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Posts published in “Columnists – Outdoors”

Hunting grows in cost

“The cost of hunting is forcing more people to quit doing something they love to do and it seems there is nothing that can be done about it,” according to a friend of mine. As we sipped on our coffee this statement would set the tone for our day.

We were enjoying a postdeer season hunt for exotic animals. Exotics are those animals that are not native to our land. Typically, the most common exotics are axis deer, fallow deer, mouflon sheep and black buck antelope. Average cost of hunting these animals range from $1,500 to $2,500 each depending upon length of hunt, accommodations and other variables. Hunting exotic animals helps extend our hunting season to be year round. The dollars that are generated by hunting all kinds of animals helps landowners pay their bills and ultimately helps assure that the property remains undeveloped.

Far too many times landowners have been forced into selling their property because they simply could not make a living off traditional live stock. Many times when these properties sell, it spells doom for all wildlife as development of subdivisions, golf courses and so on destroys the natural habitat. So the way I see it, hunting exotics has been a real blessing for Texas landowners.

But what about the cost? After giving consideration to the statement that started the column, I was determined to find another way to still enjoy my hunt, take some great animals and do it all at a fraction of the list price. Most whitetail deer hunters know that the cost of a trophy and a management buck vary tremendously. The only difference between these two categories of bucks is the size of their antlers. Both bucks are usually mature in age, taste equally as good and are just as challenging to hunt. The hunting experience is just as enjoyable regardless of the size of antlers.

At daylight I spotted a band of mouflon rams about 70 yards away. All of them were old but one of them was limping badly. His front leg was swollen and he slowly followed along trying to keep up with the other rams. At 35 yards I sent an arrow his way and in seconds he was down. Cost was $500. Not bad, considering the other rams were $1,500.00 each.

Sitting by a waterhole around mid-day a group of Catalina goats came to drink. The big billy was in the rear and had only one horn. The other had been broken off about 2″ above his skull. A 20-yard shot put this bargain priced exotic on the ground. Cost $150.00 compared to $750.00 if he had both horns.

As the sun set, a group of fallow deer came into the food plot and within 30 yards of my Double Bull blind. I selected an old doe, shot and watched as she came to rest. Minutes later the others were back within range and I took another old doe. Cost $75.00 each compared to $1,500.00 or more for a fallow buck.

It had been a great day and I accomplished what I came for. I enjoyed the hunt and will enjoy the memories for years to come. Most of all I realized that there are more landowners with bargain priced hunts than I had ever imagined. Next time you are looking for a hunting bargain, consider hunting management exotics.

For questions or comments, contact Keith at

Going after croakers

Ask any serious speckled trout angler what’s the all around best bait for trophy trout and they’ll answer “live croaker”. This small bait fish is a natural enemy of the speckled trout. It preys on speckled trout eggs.

Croaker looks similar to a small redfish (without the spot). They are available at bait stands along the coast on a daily basis. Shrimpers bring the croakers in each day and sell them as part of their bycatch. The problem is finding them.

Because they are so effective at catching big trout, most guides establish a relationship with bait stand owners. I know of many anglers who have to get to bait stands at 2:00 a.m. to get their croaker. The guides usually show up at 4:00 a.m. Certainly arrangements need to be made with a bait stand well in advance to get your bait.

I fish with croaker a half dozen times each year. Most recently my guide, Captain Bill Sheka, Jr. took me to Baffin Bay where we landed over 100 trout up to 28 1/2 inches long in only five hours!

Sheka’s technique is to fish Baffin’s rock piles (which are now visible) with bright sun and a good set of sunglasses. Simply hook the croaker above the anal fin in the line on the side of the fish, using a specialty Mustad croaker hook. The hook is tied directly to 14 lb. test Fireline. This is a new, no stretch super line that’s perfect for croaker fishing. Use no weight. It will cause the croaker to get hung on the rocks.

The more alive they are, the better. You want them working on the end of your line. Make long casts to the rocks. Allow the croaker to swim freely, then slightly pump the rod, forcing the croaker to have to swim. This will also force the bait to emit a croaking noise that will attract trout. Don’t give the croaker too much slack because it will swim into the rocks and get hung up.

Rod position is a key. Keep the rod tip from the 10:00 – 12:00 position with the reel engaged. When a trout takes the bait, drop the rod top and simply set the hook. There is no need to allow the fish to swallow the croaker, as with monofilament line. Remember, Fireline has no stretch!

Many saltwater anglers believe using croaker for trout kills too many fish. It does kill some if they are allowed to swallow the bait. So use Fireline and make quick locksets. You’ll hook them in the side of the mouth 90% of the time.

Things to remember:

1) Make arrangements early with bait stands for bait.

2) Avoid throwing dead croaker in water. They’ll attract seagulls, which will take your good croaker before it gets under the surface.

3) Keep croaker lively in a good aerated bait well.

4) Prior to casting, hold croaker tightly in hand and shake vigorously. It’ll make it croak more.

5) When croaker become weak, try hooking two on the same hook.

If you’ve never caught a trophy trout, you need to try live croaker. It’ll make a believer out of you!

Catch the Texas Angler locally on or check your local listings for show times. You can also watch Keith Warren on Fox Sports Southwest on Sunday mornings at 8:30 a.m. You can reach the Texas Angler at P. O. 3I0601, New Braunfels, Texas 78131-0601, or visit us online at