Sunday, January 11, 2009

TPWD Public Scoping Meeting - Grayson County

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department held a public meeting in Grayson County on Thursday night to address possible changes to the deer hunting regulations for next season. The department is considering adding a firearms season for deer in Grayson County, which is a topic of much controversy. Currently Grayson County is the only county in the state which allows archery equipment as the only means of harvest for the general deer season.

My Dad and I attended the meeting to hear what TPWD had to say concerning the matter as well as to hear what the majority of Grayson County residents had to say. TPWD Executive Director Carter Smith, TPWD Commission Members John Parker and Ralph Duggins, and TPWD deer biologist Mitch Lockwood were all present to represent Texas Parks and Wildlife. Local officials were also in attendance - a county judge, the district attorney, all four county commissioners, and mayors from several cities. There were also about 200 members of the general public there as well.

TPWD began the meeting by explaining the process by which they evaluate their regulations and the biologist gave a presentation detailing how the department has the entire state broken down into Resource Management Units, or "RMU's". The RMU's do not relate to political boundaries and are grouped based on common factors such as soil type, vegetative cover, and land use practices. There are 33 RMU's across the state. TPWD believes these RMU's will help them more accurately collect biological data and better monitor the deer herd. The department has Grayson County lumped in with several other surrounding counties, all of which either allow a firearms season or have no deer season at all. The idea that TPWD was trying to express is that it would make the regulations simpler by creating a firearms season in Grayson County to streamline it with the rest of that specific RMU.

The biologist himself acknowledged the fact that the state currently has little to no data concerning Grayson County and the local whitetail herd. TPWD has used data collected from Hagerman Wildlife Refuge, which is managed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service and represents a very small portion of the county. The proposal to create a firearms season in Grayson County is based on the idea that there is no biological data which suggests the deer herd could not sustain a firearms season, when in fact the biological data to support the change does not exist.

Grayson County is very unique when it comes to whitetail deer. The county does have a growing deer population, but it is still small relative to other parts of the state. The deer are primarily located in the northern part of the county, near the refuge and Lake Texoma, as well as in the southwestern part of the county near Ray Roberts Lake. However, the population is expanding to other parts of the county throughout habitat that has been heavily fragmented by development. Over the last decade this county has produced numerous record book bucks, primarily due to the fact that the county is restricted to archery only. This has allowed the deer to mature and reach their full genetic potential.

Grayson County has received national fame over the last few years with the harvest of several deer that score right around or above the 200" mark. The following links are just a few examples of the mature deer that have been harvested in Grayson County over the last few years.

I personally would like to see the regulations remain the way they are. I feel like the deer herd would be drastically diminished within a few short years if a firearms season was implemented. I know TPWD is not in the business of managing for "trophy" deer, but they are in the business of managing for a healthy deer herd that produces quality animals. I think the pictures in the articles above speak for themselves. If it ain't broke, don't fix it!

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