By Craig Nyhus
Lone Star Outdoor News
Photo of Earl Calhoun by David J. Sams
Portions of Culberson County, including the portion containing the Delaware Mountain Ranch, were included in the mandatory CWD Surveillance Zone this season.
Getting a mule deer to the check station from the ranch is another story.
“It’s a minimum of 2 ½ hours to get to the closest check station in Van Horn,” said part owner Earl Calhoun. “So that’s a minimum 5-hour trip.”
Before the season, Calhoun was concerned for his hunters and decided to get trained to take samples himself.
“This has been a very invasive regulation they put into play,” Calhoun said. “I don’t think they put much thought into it. Most of the hunters come in groups — but it’s incumbent on the hunter to get the deer tested within 24 hours. If a guy killed a deer yesterday, he wants to help his buddies the next day.”
Calhoun, with a lot of help, got his certification shortly before the season began.
“I called the Texas Animal Health Commission and told switchboard operator my plight,” he said. “The operator referred me to Dr. Susan Culp, who called me a few days before I left town.”
Culp called a veterinarian, Bob Dittmar, now Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s state veterinarian, who met Calhoun in Kerrville and trained and certified him.
“Susan also called Shawn Gray (TPWD’s mule deer and pronghorn leader),” Calhoun said. “He came to Van Horn from Alpine to deliver the items needed to do the testing. He went out of his way to help me, it saved me a trip that was 100 miles out of my way — they did a great job of getting me certified.”
Calhoun said he knows of two other ranches in the area that received similar certifications to avoid the long drives to the check station.
“I try to maximize the hunters’ experience,” he said. “Any time someone is way out here, there is someone at home pressuring them to come back. I chose to do this to make it as easy as I could on my hunters.”
Calhoun was critical of the line passing through the county that included his ranch, but left out other ranches in the county.
“If they take any part of one county, they should take the whole county, not just an arbitrary line,” he said.
Although critical of the hardship of the surveillance, Calhoun was quick to compliment the agency and its employees.
“It’s my experience that TPWD is the best agency in the western states — they do the best job,” he said. “But, this deal has caused a hardship on the hunter, number one, and to a lesser extent, the rancher. The bottom line is it’s hard to do my other duties, I had to hire additional help.”
Calhoun said one group of three hunters called to cancel their hunt once learning of the regulations.
“I talked them out of it, though and they came and had a good time. But, if it continues, the hunters will just go to New Mexico,” he said. “It will impact the ranches and the little towns around here.
“My hope is this year we get enough samples that it’s a one-and-done proposition.”