Feeding Deer in Mississippi for Supplementation

The supplemental feeding of white-tailed deer in Mississippi is an important topic right now. Recent flooding along the Mississippi River alluvial valley caused thousands of deer to relocate to drier land. Research has proven that deer displaced by high water events will return to their normal home ranges within weeks of the flood waters receding.

As these deer return, questions exist as to the flood’s impact on available food supplies. The answer will depend on habitat conditions on each property. Portions of woody plants, called browse, should not be negatively impacted. However, lack of oxygen and sunlight will have damaged cool season forbs and native grasses and planted food plots. The full nutritional impact on returning whitetail will depend on relative amounts of each forage type available on their home ranges.

The need for artificial nutritional supplementation (feeding) should be determined by a wildlife biologist. However, if a supplemental feeding program is started, biologists with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks recommend a complete ration consisting of protein pellets. This is a feed mixture in the form of a pellet that is nutritionally adequate for deer and contains crude protein, crude fat, crude fiber, vitamins, minerals, and does not contain any animal byproducts.

Shelled corn, rice bran, soybeans, and cotton seed hulls alone do not meet the nutritional requirements of deer. However, mixing corn or feeding soybeans with protein pellets will improve acceptance by deer and will increase energy intake. Rapid changes in the types of food ingested by deer can cause the onset of digestion problems that result in the death of deer.

If a land owner chooses to feed, feed should be provided from an above ground covered feeder or a stationary spin cast feeder. It is illegal to pour, pile, or place feed directly on the ground. Additionally, it is imperative to use the correct feed. Many people feel that feeding hay to deer during times of stress would be beneficial.

However, this is not recommended because deer have a complex digestive system and cannot digest hay due to the lack of needed bacteria in their stomach. Consumption of hay can actually burn more energy than gained. Deer will not benefit from eating only hay.

When providing supplemental feed to deer impacted by the Missippi River use caution. Whitetail have specific food needs and can not digest the same materials as domestic livestock. Use pellet proteins that contain protein, fiber and a complete ration of nutrients.

NWTF: Managing Wildlife Habitat for Hunters

The National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) is putting better habitat on the ground for wildlife across the US. When it comes to funding conservation and the preservation of our hunting heritage, the NWTF is a good steward of your contributions. In the latest report from Charity Navigator, America’s largest independent charity evaluator, the NWTF was found to put 89.8 cents of each dollar spent towards its mission.

“The NWTF is truly grateful for our dedicated members and volunteers. We want to ensure their contributions are used to fund projects that will preserve our hunting heritage and ensure the future of our wild places and wildlife,” said George Thornton, NWTF CEO. “Our Save the Habitat. Save the Hunt. initiative helps drive our efforts towards projects that will help make the biggest and most immediate impact to conserve the most imperiled habitats and recruit the next generation of hunters.”

The NWTF also received the highest score possible on fundraising expense and efficiency, meaning the organization spends very little on its fundraising effort, while it still has great returns.

The NWTF is a nonprofit conservation organization that works daily to further its mission of conserving the wild turkey and preserving our hunting heritage. Through dynamic partnerships with state and federal wildlife agencies, the NWTF and its members have helped restore wild turkey populations across the country, improving more than 17 million acres of wildlife habitat and introducing 100,000 people to the outdoors each year.

The NWTF was founded in 1973 and is headquartered in Edgefield, S.C. According to many state and federal agencies, the restoration of the wild turkey is arguably the greatest conservation success story in North America’s wildlife history.

To find out more about the National Wild Turkey Federation, become a member or make a charitable donation, visit www.nwtf.org or contact (800) THE-NWTF.

Transfer of Breeder Deer: Texas Movement Standards

Landowners and Texas deer breeders interested in transferring deer must heed new movement standards. White-tailed deer breeders will be able to resume animal movements under a plan finalized yesterday by staff of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) and the Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC). The Breeder Deer Movement Qualification Standards Plan will take effect upon the filing of Emergency Rules by TPWD and will be in place through the 2015-16 Texas hunting season. Details of the plan are available online at www.tpwd.texas.gov/cwd.

