Question: “Interested in deer hunting and management on one of our ranches. We’ve got some whitetail deer on a property that is located near Brady, Texas. What is the carrying capacity for a small 150 acre ranch under high fence if we are supplemental feeding? Oh, and the property is about 50 percent brush and trees (oak, mesquite) with the remainder open grassland. Will probably put in some food plots too on the open areas. How many deer?”
Deer Hunting Pros: Though small acreage places can provide good deer hunting, the high fence situation will really limit what you can do, primarily because you will have little deer movement into and out of the place and the deer herd will be relatively limited. That being said, there is no doubt that you can support some number of deer on the place, and probably even produce some good bucks. Although the ranch is 150 acres, it sounds like the functioning amount of habitat may be more like 90 to 100 acres because of limited cover.
Of course, the grassland areas can grow up and become deer habitat in 5 to 10 years, and that will help, but right now let’s look at it from the standpoint of 100 acres. In that part of Texas, 100 acres of deer habitat can support about 1 deer to every 10 to 15 acres. If you plan on providing year round supplemental feeding then I would think you could get away with a deer to every 8 to 10 acres. This would only be about 10 to 12 deer early on. I would recommend against any more than this early on OR the grassland areas will not grow into deer habitat. The deer will eat preferred browse plants as they grow and prevent establishment.
I think pellets of at least 16 percent protein should be fed from January through September and then just go with simple fall and winter food plots consisting of oats and wheat. Use 60 percent oats and 40 percent wheat. Whitetail love wheat, but if you get a good freeze up there then the oats will hurt and the wheat will help carry the deer through.
On such a small high fenced property it would be recommended that a tight buck to doe ratio be maintained, say 6 bucks and 6 does. Over time, you will be able to increase the size of the herd to say 18 deer as the remainder of the ranch becomes better habitat. Deer hunting will be an important part of management since the property will not have much wiggle room with regards to deer carrying capacity. Perform deer surveys annually and harvest everything that you need to. Once you get up a running at full capacity, you could expect to harvest a couple of bucks and 2-3 does annually.
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