Helpful tips for a safe hunting season
For more information
To enroll in the hunter education classes, visit the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's website or call the Victoria office at 361-575-6306 for schedules throughout the year. The course costs $15 per person.
With opening day of hunting season just around the corner for deer, dove, duck, quail and other popular game, it is important to be prepared, said Victoria County Game Warden Rex Mayes.
"Preparation is usually the best prevention," he said, to avoid any accidents while out on the hunt.
In Texas, he said, most people will hunt in stands and seek game that way. When getting ready to hunt, it's important to have a checklist on hand.
Check your perimeters. Making sure the area where you are hunting is safe is a top priority. If using a deer feeder, he said, it's best to clean the feeders out well and ensure that the feed is fresh and comes from a reliable source. "There might be old feed, that can be unsafe for deer," he said, which can lead to a diseases in the animals.
Insect protection. Spending time outdoors in South Texas usually means interacting with insects, including mosquitoes, bees or wasps. Mayes said to check the blinds of each stand and check for bee hives or wasp nests and other potentially dangerous insects.
"Bugs can be very discouraging for hunters. Make sure to bring lots of bug protection, too."
Be aware of other hunters. There may be other people who are hunting on the same property as you are. Check the line of trajectory and the direction of fire. He also added that building blinds away from fences or neighbors is a good way to avoid any bodily harm to other hunters and conflicts. Having respect for other hunters is important to remember. He said don't put up stands next to another hunter's stand, or near an adjacent fence line, this will help prevent conflicts between hunters.
Keep the lines of communication open. "The best first aid kit is the cell phone," he said. Aside from the traditional first-aid kit, access to a phone can help many hunters notify neighbors or other hunters about potential injured animals that may cross fence lines. "For instance, people who bow hunt need to pick an area that animals may need to run before they die," he said. A slew of other items should be packed away for the hunt, including a GPS and or compass, snacks, water and a camera, Mayes said.
Bring your hunter's log. The log should be filled out every time an animal is collected and tagged.
The logs, he said, serve as a method for the state to track where the animals are harvested and help the state maintain the animal population.
Leave your information with someone. Whether you are hunting for deer in a stand or fowl on the water, be sure your friends and family know where you will be hunting and an estimated time of when you will return. Even if it is just one day of hunting, leave behind where you will be, how long you intend to be out there, when you will return, who you are with and what vehicle or boat you are in. "This helps in case we have to search for someone, by boat or truck," Mayes said.
Practice good gun safety. "Treat every gun as if it's loaded," he said. Whether you are hunting dove or deer, it's important to hit what you are aiming for. Of course, it may not always be the first shot that gets the prized kill, but knowing what you're doing is always a good start.
"Make clean shots that are ethical to the animal and people around," Mayes said. "We're harvesting wildlife by reducing numbers; that's what we're doing when we hunt."
Take Hunter Safety Classes. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department offers classes for all ages about the safety, education and regulations of hunting in Texas.
"It's a good way to introduce children to the sport of hunting," he said.
Mayes, 55, was raised in a family where hunting was a longtime tradition. He remembers when his dad would meet him at the start of dove season with a couple of buckets for him and his siblings to sit on during the hunt.
"It's a good way to teach them (kids) what we can do with our land and how to respect it," the 30-year Texas Parks and Wildlife Department employee said.
As part of a mandate by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, the hunter education course is set up as a two-day, 10-hour class designed to teach hunters of all ages the safety, guidelines and regulations for hunting in the state.
James Bartay, an EHS delivery technologist at Dow, has served as a volunteer instructor for 13 years. The department also made him an area chief for the classes.
"The first and foremost is firearm safety," Bartay said of the class' curriculum. "The cardinal rule is always point the muzzle in a safe direction. The second one is ethics."
He said ethics is his passion and that even the tone of the class will change when he is discussing the matter.
Children as young as 9 years old can enroll in the hunter education course. After completing and passing the 50-question test at the end of the course, the students can take part in what many Texas families hold as tradition.
Bartay, 40, said he started hunting as soon as he could carry a firearm. He said the love of hunting and continuing family tradition is one of the reasons he started volunteering to teach the class.
"What my dad passed on to me, I want to pass on to others," he said. "I know there are a lot of dads that do the same, that pass on a lot to their kids. I just really believe in hunter education, and I think you get a lot out of it."
Bartay hosts the hunter education courses in a makeshift classroom that seats 30 at Coleto Creek. Over the two days, he teaches students firearm safety, conservation and preservation, wildlife identification and ethics. During the outdoor portion of the course, the students participate in a skills course where they apply what they learned in the class through different scenarios, choosing whether they should or should not shoot.
Students who successfully complete the course can also use their certification in other states and internationally. Bartay said the course is also recognized in Canada and Mexico.