Key elements of the new deer movement plan

  • A framework giving breeders who met previous movement qualified standards an option to move and liberate deer. Movement qualification is also dependent on administrative compliance with deer breeder permit regulations and statutes.
  • Enhanced options for closely-monitored herds with a status of “fifth year” or “certified” in the TAHC Monitored Herd Program. There are no additional release site requirements for ranches that receive deer only from these herds.
  • Additional Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) testing in deer breeding facilities. Under the plan, the vast majority of the 1,300 permitted deer breeders in Texas can gain movement qualified status by testing two or fewer animals.
  • There will be CWD testing requirements for a proportion of deer that are harvested on some release sites.

The goal of the Movement Qualification Plan is to provide deer breeders with options prior to the September 22 deadline for movement and liberation of bucks and before the 2015-16 hunting season. This is just one of many steps Texas is taking to mitigate the spread of CWD after it was detected in deer from a Medina County deer breeding facility earlier this summer.

“We have received and tried to be responsive to the extensive feedback from the state’s many and varied deer management interests in developing this revised plan,” said Carter Smith, TPWD Executive Director. “In the development of this framework, both agencies are balancing the need to minimize the risk of unwittingly allowing the movement or liberation of Chronic Wasting Disease-positive deer on the Texas landscape while adopting reasonable movement qualification standards that allow qualified deer breeders to begin moving and liberating captive deer. The complexity associated with the development of this framework is immense.”

A joint agency CWD Working Group will now focus efforts on developing individual herd plans for affected deer breeders and develop a plan for strategic sampling of hunter harvested deer from free-ranging populations this fall.

“Our goal was to protect the health of free-ranging and captive breeder deer, while maintaining business continuity for the breeder industry,” said Dr. Dee Ellis, TAHC Executive Director. “We believe this plan accomplishes those goals.”

Factors such as level of connectedness to the index facility, level of testing in the TAHC Monitored Herd Program, relative percentage of the overall herd that has been tested, and variable liberation criteria are all being considered in development of the herd plans.

The TAHC and TPWD are continuing the investigation of the index facility in Medina County, where 42 deer have been euthanized and tested for CWD.

“The results from the partial testing of the animals in the Index Facility, as well as samples from the CWD-exposed herds, are important to making reasonable, prudent, and responsible decisions for the remaining captive herds, neighboring landowners, and wild deer,” said Clayton Wolf, TPWD Wildlife Division director.

Texas Dove Hunting Season: Lock & Load!

Dove hunting is a big deal in Texas. We’ve got a number of dove species found across the state, but the most widely known species by hunters are mourning and white-winged doves. I always look forward to dove hunting season, and not just because it is the first a long line of Texas hunting seasons. September 1 is always looked upon favorably, even if it’s just a fair opening day.

Texas is home to lots of doves. Lots! Wildlife officials estimate Texas has a resident mourning dove breeding population of about 50 million birds. That is significantly more than any other state and about 18 percent of the nation’s total mourning dove population of 275 million.

The numbers increase substantially once the millions of migrant mourning doves from northern states that pass through Texas each fall, and a rapidly expanding white-winged dove population that has exploded to well over 10 million over the last decade or so. All those birds make for good dove hunting, which makes for a large dove harvest.

Last hunting season was great one according to harvest figures from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. In summary, 300,000 Texas dove hunters shot more than 5.5 million mourning doves and nearly 2 million white-winged doves during the 2014-15 season. Fire up the grill. That’s a lot of bacon and jalepenos.

The banner harvest, up significantly from 2013, came largely as the result of optimum nesting conditions that put big numbers of young birds in the field ahead of the 2014 season opener. Wildlife officials are saying the upcoming dove hunting season may be just as good as last year thanks to abundant spring and summer rainfall that created banner nesting conditions for doves and left behind optimum habitat ripe with good dove forage.

No matter which corner of Texas you dove hunt, expect birds to be in good numbers. If you have food for our winged friends in the form of shredded sunflowers or waste grain in harvested ag fields, then expect great dove hunting. Good luck!

Range & Habitat Management: Prescribed Fire Workshop

The key to maintaining healthy plant and animal communities is range and habitat management. The Academy for Ranch Management is offering a basic prescribed burning workshop Aug. 6-8 at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research Sonora Station located on State Highway 55 between Sonora and Rocksprings. The basic course is open to those wanting to learn about the benefits of prescribed burning and the basics of planning and carrying out a prescribed burn, said Ray Hinnant, a Texas A&M AgriLife Research senior research associate in College Station.

“This looks to be an excellent year to grow grass, which is fuel for a prescribed burn, across the entire state,” Hinnant said. “This might be a good time to begin planning for a prescribed burn either this summer or next winter/spring.” He also said this workshop would be a great follow up for those who attended the recent Rancher’s Roundup in Abilene.

The workshop also constitutes the first half of Texas’ Prescribed Burn Board-approved course required for Certified and Insured Prescribed Burn Manager licenses by the Texas Department of Agriculture, Hinnant said. A license holder has the ultimate authority and responsibility when conducting a prescribed burn, according to department rules. The burn manager must meet the minimum standards of training and experience and maintain required insurance. There are three types of certified and insured burn managers: private, commercial and not-for-profit. Continue reading

Riparian Habitat Restoration Workshop for Texas Landowners

Riparian Habitat is Important

There is nothing better than riparian habitat. It’s true, the plant communities that comprise riparian areas are critical for wildlife. In many cases riparian areas have higher plant and animal diversity than surrounding areas. Although riparian areas such as creeks, streams and rivers are ever-changing, unprecedented rain events can cause serious problems with the health and function of these systems in the short-term. Central Texas has been hammered with rain, but Texas landowners have help when it comes to figuring out what to do with their flood-impacted properties.

The Nature Conservancy, Texas Parks and Wildlife, City of Wimberley, Texas A&M Forest Service and other Central Texas conservation agencies and non-profit organizations are offering natural resource restoration workshops June 10, 11 and 12 for landowners and residents whose properties were affected by flooding on the Blanco River. Water is important for the Hill Country, but it’s also important that riparian areas function properly.

What: The workshops will cover the do’s and don’ts of riparian (stream side) recovery following the Blanco River flooding. Field trips will cover restoration tips and plant identification and provide an opportunity for attendees to ask questions of Texas’ top riparian restoration experts. Continue reading

Hunt Harvest App for Texas Hunters

It’s almost turkey hunting season in Texas and I’m excited! Not only are the toms getting a little restless but so am I after a cold, wet weather. The spring season for turkey starts on March 21, but a new app can help hunters document their harvest. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department recently released the My Texas Hunt Harvest App for iPhone and Android devices, which allows hunters to report harvested game in real time on smartphones or tablets.

Texas hunters can use the app to record the number of harvested game animals, including eastern turkey where all animals must be documented. Hunters can also view harvest history, including dates of location of each hunt. This will help us remember the details, but should not limit our ability to embellish our stories around a campfire. The Texas Hunt Harvest App will be most convenient for hunters in east Texas. Successful hunters can check Eastern turkey harvested without having to visit physical, official check stations. This will save hunters both time and money.

My TX Hunt App

Wild turkey hunting season continues in South Texas counties until May 3. Youth hunters get another shot May 9-10 if needed. The annual bag limit for turkey is four gobblers, but as in the past only one may be an Eastern turkey.

Believe it or not, turkeys were almost extinct in Texas a century ago. Careful population management and support of landowners and hunters have brought the famous bird back from disaster, according to TPWD biologists. State figures show that turkeys now inhabit 223 of the 254 counties in Texas.

The Eastern wild turkey is the most populous of the five subspecies of turkeys — in the eastern U.S. It not as prevalent, but certainly as sought after, in South Texas. Eastern birds are bigger than the two other prevelant turkey subspecies in Texas, with body weights of around 25 pounds. The other subspecies are the Rio Grande and Mirriam’s wild turkeys. Rios are found just about everywhere west of IH-35 and Mirriam’s turkey are limited to the northern Trans-Pecos in Texas.