There are times when hunting seems like the “national pastime” of the state of Texas. People feel strongly about it here, and small towns embrace the sport as communities. Different parts of the state also seem to have different regional and cultural attitudes towards hunting, including tactics, blind positioning, harvest levels, trophy qualifications, etc. Despite varying trends within the hunting community, the idea of whitetail deer management transcends them all. Whether you’re hunting the family “back forty” in the panhandle plains or 10,000 acres in deep South Texas, proper deer management is equally important.
Whitetail deer management is an idea that eventually bucked the trends of “naturalists” throughout the state and has gained steam over the past 20 years. Hunters were once limited to deer populations completely at the whim of the local ecology. Due to regional variances of mineral and protein content in the available local terrain, some parts of the state hunted large, mossy-horned monster bucks, while others found themselves staring at pencil-tined six points and eight points that were barely wide enough to shoot! All of that changed, though, with the introduction of the idea that hunters could “manage” deer populations to give boosts to population and antler growth.
Proper whitetail deer management frequently includes properties that are game fenced, isolating herds for maximum effect of all management steps taken. But the idea is not limited to “captive herds.” While the square acreage of game fenced property in Texas increases every year, the large majority of the state hunts transient whitetail populations on low fenced properties. Both the quantity and quality of such deer herds can be drastically improved through proper whitetail deer management. Game management specialists and wildlife department officials are available to conduct elaborate spot counts, providing a glimpse into male – female ratios and allowing them to make recommendations on proper harvest numbers for ideal, long-term reproduction rates. Planting oat plots, deploying protein feeders and controlling harvest numbers are all methods of game management proven to be highly effective on low fenced properties.
While careful whitetail deer management can certainly produce dramatic effects in “natural” herds, it is on game fenced properties that the idea really has some power. The quantity and quality of captive herds can be improved dramatically through many of the same techniques used in low fenced areas. Having a good handle on the size of your population is always a must, because harvesting numbers must be tailored to fit projected reproduction rates to ensure a sustainable herd. Other methods of whitetail deer management are equally effective, such as ensuring sufficient protein availability and habitat stability.
The expanding Texas deer breeding industry and ready availability of large, genetically sound, healthy stocker deer has probably done the most in terms of potential impact on captive herds. When planning an effective whitetail deer management program, owners of high fenced properties can save valuable years and, in the long term, probably quite a bit of money by introducing high-caliber stocker deer into captive herds. Property managers who buy DNA certified stocker bucks from high end breeding outfits such as Escondido Ranch can turn a middling buck population into a blossoming group of swiftly maturing trophies in just a few short years.
While captive herds are seemingly twice as easy to influence, they are also twice as sensitive to steps taken under a whitetail deer management program. Great care must be taken to ensure a natural balance to the ecology, especially herd numbers and ratios and especially when introducing stocker bucks to the population. But with some careful attention and diligent monitoring, it is now easier than ever to create and maintain a healthy whitetail population capable of producing some real trophy deer.