|  TPWD News Releases Dated 2005-03-14                                    |
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[ Note: This item is more than 12 years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ] [SL]
March 14, 2005
Spring Turkey Hunting Prospects Excellent
AUSTIN, Texas - If predictions by state wildlife biologists hold true, there will be plenty of gobbling going on as conditions around the state bode well for the upcoming spring turkey hunting season.
"It should be a good season because we've gotten a lot of rain for two, three or four years in some places," said T. Wayne Schwertner, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's turkey program leader. "Rain equals production."
This spring marks the first month-long hunting season for eastern birds, a testament to the success of TPWD's East Texas turkey restoration efforts. Eastern turkey hunting in Texas opened 10 years ago in Red River County and has expanded into more than 40 East Texas counties as turkey populations grew and expanded. Schwertner said the time had come to expand hunting opportunity. During these years of restoration, beginning in the mid-1980's, TPWD had a very productive partnership with the National Wild Turkey Federation, headquartered in Edgefield, SC, and with the Texas Chapter of NWTF. According to a cooperative agreement with NWTF, that organization's staff worked with TPWD biologists to coordinate with other states to have eastern wild turkeys trapped and shipped to East Texas. A combination of hunting license and turkey stamp dollars paid for the more than 7,000 birds released across East Texas.
"As far as lengthening the season, we don't have a lot of concerns because it's still a one-bird, gobbler-only bag limit," he noted. "Once you kill your one bird you're done for the season, except for those who love to take others turkey hunting and enjoy the calling experience and introducing others to this great sport. I expect the harvest to increase a little bit, but I don't expect it to be much. The additional days should allow hunters to go out more and scout around and pick and choose when they want to go. It also gives hunters a few more bad weather days to stay in bed and still know the season isn't about to end."
The spring eastern turkey season is open in 42 East Texas counties from April 1-30 and is limited to shotgun, lawful archery equipment or crossbow, with a one-gobbler bag limit.
All harvested eastern turkeys must be taken to a check station within 24 hours. To find the check station nearest you, contact a TPWD field office or call (800) 792-1112.
Those hunters hoping to try their skills in some of the national forest lands in East Texas should note some prescribed burns have been taking place that could create new challenges and opportunities for hunters.
"As turkey habitat is improved by these burns, birds may spread out over a greater area, making them more challenging to find," Schwertner observed. "But it should make prospects better in the long term."
Hunters are urged to contact the U.S. Forest Service's district ranger office for each National Forest or Grassland before heading afield. Here is the contact information:
--Sabine Ranger District (409) 787-3870
--Angelina Ranger District (936) 897-1068
--Davy Crockett Ranger District (936) 655-2299
--Sam Houston Ranger District (936) 344-6205
If you intend to hunt in the national forestlands, an Annual Public Hunting Permit (available for $48 wherever hunting licenses are sold) is needed and provides access to several hundred thousand acres of public hunting lands in East Texas.
In the Post Oak Savannah, where some eastern turkey hunting has begun to spread, district biologist David Sierra noted, "I think we're going to have a good season, we had a good year for the hatch, and there are a lot of jakes out there if someone wants to take one. We never got that cold this winter so the birds shouldn't be stressed out. I've heard good reports out of Lamar, Red River and Hopkins counties."
Rio Grande spring turkey hunting season opens March 26 in South Texas and runs through May 1. In the remaining 119 counties having spring hunting for Rio Grande turkey, the season begins April 2 and runs through May 8. Statewide regulations allow the use of shotgun, rifle, handgun, legal archery equipment, or crossbow to take Rio Grande turkey; however, individual landowners and public hunting areas may further restrict the devices to be used. The bag limit for Rio Grande turkey is four turkeys per license year. However, regulations and bag limits vary by county, so check the regulations for the county where you are hunting. Only gobblers are allowed to be harvested during the spring hunting season. Consult the 2004-05 outdoor annual for season dates and bag limits in your area.
Hunters are reminded that a Texas turkey hunting stamp is required in addition to a valid Texas hunting license. The stamp endorsement is included in the Super Combo and Lifetime Hunting license packages. Non-residents who purchase the Non-resident Spring Turkey License are exempt from this stamp endorsement requirement.
Hunters in the southern part of the state will get first crack at strutting toms this spring, and TPWD biologist Joe Herrera in Pleasanton predicts the birds will be out in force.
"We're in our fourth year with conditions being excellent and the second consecutive spring of good rain conditions," he noted. "Consequently, our turkey population is on the rise so hunters should see quite a few birds. The conditions in South Texas remain lush; all the folks I've talked to cannot recall conditions as lush as we have today. I think hunters can look for an excellent season."
"We've had tons of moisture so it ought to be plenty good," echoed Max Traweek, TPWD biologist for the Hill Country. "We're already seeing some activity two weeks before the season. The hatch wasn't as good as we would've expected last year; we still have a lot of birds, but there will probably not be as many jakes running around this spring because of that."
