WSI ENewsletter April 21, 2020

COVID-19: Challenges and Silver Linings
Musings from a Professional Javelina Skinner
We left for Belize on March 7, excited about our family vacation that included my wife, son, daughter-in-law, daughter and her boyfriend, and me. In my wildest dreams, I would have never imagined that things would be so different by the time we arrived back home on the eve of the 13 th . And by late afternoon on that next Monday, the 16 th , it had become apparent that Americans were on the front-edge of being dealt circumstances that are in some ways unprecedented in this country. Massive business closures, travel restrictions, executive orders, social-distancing expectations, complete fixation from the media, uncertainty of human health/safety, cancellation of most public events, layoffs and furloughs, and an American public that has been shackled like never. To compound the impacts of this global pandemic, we are also experiencing a colossal collapse in the oil and gas industry that interestingly took place almost simultaneously to the C-19 hit on the US. Our American financial economy went from being as strong as ever, to falling into a state of shambles in a matter of a few weeks.

So, what does all of this mean at the end of the day? I will not pretend to have a crystal ball and the scope and enormity of the entire ripple-effect of this C-19 crisis is well beyond my gray matter capacity, but I will share some concise thoughts regarding how this will likely impact hunters, hunting, and our conservation world.

From a business standpoint, the hunting world has been and will continue to be rocked in immeasurable proportions. The current international travel restrictions have fallen during a time when destinations like Africa, New Zealand, Australia, Argentina, and others were on the verge of kicking off the height of their big-game seasons. With those hunting destinations principally relying on American and European (lesser extent) hunting markets to support their businesses, most of those operators will take it squarely on the chin and many of those operations will likely not survive the unfortunate impacts of all of this, especially those who rely on concessions where annual fees are paid for those hunting rights. In addition to the sad reality of some of these safari businesses being forced to go belly-up in 2020, the wildlife conservation consequences will be staggering in some cases. Monies from hunting have been the central thread that fund the conservation of wildlife resources in many of these international locations. Lost funding for anti-poaching alone will lead to an increase in unregulated take of wildlife, not to mention the compromised success of community-based conservation which is largely supported by the safari industry. Not only will these lost revenues result in diminished conservation funding, but impoverished communities will suffer as well, resulting in humanitarian dilemmas. I hate to paint such a bleak picture, but candy-coating the likely outcome of much of this would be ignorant denial….people need to know the truth, if nothing else so that they may be compelled to carry-on with their hunting activities when provided that opportunity. The world needs hunters and hunting, plain and simple.

Domestically, there are no hunting operations in the US that are fully immune to the impacts that C-19 and a hammered economy is having and will continue to have for the remainder of 2020. One could surmise that things could have been worse if this C-19 crisis would have hit during the fall, but none the less, there are some hunting operations that had a large volume of business on their calendar for March, April, and May. Here at WSI, we had roughly 100 hunters scheduled on various hunts from March 15 – May 1, about 50% of which we were able to keep in-place, much of which we were able to move to a later time, and some that was lost altogether. The simple idea of postponing hunters is not simple at all. For outfitters who contract hunting rights from private landowners, you often have monies that are specific for one season or one term-cycle, and the financial cost of moving those hunters into the next season or term-cycle will often result in those outfitters having double the cost in their landowner fees for a certain batch of hunters, not to mention the many other costs associated with keeping the business afloat during those furloughed periods. Hunters need to realize that a postponement in dates can be financially costly to the hunting operator and can ultimately mean the difference between those hunts being profitable, as opposed to bleeding red on the margins. It is also important that hunters recognize that when they are looking at trying to salvage their paid monies during times like this, the outfitter may be looking at ways to salvage their business…perspective is important. When it comes to scheduling, postponements, refund policies, cancellation policies, finding replacement hunters, meeting financial obligations, and working through the breadth of this all, these can be complex and difficult decisions that affect all parties involved.

