Last year, hunting related accidents in Texas hit an all-time low, and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) is hoping to continue that downward trend.
One way to do that, according to Steve Hall, TPWD Hunter Education coordinator, is for hunters to ensure they always maintain a safe zone of fire.
Dove hunters would do well to make sure they communicate with their hunting party and make sure they know where everyone else is located because, typically, they wear camouflage since birds can see color. Just be mindful of where others are hunting at all times and even other hunters that aren’t necessarily in your group.
Of the 12 incidents in 2021, three-quarters were caused by hunters swinging on game outside the safe zone of fire.
That issue is common in dove, quail and pheasant hunting. Hunters will see a fast-flying bird, swing their gun and accidentally injure their hunting partner or other people nearby.
Hunters should also be cognizant of nearby livestock, buildings and vehicles.
You shouldn’t go wrong in terms of maintaining a safe zone of fire. It’s when you get so excited to take the shot and you just don’t realize where everybody else is that accidents occur.
During deer season in Texas, the majority of hunting-related incidents occur in and around vehicles as people are removing or stowing firearms.
Always carry firearms unloaded in vehicles, separate from the ammunition.
It’s also important that anyone with a firearm—hunter or not—be mindful of where they are pointing a gun.
If there was one safety rule that everybody should follow to prevent virtually every hunting accident, it’s to keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction at all times. If we just followed that one rule, we wouldn’t have very many incidents.
TPWD encourages gun owners to treat firearms as if they’re loaded at all times. Hunters should also be sure of their target before shooting and keep their finger off the trigger until they’re ready to fire.
Hunters can also improve safety in the field by wearing blaze orange, so they’re easily spotted by others.
Other things to consider during the hunting season: obviously in Texas, it’s warm at the early part of the season, such as dove season and even the early deer seasons, and hydrating in the field, making sure that you stay cool and getting physically fit (are important. To go hunting really takes a little bit of fitness. Of course, that’s both mental and physical, and those kinds of things are something that you should be working on now in August, even though it is hot outside. You should be working on where you’re going to go hunting, when you’re going to go hunting and all kinds of things that are involved while you’re hunting, such as the gear and layered clothing if it’s getting colder, all those kinds of things.
Hunter Education teaches topics like firearm safety, maintaining a safe zone of fire and other actions that improve hunter safety.
The course is required for all hunters in Texas born on or after Sept. 2, 1972, but can also be valuable for those who are not required to take the course.
The main thing that you want to consider getting ready for the fall hunting season is to take a Hunter Education class. That’s the number one citation issued by the game wardens every year–no Hunter Education.
Hunters who are 17 or older can take Hunter Education online. For those under 17, there is a classroom only course and an internet and field course option.
A one-time, one-year deferral is also available for eligible teens unable to take Hunter Education before hunting.
Hunter Education certification is good for life.
You must carry proof of certification or deferral with you while hunting if you are required to take the course.
The minimum age for certification is nine.
Saturday October 29th is the date of the next youth Hunter Education course to be held in Brown County. It will be sponsored by the Brown County 4-H program.
Monarch butterflies facing battle royal for survival
Pollinators placed on international conservation organization’s Red List as endangered
Monarch butterflies have long graced the skies of Texas during their annual migration. However, their population has been in steady decline, and recently the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, IUCN, placed the monarch butterfly on its Red List of threatened species, classifying it as endangered.
The IUNC’s Red List is a comprehensive information source on the global conservation status of animal, fungi and plant species.
Texas A&M AgriLife entomologists are concerned about the decline in monarch butterfly populations and want Texans and others to understand why these “regal” insects are important to agriculture and the environment.
About the monarch
According to IUCN estimates, the eastern monarch population in the U.S. has declined by anywhere from 22% to 72% over the past decade, with the western U.S. monarch population declining by anywhere from 66% to 91%. Habitat loss, climate change, pesticides and disease were cited as some of the major factors in the species’ decline.
Monarch butterflies migrate from overwintering locations, the largest of which is in Mexico, to more temperate regions that can be thousands of miles from the overwintering areas. Depending on the region, multiple generations of monarch butterflies can be seen before the fall migration to overwintering sites.
The monarch butterfly’s annual spring and summer migration from its overwintering sites to more northern sites overlaps with most of Texas. Many eastern migrating monarchs will pass through Central Texas before spreading northwards to Canada.
In the fall, monarch butterflies begin their trek from northern locations across the U.S. and Canada to their overwintering sites in Mexico. As they move southward, most of these butterflies will converge in north Central Texas and continue their flight south into Mexico.
Factors affecting monarch populations
Monarchs are very susceptible to environmental changes, especially during the times in their annual cycle when millions of them collect in the same general location.
Tracy said temperature and precipitation can influence the monarchs’ spring and fall migrations and breeding season success.
A sudden winter storm in Mexico can kill millions of monarchs overwintering there. There is also a significant amount of habitat loss from logging. Habitat loss and climate change are two major factors in the monarch’s population decline.
Another factor affecting monarch populations is the huge reduction in supplies of one of its main sources of nutrition – milkweed.
Monarch caterpillars need milkweed for nourishment so they may grow and develop, but the increased use of herbicides and pesticides, habitat conversion and adverse land management have all taken a toll on this important food source.
Coulson also noted that “roadkill” of the monarch butterfly in Texas, primarily during the fall migration, is responsible for a 2% to 3% annual decline in the population.
The impact of fewer monarchs
The monarch migration is a natural marvel that inspires great interest in the natural world.
These insects that travel for thousands of miles and across multiple generations to arrive at an unknown destination are a well-known sight in Texas, and that’s part of the reason they are our state insect.
How to help increase monarch populations
Nectar from flowers provides the fuel monarchs need to fly, so if there are not any blooming plants to collect nectar from during the stops in their migration, the butterflies will not have the energy to continue.
There are four particular types of milkweed the monarchs prefer as they travel through Texas during springtime.
Here in Texas, you want to be sure to cut your milkweed down in October. Otherwise, the monarchs will lay eggs before making it to Mexico. Those eggs usually hatch and then die because the food dries up, or we get a freeze before they complete their lifecycle. This is especially true when we have warm late falls or early winters, and milkweed doesn’t die back.
More information on what can be done to help restore monarch populations can be found at: www.monarchwatch.org.