I hope this message reaches you in good spirits as we all wrestle with a case of cabin fever. Denise and I are airing on the side of caution while we enjoy our daughter being home. Regrettably, her final senior semester at Auburn University was completed online but we are proud parents.
I deeply appreciate all the calls and text messages over the last few months. Yes, it is quite the honor and pleasure to serve as the Houston Chapter President, and newly minted Director-at-Large for Safari Club International. Yes, we continue to stay focused on our mission because now more than ever wildlife needs our unwavering support. Yes, it is HOT in Texas! These are just a few of the questions I am asked consistently. Even during these bizarre times, the organization continues to focus on our mission to serve our membership and our conservation goals. The multitude of challenges have been historical in nature, but I am a true believer that the Houston Chapter and SCI will come out the other side sharper and even stronger. The scourge known as covid-19, economy shifts, multiple event cancellations, hunt postponements, social ailments, the congressional bill known as the Cecil Act and political posturing from every corner are enough to make lesser organizations cower in the corner. The year 2020 will surely be one for the history books, and that final chapter cannot close soon enough.
There is also good news. The latest legislation signed by President Trump known as the “Great American Outdoors Act” is now the law of the land. This law supports conservation and extends recreational opportunities for all. It will be key in protecting our hunting heritage well beyond our days afield. It was great that SCI was present for the historical signing of the law. In addition, the SCI Houston Chapter has an outstanding Board of Directors that have agreed to continue planning our calendar events as we navigate rocky shores at low tide. We want to be proactive not reactive as opportunities to have an impact still exist. Our 2020 annual banquet had to be cancelled due to social distancing guidelines but we look forward to having an online auction in the next few weeks to help support the conservation mission, stay tuned! This years Christmas celebration generously hosted by Craig Phillips is still on the calendar as we hope for some smooth sailing by December. Yes, we are always optimistic at the Houston Chapter. In closing, I hope you enjoy this new digital newsletter as we believed this was a good time to change formats, and as always we look forward to your feedback.
Here to Serve,
Oscar D. Taylor,
Our Missions Challenge
Kirk Waldron – Missions Chair
As we wrestle with the uncertain directions of normal life with the Pandemic, the Chapter maintains its focus on our core principal of using our funds and efforts to assist the most deserving people, places, and causes.
Our Missions spending and concentration is directed towards three main categories; Humanitarian, Conservation, and Education. We have supplied funding for countless causes and associations. Here are some of the most notable ones we have funded in the past.
We have helped to fund a really important group called Hunt with Heart who take young hunters with serious heart problems hunting on private property. They select their candidates from a list selected by Texas Children’s Hospital doctors. A helicopter is always available to fly to the ranch to pick up children for whom a heart transplant donor has been located.
We supply clothing and guiding for young disadvantaged youth at Operation Orphans in Mason, Texas. Both girls and boys are able to hunt and fish at area ranches free of charge. We routinely donate several hundred pounds of venison to the Star of Hope Mission in Houston and help serve the meal prepared from that.
Supplying funding for Wounded Warrior Hunts is also a high priority for the chapter. One of the most gratifying hunts takes place in January at the Sinor Ranch in Three Rivers, Texas, which is sponsored by owners Keith and Rae Sinor. Deserving wounded warrior military are treated to a weekend of deer hunting, good food and camaraderie. They are all able to harvest a deer to take home and fees for the taxidermy for their mount is also provided. Many of those soldiers come from Ft. Campbell in Kentucky and are members of the 160th SOAR.
We also sponsor the Rifa Camp school in Zimbabwe which is an arm of the Zimbabwe Professional Hunters Association. Young students travel from cities to the school where they are taught about the importance of conserving the wildlife in their country. The hope is that some of those students will rise to positions of importance that will allow them to influence the future of conservation of both the habitat and wildlife of Zimbabwe. We have helped fund this school for over a decade.
We sponsor many anti-poaching efforts in both Texas and Africa. We fund the efforts of rangers at the Chiredzi River African Wildlife Trust to combat the slaughter of Elephants in the Southeast Zimbabwe Loveld.
We also fund the efforts of Chawalo Safaris in Mozambique to protect the animals in their area. In concert with that effort we have funded several construction projects in the village of Zumbo including piping to carry river water to their central area and drilling of wells to supply drinkers. We have funded the construction of the first medical facility in the area. We help fund the Operation Game Thief billboards and Wall of Shame exhibition trailer.
We send students to the SCI AWLS Camp in Jackson, WY where educators are given a week long class in the outdoors and are instructed about how to teach the conservation of both wildlife and habitat in their classes at home.
There are six weeklong sessions over the summer and one of those accepts young students who are interested in a career in wildlife protection. We have also funded the AWLS Cabin Replacement Project which rebuilds the aging cabins at the camp. We have funded CWD research at Texas Tech University and sent students from the Texas A & M Veterinary School to Africa to study the indigenous animals that also populate the Hill Country area of Texas. We have funded a student from the Texas A & M Entomology Department to study in field programs about how to identify and eradicate insects that plague deer in Texas.
Scott Garrett – Membership Chairman
Well guys membership is holding steady with the current situation there has not been many opportunities to have functions to gain membership
We are all so it seems in a holding pattern keeping our distance from folks isolating. With that said, I do have a date with a Tarpon, August 8th on my birthday out of Galveston.
Our membership project with PHASA has been put on hold due to not enough manpower in Tucson. That will be close to 1000 new Houston Chapter members once completed.
In the meantime you can help our growth with gifting a membership to a hunting buddy for a birthday present or for Christmas, heck give one for Ground Hog Day! Just consider doing that once or more a year to continue/help growth.
We are still SCI’s largest chapter and hope to keep that distinction!
