Texas-Size Takeover

In today's deer community there are two ways of doing things: the Texas way and everybody else's.

In today's deer community there are two ways of doing things: the Texas way and everybody else's. We joke in the professional deer biologist circle about Texas being the "Evil Empire," just like in Star Wars. Most hunters from other states despise some of the techniques Texas uses to manage and hunt whitetails, and trust me this doesn't bother a Texan because if you're like that they would rather you stay out of their state. But Texas does have bragging rights on two big things: they are typically number one in the country in deer harvested and number of deer hunters. This often translates into Texas having the largest economic impact from hunting.

As a kid growing up in the big deer hunting state of Pennsylvania, we got off school for the first day of rifle season (pretty awesome!). But we still did not compare to the state of Texas. Many times watching the only two deer hunting shows back then, Buckmasters and Realtree Outdoors on TNN, I couldn't stand to watch Texas deer hunting, knowing that a deer was only walking down a sendero because it was laced with golden kernels, which I still see on TV today. As I began my long college journey to become a deer biologist, I started to realize that many of the things we were doing to increase antler size and age of bucks in the "other states" had long since been going on in Texas. Today's craze with feeding and minerals….all started in Texas. Think about how many guys now sit on a "green field" or road in a box blind…there are a lot! Where did that start…well you're starting to get the picture.

What it all comes down to is the way you were brought up. As a biologist, I recognize the reason for antler restrictions in a state like Pennsylvania, it's so that we can protect a large percentage of our yearling (1 ½ year old) bucks and get them into the next age group. Although many hunters still pass 2 year-olds in other states, the first few years in Pennsylvania a 2 year-old was a good buck. Now we have even started the "trickle effect" where guys see what one more year can do, then they start thinking what can happen if they get to 3? Or 4? Others still view it as a way of interfering with their traditions. To this day I still consider myself a sustenance (hunt for food) hunter. It's not that I can't afford meat, but rather I love venison and think it is healthier for me and my family. I grew up doing deer drives in Pennsylvania until I could barely make it back home. Deer drives are something hunters in many states extremely dislike and states have even outlawed it. Yet some of those same states will allow you to run deer with dogs! Anyone else confused there besides me? The point is how we were raised to hunt will affect our judgment on everything else.

I mentioned how many hunters have picked up the Texas influence of baiting and using minerals. Based on the way I was raised, when I went to a state that allowed baiting I got mad. Now thinking back on it I was stupid for doing so, but to me that was cheating…and to those states, pushing deer to posting hunters out in front was cheating. On a hunting and management standpoint, feeding has brought up a pile of questions from is it ethical to wildlife disease issues such as CWD. But look at the market for this stuff…it is stronger than ever. Minerals and attractants are some of the hottest crazes, and as a biologist I think using attractants is great…mainly because I am a trail camera nut and want them close. But I do not believe any of the bigger racks from a bag, hype – my two cents. But whatever way you look at it Texas had some starting influence on this which has now created jobs and dumped money into the dehydrated economy. If there is one thing a person will still spend money on when money is tight it's their hobby.

On whole Texas helped start things that have either benefited deer management, such as antler restrictions, acknowledging age as an important harvest criteria, and balancing buck to doe ratios, or the economy like outfitter and ranch hunts, high fences, and deer breeding (a large industry and growing). The bad thing is a lot of this increases the price to hunt so it becomes difficult for "Average Joe" to hunt anything but private land owned by family or friends, or public ground. But with many states starting to manage for more quality deer, you can bet that public land is also benefitting from this Texas-Size takeover.

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