When most people in the Houston area think about the Addicks and Barker Reservoirs, they usually think about the water they store. What they don't realize is the reservoirs also provide recreational benefits and habitat for wildlife.
Whitetail deer take advantage of the protected area of more than 26,000 acres which are closed to public hunting.
For the last five years, USACE Galveston District (SWG) has partnered with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department game wardens and the non-profit Lone Star Warriors Outdoors (LSWO) to offer combat veterans the chance to assist USACE in managing the deer population at the reservoirs.
“Being in the city limits of Houston and with most land leased out to Harris County or the City of Houston, we do not allow hunting of any kind on the project outside of this event,” said Zach Stafford, SWG park ranger.
Because the hunt took place inside city limits, shotguns were the weapon of choice. Shotgun slugs travel much shorter distances than rifle rounds, Stafford said. Game wardens assisted the hunters in zeroing shotguns at the Katy, Texas Police Department before the hunt.
Veterans also had the unique opportunity to hunt next to a Texas game warden in a camouflage tent deer blind. Wardens helped veterans identify legal whitetail prior to taking a shot.
“This event also helps strengthen our partnership with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department game wardens who serve as guides for the veterans during the hunt,” Stafford said.
Feral hogs are also present at the reservoirs pose a great risk to the native ecosystems, people and the dams, Stafford said. The hunters are required to take out any feral hogs that they see while in their blinds.
Our primary mission is flood risk mitigation,” Stafford said. “Our secondary mission is managing and protecting cultural and natural resources. This mission ties into the proper management of the deer population of Addicks and Barker, which is why we do this hunt.”
Stafford, a former U.S. Army infantryman, also said he appreciated the chance to assist fellow veterans on their hunt in the unique environment of the Addicks and Barker Reservoirs.
“This event serves as a great opportunity to give back to those who gave so much,” Stafford said. “Being in nature serves as a great way to disconnect and reset for a lot of us.”
When they weren’t hunting deer, the veterans had plenty of time to get to know one another, which is the primary goal for LSWO, the non-profit which co-sponsored the event.
“The whole point of this is to take combat-injured veterans hunting and fishing,” said Chris Gill, LSWO, president and founder. “We want to get them out on a minimum of two days and three nights and get the camaraderie like we had in the military ... we want to get these guys to a point where they have a whole new group of people they can text at any point in time, they can call at any point in time to help them out in these hard times.”
LSWO invited three combat-injured veterans to participate in the hunt, all from Texas.
LSWO made the arrangements for this year’s veterans to stay near the Addicks Reservoir.
“We provide the food, and basically spend a lot of time cooking out here. We make sure the schedule runs right,” Gill said.
Gill expressed his thanks for the part USACE played in this hunt and another.
“Thank you to the Corps of Engineers for working with us whether it be the deer hunt, or the alligator hunt we do at the Wallisville Lake Project,” Gill said. “That’s just not an opportunity a lot of people get. It’s an amazing thing, an amazing opportunity, and I just can’t thank you enough.”
Anthony Robinson, former Air Force pararescue specialist from Houston, was the first hunter to take a deer on this year’s hunt at Addicks Reservoir.
“We pretty much pulled up there, got in the stand about 4:30 (p.m.). We scared two pretty good doe(s) off when we walked up there,” Robinson said. “About five o’clock the feeder went off and five minutes later a deer walked out of the woods.”
Robinson said, it was a very memorable experience.
To learn more about LSWO, visit https://lonestarwarriorsoutdoors.org/.
Authorized by the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1938, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) designed Addicks and Barker Reservoirs to reduce flood damage along Buffalo Bayou which flows through Houston.
Addicks and Barker Reservoirs are located approximately 17 miles west of downtown Houston, in the San Jacinto River basin.
Addicks and Barker Reservoirs are governed by federal law (Title 36, CHAPTER III, PART 327). These are rules and regulations that govern public use of water resource development projects administered by the USACE, Chief of Engineers.
The following rules cited below are partial, but specifically apply to users of this project (Addicks and Barker Reservoirs). A brochure containing the complete list of rules and regulations may be obtained from the Addicks Project Office (281-497-0740).
The operation of any vehicle off established roadways is prohibited.
Hunting is prohibited unless authorized by the Galveston District commander.
Trapping is prohibited unless under special permit issued by the Addicks Field Office.
Fishing is authorized throughout the project, except in restricted areas such as active construction sides or immediately adjacent to the upstream water control structures.
Possession of loaded firearms, ammunition, projectile firing devices, bows and arrows, and explosives of any kind is prohibited unless authorized by the Galveston District commander.
Disposal of garbage, trash, rubbish, litter or waste material is prohibited.
Destruction, injury, defacement, or removal of public property, including natural features, historical, and archeological features, and vegetation is prohibited.
Camping is prohibited.
Fires are permitted, only if they are situated in developed campsite or picnic site areas and must be confined to grills and fireplaces.
A complete list of rules is available at the Addicks Field Office, 409-621-6990.