habitats, which can threaten the viability of those habitats and sustainability of wildlife populations. Such changes will increase pressures on natural resources throughout the state, especially near growing metropolitan areas.
Non-native plant and animal species that are introduced either by design or by accident can cause unintended harmful consequences. Non-native species may become invasive, spreading rapidly, displacing native species and threatening community relationships that are necessary to sustain the aquatic environment. Some examples of undesirable or noxious non-native invasive species include salt cedar, Chinese tallow, Chinaberry, Privet, K-R bluestem (also known as Mediterranean bluestem), Japanese honeysuckle, and giant reed. Chinese tallow has invaded woodlands and coastal prairies; left unchecked, the invasion changes these diverse habitats into practical monocultures, reducing diversity and habitat integrity for native plants and animals. Introduced grass species can create monocultures devoid of quality wildlife forage and of limited useful habitat for young ground nesting birds and burrowing small mammals. For some ground dwelling birds like quail, dense turf-type grasses create a barrier to movement; in that way, their habitat is functionally fragmented. Through improved range management techniques, they can be significantly reduced or controlled to benefit water quality and quantity as well as wildlife habitat. Imported red fire ants in eastern Texas have had profound, if not fully understood, adverse impacts on many wildlife species. Eighteen non-native fish species have been documented in Texas as well as a number of snail and bi-valve species. Some have had an extremely negative impact on native fish communities. Further, great effort and financial resources have been expended to control invasive aquatic plants such as water hyacinth, hydrilla and giant salvinia, which have negatively affected native freshwater communities.
OVERGRAZING AND FIRE SUPPRESSION
Improper grazing and fire suppression have contributed to a drastic alteration of the native landscape. Improper grazing results in soil erosion, decreased diversity in
forage and cover for nesting as well as other needs of wildlife. In addition, fire suppression has caused native grasslands, savannahs and open woodlands to become overgrown with thickets of woody species.
REDUCED WATER QUALITY
Point source and nonpoint source pollution threaten native fish and wildlife species that rely on clean water. Water that will not support fish and wildlife will not support human needs either. In the next decade, pollutant concentrations in rivers and streams may increase to a point where they have a detrimental effect on aquatic life including low oxygen, harmful algal growth and fish kills.
REDUCED WATER QUANTITY
As the population grows and water demands increase, water flow in rivers and streams, or instream flow, may decrease. Decreased or altered water quantity will affect the ecosystems, habitats and wildlife that depend on the natural flow regime of the stream or river. For example, groundwater withdrawals, reservoir operations and water diversions make rivers, streams and springs and the fish and wildlife resource they support exceptionally vulnerable to the effects of drought. All bays and estuaries have great commercial, recreational and conservation benefits. The greatest long-term threat to the health and productivity of bays is diminished freshwater inflows.
LIMITED UNDERSTANDING OF COMPLEX NATURAL SYSTEMS
Research is a critical component of natural resource conservation. Without reliable knowledge and rigorous scientific inquiry, scientists cannot make informed conservation decisions. For instance, some principles of wildlife ecology, such as the early research of edge effects on wildlife, have since been found to inadequately describe natural systems. The decision making process at TPWD must remain grounded in the best science available to assure that policy development, regulatory action and resource management are accurate and effective.
Fish Conservation & Ethics
Anglers love their waters! That's where the fish are and that's where they must go to catch them. Do anglers feel the same affection for water conservation? If they don't, they should!
Taking care of waters where you fish, swim, ski, boat, or camp is critical to the survival of this shared asset — both for you, today, and for anglers who follow you. Throughout this website, you can find out about general conservation practices for water resources.
Specifically for anglers are some conservation principles you can put into practice as you fish.
Native Fish Conservation + the Fishes of Texas Project
Freshwater fishes and the ecosystems they depend upon are experiencing massive degradation on a global scale. The American Fisheries Society estimates that around 40% of the freshwater fishes in North America are imperiled. Our studies show that in Texas, 48% of our native fishes are of conservation concern. This is primarily due to the alteration of freshwater systems by human activities, which continues to occur at rates and scales that threaten the long-term resiliency of freshwater ecosystems. These anthropogenic stressors are exacerbated by climate change. Innovative, systematic, data-driven, and coordinated conservation approaches are needed to restore and maintain watershed processes, habitats, and native species, while simultaneously supporting human needs.
