Texas Fence Laws: What You Need to Know

Texas Fencing Laws

Whether you use your land for livestock grazing , white-tailed deer management or both, it’s a good idea to have a handle on Texas’ fencing laws. We’ve all heard the saying, “good fences make for good neighbors,” but even good folks with pretty good fences can get sideways when it comes to disputes over unforeseen situations, property lines and “extra” livestock.

Have you ever wondered if a landowner is liable if his livestock get out and are hit on the road? Can a land owner make a neighbor chip in and and pay for repairs to a shared boundary fence? What should a property owner do when someone else’s cattle are on their land? Or what can I do about my neighbor’s tree limbs hanging over the fence and onto my property?

Texas Fence Laws

Texas Fence Law Answered

There will come a time for every Texas landowner when having some general knowledge about fencing laws will come in handy. Fortunately, a new publication titled Five Strands: A Landowner’s Guide to Fence Law in Texas is now available to help landowners make sense of some of the more common issues property owners face across the Lone Star State.

The best thing—this handbook was written in terms that normal people can understand. It is designed as a resource that can be thrown on the dash of a pick up along with a ranchers’ other important documents. This publication provides answers to common questions related to fence law that come up frequently for Texas landowners and livestock producers.

Below are a several examples from the handbook:

My neighbor’s cattle are on my land. How do I remove them?

The answer depends on whether this situation occurs in an open-range county or in one that has passed a stock law making it a closed range.

Lessee Liability?

Many Texas livestock producers lease the land they they run their livestock on. This presents a question of who is responsible for fencing the land the livestock run on–the landowner or the lessee? Absent an agreement allocating responsibility between the landowner and the lessee, these laws could apply to both the landowner and the lessee who runs the livestock on a ranch.

How do the adequate fence standards of the Agriculture Code apply?

The Texas Agriculture Code establishes the requirements for a “sufficient fence;” however, these fencing standards apply only in open-range counties where fences are meant to keep livestock “out” rather than “in.”17 These sufficient fence standards do not apply in a closed-range county, nor can they be used to determine negligence or liability in a roadway accident situation.

Clearing Brush to Build a Fence on a Boundary Line

Sometimes a landowner building a fence along a boundary line must clear brush on both his or her own property and the neighbor’s property. If this is necessary, the landowner should always seek permission from the neighbor before entering his or her property and before any brush management takes place.

Without such permission, entering a neighbor’s property and removing the brush could be considered trespassing and subject the acting landowner to damages. It is always better to ask for permission ahead of time. If permission is denied, the landowner may have to back the fence up on his or her property.

Cutting Down a Tree Hanging over a Property Line

Assume that a tree grows on the neighbor’s property, but the limbs and branches overhang another’s land. What rights do the parties have in that situation? In Texas, the location of the trunk of the tree determines who owns it, even if the roots or branches grow onto an adjoining neighbor’s land. A landowner has the right to trim or cut off the limbs or branches of boundary trees or brush that reach onto his or her property, as long as no damage to the other adjoining landowner occurs.

However, the limbs or branches can be cut back only to the property line. The tree’s owner is responsible for any damages caused to the adjacent owner from falling branches or roots. It is in the best interest of the tree’s owner to control the growth of the tree so it does not create a source of potential damage to the neighboring landowner.

Louisiana Slams the Door on CWD

Louisiana Bans Cervid Carcasses in Name of Deer Herd Management

Louisiana wildlife officials recently slammed the door on hunters bringing back deer carcasses from other states. The move is in response to Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) since the deer disease has been found in the free-ranging white-tailed deer herds in neighboring Arkansas and Texas. For decades now, numerous Louisiana hunters have made the annual pilgrimage west each fall, but getting deer from Texas and elsewhere back to LA has just gotten more difficult.

The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries announced late last month that the cervid-carcass import ban approved last year goes into effect. That means hunters who travel out of state to target white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk, moose, caribou, fallow deer, axis deer, sika deer, red deer and reindeer may not bring many parts of those animals back into the state of Louisiana, which to-date has remained free of CWD.

Louisiana Bans Cervid Carcasses in Name of Deer Herd Management

Louisiana’s Cervid Import Regulation

Source: The regulation reads in part: No person shall import, transport or possess any cervid carcass or part of a cervid carcass originating outside of Louisiana, except: for meat that is cut and wrapped; meat that has been boned out; quarters or other portions of meat with no part of the spinal column or head attached, antlers, clean skull plates with antlers, cleaned skulls without tissue attached, capes, tanned hides, finished taxidermy mounts and cleaned cervid teeth. Any and all bones shall be disposed of in a manner where its final destination is at an approved landfill or equivalent. Said rule shall be effective March 1, 2017.

The ban defines a cervid as animals of the family Cervidae, including but not limited to white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk, moose, caribou, fallow deer, axis deer, sika deer, red deer and reindeer.

This ban is strictly for the purpose of reducing the likelihood that CWD will enter Louisiana through carcass importation. Approved parts and meat from other states must contain a possession tag with the hunter’s name, out-of-state license number (if required), address, species, date and location (county and state) of harvest. Each state has different possession requirements for game once processed.

Goal of Carcass Ban

The new regulation is deigned to maintain the “Sportman’s Paradise” that Louisiana offers by reducing the likelihood of CWD moving into the state. For those that have been under a rock for the past 10 years, CWD is a neurodegenerative disease that is 100-percent fatal to cervids that contract it.