On the Net:
Check stations: http://tpwd.texas.gov/hunt/regs/2005/stations/

[ Note: This item is more than 12 years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ] [SL]
March 14, 2005
Permit Auctions Net Nearly $150,000 for Texas Bighorn Sheep
SAN ANTONIO - Proceeds from a pair of auctioned permits to hunt Texas desert bighorn sheep total a whopping $150,000. The permits were auctioned at the recent Foundation for North American Wild Sheep convention here and money raised helps pay for future desert bighorn sheep conservation work in Texas.
"To anyone unfamiliar with the Texas bighorn sheep restoration program and big game hunting, the price tag for the right to hunt these magnificent animals may seem inflated," said Mike Berger, director of wildlife at the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. "But it's the cause that fuels the bidding. These folks are investing in conservation."
The rewards of the hunt aren't too shabby, either. Since 1988, when TPWD reinstated hunting for desert bighorns on an extremely conservative basis, 53 permits have been issued. More than half of the rams harvested in Texas have qualified for the Boone and Crockett Club's big game record book.
Glenn Thurman, an avid hunter and conservationist from Mesquite, set a Texas record when he purchased the rights to hunt a bighorn ram for $102,000 at a Texas Bighorn Society fundraiser auction. On March 2, 2004, he set another state record, harvesting a ram on Elephant Mountain Wildlife Management Area with an official Boone and Crockett Club score of 180 0/8 points.
At this year's FNAWS auction, the first permit was purchased by Fort Worth hunter Terry Fricks, who will get the opportunity to hunt a desert bighorn ram at Elephant Mountain WMA. The other permit went to Randy Pittman, a Maryland hunter, for the right to hunt a bighorn on one of the Texas WMAs in the Trans Pecos.
Berger said the decision to offer the permits is based on evidence of additional surplus bighorn sheep observed during annual aerial census surveys. By conducting annual helicopter survey counts, TPWD biologists can ascertain not only how many animals are present, but also if there are surplus bighorn rams. The most recent survey documented 104 more sheep than last year, a 22 percent increase.
More than a century ago, wildlife biologists estimated there were about 500 desert bighorn sheep in Texas. About 50 years later, there were none. Today there are nearly 700 of these majestic animals in the state.
TPWD Bighorn Sheep Program Leader Clay Brewer points to the impressive increase in population as well as the record-book quality of Texas' bighorns as indicators of the success the restoration effort is having. "We issued eight hunting permits this past year, more than any other year," he added. "We've built a quality program in Texas," Brewer said. The proceeds go to things like habitat restoration and maintenance, technical guidance with private landowners and other research and monitoring efforts.
"Most bighorn hunters have the ability to hunt anywhere they choose," said Brewer. "They come to Texas because they recognize our restoration achievements, appreciate the direction we are headed, and want to invest in the future of the Texas bighorn program."

[ Note: This item is more than 12 years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ] [TH]
March 14, 2005
Texas Hunting Accidents Drop to Record Low
AUSTIN, Texas - A new report shows Texas hunting accidents in 2004 decreased to the lowest amount since statistical records began in 1966. The number of people injured in hunting accidents in Texas decreased from 44 in 2003 to 29 in 2004, although fatalities increased from two to four during the same period.
More important than the annual dips and peaks, however, is the long-term trend.
"Overall, we've cut accident rates by more than half since the 1960s and 70s," said Steve Hall, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department education branch chief, and author of the latest Texas hunting accident report. Hall attributes part of the steady decrease to mandatory hunter education that began in 1988.
Hall said the significant factors behind most hunting accidents have not changed much in recent years. He believes wearing blaze orange would avoid many accidents. Law violations are common in accident scenarios, including many violations for "failure to take a hunter education course." (Any hunter born on or after Sept. 2, 1971 must pass the course to legally hunt in Texas.)
The primary reason for Texas hunting accidents remains swinging on game outside a safe zone of fire. This happens when a person points a firearm at another hunter while following a moving target, such as a flying game bird. Hunter education teaches people to set up safe zones of fire where a gun can be safely pointed whether the target is moving or stationary.
Careless firearm handling remains another primary factor in many accidents.
"Careless handling incidents almost always involve three factors: pointing a loaded firearm muzzle at yourself or someone else with the safety off and with your finger inside the trigger guard," Hall explained. Hunter education courses teach ways to safely handle firearms, including how to carry them in the field and pass them from one person to another.
Some statistics seem to defy stereotypical expectations. Most accidents do not happen under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Most of the people involved had more than 10 years of hunting experience. Most were in light to open cover with clear visibility in good weather.
