Texas Deer Breeder Movement Plan Finalized

The finding of Chronic wasting disease in the Texas Hill Country has rattled the deer hunting community within the state. As the fall hunting season approach, government agencies and hunters are both trying to figure out how things are going to play out, especially since the number of captive deer (bucks) moved out of breeder facilities prior to the hunting season has likely increased substantially in recent years. With state agencies looking to stop the spread of CWD, what will be the movement status of active deer breeders in Texas? Well…

Texas deer breeders will be able to resume animal movements under a plan finalized yesterday by staff of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) and the Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC). The Breeder Deer Movement Qualification Standards Plan will take effect upon the filing of Emergency Rules by TPWD and will be in place through the 2015-16 Texas hunting season.

Key elements of the deer movement status and qualification plan:

  • A framework giving breeders who met previous movement qualified standards an option to move and liberate deer. Movement qualification is also dependent on administrative compliance with deer breeder permit regulations and statutes.
  • Enhanced options for closely-monitored herds with a status of “fifth year” or “certified” in the TAHC Monitored Herd Program. There are no additional release site requirements for ranches that receive deer only from these herds.
  • Additional Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) testing in deer breeding facilities. Under the plan, the vast majority of the 1,300 permitted deer breeders in Texas can gain movement qualified status by testing two or fewer animals.
  • There will be CWD testing requirements for a proportion of deer that are harvested on some release sites.

The goal of the Movement Qualification Plan is to provide deer breeders with options prior to the September 22 deadline for movement and liberation of bucks and before the 2015-16 hunting season. This is just one of many steps Texas is taking to mitigate the spread of CWD after it was detected in deer from a Medina County deer breeding facility earlier this summer.

“We have received and tried to be responsive to the extensive feedback from the state’s many and varied deer management interests in developing this revised plan,” said Carter Smith, TPWD Executive Director. “In the development of this framework, both agencies are balancing the need to minimize the risk of unwittingly allowing the movement or liberation of Chronic Wasting Disease-positive deer on the Texas landscape while adopting reasonable movement qualification standards that allow qualified deer breeders to begin moving and liberating captive deer. The complexity associated with the development of this framework is immense.”

A joint agency CWD Working Group will now focus efforts on developing individual herd plans for affected deer breeders and develop a plan for strategic sampling of hunter harvested deer from free-ranging populations this fall. “Our goal was to protect the health of free-ranging and captive breeder deer, while maintaining business continuity for the breeder industry,” said Dr. Dee Ellis, TAHC Executive Director. “We believe this plan accomplishes those goals.”

Factors such as level of connectedness to the index facility, level of testing in the TAHC Monitored Herd Program, relative percentage of the overall herd that has been tested, and variable liberation criteria are all being considered in development of the herd plans. The TAHC and TPWD are continuing the investigation of the index facility in Medina County, where 42 deer have been euthanized and tested for CWD.

“The results from the partial testing of the animals in the Index Facility, as well as samples from the CWD-exposed herds, are important to making reasonable, prudent, and responsible decisions for the remaining captive herds, neighboring landowners, and wild deer,” said Clayton Wolf, TPWD Wildlife Division director.

If you love Texas, you will LOVE this video!

Wildlife Organizations Unite Over CWD in Texas

The discovery of chronic wasting disease in Central Texas breeder deer last month is still ringing through the wildlife community within Texas. The Texas Wildlife Association, the Texas Chapter of The Wildlife Society, the Boone & Crockett Club, Quality Deer Management Association, the National Wild Turkey Federation, Borderlands Research Institute, Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute, Texas State Rifle Association and Texas Wildlife and Fisheries Management Council to support implementation of prudent regulatory protocols in response to Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), which was first discovered in a captive deer breeding facility in Medina County in late June, 2015. The groups were all signatories to a recent resolution initiated by the Texas Wildlife Association.

CWD in Deer in Texas

The latest organization to join the cause, Texans for Saving Our Hunting Heritage. “It is important to all of us that the conservation, hunting and land steward community is galvanized in response to the finding of CWD in Medina County,” Jenny Sanders, executive director of Texans for Saving Our Hunting Heritage, said. “We need to ensure that our actions are guided by science, caution and a sense of utmost concern for our wild deer herds, hunting markets and rural economies.”

