Experimental Season Results
For eight hunting seasons (2013 to 2020) the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) tested an experimental buck pronghorn season in the Dalhart and Pampa areas. The experiment allowed landowners to control the harvest of buck pronghorn on their properties. This was different than the current statewide regulations where TPWD determines harvest quotas and issues permits directly to landowners using data from annual population surveys. During the eight hunting seasons, TPWD biologists collected data via mandatory check stations that required hunters to bring their harvested bucks to a check station within 24 hours of harvest as well as annual aerial surveys. These data were used to help evaluate impacts of the experiment on our pronghorn resource. Although the experimental area pronghorn population numbers and fawn reproduction mirrored those populations outside of the experimental areas (indicating no negative population level impacts), we documented some other effects.
Conducting this experiment has provided TPWD biologists with tremendous datasets of 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 experimental areas had unnatural effects on sex ratios and buck age structure. Data suggest without using annual survey data to establish harvest recommendations and issuing permits for each property in landscapes and hunting pressure such as in the experimental areas, pronghorn buck age structure and sex ratios will continue to be adversely impacted.
Results for Buck Pronghorn in the Northern Panhandle
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. In the year prior to the initiation of the experimental concept (2012), permit utilization was 85% in the Dalhart area and much lower for the Pampa area with only 45% of the permits being used. In contrast, the average harvest rate during the experiment was significantly higher in each area.