South Texas Wildlife Management
White-tailed Deer Management
When someone mentions South Texas to a hunter visions of white-tailed deer abound. The sight of a huge multi-point buck sneaking through the brush excites most hunters even on the coldest morning in the brush country. Although south Texas is considered by some as a harsh unforgiving land to it's inhabitants, the diverse plant community provide excellent habitat for producing white-tailed deer. The philosophies and ideas of deer management have evolved dramatically in the last 20 years, and a plethora of information is available to hunters, biologist, deer enthusiasts, and many others. Deer management can be divided into two basic categories: Habitat Management (nutrition), Population Management (age, genetics, population control). The relationship, interactions and individual contributions of these elements play a key role in deer management. No one factor is responible for the production of trophy bucks or a healthy deer herd, rather a combination of all. Sound habitat management is probably the single most important factor in managing a healthy deer herd. Healthy habitat provides the ground work for good nutrition, cover from predators and hunters alike, and protection from the hot south Texas summers.
Habitat Management (Nutrition)
Providing quality habitat is essential for any deer management program. Deer like all animals have basic needs: food, water, cover, and space. Sound habitat management not only meets the needs of deer but all birds and animals utilizing the habitat. Quality habitat provides a nutritional foundation for deer that ensures reproductive success, herd health, support of healthy population numbers, and antler production. One reason South Texas produces so many quality deer is the incredible diversity of grasses, forbs, shrubs, and trees. The forbs and shrubs provide excellent food resources for deer. Species such as Texas Kidneywood or granjeno have crude protein contents greater than 20%, much higher than the 16% dietary requirement needed by deer to be well nourished. With good nutrition deer are able to reach their genetic potential, whether that be a healthy 1 1/2 year old doe or a 19 point buck that scores 207 Boone and Crockett. How we manage our habitat directly effects the deer. Clearing too much brush, removing desirable species, disturbing saline soils, spraying forbs (weeds), or allowing deer populations to exceed the carrying capacity of the native habitats may have detrimental effects on the quality of your deer herd. Click on the following link to learn more about habitat management and the benefits to deer management.. Also contact your local biologist for assistance with habitat management.
Note: Contrary to popular opinion supplemental feeding is not a substitute for native habitat. Supplemental feeding should NEVER be used to increase deer densities above the carrying capacity of the native habitats. Supplemental feeding may be used to keep deer in optimal body condition to increase their probability of expressing their genetic potential, even during extreme weather conditions such as droughts.
Population Management (Age, Genetics, Population Control)
All to often managers tend to emphasize population management techniques such as selective harvest, rather than habitat management and improvement. Although improvements in the deer herd can be made with population management, greater success and management options are available on land with quality habitats. Deer herd management often involves manipulating or managing buck:doe ratios, fawn production, deer densities, age structure, and selective harvest. The degree of manipulation or plan of action will depend on the goals and objectives of a landowner's deer management program. Management option vary widely. Some of the more common management goals may be optimizing a maximum sustainable harvest, producing trophy bucks or simply producing a healthy deer herd on native habitats. Good record keeping should also be a part of any formal deer management program. Population data and harvest data may be used to measure the progress of a particular management style. Population data should include basic information such as deer density, sex ratios, fawn crops, and age structure of bucks. Harvest data should include age of deer, sex, date of harvest, field dressed weight, and Antler measurements for bucks. For specific information or assistance with a deer management program contact your local biologist.