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Picture of the cover to the November 2006 magazine

From the Pen of Robert L. Cook

It’s fall again, finally. I love autumn in Texas, if for no other reason than the crisp, cool mornings — they feel so fresh and smell so good, they are absolutely wonderful. I love to be up and outside early, before sunrise, when I can breathe in that sweet air deeply and slowly. A heavy, long-sleeved shirt feels comfortable and the sunrises are spectacular. If you could bottle that, you could definitely move to Silk Stocking Avenue.

I’ve already burned several pounds of gunpowder in what some would surely claim was my private war on doves. But, just so you don’t fret about that renewable resource, the doves won, and we are at peace again. We started the season on Labor Day weekend with an absolute “swarm” of doves on our field of native sunflowers on Lost Creek. Believe me, they are still there. My sons, Joe and Andy, and I are such bad shots that I have written the ammo companies and told them that they could just hold off on the “shot” and the doves would never know the difference. The night before our first hunt, we figured out how to improvise a perfectly fine “plug” for Andrew’s pump by borrowing about six inches off the handle of a wooden spoon in the cabin kitchen. Hopefully, we’ll make another visit or two to the ranch before The Boss notices the missing spoon handle and I can legitimately shrug my shoulders and act like I know nothing.

I put up several trail cameras around the ranch earlier this fall and it’s got me wondering about my supply of .257 Roberts ammo. I probably only have a hundred, maybe 200, reloads ready to go, and I don’t reckon that is going to be enough. Sure we’ve got lots of deer, but I rarely shoot a deer anyway; I just “hunt” them. I’m talking about feral hogs — wild pigs, Russian boars, domestic-gone-wild — whatever you want to call them, they do not belong out there. Black ones, spotted ones, brown ones, striped ones — it’s unbelievable. Susie (my “I hunt with Dad only” daughter) thinks that one of them is “Son of Cowpig,” but that’s another story. I don’t know where they have come from. We have not seen a hog on the ranch for almost a year, and I was feeling pretty proud of achieving one of our many wildlife management goals: feral hog control. Wrong! Feral hogs are definitely active at night, or “nocturnal” as my biologists say. These porkers don’t even get up until about 1:30 a.m. Then the trail cameras prove that it is Hog City until about 3:30 a.m., then nothing until the next night. Given that there is no closed season and no bag limit on feral hogs, you’d think us mighty hunters would’ve wiped them off the face of the earth by now. Alas, perhaps this requires another letter to the ammo companies.

Words and phrases like “natural resource conservation,” “wildlife management,” “water for environmental flows” and “increased plant and animal diversity” mean lots of different things to people. These are important words and phrases, but we have to work very hard to put these words and phrases on the ground, where they actually mean something to our ecosystems and to the fish and wildlife that live out there. Step one: feral hog control.

On second thought, you don’t need to bottle it — just get outdoors and enjoy it. While you’re out there — learn about it.

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