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Cooperative Efforts Improve Deer Herd

Posted Jul. 1, 2003

The figures in this article are a summary of some of the data we have been collecting on the Walnut Bayou Deer Management Association (WBDMA). The 12,600-acre WBDMA, comprised of 10 ranches, is located in Love County, Okla., and Cooke County, Texas, and was formed in 1996. The biggest benefit of the WBDMA is the camaraderie among landowners and community involvement. In addition, the WBDMA has been making huge strides toward meeting its deer management goals. WBDMA membership is voluntary, and there are no antler restrictions such as spread or point rules.

Estimated* buck numbers (Figure 1) have more than doubled since 1996. Harvest (light shade on each bar) has averaged 14 percent of the estimated number of bucks since 1996. Bottom line each year, more bucks are given the chance to grow older, which increases average antler size.

The body weight of harvested bucks (Figure 2) has increased over time. The decline from 1999 to 2001 was probably due to drought. The jump from 2001 to 2002 could be a reflection of the good growing season conditions experienced last year. Hunter selection could account for some of the increase.

Estimated* doe numbers (Figure 3) have increased since 1996. Harvest (light shade on each bar) numbers have averaged 20 percent of the estimated number of does since 1996. Bottom line despite a fairly significant annual harvest, doe numbers continue to increase.

Adult weights (Figure 4) have trended down slightly since 1996. Yearling weights experienced a drop in 2000, possibly reflecting drought conditions. Adult and yearling weights increased in 2002, possibly reflecting last years good growing season. The overall decline in both age groups may indicate too many deer, despite a large annual doe harvest.

Through cooperative effort, the WBDMA has developed a deer herd of the quality that most enthusiasts only wish for.

* Based on deer spotlight survey technique. Yearly numbers may not be accurate, but trends (1996-2002) should reflect population changes.