Chronic Wasting Disease

Source: CWD, an always-fatal, infectious brain disease that affects members of the deer family (Cervids, including white tailed and mule deer, elk, reindeer, red deer and sika) has been a known threat for many years, with documented cases in 21 states and 2 Canadian Provinces, including West Texas mule deer in 2012. Captive deer—purposefully confined in high concentrations, potentially shipped to and through multiple deer breeding facilities and then liberated to co-mingle with wild deer—could greatly amplify the speed, volume and geographic distribution of CWD.

Texas Mountain Ranch, where a diseased buck was first detected in June, has shipped 825 deer to 147 properties in the last five years, potentially exposing 66 Texas counties to this deadly disease.

CWD Found in More Whitetail Deer

Robert Patterson, owner of Texas Mountain Ranch, says four more deer from his deer breeding facility in Medina County have tested positive for chronic wasting disease (CWD). Patterson has been working with the Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) since one of his captive white-tailed deer tested positive for CWD in June.

Patterson stated that 42 total whitetail deer have been killed and tested for CWD since July 28, and three additional positives were the result. He added that all four deer confirmed to have the CWD disease were males from the same buck, which leads him to believe the problem is genetic.

CWD in Texas

The Texas Mountain Ranch owner said he expects to have a final herd plan from TAHC and TPWD within the next couple weeks.

TPWD spokesman Steve Lightfoot said the test results were from a lab at Texas A&M and that they were being sent to a national lab in Iowa to confirm they are not false positives. He said the state agencies are still in discussions with Patterson about how to proceed now that CWD has been confirmed on the property.

The CWD task force advisory committee was given updated test results during a meeting in Austin on Thursday. The next meeting is not yet scheduled, according to Lightfoot, but it will be interesting to see how the movement of breeder deer and the deer hunting season within the state play out now that Texas is no longer CWD free.

Lottery Deer Hunts in Louisiana

The Louisiana Office of State Parks is offering lottery deer hunt opportunities for hunters wishing to participate in 2015-2016 season lottery deer hunts available on Coochie Brake State Park and Big Cypress State Park. Both Coochie Brake State Park in Winn Parish and Big Cypress State Park in Bienville Parish are undeveloped Office of State Parks properties.

Applications are available on the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries website. The application is displayed under the DEER – OFFICE OF STATE PARKS category.

Louisiana Lottery Deer Hunts

These special lottery hunts are restricted to hunters selected through the lottery application process. These hunts offer the opportunity for selected hunters to experience an enjoyable, high-quality deer hunting experience on these areas.

Details on the qualifications, application requirements, and dates of the draw hunts are listed on the application forms. Also, for those interested, this site has information about Texas draw hunts for this fall.

Applications must be received by 4:30 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 4. The application form, along with a $5 administrative fee payment, must be sent to the specific address listed on the application form. For more information on these lottery deer hunts on Louisiana park property, contact Britt Evans at 225-342-1587 or bevans@crt.la.gov at the Office of State Parks.

Print Your Own MLD Permits

MLD permits. Love ’em or hate ’em, they have been a part of white-tailed deer hunting in Texas since 1996. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) started the Managed Lands Deer Permit (MLDP) Program to help landowners tackle burgeoning deer populations on private properties, but the program has become wildly popular with management-oriented landowners throughout the state.

TPWD has recently stated that about 10,000 properties participate in the MLDP Program. All those properties take a lot of resources, so the overwhelming success of the program has not come without a cost. Currently, the state prints all of the permits and mails them to participating landowners. Not sure how many permits the average property gets, but I’d be willing to be that TPWD uses A LOT of ink and paper, not to mention postage for those 10,000 envelopes each year.

Print Your Own MLDP Permits

The MLDP Program has gotten big. It’s taken on a life of its own. Now, it’s time to save money.

One of the cost-saving measures that TPWD is testing this year is to allow participating landowners to print their own MLD permits. Apparently, a small number of ranches across Texas volunteered to try the “print your own permit” option for the 2015-16 deer hunting season. This may get some hunters hot and bothered, but it sounds like a pretty good idea.

