Deer Dynamics


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Art Eatman
June 30, 2009, 01:30 PM
This is sort of an offshoot from the High Fence thread, and is mostly about Central Texas.

I moved back to Austin in 1963. Drouth year; 1/2 the usual rainfall. In March of 1964, a TP&WD article in the newspaper said that the hunter kill in Llano, Mason and Brady Counties, just NW of Austin, was some 15,000 deer. The winter kill was some 17,.000.

Johnson's Trading Post, on Hwy 71 north of Oak Hill, had a big cold room for deer storage. The '63 season average field-dressed weight for bucks was some 120 pounds, with the largest at 146. Their final season of storage before selling out was in 1976. The average weight of field-dressed bucks was around 70 pounds, with the largest at 110.

Why? Too many deer for the habitat. Ranches were being broken up into ranchettes, and many non-hunters were buying in. Residential development reduced the available habitat, crowding the deer onto other lands.

I moved back onto the old family ranch in 1967. Out spotlighting one night, I counted some 50 pairs of eyes. Way too many for 230 acres plus a bit of adjoining open land. What deer I saw in hunting were small. So, I did a culling campaign (about which I did not inform TP&WD, as this was before they allowed such actions.) for about three years. I can tell you that gutting a deer in August in central Texas is not truly joyous. But I shot does and mature spikes and scraggle-horn bucks. Did bunches of barbecue parties.

By the fourth year, 1971/1972, body weights were up some 30% and more. Decent antlers. No mature spikes or scraggle horns. I'd gotten the herd down toward the carrying capacity of the land--just as my grandfather had taught me to do with cattle, some thirty years before.

We're low in wolves, bears, cougars and screw worm flies. If we don't manage the deer herd, we wind up with populations too large for the carrying capacity of the land--and runty little greyhound-sized deer. The worst enemy of a healthy deer herd is the anti-hunter. "Ignorance and emotion are the true enemies of a healthy species."

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ClickClickD'oh
June 30, 2009, 01:40 PM
Yup, proper culling off the herd is one of the best things you can do to improve the local deer population.

Part of the problem is that a lot of hunters don't want to kill off does and inferior bucks since they want to save their time and tags for the big trophy. So, without proper management you just end up killing all the really good bucks and leaving the bad deer behind. :banghead:

You've got to come up with a good management plan and stick to it. Thankfully, most of the local wildlife biologists are very willing to help educate ranchers.

buck460XVR
June 30, 2009, 02:08 PM
Their adaptability and stone age deer management has made them almost pests in areas around here......even in town. Most have forgot about the hunt in the lust for horn. Used to be when deer were thin any buck was a trophy now they're thick as fleas and no one wants to shoot one until it's 150 or better.....and iffin you do, your fellow hunters make you feel like you kicked someone's dog. Seein' the same thing around here with wild turkeys. Most scoff at the idea of hunting them in the fall and shootin' a hen or young of the year, but then whine cause the Toms are all "henned" up come spring.

DRYHUMOR
June 30, 2009, 06:45 PM
I know a guy who has a mere 50 acres of woods to hunt near a lake. It was not uncommon to see 10 to 20 deer in a sitting. Nor was it uncommon to see them stacked up shoulder to shoulder eating in deer cam pics. Problem was, they were mostly does with 2-4 good mature bucks mixed in. If you looked at a season's worth of deer cam pics, you could pick out enough individuals to see that there were 60 to 70 deer in that area. With maybe 12-14 bucks altogether.

Several folks kept telling him he needs to cull most of the does, it took about 3 or so years before he started to. Near the end of season, after they are bred, 5-10 does are shot. Most have twins. It's really helped knock the numbers closer to normal. Kids can shoot a deer, whatever it may be.

Only one thing to note has come up, there's a lot of calico traits showing up. That's genetic, so seeing more of it means the diversity of the herd is suffering.

He hunts horns, though, for the most part.

schlockinz
June 30, 2009, 07:36 PM
I limit myself to one buck a year, and will try to tag out doe tags each year, I don't have time for much more, but thats still more than 3 does on average

Flintknapper
June 30, 2009, 09:34 PM
Art, I think you are "spot on".

Naturally, hill country deer are smaller than whitetails in other parts of the state, but I also noticed a steady decline in body weight over the years. I left Austin in the mid 80's and I would guess the average dressed weight of a 2-1/2 yr. old buck would be about 70 lbs. (pretty sad).

If you frequented the Oak Hill area or Drippings Springs...you might remember "Grover Simpson" the game warden in those parts back then. Super guy!

It makes me sad to drive through Austin these days. I am glad to have grown up there (back in the good old days), but also glad I moved away when I did.

flipajig
June 30, 2009, 11:12 PM
I hunt in the Gorgetown area and we do pratice doe management if i remember right we took around 35 does this year the heavest went just over 100 lbs. most were around 80lbs

Art Eatman
July 1, 2009, 09:18 AM
Aw, yeah, I remember Grover. He's the one who wrote up Lyndon and Judge Moursand and another VIP for being way over the limit on doves and shooting too late in the day. Johnson, sitting in the back seat of the car, asked, "Do you know who I am?" "Yeah, you jug-eared SOB, I know who you are, and you're getting written up just like your buddies."

That led to a bunch of politicking and the amalgamation of the old Game, Fish & Oyster Commission with the Parks Department, creating today's Texas Parks & Wildlife Commission. 1961, IIRC. They still couldn't get rid of Grover, though. Too much local support; scared the legislators.

The poachers around Lake Travis and over around Bee Caves and Oak Hill were terrified of him.

Our place was out on Manchaca Road, five miles from the old city limits between Davis and Slaughter lanes. All built up, now. But, face it: You can make a lot more money raising condos than cows. I voted with my feet in 1983 and moved to Terlingua.

Flintknapper
July 1, 2009, 03:32 PM
Art Eatman wrote:




Aw, yeah, I remember Grover. He's the one who wrote up Lyndon and Judge Moursand and another VIP for being way over the limit on doves and shooting too late in the day.
I hadn't heard about that...but he would definitely "write you" if you were in the wrong. I support that and always thought him to be a very fair and honest person.

He knew who the poachers were and where they operated...but also knew the folks who "needed" sustanence (they were not bothered).

Johnson, sitting in the back seat of the car, asked, "Do you know who I am?" "Yeah, you jug-eared SOB, I know who you are, and you're getting written up just like your buddies."
Love to have been there for that. :D


That led to a bunch of politicking and the amalgamation of the old Game, Fish & Oyster Commission with the Parks Department, creating today's Texas Parks & Wildlife Commission. 1961, IIRC. They still couldn't get rid of Grover, though. Too much local support; scared the legislators.
He was well liked, knew alot of people (important and not). I spent many hours with him (mostly dove hunting or digging arrowheads) listening to his stories.

The poachers around Lake Travis and over around Bee Caves and Oak Hill were terrified of him.
Yeah, he pretty much traveled all of Travis and Williamson counties. You were as likely to see him out around Liberty Hill (Northwest) as Oak Hill (South). A good man. I miss him and his type.

Our place was out on Manchaca Road, five miles from the old city limits between Davis and Slaughter lanes. All built up, now. But, face it: You can make a lot more money raising condos than cows. I voted with my feet in 1983 and moved to Terlingua.

Yup, voted with mine in '84.

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