Life's Better Outside - Fall 2013

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In This Issue:


On the Job with the Texas Game Wardens

game warden cadets on the firing rangeWhile you’re camping, hiking, fishing or hunting, and enjoying all the rewards of the Texas outdoors, Texas Game Wardens are out in the field managing, conserving and protecting our state's incredible natural resources. These men and women solve major crimes, prevent poaching, and save lives while risking their own, doing a variety of specialized law enforcement tasks. One of these is a Marine Investigations Unit made up of Texas game wardens who work to combat boat theft, personal watercraft theft and related fraud. Texas always ranks in the top three states nation-wide in the incidence of these crimes.

Twenty-eight new state game wardens (the 58th Game Warden Class) graduated in August after completing seven months of intensive training at the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Game Warden Training Center in Hamilton County.

Game warden training is not for sissies. This video “How to Be a Game Warden in Six Easy Months” proves the point. 

Learn more about the Texas Game Wardens or read Game Warden Field Notes which highlights some of the game wardens’ recent adventures.

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Water and Fire: Good News to Share

two deer on a hillsideHere are two initiatives that are good news for wildlife and people.
  • BP Funding for Gulf Restoration: Texas will receive $203 million over a five-year period to restore Gulf coast natural resources impacted by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill for projects to restore habitat and prevent future damage. Read more in this news release.
  • Prescribed Burns to Keep Habitat in Balance: “PRESCRIBED BURN IN PROGRESS” Those occasional signs seen along Texas roads promise renewed wildlife habitat and increased human safety from out-of-control extreme wildfire. Naturally occurring wildfires used to meander across the Texas landscape, reducing brush, restoring habitat and benefiting wildlife and man. Today managed burns conducted by professionals and trained volunteers eliminate decades of accumulated underbrush on managed wildlands and in areas where suburbia meets rural areas. Watch "A Land in Balance," a video of prescribed burn professionals at work.

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Hogs Wild – Come and Take ‘Em

feral hogs in a penThe feral hog population is biggest in Texas (2.6 million plus), but it’s not something to brag about. This destructive, prolific, cunning and sometimes dangerous beast roots its way through agricultural fields, grasslands and sometimes front yards to the tune of $52 million in agricultural damage alone. That doesn't include the cost to private landowners and the cumulative costs of erosion and degraded water quality and wildlife habitat. Evolved from domestic hogs, the feral hog has no natural predators.

Hunters have a year-round open season with no bag limit on feral hogs which are tasty on the table. (Check out recipes on the TPWD website.) Meanwhile, biologists and scientists nationally and worldwide search for additional ways to reduce feral hog damage to the ecosystem.

Watch them work in this video.

You can help reduce the feral hog population by buying a chance for the new Wild Hog Adventure in this year’s Big Time Texas Hunts. Entries can be purchased online for $9, $10 at licensed retailers or by phone at (800) 895-4248. The deadline for all entries for all hunts is October 15. And remember it’s always open season on feral hogs!

Report feral hog damage to public sites or private lands through Texas Agri-Life Extension.

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Catos of Houston Win Statewide Conservation Award

flowing streamRevitalization efforts on two ranches earned Houstonians Jack and Jan Cato the 2013 Leopold Conservation Award, Texas’s highest honor for private land conservation.

“Winning two regional Land Steward awards and now the Leopold Award is a phenomenal accomplishment, never achieved in Texas, and a true testament to their dedication to land stewardship,” TPWD Executive Director Carter Smith said of the Catos. “Perhaps the most dramatic demonstration of the Catos’ long-term commitment to conservation is the recent placing of the Buckhollow Ranch under a perpetual conservation easement with The Nature Conservancy.”

Watch a video interview and ranch tour describing their efforts.

The Catos also received regional Lone Star Land Steward awards in 2004 and 2006 for restoration activities on their two properties on the Edwards Plateau and in the South Texas Plains eco-region. 