After all, like tags, MLD permits are nothing more than paper. The same opportunities for permit abuse that existed before will exist under the print-your-own-permit. Hey, if people can counterfeit money I don’t think it would be too difficult to counterfeit a permit. Besides, over the years I’ve hunted on a couple of ranches that participate in the MLDP program. They’ve all admitted that get more permits than they want to use, every year.

So circling back, TPWD created the MLDP program to assist landowners that want to manage the habitat and white-tailed deer found on their property. Most landowners have a vested interest in the health of the animals on their property. Will some hunters abuse the ability to print their own permits? Probably. Those guys are probably abusing it now, so that argument would be a moot point.

In short, anything that saves money sounds like a good deal. Better to reduce program costs than to increase fees. If you have any experience with a MLDP property that’s printing its own permits this year, leave a comment to let us all know how it goes. Hunting season will be here before you know it, so get those game cameras out!

White-tailed Deer Breeding, Hunting in Texas: A Closer Look

Deer Hunting The Passion, Not Deer Breeding

The hunting of white-tailed deer is a passion that many Texans share. Having grown up in a family of hunters, I shared many hours, days and years with my father, grandfather as well as other relatives chasing whitetail on a small tract of family land as well as a few deer leases (over the years) scattered across central Texas. The idea of harvesting a big buck was always high on my list of wants, but those much-waited hunting excursions were always about much more than just antlers.

Although we were lucky enough to tag some deer once in a while, the time that I was able to spend with friends and family while enjoying the outdoors is simply priceless. I can’t imagine not having had those times in my life. If you’re like me, then you probably feel the same way. I suspect most hunters reading this article probably learned much of what they know, at least initially, from a mentor. It was probably your dad or grandfather, but maybe even your mom or grandmother. I used to love hearing my great-grandmother talk about her trips with her 410 gauge. Yes, she referred to it as a four-hundred and ten gauge.

Deer Hunting: A Step in the Wrong Direction?

We can all look around and see that things have changed, deer hunting included. Well, the deer hunting industry sure has, and not just within the borders of Texas. When talking hunting, the words “big bucks” have taken on a whole new meaning ($$$). Although many have preferred to look the other direction, it’s been more than a little disturbing. Recently, in fact, the Boone and Crockett Club politely asked the commercial deer breeding industry not use their antler scoring system for marketing and selling deer.

Enter Texans for Saving Our Hunting Heritage (TSOHH) in 2014, a group that seeks to promote the values and tradition of sustainable, fair-chase hunting to all Texans, while exposing practices that threaten the perception and future of our sport. Late last year, a news release drafted by TSOHH hit the press and made some valid points regarding deer breeding and the release of pen-raised deer.

Big Deer Breeding Operations and Big Money

Source: “Deer breeding in Texas is a cottage industry backed by big dollars and focused on producing the biggest antlers. There are less than 1,300 deer breeders in the state and for the past decade, they have spent millions on lobbying efforts seeking more liberty with the people’s deer. Despite outcries from Texans and hunters alike, the breeders have gone largely unopposed.”

There is no question that a wedge has/is being driven between fair-chase hunters and commercial deer breeders operating within the confines of high fencing. I understand the desire for high fences because they do allow for increased management within deer herds, but a bucks raised in a 1/2 acre pen and then released just prior to being “hunted” is an entirely different matter. Most hunters can probably agree that a line must be drawn, but I suspect most of us will disagree on where exactly that line should be.

Save Deer Hunting, the Hunting Heritage

There is no easy answer here, especially since deer breeders within Texas have already used political strong-arming to exempt themselves from the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department’s “Stocking Policy,” thus allowing them to liberate captive-raised deer into any size “pasture,” regardless of habitat availability. TSOHH takes issue with this concession, as well as other key points it seeks to address:

  • End cavalier use of drugs and no safety net to protect human health — Extreme animal husbandry practices that are common in the deer breeding industry lend themselves to the use of a long list of pharmaceuticals. Very few of the commonly used drugs are labeled for white-tailed deer. There is no recognized authority that protects the consumer from potential drug residues in liberated breeder deer.
  • The 10-Day Rule — Current law allows for captive-raised deer to be “hunted” just 11 days after they are liberated from captivity. This poses threats to food safety because of unknown pharmaceutical withdrawal intervals in liberated breeder deer and promotes a perception of “canned hunting.”
  • More consumer protections and disclosures — There is currently no requirement for breeder deer to be clearly and visibly marked upon liberation into the wild. Deer hunters deserve transparency regarding the origin and potential pharmaceutical history of the deer they harvest.

