Texas to Change Deer Management Program

More CWD Positive Deer in Texas

Private property comprises well over 95-percent of Texas, so most white-tailed deer management and hunting takes place on private lands within the state. Years ago, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) developed a deer management program called the “Managed Lands Deer Permit (MLDP) Program” in order to improve wildlife habitat and assist landowners interested in enhancing the whitetail found on their properties.

The concept of the deer-based program was put habitat management on the ground where wildlife are found and reward landowners willing to participate by providing property-specific harvest recommendations, longer hunting seasons and harvest permits. Since the program’s inception in 1999, the number of cooperating landowners and the amount of land enrolled has grown like wildfire, which includes 9,500 landowners and 24 million acres. Now, the MLDP program may be a victim of its own success.

TPWD to Change MLDP Program

Alan Cain, white-tailed deer program leader for TPWD said, “We need to find ways to simplify the program, make it more efficient, meet the diverse needs of landowners, and still accomplish the program’s goals, which include building and maintaining relationships with private landowners and engaging them on conservation and habitat management.”

Source: “TPWD is considering proposing to combine the MLDP and LAMPS programs and offer two managed-lands options: a conservation option and harvest option. The conservation option would mirror the current MLDP program, with landowners agreeing to several requirements, including collecting and providing annual deer population and harvest data to TPWD, as well as engaging in a minimum number of habitat improvement practices. TPWD would provide a harvest recommendation for that specific property.

Under the harvest option, requirements would be considerably reduced or eliminated, harvest quotas would be determined based largely on the deer population/density in the general region, and antler restrictions would apply if the property is in one of the 150 or so Texas counties in which those restrictions apply. The extended (Oct.-Feb.) hunting season would also apply.

Creating the two options would allow TPWD staff to concentrate their technical guidance efforts with landowners who want to make the most of state biologists’ expertise and get site-specific recommendations through the conservation option while spending less time on properties under the harvest option but still maintaining contact and interaction with those landowners.

Agency staff plans to offer recommendations for proposed changes in the programs at January’s Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission meeting. Any that are adopted won’t take effect until the 2016-17 hunting seasons.”

Determining Deer Harvest Goals on Small Properties

Deer Hunting: Doe Hunting and Management Tips

The white-tailed deer hunting season is underway and things, at least here in Central Texas, have definitely picked up over the past week. It had been tough hunting with tons of cool season forbs and, believe or not, acorns on the ground! The warmer temperatures did not help the early season deer hunting action either. However, whitetail bucks are now actively seeking out and staying with does. Most of the does observed over the past few days have had anxious bucks right on their heels. The rut is definitely on around here.

Many, but not all, hunters have commented that deer harvest is down in their areas due to an abundance of natural foods. Many places have reported corn just piling up under their feeders. It’s hard to believe that the little bit of rain the region received turned things around so quickly, but that’s very good for the deer. That said, many places involved in deer management programs still have harvest goals they would like to achieve. There is still plenty of hunting season left, so don’t panic yet. Continue reading “Determining Deer Harvest Goals on Small Properties”

Shoot Early This Deer Season

Deer Hunting in Texas: Shoot Early for Best Results!

Providing high quality habitat and good whitetail nutrition are some of the major building blocks of a successful deer management program. Regular readers of this site know that I stress this point constantly. Although the plant communities on a property can be manipulated to provide outstanding native forage for resident deer, even good habitat can “take it on the chin” during drought years like this one. Supplemental feeding can help struggling deer big time, but filling tags early in the deer hunting season is another way to “create” food for the remaining deer.

When it comes to individual animals having more food, it never hurts to eliminate the competition. This is why it’s always, always, always important to keep deer numbers in line with the available habitat. The past 12 months have been beyond dry here in Texas. So just like the commercial beef producers have been reducing their herds, it’s almost time for the deer hunters to step up to the plate and do the same to Texas’ whitetail. Pasture management and habitat management can be one in the same. Proper herd management, whether it be cow or deer, can moderate some of the impacts of drought—to both the animals and the plants they eat. After all, it will rain again someday. You just have to make sure there is something left to grow. Continue reading “Shoot Early This Deer Season”

Antler Restrictions, Concerns Continue in Texas

The white-tailed deer hunting seasons are just months away, which means hunters will begin making their final preparations for the fall. With summer heading into the home-stretch, hunters remaining tasks include the addition of new spin-feeders, the replacement of old stands with new ones, the clearing of shooting lanes, conducting deer surveys and a review of the whitetail hunting regulations for their area. In Texas, one of the most discussed deer hunting regulations continues to be the antler restriction regulations that are in place for bucks in many counties.

