Understanding the Majestic (And Frustrating) Permit

Join Chester Moore as he interviews Dr. Aaron Adams, Conservation & Science Director for the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust about the misunderstood and mysterious permit.

These flats fish thrill (and frustrate) anglers throughout Florida and the Caribbean and are facing a number of conservation challenges.

Photo courtesy Dreamstime.

Want to learn more about permit? Don’t miss this one.

Click here to listen.

This episode is part 2 of our Flats Slam series that began last week as we focused on tarpon with Capt. Brian Barrera on the Higher Calling Gulf Coast branch of our podcast.

Listen to that episode here.

Seeking The Silver King-In Texas!

The tarpon, known by its fans as the “silver king”, is arguably the most prestigious nearshore sportfish in the world.

A tarpon is the logo of our Higher Calling Gulf Coast branch and is a species we are doing our best to raise awareness of in relation to conservation initiatives.

Don’t miss this episode of Higher Calling Gulf Coast as I interview Capt. Brian Barrera about fishing for tarpon in Texas.

If you’ve ever dreamed of catching the “silver king” in Texas, this is a can’t miss show.

This kicks off three weeks of programs on the Flats Slam.

Click here to listen.

Capt. Brian Barrera with a nice South Padre area Silver King. (Photo by Kelly Groce)

Keeping Sheep On the Mountain

“To put and keep wild sheep on the mountain”

That’s the mission statement of The Wild Sheep Foundation (WSF) and although it is a big, inspiring statement, it is also nuanced.

For those into wild sheep, visions of releasing bighorns from areas of abundance to locations that need population boosts immediately come to mind.

Translocation of sheep after all is the heart of bighorn management.

But it’s not the hardest part.

Keeping those sheep on the mountain is the greatest challenge in a world where things are changing rapidly and old threats still exist.

“Disease is still our number one threat,” said Gray Thorn, WSF President & CEO.

“And that’s one of the primary things we will be addressing during our Chapter and Affiliate Summit in Idaho.”

Thornton told me that when I visited WSF headquarters in Bozeman last week.

The author and WSF President & CEO Gray Thornton in front of the replica of the world record Rocky Mountain Bighorn at WSF headquarters. The horns are from a replica taken from a mold of the original horns and the hide is from another sheep legally acquired from a taxidermist.

As a WSF member and a wildlife journalist who closely follows all things sheep, it was great to visit the headquarters.

It’s a beautiful building and of course filled with wild sheep taxidermy including a replica of the world record Rocky Mountain bighorn but it’s certainly not massive.

For an organization that puts millions of dollars on the ground for sheep each year, one might expect huge offices with many employees but that’s not the case.

It’s a handful of people working extremely hard to make an impactful organization even moreso.

The Wild Sheep Foundation headquarters in Bozeman, MT. (Photo by Chester Moore)

“The COVID situation presented many challenges for us as it did for everyone else but we quickly pivoted making the best use of technolgoy and were able to make strides forward,” Thornton said.

This included a virtual expo that saw membership numbers increase and fundaising records fall.

In all, $4,488,500 was raised in three evening auctions from conservation permits according to WSF officials.

“Depending on the permit, eighty-five to one hundred percent of these funds are directed to these fish and wildlife agencies for wild sheep conservation, management, and enhancement programs.”

According to the Western Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies 74 percent of all agency wild sheep conservation funding comes from an auction or raffle conservation permit.

An example of those funds being used for the group’s mission statement came with a 2021 reintroduction of bighorns into Montana’s Tendoy Mountains.

Translocation of sheep has allowed bighorns to be one of North America’s great comeback stories. This desert bighorn is about to be released at Black Gap Wildlife Management Area (WMA) in Texas after being captured at Elephant Mountain WMA. (Photo by Chester Moore)

The sheep were driven overnight to Dell, MT, where they were released at dawn the next morning into the Tendoy Mountain Range according to WSF Communication & Marketing Director Keith Balfourd.