7 Amazing Fishing Spots in the Beauty of the Hill Country
By Texas Hill Country
From state parks to river crossings, the Hill Country offers some of the best fishing with breathtaking views. This area of Texas rises at the Balcones Escarpment and spreads west across the Edwards Plateau. It has an abundance of rivers, streams and creeks, as well as natural and man-made lakes. Fishing conditions are close to perfect all year, so anglers have plenty of opportunities to catch the limit from these beautiful lakes and waterways. Here are just a few of our favorite fishing spots and don’t forget some tips for catching bullhead catfish.
CYPRESS CREEK in Wimberley, Texas
This spring-fed creek starts at Jacob’s Well and empties into the Blanco River in Wimberley. Most of the creek is private, with small public sections in town. You can access a public section through the town square park. The Lodge at Cypress Falls is considered the best place to fish the creek, but this section is private and charges a fee to fish. It is home to numerous species of fish, but careless anglers can easily spook the fish in the creek’s crystal clear water.
SABINAL RIVER, from Lost Maples State Natural Area to the town of Sabinal
The Sabinal River is a small stream, which can be accessed through Vanderpool and Utopia, but the area from Lost Maples State Natural Area to the small town of Sabinal offers the best fishing. It has large populations of largemouth bass, Guadalupe bass, and sunfish.
SAN SABA RIVER, accessible spots in Menard County
The San Saba River, near Menard, Texas, is about as close to a wilderness fishing adventure as one can get in the Lone Star State. A four to five mile float on the San Saba can take eight to ten hours. This terrain is a transition zone from the Hill Country to the south and the Panhandle to the north. The San Saba is a slow moving river with deep pools and undercut banks. Pecan and oak trees line the shoreline with thick vegetation. Most of the accessible sections of the river are in Menard County.
BLANCO RIVER, flowing through Blanco State Park
The Blanco River is 87 miles long and flows from the springs in Kendall county through the Hill Country and empties into the San Marcos River. The river has 21 named feeder creeks flowing into it, but the best fishing can be found in Blanco State Park. It is home to Guadalupe bass, smallmouth bass, Hill Country hybrid bass, sunfish and catfish. Anglers can also find stocked freshwater trout during winter months. It’s a must-visit on any list of Texas fishing spots.
GUADALUPE RIVER, below Canyon Lake Dam
The Texas Parks and Wildlife stocks the Guadalupe with freshwater trout year round and with rainbow and brown trout every fall and winter below Canyon Lake Dam. The Guadalupe is also home to Rio Grande perch and Guadalupe bass, which are native to the Hill Country. The river bottom is limestone and cobble as with most hill country streams, and at river flows of 300 cfs or less, the river is suitable for wading. Free public fishing access is available year-round at Guadalupe Park just below the dam. Stocked trout feed on caddis, midge and mayfly hatches, and nymphs and streamers are the most effective flies.
LLANO, flowing through the South Llano River State Park
Anglers will find an abundance of fishing spots in the North and South Llano Rivers, especially the South Llano River State Park. You can fish from a kayak, sit on the river bank, or wade into the river and go fly fishing. The river offers a variety of fish, including largemouth bass, Guadalupe bass, perch, channel catfish and yellow catfish.
PEDERNALES RIVER, flowing through Pedernales Falls State Park
The Pedernales River is a 106-mile long tributary of the Colorado River originating from springs in Kimble County and flowing east to Lake Travis. It is named after the flint rock found along the waterway and has limestone escarpments and 23 feeder creeks. The state park offers five miles of river filled with largemouth bass, Guadalupe bass, as well as several species of sunfish and catfish.
Don’t let a big catch get away! Be sure to visit one of these great Texas fishing spots.