The long-term impacts of CWD on deer herds is unknown, although Colorado, the state where CWD was first discovered (1967), appears to have decreased cervid populations. Whether these declines are strictly CWD-related, however, is unknown. Over the short-run, CWD does appear to change the demographics of the local deer herds where the disease is found, resulting in a younger average age because deer do not live as long.

States with Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD)
States with Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD)

Managing CWD Positive Deer Herds

CWD poses a risk to deer and deer hunting simply because it introduces another variable in the deer management/harvest equation. It’s still basically an unknown, a factor that will have some amount of impact on an annual basis once it works its way into a localized herd. After that, it begins to spread because there is no way to get rid of it.

A carcass ban on harvested cervids appears to be an effective way to stop the fast-tracking of CWD to new, uninfected areas. Of course, CWD will continue to spread naturally throughout North America. Carcass bans make it tough on hunters when it comes to transporting harvested deer home, but we also understand that it is helping to protect the natural resources that we enjoy. I hope that CWD is something that I never have to factor in to the deer management equation, but I suspect it’s just a matter of time.


CWD Found in Free-Ranging Whitetail in Texas

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) has been confirmed in free-ranging white-tailed deer in Texas. Yesterday, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) announced that a free-ranging white-tailed deer in Medina County tested positive for CWD. The disease had been previously documented in mule deer and elk (in the Texas Trans-Pecos and Panhandle) and in whitetail associated with two deer breeding facilities, but this is the first time CWD has been found in a wild white-tailed deer in Texas.

The deer was harvested during the deer hunting season for Medina County. The hunter brought the 1 1/2 year old buck deer to a voluntary CWD check station located within the surveillance zone that extends across portions of Bandera, Medina and Uvalde counties.

CWD in Free-Ranging Texas Whitetail

TPWD and Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) are taking steps to deploy an early detection and containment strategy designed to limit the spread of CWD from the affected area and better understand the distribution and prevalence of the disease.

“Although the disease has been discovered in a free ranging whitetail in this area, we cannot draw any conclusions at this time based on one detection,” said Dr. Bob Dittmar, TPWD’s Wildlife Veterinarian. “The proactive measures we are taking as part of our epidemiological investigation into this case are in line with the state’s strategies to prevent this disease from spreading any further. The more effective we are at containing this disease within a limited geographic area, the better it will be for our wildlife resources and all those who enjoy them.”

Effective immediately under an executive order issued by TPWD Executive Director Carter Smith, Surveillance Zone 3 (SZ3), which extends across portions of Bandera, Medina and Uvalde counties, is now a CWD Containment Zone and all associated rules for that designation are in effect. Those rules include restrictions on the movements of carcass parts as well as live deer possessed under the authority of a permit. The department is also implementing mandatory CWD testing of hunter harvested deer within this containment zone.

“This emergency action allows us to contain the threat of this disease spreading any further while we collect more information and gather more data,” said T. Dan Friedkin, Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission Chairman. “Not only are these temporary emergency measures necessary and consistent with the state’s planned strategies for CWD management, they are essential for ensuring the protection of the state’s whitetail deer herd and the integrity of our hunting heritage.

“It is my intent for the Commission to address this issue through our regular rulemaking process, which provides opportunities for public comment and input from stakeholders, and that process will begin soon,” Friedkin added.

“With the confirmation of CWD in a free-ranging buck in Medina County, the TAHC is working with TPWD to determine the disease risk in the area,” said Dr. Susan Rollo, TAHC State Epidemiologist. “TAHC understands and appreciates TPWD’s immediate response and temporary measures to prevent the inadvertent spread of CWD to other parts of Texas.”

This most recent detection of CWD resulted from enhanced voluntary testing of hunter harvested deer in SZ3. TPWD’s sampling goal for SZ3 for the 2016-17 hunting season is 1,749 samples. As of today, the department has received about 720 samples from hunter harvests and roadkills within the zone and anticipates receiving about 200 additional samples from deer breeding facilities and associated release sites in SZ3.

“TPWD is very appreciative of the effort and cooperation that has been put forth by landowners, hunters and local officials in the area,” said Carter Smith, TPWD Executive Director. “Our ability to control this disease is directly related to the cooperation offered by the citizens of Medina, Bandera and Uvalde counties, and we pledge to continue to work with everyone to minimize the impacts of this disease as well as these challenging but necessary measures designed to control the spread of CWD.”

While the general deer hunting season is over, TPWD will continue to collect samples from MLDP (Managed Lands Deer Program) properties in the new Containment Zone as well as roadkills. The agency is seeking as many additional samples for testing as it can obtain in order to get a better handle on the geographic extent and prevalence of the disease in this area.

CWD was first discovered in Medina County in a dead buck in a white-tailed deer breeding facility in June 2015, with additional deer from that facility subsequently testing positive. The surveillance zone that includes portions of Bandera, Medina and Uvalde Counties was established in response to those positive samples.

CWD started in Texas with positives in mule deer in the far west and then the panhandle. The distance between the always-fatal deer disease and the stronghold of Texas’ whitetail herd offered some degree of comfort for the majority of deer hunters. Then CWD popped up in breeder facilities found in Medina and Lavaca Counties. Now the epicenter of CWD in Texas’ free-ranging whitetail herd is Medina County, which is much closer to home for many Texas hunters. The saga continues, but how does it play out?

47 Point Buck Shot in TN: New World Record

Stephen Tucker with 47 Point Buck

It appears that a 47 point white-tailed buck shot in Sumner County, Tennessee, will be a new world record. The hunter, Stephen Tucker, harvested the antler-rich buck back in November 2016, but had to wait out the mandatory 60 day drying out period required by the Boone and Crockett Club before it could be officially measured.

