Some background is needed to understand my journey.

Texas Brigades is a leadership and team building camp with conservation at its core.

It was started 25 years ago by Dr. Dale Rollins. His objective was to educate youth 13-17 years of age about wildlife conservation and turn out young ambassadors for conservation.

The first camp back then was the Rolling Plains Bobwhite Brigade. Since then a total of eight summer camps have evolved in Texas. Those camps are two Bobwhite, two Buckskin, Waterfowl Bass, Costal and Ranch Brigades.

In June of 2016 I attended the Rolling Plains Bobwhite Brigade in Coleman County, then returned in June of 2017 as an assistant covey leader. I also attended Texas Waterfowl Brigades in Tennessee Colony, Texas in July of 2017.

I had no idea how hard I would work, how much I would learn and how much fun I could have in five days of camp! Brigades has accelerated my interest to know more about wildlife and habitat.

I’ve had opportunities that I would not have been able to take advantage of without having attended these camps.

BIRDS!

Switching gears from upland to waterfowl at Waterfowl Brigade Camp 2017. I found my passion for bird hunting and bird dogs in 2015 when I got to go on a Dove Hunt and then later that year two youth duck hunts sponsored by Delta Waterfowl.

My first quail hunt was in February of 2017 because of Texas Brigades. If you have a passion for hunting you have to have a passion for maintaining this long-term and passing the heritage on to the next generation. It is up to us to maintain, reclaim and support the needed habitat for these birds.

Bird hunting is “about” so many different layers and textures and not just harvesting game. It’s about the dogs, the love of outdoors, campfires, stories of the past, family, friends and so much more.

In the past year in my journey to return as a leader at Bob White Brigades, I had to compete for five positions available that were sought by 80 percent of the cadets that had attended in the past. It is required that (we) spread the “word” about brigades and educate others on the need for well-planned conservation methods to be deployed and document this in (our) “Book of Accomplishments.”

The brigade camp motto is “tell me and I forget, show me and I remember, involve me and I understand.” So as cadets we got lots of hands on experience.

For me this continued after Brigade camp. So many doors have been opened to me for opportunities I never imagined. In the past year, I have given 21 presentations to various groups, from a couple dozen to 3,000 people.

(I had) five projects involving predator evaluation, habitat enhancement and wildlife surveys. I wrote two newspaper articles and two magazine articles and was interviewed on a nationally syndicated outdoor radio show.

My presentations were to such groups as Wildlife Management Associations, ranchers, 4-H, Boy Scouts, Bird Watchers, Master Naturalist Organizations, Texas Parks & Wildlife Wing Ding, home schoolers and the 2017 graduating class of the statewide QuailMasters Program.

I found when you have to answer questions and explain topics to someone you tend to understand them much more.

Waterfowl Brigade 2017 was on the beautiful property called “Big Woods on the Trinity” near Tennessee Colony, Texas. It is 7,500 acres that has been reclaimed back to its natural habitat. So the property is a haven for waterfowl and deer.

The owner has won the Lone Star Land Stewardship and Leopold Conservation Awards for the effort and money it took to bring this land back to its natural habitat.

Wetlands are essential areas needed for a balanced ecosystem. A few of the reasons they are important are for water purification, flood protection, shoreline stabilization, groundwater recharge, and streamflow maintenance. They also provide habitat for fish and wildlife, including endangered species.

Some of my memories of the Waterfowl Brigade Camp are walking (and falling) through marshes, ponds, puddles and congealed bodies of water, shooting clay birds and haranguing the other guys about missing, marching and screaming cadences, painting decoys, blowing duck calls ‘til your flock leader screams “ENOUGH!!!!”, meditating on an early morning pond, arguing over who takes the first shower, who vacuums and who gets which bed (or the floor), taking water samples from questionable sources and watching bird dogs at work loving what they do for a living.

Yes, it’s a 10-day camp rolled into five days! I gained more knowledge about wildlife and conservation — with new eyes that see the outdoors differently.

I also got a healthy dose of confidence and leadership skills and made some new friends with the same interests in preserving our wildlife and hunting heritage.

You can find out more about the Texas Brigades online, at www.texasbrigades.org

EDITOR'S NOTE: Winston Lagergren is a sophomore at Glen Rose High School, and is a 4-H member.