Adventure is CallingSep 01, 2019 ● By Christine Perrenot
For some of the more “outdoorsy” people in Frisco, now that dove season is starting, the countdown to deer season in Texas is officially on. Hunting licenses and all things camouflage are being purchased at a rapid pace, plans for the first day of the season are being squared away and the mystery of what wonders will be spotted in the woods this year is looming. It is the only time of year that getting up in the wee hours of the morning to the shrill ring of the alarm clock does not feel so bad.
More than just trying to scout a trophy animal, hunting is about the nature of the sport itself. Cut to the sound of dried leaves crackling underneath your boots and birds singing to each other in the trees on which squirrels run their prized acorns up and down the trunks. The chilly wind whistles through the foliage and you are making every effort to stay as still and quiet as possible. From time to time, you lift your binoculars to check your surroundings. You could have sworn you heard movement. Before you know it, the sun begins to set behind the hill and you feel genuinely thankful to have gotten to spend a few moments of your day outside in the tranquility of the forest. Now, this is what it is all about – simply being still, one with the universe and quiet in nature. For a moment, things feel simpler … like they must have felt in the past when people hunted every bit of their own food for their family’s survival. In earlier times, our ancestors did not have to make sure they left their cellphones on silent, and they certainly did not have fancy blinds decked out with heaters to keep them warm and comfortable during the challenge.
Flash forward to 2019. Many of the local wooded areas have been converted to entertainment, housing or dining districts, and animals that once roamed freely are now a much rarer sight. While Frisco, today, does not necessarily have the reputation as a popular place to head out on a hunt, many locals still find a way to participate in the sport this time of year.
The Great Debate
Depending on who you talk to, hunting can be a controversial issue, as it is often regarded as a completely recreational activity. Support or opposition for hunting is often emotion-driven, on both sides. People become concerned about safety issues and, over time, attitudes about animals and their rights have changed. Throughout history, humans have wiped out a number of predatory animals, so, some view hunting as a way to balance prey animals that reproduce more than nature’s capacity to maintain. While a majority of hunters believe hunting is necessary for population management and keeping species sustainable from one generation to the next, there are arguments against this rationale, making it a complex issue. Some cannot ignore the fact that there is always danger of over-hunting an animal to extinction, which was evident with the American bison in the 19th century. Illegal hunting of endangered animals does, sadly, happen at the hands of careless poachers. Since this is not the intention of licensed hunters, it is vital they are educated and aware of property lines and the animals themselves. Hunters must adhere to quotas set by game departments, managers and biologists.
Often, those in opposition to hunting feel there is not enough regulation regarding ethical concerns during a hunt. It is unlawful to kill a creature listed as an endangered, threatened or protected species. And the rules are in place for a reason.
Hunting provides a financial source for Texas agencies that conserve habitats and control prey species. Regardless of the type of hunting taking place, those participating should always strive to respect nature and the natural order. Generally, hunters do not take more than they need, and they appreciate all Mother Nature has gifted us with.
People on one side of the argument believe animals provide nutritious protein (that you often cannot purchase at a store without being processed or modified in some way), and those in opposition to hunting generally believe there is already enough healthy food to go around.
The hunting debate will probably last until the end of time, and both sides of the argument will continue to debate safety, effectiveness and cost as a decline in the number of hunters could threaten how the U.S. will be able to pay for conservation efforts. Regardless, it is an activity that is prevalent in the state in which we live.
Wide Open Spaces
When it comes to the physical land people can hunt on in and around Frisco, it varies. Laws are in place and exist to help conserve wildlife for future generations. As the city and its neighborhoods have grown, residents often have concerns for children out playing or civilians living near approved hunting grounds. However, the City of Frisco has carefully considered these limitations and requirements. “If citizens have a concern regarding the hunting areas or believe someone may be hunting in an unauthorized area, they may call the Frisco Police Department’s non-emergency number (972.292.6010). They may also send an anonymous tip by texting ‘FRISCOPD’ and the tip to 847411 or via the Frisco Police Department app. Residents who have questions regarding game laws, rules or restrictions should contact the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department,” says Sergeant Evan Mattei of the Frisco Police Department.
Frisco’s Geographic Information Services has provided a map of permitted hunting areas in the city that outlines areas that fall within boundaries set by law. Hunting maps are updated in August of each year in preparation for the start of hunting season on September 1. These new maps are typically started in late August in order to be reviewed and completed prior to September 1, capturing the latest development updates. “As the city grows, future revisions to the permitted hunting areas are expected, especially as larger tracts of land are developed for residential, commercial or education purposes,” says Sergeant Mattei.
