Opening day of bowhunting season for white-tailed deer is nearing. And like any hunter, past adventures begin to dance in my head. A little less than a year ago, I experienced opening day in Texas hunting with a childhood friend that lives there now.
Bobby owned a good number of acres of land and had enticed me several times to come visit. A business trip in Houston and Austin allowed the opportunity. Once I got there, I knew Bobby was proud of what he had accomplished there.
Bobby put a lot of effort in managing the deer population on his property and nearby properties. He established proper food areas, natural water sources, and the area was ideal for cover as well. Bobby made sure certain nutrients were plentiful to assist in developing a strong and healthy herd.
The results were astonishing. The deer grew with large bodies, beautiful antler growth on the males, and the doe-to-buck ratio was ideal for keeping a herd thriving. The deer grew to four and five years old with no issues. Compared to North and South Carolina, where a three-year-old buck is considered ancient, you can see how he was enjoying success in his endeavors.
The result was an amazing hunt. In one morning, I saw more eight-point and larger bucks as I had seen in my lifetime in North Carolina. Bobby had named each buck and knew when one hadn’t been around in a while, as well as when a newcomer had joined the property. Cameras were set in various locations where the deer would frequent.
Bobby had managed and was managing his land and its resources properly.
Lessons in proper wildlife management do not come without failures, though. In obtaining the knowledge we have now, there were many tough and detrimental results to what was thought, at the time, to be correct practices.
For instance, we once believed in order to manage a deer population properly, that does should not be harvested. The resulting circumstances left the state with an overabundance of does, few quality bucks, and a huge population increase. Why? Because, one buck can mate with many females. Then, when the hunters went out, even when does became legal, the hunters were still looking for the big trophy to put on the wall.
We have learned lessons from other species as well. One story I used to share was with quail population and repopulation. A group set up what was thought to be ideal habitat for quail in the middle of a large farm. The natural habitat area had food the quail would eat, a water source, and they could use the cover of the small plants there.
After setting out the birds and waiting for a month, the group came back to survey the health of the newly established quail population. What they came to find out was there were no longer any quails. However, there were owls and other birds of prey spotted nearby. Raccoons and foxes had taken over the cover, and they were left bewildered.
Then, it dawned on them. By setting the quail habitat in the middle of the farm, they had essentially placed a buffet table for the other creatures nearby, which in turn had taken all the quail. It had become apparent the habitat needed to be along the edges of the farmland and near naturally wooded areas to allow the coveys not only a place of cover, but a place to escape from predators.
The Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA) was established in 1988 with the purpose of using the past lessons in wildlife management to help people, groups and agencies in developing and establishing quality deer herds. The successes have been abundant, regardless of the area of the country.
Bobby, and any of his guests can attest to it.
Bill Howard is an avid bowhunter and outdoorsman. He teaches hunter education (IHEA) and bowhunter education (IBEP) in North Carolina. He is a member of North Carolina Bowhunters Association and Pope & Young, and is an official measurer for both.