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Whitetail Rodeo

Posted on 03.24.2011
Posted by: L. Jared Capt

The look I see on most people’s faces the first time I tell them I’m on my way to a “deer capture” is pretty priceless. It gets even more priceless as I begin to explain that we’ll be using helicopters to net the deer from the air, and crews on the ground with atv’s chasing quickly behind to tie up, load, and transfer the animals back to the spot where they are being processed and then released. Having been lucky enough to take part in these so called deer captures on various ranches across South Texas for the better part of the last 10 years, it’s easy for it to become second nature and forget how truly unique the experience is.

The fact is however, that using helicopters to catch live deer has become an extremely useful tool in the deer breeding and wildlife management industry. In many cases landowners have chosen to take advantage of the State’s DMP program (Deer Management Permit) where they are able to catch wild does off of their ranch and put them in temporary breeding pens with either native or purchased bucks. Others who have a well established and well managed population on their ranch are able to catch and relocate does to other landowners through the TTT program (Trap, Transport, and Transplant), which they would have otherwise had to cull to keep their desired gender ratios. Others still are using yearly helicopter captures to generate studies on the buck population and how age correlates to antler maturation. Those studies have helped us come a long way in determining standards for when and which bucks to harvest to maximize the potential of the herd. A couple of weeks ago I spent 4 days on two different ranches in McMullen County catching bucks for just that purpose.

In ideal conditions it wouldn’t be uncommon for one helicopter and ground crew to catch 75-100 deer in a single day. As you can see from some of the included pictures, a helicopter will push a deer out into an open area where the gunner shoots a 10’x10’ square net with lead weights on each corner. Once the deer is caught in the net, someone on a 4-wheeler will tie the deer’s feet and put a mask over its head to help keep the animal calm. Calm however can be a relative term as I myself have been bucked off and taken for a ride by a big mature buck on more than one occasion. From there the deer is generally wormed, given some kind of identification device such as an ear tag, and moved to its new location.

If you’ve got questions about any of the programs I mentioned above, or are interested in using helicopters in some aspect on your own ranch, please feel free to give me or one of our team members a call.

Jared Capt
[email protected]