The potential record-breaking skull cap and antlers of the buck, which are estimated to be worth as much as $100,000, were kept in a rather safe place until they could be scored — in the vault of a local bank. Better safe than sorry, right?

Stephen Tucker with 47 Point Buck

Hunting a World Record

After monitoring the buck for months with game cameras, Tucker, 27, shot the non-typical buck with a muzzleloader in Sumner County, Tennessee. But it was not a one-and-done hunt, not by any stretch. Tucker bumped into the buck the very first day of the season, November 5, but his muzzleloader would not fire. Now, that sounds like my kind of luck.

Later that same day, the hunter crossed paths with the tremendous deer again, but could not seal the deal because the buck was too far out. Persistence and patience eventually payed off though. On November 9, 2016, four days after initially crossing paths with the deer, a somewhat frustrated Tucker once again found himself with an opportunity to tag the 47 point buck. This time, the buck stood a mere 40 yards away. Tucker calmed himself, squeezed the trigger and wrote the final chapter of a very special buck’s life.

Stephen Tucker with New Tennessee State Whitetail Record Buck, Word Record Whitetail Buck

Record Whitetail

Now, just over 60 days later, the 47 point once-in-a-lifetime buck officially scored a whopping 312 3/8 inches, as measured by a 4-member panel from Boone and Crockett. Scoring the buck was a marathon in itself. It took the panel over 4 hours to finish the job!

Source: “I have truly been blessed and I am very thankful,” Tucker said after learning the rack’s score. “I have had a lot of phones calls and questions and have tried to be patient waiting through the process. I am very appreciative to my family, friends, and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, especially Captian Dale Grandstaff, who has led me through the process. I believe he has been as excited about it as I have.”

Stephen Tucker with Sumner County 47 Point Buck

Something Special in Sumner County

The 47 point Tennessee bruiser will receive its official certification/coronation as the new world record white-tailed buck at the Boone and Crockett awards banquet in 2019. At that time, it will be measured yet again by two scorers. The current non-typical net world record of 307 5/8 was killed in 2003 by Tony Lovstuen in Albia, Iowa. It appears Tucker’s 312 3/8 will hold up.

The great thing about Tucker’s 47 point buck from a scoring perspective, in addition to the high total number of points, is that the buck looks to be a very symmetrical mainframe 10 point buck. A set of antlers with very symmetrical matched (mainframe) points will have few deductions, which is the difference between the gross and net scores, in both typical and non-typical antlers.

Obviously, the buck is also a new record for the state of Tennessee. The previous record for the state netted 244 3/8 inches. The buck shot by Tucker has completely obliterated that record, tacking on almost another 70 inches! The prior state record, shot in 2000, was also killed in Sumner County. Must be some good eats and genetics up that way. Wonder if I can find a good place to hunt ’round there?

Cold Weather Deer Hunting Tips

Deer Hunting in Cold Weather

Cold weather and deer hunting do not always go hand-in-hand at southern latitudes. It’s taken for granted “up north,” but Texas’ Fall temperatures rarely stay in the 30’s, if they get there at all. Let’s face it, sitting around a campfire is not quite as enjoyable when you’re sweating.

The regular (General Season) has ended for white-tailed deer in Texas, but many counties have a Late Season and ranches involved in the MLDP program still have the better parts of 2 months left to hunt. The Late Youth Season and South Texas are still going strong until January 15, too. It’s always good practice to harvest deer early in the season, if possible, because this leaves important food sources out on the landscape for the remainder of the herd trying to get through the winter, which has really just started.

Low temperatures benefit deer hunters in a number of ways, especially at lower latitudes, such as Texas. Whitetail, and some of those that hunt them, are real comfortable when the mercury drops. The deer, like us, are just not used to it. That said, it’s a good time to be out there. Below are 4 cold weather deer hunting tips to help you fill your freezer.

Cold is Gold

It takes a lot of energy to keep a deer humming along at really cold temperatures, at say, anything below 30 degrees F. Other than the peak of the breeding season, the rut, nothing is better at getting bucks and does up on their feet — because they have to eat!

Many of the whitetail subspecies found at lower latitudes are not built for cold weather. In fact, they have smaller skeletal frames and in areas where they are overabundant, they are even smaller. They are not built for really cold weather, or at least sustained cold weather. As a result, low temperatures get them up and keep them there throughout the day. Time for you to get out.

Hunt Accessible Foods

A strong cold front has just rolled in. Temperatures are slated to be in the low 20’s for the next few mornings and with mid-day highs in the 30’s. With cold, winter weather hitting hard (hey, at least for the area) deer will need energy. And energy comes from food.

So what are deer looking to eat? When it’s cold whitetail will eat just about anything that is easy to access, but they are really seeking carbohydrates for fuel their inner fire and warm them up. Carbs are easy to digest and they result in immediate energy. Hunt food sources that may not have been used heavily during the early season, but are still available. Yes, this includes fall food plots as well as spin-feeders. The cold temps should finally push them to eat the corn piling up under your feeder.

Another plus side hunting during the late season is that post-rut bucks have returned to a solid feeding pattern. The rut can knock as much as 25 percent of the body weight off a buck, and cold weather does not help, so they will be up and feeding. This will not help those deer hunting where late season regulations limit them to antlerless deer and spikes, but can pay off big for youth hunters, those hunting the South Texas General Season, and hunters on MLDP properties.

