Hunting season began Saturday, and Texas A&M is working to bring the hunting experience to the digital world.
The A&M AgriLife Extension Service’s Wildlife and Fisheries Unit developed 11 new iPhone apps in the last year to help landowners and hunters with aquatic and wildlife management and conservation.
Growing interest in conservation methods and many “new to land” landowners hungry for knowledge led James Cathey, associate professor and extension specialist in Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences, to develop apps with his team to get information to the masses faster.
“Last year my unit gave 1,125 face-to-face natural resources presentations across the state and reached 12,962 people,” Cathey said. “That’s not bad, but it is not enough given the size of our population in Texas.”
Coupled with phone apps, publications and videos through social media outlets, the AgriLife Extension has reached hundreds of thousands of people,
but Cathey said it isn’t enough. He said he won’t stop until he’s reached millions.
“In the past year, our social media reach was over 690,000 for our work on invasive wild pigs and over 108,000 for educational materials developed for the Reversing the Quail Decline in Texas initiative,” Cathey said.
Features like the Northern Bobwhite Management Calendar — an app teaching management techniques of a particular species of quail — can educate on a species’ decline and how hunters can alleviate it. To understand the reasons for the decline, the team partnered with Texas Parks and Wildlife to put together a team of researchers, educators and field biologists.
“Too often, quail face poor habitat conditions,” Cathey said. “But through the iPhone apps like the Northern Bobwhite Management Calendar and the Northern Bobwhite Habitat Evaluation, we teach management techniques that create good habitat and healthier quail populations.”
Cathey and his team have thought of other apps in the past, but Cathey said funding sometimes slows down the delivery of creativity.
“We thought about apps before now, but the cost was just too high,” Cathey said. “Here, funding was acquired through a Renewable Natural Resources Extension Act Grant and supplemented by the Reversing the Quail Decline in Texas Initiative.”
Cade Wood, psychology senior and south Texas landowner, is excited about the new apps and said they should help Texas hunters improve their own land or lease.
“Since I started hunting I have always tried to find a resource that gives tips and tricks on anything that can give me a better hunting experience,” Wood said. “I quickly found that magazines were the closest thing to what I wanted, but the problem is that most of them gear their information towards northern hunters.”
Wood said, for example, the “Field and Stream” magazine has issues on hunting, fishing and survival in the snow. Wood hunts in Texas, so snow is typically not an issue. The apps provide information that is relevant to hunting techniques in his area and for Texas’ unique habitat.
“These apps would eliminate both of these problems and I can almost guarantee you that there is not a single Texan landowner or hunter who would turn down free information,” Wood said.
Wood did have some suggestions for app creators. He recommends that the app have a way to call or email questions, especially for the “old school” cohort that is particularly hands-on.