Additionally, efforts have also went toward keeping sheep on the mountain this year with a collaborative water project with the Texas Bighorn Society for desert bighorns and weighing in on domestic sheep grazing policy on public land.

The aforementioned disease issue comes directly from domestic sheep and goats.

There’s something about wild sheep that gets to a person when encountering them.

The author photographed this desert bighorn in Nevada in 2020. He is on a quest to photograph wild sheep in all states and territories by 2029.

Whether it’s drawing a dream tag to hunt Stone Sheep in British Columbia or photographing them across various states as I am doing, these animals are truly inspiring.

And it’s good to know there are people like WSF and it’s chapters and affiliates working hard to make sure these great animals have a place on the mountain today and in the future.

Visit the Wild Sheep Foundation’s website to learn more.

To subscribe to this blog and get many updates about wild sheep and other mountain wildlife, enter your email at the prompt on the top right of the page.

Chester Moore

Bison!

As the sun rose over the Lamar Valley in Yellowstone National Park, the silhouettes of American buffalo (bison) dotted the horizon.

Truly wild bison are a rare commodity and seeing them in person is a powerful experience when considering their nearly extinct status 120 years ago.

While slowly driving through this incredible setting, a couple of beautiful pronghorn caught my attention.

I pulled over to take some photos.

Another gentleman had just stopped to do the same and as we adjusted our lenses, his wife shouted from their truck.

“Bison!”

Does this bison look happy? This is about 30 seconds after he scared the author at nearly point blank range and then attacked a younger bull. (Photo by Chester Moore)

Turning around, we found ourselves nearly eye to eye with a massive bull bison.

And he looked angry.

Really angry.

The whites of his eyes showed as he grunted at the distance of about 15 feet which means we were about 1/2 second away from 1,500 pounds of fury.

We gently backed up and then a couple of other bison that just crossed the road caught his attention.

He immediately ran out and slammed into one of them. The other, younger bull struck back but then ran off leaving the big bull on its own.

He then proceeded to roll in the dirt, grunt and buck up and down like a bronco.

Yes, this was the same bison that walked right up to us a few seconds earlier.

Bison hurt more people in Yellowstone than any other animal and in fact a recent attack on a woman sent her to an emergency trip to an Idaho hospital.

People look at them as large cattle from the dairy farm because they are unafraid of people in the park.

It’s called confidence people, not docility.

As I type this at the Bozeman-Yellowstone International Airport, I can’t help but smile. It’s a memory from an amazing trip where the Lord blessed me with many opportunities to get boots on the ground conservation information.

I will bring it to you here and via the Higher Calling Wildlife podcast.

I’m well aware of bison dangers and in fact avoided fishing what looked to be an incredible spot in the Lamar Valley due to bison presence. Not only were there big bulls but lots of babies there.

Being between a momma bison, a calf and a fishing hole is not a good idea.

Bison babies are super cute but do not approach them. Mom and her herd friends will likely stomp you into a mudhole. (Photo by Chester Moore)

I fished elsewhere and did quite well.

This trip not only brought me information but clarity. Sometimes only being in wild places does that for me.

I’m just glad I’m writing a blog about my bison encounter instead of reading one someone else wrote.

“Wildlife Journalist Attacked By Bison” is not a headline I want to read any time soon.

Chester Moore

Subscribe to this blog by entering your email address at the top right corner of this page. Subscribe to the Higher Calling Wildlife podcast at thehighercalling.podbean.com.

An Evening With The Silver King

The tides at Marathon were moving in with vigor.

As the sun began to set over this beautiful setting in the Florida Keys, a pair of big tarpon surfaced just behind the boat.

With two rods out and rigged with super-sized live mullet, hopes were high one of them would take the bait.

A few minutes passed and the only action was taking in the unseasonably cool, peaceful surroundings.

“Zzzzzzzzz!”

One of the spinning rods doubled over and the drag began to scream.

Tarpon on!

My friend Todd Jurasek grabbed the rod as our guide Capt. Dave Schugar of Sweet E’Nuf Charters coached him on fighting his first “silver king”.

