David Hurt, Owner
David grew up living on a creek from 3 to 6 years old and then moved to the rocky hills of the Texas Hill County at Lake Belton. His mom was one of those moms that said, “go outside and play.” That is what he did, simply put, David got into the outdoors by playing outside. In college, his dad had taken parasitology, biology, ornithology and botany. He kept the textbooks and David poured over them. His dad also had a "Peterson's First Guide to Birds of Texas" and had neatly tabbed and coded it by bird families. David remembers thumbing through it over and over. David’s father also opened his eyes to being thrifty and accumulating.
Early on, David had an affection for creatures with feathers. He was in 4A and FAA and showed chickens and pigeons. Still today, he has pigeon lofts. David and his dad would pass the time on car vacations by watching the roadside for birds and have a competition to see who could identify them first.
David gardened with his grandmother, and especially enjoyed tilling soil. In addition to chickens, he had rabbits and a pet squirrel named Chip who run up his pant leg and got a treat from his shirt pocket.
He credits his mother, a teacher, with satisfying his thirst to learn about nature. It seemed anytime he expressed an interest in a subject, a book would show up. When he was about 10 years old, his family bought the World Book Encyclopedia. David said, “it was the caveman’s version of Google.” On television, he watched Wild Kingdom, Nature on PBS and Ranger Rick. He read World Magazine and National Geographic.
After graduating from Lake Belton High School in 1986, David went to Texas A&M Commerce (formerly East Texas State University) for a year. In a Spanish class, he met Matt White (now the author of “Prairie Time. A Brief Blackland Prairie Environmental History” and his blog "More Prairie Time") - it was one of the first times he had met someone like himself. He became very interested in native plants. He transferred to the University of Texas at Austin and all his electives were in the natural sciences. He “begged” his way into a graduate-level class in Ornithology and finally, David found his true tribe. He realized for the first time that there were other people on a larger scale like himself.
When he graduated with a Bachelor in Business Administration in 1991 from the University of Texas, Austin, the economy was soft and jobs were hard to find. Most of his friends solved this by attending graduate school, but David was ready to go into the world. He remembered something his father had said to him years before when his sister was working in a TCBY franchise. In college, David had considered joining a fraternity in college like his father, but the fees were so expensive that his dad said maybe he could save the fraternity fees to help David open some type of a franchise someday.
Thus began his extensive research of Wild Birds Unlimited. Between waiting tables at Chili’s, he visited 26 Wild Bird Unlimited stores in the Midwest and Southeast US. Most were little bitty stores and he remembers the wonderful aroma of cedar. At that time, all bird feeders and houses were made of cedar. The reason he did such a thorough review was it seemed a farfetched idea that there could be a store that only sold wild birdseed. The closest one to central Texas was in Tulsa at the time. He spoke to all the owners and researched thoroughly. He was only 23 years old, so after completing the WBU franchise packet, he held it until his 24th birthday so he might appear a little older. He obtained an interview and drove to Indiana in April 1992.
David said, “I was always a very curious kid. My parents allowed and promoted that curiosity. They also let me explore and go my own way. They did not promote what they wanted for me, they let me be me. Because of that freedom, it gave me the confidence to buy a WBU franchise when I was just 24 years old.”
David muses, “Life could not be much better than going to work every day and talking about my favorite subject. When I walk into the store each day, a light turns on inside of ME because I enjoy helping our customers so much. They are our friends and our family.”
Within a couple of years, his WBU shop was in the top five stores in the country and his store was out of space. Along the way, David had begun learning about real estate from friends. So David bought the last vacant lot in Preston Hollow and the Park Cities on Lovers Lane in Dallas. He had taken a business class at the University of Texas so he knew how to write a business plan for the bank.
Dogwood Canyon is the land that holds the most special place in David's heart. It spun out of his relationship with his friends and customers. He bought 65 acres of this land in Cedar Hill with the intention of raising his young family in nature. However, David soon realized how special and rare the Dogwood trees and land were and donated it to Audubon Dallas. Through the generous support of his customers and the local Audubon society, David helped raise money and spent countless hours finding the surrounding landowners and purchasing the land for public access. It is now Dogwood Canyon Audubon Center and David has been on the board for many years.
Favorite Feeder Bird: White-breasted Nuthatch. While they are not common around here, they were at three of my four homes. The reason I like them is they walk up and down tree trunks. I like their funny “yank, yank, yank” which I always hear before I see them. They are weird like me!
Favorite Bird Feeder: I get more activity on a suet feeder, but the Supreme fare is my “go-to.”
Favorite Bird Feeder: In the past, my favorite feeder was a peanut feeder. But now I really like the seed cylinder feeder.
Favorite Bird Experience: Locally, my favorite was finding a male Golden Cheek Warbler in Dogwood Canyon. I have enjoyed showing it to hundreds and hundreds of people. They were no longer thought to be nesting in Dallas County.
Another memorable bird experience was when I was on the west side of Cooper Lake with my friend Matt White. We saw a Prothonotary Warbler and Acadian Fly Catchers in a flooded woodland on the west side of Delta County where most of my parent’s people are from.
Bird Dream Come True: One was taking my son Ben birding in one of my favorite birding locations, Houston Audubon's High Island. I have been there many times, yet sharing it with my son made it extra special. High Point Island is an internationally known sanctuary, right here in Texas.
Another dream come true has been raising my children in nature - like myself. We lived in a house on a creek for ten years that was elevated with glass windows across the back. The connection to the natural world was very strong as we daily watched birds and other wildlife in the huge trees in our yard.