Ever wonder what exactly whitetail deer eat?

Whitetail deer eat a lot of different things, but did you know that they can actually be pretty picky eaters during good seasons when rain is plentiful and food is abundant? Turns out that whitetail deer forage on leaves, stems, seeds, and fruits from a wide variety of plants but just like humans they have their favorites and tend to stick to them whenever possible. In fact, according to experts at Texas Parks & Wildlife (TPWD) whitetail deer literally “choose vegetation based on palatability, seasonal availability, vegetative abundance, precipitation and overall quality of the habitat.” So what do our south Texas whitetail like to feast on? Their top choices include: beauty berries, cedar elm, manzanita, prickly pears, coma, four-wing saltbush, southwest bernardia, sugar hackberry, granjeno, guayacan, Texas kidneywood, and vines ephedra. Learn how to identify these south Texas favorites here. And, what if these top favorites aren’t available? What do they eat then? Learn what’s #2 on their list here.

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There’s more to deer than just good meat

Every hunter knows that the whitetail deer is a delicious, healthy meat – leaner even than chicken believe it or not! – and makes super tasty summer sausage and yummy jerky too. Hunters also know that a nicely tanned hide makes for a very pretty rug, and a buck’s horns make nice coat racks or even interesting buttons when sliced up and polished with power tools. But, did you know that if you’re really industrious you can actually get even more use out of a deer? In fact, before the convenience of “general stores” and the abundance of “big box” stores many essential items and everyday materials actually came from hunted animals. Believe it or not, if you have the time and energy you can actually make the following items from a deer: Fine sewing thread, good boot rub oil, protective leather oil, soap, and even a fat lamp. Read more about how to make these items in this great excerpt from the book Buckskin: The Ancient Art of Braintanning by Steven Edholm and Tamara Wilder of Paleotechnics.

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Fall is upon once again…

The seasons come and go, and fall is finally back here at Rancho Las Norias in south Texas with its beautiful sunsets. Temperatures are currently registering around 10 degrees above normal for this time of year, but we gladly welcome the highs of 80s and the lows of 50s after the summer of record-breaking heat we just endured. We hear a cold front is possibly heading our way very soon, possibly bringing us day-time highs in the delightful 70s. Did we mention whitetail hunting season is finally back too?? Bow hunters have already been out and about enjoying the cooler temperatures for a while now, but general (gun) whitetail season kicks off this weekend! Have you figured out where you’ll be hunting your whitetail this year? Here in Texas you can harvest a max of five (5) whitetails per season, and no more than 3 of these may be bucks. (Note: Some counties may have other restrictions so make sure you look up and know the rules about where you’ll be hunting!) If you’re still looking for a place to hunt, you’re in luck because we still have a few weekends available for whitetail hunts this fall out here at Rancho Las Norias. Contact us for more information and book your weekend today before they’re all gone.

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Catch some good old storytelling at Storyfest out in George West,TX on Saturday November 5th

Everyone likes a good story and the more embellished the better. So if you happen to be out hunting in south Texas next weekend be sure to swing on by the quiet little town of George West, TX for its 23rd Annual Storyfest. Some of the state’s best storytellers will be in town to entertain and spin yarn. You’ll be sure to enjoy stories ranging from Texas folklore to tid bits of history to ghost stories to full out homegrown tall tales and more. There’s even a lying contest – the Texas State Liar’s Contest – and DeCee Cornish, the Texas State Champion Liar, will be back to fervently defend his title. Admission to the festival is FREE all day long on Saturday. Along with with all the storytelling the annual festival also features live music, a classic car show, living history exhibits, the “Little Red Wagon” parade, a quilt show, a street fair filled with craft vendors, and a lively Street Dance featuring Texas tunes. Admission to the Street Dance on Saturday evening (9pm-12am)  is $10 at the door. Read more about the 23rd Annual Storyfest here.

Event Lineup – Saturday, November 5, 2011
@ Live Oak County Courthouse Square, downtown George West

7:30 am                           5K Fun Run/Walk

9:30 am                           Classic Car Show

10:00 am                         Little Red Wagon Parade, Living History begins

10:30 am                          Storytelling begins

11:00 am – 5:00 pm      Children’s Area games, shows, pony rides, petting zoo

11:00 am – 8:30 pm       Storytelling, Cowboy Poetry, Live Music on 3 stages

8:00 pm                            Ghost Stories in the Dobie/West Performing Arts Theatre

9:00 – midnight              Street Dance featuring The Pear Ratz with Pake Rossi

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What happens to the good, hard-earned money you pay to the state to hunt here in Texas?

Ever wonder what happens to the money you spend on hunting license fees here in Texas? It obviously goes to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), but how do the monies actually get used and divvied up among the department’s many programs?

