Absolutely Hunt in Drought, Biologist Say

Absolutely Hunt in Drought, Biologist Say
Absolutely Hunt in Drought, Biologist Say

The drought in Texas, Kansas and other states have prompted hunters to ask whether they should hold off hunting this year so they don't stress an already stressed deer herd. The answer from wildlife biologists: an emphatic no.

"With the drought we're in, we're getting calls from people who say they don't want to kill deer this year," said Alan Cain, Texas' deer program leader. "They're worried that if we shoot deer this year, the population will crash. We even have folks writing to outdoor magazines saying the same thing -- they want us to suspend hunting.

"But the fact is, we have so many deer -- 4 million whitetails in the state -- that we have to have hunters hunting every year to keep the population maintained, so it doesn't grow.

"We had 688,000 whitetails killed last year," he said. "If you eliminate that [harvest for a year], then the deer population grows tremendously. Then you'll have too many deer out there for what the habitat can sustain, and then you'll have a population crash."


So the best way to sustain a deer herd in the long term is to harvest deer, and that's particularly true in Texas' current drought conditions.


"We need to get the population down to a level that can be maintained during drought conditions, so [hunters should] try to make those harvest quotas," Cain said. "Maintaining deer populations in balance with the available native habitat helps to sustain not only the deer population itself but also the habitat.

"Our state’s 700,000 deer hunters play a key role in habitat management. Keep in mind that the same native plant communities that support our game species also support a plethora of non-game wildlife. During droughts, as plant communities become stressed and aren't capable of handling excess browsing by deer, harvest management becomes a necessity."

He recommended that hunters focus on antlerless deer, and harvest deer early in the season to get their "mouths off the range" as soon as possible, rather than prolonging a deer's impact on habitat.

Cain noted that deer numbers can "recover quickly as rainfall conditions return back to normal," especially since does produce single fawns and twins "even in marginal conditions. So say next spring we have a decent rainfall. That means probably a decent fall crop next year, so the deer population builds up."


Antler Growth Questions

Lloyd Fox, big game coordinator for Kansas, also has gotten questions about harvesting in a drought, and agrees that deer should continue to be harvested during drought conditions. Another common question he's received this year is whether deer antlers are affected by drought.

"People are questioning whether deer will have as large antlers this year as result of the drought," he said. "There may be a small effect -- no one has ever proven it, but there's a possibility something like that could occur.

"We'll try to measure that this year. We're going to measure the antlers on deer that are two to three years old and compare [those measurements] to antlers from previous years on same-age deer from that area."


While Kansas is dealing with a drought in part of its state, Texas is enduring a record drought this year that has come on the heels of near-record low rainfall in 2009 and just a little precipitation in 2010. So Cain's answer to the antler-growth question is different.

"Hunters can expect antler quality to be below average and much lower than last year," Cain said. "However, that’s not to say there aren’t some good bucks out in the woods this year. Those ranches managing habitat properly -- keeping deer populations in check and maybe providing a little supplemental feed -- won't see as large a decrease in antler quality as other places.

"Any buck with a good set of antlers this year is one that has great potential, especially a young buck, and hunters may consider passing that type of deer up," he added. "Just think if a buck can grow a good set of antlers on native range under these conditions what he could do on a good year."

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

BPT Points Champ Edwin Evers Talks New Berkley Baits

BPT Points Champ Edwin Evers Talks New Berkley Baits

After making the switch to Berkley products heading into the inaugural BPT season, Edwin Evers tells OSG's Lynn Burkhead why Berkley baits played such a key role in his recent angling success.

MLF Pro Tips: Go-To Baits for the Spawn

MLF Pro Tips: Go-To Baits for the Spawn

Major League Fishing pros talk about the first lure they choose when targeting spawning bass.

New Abu Garcia Baitcasting Reels

New Abu Garcia Baitcasting Reels

In the booth of one of fishing's all-time great reel makers, Outdoor Sportsman Group writer Lynn Burkhead and Andrew Wheeler of Pure Fishing discuss one of the brand new baitcasting reels from Abu Garcia being released at ICAST 2019.

Mustad

Mustad's Saltwater Jig Lineup

Russ Whisler shows OSG's Lynn Burkhead the innovative features and great color schemes in Mustad's voluminous lineup of saltwater jigs introduced at ICAST 2019.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

As most catfish anglers know, blue cats, channel cats and flatheads will eat darn near anything that fits in their mouths. Catfish

5 Ways To Catch Catfish on Lures

Keith Sutton - September 16, 2015

As most catfish anglers know, blue cats, channel cats and flatheads will eat darn near...

 A 7 pound giant taken on a jig during the pre-spawn transistion in the Midwest.

Although the art Bass

4 Tips When Jig Fishing For Bass

Chris Schneider - August 25, 2015

A 7 pound giant taken on a jig during the pre-spawn transistion in the Midwest. Although...

If you haven't looked at the smaller urban lakes in your area, you are missing out on some great bass pond fishing. Bass

Bass Pond Fishing: Catch Lunkers at Small Lakes Near You

Dan Anderson

If you haven't looked at the smaller urban lakes in your area, you are missing out on some...

Dozens of different bait types are commonly used for catfish, including these great options. Catfish

12 Great Catfish Baits

Jeff Samsel

Dozens of different bait types are commonly used for catfish, including these great options.

See More Trending Articles

More Stories

That's the best place to have any of the coyotes you expect to bag after winter closes in! These are coyote calling tips every hunter could use. Stories

Coyote Calling Tips for Hunting at Close Range

Tim Lilley - January 09, 2014

That's the best place to have any of the coyotes you expect to bag after winter closes in!...

Behind the Badge is a regular series of perspective stories by Oklahoma game warden Carlos Gomez. In this article, Gomez recounts his experiences from his first nighttime poaching bust. Stories

Behind the Badge: A Warden's First Night-Poaching Bust

Game & Fish Online Staff - July 30, 2018

Behind the Badge is a regular series of perspective stories by Oklahoma game warden Carlos...

Predator hunters living in more open areas are in a unique position to enjoy coyote hunting at its Stories

Guns & Loads for Long-Range Coyote Hunting

Stephen D. Carpenteri - December 13, 2015

Predator hunters living in more open areas are in a unique position to enjoy coyote hunting at...

Could the northern stretches of the Lone Star State one day rival the south for big-buck supremacy? Whitetail

The Next ‘Big Tex' for Trophy Bucks?

Jordan Michaels - October 18, 2019

Could the northern stretches of the Lone Star State one day rival the south for big-buck...

See More Stories

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.