On June 22, 2009, Governor Rick Perry signed a bill that restricts areas where firearms can be discharged in the City of Frisco and within Collin County. Sergeant Mattei says, “It is important citizens understand that hunting in and of itself is not illegal, and may be within sight of roads, residences, businesses and/or schools. However, the law requires that hunters obtain the property owner’s permission to use their land for hunting purposes, and hunters must ensure they are at least 1,000 feet from schools, hospitals and day care facilities, as well as at least 600 feet from residential housing and multi-family residential complexes. Additionally, hunters should ensure, as always, that they fire their weapons in a manner not reasonably expected to cause a projectile to cross the boundary of property tracts.” (More information on Senate Bill 1742 can be accessed at friscotexas.gov).
Sergeant Mattei adds, “The Frisco Police Department will continue to work with hunters and landowners to ensure that safe hunting practices are followed.” Whether you plan to hunt this season or not, knowing the “dos” and “don’ts” of laws regarding the sport can help you analyze a particular situation with an educated perspective.
It is 100 percent necessary that anyone planning to participate in hunting fully understand the extreme responsibility of using a firearm. Being knowledgeable, confident and trained before ever approaching the woods is vital and not debatable.
In the state of Texas, every hunter born on or after September 2, 1971, must successfully complete Hunter Education (mandatory hunter education became law in 1988). Since 1972, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has offered hunter education courses to certify more than a million eager students. While you are not required to show this certification when you purchase a license, your proof of certification must be with you when hunting.
Within the Hunter Education Program, the Classroom Course covers firearms, hunting, outdoor safety, responsibilities and wildlife conservation. Some courses even cover topics involving bowhunting, muzzleloaders, outdoor survival and first aid. The Online + Field Course covers the core standards plus information from commercially-available providers. The Field Course features hands-on skills and live-fire exercises taught by an instructor. With the Online-Only Course, hunters have the option to complete the safety course at huntercourse.com.
Anyone who plans to hunt legal game or birds in the state of Texas (resident or non-resident) must have a hunting license through Texas Parks and Wildlife. Every hunter must have completed their Hunter Education before purchasing a license. There are more than 1,700 locations in Texas (sporting goods stores, gun shops, grocery stores, etc.) where licenses can be purchased ($25 for residents, $315 for non-residents and $7 for youth (16 and younger) and seniors (65+)). Hunting and fishing license packages are valid from August 15 through August 31 of the following year.
100 percent of license fees go to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department for conservation efforts to help make Texas a reputable and successful location in the country to hunt and fish. Fish stocking, wildlife management, habitat restoration, land conservation and Texas Game Wardens are paid with license fees. A recreational license or permit authorizes activity involving wildlife resources conducted for sport, hobby, leisure or non-economic reasons.
Honing Your Skills
To become confident and skilled, whether you are using a rifle, shotgun, bow or something else, remember, “practice makes perfect.”
Popular rifles used when hunting for whitetail deer, specifically, often include centerfire cartridges from .222 and larger. There are a number of calibers of rifles people trust and choose to use during their hunts.
When it comes to shotguns, generally used for bird and duck hunting, they are usually .410 gauge through 10 gauge with actions of the shooter’s preference, whether that be break-down, pump or autoloader.
Some hunters prefer to hunt with a bow, which can be extremely challenging. You must be very skilled at staying quiet and hidden in order to get close to animals. Bow hunting is often recognized as being safer overall than hunting with a gun.
In regards to physically preparing for a hunt (since hunts can require a lot of walking, hiking and even muscle memory), many people choose to exercise before a big hunt in their chosen gear in order become familiar with the conditions, weight, shoe comfort, etc.
In the spirit of not letting any part of an animal go to waste, the Hunters for the Hungry organization allows community members to drop off legally-tagged, field-dressed whitetail or mule deer to meat processors. Processors that partner with the organization prepare the meat and distribute it to local food banks. Hunters for the Hungry’s network of food banks can be found in every county in Texas, which also makes the organization prepared to be a central point of contact for information, resources and donations during some type of disaster within the state.