The Leopold award, given in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold, is conferred each year by Sand County Foundation, an international non-profit organization devoted to private land conservation, in partnership with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) and Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation, as part of its Lone Star Land Stewards Awards program. In Texas, the Leopold award is sponsored by the Lynde and Harry Bradley Fund for the Environment, Silver Eagle Distributors and the Lee and Ramona Bass Foundation.   Thank you to the following sponsors for their generous support of the Lone Star Land Steward Awards program: Toyota, Chevron, Superior Energy Services, Karen and Tim Hixon, Colorado Land River Trust, Plains Capital Bank, and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service's Partners for Fish & Wildlife Program.

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Heading South: Birds Wing through Texas Flyways

family looking through binoculars

Calling all those who enjoy watching birds: the fabulous fall migration is now under way. Our feathered will travel south by the millions through the Texas flyway toward warmer winter climates. Others will nestle into your neighborhood for the winter.

It’s your chance to see and learn more about birds. Find birding events in the events calendar. There are many wonderful bird walks, owl prowls, bird identification classes, and more offered at state parks, including the three that are World Birding Centers. Read more about recurring birding events in “The 2013 Fall/Winter Birding Calendar” from Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine.

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Save Water, Wildlife and Landscaping: Plant Wisely

smiling woman with lantana plant

First know your eco-region. As the Texas summer fades and weather conditions improve, many Texans are rethinking their drought-stricken landscaping and making the transition to native “Wildscapes” better suited for surviving Texas weather. They’re colorful, require little water or care, and attract birds, butterflies and other native wildlife.

Click your location on this map for some sage advice about what will grow best in your area. Remember Fall is the best time for planting many trees and native plants.

Find more information on the “How to Save Your Yard” pages from the State of Water web area.

Celebrate Texas Native Plant Week, October 20-26, by scooping up new strategies for your landscaping. At the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center website, you can find a plant database, plant identification help, a calendar of workshops.

Fall is a great time to plan and plant everything from trees to native grasses.

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Head to Conroe Oct 4: Big Bass, Big Music & More

angler standing in boat, foggy morning

Whether you like to catch bass, eat bass, or have never touched a rod and reel, you’ll find plenty to love at the Toyota Texas Bass Classic, coming Oct 4-6 to Conroe’s Lone Star Convention & Expo Center. Besides the rockin’ entertainment (read the lineup here), families and kids can try hands-on outdoor activities, meet TPWD staff and learn more about fishing, hunting and Texas State Parks. There’ll be plenty of outdoor shopping, food, and, of course, a BBQ cook-off. Free tickets available now.

It’s more than fun. This tournament has raised $1.5 million since its inception in 2007 to support the mission of Texas Parks and Wildlife. Tournament funds support activities such as Neighborhood Fishin’, a program that connects youth and their families to fishing, a gateway activity to a healthy outdoor lifestyle and appreciation of our natural resources.

The Toyota Texas Bass Classic models a totally new tournament format that ensures a near 100% survival rate of bass caught.

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Try These Cool Activities for Cooler Weather

parents, child by lakeside tent

With the fall comes opportunity for a change of pace. Try these activities to celebrate and enjoy the cooler season.

September – Geocaching Go on a treasure hunt the whole family can enjoy – geocaching! Geocaching turns our digital devices into a healthy way to be in nature. Try the Texas State Parks Geocache Challenge. Check back for new cache coordinates will be released on October 1 at 8:00 a.m.

October – History From the Battleship Texas to ancient rock art to the stories of Buffalo Soldiers and the Civilian Conservation Corps, state parks are a great place to find history in nature and learn more about the unique history of Texas. Check the Events Calendar for talks, tours, and featured exhibits.

November – Camping Cooler evenings, changing foliage, the possibility of campfires – fall is primo camping time in Texas. Find a nearby Texas State Park, round up the family, camping gear and camp food and head to a state park. Now is the best time to make fall reservations. Remember kids age 12 and under get free admission to Texas state parks.

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Invest in Nature: Volunteer for TPWD

volunteer, group of kids looking at map

Our parks are built on the shoulders of those who have gone before, and many of those shoulders belong to volunteers! Celebrate Texas Parks and Wildlife’s 50th anniversary by becoming a TPWD volunteer.  Whether it's teaching, planting, hosting a state park or more, everyone has a part to play. See current volunteer opportunities

Register now to become a volunteer and help secure the future of Texas' great outdoor places for the next 50 years.

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A message from a Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine advertiser

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Thanks to the following sponsors and partners:

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