That nickname is used across state lines and international boundaries to describe what many believe is the greatest inland gamefish on the planet.

“I’m used to catching bass and rainbow trout in streams. This is unbelievable,” Jurasek said as he witnessed the five-foot fish do its famous tail walk.

Todd’s tarpon tail walking as Capt. Schugar grabs the leader. (Photo by Chester Moore)

The only thing more incredible about tarpon than their rugged, yet beautiful appearance is their jumping ability. And this fish put on a show.

“Once I grab the leader the fish is caught,” Schugar said, signaling the goal is to get the fish to the boat, snap a photo and release without harm.

Handling an 80-pound tarpon in a boat could get ugly and the goal was to let that fish have a chance at producing more of its kind and thrilling other anglers down the line.

Shortly thereafter we had a false alarm as I hung into a big shark that cut the line.

And just before we left, I hung into a tarpon about the same size as Todd’s that jumped a couple of times before doing what these fish are famous for besides jumping.

It shook its head and disconnected the hook.

The author in reel-down mode on the tarpon he missed. (Photo by Todd Jurasek)

I was bummed but not too much.

All of this action happened in four hours in a short run from the dock that saw us getting a real taste of what seeking this amazing sportfish is like.

My interest in tarpon comes from a childhood encounter.

At Bailey’s Fish Camp in Bridge City, TX longtime owner, the late Rob Bailey told me and my Dad he wanted to show us something.

In a long cooler where he normally kept bait shrimp to sell was a six-foot-long tarpon.

“A guy caught it out at the 18-mile light and wanted me to hold it until he could find a taxidermist to bring it to,” Bailey said.

A wide-eyed young Chester was blown away and vowed that one day he would catch a tarpon like that.

Thankfully we have come a long way in how we view fisheries. Today we can measure a fish, snap a photo and get a replica that looks as good as the real thing done without killing the fish.

Conservation has come a long way since the author saw a massive, dead tarpon at a bait camp freezer in Bridge City, Tx. (Photo by Chester Moore)

And I saw that type of conservation ethic well intact with Capt. Schugar.

I also had tremendous conversations about his love for catching broadbill swordfish in super deep water and experiences catching tuna, marlin and other fish accessible via the Keys.

My time in the Keys was short and my time fighting the big tarpon was even shorter but it made me want more.

A return trip is in the words and I look forward to another evening in pursuit of the silver king.

Trips like that with skilled, ethical guides in tremendous settings seeking even more tremendous fish are the building blocks of fishing dreams.

And in times like these, we need to keep our dream big and in this case with a touch of sliver.

To book a trip with Sweet E’Nuf Charters click here.

To get involved with tarpon conservation, join the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust.

Chester Moore

Introducing Great White University

Me and my wife Lisa (a teacher of 20 years) are proud to announce Great White University.

We’re calling it “The Apex In Youth Ocean Wildlife Education”.

It will involve Zoom teachings, one-on-one interactive classes, home school classes and events and more centered on ocean wildlife education.

It’s for the young and young at heart.

Our first class is June 14-17 and it’s only $20 for four days of 90 minute teachings, lessons and activities each day and more. It’s called Dangerous Wildlife of the Gulf of Mexico and focuses on sharks, rays, barracuda, moray eels, octopus, box jellyfish and all kinds of Gulf dwelling creatures deemed as “dangerous”.

Are they really?

You’ll find out here.

This class costs only $20 and will be limited to only 50 people so book by clicking here now.

This will be the first of what we believe will be cutting-edge ocean wildlife teachings. I’ve been working on this for three years and have a format we believe will work even for kids who don’t like school and adults too. This format is all ages because there is no age limit to a love for ocean wildlife.

The author holding a surf board that was attacked by a great white shark off the coast of California. The board had been pulled behind the boat to entice shark encounters while the author was in the cage. He has had a lifelong fascination with sharks and ocean wildlife and is excited to bring a fun, informative and inspiring program to help others learn about ocean wildlife.

