SPECIAL SECTION

THE PRACTICAL ANGLER by Greg Berlocher
July 25, 2016
COASTAL FORECAST: Lower Coast
July 25, 2016

Thoughts and Tips for Fall Hunting in Texas

Did you ever have those moments where you can’t keep one thought in your head?

In other words, your mind gets flooded with random thoughts from all over the place. I recently had this problem, but soon realized some of the thoughts were pretty interesting.

The breeding habits of does may contribute to perceptions of timing of the rut.

So I did what any writer would do—investigate.

These are some thoughts, myths and tips I have checked out in recent months. I thought you might enjoy them as we get ready to enter the fall season of hunting and fishing here in the great state of Texas.

• • •

Billy Higginbotham with Texas Agrilife Extension wrote the wild pig is the most prolific large mammal on the face of the Earth—but they are not “born pregnant.”

“The average is between five and six pigs per litter, Higginbotham said. “Sows have approximately 1.5 litters per year. Are more litters per year and larger litter sizes possible? Absolutely yes! However, I am using long-term averages, not what can occur under ideal conditions, which is usually unsustainable over the long haul.”

“Young females do not typically have their first litter until they are 13-plus months of age, even though they can be sexually mature at six to eight months or even earlier,” he said.

Higginbotham has said there are only two types of landowners in Texas—those who have hogs and those who will have hogs.

The recent floods throughout Texas are not a guarantee that hogs have pushed into new territory, but they will try. Much of their success will depend on how much effort is put into eradicating them once they are located.

Hogs are pesky and certainly cause damage, but they are truly amazing animals that can survive in virtually any condition and are smarter than most animals, including dogs. We tend to think of them as part of the natural order here, but they are not—technically speaking.

Higginbotham wrote that in 1539 in what is now Florida, the first hogs were released by Hernando de Soto.

“These 13 pigs were originally domestics released to be used as a future food source by the explorers,” he said. “De Soto captured these particular pigs in Cuba and brought them into what is now Tampa Bay, Florida.

The 360-degree horizontal visual field of mallards is one factor making them a challenge for hunters.

“Obviously, some escapes occurred during exploration, and these pigs became the seed stock for future wild pig/feral hog populations. The wild pig herd that accompanied De Soto’s party increased to approximately 700 head by the time the exploration entered into what is now Texas in 1542.”

These animals have a long history here and their story is not finished by any stretch of the imagination.

• • •

According to Texas Parks & Wildlife Department’s study on the whitetail rut, a doe may be attractive to bucks for about five days, but may be willing to breed for a period of only 24 hours. If the doe is not bred during her first cycle, she will generally come into heat again about 28 days later.

“In areas where there are few bucks, a doe may not encounter a buck when she is first receptive and may not be bred until one of her later cycles. A hunter, landowner or biologist who sees the late breeding activity may be convinced that there was a late rut. On the other hand, those who see does attended by bucks in the early part of the season believe there was an early rut. This helps explain the wide variety of opinions on the timing of the rut during a particular year.”

TPWD also reported that “Hunter chronology” has a lot to do with the perceived timing of the rut. 

“Traditionally, hunters are more likely to be afield during cool weather. They will usually be out in force with the onset of the first weekend norther during the deer season. When there are many observers spending time in the field it is more likely that breeding activity will be noticed.” 

“Bucks, like hunters, have a tendency to move around during cool weather. Bucks with hardened antlers are ready to breed and are looking for a willing doe. More movement means more opportunity to encounter a receptive doe. This increased movement helps give rise to the idea that cold weather causes the rut. However, this theory is disproved by white-tailed deer breeding in tropical climates.” 

• • •

Hunting often gets flack from the non-hunting public related to an alleged “unfair advantage” we have over the animals pursued.

In reality, animals have been given an incredible edge with senses and survival adaptations that far exceed anything of humans, and that makes many hunting situations truly challenging.

For example, wearing camouflage may seem silly to those who have never ventured beyond the pavement but the facts listed below show it is extremely important for the hunter.

Wild turkeys have a field of vision of about 270 degrees which allows them to pick up movement and notice things that are out of place more easily than most animals.

Mallard ducks have even more impressive visual abilities.

According to researchers, the mallard has a retinal visual field giving 360 degrees visual coverage in the horizontal plane and a narrow binocular field of approximately uniform width (approximately equal to 20 degrees) extending through 220 degrees from the bill to directly behind the head.

That is why you should remain still in the duck blind until it is time to shoot.

A deer’s sense of smell is legendary. Hundreds of products are on the market as well as homegrown remedies for eliminating human scent and appealing to hunger and sexual urges through smell. Did you know, however, that deer actually have two noses?

According to a fascinating article put out by Dr. Karl V. Miller from the University of Georgia, few hunters realize that a deer actually has two “noses.”

“The second nose is technically not a nose, but it serves some of the same purpose. If you look on the roof of the deer’s mouth, you will see a diamond shaped structure with a small passage leading into the palate. This additional nose, called the vomeronasal organ (VNO), is similar to the Jacobson’s organ that snakes use to “taste” the air. Deer use the VNO exclusively to analyze urine. When a buck sees a doe urinate, he will often take some of this urine into his mouth and perform a behavior called flehmen, or lip-curl.”

“This flehmen helps to introduce urine into the VNO. It is interesting that this organ is not connected to the same part of the brain that the nose is connected to. Instead, it is connected to the part of the brain that controls the reproductive condition of the deer. What type of information the deer is getting is unknown, but it is likely that odors analyzed in the VNO help get the hormones pumping in the buck and bring him into rutting condition.”

Those are the kinds of things that make hunting so appealing. For the game we pursue, it is an issue of survival. However, without something to challenge us, the tradition of hunting would not continue.

You see hunting is a very important tradition in our great state. It is a source of everything from family bonding to wildlife management and is the economic backbone of many communities.

When you look at hunting from the perspective of the challenge it represents, it is easy to take away a new appreciation of the pursuit. It is not just a pursuit. Hunting is a challenge.

• • •

TF&G Hunting Editor and master bowhunter education instructor Lou Marullo said the number one mistake he sees young hunters making in regard to shooting is not practicing with broadheads.

“It is extremely rare to find a bow that shoots with field points exactly like it would with broadheads of the same grain weight. All you have to do is look at the physical differences and see that there are some serious aerodynamic differences,” he said.

A number of broadhead makers claim their products match up to field points, but there are simply too many variables. 

“It’s an absolute must to get out there and shoot with broadheads before going hunting. Even if you are just off an inch or two that could mean the difference between taking a big buck and suffering the heartache of losing an animal,” Marullo said.

When it comes to shooting broadheads at a target, there are many options on the market nowadays. However, I am old-fashioned in this regard.

In my opinion, the most versatile and practical bow targets on the market are 3-D targets. I have owned Delta and Mackenzie 3-D deer targets and have found they will last for years, if you treat them right

“When it comes to shooting broadheads, I have found 3-D targets with the removable core or vitals to be the best option although there are some good ones out there that are specific for broadheads as well,” Marullo said

 

—story by Chester Moore

 

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