Question: I am interested in whitetail deer management for better deer hunting. I guess I am just looking for some advice for our property. We have about 1,400 acres down in Frio County, located southwest of San Antonio. The habitat found on the property is about 75 to 80% thick brush with two good tanks approximately centrally located. Four of the five bordering ranches also have deer hunting, but are not hunted hard in my opinion.
Our ranch is not hunted very hard either, with only 8 to 10 hunts made out there each deer season. In the last 5 years there have been four does and four bucks shot on the property. We have 4 corn feeders on the property and a few small food plots that are effective when it rains. The property was not hunted in the past because of family conflicts, but that ended five years ago.
In my opinion, there are a lot of whitetail deer on the property. Over the last two years, I have spent a lot of time on the ranch observing deer, and using my game cameras to get more information. All indications suggest that there are five to six does for ever buck. I know this sex ratio is quite skewed, but what is the correct buck to doe ratio we should try and get?
Will getting the number of does down bring down the deer activity around the feeders? Also, when is the best time to take does off during the deer hunting season? The rut in our area always seems to be mid to late December. Any help or deer management suggestions would be appreciated.
Response: First, it sounds like you have a great place to work with. Most hunters would kill for a 1,400 acre property for deer hunting with low hunting pressure around it. However, from what you have written it sounds like some deer management would benefit you, the deer and the habitat found on the property greatly. I always recommend estimating the deer density through a late-summer deer survey. This is the best way to really keep track of the deer found on your property, and it helps you to develop harvest recommendations.
In short, it sounds like your property has too many deer. My first recommendation, since it sounds like you have a lot of does, would be to harvest as many does as possible until you get the buck to doe ratio to about 1 buck for every 2 does. Since you have a larger property and not much pressure either on or around it, this may take several years of applying some serious deer hunting pressure. I would also recommend checking out Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s MLD permit program.
Purposefully taking deer off a property to decrease the population or change the sex ratio will always reduce the amount of observed deer activity. For one, you actually remove deer. This means you will not see them if they are dead. Secondly, the remaining deer become aware of the hunting pressure and change their normal activities and movement patterns. They will still be there, you just will not see them once the shooting starts. However, deer management, deer hunting and simply seeing deer are all different things. Which one is most important?
Since you have a good chunk of land, my suggestion would be to rotate your doe harvest efforts between your four feeders and deer stands. This will ensure that there is always whitetail deer activity around at least one of the feeders at all times, but this will also allow you to achieve your management goal of decreasing the number of does per buck. As far as bucks, harvest only about 17 to 23 percent of the estimated buck population each year to keep good age structure and mature bucks on the property.
As for timing the harvest of does on your property, the earlier you can remove them the better. Shooting does early means there will be more food for the rest of the herd. It does not make sense to leave “dead deer walking” throughout the season just to consume limited winter resources. Starting early also leaves less time for procrastination and avoids panic at the end-of-the-season. Things always “come up” and that means you will not be headed to your property to go deer hunting. With your current whitetail deer situation, if you are not hunting then your harvest and deer management program is not going to work. Management takes work, but it should also be enjoyable!
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