Gus Engeling WMA (GEWMA)
Phone: (903) 928-2251
16149 North US Hwy 287
Tennessee Colony, TX 75861
Dates Open: Open year round, except for special permit hunts.
Gus Engeling WMA (GEWMA) is located in northwest Anderson County, 21 miles northwest of Palestine. This 10,958-acre area was purchased from 1950 to 1960 under the Pittman-Robertson Act using Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Program funds. The GEWMA's primary purpose is to function as a wildlife research and demonstration area for the Post Oak Savannah Ecoregion. The area is comprised of 2,000 acres of hardwood bottomland floodplain and almost 500 acres of natural watercourses, 350 acres of wetlands: marshes and swamps and nearly 300 acres of sphagnum moss bogs.
The GEWMA is an island of Post Oak Savannah surrounded by coastal bermuda grass pastures, harvested timberlands, and fragmented wildlife habitat. It's rolling sandy hills dominated by post oak uplands, bottomland hardwood forests, natural springs, pitcher plant bogs, sloughs, marshes, and relict pine communities contain a rich variety of wildlife. Sound wildlife management tools like prescribed burning, grazing, brush control and hunting are used to demonstrate the results of proven practices to resource managers, landowners, and other interested groups or individuals.
HistoryHistorically, the upland sites of the Post Oak Savannah were open and dominated by waist-high grasses and large scattered trees. In addition, early observers reported large oak "motts" or islands of hardwood forests scattered throughout the grassland prairie. Massive, mature oaks dominated the deep, rich, moist soils of bottomlands. Both uplands and bottomlands supported an abundance of wildlife in early reports.
The Texas Game, Fish and Oyster Commission purchased most of the land comprising the GEWMA between 1950 and 1960. Federal-Aid in Wildlife Restoration Funds purchased the area to act as a wildlife research and demonstration site for the Post Oak Savannah Ecoregion where trained personnel could study wildlife and wildlife management practices.
The area was originally named the Derden Wildlife Management Area after Milze L. Derden, from whom much of this land was purchased. The area was renamed in 1952 after Gus A. Engeling, the first biologist assigned to the area, was shot and killed by a poacher on December 13, 1951.
The GEWMA has not been impacted by man's presence as much as most of the Post Oak Savannah. Although livestock grazed the area for many years, it was not extensively cleared. Mature bottomland forests still dominate Catfish Creek. Native tallgrasses such as little bluestem and indiangrass can still be found in the areas pastures and open woodlands.
GoalsThe initial goal and intended purpose of the GEWMA was to serve as a wildlife research and demonstration area where trained biologists could study and evaluate wildlife and habitat management practices. Around 1990 the majority of staff duties shifted from research to public use activities and development. Today, management of GEWMA seeks to balance the need for continued research and demonstration of wildlife management practices with providing a variety of public use activities.
In 1989 the Wildlife Division adopted the following goals for the Wildlife Management Area system. The goals are listed in priority order.
- To develop and manage wildlife habitats and populations of indigenous wildlife species.
- To provide a site where research of wildlife populations and habitat can be conducted under controlled conditions.
- To provide areas to demonstrate habitat development and wildlife management practices to landowners and other interested groups.
- To provide natural environments for use by educational groups, naturalists, and other professional biological investigators.
- To protect populations of endangered or threatened migratory wildlife, plant species, related habitats, unique natural sites and relict vegetation communities.
- To provide public hunting and appreciative use of wildlife in a manner compatible with the resource.
Natural Resources (Flora/Fauna)The GEWMA is representative of the Post Oak Savannah Ecoregion, which encompasses approximately 13,300 square miles of Texas reaching from Red River County in the northeast to Guadalupe County in the south. Upland soils are generally light-colored, deep, rapidly permeable sands and sandy loams. Bottomland soils are mostly mixed alluvial clays and clay loams, gray brown in color and moderately permeable. Topography is gently rolling to hilly with a well-defined drainage system that empties into Catfish Creek, a tributary of the Trinity River designated by the U.S. Department of the Interior as a “Natural National Landmark.” The drainage system encompasses approximately 2,000 acres of bottomland. Average annual rainfall is approximately 40 inches. Generally, rainfall is distributed throughout the year with less occurring during July and August.
GEWMA is home to over 1,000 plant species. Vegetation present in the uplands includes a dense overstory of oak, hickory, elm, and gum with a shade tolerant understory of flowering dogwood, American beautyberry, greenbriar, farkleberry, yaupon, possumhaw, dewberry, and hawthorn. Common grasses include little bluestem, broomsedge bluestem, slender Indiangrass, purpletop, beaked panicum, and spike uniola. Some dominant forbs include tickclover, wildbean, goldenrod, and doveweed. Oak trees, mostly water and willow oak, are the dominant tree species in the bottomlands. Common wetland plants include yellow lotus, common duckweed, sedges, rushes, pondweed, giant cutgrass, and plumegrass. Depending on rainfall and weather conditions, spring displays of flowering dogwood and wildflowers can be spectacular.