For WSI, in recent weeks and right now, we have been able to work within the allowable guidelines and we continue to host hunts for those clients who were/are able to stick with their original plans, and we have done so by incorporating additional practices that address the various human health/safety concerns during these times. Thus, these challenges have forced us to become better students of such trying times, and we will continue to look for ways that we can use these lessons to sharpen our game.

A relatively small percentage of people across the US realize the significance of what the health of the oil patch means to the broad American economy. Living in Texas, where oil and gas production is more visible, we tend to understand and appreciate how central a healthy oil and gas industry is to our state-wide and national economies. With the current crash in the oil patch, I’m concerned that our ability for the US to bounce back when these restrictions are lifted will be largely stymied by trough-level performance in the oil and gas industry. The ripple-effect of a depressed energy industry stretches from one side of the pond to the other. Thus, again from an outfitting standpoint, I suspect that our fall hunting seasons will feel this economic pinch and that the outfitting industry in the US will be pointing toward sometime in 2021 as their possible rebound period.

From a silver-lining standpoint, I do feel that our American public will have a need for “healing” in a variety of ways, as we move forward into this summer and fall. Humans are hard-wired to want to connect to those natural systems that are largely located outside of the metro areas, where there is open space, wild things, unscathed areas, and natural venues where hunting, fishing, and other outdoor activities are found. I suspect there will be an emotional and spiritual appetite to re-connect with these natural areas after being so encumbered, and the desire to reclaim our lives will be stronger than ever. Human health is not simply a function of physiological well-being but is also inextricably tied to emotional and spiritual health, ecological health, social health, familial health, and financial health. This all kind of reminds me that there is a difference between a house and a home, and it takes a balance of important values (some that are measurable and some not so) to create a home, as opposed to the bricks and mortar of life. Since mid-March, Americans have largely been denied needed balance and I suspect that our American resolve will drive us in a direction of re-establishing that needed balance and, with that, we will likely see an urge for people to hunt, fish, camp, hike and seek pleasures that we love and dearly need.

WSI was formed in 1987. Other than the normal and expected challenges associated with fledging a start-up business, I have seen several noteworthy periods that tested the mettle of this company. The post-9/11 period in 2001 was my first real curve ball as a business owner/operator. The economic crash of late 2008/2009, was an even bigger test. The unprecedented drought and wildfires of 2011 taught me a great lesson about Mother Nature’s ability to derail things. And now we have COVID-19. I may not be the sharpest knife in the skinning shed, but these aforementioned challenging periods laid layers of leather on my skin, while also allowing our WSI team to learn from these tests. As Vernon Law put it, “Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, and the lesson afterward.” WSI will survive these challenging tests, we will look for ways to make lemonade from these tough times, and our team will emerge smarter and wiser…that, I am certain.

Our American fabric was woven through a history of challenges de jour. Those historical challenges were painful in many ways, with an untold number of citizens giving their lives to shape this character of our nation. Whether it was wars, The Great Depression, terroristic attacks, or pandemics, one of the fateful and common outcomes of these trying times have been that each of those periods resulted in a more unified American public. During a time when our country seems so divided, we can only hope and pray that an underlying beauty of this C-19 monster will be a stronger America at the end of the day, with greater unity and an increased resolve to pass on important American virtues and values to future generations.

Here’s to sunnier days ahead. Keep well and stay safe, but don’t forget to find some balance during such strange times.