South Texas Deer Hunting – Illegal Take

South Texas is known for quality white-tailed deer. Each year, Texas hunters tag numerous big bucks in this part of the state, but unfortunately there is also some illegal deer hunting taking place in the region. Just this week, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has reported illegal hunting in Starr, Webb and La Salle Counties. Some deer were taking by road hunters and other by lease hunters that liberally interpreted property lines.

Five Deer Hunters in Starr County

While a Starr County game warden was on patrol, he came across an open gate leading to a ranch and decided to investigate. Upon entering the ranch, the warden spotted two vehicles and five people dressed in camouflage, standing around a hunting blind. At first the individuals said they were working on the ranch, but, after some questioning, admitted they were hunting. The warden followed the hunters down to where one of the hunters had shot an eight-point buck and helped the hunter load the deer. After further inspection, however, it was found that the hunter had marked the deer with a tag that expired in 2012 and also did not have a valid hunting license. The buck was seized and the meat was donated to a local family. Cases and civil restitution pending.

Webb County Illegal Whitetail Hunting

A Webb County game warden received a call from a landowner who believed someone poached a deer on his ranch. The warden arrived at the ranch and began to investigate the area. There, he found evidence of a deer being shot, a fence being cut and a deer dragged under the fence. The warden then went to the adjacent property to see if anyone was at the deer camp and to begin looking for evidence. There was no contact made at the camp, but the warden saw evidence of a deer that was recently processed at the cleaning station. The material used to repair the cut fence was also at the camp. After investigating further and talking to landowners plus the hunters leasing the property, one of the men said he had shot the deer on the neighboring property and cut the fence to retrieve the dead deer. Multiple cases pending.

La Salle County Buck Hunter

One evening, a La Salle County game warden set up on a back road near Los Angeles, Texas, where poaching activity was known to take place. Around 8:30 p.m. a slow moving truck made its way past the warden while shining a bright light. After following the vehicle for a short distance, the warden initiated a traffic stop. The two people in the car had a loaded rifle lying across their laps. A set of fresh deer antlers was also discovered in the bed of the truck. The two occupants were taken to jail for several Class A violations. A few days later, a deer carcass was discovered on a nearby ranch. The deer antlers from the truck bed matched perfectly. It was also discovered that one subject was a convicted felon. Felony charges are pending.

Mature Buck Harvest Up in Texas

Texas is known for producing high quality white-tailed bucks, but data shows that deer hunting is getting even better! The number of mature bucks harvested last year continues to rise, while the number of yearling bucks continues to fall. That trend could continue if the wet weather holds up this year and another good fawn crop throws off yet anther robust cohort of fawns. To put things in perspective, buck fawns born this year will be mature during the 2020-21 hunting season!

But Texas is not the only place where deer harvest management is paying off. Much of the U.S. is seeing similar trends with the percentage of mature bucks in the annual harvest going up. Increased habitat and population management along with hunter awareness are likely spurring the increase. Quality, mature bucks are king in deer hunting right now, and hunters are allowing them to get there.

Attract More Bucks for Deer Hunting

Source: American deer hunters are killing the highest-ever percentage of bucks age 3½ and older, according to data gathered by the Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA) for its 2015 Whitetail Report, now available online.

In the 2013-14 season, the most recent season with complete deer harvest data available from all states, 34 percent of bucks harvested in the states that collect buck age data were 3½ or older. That statistic is up from 32 percent the season before, and significantly up from a decade before in the 2003-04 season, when only 23 percent of the national buck harvest was mature. These gains have been made while the percentage of yearling bucks (1½ years old) in the harvest has steadily declined, reaching a record-low of 36 percent.