Our friend Sam did something that inspired us. She sent in a payment for two places and said she wanted to pay for two kids in our Wild Wishes program. Wild Wishes grants wildlife encounters to children with a critical illness or loss of a parent or a sibling. We are calling it our scholarship program. To date we’ve granted 120 of these special encounters.

We can only host 50 for this class to make it work with integrity for everyone and we would like to have 10 of our Wild Wishes kids participate. Two more stepped up to scholarship kids before I posted this so we have six spots left for scholarships.

Would you like to scholarship a kid from our Wild Wishes program? You can do it through our pay link here and simply put “scholarship” in the message prompt. If someone wants to pay for the rest of the scholarships it will be $120.

I have been working on this for three years and I am very excited about bringing it to people. It represents three years of special investigations and a lifetime of seeking out ocean wildlife.

I knew this was the right time as I just had the honor of breaking the story of a great white shark appearing in Texas waters. There will be much more coming.

Book now before it’s too late.

Stay tuned for more updates…

Chester Moore

You can subscribe to this blog by entering your email address at the subscribe prompt at the top right of this page. You can contact Chester Moore by emailing chester@chestermoore.com. Subscribe to the podcast by visiting thehighercalling.podbean.com.

Red Wolf Shot-Or Not? A Look Into The Archives

The first article I ever had published as a wildlife journalist was about red wolves and their hybridization with coyotes.

I was 19.

In high school I did a lot of research on red wolves because some of the last ones to live naturally in the wild were just a few miles from my home.

During my early research into the species, my aunt Brenda gave me this clipping from the Orange Leader newspaper dating back to 1986.

It shows a man with what looks very much like a red wolf he shot in Orange County that year. The article says the man “shot an 80-pound timber wolf”.

It’s obviously not a timber (gray) wolf but it has a lot of red wolf characteristics.

The official word was that all of the animals left were “coyotes” or at best wolf/coyote hybrids.

But at the very least this photo shows the red wolf genetic was strong in the area after the extinction declaration.

We now know this to be true as I broke the story on red wolf DNA found in a road-killed canid on Galveston Island, TX in 2018.

I was honored to win a Texas Outdoor Writer’s Association “Excellence In Craft” award for that piece.

You can read it here.

I found this photo searching for some other images and thought you might enjoy seeing this rare image from the past.

Chester Moore

You can subscribe to this blog by entering your email address at the subscribe prompt at the top right of this page. You can contact Chester Moore by emailing chester@chestermoore.com. Subscribe to the podcast by visiting thehighercalling.podbean.com.

Black Bear Kills Feral Hog (Video & detailed Story On Bear Predation)

Black Bear Vs. Boar.

It sounds like a Bad SyFy Network movie that would sit perfectly with Boa Vs. Python and Sharknado but there’s a big difference.

It’s real.

This once-in-a-lifetime video filmed near Gatlinburg, TN by Phillip Talbot of Old Skull Outdoors shows a rare look at black bear predation on an unlikely prey-a feral hog close to its own size.

“As an avid hunter, it’s the craziest thing I’ve ever witnessed,” Talbot said.

Here’s the video courtesy Old Skull Outdoors.

A member Order carnivora, black bears are technically omnivores equally at home eating plant material and meat. Their abilities as actual predators however is highly overlooked.

The USDA’s feralhogs.extension.org information site lists numerous potential hog predators. Their take on bear predation was interesting.

The black bear is known to prey on feral hogs of all ages; however, the impact of predation by this bear on feral hog populations is not known.  Some researchers have speculated that black bears probably kill few if any feral hogs, especially given that an adult hog would represent a formidable adversary for a black bear.  In fact, in the 1920s a feral boar in the Okefenokee Swamp was reported to have killed a black bear in a fight between the two animals.  Similar accounts of feral boars killing bears during fights in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas were reported in the 1880s. 

They continued by noting that being opportunistic, black bears have been reported to raid nylon net live traps used for feral hog control at high elevations in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to obtain any trapped hogs contained within these devices. 

