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Why can’t we all get along?

January 9, 2015
Luke Clayton

My goal has always been when “visiting” with you via this column each week, to impart a bit of knowledge and possibly entertainment. I usually try to skirt the controversial topics. A simple search on the Texas Parks and Wildlife web site will deluge one with all the “news” of the day.  Oh, Occasionally I’ve stated my ideas on helicopter hogs hunts; pointed out that I’m all for them IF the pilots keep their choppers only over the ranches they have permission to hunt and IF there are designated people on the ground to retrieve the hogs and take care of the meat. I’ve personally witnessed these choppers fly over adjacent properties (that I hunt) and run game off my place onto the ranch they have permission to hunt. These low flying helicopters push not only hogs out of cover but other game animals and birds as well. As stated, I’m NOT against shooting hogs from the air but I am not in favor of the unregulated way that the practice sometimes takes place.

The way that we enjoy the outdoors has undergone some major changes since I was a boy back in the fifties and sixties. Back then, I had free reign to hunt not only our little farm in northeast Texas, but all the adjacent farms and ranches as well. Today, few of us actually own enough land to hunt and it’s necessary to pay lease fees to gain access to hunting property. Land in Texas is about 97% privately owned and money from hunting leases help landowners make a living off their farms and ranches. I’ve seen many ranch owners that used to raise cattle, sheep and goats turn away from livestock and groom their lands for wildlife. This is a good thing; actually, it testifies to the fact that there is value in wildlife.  The “Money Trail” that comes up in conservations so often is a real thing; we sportsmen and all people in general, spend money on things we perceive to have value.

Preserving the hunting and fishing lifestyle naturally costs dollars, in the form of taxes to fuel our Parks and Wildlife Department and dollars paid to lanowners for access to their property.

Today, there are more anti hunters than ever and even those against sport fishing. With more and more folks becoming disassociated with the outdoors, I’m afraid this tend might continue. These “anti’ groups are numerous and extremely well funded and highly visible.  In my opinion, the single most threat we as sportsmen are faced with is division among ourselves. We must learn to support each other in order to preserve our hunting and fishing heritage. No longer can hunters bicker about whether it’s best to enjoy their sport with a compound bow, crossbow or possibly air rifle.

Organizations such as the Texas Deer Association (TDA) fight vigorously for landowner rights.  I’m a strong supporter of this organization and consider TDA to be one of the strongest voices we have here in Texas to support our rights in regards to how we manage our private lands. There are those that oppose the idea of allowing a landowner to build a high fence around his or her property in order to enhance hunting opportunities. REALLY!!!  This is Texas and we still live under a constitution that allows the rights of private citizens.

I’ve personally witnessed friends that high-fenced parcels of 300-600 acres of heavy cover so that they could manage the whitetail herd. After a few years of selective harvesting, the size and quality of the bucks they took went up exponentially. There are hunters among us that say this is a practice that should be deemed illegal. WHAT?? This IS still the United States where we have fought long and hard for personal freedoms! 

And what about actually hunting deer inside large tracts that are under a game-proof fence. Being a lifelong deer hunter, I can remember the days when high fences were all but unheard of. As an outdoors writer, I’ve had the opportunity to hunt deer on several high fenced ranches, usually with my bow. In retrospect, I’ve harvested deer on about half my hunts. I’m referring to tracts of several hundred acres or, several thousand. Whitetail deer are “wired” from birth to avoid contact with predators and they perceive man to be their most dangerous of threats. Deer under game proof fences are quite adapt at avoiding contact with hunters.

I’ve seen other older hunters such as myself that grew up hunting low fenced ranches change the way they think about hunting deer under high fences after their first hunt on such property.  There are exceptions to every rule. I am referring to large parcels of land with plenty of cover under fence, not small tracts. Granted, “hunting” a small tract barren of cover would not be sporting and I know of no true hunter that wouldn’t shun such a “hunt.”

One thing’s for sure. If we as lovers of the outdoors do not unify, it’s a very good bet that several decades hence, our rights will be taken away. So, next time you meet another hunter afield that enjoys hunting in a different fashion that you ( as long as it’s legal), wish him well and resume enjoying your sport in the manner you choose. Anti hunters are waiting for us to falter so they can add fuel to their cause. Let’s stick together! As a good friend of mine the late Bob Hood used to say, “We’re all in this together; we need to get along.”  Bob was so right!

PS. This column was written Sunday morning the last day of the regular deer season. I decided to set in my deer/hog blind the last couple hours of the season. I didn’t really expect to see a deer but hoped for a hog to show just before dark. Well, this proved to be the most exciting hunt of my season. A full grown male bobcat walked with 6 feet of my ground blind (see picture)  and posed for pictures.

During the last few minutes of legal shooting light, a fat 8 pointer buck came through the brush and I was able to add more venison to my freezer. The buck was definitely not of trophy dimensions but he was a mature 4.5 year old, run of the mill 115 incher. A good deer to remove from the herd and one that will make many tasty meals. More on the hunt in next week’s column!