Dress for Cold Weather

The deer are cold so that means you too will be cold. One of the more important tips offered here is to make sure that you dress for success! And by that, I plenty of layers on both top and bottom. We are not in November anymore. Camo shorts, t-shirts and sneakers are not going to cut it in 20 degrees and 20 mile per hour winds that can be found in January. Those were the go-to attire when you were sweating it out in your box blind, but not now.

Get out your flannel, insulated overalls and sock hat. The critical areas to keep warm while cold weather deer hunting are your head, hands and feet. Develop a layered plan that will work whether sitting in a stand or covering ground. You will want to dress heavy for sitting, but be able to shed layers as you heat up. You also want to prepare for a full day of hunting because in cold weather deer will move all day long.

Hunt Corridors

Since deer are forced to move and feed when it’s cold out, then particular attention should be payed to hunt areas where they travel. Locate travel corridors in the area that are between bedding areas and food sources, get downwind and wait. This is when being dressed appropriately comes into play.

The probability that you will see deer using those travelways has just increased markedly since winter has finally rolled around. Those travel corridors, once well-vegetated, are now reduced to sparse grass and leafless trees and vines. Greater corridor visibility and hungry, roaming deer have tipped the odds in your favor. If you have any cold weather deer hunting tips please leave them in comments section and help a fellow brother or sister out. We’ll all appreciate it. Stay safe and good luck!

Conservation Option: MLD Permit Program

MLDP Conservation Option

The Conservation Option and the Harvest Option are the two options being offered up through the Managed Lands Deer Permit (MLDP) Program for the 2017-18 deer hunting season by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD). Texas property owners currently involved with the “old” MLDP Program are going to have to make a choice as to which route they want to go.

Those considering to get involved with TPWD, deer management activities on their land will also have to pick one to go with as TPWD has written that the MLDP Program will no longer exists in its current form. Say adios to Level 1, Level 2 and Level 3. They will all be discontinued.

MLDP Program in Texas

But for those afraid of change, feel comfort in knowing that the Conservation Option appears to be pretty much the same as MLDP Level 3. Participating property owners will still receive technical assistance and individualized deer harvest and habitat management recommendations for their property. The Harvest Option is similar in many ways, but no formal involvement/assistance is required from a TPWD biologist and is geared for properties already working up their own annual harvest recommendations.

Conservation Option for White-tailed & Mule Deer

The Conservation Option offers participating property owners the opportunity to work with a TPWD biologist to receive ranch-specific habitat and deer harvest recommendations and MLDP tag issuance based on property-specific deer population and habitat data.

This option does require certain types of deer data as well as completion of habitat management practices each year in order to enter and remain in the program. Under the Conservation Option participants will enjoy the maximum harvest flexibility of MLDP.

Conservation Option Participation Requirements

Entry in the option requires a TPWD-approved wildlife management plan for the property that includes:

  • Deer population data for the 2 preceding years,
  • Number of bucks and does harvested in each of the 2 preceding years,
  • Two Department-approved wildlife habitat management practices must have been conducted in each of the 2 preceding years.
  • Deadline to request participation in the Conservation Option is June 15.
  • Requests made after that date will not be considered in the Conservation Option for that hunting season, but may choose the Harvest Option for that year.

Once enrolled in the Conservation Option, persons wishing to continue participation over future hunting season must:

  • Acknowledge their intent to participate in the upcoming season through TWIMS,
  • Provide current year deer population/survey data,
  • Provide the number of buck and antlerless deer harvested,
  • Implement 3 TPWD-approved habitat management practices each year enrolled as specified in the wildlife management plan.

Aggregate Acreage For Conservation Option

Multiple landowners may combine contiguous tracts of lands to create an aggregate, larger acreage for program enrollment. Only a single wildlife management plan addressing all tracts of land within the aggregate acreage is required. In addition, a single participant must be designated to receive MLDP tags and they may be used on any property within the aggregate acreage.

The aggregate acreage is required to complete 3 habitat management practices as directed in the wildlife management plan.

Wildlife Management Associations

Wildlife Management Associations (WMA) may enroll and participate in the Conservation Option. A single wildlife management plan addressing all tracts of lands within the association that receive MLDP tag issuance is required.

MLDP tags and harvest recommendations will be issued to individual tracts of land within the WMA and tags are valid only on the tract of land for which they are issued. The WMA is required to complete 3 habitat management practices as directed in the wildlife management plan.

Conservation Option Tags

As in the past, participating private landowners will be issued MLDP tags for both buck and antlerless deer. Wildlife Management Associations and Cooperatives enrolled in the Conservation Option may choose to receive MLDP tag issuance for:

  • Only antlerless deer or,
  • Buck and antlerless deer.

Under the Conservation Option, MLDP tag issuance will be customized for enrolled property and determined utilizing deer population data collected on the property. Deer survey methods used to collect and determine deer population estimates must consists of TPWD-approved methods applicable to the property and ecoregion, and identified in the wildlife management plan specific to that property.

Conservation Option Season Dates

White-tailed Deer

  • Antlerless and buck white-tailed deer may be harvested by any lawful means, including modern firearm, from the Saturday closest to September 30 through the last day of February.

Mule Deer

  • Antlerless and buck mule deer may be harvested by only lawful archery equipment from the Saturday closest to September 30 for 35 consecutive days.
  • Antlerless and buck mule deer may be harvested by any lawful means, including modern firearm, from the first Saturday in November through the last Sunday in January.
  • General Requirements of MLDP

Reporting Requirements

Participating property owners in either the Harvest or Conservation Option will be required to report the number of buck and antlerless deer harvested each season. In addition, participants in the Conservation Option will be required to report the habitat management practices conducted on the property each year.

