upon a time, these Panhandle Plains
were densely populated with wild creatures of every description. The Indians made
a good living from harvesting them for hundreds of years. Then came the fur trappers,
mountain men and meat hunters who harvested fortunes, but left many species devastated.
We purchased and began operating the Alanreed Ranch in 1949 finding no deer, antelope
or wild turkeys living here permanently, only an occasional passerby en route
to the creeks north or the river south.
This situation continued until
about 1990, when I began extensive rainwater harvesting efforts, mesquite and
cedar control and spring development. I also began a long-term hunting plan, hoping
to eventually acquire enough wild game to derive some income.
but surely, I built hundreds of small dirt dams I call catchments, high on the
slopes of the hills hoping to recharge the upper aquifers that once supported
the millions of buffalo and wild game that roamed our prairies. My theory is that
flood-control dams work only after the fact, meaning the rains have already run
off the watersheds where recharge happens.
I marked my budget to purchase
brush control chemicals each year, and diligently killed mesquite and dug cedars
as time allowed. The massive wild prairie fires of 2006 cleaned the dead mesquite,
leaving my prairie lands clean of deadwood.
After time, the erosion in
the tributaries halted, and I no longer even build water gaps in my canyons and
creeks. My prairie ecosystems are free of almost all mesquite, and only deep canyons
left for hunting contain cedars. The once bare, sandy canyon bottoms are grassed
over, and water runs year-round, except for exceptionally hot or dry years like
are 11 springs, seven running into metal tanks with overflows. Four windmills
have been taken down and sold. A submergible pump furnishes household water, and
one solar pump serves a dry upland area.
along the way and for whatever reasons one might choose, the wildlife began to
return. The first visitors were three wild turkey gobblers pecking at wild bird
feed I spread in the yard each morning.
After the arrival of several hens
and summer hatches, we have a wild turkey herd visiting each day and roosting
in the cottonwoods down at the south house.
we began to see deer in the canyons and grazing the creeks. A small band of antelope
can be seen if you hunt for them. Each morning as I travel to and from the coffee
shop, I run deer off the service road and Interstate 40 right-of-ways. I built
six wild bird and turkey feeders out of a large PVC pipe; each holds two 5-gallon
buckets of milo, and I have to refill them about every two weeks.
around the feeders, the roads and the cow trails reveal the tracks of almost every
species of wild creature known to exist here in our area.
was it all worth it? As Sarah would say, “You betcha.”
© Delbert Trew
- October 18,
Trew is a freelance writer and retired rancher. He can be reached at 806-779-3164,
by mail at Box A, Alanreed, TX 79002, or by email at trew firstname.lastname@example.org.
For books see delberttrew.com. His column appears weekly.
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