According to TPWD by law all funds generated through the sale of hunting and fishing licenses and stamps, as well as 85% of boat registrations fees, all go into a dedicated account called Fund 9, the Game and Fish Fund, and is likewise applied and invested into programs that support future hunting and fishing activities in Texas. Similarly all revenues generated via state parks – entrance fees, cabin fees, park concessions (think picnickers, hikers, campers, and recreational boaters) – along with revenues from historical sites and 15% of boat registration fees, by law go into another dedicated account called Fund 64, the State Park Fund. Monies in Fund 64 get used to support programs at state parks across Texas. Long story short, since both funds are “dedicated” accounts monies from Fund 64 can only be applied to state parks and historic sites and cannot be used for hunting, fish hatcheries, game wardens. Monies from Fund 9 on the other hand can only be used for things like inland and coastal fisheries research, surveys and hatcheries, wildlife surveys, research and hunting programs, game and fish enforcement, along with boater safety laws.

Sounds all good and fair, until you dig a little bit deeper like this reporter and you find out that a pretty big chunk of these funds aren’t actually being used, but are instead being left to sit dormant in the account to essentially make the state’s finances look better.  As Shannon Tompkins from the Houston Chronicle puts it:

For TPWD to spend money from the Fund 9 pot, that money has to be appropriated by the Legislature through its budget and appropriations acts.

By appropriating only some of the license money, the Legislature can count the ‘unappropriated balance’ in Fund 9 on the positive side of the ledger when calculating the overall state budget.”

What exactly does this mean? An estimated $31 million is currently sitting idle in Fund 9 to make the Legislature’s pretty, little, balanced state budget look good on paper while TPWD is being forced to cut back, on its fisheries and wildlife programs. So far cutbacks have included 115 employee layoffs. You can read Tompkins’ full article here.

So, it’s time to get busy and contact your elected official (find yours here) and remind them that you pay good money to hunt and fish in this state and you want them to stop playing around and use 100% of Fund 9 the way its meant to be used: to support Texas wildlife and future hunting and fishing activities.

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White-tailed deer bow hunting season begins today

Today marks the beginning of the always highly-anticipated deer season in Texas, but only for archery bow hunters. The general gun season kicks off next month on Saturday Nov. 5, 2011. That said, the general consensus this season seems to be to shoot early and take your full bag limit (5 deer, no more than 3 bucks, all seasons combined) in order to help fend off starvation in the deer population. From expert officials at the Texas Parks and Wildlife department:

“It doesn’t take a biologist to understand that drought has serious impacts on the state’s nearly 4 million white-tailed deer,” said Alan Cain, deer program leader with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. “Everything from antler quality, to fawn production and overall survival will be affected by the tough range conditions this year.”

“By reducing deer numbers early on, hunters can help ensure enough groceries will be available through the winter months,” Cain said. “As with many wildlife species the very young and the very old often have much more difficult times dealing with extreme weather events.” These stress periods are a way for nature to ‘thin the herd,’ especially in areas where deer populations are already exceeding the carrying capacity of the native range. As deer become stressed they are more susceptible to infections or other disease. Drought like this can be a contributing factor towards stress.”


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Dove hunting isn’t really as easy as it looks…

Dove hunting only sounds easy. You take a shotgun, walk into a field, spook a few unsuspecting birds into flight, pull the trigger and let the dozen of little shotgun pellets that fire out do the rest. Down they come and you just collect the goods for the grill. Simple enough right? Well, not so much. First of all, have you ever tried sneaking up on a dove? They’re usually up in the sky heading for cover in a matter of seconds, before you can even take a step in their direction. Apparently these little birds have great vision (or an amazing 6th sense.) So how do you even begin to aim at something that’s moving before you can even point your shotgun at it? First you camo up. Dove can probably still see (or sense) you, but there’s good indication that it’ll buy you an extra second or two before they scatter away. Next, you use that extra second or two. And, this is where those little shotgun pellets come in handy – you just kind of aim in the direction of the bird, try to anticipate its line of flight, and then hope that one of those fiery steel balls spewing out from your shotgun hits it. That’s right – hope. Because it’s not easy aiming at a flustered bird. In fact Texas Parks and Wildlife recommends a visit out to the shooting range to brush up on aiming skills and strongly advises hunters to take plenty of extra shotgun shells on their dove outings, way more than they think they’ll need – for back up of course. How much more? Well, their studies indicate that hunters average about 3 birds bagged per 25 shots. Considering a bag limit of 15 per day, that’s at least 125 shells assuming you’re an average hunter. So why do hunters even bother with dove? It’s all about the chase, the excitement, especially on group hunts when people work together to spot them and increase their odds of each bagging their daily limit. And of course, jalapeno dove poppers make for tasty meal. Read more about the basics of dove hunting here.

(Photos borrowed from here: Hunter, Mourning Dove 

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