Outdoors: uvalde177 (copy)

Numerous outdoors enthusiasts like Casey Kelley will be among those looking to renew their annual hunting and fishing licenses on Aug. 15.

The sounds of fall are ringing through the blast-furnace air of summer. Football teams are opening camps and popping shoulder pads, and I’ve heard the occasional dove hunter shooting off shells in preparation for the opening of hunting season on Sept. 1.

Annual hunting and fishing licenses go on sale Aug. 15, and if you ever stood in line that went three times around a building on opening day of dove season, you’ll especially appreciate all the early purchase options available.

A variety of license options is available to Texas outdoorsmen, but the best value for the all-around hunter and angler is the $68 Super Combo Hunting and All-Water Fishing Package.

This option includes a Resident Hunting License; Resident Fishing license; all 5 state endorsements (archery, freshwater fishing, saltwater fishing with a red drum tag, upland game bird, and migratory game bird). The Federal Duck Stamp is not included and must be purchased separately. Seniors aged 65 and up can purchase this license package for $32. Disabled veterans and resident active duty military personnel get the licenses free, but still have to go through the licensing process.

Fishing licenses are required for anglers aged 17 and older, and hunters, no matter their age, must have a hunting license, but a license isn’t required to hunt coyotes that are attacking livestock or feral hogs (with permission from landowners) that are causing destruction of habitat.

Licenses are available through the Texas Parks and Wildlife website and hundreds of bait shops, sporting goods stores, feed stores, and other retail outlets around the state.

Gary Payne of Brazos Feed & Supply, located at 1505 LaSalle in Waco, is sweetening the pot by registering each license-buyer for a chance to win a YETI cooler and weekly prizes throughout the early part of this year’s hunting season. The cooler drawing will be held Nov. 4, the opening morning of gun season for deer.

While you’re waiting on the license to print, you can browse the store’s hunting-related merchandise, including feeders, timers, deer stands, tailgate feeders, deer corn, protein pellets, and more.

Searching for

new ground

It’s getting harder and harder to find quality, affordable hunting grounds. Over the past few decades, people like the poor goat ranchers in the Texas Hill Country figured out they could make a lot of money by building high fence ranches and stocking their land with herds of nutritionally and genetically-managed deer, and the cost of hunting leases and outfitters has subsequently skyrocketed.

If you’re not one of the fortunate folks who either owns land or knows somebody who’ll roll out the welcome mat for you, you’re probably going to factor in at least $1000 for your hunting budget, which doesn’t calculate to a very good price per pound of meat.

But thanks to a cooperative effort between TPWD, private landowners and state and federal agencies, over a million acres of hunting lands, a significant amount located in Central Texas, are accessible through the Annual Public Hunting Permit, drawn hunts, and other permits.

The public hunting permit costs $48, and along with other licensing requirements, allows hunting of white-tailed deer, dove, turkey, feral hogs, rabbit, squirrel, waterfowl, and more.

Participation in the outdoor sports has been in decline for decades, especially among young people, and a big reason for that fact is the loss of easy and affordable access.

If hunting is going to survive as a tradition in our country, we need to do more to make it accessible and affordable to the everyday person. Ironically, the high-priced hunting industry is doing more to kill off participation than PETA could ever hope to.

Refined palate

The average person has 10,000 taste buds. The average catfish has 100,000. I have never thought, “You know, I’d like to eat a big wad of stink bait right now.” But maybe that’s because my palate isn’t as refined and sophisticated as a catfish’s.

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