|  TPWD News Releases Dated 2013-05-15                                    |
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[ Note: This item is more than four years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ]
[ Additional Contacts: Rob McCorkle, TPWD, (830) 866-3533 or robert.mccorkle@tpwd.texas.gov; Karen Blizzard, Texas State Parks, (512) 389-8244 or karen.blizzard@tpwd.texas.gov ]
May 15, 2013
National Trails Day to be Celebrated on June 1
Texas State Parks to Host Variety of Guided Hiking Events
AUSTIN - Celebrate the 21st annual National Trails Day on Saturday, June 1 by lacing up some sturdy shoes, grabbing a hiking stick and heading to a Texas State Park near you to join a guided hiking tour or hit the trails on your own.
Dozens of state parks will be offering guided nature hikes - from short, family-friendly hikes geared toward beginners to more strenuous treks of up to seven miles -- through a variety of habitat ranging from beaches and woodlands to canyons and desert.
"National Trails Day is a great time to showcase the beauty and diversity of the trail systems in our more than 90 state parks," says Karen Blizzard, assistant director of Interpretive Services for Texas State Parks. "Spending time on the trail, whether hiking, biking, or nature viewing, provides happy memories, good health, escape from stress and cherished time with friends and family. Stewardship and volunteering also are a big part of National Trails Day, and we encourage everyone to get involved with trail maintenance and volunteer projects at state parks near them."
Most of the National Trails Day state park events are at no extra charge, but regular Texas State Park entrance fees will apply. As always, children ages 12 and younger receive free park admission. To check park fees that apply to your favorite state park, visit: www.texasstateparks.org.
What follows are highlights of just a few of the more than 50 National Trails Day events scheduled for Saturday, June 1 in Texas State Parks. For a complete list, visit: http://tpwd.texas.gov/calendar/national-trails-day
At Big Bend Ranch State Park near Presidio, hikers will gather at 8:45 a.m. at Sauceda, park headquarters, for a guided 1.5-mile round-trip hike to the first of a five natural water holes known as Cinco Tinajas. To reserve a spot on the hike, call (432) 358-4444 by May 29.
Discover the seashells and drift seeds that wash up on the beach at Mustang Island State Park in Port Aransas, while learning about life on a Texas barrier island during a guided, two-mile beach walk that will last from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Call (361) 749-5246 for more information.
Dinosaur Valley State Park in Glen Rose has scheduled two guided hikes at 9 a.m. - a shorter walk on the Limestone Ledge Trail geared to families and a seven-miler for advanced hikers along the Outer Ridge Trail. Call (254) 897-4588 for details.
The Johnson Branch of Ray Roberts Lake State Park just north of Denton has scheduled three guided hikes on Saturday, beginning at 8 a.m. with a short Bird Walk. From 10 a.m. to noon, visitors can learn about the seven "Leave No Trace" principles on a shady, 1.1-mile hike. At 1:30 p.m., a Canines and Campers Hike will welcome dogs and their owners on an easy, two-mile hike. Pets must be leashed. For more information, call (714) 612-7159.
Held the first Saturday in June since 1993, National Trails Day has prompted thousands of people to enjoy trails on the same day nationwide, taking part in hikes, bike and horse rides, trail maintenance, paddle trips, trail work projects and other activities. Event hosts include local hiking clubs, federal agencies, municipal parks, retailers, land trusts and many other businesses and organizations. For more information about National Trails Day®, visit: http://www.AmericanHiking.org/ntd.
The following Texas State Parks, in addition to the ones mentioned above, are hosting June 1 National Trails Day events:
Abilene, Bastrop, Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley (Mission), Brazos Bend (Needville), Buescher (Smithville), Caddo Lake (Karnack), Cedar Hill, Colorado Bend (Bend), Copper Breaks (Quanah), Cooper Lake/South Sulphur Unit (Sulphur Springs), Davis Mountains (Fort Davis), Enchanted Rock (Fredericksburg), Estero Llano Grande (Weslaco), Fort Leaton (Presidio), Fort Richardson (Jacksboro), Franklin Mountains (El Paso), Goliad, Goose Island (Rockport), Guadalupe River (Spring Branch), Hill Country (Bandera), Hueco Tanks (El Paso), Huntsville, Inks Lake (Burnet), Lake Casa Blanca International (Laredo), Lake Livingston, Lake Mineral Wells, Lake Tawakoni (Wills Point), Lockhart, Lyndon B. Johnson (Stonewall), McKinney Falls (Austin), Mission Tejas (Grapeland), Mother Neff (Moody), Old Tunnel (Waring), Palo Duro Canyon SP (Canyon), Ray Roberts Lake/Isle du Bois unit (Pilot Point), Resaca de la Palma (Brownsville), Seminole Canyon (Comstock), South Llano River (Junction) and Tyler.