Although it is hard to imagine that people in the area are in need of nourishment, venison donations help Hunters for the Hungry provide healthy protein to local families in need. Food banks, soup kitchens and organizations all receive donations. Anna Medica, the communications manager for Hunters for the Hungry, says, “Hunters for the Hungry has provided more than 10 million servings of venison to hungry Texans. The poundage of donated venison often grows year by year, and we expect another increase in distributed venison for the upcoming 2019-2020 season."
Ms. Medica adds, “Hunters for the Hungry is important to hunters since it provides them an opportunity to give back to their community, effectively use all harvested venison and foster connection.” You can donate to this organization when you purchase your Texas hunting license (these donations support programming costs and meat processing fees) or online. Check out feedingtexas.org to learn more about contributing or donating to the cause.
The various populations of game animals here in Texas have led to the expansion of the hunting industry. Major game animals in Texas include whitetail deer, mule deer, desert bighorn sheep, pronghorn antelope, gray/cat squirrels, red/fox squirrels, turkey, javelina and even alligators.
The white-tailed deer is an important and widely-popular Texas game animal. After the Early Paleoindian period, deer hunting was vital. In prehistoric times, deer were the most important game species, as they have been for much of the past 8,000 plus years. In the frontier of America, Indians and pioneers were fed and clothed by deer.
Whitetail deer have a large tail, usually 10 inches or longer (hence the name), that signals to other animals. Whitetails live everywhere from woodlands to meadows. Most whitetails spend their whole lives within three miles of their birth. Males are equipped with antlers used for fighting during mating season. The antlers are shed annually after breeding season and replaced with a new set, grown the next year.
The javelina is found predominantly in the central, southern and southwestern portions of the state, but feral hogs are the ones known to cause the most problems, as they destroy habitats and compete with native species and livestock. Nowadays, Texans do not need a license to kill wild hogs, as stated in the bill signed on May 31, 2019, by Governor Greg Abbott. The wild pig herd in Texas makes a significant impact on agriculture and the environment and includes between three to five million pigs that can be found in almost 90 percent of counties. Texas takes a financial hit that exceeds $500 million annually due to destruction by these creatures. Fifteen diseases can be carried by wild pigs, including swine brucellosis and pseudorabies.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has designated a number of game birds, including quail, waterfowl, migratory waterfowl, dove and sandhill crane for hunting. The wild turkey is also a commonly hunted game bird. Turkeys are covered with about 5,000 feathers that offer insulation, lift during flight and touch sensation. A wild turkey undergoes five molts, their gobblers weigh about 20 pounds and they are generally about 40 inches tall. Hens weigh around 10 pounds and get to around 30 inches tall.
There are a variety of options when it comes to choosing what kind of structure you will hunt from. Many hunters have deer blinds or stands moved into the woods. Or, some carry a portable/pop-up blind that is lightweight and easy to move. Some choose to install tree stands, especially when bow hunting, which can be a dangerous choice when getting in or out of the stand, so harnesses are recommended. Other hunters simply station themselves on the ground, among the mud, leaves and, sometimes, creepy crawlers. When duck hunting around water, boats and temporary or permanent blinds are useful to conceal hunters.
Common among all types of blinds is the concept of blending into the area in which you are hunting – from exteriors covered in hay and camouflage print to reeds and grasses. You often find modern luxuries within decked-out blinds. Padded seats, heaters, waterproofing and gun racks make the experience of sitting in an enclosed area (that can get very chilly during that time of year) more comfortable.
Get the Gear
In North Texas, there are countless retailers where hunters can buy camouflage gear, hunting licenses, ammunition and additional necessities. Keep in mind, whether you are hunting on a lease or private land, wearing orange with your camouflage clothing helps prevent accidents.
Now in Prosper, Field & Stream and DICK’S Sporting Goods® have merged into one location for convenience. Whether you are looking for brand name gear to keep you warm or invisible to woodland creatures, the store provides great resources. Academy Sports + Outdoors® has a number of nearby locations and is an easy stop to purchase an annual hunting license. There is the popular Cabela’s® in Allen and in Fort Worth and Bass Pro Shops in Grapevine.
Whether you find yourself for or against hunting, it is always best to know facts from both sides of the debate before forming a personal opinion. And, regardless of your stance, it is a fact that less Americans are hunting today than ever before. Like so many current issues in society, opinions will vary depending on who you talk to.
This fall, many locals are planning their hunting trips and outdoor excursions around Texas. If you find yourself in a deer blind or a creek bed, think smart and be safe! How will the choices you make today impact nature in the future?