West Texas Deer Study Group

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The economics of deer versus livestock in the Rolling Plains, the potential implications of Chronic Wasting Disease in the Panhandle and a look at several deer management case studies are among the offerings during the 5th Annual West Texas Deer Study Group meeting here May 29-30. Those interested can pre-register during the next couple of weeks.

The two-day workshop is open to landowners, land managers, hunters and wildlife professionals. Texas Parks and Wildlife, Texas Cooperative Extension Service, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Texas Wildlife Association, Texas Chapter of the Wildlife Society and Wildlife Systems, Inc. sponsor the event. Two Texas Department of Agriculture continuing education units will be offered to attendees.

The first day's activities will be on the Clarendon College campus. The second day's field workshop sessions will move to the JJOB Ranch located northeast of Clarendon. Registration runs from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. May 29.

Proceeds from these workshops are used to fund educational efforts like the Buckskin Brigade Wildlife Leadership Camps. Last year, the group donated $1,250 to the Donnie Harmel Memorial Scholarship Fund at Texas A&M University.

"This is our fifth workshop and the attendance climbs each year. The interest in deer management in West Texas continues to grow at a geometric pace," said Dale Rollins, an extension wildlife specialist and one of the group's founders. "Nowhere else is the interest more keen right now than in the eastern part of the Texas Panhandle. The country around Clarendon is really producing some nice bucks."

Among the highlights of the event will be hands-on dissections of a white-tailed and a mule deer performed by Dr. Bill Eikenhorst and his associates. Eikenhorst is a Brenham- area veterinarian who has become an integral part of many of the state's wildlife educational efforts for youth and adults. This team of experts will relate deer anatomy and physiology to what deer habitat should provide.

The first day's agenda also includes a look at the past and present status of white-tailed deer and mule deer by Canyon-based TPW wildlife biologist Danny Swepston and the ecology of sympatric white-tailed deer and mule deer by Tina Brunjes of Texas Tech University. John Baccus of Southwest Texas State University and Billy Tarrant, a TPW biologist in Alpine, will provide insight into white-tailed deer diets in the Rolling Plains of Texas.

Participants will also get an overview of the economics of deer versus livestock in the Rolling Plains of Texas by Stan Bevers, extension economist in Vernon, an update on Chronic Wasting Disease and the implications for Panhandle deer herds from Ken Waldrup with the Texas Animal Health Commission and Clay Brewer, TPW wildlife biologist in Alpine.

The first day's sessions will culminate with deer management case studies. Ranches included on the panel discussion are the Terra Rosa Ranch, Donley County; Harrell Ranch, Armstrong County; and the Tongue River Ranch, Cottle County.

The evening session moves to the Bar H Ranch for a steak dinner scheduled for 6:15 p.m. The evening's schedule will feature a "point-counterpoint" exchange entitled "The Role of Coyote Control in Panhandle Deer Management." Scheduled to man the point position is Rickey Gilliland, Texas Wildlife Damage Management Service Canyon. Wyman Meinzer, nationally published wildlife photographer and naturalist from Benjamin is set to offer the counterpoint. Rollins, a national champion "quail caller," will round out the evening with his game-calling repertoire titled "Rolling Plains Wildlife Ventriloquism."

Activities May 30 at the JJOB Ranch are scheduled to start with "cowboy coffee" and doughnuts at 7:30 a.m. The program opens with Kent Mills, Ezell-Key Company nutritionist and Extension youth volunteer from Snyder giving an introduction to the Buckskin Brigade. He'll be followed by the Eikenhorst team's deer necropsy presentation entitled "Getting to Know Your Deer."

The remainder of the morning will be devoted to a two-stop field tour of the JJOB Ranch. Stop one, part one will be "Habitat Manipulation for White-tailed Deer and Mule Deer," by Calvin Richardson, TPW biologist in Midland and Gene Miller, TPW technical guidance biologist in Canyon.

Stop one, part two will be a field botany session stressing the important native plants for deer in the Panhandle. Weldon Sears, NRCS, Clarendon, is scheduled to conduct the session.

Stop two of the tour will be on a Conservation Reserve Program parcel. Sears and Charles Coffman, NRCS, Lubbock, are scheduled to address improving deer habitat quality on CRP lands.

The study group will culminate with a catered lunch on the JJOB Ranch. Pre-registration before May 15 is encouraged. The pre-registration fee is $25 per person ($10 for students). Registration after May 15 and at the door is $35 per person ($20 for students). For further information, contact Dale Rollins at 915-653-4576.