The unique thing about flying surveys over Texas rangeland is the rich diversity of wildlife that shows up.
Story and Photography by Bob Zaiglin
As the South Texas horizon erupts into a brilliant orange glow, my mind races as I begin to anticipate what caliber of bucks I will see over the next few hours while I glide comfortably over the thorn scrub in the front seat of a helicopter piloted by a friend of many years, Dusty Holt. It’s mid-October, and the peak of my activity as a wildlife biologist flying three to four ranches a week, attempting to come up with an estimate of deer inhabiting them.
Conducting an aerial game survey for most landowners is one of their annual highlights, but for a biologist, the helicopter is simply another technique in their repertoire of management tools that facilitates a unique numeric image of a deer herd. It’s also a job, particularly if a substantial amount of one’s time is spent conducting such surveys. This is particularly true when excessively high temperatures occur reducing deer movement and the cockpit heats up as the windshield intensifies the sun’s bright rays like a magnifying glass.