All reporting of required information is to be completed electronically in TWIMS and is the responsibility of the landowner or landowner’s designated agent to insure data is reported by the deadline. Deadline for reporting required deer harvest and habitat management information is April 1.

Conservation Option Tags

The new options under the MLDP Program will both offer a “print your own tag” system. This will allow landowners/hunters to print their own tags as needed. Once a property-specific harvest recommendation is made, a PDF file of the permits will be emailed to participant.

Harvest Logs

Program participants are required to maintain a TPWD-approved daily harvest log on the property enrolled in MLDP because of the new “print your own tag” system.
The harvest log must be maintained for the property through the end of MLDP hunting season.

A hunter harvesting and tagging a deer under the authority of MLDP must enter appropriate information, such as date of kill, species, sex, MLDP tag number, hunter name, and hunting or driver’s license number of hunter, into the harvest log on the same day of harvest.

Additionally, the harvest log may satisfy the cold storage and processing facility record book provided certain information is include in the log and is retained on the MLDP property for 1 year following date of the last harvest entry.

Summary of the Conservation Option 

Again, the Conservation Option of the new MLDP Program will essentially be the old Level 3. It appears that there will be mandatory reporting online using TWIMS under the new system, but from my understanding most property owners involved in the MLDP Program are already doing this. The enrollment deadline for properties new to the program being moved up to July 15 from August 15.

For property owners currently participating in the MLDP Program, the Conservation Option will function very similar to what you are familiar with. TPWD has stated that, “As 2017 approaches a more detailed document explaining the application process in TWIMS and specific program rules will be available to program participants.” Will let you know when that happens.

Deer Eating Ashes?

Do Whitetail Deer Eat Ashes?

Question: “I have a few burn piles on my property in Hardin County – Lumberton, Texas. I have 12 whitetail does and bucks coming on my property to feed every day and night. Sometimes after I burn a pile of brush the deer will eat the ash and graze on burned limbs. It happens all year round. Why is that?”

Deer Diet

A deer’s diet varies from place to place. We generally know what white-tailed deer eat, but deer must use the resources at their disposal to meet their dietary needs. It will help to add context to the environment where these deer are found, and help address the question about deer eating ashes, if we look a little closer at deep Southeast Texas.

The property is located in what is referred to as the Flatwoods area of the state. This area includes about 2.5 million acres of woodland in humid Southeast Texas just north of the Coast Prairie and extending into Louisiana. The landscape is level to gently undulating. Surface drainage is slow. It’s actually fairly similar to the woodlands that can be found all the way to the east coast of the US.

Upland soils are mostly deep, light-colored, acid loams with gray, loamy, or clayey subsoils. Bottomland soils are deep, dark-colored, acid clays and loams. The water table is near the surface at least part of the year. Plenty of rainfall.

White-tailed deer in this environment should have a diversity of foods in their diet, but they likely are coming up short on micro-nutrients. High annual precipitation and acidic soils leads to leaching and low levels of micro-nutrients, minerals in the soil. The deer are eating ash to supplement this deficiency in diet. So what might they be looking for?

Composition of Wood Ash

Let’s first take a closer look at wood ash. Identifying what makes up wood ash will help determine what deer in the area, as well as the southeastern part of the whitetail’s range, are seeking when deer eat ashes from a burn pile. Let’s assume these burn piles contain both ash powder as well as charcoal chunks.

Source: “Much wood ash contains calcium carbonate as its major component, representing 25 or even 45 percent. Less than 10 percent is potash, and less than 1 percent phosphate; there are trace elements of iron, manganese, zinc, copper and some heavy metals. However, these numbers vary, as combustion temperature is an important variable in determining wood ash composition. All of these are, primarily, in the form of oxides.”

In short, calcium is the most abundant nutrient/mineral in wood ash, averaging almost 20 percent by weight. Wood ash is about 4 percent potassium, and less than 2 percent phosphorus, magnesium, aluminum and sodium. The chart below illustrates the mineral composition of ash from several sites.

Mineral Composition of Wood Ash

Minerals, Deer & Ash

Calcium, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium and sodium are important for deer. Calcium and potassium are most likely what deer are targeting when they eat wood ash, although a case could also be made for sodium. Salt is often used as a deer attractant for one good reason, it works.

Like us, white-tailed deer need calcium. It’s required for contracting muscles, forming and strengthening bones, conducting nerve impulses throughout the body, blood clotting, maintaining a normal heartbeat, and a number of other important processes. Calcium is delivered by lactating does to their fawns, and calcium comprises about 20 percent of a buck’s hardened antlers. Calcium is stored in bones and teeth.

Potassium functions as mineral and an electrolyte in deer and it has many significant functions, such as maintaining a normal water balance between cells and body fluids, contracting muscles, aiding in nerve signals and it’s found in bone material, but potassium is quite available in the environment. Deer should have plenty of uptake in their normal diet.

The phosphorus levels in wood ash are similar to the levels found in pelleted feeds to supplement the diets of deer. Magnesium levels are much higher than commercially available feeds, but minerals do not typically taste good to animals. Mineral block manufacturers add salt to encourage use by animals.

Except for areas adjacent a coastline, most properties are devoid of sodium that is readily available for deer. This is especially true of areas that have high annual rainfall, like the Southeastern US. Wood ash is comprised of only a small amount of sodium, but salt is highly sought by deer and it’s necessary for normal bodily functions. But is there enough salt in wood ash to move the needle? Maybe. All deer need it, and believe it or not, sodium does comprise about one-half of one percent of a buck’s hardened antlers.

So Why do Deer Eat Ashes?