“This is a testament to how far we’ve come as hunters in the past decade,” said Kip Adams, QDMA’s Director of Education & Outreach, who compiles the annual Whitetail Report. “More hunters are choosing to protect yearling bucks, and they are being rewarded by seeing and killing more of them as mature animals.”

This trade-off can be seen in state-by-state data. The five states with the lowest percentage of yearling bucks in the antlered buck harvest, according to QDMA’s Whitetail Report, are also the top-five states in percentage of mature bucks: Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas and Kansas.

King: One of the Biggest Free-Ranging Bucks in Texas History

With the nickname of “King” this buck was destined to make Texas deer hunting history. But as good as King looked, little did Houston County hunter Mark Lee know that the big buck he and his son Cullen were hunting during the 2012 and 2013 hunting seasons would end up in the number three position for free-ranging Texas bucks. Only two Texas bucks ever entered into the Boone & Crockett records have larger antler scores than King, but one is from over a century ago and the other is rapidly approaching that mark.

The “Brady” buck from McCulloch County taped in at a whopping 284 3/8 inches. The buck was shot by an unknown hunter in the 1890s. The Brady deer, a former B&C world record holder, still tops the list as the largest of Texas bucks. The number two position belongs to the the 272 0/8 inch non-typical whitetail that was found dead near Junction in 1925 by Fred Mudge.

Mark Lee’s buck, King, checked in with a B&C score of 278 5/8 gross, 268 4/8 net. Not at all bad for an East Texas deer hunting lease.

King: The Lee Buck is the Third Biggest Free-Range Buck in Texas History

Source: “I’ll never forget the first time I saw him,” recalls Lee. “Cullen and I were out setting cameras and putting out corn when a bachelor group of bucks jumped a fence about 50 yards in front of us and took off across a freshly disced field. They were’t messing around, either. Their heads were down and there was nothing but a smoke trail behind them.”

As the bucks sped away, Lee said his son commented about the antler spreads on a couple of the bucks, and how tall one of the others was. Lee, meanwhile, was more interested in the buck that was bringing up the rear.

“I told Cullen, ‘dude, look at the other deer,’ and I handed him my binoculars,” Lee said. “He said, dang, dad, he looks like he’s got a big knot on his head.” A life-long deer hunter, Lee, 51, said he knew right away the buck he was looking was way more special than any he had ever seen.

“We watched them run for probably 2,000 yards and maybe 2-3 minutes,” Lee said. “I couldn’t tell exactly what he was, but guessed he had probably 18-20 points. His rack looked like a big crown on top of his head. That’s when I nicknamed him “King.”


Big Spike Buck Could be New Record

Most hunters do not get excited about seeing a spike buck deer hunting, but there are spikes — and then there are SPIKES. Texas hunter Wes Wyrick recently harvested a spike of epic proportions which could go down in the record books as the biggest whitetail spike yet. Wyrick has a hunting lease in Val Verde County where he maintains game cameras to monitor deer in the area. The big spike deer definitely stood out, but it took some time for the hunter to get him in his sights.

Wes Wyrick and His Big, Record Spike Buck

LSO News: The antlers, each approximately 24 inches long, curve gracefully above the deer’s head to form a towering, smooth semicircle. If the length and symmetry weren’t impressive enough, Wyrick estimated the deer to be about 8-1/2-years old. All of this adds up to an once-in-a-lifetime kill.

“I knew I would never see another deer like that,” Wyrick said of the first time he saw the buck’s image captured on a game camera. “I was like, ‘Holy crap, I need to shoot that deer.’”

Wyrick has “been hunting since he could walk” and, when he isn’t hunting recreationally with buddy Cody Garrett and loyal dog, Newt, he is either studying wildlife at Texas A&M University-Kingsville or working as a gunner for Southwest Texas Helicopters shooting pigs. Needless to say, Wyrick knows a good deer when he sees one.

The hunter said there was no ground shrinkage on this big spike-antlered buck. The buck’s antlers total 48 2/8 inches in length, enough to put Wyrick in the lead for “Longest Spike” in three different deer contest. Looks like everything is really bigger in Texas, including spike bucks.