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North Texas Buckskin Brigade Cadets Hit the Trail at Stasney’s Cook Ranch

North Texas Buckskin Brigade Cadets Hit the Trail at Stasney�s Cook Ranch

Story by Randy Henry

The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) joined top conservation professionals at the 2011 North Texas Buckskin Brigade camp held in July at Stasney�s Cook Ranch in Albany, Texas. The 25,000-acre historic working cattle ranch was founded in the late-1800s, and is a hunting and nature retreat in north-central Texas.

The North Texas Buckskin Brigade camp is one of four within the Texas Brigade�s annual camp schedule for students ranging in age from 13-17. Enrollment is limited to 20-30 students per camp. The students acquire an array of skills and knowledge, including biology, habitat management, ecology, botany, water resources and watersheds, journalism, firearm safety, fishing, media interview skills, critical-thinking and team building, along with leadership training.

�The camps are designed to help students develop leadership skills and natural resources conservation knowledge,� said Dale Rollins, Ph.D., Texas AgriLife Extension Service wildlife specialist in San Angelo and the camp�s founder. �The camps help the students learn life skills, including critical-thinking and team building, as well as classroom and outdoor activities that focus on a particular species of wildlife.�

NRCS has teamed up with wildlife and conservation professionals at the brigade camps each year to teach the cadets hands-on skills and experience. The North Texas Buckskin Brigade that was started in 2000 to study white-tailed deer management and habitat.

Other brigade camps have been started since 1993, including the Bobwhite Brigade (1993), Bass Brigade (2004) and Feathered Forces (1995), which all specialize in certain wildlife species.

�NRCS employees participated in all the camps giving positive exposure to those cadets and their parents about what NRCS does as an agency, and what we do for conservation of natural resources,� Linex said.

�The students take away valuable lessons from these camps, even if they do not develop a career in conservation, so they�re geared up to serve as leaders in their schools and communities,� Linex added.

Along with Linex, NRCS personnel who worked with the cadets included Tyson Hart, NRCS rangeland management specialist in Nacogdoches; Cristela Gonzalez, NRCS rangeland management specialist in Baird; Justin Trimble, NRCS rangeland management specialist in Graham; and Kimberly Burr, NRCS soil conservationist in Albany.

The camps are a partnership effort of the Texas AgriLife Extension Service, Texas Wildlife Association, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), NRCS, several universities, conservation groups, local soil and water conservation districts, private businesses, and individuals with an interest in wildlife and youth leadership development.

Antler Scoring System Mock Media Interview
During the Antler Scoring Systems technique class, Raymond Sims, center, district wildlife biologist for TPWD in Graham, shows a brigade cadet how to measure the inside spread of the main beams of the antlers to achieve a correct score. Dr. Bill Eikenhorst, top left, doctor of veterinary medicine in Brenham, and Ty Bertoskewitz, bottom left, manager at the MT7 Ranch in Breckenridge, works with two brigade cadets during a mock media interview while taping the session for critique by the camp cadets.
Deer Net Gun Cadets in Class
At the deer techniques session, Jesse Oetgen, right, technical guidance biologist for TPWD in Weatherford, instructs a cadet about safety measures while training on how to use a deer net gun either on the ground or from the air in a helicopter. The 2011 North Texas Buckskin Brigade class had 30 cadets enrolled in the educational camp that targets natural resources conservation and leadership skills.