This is an interesting notation because there is evidence in some studies that black bears can become specialists at preying on particular species such as research conducted related to black bear-caribou predation in Newfoundland.

Gatlinburg is the Smoky Mountains region where USDA officials have noted them raiding hog traps. Since this area was one of the first to have large hog populations of feral hogs, have hogs there adapted them as a regular part of their diet?

Other animals are certainly on the black bear’s menu.

A study by researchers Quitana and Tatman probing bear predation on elk showed serious impact on young in certain areas.

The primary cause of death for calves across all years was black bear predation (57 of 140 non-anthropogenic mortalities). Predation was the primary cause of death for juveniles during their first 3 weeks of life, resulting in 84 of 92 non-anthropogenic mortalities. During this time, black bears were the primary predator but coyotes and mountain lions were also predators.

The Billings Gazette reported on an interagency study of elk-calf mortality in the Garnet Mountains of Montana.

Over the five years of the study, 221 calves were captured for monitoring. In that group, 41 deaths were documented. Bears accounted for almost 27 percent of elk calf deaths. Malnutrition and disease were the second-largest threat while mountain lions ranked third, blamed for about 17 percent of elk calf deaths.

The average black bear weighs 300 pounds and that’s bigger than the average feral hog. But there are hogs that grow much bigger than the average black bear. Watching a 500-pound boar and a 500-pound slug it out would be interesting.

We’re glad Talbot was in the right place at the right time and was happy to share his video with the world.

I don’t know what side you’re on in this battle but I say, “Go bear!”

With feral hog populations exploding and causing damage to native wildlife and habitat, it’s good to see something take a bite out of them.

You can subscribe to this blog by entering your email address at the subscribe prompt at the top right of this page. You can contact Chester Moore by emailing chester@chestermoore.com. Subscribe to the podcast by visiting thehighercalling.podbean.com.

Chester Moore

Conservation In Action: Angelina County Eastern Turkey Release

Last Tuesday the beautiful, Eastern turkey jake was in Maine.

On Thursday a box labeled National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) was opened by Sean Willis of the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD).

Out of it, that same young male turkey flew into the forest of Angelina County, TX near Lufkin.

This jake was in Maine two days earlier. Now it’s a citizen fo Texas. (Photo by Chester Moore)

A total of 22 birds, all from Maine, became Texas citizens that day as a long-standing collaboration between TPWD and NWTF met with the Middle Neches Eastern Turkey Cooperative.

“Our Turkey Restoration Co-op, includes a group of seven landowners and consists of approximately 11,000 acres,” said Jay Todd of Core Supply LLC.

“We began our journey for restocking Eastern turkeys back in 2015, when we first put in our application with TPWD.  We ended up not passing our habitat evaluation that year, and knew we had some work to do with regard to improving our habitat.”

Turkeys prefer running over flying as a mean’s of escape but when they come out of the transport boxes they fly-fast! (Photo by Chester Moore)

Over the next four years, the group of landowners worked hard on enhancing habitat for Eastern turkeys.

“Specifically, we increased our usage of prescribed fire, herbicide applications, and row thinnings, and created more permanent openings throughout the entire landscape. Then, once we re-applied in 2019, our efforts were rewarded when TPWD’s Turkey Program Leader Jason Hardin let us know that we had passed.”

“It’s a dream come true for our landowners, and we know the work has only just begun. Now, we have to continue building upon our habitat improvements and trying to control predator populations as best we can in order for these birds to have the best chance at long term reproductive success. A special thanks also goes out to the Vines, Kenley, Loggins and Todd families, and Don Dietz with Forest Resource Consultants, Inc.,” Todd said.

Among the project partners, NWTF holds a unique position.

“NWTF holds an agreement with Delta Cargo. The Texas State Chapter of NWTF reimburses NWTF National office for the fees associated with shipping birds by air,” said NWTF biologist Annie Farrell.

“The Texas State Chapter also assists with funding for disease testing and reimbursing TPWD staff who travel out of state to collect and haul the birds (not this year though. All birds came in via air). NWTF also provides transport boxes to whichever states are trapping for Texas, free of cost.”