Between 1860 and 1920, year-round hunting with no bag limits greatly reduced the deer and turkey number. From 1948 to 1950, 280 white-tailed deer, 128 Rio Grande turkey, and 13 beavers were released on the area. The deer population steadily increased resulting in the opening of a deer season in 1955. This population remains healthy and provides a major source of recreation. Beavers are now abundant, creating many acres of wetlands on the GEWMA and surrounding lands. Wild turkeys did not prosper; despite several additional releases of both Rio Grande and eastern wild turkeys.
The GEWMA has a rich variety of wildlife. Currently, 37 mammals, 156 birds, 54 reptiles and amphibians, and 57 fish speices have been documented. There's no guarantee, but the observant visitor may see white-tailed deer, eastern wild turkey, gray squirrel, fox squirrel, raccoon, beaver, wood duck, or pileated woodpecker just to name a few.
Cultural ResourcesThe stewardship role of TPWD staff regarding archeological resources and historic resources is defined in the Antiquities Code of Texas (Title 9, Chapter 191 of the Texas Natural Resources Code of 1977), which calls for the location and protection of all archeological sites owned by the State of Texas. Any violation of the terms of the Antiquities Code is a criminal act, punishable by a fine and/or jail term.
Research and Demonstration ActivitiesOne of the principle goals of the GEWMA is to provide a site where university-based research of wildlife populations and habitat may be conducted under controlled conditions. Through such studies biologists hope to gain a better understanding of the interrelationships between native wildlife species, domestic livestock, management practices, and habitat resources. This will enable biologists to make recommendations for a sound multiple-use management program tailored to the Post Oak Savannah region of Texas. As of 2010, 35 approved research projects have been conducted on the GEWMA involving such topics as:
- White-tailed deer aging techniques
- Factors affecting white-tailed deer fawn survival
- Comparisons of feeding habits between white-tailed deer and cattle
- Site-specific competition between feral hogs and white-tailed deer
- Effects of selective clearing on wildlife habitat
- Controlled burning to improve woodland habitat for wildlife
- Diet and genetics in inland populations of American alligators
Current projects are investigations into the impacts of different habitat management techniques on the flora and fauna of our upland Savannah Restoration Site and the area’s bog communities.
In addition to formal research projects conducted by universities, GEWMA provides a site for TPWD biologists to demonstrate and fine-tune management practices for east Texas. Landowners, property managers, university groups, and other interested individuals can see the results of management practices such as prescribed burning, brush treatments, native grass restoration, and other management practices with their own eyes.
The GEWMA’s Small Acreage Demonstration Area (SADA) provides East Texas landowners with a look at how important management practices can be applied at a smaller scale. This 30-acre demonstration area is managed using equipment available to most landowners such as a small tractor, mower, disk, ATVs and ATV sprayers, handtools, and manual labor. All management practices are from the Comprehensive Wildlife Management Planning Guidelines for the Post Oak Savannah available from TPWD and conducted at a level that would qualify for the 1-d-1w Wildlife Management Open Spaces Tax Valuation.
Recreational OpportunitiesAnglers and hunters interested in feral hog, waterfowl, and small game need only possess an Annual Public Hunting Permit and valid hunting license to gain access on designated days during the appropriate season. Deer hunters, both archery and gun, are randomly selected during the Special Permit drawing to avoid over harvesting of the resource. Antler restrictions on white-tailed deer have helped hunters harvest many mature white-tailed deer, including several bucks qualifying for the Texas Big Game Awards.
Visitors may enjoy nature viewing, bird watching, photography, hiking, camping and the general beauty of nature. The GEWMA also serves as an outdoor laboratory for local colleges, universities, and schools.
A self-guided auto tour takes a visitor through nine stops addressing wildlife habitat and management techniques. In addition, the Beaver Pond Viewing Blind and Dogwood Nature trail offer visitors the chance to experience the lush green mysteries of east Texas. However, be warned, all four varieties of venomous snakes occur in this area - so please watch your step.
Visitors seventeen years of age and older must possess either an Annual Public Hunting (APH) Permit or Limited Public Use (LPU) Permit to utilize the WMA. These permits are available at all license sale locations in Texas or by calling 1-800 TXLIC4U (895-4248). Permits are not for sale at the WMA. Refer to Outdoor Recreational Opportunities on WMAs for additional information about opportunities on the Gus Engeling WMA.
- All users must perform on-site daily registration.
- Bring your own drinking water.
- The wildlife observation blind and the restrooms are wheelchair accessible.
- Walking in the bog area is prohibited.
- Insecticide and sunscreen are advised.
- Alligators inhabit some areas and should be considered dangerous.