Experimental Season Results
Since 2013, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) has been testing an experimental buck pronghorn season in the Dalhart and Pampa areas. The experiment allows landowners to control the harvest of buck pronghorn on their properties. This is different than the current statewide regulations where TPWD determines harvest quotas and issues permits directly to landowners. During this timeframe, TPWD biologists have been collecting data via mandatory check stations that require hunters to bring their harvested bucks to a check station within 24 hours of harvest and annual aerial surveys. These data are used to help evaluate impacts of the experiment on our pronghorn resource. Although the experimental area pronghorn population numbers and fawn reproduction have mirrored those populations outside of the experimental areas (indicating no negative population level impacts), we have documented some other effects.
Conducting this experiment has provided TPWD biologists with tremendous datasets that have given new information regarding the upward limits of pronghorn buck harvest. We would have never known these bounds without trying the experiment. In terms of pronghorn population sustainability, the experimental harvest strategy seemed to have no impact on local populations. However, the level of buck harvest intensity within the Dalhart experimental area is having adverse effects on sex ratios and buck age structure. Harvest in the Pampa experimental area was much lower than in the Dalhart area and closer to traditional harvest rates. Major reasons for the substantial differences in buck harvest between the experimental areas are land use practices and land ownerships. In general, cropland and smaller properties dominate the Dalhart area with more rangeland and larger properties comprising the Pampa area. Data suggest without having limited harvest quotas in landscapes and hunting pressure such as in the Dalhart area, pronghorn buck age structure and sex ratios will continue to be impacted.
Experimental Season for Buck Pronghorn Results
On average, permit usage for buck pronghorn in the Panhandle is about 55%. This means that of 100 buck permits issued by TPWD to landowners each year, approximately 55 get used. These permits are allocated to landowners using data collected from aerial surveys each summer. The graph below signifies permit utilization (or harvest) in relation to the recommended buck harvest from TPWD based upon annual aerial survey data collected in the experimental areas. Data show a significantly higher harvest within the Dalhart area during the experiment, but has remained similar to historic levels in the Pampa area.