Regulations. It’s a safe bet that most hunters are not old enough to remember a time when there were no deer hunting regulations, before there were seasons and limits for specifically for whitetail. One can only imagine the outrage of hunters, commercial ones included, when some well-meaning game biologist came along and suggested that the harvest of wild animals be managed through regulations. I bet a good number of hunters wanted to tan his hide along with the other skins salted down around back. Fast forward to modern times and it’s easy to see (and hear) that some things never change.

Texas Whitetail Hunting: Deer Management through Antler Restrictions

In Texas counties with antler restriction regulations, only two legal bucks exists: those with at least one unbranched antler and those with an inside spread of 13 inches or greater. Antler restrictions get talked about quite often because, well, it can be darn difficult to estimate the inside antler spread of a buck in the field. This is the toughest part of the regulation; the antler spread of many bucks will be close to 13 inches, but no hunter wants to come up short when a warden puts a tape to it. Many hunters have suggested using regulations based on points, such as three or four antler points per side, but this does not work. For those wondering why, take a look at the response from Texas Parks and Wildlife Department after a regular reader of this site recommended a point-based antler regulation:

“I appreciate your comments. One thing this is unique about the Texas antler restriction regulation is that it is designed to eliminate the risk of high-grading bucks. Point restrictions certainly could result in high grading. For example, a rule allowing only bucks with 4 points on a side to be killed is allowing for the harvest of the best yearlings and protection of the poorest-quality yearlings. The reason for this is that there is no correlation between age and number of points.

However, there is a very strong correlation between age and inside spread. That’s one reason why we went with the spread restriction. Another unique aspect of the Texas model is the “slot limit” (i.e., it allows for the harvest of deer with at least one unbranched antler) — further reducing the risk of high grading. Nonetheless, this regulation does indeed protect some mature bucks with narrow spreads, which is an unintended consequence.

But the good news is that only 4 percent of all mature bucks in these Resource Management Units (RMUs) have an inside spread less than 13″ wide (based on data from thousands of harvested bucks). And long-term research has shown us that the bucks with at least one unbranched antler are more likely to be those narrow-racked bucks at maturity. So it would behoove hunters to take advantage of that second buck tag (for spikes and 3-pointers).”

I dislike being managed and regulated as much as the next guy, but most of the regulations in my life seem to be working out okay. They are not overly intrusive. I don’t like it that I can not legally drive my truck as fast as I would like, but I do appreciate the fact that neither can the other idiots on the road. Safety first. I also like the fact that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is keeping the foods I eat safe for the most part. That’s good for the family. I guess deer hunting regulations, possibly even antler restrictions, are something that will always be a part our lives.

If all these regulations ensure that we will be around with some number of deer to chase, then so be it. Regulated hunting through limits and seasons are a component of any state’s deer management program.  I have, without a doubt, observed larger and older free-ranging bucks in areas after antler restriction regulations were implemented. Additionally, most of testimonials I have received on the subject of the antler restriction regulations in Texas have been positive, but there will always be  unhappy campers with any regulation, hunting or otherwise. Of course, I suspect that if all deer regulations were removed and white-tailed deer had no bag limit and no closed season, a small percentage of hunters would actually be happy, but the majority would not. What do you think?

Deer Density, Buck to Doe Ratio, and Harvest Rates

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the impacts of habitat quantity and quality on white-tailed deer harvest rates. Habitat quantity does not necessarily impact the harvest rate itself, but a property that provides a smaller amount of habitat must harvest fewer deer than a property that provides a larger amount of habitat in order to keep the deer population on the ranch stable. Habitat quality, however, can vary between properties that provide the same quantity (in acreage) of deer habitat, which in turn impacts the health and productivity of the ranch’s deer population.

Habitat quality impacts deer harvest rates because herd productivity will vary between properties. If deer density is held constant, deer on a property that provides good habitat will be in better condition than deer on poor habitat. This superior body condition can be measured through increased body weights in animals and improved antler quality in every age class of bucks. Today, I will discuss how fawn survival, as effected by deer density and the buck to doe ratio, can significantly impact the annual harvest of white-tailed deer populations. Continue reading “Deer Density, Buck to Doe Ratio, and Harvest Rates”