Rocket T Outfitters

By MATT PHINNEY, or 659-8253 June 26, 2005


Nature’s Best Friend

Mary, the ranch dog at the Treadwell Brady Ranch, cools herself in a water tank between two open pastures that once were overgrown with mesquite and cedar. Brian Treadwell, owner and operator of the 7,930-acre ranch straddling Menard and McCulloch counties, received the Lone Star Land Steward Award for his efforts in land and animal conservation. The award is given by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and is designed to educate landowners and the public and to encourage participation in habitat conservation.

MCCULLOCH/MENARD COUNTIES - According to conventional wisdom, today's trophy whitetail deer are grown behind high fences and stuffed full of enough protein supplement to choke a prized show cow.

That costs money, and Brian Treadwell said he doesn't have much of it. But he does have some time and a lot of patience.

Instead of quick fixes, he uses a detailed habitat management program that allows his land to get the most of what Mother Nature has to offer.

Treadwell, 35, and his father, John Treadwell, were awarded the Lone Star Land Steward Award for the Edwards Plateau Region last month at a ceremony in Austin. The award recognizes ranchers for exceptional efforts in range and habitat management.

The award-winning ranch encompasses about 8,000 acres in southwest McCulloch County and northeast Menard County.

''We don't feed anything, because we don't have to,'' he said. ''You can run with (Mother Nature), but you can't compete with her. We attract deer because we have a better program. We grow every bit as big of deer as the people that feed or have high fences.''

This is the 10th year the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department handed out the stewardship award, said Linda Campbell, private lands and public hunting program coordinator. Private landowners are crucial in protecting wildlife habitat, she said, because 94 percent of the land in Texas is privately owned.

The award honors those who enhance the habitat and is meant to provide an example that other landowners can follow, she said.

''We want to honor them for their dedication,'' Campbell said. ''They have a tremendous amount of dedication because they have to stick it out for a long time.''

Brian Treadwell graduated from Southern Methodist University in 1992 with an advertising degree. Growing up in Dallas, he spent his summers on a ranch in Fort McKavett that his family has owned more than 100 years.

His first career took him across the country filming hunting television shows. He spent 18 months on the road during which he realized hunting in the Hill Country is some of the best in the country.

Traveling also taught him he wanted to have a place to call home.

He and his father bought the land at the end of 1998, wanting a place to run cattle and market a hunting program. They found the land, which was two ranches at the time, along the San Saba River. The land had been degraded by heavy sheep grazing.

Buying land that seemed overused turned out to be a blessing for the family because it allowed them to repair the land into something they wanted.

The Treadwells' management plan consists of clearing strips of mesquite and cedar trees, rotational grazing and prescribed burning, which is widely considered one of the best and least expensive means of rejuvenating native grasses.

Fire opens the ground and adds nutrients to the soil, Brian Treadwell said. The fire also helps control brush that competes with grass for ground moisture.

When the family took over the ranch, there was so little grass that Brian and John had to walk through the pasture burning any clumps of grass they could find one at a time. Brian now can burn about 400 acres in an hour and a half.

The Treadwells burn around 2,500 acres of land each year, he said. They burn close to 2,000 acres in the winter and the rest in the summer months, he said.

''I think this year is when we really started seeing the improvements,'' he said. ''Maybe I can start playing golf again. It's very rewarding seeing the changes we make on our land - doing something and seeing the results.''

Brian Treadwell is a member of the Menard County Wildlife Co-Op, a group of landowners that got together in 2003 to carry out management recommendations to grow larger whitetail bucks. There are 57 landowners in the group covering 188,691 acres, more than one-third of the county.

Treadwell drove through a pasture last week that had been burned in February, and the land had already been replenished with green grass.

Treadwell also refuses to use herbicide or pesticide to control brush.

''We work at it pretty hard,'' Treadwell said. ''That's our job. The more work we do on habitat will return us more money on our investment and income. By evaluating the land, the amount of grass cover I have lets me know if I have too many cows or not enough cows. If grass is all eaten up, I'm doing something wrong with the cattle. Then I have to adjust accordingly.''

Treadwell has 350 cows.

Habitat management helps Treadwell increase his deer herd with no supplemental feeding. About 300 whitetail deer lived on the two ranches when he bought the land. There are now more than 1,000 deer, he said.

The constant improvements have probably tripled the land's value, Treadwell said. He is also a land broker and owner of Treadwell Ranch & Recreation Investments.

