Recall that conservation is simply defined as “the wise use and management of resources.” Hunting has been part of the fabric of the Katy Prairie for thousands of years. In more recent times, the hunting community continues to be very active in conversation efforts that transcend maintenance of huntable game populations. KPC embraces limited hunting opportunities to a variety of responsible tenants including outfitters, hunting clubs, and individuals. Lease fees paid by hunters on KPC lands provide much needed monies to enable continued enhancement and maintenance of its preserves. Most importantly, hunting opportunities provide a uniquely intimate connection to the precious resource we all know as the Katy Prairie.
From its inception in 1992, the Katy Prairie Conservancy has worked to include representatives from diverse sectors of the regional community, including hunters. In fact, a founding Director, Mr. Larry Gore, was instrumental in organizing initial support for KPC. Mr. Gore owns and operates Eagle Lake and Katy Prairie Outfitters, one of the largest hunting operations along the Gulf Coast; he continues to serve KPC on its Advisory Board. A number of local and influential conservation-minded hunters were involved in the formation of the organization.
Today, our partnership with hunters and hunting conservation organizations is helping KPC to meet our goal of good land stewardship. KPC has worked closely with conservation community leaders like Ducks Unlimited (DU), in conjunction with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Natural Resources Conservation Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to create over 1200 acres of new or restored prairie wetland habitat on KPC lands. Many more thousands of acres have been created or restored throughout the Gulf coastal prairie by this very successful partnership.
Along with rice farming, hunters continue to be instrumental in the development of the conservation landscape that we know as the Katy Prairie. After World War II, rice farming created the infrastructure to provide winter water to the huge numbers of waterfowl, shorebirds, and wading birds that historically wintered along the Texas coast. Prior to the advent of significant mechanized agriculture, waterfowl numbers depended largely on summer and fall rains to fill natural depressions we know as “potholes” or “flats”.
During this time, birders on the Katy Prairie have come to expect flooded rice fields during the winter months. These flooded fields often provide excellent bird watching opportunities. Have you ever wondered why that water is there during the winter months? It is not necessary for crop production. The water is there, almost without exception, because hunters have paid for it to be there. Droughts and increased fuel costs make pumping water expensive.
Joining together with hunters to reach mutual land conservation goals is not unique to the Katy Prairie, of course. It is evidenced by the large role that hunters play in conservation efforts nationwide. Although hunters comprise just five percent of the nation’s population, they contribute over $700 million towards conservation each year through purchases of licenses, tags, and permits! Nationwide telephone surveys indicate that hunters are much more likely to be contributing members of conservation organizations (51%) than the general public (15%). In turn these environmental organizations often use donations to purchase critical wildlife habitat across the U.S. and beyond.
So, the next time you are enjoying a day on the Katy Prairie watching clouds of ducks, waves of geese, knots of shore birds, or a lone bald eagle soaring over a flooded rice field or wetland, remember that there is a lot of support behind its beauty - support provided by many different groups, including the hunting community.
Hunting Opportunities on the Katy Prairie
KPC policy has been to maintain and enhance local relationships by leasing properties back to land tenants at the time of purchase; this policy includes hunting tenants as well as agricultural tenants. Currently, KPC’s hunting tenants include responsible outfitters, hunting clubs, and individuals. Lease fees paid by hunters on KPC lands provide much needed monies to enable continued enhancement and maintenance of its preserves. KPC also provides hunting opportunities for interested youth through the Texas Wildlife Association’s Texas Youth Hunting Program.
Annual Youth Waterfowl Hunt - KPC is a perennial partner with Texas Wildlife Association’s Texas Youth Hunting Program. Youths and their sponsors register through the TWA website and participate in gun safety instruction, shooting lessons, waterfowl ID, game warden Q&A, and guided hunts on KPC’s properties in early December each year. For more information:www.texas-wildlife.org
TPWD Public Dove Hunts - KPC leases properties to Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Annual Public Hunting Program to provide venues for public dove hunts from September 1 - October 24. For more information: www.tpwd.state.tx.us/huntwild/hunt/public/
Day Hunting for Doves on the Warren Ranch - A day dove hunt on the sprawling Warren Ranch can be just the tonic for a stressful week. These adventures are organized by ranch staff in association with KPC. Contact: John Warren at (281) 382-0067.