Monday, November 2, 2009


I know there are a lot of people who ARE NOT deer hunters. But I've known so many more of the people in my life who were avid deer hunters for all of their lives. My Father was the first in his generation off the East Texas farm, and as a child they hunted for food, not sport. A nice sized deer could feed a big family like my Dad had for many days, prepared in many different ways. Sausage was always a favorite, and I believe they rented some sort of meat locker at some place in the country to keep some of their bulk meat.

Point is, as you probably know, the deer populations in many parts of Texas have just exploded, and they've moved in a lot closer to town to forage and feed then most of us have seen deer do in the past.

Take Ranch Road 12 out of San Marcos headed west across the Devil's Backbone towards to the south of Blanco. It's a gorgeous drive, certainly one of the most pretty in the Hill Country. But at night, at certain times of the year, I recommend you drive slowly, because deer are literally everywhere.

A couple of years ago, the family and I took off to Alpine for a post Christmas vacation to Big Bend and the area. We always have a great time out there, and if there was more live water and ponds in that region of Texas, I'd be planning on retiring there. Nonetheless, there is some fishing to be had in the Rio Grande (dead shrimp, near the Langford Hot Springs) for catfish and assorted perch and gar. But the Rio Grande is a long way way from where I would want to be living if I had a place in the Alpine to Marathon area.

But while visiting Alpine as our base of operations, the town is invaded nightly by deer at sunset looking for food, the area around the town unable to contain the exploding deer populations. At the golf course, and along the attendant course side homes were just scores of deer. We stopped counting at about 200. The lovely in town area surrounding the golf course and park were full of them, as was the surrounding neighborhoods. We got really close to some, and if I can ever figure out how to download some cell pics, I could show you pictures of 6 or 7 deer munching out in front yards all through the surrounding neighborhoods. Really cool.

So I know there are people that are down on deer hunting, and often guns and hunting in general. I don't mean to offend them, but it's a part of the heritage of many Texans and other Americans. All of the people who I know who hunt eat what they kill, and if they have a banner year, they process and give the food to various other families in need or friends or charities.

Many people I know love venison. It is a great meat to many. I'm just not one of those who favor it. Give me sausage or beef brisket from one of the fine establishments in Lockhart, Texas anyday over wild game for me. But many I know thrive on eating wild game. I myself prefer freshly caught fish, so I understand the call to catch your own food every once in a while. If not psychologically programmed via our past generations, it's in our genetic code.

But part of me yearns to do some hunting. The opportunity for hog hunting is almost always present in many parts of Texas, and those rice farmer friends of mine who get attacked by hogs and sustain major crop damage often need control in that regard.

But yet, as much damage as they do agriculturally, the can be a sight behold in the wild. On the last Alpine trip, as well as seeing Big Bend, we did the McDonald Observatory and the Fort Davis area quite thoroughly, seeing several baby mountain lions casually walking the grounds of the State Park, near the Indian Lodge.

We left the Observatory and headed up toward I-10 from there, running through beautiful ranches consisting of tens of thousands of acres each. On one stretch of this road, we noticed an undulating black color that appeared to be moving through the fairly thick 3 foot tall grass. We stopped and then realized it was an enormous herd of javalina moving at a very fast clip. You'd get glimpses of them as they rushed past a slight opening in the grass, but it was almost like a flood of black running throught the waist high grasses.

We slowed, of course, and ultimately encountered a herd or passle of hogs feeding in the roadside ditches, presumably on roadkill. It was about twenty or thirty strong, and they were good sized powerful creatures. It was like driving through an animal farm for the kids and we regaled them with stories of how Texas used to be like that almost everywhere, full of game.

Not so very long ago, say 40 years ago, Texas was still a sportsman's paradise. Some places still are, and our conservation efforts on the Gulf Coast will hopefully bear fruit and restore some purity to some of our bay systems.

I remember what it was like to go fishing and having fish literally jumping onto each cast. Stringers of fish so big in South Padre that we could barely lift them from the boat. A big fish fry and frozen fish load taken back to town that provided fresh fish for several weeks. The fish caught nowadays are not quite as large or as plentiful, but there are signs that things are improving in many locations of our coastal ecosystem.

So if you're going deer hunting, have lots of fun, lots of good hunting, and be careful! One day soon, I may break out the venerable family Marlin lever action scoped .30-.30. It's been a few years since I shot it, but it was still shooting spot on back then. I've got some friends having problems up in Central Texas with the hogs doing heavy damage to their crops, and if the hogs are not gargantuan with tough meat (and many are), then they are also some good eating.

In any event, with the cold fronts coming through the air, and the smell of fall and approaching winter upon us, that favorite time of year is upon us for the Texas Hunter. Happy Hunting!

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