We Texans love our outdoors, no question about that.
However, even in the massive reaches of what no doubt is the best locale in the country for hunting and fishing pursuits, we’re running out of room. There are millions of acres of land and water open to public hunting and fishing if you can get there, but I’m telling you right now, if you don’t like sharing, don’t even pack the truck.
It’s Memorial Day weekend and you’re guaranteed to find people before you find redfish or bass. If you doubt it, try spending any summer Saturday in one of our sparkling bay systems or the same day in the spring on any number of lunker largemouth lairs, especially around holidays, when everyone from the seasoned guide to the weekend warrior is out looking for their own piece of the pie.
Sadly, some outdoor encounters can turn sour at the drop of a hat and escalate into dangerous territory. All you have to do is look at your social media account to find others readily sharing their tales of people behaving badly at the boat ramp and on the water. Licensed guides typically see the worst of this since they’re on the hunt for fish more than anyone else, and the most common scenario I’ve seen and continue to hear is of these pros getting to a spot they know harbors fish only to see a “potlicker” slide through in their boat after seeing where the action is, typically too close for comfort.
They’re certainly being paid to find fish by their group of anglers, but that courtesy only goes so far.
To be totally honest, I’m not beyond reproach in having “this is my water” thoughts along public access tracts. It’s downright discouraging to rise before dawn with all your stowed gear ready and waiting only to discover that someone else beat you to your favorite bend in the river where you’ve caught numerous rainbow trout or your idyllic saltwater flat that has produced solid redfish each and every time.
The best thing you can do is chalk it up and wish that person or their group luck.
However, I’ve also been in a boat and happened upon other anglers who were trespassing or bumped into hunters doing the same. In those cases, there is no excuse for that behavior even if someone claims they didn’t realize what they were doing. Nowhere is this reasoning used more often than during December pheasant hunts in the Panhandle. It’s tough to keep track of how many times I’ve seen or heard about a group of folks departing a field they absolutely knew was private, their vests brimming with colorful quarry. In a couple of instances, they met game wardens.
I know there also are many hunters and landowners who are afflicted with “that is my deer” syndrome when in fact even wildlife under a high fence neither belongs to nor are owned by anyone. I remember as a youngster we had a family lease in Central Texas where we spent as much time as possible during deer season. We never had occasion to meet hunters on neighboring pieces of land, but after erecting a tower tripod stand within sight of a fence line, something that is as common a practice as using deer feeders, we learned that sometimes you don’t want to know your neighbors. On a preseason trip to make sure everything was up and running, we discovered that the seat on the stand had been perforated with what looked like a couple of accurately placed shotgun slugs.
We got the meaning in the message, but we also replaced the seat and found out exactly who owned the neighboring tract and who was leasing it, and there were no more issues after that even though a box blind was erected nearby on the other side of the fence.
During the next few months from east to west and north to south we’ll be sharing some of our favorite places that we find most dear with more than a million others, who may or may not be our future friends. My advice is to celebrate all that we have to legally enjoy, take in the beauty of nature and never leave your manners at home.
I know you also may still get an awkward glance every once in a while with a “yes ma’am” or “no ma’am” but it never hurts to be courteous.