Greg Simons
WSI, Co-owner
Ranchers in the San Angelo area are describing this spring as one of the best they can recall. Indeed, much of the state is lush right now, which is the result of timely and generous rainfall from last winter up through this point in time. Portions of South Texas also received some needed rainfall over the last month and West Texas is off to a good start, as well. Good conditions this time of the year generally translate into antler growth getting off to a good start, nesting conditions being ripe for ground-nesting birds including turkey and quail, not to mention providing enjoyable times to travel through the scenic portions of the state with wildflowers in bloom. Here’s to hoping that the rain gods continue to bless us well. 
Introduced to the Texas wilds during the 1930’s, nilgai antelope are native to India, and are the second largest member of the antelope family, next to eland. Most nilgai in North America are located within a few counties in lower South Texas where the climate and habitat suit their biological disposition very well. In addition to offering nilgai hunts on two divisions of H. Yturria Ranches, we also conduct a limited number of hunts on the El Sauz Division of East Foundation Ranches, located at Port Mansfield. In total, we have access to almost 50,000 acres of nilgai country that supports almost 2,000 nilgai, and there are less than a handful of operations in the world that offer this kind of scale in terms of acreage and nilgai abundance…these hunts are as good as any that are on the market. Our 2.5-day packages include guide, meals, skinning of carcass, caping of head, and quartering of meat. These animals are extremely wary and are incredibly difficult to bring down. We recommend a minimum of a .300 mag caliber with a well-constructed bullet….no highly expandable bullets please. Nilgai make an interesting trophy and the meat provides excellent table-fare. Priced at $2995, this is an excellent hunting option for a couple of friends or a corporate outing. When you combine big country on historic ranches with sporty hunting for a unique game animal, along with comfortable lodging and excellent cuisine, you have the makings of a rewarding and fun hunting experience. Most hunts are conducted January – May and September/October, but call to check on availability. Non-resident licenses are only $48. For hunters who are flying, Harlingen is the closest commercial airport, roughly an hour away from the hunting areas.
Considered by some to be “the poor man’s bighorn,” aoudad sheep hunting is indeed perhaps the best value for the dollar in the sheep hunting world, but don’t let this moniker lead you to believe that aoudad’s are anything less than a spectacularly worthy animal for anyone who enjoys fair-chase sheep hunting. These North African imports were originally released into the Texas wilds in 1957. Their native range is along the Barbary Coast, hence their alternative name of Barbary sheep. Aoudads are not considered to be a true sheep, as they have morphological features of sheep and goats, making them well-suited for rough topographies in arid, hot environments. They sport impressive crescent-shaped horns, and the long beard hair and chaps make them a striking, unique trophy.

We conduct our sheep hunts on multiple large ranches in West Texas, comprising over 200,000 acres of free-range country, all of which is located in the pristine areas of the Chihuahuan Desert, or what is also referred to as the Trans-Pecos region. Our normal hunting package consists of 3.5 days and 4 nights, including guide, meals, and lodging. With our onesie and twosie size hunts, the guide(s) often multi-tasks as the cook. Lodging is comfortable and well-appointed, but not plush. Hunters who are flying in should schedule their flights in/out of Midland/Odessa airport, where they can rent a vehicle and make the 2.5-hour drive to the hunting area. This hunt can be a challenging experience, both from a physical requirement standpoint, as well as the wary nature of the sheep, so hunters should not under-estimate the patience and demand that is sometimes necessary to pull things together. Our success rates most years run ~90% with hunters taking (including wounded sheep) rams, with most of our sheep having 30”-32.5” horn lengths, which are typically 9-11 year old animals. Each year we take a few brutes that are over 33”. Most hunts are conducted in January – April, September/October, but we occasionally conduct hunts during the summer for clients who enjoy hunting in hotter temps. A minimum of a 150 grain bullet is recommended and we discourage the use of highly expandable bullets, as mature rams have a heavy armor of muscle and bone structure up front. Non-resident license fees are over the counter and are only $48.
On flat fee hunts, a 50% deposit is our normal requirement, unless otherwise stated. Balance is due 30 days prior to hunt. Should any fees come due at time of hunt, such as on some of our exotic hunts that involve a trophy fee arrangement, payment must be in the form of cash, cashier’s check, credit card (3% processing fee), or online payment where client can provide their banking information at a secure site through an electronic invoice that we can generate (QuickBooks Intuit). No personal checks or business checks accepted at time of hunt.

