Friday, November 9, 2012

Rural Rules

Texas Hill Country - We'll Keep the Light On For Ya...
In my corner of the world, most hunting (especially for whitetails) opportunities are procured through the purchase of a hunting lease. There are some public hunting opportunities in Texas, but not many.   Texas is home to over 142 million acres of private farms, ranches and forestlands, accounting for around 95% of the land in Texas according to the Texas Land Conservancy.

The lease approach has advantages and drawbacks. One drawback (or opportunity, if you are a glass half full kind of person) is the culture clash.

Most hunters participating on leases hail from cities and suburbs. They may be entering rural culture for the first time. They probably didn't grow up on a farm or ranch, and don't understand the customs and courtesies once common when we were largely an agrarian society.

This lack of understanding can lead to an angry rancher giving a hunter the boot off his property, reducing the possibility of future hunters being able to access the land.

Things considered common sense to a rancher may never enter the thoughts of a suburbanite on a working ranch for the first time.

So I wanted to drop a few rural guidelines/rules out here, and hopefully get y'all to contribute as well. My grandparents were farmers, and I spent a lot of time on their farm, but I didn't live there. I don;t claim to be an expert on this topic. Here are some of the rules I am aware of. I would ask that you chime in with yours.

One method of rural greeting....
(1) The finger wave  ;-) - there are a lot of cultural nuances to this one, so your results may vary. Essentially I believe that in order to be taken seriously, the finger wave should only be initiated when driving a pickup (but that's just me).  It's ok to finger wave at a non-pickup, but if you are a male, I would refrain from waving until you are sure the other driver is also male. It seems that ladies don't often partake in this form of rural greeting across gender lines...or maybe just not with me ;-)

Close it behind you...any questions?

(2) Gate courtesy - While rule #1 might be a little tongue in cheek, this one is very serious. The golden rule on gates is leave 'em like you found 'em. Often we have to pass through several gates to get to our stand. If the gate is open, leave it open when you pass. If it is closed and you need to pass through, close it behind you. Letting a ranchers goats get into the oat field when he doesn't want them there could cause you to lose your lease privileges, or at least get a dressing down you would rather avoid.

(3) Leave the ranch animals alone. Don't chase, feed, or try to pet them. They are not pets, they represent the rancher's livelihood. And they might just kick the stuffing out of you.

(4) Trash - pack it out. Pick up any you find that isn't yours and dispose of it. That includes spent shells.

(5) If you don't know, ask. Asking the rancher if the field too muddy to drive your truck in to recover that deer might save you from being unceremoniously pulled out by tractor and escorted off the ranch with a demand to reimburse the owner for crop damage you caused.  

(6) Off road driving. Again, ask if you want to drive off established roads. In the hill country of Texas the soils can be thin and driving off into a pasture once can put scars on the land that will take years to heal. Ask what the ranchers rules are and abide by them.

So those are a few I can think of...what are yours?


Jay said...

Regarding rule #1: In the true South (I know a lot of time TX gets lumped into "the South," but I think TX is TX.), we do what I call the "country courtesy wave." I agree with all your guidelines there, but we do more of a 4 finger wave while the thumb stays attached to the wheel. I would hate four the wrong country boy to mistake which single finger he was just recognized with.
Just some thoughts from someone who spent his whole life in TN, MS, and AL.

Mark said...

Thanks for visiting Jay - I spent several growing up years in Chattanooga, Montgomery, and the hinterlands of Ky, so I hear ya. My grandparents area of Iowa also use the single finger wave, hand on the steering wheel, so I say when in Rome...or Texas ;-). I tend to reciprocate with the same type the wave extended to me, unless I am tuning the radio, then I do the "chin lift" as a return salute ;-)
Its also a little subjective about what roads and how far out of town you need to be before beginning to wave. I try to err on the side of friendly.