Hunts, Lies, and Beer Talk
Kent Robinson – Past Chapter President/Current Director SCI Houston Chapter
Proprietor- Texafari Outdoors
My goodness, it has been years since I last penned my old column ” Hunts, Lies, and Video Tape” for our SCI Houston newsletter. I had such a wonderful time doing that project. I hope this new attempt will bring me a similar appreciation and that it will serve its purpose to both entertain and inform our members.
I recently used this ” COVID Shutdown” as a time to return to my old dear camp of 18 years after a short, four year sabbatical in Junction with fellow chapter member, Brad Bull. Those years were fantastic and we made many wonderful memories hunting in the majestic hill country parallel to the South Llano River. That 4200 acres had a good, healthy deer herd that produced some great deer with a few reaching the 150 class. We enjoyed seeing free-ranging aoudad, axis, sika, blackbuck, hogs, and turkey. We even had a mountain lion sighting! You just never knew what game might appear on your game cam or while hunting.
Going back to “The Garden of Eden” in Concho County has actually been quite refreshing. I left many good friends there and had become good friends with several ranchers in the area. Last year was a rejuvenation of spirit for me hunting a new area and seeing so many new deer! It’s what the doctor ordered for me!
This article today is my attempt to give you an update on several operators in Texas and a couple in Africa on their status during these most challenging times. This is not by any means all-inclusive but rather a snapshot of information on what I have learned from my outfitters that I represent.
South African operations have been hit extremely hard as have most other African Hunting concessions and operators. Some local hunting has been allowed, as have meat hunts and culling. All American hunts and travel have been postponed or canceled due to COVID, by South Africa. My two operations, Numzaan in the Limpopo region and Mt. Carmel in the Kimberly region have had opportunities to continue to take animals for the local meat markets but that is not a sustainable practice for the long term. The hope naturally is to move all 2020 bookings to 2021 and to also have new bookings. The shut-down of USA hunting shows has made it difficult for outfitters to promote their operations in the states. Many may be in limbo for 2021. Let’s hope not. I will do what I can to help them. Fortunately, SCI, DSC, HSC, and a few other shows were able to function successfully prior to the March outbreak. The Hunter’s Extravaganza (Texas Trophy Hunter’s Show), SCI Houston Chapter Banquet/Show, and others have been canceled or postponed.
The misfortune for international travel has brought limited fortune to Texas operators and ranchers barring any unforeseen changes. I’ve talked to ranchers and operators from the hill country to south Texas and most are seeing a surge in spring-summer exotic hunting. I spoke with Houston Erskine of the Record Buck ranch out of Utopia – and hunts are up as are fall bookings. Roy Dale Leifester of the Lucky 7 in Concho County, has experienced similar activity. L and L Adventures in Wimberley also have experienced similar activity. Early on bookings may have been stymied but recently more exotic hunts have been booked. Cabin fever has set in and hunters that may have normally hunted Africa or elsewhere during the summer have gone back to Texas hunting as an excellent option. Jay Wrobliski ( Chapter member) of the SOS Ranch in South Texas has also shared similar sentiments. All these ranches make sure that they have a thorough sanitation process in place, practice social distancing, and limit party participation. Hunting Texas is a great way to practice social distancing and to get out in the healthy outdoors.
The best way we hunters can help is to hunt and support those that have supported us. All of the above-mentioned outfitters and or ranchers have supported this chapter in some form or fashion over the years.
I have used this COVID time to do some deer camp work and to cull an axis doe or two while hunting with a friend and chapter supporter, Scott Blankenship, in Rocksprings. Now that is a perfect way to practice social distancing and to put some great protein for the body and soul on the table!
Till next time- Keep the beer cold for after the hunt, stay healthy, and keep booking those hunts.
Past & Upcoming Events
Michael O’Day – Events Chairman
Well, going back to the beginning of the year seems to only be just yesterday. The Chapter had just held our Outfitters night, and everyone was getting ready and thinking about our upcoming Annual Fundraiser along with outdoor events such as a Shark Fishing tournament.
Due to the COVID-19 epidemic that’s been going on throughout the United States and the rest of the World, SCI-Houston, like so many other chapters, has postponed our annual fundraiser along with any future events. The upside to this is in September we will hold an online auction offering a great list of items. Timeline, links, along with the list of items will be viewable on our website. We will also send out updates to all via email, social media such as our Facebook page and twitter.
As we work through this epidemic, the Chapter will be looking to hold future events for our members and friends. We are continuing to think of new and exciting events to hold, but want to ensure the safety of everyone. Stay tuned for any up-to-date events and chapter news on our website
James Jeffrey – Lost Horizon Outfitters
2020 has been a tough year for our friends and outfitters, but 2021 is already shaping up to be a phenomenal year. With little pressure and harvest on game animals this season, next year should be one for the record books and with outfitters working to get traveling sportsmen and women back in the field it will be a great year for pocketbooks as well.
New Zealand has always been a great destination for hospitality and great hunting. The country has fared the COVID crisis well and will be back open for hunters in the near future. Our outfitters there are reporting great weather and some tremendous Stag, Chamois and Tahr across the country.
Namibia is one of the jewels of Southern Africa and been my top choice for Leopard for the past few years. 2021 should be fantastic. My outfitter there has been reporting some big cats on cattle kills, farmers, and ranchers alike will be looking forward to the reopening in 2021. There may be a few tags available for the 2020 season for those looking for some exceptional deals.
Argentina has been a spot overlooked the past few years, but from reports, both the bird population and big game numbers are up. Fairweather across South America have really increased numbers. My outfitter in Northern Argentina says his duck populations have nearly tripled over the past few seasons as well as their dove numbers are once again on the rise. In la Pampa province, the water buffalo and blackbuck this year and 2021 should prove to be no different.