Mule deer study to benefit farmers, hunters

Mule deer study to benefit farmers, hunters
Area targeted for the mule deer study (Source: Texas Parks & Wildlife, KFDA)
Area targeted for the mule deer study (Source: Texas Parks & Wildlife, KFDA)

HUTCHINSON COUNTY, TX (KFDA) - One study set to begin this fall could make a difference for farmers and hunters in the eastern panhandle.

The migration pattern of mule deer and how it affects hunting and farming in the panhandle has never been tracked before.

But now Texas Parks & Wildlife is teaming up with Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute, Texas Tech University and Sul Ross University to learn how landowners can best cope with these deer.

Texas Parks & Wildlife said it gets regular complaints from farmers who could see hundreds of these deer at once eating their crops.

"It's very easy to look out there and, you know, if you see 200 head of mule deer on your crop land to go, 'we've got a problem, and they're damaging the crops,' which they probably are," said Chadd Malone, wildlife biologist with Texas Parks & Wildlife. "But if we find out how long those deer are actually utilizing those crops, that may aid those farmers in better managing when they plant the crops or maybe how they build their fences or what crops they plant during what times of the year."

It's not a matter of lessening the mule deer population, but deer hunters could have a better idea of which places to hunt once the two year study is complete.

"It would benefit hunters in that they would know when the mule deer are on the crop land and when they're not," said Malone. "It would benefit land owners to know that same information as well to maybe better manage for those mule deer."

Set to start in October, this study will track the migration patterns of 73 deer in Ochiltree, Hansford, Roberts and Hutchinson counties.

This area was chosen because of the high density of mule deer.

To make this study happen, landowners in these four counties are needed to participate.

Participants' land could be used in one of three ways - to capture deer, track deer, or monitor crop damage.

Mule deer - 30 fawns and 43 does or bucks - will be caught by nets launched from helicopters.

Satellite GPS collars will be placed on the adult deer, and expandable collars with radio tracking devices will be placed on the fawns.

These collars will have to be replaced after the first year, but will track vital migration statistics for researchers.

"We're looking at percentage of time and amount of time these mule deer spend on crop lands as compared to the range land," said Malone. "And we're hoping to capture deer across that entire mosaic of land to see maybe if the ones that are further away from the crop lands actually make it up to those crop lands to utilize them, so they're also going to be looking at the distance the deer travel."

Landowners who participate will have access to all the data collected at the end of the study.

Anyone living in the selected parts of Ochiltree, Hansford, Roberts or Hutchinson counties who is interested in being part of this project is invited to a public information meeting:

  • Wednesday, August 17th at 7 p.m.
  • Stinnett Community Center
  • 801 Main St, Stinnett, TX

A similar study will be starting soon around Turkey, and residents of that area interested can get more information at a separate participant interest meeting:

  • Tuesday, August 16th, 7 p.m.
  • Bob Wills Center
  • Turkey, TX

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