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The State of Healthy Deer Herds

June 21, 2015
Scott Bugai, VP - TDA

There is no quarrel about it; Texas is hands down the top destination for whitetail hunting in North America. This hard earned notoriety isn’t by chance, nor is it just the blessing of Mother Nature. With over 4 million deer roaming the Lone Star State, one might think that Texas is blessed with mild summers and winters, habitat ripe with nutrients, and rain fall on demand to support a variety of ecosystems. Well, if you are a Texan, you know that’s not quite how it goes.

Yes, Texas does offer some whitetail friendly habitat, but not without adversity. Known for harsh seasons that can burn you up for 3 months at a time, freeze the entire state in a matter of hours, and make water scarce, not only for the wildlife, but for over 26 million people (and counting) that depend on the state’s precious water supply. Surprising though, is that these harsh realties are well accepted and acknowledged by the champions of the state’s deer population, the Texas landowner.

For decades, the success of intensive deer management has greatly changed the landscape for hunting leases and real estate in Texas, benefiting all landowners. In fact, in any given year, many small acreage landowners can now effectively produce the same amount of, or more, large bucks as those owning large tracts of land.

Yet as with any success story, there are those who wish to undermine these efforts and the advances that have been made in overcoming years of mismanaged Texas wildlife habitat—all for their own personal gain. Some groups claiming to promote our “hunting heritage” have ironically taken their talking points from the anti-hunting playbooks of groups all around this country. Yet even those who criticize the most vocally have benefitted from the enhanced techniques that Texans are so well-known for.

Of course, Texas sportsmen understand that the real threat to their hunting heritage are those who are trying to limit their access to the wildlife resources of this state. Texas sportsmen also understand that the deer ranching industry is already highly regulated.  Deer ranchers in Texas are required by law to have a valid veterinary-client-patient relationship prior to obtaining and administering prescription or scheduled medications. These pharmaceuticals are commonly used in other livestock species, including the cattle on beef ranches across this state. 

The net result of all this regulation is that farmed deer are likely the healthiest deer in Texas and the rest of the country. Recruitment numbers in breeding operations far surpass those of pasture herds.  Through the success of innovative management principles, ranch managers can now maintain the overall health of a deer herd—whether in the pasture or in breeding pens—and can greatly increase fawning success.  This leads to increased recruitment and creates a larger sustained yield for harvest in future years.

So, the next time you are out hunting, whether on your own land, or on a lease, take a moment to think about where we are today, how we got here, and what role the landowner has played in our success.  Regardless where the opponents stand, it’s up to, and the right of, each landowner to decide which method they will use and how they will benefit from the choices available to them. A right, and choice, that is to the benefit of all Texans and hunters.