All payments are non-refundable. Should client have to cancel hunt for any reason, no monies will be refunded unless client can find replacement for themselves at full rate. Should replacement not be found at full rate, client will forfeit all paid monies. On hunts that require balances to be paid 30 days prior to the hunt (all flat fee hunts), should client fail to make full payment by that due date, we reserve the right to cancel the hunt at that point in time with no monies being due for refund to client. We recommend that client purchase trip cancellation insurance to cover such cancellation issues. ( Travel Guard)
WSI co-owner, Greg Simons, was recently appointed to an external advisory committee for the newly formed Department of Rangeland, Wildlife and Fisheries Management at Texas A&M University. Dr. Patrick Stover, Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and Vice Chancellor of AgriLife, has initiated significant changes to the structure of the academic departments that serve the natural resources disciplines. These changes are expected to have positive impacts on the students and stakeholders that they serve. One of the newly formed departments is the Department of Rangeland, Wildlife and Fisheries Management (RWFM), which merged portions of two existing departments. The primary focus of this department is on the Land Grant mission through science-based management and policy for solving natural resource and private landowner challenges.

The Texas A&M System has had a long legacy of providing solutions to multi-faceted challenges faced by private landowners related to rangelands, wildlife, and natural resource management. Solutions to these complex, multi-faceted issues are becoming more challenging as the population of Texas continues to grow and urbanize. Land ownership, regulation and policies are rapidly evolving, providing new opportunities and threats to the economic and environmental sustainability of future land use. Therefore, more than ever before, the new RWFM department is designed to position the Texas A&M System collective strengths to provide solutions for private landowners, industry, and policymakers.

Simons is a 1987 graduate of the former Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences Department, and according to him, “I’m honored to serve on this advisory committee with a group of passionate and capable professionals, addressing current and future considerations that will hopefully allow this newly formed department to most effectively serve its mission and become recognized as a preeminent program within its respective disciplines.” The committee is chaired by South Texas rancher and ag leader, Bob McCan.

In addition to serving on this committee, Simons also currently serves as President of Board of Trustees for Texas Wildlife Association Foundation, Executive Committee for Texas Wildlife Association, Board of Director for National Deer Alliance, White-tailed Deer Advisory Committee for TPWD, Mule Deer Advisory Committee for TPWD, and Board of Advisor for Conservation Force.
WSI is proud to support DSC’s Trailing the Hunter’s Moon as a primary sponsor. This show is one of the premier hunting shows that is found on the Pursuit Channel and through several digital formats. Executive Producer and Co-host Blake Barnett’s work in outdoor television has made him a recipient of numerous Telly Awards, as well as Emmy nominations. Blake’s work includes outdoor television producing, along with a dedication to wildlife conservation and an avid supporter of hunter rights and advocacy. Show co-host, Larry Weishuhn (aka Mr. Whitetail), one of the most recognized figures in the outdoor world, an acclaimed biologist, and widely published writer, serves as one of the strongest ambassadors for hunters and hunting. In addition to serving as a primary sponsor, WSI co-owner Greg Simons will be providing a 1-minute conservation segment for each show, beginning the third quarter of 2020. Other primary sponsors of the popular show include Kenetrek Boots, Ruger, Trijicon, Nosler, Sitka, Double Nickle Taxidermy, Bino Gear, and Ripcord Rescue and Travel Insurance, while Dallas Safari Club serves as the title sponsor. According to Barnett, “The opportunity to work with WSI was destined to be a special partnership. They are one of the best in the business, from their guides, natural resource expertise, and access to some of the finest hunting lands in the great state of Texas. We could not be prouder than to collaborate with Simons and their team at Wildlife Systems.”

For almost 30 years, WSI has been hosting an annual company in-service meeting. The function of this event is dual purpose, including an opportunity for the WSI support team to enjoy some fellowship and fun, but more importantly, to strive toward developing a systems-format that defines the operating culture of the company. This multi-day event generally begins with the 2-person washer pitching championship and evening guest speaker, followed by a full day of in-service training which covers company policies, customer service strategies, risk management, standard first aid and CPR, harvest photography, and various other procedural categories. Above all, the desire to have a support team is marching in step to provide safe, quality services to our clients is the over-arching goal of this annual event and is a constant focus of WSI. 
Greg Simons
(325) 655-0877