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Deer Consciousness: Texas vs. Oklahoma

Posted Apr. 30, 1998

I recently attended a conference on whitetailed deer genetics and management at Texas A&M University with several of our staff. What interested me most was the participation of so many land managers in Texas. I was struck by a number of things while listening to the speakers and audience participants during breaks.

First, white-tailed deer management by private landowners in Texas is generally more intense than in Oklahoma. Their rifle season is much longer - up to eight weeks. Some Texas ranchers who have well-managed herds are able to charge large fees for day hunts or season-long hunting leases. A growing number of Texas ranchers have established high fences around their property to enclose "their deer" and exclude others. In Texas, a large industry has been built around hunting and management of white-tailed deer. I'm not sure which came first, the interest, the income, the intensity of management or the length of the hunting season.

I've tried to be an unbiased observer of our situation in Oklahoma. Here the rifle hunting season was scheduled to be lengthened to 16 days. Under pressure, it was dropped back to a nine-day season. I understand many landowners opposed the longer season because they don't want poachers or uninvited guests hunting, trespassing or littering their land.

In our experience, it's difficult to harvest enough does to reduce deer numbers in a nine-day rifle season to change the population structure to benefit bucks. The longer season and opportunity to harvest high quality bucks has allowed some folks from Texas to charge more for recreational privileges on their land. The lease hunters also help reduce or eliminate poaching and trespassing.

I sometimes wonder if Oklahoma landowners with acreages large enough to manage white-tailed deer were more aware of this, they might look at hunting for its income potential rather than a nuisance to be endured during the open season.

This isn't meant as an editorial. I was simply surprised by an apparent disparity of opinion between landowners of Texas and Oklahoma over the issue of deer hunting. I'd be happy to hear your comments or thoughts to help enlighten me so I better understand the intensity of opinion on this issue.