The Treadwells started making changes on the ranch during an extensive drought, said Jerry Kidd, McCulloch County Texas Cooperative Extension Agent. The ranch has gotten some good rain, and the improvements they have made are becoming evident, Kidd said.

''It's quite impressive what they have accomplished since they've been out there and turned around the ecosystem they have,'' Kidd said. ''The proof is really coming out. It's quite impressive when you get into the operations and see what they are trying to get done.''

To Treadwell, it's just part of the job.

''We knew what a ranch could produce and we what we could do with our deer hunting,'' he said. ''The only real question was, how do we manage and improve the ranch?

''... It's quite an honor and culmination of all our efforts. By us focusing on managing the habitat instead of worrying about cow herd and deer herd, we think about what can we do for the ranch, and the cow herd and deer herd work out.'



Treadwell Brady Ranch Named 2006 Lone Star Land Steward

Treadwell in The News.jpg

Texas Parks and Wildlife news release 5/26/2006

MENARD, Texas -- The Treadwell Brady Ranch has been awarded the statewide Lone Star Land Steward Award and Aldo Leopold Conservation Award for Texas, the state's top honor recognizing wildlife conservation on private land.

The ranch implements all five of famed conservationist Aldo Leopold's essential tools: axe, cow, plow, fire and gun. Efforts include habitat management, erosion control, supplemental food, water and shelter for wildlife, predator control, and wildlife population surveys.

Cattle on the Treadwell Brady Ranch are managed with a light, rotational grazing regime and owners conduct prescribed burning throughout the year, burning 20-35 percent of the ranch annually. Mechanical brush control keeps undesirable invasive species in check, and six dense mesquite flats have been converted to fenced supplemental food plots for wildlife. The ranch has also made numerous water improvements that benefit wildlife.

There are low-cost hunting opportunities, and youth hunts for deer, quail and turkey are offered. The ranch also provides nature tourism activities like bird watching and trail rides.

The landowners were instrumental in the formation of the Calf Creek Prescribed Burn Co-op, which later evolved into the McCulloch County Prescribed Burn Co-op. The ranch readily helps neighbors with prescribed burns, coordinates field trips with neighbors to wildlife and range management seminars, and provides speakers at seminars.

For the second year, the Lone Star Land Steward Awards bestowed May 24 by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department gained a new cachet through association with famed ecologist Aldo Leopold and the Sand County Foundation.

The land steward awards recognize regional recipients in each Texas eco-region, plus cooperative and corporate categories, each of which received $1,000 cash awards from the foundation. The statewide award recipient also receives the Leopold Conservation Award for Texas, which includes a $10,000 cash award from the foundation.

" More people today are talking about land stewardship, which is good," said Joseph Fitzsimons, TPW Commission chairman, speaking at the awards banquet. "But I would emphasize that stewardship requires stewards. Someone's got to be out there making it happen on the ground. These families and companies are putting their time and money and heart and soul into making a difference. All Texans should be grateful."

"The next generation of environmental activists is private landowners working on lands they own and control and motivated by incentives and voluntary action, not the government and the courts," said Brent Haglund, Ph.D. and Sand County Foundation president. "Governments cannot own or control enough land to adequately protect our natural resources."

Aldo Leopold (1887-1948) is considered the father of wildlife ecology. A Wisconsin forester, he became a renowned scientist and university scholar, philosopher, and writer. Leopold's "A Sand County Almanac" remains one of the world's best-selling natural history books, recounting stories of his Wisconsin farm through a combination of poetic prose and keen observations of the natural world.

On his farm and throughout his career, Leopold championed land stewardship, calling for a new "land ethic" that values the ecological web of life, land and water. His cornerstone book "Game Management" (1933) defined the fundamental skills and techniques for managing and restoring wildlife populations.

Leopold's godson, Reed Coleman, formed the Sand County Foundation in 1965 to protect the Leopold farm from encroaching lot development along the Wisconsin River.

The original 120-acre Leopold farm's surroundings now include cooperative management of more than 1,500 acres known as the Leopold Memorial Reserve.

Based on that original private land stewardship enterprise, the foundation's mission today includes "providing public recognition of outstanding private conservation leadership and rewarding responsible stewards to inspire others by their example."

" We would like to present Leopold Conservation Awards in 10 to 15 states within the next three to five years," Haglund said. "Rather than starting from scratch in each state, we are seeking to partner with existing awards programs or events where we can lend our support."

For more information about the Lone Star Land Steward Awards, including how to nominate a property, call (512) 389-4395 or visit the TPWD Web site.