Deer are consuming wood ash because it contains something that they need or like, either minerals or salt or both. The most plausible reasons are deer are seeking calcium and possibly salt, but some of the other minerals found in wood ash are micro-nutrients that are also important for deer. This case is relevant to other parts of the whitetail’s (inland) range where leaching is high and mineral (and salt) availability are low due to acidic soils and abundant rainfall.

Interesting enough, wood ash can also help with indigestion (calcium neutralizes stomach acids) and serve as a laxative in animals. It’s safe to assume that these ailments are not the cause for why deer are eating ashes from a burn pile, but this factoid may come in handy next time you eat your buddy’s cooking at deer camp.

How Many Bucks Greater than 13 Inches?

Whitetail Hunting in Texas

Question: “I deer hunt in Texas in areas that have antler restriction regulations. Am I allowed to take more than one 13 inch or larger (spread) buck in Texas?”

Response: The short answer to your question is, YES. A hunter can shoot more than one buck with an inside spread greater than 13 inches in Texas. However, there are some stipulations that hunters need to adhere to in order to remain legal.

Texas Deer Hunting License

When a deer hunting license is purchased in Texas it comes with 5 white-tailed deer tags, 3 of which can be used for bucks or does, and the remaining 2 tags are for antlerless deer only.

A hunter has the option of using all 5 whitetail tags on antlerless deer or harvesting some combination of 5 deer with no more than 3 of them being bucks with a standard deer hunting license. Straight forward.

Harvested Buck from Antler Restriction County in Texas

Texas Antler Restrictions

At the time of writing, there are 112 counties in Texas that have antler restrictions in place that regulate buck harvest. There are only 2 types of legal bucks in these counties, (1) bucks that have an inside spread between the main beams of 13 inches or greater, and (2) bucks with at least 1 unbranched antler, so most likely spikes or 3 point bucks.

In these counties, the bag limit is 2 (legal) bucks, but no more than 1 may have an inside spread between the main beams of 13 inches or greater. A hunter does have the option to shoot 2 unbranched antlered bucks in these counties, as well. Probably more than many of you needed to know?

Deer Hunting Regulations

The hunter’s question above asks generally about buck harvest in Texas, but I suspect he is specifically asking about buck harvest in within additional antler restriction counties. Fortunately, deer hunting regulations in Texas are established based on county bag limits.

These county-based regs works to the benefit of a hunter that may hunt white-tailed deer in several counties within the state. A hunter can shoot up to 5 whitetail in any number of counties as long as he or she does not exceed the bag limit for any one county.

Basically, a hunter can shoot up to 3 bucks with an inside spread between the main beams of greater than 13 inches in 3 different antler restriction counties within the same hunting season. The fact that this option exists is why there is a harvest log on the back of a deer hunting license in Texas.

Texas Hunting License Deer Harvest Log

The log allows a hunter to record up to 3 harvested bucks and denote whether the deer were taken in antler restriction counties or not, as well as if the bucks were greater than 13 inches, but it’s also used by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) game wardens for compliance with county bag limits for deer.

Note: If you shoot even a single deer in Texas you DO want to complete the harvest log. If you get checked by a game warden, even while out fishing next year, and you have deer tags missing, they will refer to that log on the back. If it’s not completed, then you will be cited.

Transporting Harvested Deer Across State Lines: CWD

State CWD Regulations

Question: “How do we prepare harvested deer in Texas to be transported to other states which have regulations related to CWD? The regulations for deer from other states to be transported to Mississippi are contrary to Texas requirements for transporting deer. Mississippi requires all meat to be deboned with no skin or heads to be brought into state unless mounted by a taxidermist or a boiled down head plate with antlers.

This is contrary to Texas requirements which says that the head with hunting license tag must accompany 2 front quarters, 2 hind quarters and 2 back straps. This prevents me from taking deer from Texas to my home in Mississippi. Do I have to stop hunting in Texas? What can I do to remedy this problem and adhere to both state’s requirements? Please let me know as my hunting trip to Texas in coming up in November.”

Transport from CWD-Positive States

Mississippi and other states where Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) has not been documented have passed regulations that prohibit the importation of cervid carcasses and deer parts from states where CWD has been found. A cervid is a member of the deer family and includes white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk, moose, caribou, red deer, sika deer, and fallow deer. Many states have carcass import bans, even those that have already found CWD within the state.

The goal of these importation rules is to prevent hunters from inadvertently fast-tracking the spread of the neurological disease that is fatal to deer. As of October 1 2016, CWD has been found in 24 states within the continental US and the Canadian provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan, as well as the countries of Norway and South Korea.

US States with Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD)

CWD has been confirmed in the following states: Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

Texas Deer Hunting Regulations

In Texas, a hunter may skin and quarter a deer into 2 forequarters, 2 hindquarters and 2 backstraps and possess them for transport, provided the quartered deer is tagged and proof of sex accompanies the deer.

Texas hunting regulations also require the head as proof of sex for harvested deer. The regulations state that it is unlawful to possess a deer with proof of sex removed unless the deer is at a final destination and has been quartered. The regulations go on to say that proof of sex for a deer is:

  • the head (skinned or unskinned) of a buck deer with antlers attached
  • the head (skinned or unskinned) of an antlerless deer
  • a completed Managed Lands Deer Permit (MLD), Landowner Assisted Management Permits (LAMPS), or TPWD Drawn Hunt Legal Deer Tag

There are, however, three exceptions to the proof of sex requirement covered in Texas’ hunting regulations. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) regulations read, “Instead of proof of sex, the hunter may obtain a (1) receipt from a taxidermist or a (2) signed statement from the landowner or the landowner’s agent,” and it was recently published that a (3) CWD receipt from a CWD check station also serves as proof of sex.