Other findings verify what might be expected. Most people involved did not attend a hunter education course or wear any type of hunter orange clothing. Most accidents violated a cardinal rule of hunter safety, were situated in or around a vehicle or stand, and occurred toward dusk and involved fatigue as a factor.
Dove hunting had close to twice the number of accidents (11) as the next highest accident category for 2004, deer hunting (6). This is because hunting birds on the wing involves the greatest risk of swinging on game outside the safe zone of fire.
Last year was the first in which hunters in Texas could purchase a deferral, which postpones the requirement to take hunter education for up to one year.
"We did this to allow more adults to try hunting," Hall said. "You still must be accompanied by a person who has completed hunter education or is exempt. The idea is to encourage hunter recruitment with experienced mentors."
Texas has a national reputation for making access to hunter education convenient and plentiful with more than 4,400 courses offered across the state and at least one in all 254 counties each year. The summer months when school lets out are an ideal time for new hunters to take the course.
Texans have several options available for fulfilling hunter education requirements, including the traditional classroom environment, a home study course and an online course. Texas certifies about 33,000 students annually.
The hunter education course is a minimum 10-hour class that teaches hunting safety, modern and primitive sporting arms, wildlife conservation, outdoor skills and responsibility. When the course is completed, the certification card is good for life and is honored by all states, Mexico, and all Canadian provinces that require hunter education. Proof of certification, which includes the card or the hunter education certification number printed on the hunting license, must be carried at all times while hunting.
Hunters ages 12-16 must either pass the course or be accompanied by a person who is at least 17 or older licensed to hunt in Texas who has had hunter education or is exempt. Hunters younger than age 12 may take the course but they will not be certified and must be accompanied by a person licensed to hunt in Texas who is at least age 17 or older who has had hunter education or is exempt. Accompanied means within normal voice control and preferably within arm's length.
Hunters can purchase a license before becoming certified, but they must carry proof of certification while hunting.
More information about hunter education as well as the schedule of course offerings are available at local TPWD offices, by calling TPWD at (800) 792-1112 ext. 4999.
On the Net:

[ Note: This item is more than 12 years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ] [TH]
March 14, 2005
Endangered Species Conservation Funds Available
AUSTIN, Texas -- Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is seeking proposals through April 16 from universities, cities and counties, private conservation groups and others interested in acquiring land or conducting conservation planning for endangered species.
This spring, TPWD will accept proposals and then will award grants using federal funds made available to state wildlife agencies through the Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund (CESCF) under Section 6 of the Endangered Species Act (Department of Interior, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) for the conservation of threatened and endangered species. Any grant proposals submitted by TPWD will compete with other proposals from around the nation; there are no funds earmarked for Texas.
"These grants show a commitment from Congress to help states recover threatened and endangered species," said Mike Berger, TPWD wildlife division director. "In Texas, our focus is always on habitat--on the landscapes and waterways that sustain all wildlife, including rare species. We hope these grants will help private landowners, local communities and other partners conserve those various habitat types."
For fiscal year 2004, TPWD received approval for grants that included close to $3.4 million for Balcones Canyonlands Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) land acquisition in Travis County, $1.3 million for acquisition of Bone Cave Harvestman Preserve in Williamson County, $1.8 million to facilitate purchase of a conservation easement on the Storm Ranch in Hays County, $1 million for development of a Regional Habitat Conservation Plan in Williamson County, and $300,000 for acquisition of a critical tract of land in Dallas County.
These are 75:25 matching grants that require applicants to provide 25 percent of total project costs from non-federal funding sources.
Project proposals must concern a fish or wildlife species (or a suite of species) that is on the federal threatened or endangered species lists or that are candidates for federal listing.
There are three grants categories:
--Recovery Land Acquisition Grants -- for acquisition of habitat for endangered and threatened species in support of approved recovery plans. Acquisition of habitat to secure long-term protection is often an essential element of a comprehensive recovery effort for a listed species.
--Habitat Conservation Planning Assistance Grants -- to help develop Habitat Conservation Plans through the support of baseline surveys and inventories, document preparation, outreach, and similar planning activities.
--HCP Land Acquisition Grants -- to acquire land associated with approved HCPs. Grants do not fund the mitigation required of someone with an HCP permit; instead, they support acquisitions by state or local governments that complement HCP actions.
The deadline to submit a grant proposal is April 16. TPWD anticipates awarding grants in late spring.
For grant proposal guidelines, go to the Section 6 grants Web page (tpwd.texas.gov/grants/section_6_proposals/competitive.phtml). Or, contact Craig Farquhar in the TPWD Wildlife Diversity Branch at 3000 South Interstate 35, Ste. 100, Austin, TX 78704, craig.farquhar@tpwd.texas.gov, (512) 912-7018.