General Media Contact: Business Hours, (512) 389-4406 Additional Contacts: Tom Harvey, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (512) 389-4453; Brent Haglund, Ph.D., Sand County Foundation, (608) 663-4605, Ext. 24





A local family with a tradition of ranching that spans more than 100 years, was formally recognized by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) recently for exemplary accomplishments in habitat management and wildlife conservation.

The Lone Star Land Steward Award for the Edwards Plateau Region, was presented to the father and son team of John and Brian Treadwell at a state banquet held May 25 in Austin. The award was presented to recognize their efforts at the Treadwell Brady Ranch, an 8,000 acre tract of land that is located in McCulloch and Menard Counties.

The Treadwells, now in their sixth generation of ranching families, have deep family roots to the area. The family still has a ranch in Fort McKavett on which both John and Brian spent much of their time during the younger years of their lives.

John left the family ranch to attend the University of Texas in the 1960s and came full circle, returning to the ranching business with the 1999 purchase of the Brady Ranch.

“We had an opportunity to form a real family business," said John in regards to the decision for returning to ranching. "Brian had great success building Rocket T Outfitters, a large family hunting business, and we knew what we could do for ranching income. The only unknown seemed to be how to manage the brush.”

The Treadwell Brady Ranch is a true working ranch. Historically, this property had been abused for generations as a sheep ranch. When the Treadwells purchased the property in the fall/winter of 1998-99, the property was characterized by bare ground overrun with brush and prickly pear and was devoid of an operational water system.

"When we began the management program on the ranch, our overall goal was to reverse decades of abuse and neglect," said Brian, the operator of the ranch. "Our main goal is to operate the ranch at a sustainable level while improving the available natural resources."

Having grown up on the Fort McKavett ranch, the younger Treadwell attended Southern Methodist University and successfully attained a marketing degree. He created and developed Rocket T Outfitters and subsequently hosted, produced, filmed and edited "Runnin' Wild Texas Adventures," a hunting show that ran for five quarters on the Outdoor Channel.

As a working cattle ranch, cattle are run in one herd and rotated through 27 grazing units with a complete rotation of about six months.

The underlying theme in their management goal has been to focus on improving the habitat. Approximately 600 acres are deferred each year for prescribed burning. Along with the deferred pasture being burned, they practice a follow-behind burn program for spot burning large areas.

Over the past five years, an estimated 800+ acres of cedar have been cut. As a result, spring flow in one large canyon, historically dominated by juniper trees, has been stimulated.

“I feel my job as a land steward is to identify the habitat and monitor how my decisions and their timing impact the diversity of our usable vegetation," said Brian. "My dad says you can’t expect to run a business if you can’t take inventory. Instead of battling Mother Nature with money, we manage our carrying capacity.

"Our holistic goal for the ranch ultimately focuses on the evolving vision we practice for our habitat. In determining what kind of operation we were going to run, we made the choice to work on quality instead of supporting quantity.

"By placing habitat management as our priority, the other issues became the facts of the quotient by which we reach our solution. Like focusing a big camera lens in the waning light, keeping our priority in focus requires frequent manipulations of our tools.”

The Treadwells have participated in a LIP conservations partnership with TPWD to improve habitat for black-capped vireos and horned lizards. Currently, they are in an EQIP partnership with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to control mesquite and cedar.

Browse utilization surveys are conducted annually to evaluate vegetation responses to applied management techniques and to determine the impact of browsing animals.

The ranch’s wildlife-resource-management goals for game species have been to improve the quality of mature animals each year while maximizing profit potential. By keeping habitat front and center, the Treadwells expect all native populations to benefit. The increased frequency of prescribed burns, rotational grazing and removal of noxious brush has enabled the Treadwells to eliminate supplemental feeding of both livestock and deer.

"We have put a strong emphasis on habitat management and selective harvest for producing the best quality deer their range conditions can afford," said Brian.

To restore water on the ranch, over the past six years they have implemented an extensive watering system consisting of fast lines, water troughs, wells and reservoirs.

The ranch also assisted with the formation of the Menard County Wildlife Management Association, and was instrumental in the formation of the Calf Creek Prescribed Burning Co-op, which later became the McCulloch County chapter of the Edwards Plateau Prescribed Burn Association.

John and wife, Jann, live in Dallas from where he commutes on a weekly basis. Brian and wife, Ginger, have two children, Jamie, 4, and Allie, 2, and live on the ranch in McCulloch County.

To learn more about the Treadwell ranching operation, visit their website at