Saturday, October 24, 2009

To Shoot or Not To Shoot - That is the Question

When managing a local deer herd, one of the most important aspects is age. A healthy deer herd should have a mixture of younger-aged animals, middle-aged animals, and older-aged animals. Managing for age is one of the primary goals of the antler restrictions that have been implemented by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in various counties over the last several years. By defining a legal buck as one whose inside antler spread is 13 inches or greater, the department hopes to produce a deer herd with a steady number of mature animals.

One of the challenges associated with a restriction of this sort is enforcement. Texas does not require that harvested deer be checked-in at a check station, and many hunters process their own game, which means that the animal would never be brought in to a commercial meat processor allowing a Game Warden to easily notice an illegal buck. It will be up to the many hunters across the Lone Star State affected by this restriction to make an ethical decision - Do I shoot or not?

With the possibility of a hefty fine or a guilty conscience looming, I want to make certain that any buck that presents me with a shot is legal. One proactive measure a hunter can take is to analyze trail camera photos. Utilizing trail cameras to familiarize yourself with the bucks on the property you hunt is a good management practice that will not only aid in your management efforts but might also keep you from making a costly mistake. A fun thing I like to do is to name each of the bucks I have pictures of to help myself and my fellow hunting buddies to be on the same page when we discuss the deer we see in the field.

This year I have created a slideshow that contains all of the bucks I have captured on trail cameras over the last few weeks. As you can see, several of these bucks are borderline on meeting the antler restrictions. Everyone sees things differently, and while I personally wouldn't shoot a buck that I knew was borderline, I could easily make a spur-of-the-moment mistake. Or one of my hunting buddies might have different standards than I do. While these names might be a little silly, it will be beneficial for my hunting partners and I to review these pictures and familiarize ourselves to help avoid a regrettable pull of the trigger.

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