Sean Willis of TPWD releases a hen into Angelina County, TX. (Photo by Chester Moore)

NWTF also holds an agreement with TPWD and other separate agreements with the other state agencies that are sending birds. Through those agreements, trap states are able to be “paid” for the turkeys.

“TPWD reimburses NWTF and NWTF holds the turkey replacement funds for state specific reimbursements. Trap states can submit a turkey replacement form to NWTF to make purchases on their behalf,” Farrell said.

TPWD under the leadership of Hardin have created “super stockings” of turkeys with a minimum of 80 birds stocked in a location with a male/female ratio that allows for optimal population expansion.

Sites in Titus and Franklin County are nearing their “super stocking” goals and new areas are under consideration after careful scientific evaluation.

The tracks of a big gobbler are an exciting sight for east Texas hunters. Eastern turkey restoration has allowed hunting in numerous Pineywoods Counties. (Photo by Chester Moore)

Turkeys are a key indicator of forest health.

This wildlife journalist believes as turkeys go, so do America’s forests. Seeing eastern turkeys return to the Pineywoods and expand their numbers thanks to the cooperation that helped make the Angelina County release possible is inspiring.

It’s all about people stepping up to make a difference for wildlife and the legacy they create for conservation.

“We lost the patriarch of our cooperative this past year, when Mr. Simon W. “Bubba” Henderson III passed away after his long bout with cancer,” Todd said.

“The Henderson family are the owners of the Pine Island Hunting & Fishing Club, where our birds were released, and we know he was looking down upon us today with a big smile on his face.”

You can subscribe to this blog by entering your email address at the subscribe prompt at the top right of this page. You can contact Chester Moore by emailing chester@chestermoore.com. Subscribe to the podcast by visiting thehighercalling.podbean.com.

Chester Moore

The Future Of Conservation Journalism

This is your chance to invest in conservation journalism and to be an extension of this blog.

I am a wildlife journalist/outdoor writer with a heart and proven track record for conservation coverage.

Investigating the most in-depth part of conservation requires being on location and when you see stories here of me in the Rockies, on the Lower coast of Texas or in Florida no one paid my expenses.

That was all on me.

A common misconception is that all of this is underwritten by media companies but that’s not the way it is.

It’s getting tougher and tougher with prices of everything rising so I am trying to get others to invest in conservation through helping with my travel expenses for the first half of 2021.

You can donate here through Gofundme.

The money will be used for airfare, hotel and rental car (when needed). I have trips to Arizona for Gould’s turkey, jaguar and wild sheep lined out and Florida for a variety of coastal issues.

Some of the particular aspects of these issues literally no one is working on so we’re breaking ground and trying to raise aware awareness for the betterment of the resource.

Any help is appreciated. If you don’t know who I am and what links I have to conservation here are some of my awards

Any donation is appreciated. Click here to donate.

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“Advocatus Magni Award” from the National Wild Turkey Federation-TX (2020)

“Mossy Oak Outdoors Legacy Award” Texas Outdoor Writer’s Association (2017)

“Conservationist of the Year” from Texas Soil & Conservation District (2013)

“Hero Of Conservation” Field & Stream Magazine (2006)

“Conservation Communicator Of The Year” Sportsman’s Conservationist of Texas (1994)

“Youth Conservation of the Year” Sportsman’s Conservationist Of The Year (1993)

In addition I have won more than 150 awards for writing, photography and radio from a variety of organizations including 10 awards in 2021 by the Texas Outdoor Writer’s Association.

By God’s grace and a deep passion He put in me I have been able to do this. With your help I can continue.

Sincerely,

Chester Moore

You can subscribe to this blog by entering your email address at the subscribe prompt at the top right of this page. You can contact Chester Moore by emailing chester@chestermoore.com. Subscribe to the podcast by visiting thehighercalling.podbean.com.

The Inspirational Voice Of Wildlife Conservation