Basically, there are a number of ways to meet the proof of sex requirement without having to maintain possession of the head. This allows complete disposal of antlerless/doe heads. For bucks, it also allows hunters to transport antlers with cleaned skull plates in compliance with CWD import rules for their home state.

A Bone to Pick

But what about bone-in fore and hindquarters? At the time of writing, Texas hunting regulations only allow hunters to legally process harvested deer down to 4 quarters and 2 backstraps until the animal reaches its final destination. Period. End of story.

Even in Texas’ 2 CWD zones, where mandatory testing is required on all hunter-harvested deer, hunters are still allowed to transport quarters out to other parts of the state. The problem is that what is legally required in Texas all of a sudden becomes a game violation when those fore and hindquarters are brought into a state that has banned bone-in meat from CWD states.

Cervid Carcass Import Bans Mean Taking Home Fully Processed Deer

Taking Meat Home: Process It

For hunters living in states with cervid carcass import bans, there appears to be only one way to lawfully take boneless venison out of Texas, have your deer processed before bringing it home. There are two options, however, when it comes to processing harvested game. Deer and other cervids must be brought to either (1) a commercial deer processing facility or (2) a “private processing facility.”

A private processing facility is a processing facility that is not available for use by the public. The processing facility must be stationary facility that is on-site and is designed and constructed to process game animals. There does not appear to be any registration process involved in setting up such a facility, but any place operating as such must meet the requirements previously mentioned and maintain a “Cold Storage or Processing Facility Record Book.”

It would take some resources to put together such a place, even if the site was simply a small building with water, table, grinder and a freezer of some type, but it could be well worth it depending on the number of animals harvested by the hunter or hunters off a property annually.

In closing, to follow the rules of the state you are hunting in as well as that of your home state, you will need to have all deer processed, either by a commercial or private processing facility, before crossing a state line. It appears to be the only legal way.

Deer Population Today vs. Fawn Numbers Tomorrow

Deer Survey Techniques for Managing Whitetail Populations

It’s pre-season prime-time right now with game cameras working 24-7 as hunters prepare for the upcoming deer hunting seasons. It’s a cornucopia of SD cards and game camera photos. Which bucks are still in the area? Where did Stickers go? Will he return? And will I be there when he does? Fun things to ponder for sure, but hunters should also consider the number of white-tailed deer that call their hunting property/lease home.

Why? The health of the deer population found there depends on it, or at least that is what research out of Texas is suggesting. The study, spearheaded by the Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute at Texas A&M University–Kingsville, is investigating the interaction between deer density and overall fawn health.

Research suggests that whitetail does spatially isolate themselves during fawning by decreasing their home range size immediately proceeding or up to 2 weeks prior to parturition, although this behavior was not consistently observed in Texas, at least not in south Texas.

Deer Density, Population Size and Fawn Production

To better understand changes in home range size during fawning 35 does were fitted with GPS collars in 200 acre high-fenced pastures on 2 South Texas ranches. Each ranch had one high density (60 deer) and one low density (20 deer) pasture. Nineteen does were collared in high density enclosures (10 and 9/ranch), and 16 does were collared in low density enclosures (8/ranch).

Collars recorded doe locations every 30 minutes and were deployed for 27–29 weeks beginning in early Spring. Researchers were able to determine when the doe gave birth based on movement data, which varied by deer density. Twenty-seven of 35 females decreased their home ranges during the study just before and after giving birth.

Averaging across all weeks, the does in the low density pasture had home ranges that were 43 percent larger than the does in the high density pasture. In addition, the post-birth home ranges of low density does averaged 52 percent larger than their counterparts. The numbers are interesting at first, but eye-opening because managers realize that smaller home ranges could result in a lower quality diet for lactating does, resulting in decreased milk production and likely lower fawn survival and growth rates.

A less than optimal start for fawns equates to mediocre deer down the road because the body size of mature deer will be negatively impacted, lower than they would have been had the deer been in a lower density environment. This, in turn, means adult does are smaller and bucks do not reach their genetic potential either. And the cycle continues.

Interesting work, indeed. It also makes complete sense because one of the staples of quality deer management is maintaining good nutrition within the deer herd. Maintaining the proper deer density and good nutrition for the deer found on your property (at all ages) will mean bigger, healthier deer both now and in the future. The next question is how many deer can your property maintain in good health?

3 Things to Do Before Deer Hunting Season

Pre-Season Deer Hunting TIps

It’s late Summer and hunting season is getting closer by the day! Before we know it school will be back in session, cool fronts will be rolling in from the North and we will be on the hunt for on of our favorite game animals, the white-tailed deer. With days getting shorter and the hunting season getting closer, here are 3 things that deer hunters should be doing right now to prepare for the upcoming season.

Scouting with Game Cameras Before Deer Season

1. Exercise to Improve Your Hunting, Experience

This is something that we should all strive to do on a regular basis, but life gets busy. Make it a point to improve your stamina prior to deer season. Staying in good physical shape should be a priority for hunters, especially when we expect ourselves to carry as much gear as a pack mule, climb like a tree like a monkey and have the ability to drag out a mature buck. Then we have to load it.

Hunters that expect to cover a lot of country must have endurance. Cardio will pay off. You don’t have to go all American Ninja Warrior on us. Chuck Norris? No. Just walking at a very brisk pace for a couple of miles a day helps get those legs and heart ready for action. But you still have to do it. Stronger legs can help with crouching, having to hold in odd positions for longer than you’d like and may ultimately help close the distance.