[ Note: This item is more than 12 years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ] [TH]
March 14, 2005
Scientists Offer Tips for Dealing With Bats
AUSTIN, Texas - Millions of Mexican free-tailed bats are returning to Texas from their winter homes in Mexico, and while research is revealing an increasing number of bat benefits, scientists say there are some common-sense steps schools, businesses and homeowners can take to coexist peacefully with bat visitors.
The bats return to the southwestern U.S. each year where they will spend the summer raising their young. Each mother gives birth to a single baby called a pup. At the first signs of cold weather in the fall, they will begin returning to warmer Mexico.
Research has shown Mexican free-tailed bats gobble up moths that lay eggs on crops, eggs that develop into larvae that eat cotton, corn, and other important agricultural plants. University researchers have documented that this can save farmers significant dollars in avoided crop losses and decrease the need for pesticides.
"While we are happy to see the bats arrive in Texas each year, they sometimes take up residence in places where they are unwelcome," said Barbara French, conservation officer with the nonprofit Bat Conservation International.
"A few bats in an attic are not likely to be a problem, but bats should not be allowed to enter interior living or working quarters. When necessary, bats can be safely evicted from buildings using proper bat exclusion methods. Openings used by bats to exit the building can be fitted with a valve, generally a simple smooth tube or netting through which bats are able to exit but not re-enter the building. Valves should be left in place for one week to make certain all bats have gotten out, and then openings can be permanently sealed shut," French said. Proper bat exclusion techniques protect both people and the bats. For more information about proper bat exclusion techniques, see the Bat Conservation International Web site, click on "projects" and then "bats in buildings."
"If you want to keep these voracious insect predators around, you can install a bat house near the place they are living before evicting them," said Meg Goodman, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department bat biologist. "When the bats are unable to get back into the building, they will have an alternative roost."
Building bat houses is a great project for schools and Scout troops, Goodman said. Wood shop classes can get involved and once the bat house is installed, classes can observe the bats and monitor their own bat colony. For more information about bat houses, visit BCI's Web site under "projects" then "bat houses."
While it is true that some animals, including bats, contract rabies, Goodman said people should keep this in perspective. She said less than one half of one percent of bats in natural populations get rabies.
"But always be safe," Goodman emphasized. "Do not handle bats, and educate children about the dangers of approaching any wild animal."
Mexican free-tailed bats form large colonies in bridges and caves throughout the southwest and make spectacular nightly emergences in the summer. Texans are proud of their unique bat colonies. For more information about when and where to see bat emergences, visit the BCI Web site under "Discover" then "Texas Viewing" or see the TPWD Web site Nature pages.
Property owners or managers, schoolteachers and others may contact Barbara French at french@batcon.org or (512) 327-9721 or Meg Goodman at meg.goodman@tpwd.texas.gov or (512) 912-7042.
On the Net:

[ Note: This item is more than 12 years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ] [LH]
March 14, 2005
Fly Fish Texas Draws Crowd to Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center
ATHENS, Texas--With hundreds of fly-fish enthusiasts filling the air with lines and lures March 5 as they cast for rainbow trout, one had to walk carefully around the grounds of the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center.
While fishing occupied many people, hands-on learning and informal education about subjects as varied as the importance of water quality and tying knots caught the attention of others.
Would-be fly fishers learning how to "match the hatch" by scooping tiny insect larvae from streams and identifying them buzzed about. Experts from Arkansas, Colorado and Texas whetted appetites for fishing with seminars about where and how to fool fish with flies. Fly tyers guided novices through the intricacies of creating insect look-alikes from feathers, foam and thread. And for those who'd rather eat than fish, food vendors and demonstrators turned out hundreds of tacos, catfish dinners and Dutch oven fruit cobblers.
An estimated 1,250 people attended the event held under the auspices of Fly Fish Texas, an organization dedicated to increasing participation in fly fishing. Information and photos of past events, as well as upcoming events can be found on their Web site at www.flyfishtexas.org.

[ Note: This item is more than 12 years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ] [KD]
March 14, 2005
Actors and Audience Re-Create Texas Convention of 1836
AUSTIN, Texas - Washington-on-the-Brazos State Historic Site is known as the birthplace of Texas for good reason - on this ground in 1836, 59 men signed the Texas Declaration of Independence, wrote the first constitution for the Republic of Texas, and organized Texas' first workable government. On April 2 and 16, this historic site will host a play that re-enacts the events that took place at the Convention of 1836, arguably the turning point in the Texas Revolution.
There are two free performances on each day at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. The play lasts about 45 minutes, and features professional actors.
As the actors portray the delegates, audience members will be called upon to participate.
"They vote on some of the issues that the actual delegates were faced with," said Beth Taylor, executive director of the Washington-on-the-Brazos State Park Association.
Washington-on-the-Brazos State Historic Site is located between Brenham and Navasota off State Highway 105 on FM 1155. Directions and more information are available online at www.birthplaceoftexas.com or by calling (936) 878-2214.