The Texas Whitetail Deer Study Group, held April 10-11, 2014 seminar included over 160 participants and twenty plus wildlife biologists, DVM’s, and doctorate-level wildlife scientists from various agencies and practices. This very significant program was co-sponsored by the Texas Wildlife Association, Texas Parks & Wildlife, Texas A&M AGRILIFE Extension and the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservations Service. The seminar’s subtitle was “Great Expectations: Optimizing Deer Management in the Post Oak Savanna and Gulf-Coast Prairies. The majority of the participants were individuals who have small parcels of land, with a few others that owned or operated very large ranches. Here is a summary of the educational points presented:
- The small parcel phenomenon has been made successful by the amount of cooperation amongst landowners vis-a-vis wildlife management co-ops or associations.
- As a result of co-ops and antler restrictions the Texas deer population of 13.8 million is the largest in the nation.
- The ratio of doe to buck in Colorado County is >3.3:1 and according to all biologists present should be reduced to <1.5:1. The primary concern is the increased pressure on available food, leading to reduced available nutrition and thus declining physical condition and survival rates. The biologists also strongly recommend harvesting only mature bucks which are more than 5 years of age.
- Habitat should be diverse in structure and plant availability. Deer need brush, tall grasses and timber, all of which provide safety and privacy.
- Nutrition is best derived from a variety of plants in the habitat and deer will decide for themselves what is best for their bodies at any given time. They are very selective, choosing according to protein or other nutrient chemicals that are necessary for their growth and maintenance.
- Deer consume several pounds of plant material and 1.5 gallons of water per day.
- Nutrition sources include: sporadically available forbs (which includes most wildflowers) and soft and hard mast (fruit, berries, acorns and nuts) ; and, continuously available browse such as Beautyberry, greenbriar, sophora, oaks, poison ivy and mustang grapes. Deer seldom eat grass or sedges and only when these plants are young and other nutrition is not available.
Unfortunately, the presenters’ notes were not included in the handout materials. Presentation notes have been requested and will be made available if possible.