As a kid, I knew the woods were my true home. I grew up listening to my grandpa tell stories about hunting. He was my inspiration and the person who truly turned me onto the outdoors.
On my tenth birthday, I got the opportunity to participate in my first deer hunt. It was Christmas Eve and I remember waking up early and heading out to the blind with my grandpa and dad. I remember climbing into the blind for the first time and just waiting, for what felt like forever in the cold, for the sun to come up. Unfortunately, I didn’t see a deer on my first hunt. It didn’t matter, I was hooked and itching to get back into the woods.
My father helped me fulfill my desire to hunt by taking me rabbit and squirrel hunting. I remember the day he placed a special gift in my hands, my first rifle. While hunting with my dad, I learned how to walk through the woods without making a sound, to sit still, look for signs of wildlife, and differentiate animal tracks. As my love for the outdoors and hunting grew, I took it upon myself to learn as much about big game hunting as I could and began to teach my dad different techniques.
Together, my father and I began to explore feral hog hunting. Feral hogs are known for their destructive nature and their intelligence. They can be difficult to hunt. That challenge is what kept me focused on hunting them for years. I am now a junior in college and I live to be in the woods and to hunt. Many of my family and friends have come to appreciate my effort in controlling the feral pig populations and deer populations. Some of my favorite memories are of hunting with friends and family, helping them manage their land.
In Texas the majority of wildlands are private property. It can be difficult for people who come from non-hunting families or urban areas to enter into the sport. I have been fortunate since my extended family, teachers, and friends have always allowed me to hunt on their properties. However, many people are not as fortunate and it can be a struggle to find a place to go hunt. National Wildlife Refuges are one of the few areas in the state were people without land of their own can come to experience the outdoors. They provide the public with opportunities to get outside explore nature, and even hunt.
Living in a state with as much land and as vibrant a hunting culture as Texas, I very much believe in the value of allowing every person, especially young children, the opportunity to at least accompany a hunter into the woods and to witness all that goes into harvesting an animal. For those who would like to learn how to hunt or need resources to get into the field, I recommend reaching out to people in your communities. Avid hunters enjoy sharing advice and stories with others. You can also reach out to your local National Wildlife Refuge and see what hunt opportunities and information they can provide.
National Wildlife Refuges and other public lands also could use your help in managing deer and feral hog populations. At Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge, in Liberty County, the refuge runs managed hunts for feral hog, deer, squirrel, rabbit, and in most years, waterfowl. A permit allows for up to 2 adults or 1 adult with 2 minors to hunt. This not only can give you a chance to enjoy the tradition of hunting with family and friends, you are also helping public lands manage larger wildlife populations which, if not controlled, can damage the forests.
Regardless of how you get into the sport, the proper licensing, permit, and hunter education is required. A good place to find regulatory information is through the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department website at https://tpwd.texas.gov/ or by reading their annual publication, The Outdoor Annual.
For information about hunting specifically at Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge in Liberty County, you can explore their website at https://www.fws.gov/refuge/trinity_river/, stop by the office at 601 FM 1011, Liberty, TX 77575, or give the refuge office a call at 936-336-9786. Hunt applications will be available Aug. 6-Sept. 1.
By Andrew Miller and Theresa Edwards (Contributing Editor), Wildlife and Habitat Conservation Interns, Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge