Scout your hunt
In Texas, hunters have two basic choices for where to hunt: public lands or private lands.
On public lands, hunters can either 1) purchase an Annual Public Hunting (APH) Permit or daily hunting permit (dove, quail or squirrels in selected areas) or 2) apply for a drawn hunt (including “e-postcard” hunts for APH holders). Drawn hunt application dates range from early August through November each year and include alligators, pronghorns, white-tailed and mule deer, javelinas, exotic mammals, turkeys and more.
A new addition to public hunting programs is mentored hunting workshops, which are often preceded by a Hunting 101 program (see related article on previous spread). For example, a two- to three-day deer hunt would include a Deer Hunting 101 workshop that includes “sighting in” of rifles, a key technique that allows the hunter to take a good shot during the hunt.
Most hunters in Texas hunt on the private lands that dominate the landscape; more than 90 percent of the state is privately owned. Hunters may have relatives or friends who authorize them to hunt on their land or else secure a lease agreement with a private landowner. Some hunters book a hunt at private hunting lodges and services dotted throughout Texas.
Whichever avenue a hunter takes, scouting is an important first step. Unfortunately, scouting and familiarization with the quarry’s habitat, habits and movements aren't as much of an option for a hunter on public or leased land as they are for a hunter who has year-round access to hunting grounds.
Scouting is taught in basic Hunting 101s involving species, with workshops typically including a presentation on the animal’s basic biology and habitat needs (food, shelter, water, space), various behaviors (breeding, eating, caching, social, migration, territorial) and populations (male-to-female ratios, overall numbers, migration patterns).
For example, knowing about the deer’s main scent glands and how they are used in breeding and territorial behaviors (deer “scrapes,” urination, orbital scent posts) gives a hunter big clues on which game trails the bucks — and even the does — are using during the “rut” or peak mating periods each fall. Knowing the predominant wind patterns is also useful when it comes to placing ground blinds, elevated stands and tripods along or near such trails.
Scouting also gives the hunter visual clues about loafing cover, feeding grounds, water sources and other notable habitat sites where the animals will be found during the season.
Sonja Sommerfeld | TPWD
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