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[ Note: This item is more than four 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]
May 15, 2013
Public Hunter Bags New Texas State Record Alligator
AUSTIN - A young hunter who grew up with a fascination about dinosaurs and a dream of hunting what some call "living dinosaurs" has harvested the largest alligator ever certified in Texas. Braxton Bielski, an 18-year-old high school senior on his first alligator hunt, bagged the behemoth 800-pound, 14-foot, 3-inch gator during a recent public hunt on the James E. Daughtrey Wildlife Management Area.
Braxton and his father, Troy Bielski, were among 481 applicants vying for 10 alligator permits issued through the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's public hunting program for a five-day hunt at the Daughtrey WMA.
"He's wanted to hunt alligators for years," said Troy, a Houston police officer who has applied annually to TPWD's special drawing hunts for the chance to fulfill his son's dream. "We got selected one year to go on a youth hunt at the J.D. Murphree WMA, but I didn't get the permit in on time. I remember Brax was very disappointed. This is the first year we've had to enter him as an adult and we got drawn."
The coveted permit provides the only opportunity to hunt and harvest an alligator on Choke Canyon Reservoir, situated within the Daughtrey WMA boundary.
Each year, TPWD's public hunting program provides access to some of the state's high-quality managed wildlife habitat to about 5,500 hunters selected through random computer drawings. Wildlife management areas, state parks and leased private property are available for these supervised hunts for a variety of game, including: white-tailed deer, mule deer, pronghorn, javelina, alligator, exotics, feral hog and spring turkey.
Through an application process, hunters select from 29 different hunt categories, including eight specifically for youth only, and choose a preferred hunt date and location from hunt areas stretching across the state. There's even a provision for hunting buddies to apply as a group -- in some cases up to four hunters can apply together on one application.
This season TPWD processed 998 applications for 2,340 hopeful applicants in the alligator hunt category. The department offered 165 permits to go alligator hunting on five WMAs (Angelina Neches/Dam B, James Daughtrey, Guadalupe Delta, Mad Island, and J.D. Murphree).
Because alligator hunting in Texas is conservatively managed, most hunters selected for these public hunts are first-timers and many have never seen an alligator in the wild. For that reason, TPWD biologists go through an intensive orientation process and provide greater guidance than they would for more common hunts, like for deer or waterfowl.
"We went through a two-hour orientation and it was very thorough," Braxton recalled. "My dad did a lot of research online about alligator hunting and we asked a lot of questions."
Troy said he knew some about the area they would be hunting, having done some bass fishing on Choke Canyon years ago, but with current low water levels, the landscape was completely different from what he remembered.
"We spent a lot of time scouting some of the pastures in the compartment we were assigned, looking for likely spots to set our lines," said Troy.
At one point, the pair observed what they believed to be a large gator in a cove and decided to place their baited lines nearby.
"We didn't pressure it, but while we were putting up our cane poles we could see it watching us 30 yards away," said Braxton.
Choke Canyon has a reputation for holding some big old gators. Unlike the alligator populations along their core range in southeast Texas, these creatures are left alone to live to a ripe old age. A 14-footer is estimated to be between 30-50 years old, according to TPWD alligator program leader Amos Cooper.
"Choke Canyon has a larger size class than other areas because they have just began to hunt the area," said Cooper. "A large alligator in Choke Canyon is not unusual but expected. You won't see a lot of alligators on Choke Canyon but the alligators that you do see are relatively large."
In the five years TPWD has hunted gators on the Daughtrey WMA, several huge specimens have been harvested, including two in 2011 measuring over 13-feet and another in that size class last year.
Living in Fort Bend County, Troy and his son routinely saw alligators while jogging but being able to judge their size was tough. "I had no idea," he noted. "The WMA staff did a really good job of explaining what we needed to do. We knew this gator was big and wanted to be sure we set the bait high enough out of the water."
Braxton chose one of the lines as his set; the other would be his dad's. When the two hunters returned the next morning, they realized they had their work cut out as both lines were down indicating they had two alligators hooked. A hook and line set baited with raw meat is used to catch the alligator; only after it has been hooked can a gator be dispatched at close range with a firearm.
They weren't the only ones having a successful first day. All the hunters participating in the hunt had landed gators, which proved equally challenging for the WMA staff.
"We only have 5-10 hunters out during these drawn hunts and most of them are new to alligator hunting so I try to stay in close touch with them," said Daughtrey WMA area manager Chris Mostyn. "I tell them to have a strategy in place because they may have to haul a big one out. Turns out we had four gators taken that morning; it was wild. The Bielskis did a good job."
Troy's gator turned out to be a huge female measuring 10 ½ feet long, which, as it turned out was dwarfed by his son's catch.
"If we had just caught the one, I would have been happy for Brax," said Troy. "He's the reason I was there."
More information about TPWD's public hunting program and the application process for special drawing hunts is available online at http://tpwd.texas.gov/huntwild/hunt/public/.