In addition, focus on exercises that use your arms and legs that help stabilize your core, which makes all of you muscles stronger but especially strengthens your back and abs. Many of us forget about abs. Don’t aim for six-pack abs, but do exercises that make your abs stronger because weak abs will lead to back injuries. A weak back is a back injury waiting to happen. Avoid having it happen when you go to load your big buck.

2. Practice: Skill Creates Opportunity

This is something that every hunter should do early on, well before the deer hunting season. Get out your gear and look it over, then go a use it. Nothing better prepares us for the final seconds of a successful hunt better than being comfortable and confident with our hunting equipment. This is equally true for archery equipment and firearms. Getting to know your gear is particularly important if you’ve picked up a bow or gun recently.

Practice with your gear and become proficient with it. Also, perform a dress rehearsal of sorts, and get everything in place just as if you were going hunting. Shoot. Walk. Climb. See what is going to work and and what is not. Nothing builds confidence like repeatedly shooting your bow into the fall season. Again, pre-season exercise will ensure you don’t strain an arm or pull a buck muscle in the process.

Whether you hunt using a gun, bow, or both, create situations simulate actual hunting scenarios. Shoot from elevated positions as well as from ground level, while sitting, standing, crouched or while kneeling. It will also pay to examine any stands that are already in place an ensure that everything is good to go. Don’t wait until your first sit of the season to realize there is a fresh, new branch growing right where your head is supposed to be, or what used to be an open shooting lane is now a mess of new growth.

3. Game Cameras for Pre-Season Hunting

What do I need to say here? It’s late Summer so get them out and start scouting! With hot, dry conditions deer will be on the move right now, with most activity occurring after the sun goes down until mid-morning. There is no better time to get a pre-season read on the bucks using your hunting property than right now.

This is important and really exciting for those of you that will be hunting new ground during the upcoming deer season. It’s fun to get out during the last hour of daylight, cruise and sight deer, but most of the buck movement and feeding activity during late Summer will under the cover of darkness. We like it cool and so do the deer.

Remote cameras allow a hunter to evaluate most of the bucks in his or her hunting area as well as estimate deer herd composition. This is good leading up to the season opening because it gives the hunter a chance to set expectations, evaluate antler growth on an annual basis, and determine management-based harvest strategies. August through September is typically the time to perform deer surveys, so get out there and get some info on the deer using your property.

Who’s Naturally Spreading CWD?

Are Bucks or Does Spreading CWD?

Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a big deal, and for many reasons. First, it’s a threat to white-tailed populations throughout the deer’s range. Secondly, it is a huge point of contention between hunters and deer breeding operations as well as hunters and state natural resource agencies. The fact is that nobody really knows how CWD will impact free-ranging deer herds over the long term.

It’s a little disturbing for those of us that enjoying hunting white-tailed deer in the fall and consuming venison throughout the year with our families. At a time when the importance of recruiting new hunters is much of what we hear and read about, CWD itself, or the resulting management of the disease, may potentially push current and additional, potential hunters away. Who knows?

States where CWD has been found
States in yellow indicate where white-tailed deer have tested positive for CWD.

What is known: CWD is fatal to any deer that gets it. It’s a naturally occurring disease. Infected animals can infect other animals. Healthy animals can become infected while living in an infected environment. The rate of spread from one area to another can be increased by people moving deer infected with CWD. CWD has been found in 23 states, to date.

It’s generally thought that older bucks are the CWD-prone animals, but new research suggests that does are more likely than bucks to spread CWD within their range. According to reports of the study:

Fewer female white-tailed deer disperse than males, but when they do, they typically travel more than twice as far, taking much more convoluted paths and covering larger areas, according to researchers in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences.

These findings, from a study in which 277 juvenile female deer were fitted with radio collars, has important deer-management implications in states where chronic wasting disease is known to be infecting wild, free-ranging deer, noted researcher Duane Diefenbach, adjunct professor of wildlife ecology.

“Dispersal of female deer is density dependent, meaning that higher deer densities lead to greater dispersal rates.” He explained. “Therefore, reducing deer density will reduce female dispersal rates—and likely will reduce disease spread.

Past studies have shown that older bucks are more likely to have CWD, to test positive for it. This makes sense to me because even though the new research out of Pennsylvania suggest that does are more likely to spread the disease through dispersal, bucks likely encounter more does during the breeding season, which increases their chances of contracting the always-fatal disease.

It’s been suggested that bucks be targeted by hunters to slow the spread, but no one can say for sure whether or not this strategy has worked or will work for sure. In Wisconsin, yearling bucks and does were found to have CWD at a similar rate, about 3.5 percent, in areas where the CWD disease was “most prevalent.” Those are only year-and-a-half old deer, which means both sexes are going to test out significantly higher rates as they age.

How does CWD spread in a deer herd?

The Penn State research gives some merit to herd reduction plans commonly implemented by state natural resource departments throughout the US; a decrease in deer density and shorter dispersal distances will reduce the rate of spread of CWD within deer populations. It’s paramount that it be pointed out that the end result is still fewer deer. CWD itself, or the control strategies implemented to reduce the spread of the disease, both lead us to the same end point, reduced deer numbers, reduced hunter opportunity and a continued decline in hunter recruitment.

Scientists believe that the prions that cause CWD in white-tailed deer can persists for years, maybe even decades, in the soils in areas that have become infected — even after all of the deer are gone. If we remove all of the deer to prevent the spread of the disease, then what will we be left with? Only time will tell.