Exotics keep the hunt going on Texas ranches
I often hear folks discussing whether our local weather conditions are normal or not. Is it colder than normal or perhaps warmer than normal seems to the never answered questions in the barber shop. Yes, there are still some of those around. What’s unique about our area is that we rarely have extended periods of either cold or warm temperatures. That situation allows the folks that enjoy the outdoors to do so practically all year long.
Therefore, deciding whether to head afloat or afield is the outdoors person’s choice. The only situation that restricts the decision is that some of the hunting activities are governed by seasonal restrictions. Even so, there is still plenty of exotic game and predators to hunt. Besides that, fishing activities are always open except for some of the offshore species.
The exotics, for the most part, were originally imported from their native lands and have done extremely well on Texas ranchers. The fact is that some of them have been trapped on the Texas exotic ranches and shipped back to their native countries. This allows the countries where the game animals are not surviving well to be restocked so that they will continue to be in their homelands.
Whenever the exotics become more numerous on a ranch and there is no request for them to be exported then they must be controlled. Some of the ranches offer discounted fees for taking the does or otherwise non-trophy animals. Others have learned that it is legal to sell the surplus animals to specialized meat producers for food. Whenever you see items in a store’s meat counter marked as venison, it is not native whitetail or any other native animal that is being sold for meat. There are also some restaurants that offer venison on their menu. This is also the steak from exotic animals.
Then there are the organizations of ranchers that buy and sell the exotics at auctions. Ranchers that are working to upgrade their herds, ranchers in search of what are considered trophy animals, and those that have either overpopulations or need to restock belong to these groups. So the exotic animals that have been imported to our state have created a very large business.
The primary purpose of having the wild ranging exotics is to offer hunting opportunities to the folks that either prefer to hunt them in Texas or in other states that keep them or for actual trophy hunting on their ranches. This type of ranch will likely also have some of the surplus does available. This could be a real bonus since most of the exotics are excellent table fare.
Since the introduction of the non-native animals into Texas, which has now been many years ago, some have become free ranging. The ranches that host the exotics are usually surrounded by high fences. That’s both to be sure that their purchased exotics can’t escape and that native whitetail deer can’t get in. In most cases, both the whitetails and the exotics will choose similar habitat. Invading whitetails would share much of the forage that the exotics eat. They would also enjoy eating the supplemental groceries that are fed to the exotics. The high fences do a good job as long as they are in good repair. Over the years with various weather conditions and little maintenance, some of the fences did not remain intact. With escape routes readily available, numbers of the exotics escaped and became free ranging and available prey to everyone that has the opportunity to take one.
Many of the free ranging hunting ranches choose to feed supplement feed for the whitetail deer all year around Even those that don’t will have feeders that will contain corn or some other grain that will continue to be spread until it is all gone. Without the deer hunters, the grain-eating animals are free to enjoy that fresh grain. With a couple of years of drought, and in some cases less natural growth, the animals large and small will head to that food source. More and more ranches are reporting that they are seeing more exotics on their property. Since the animals compete for the food source and the browse is less abundant now, the deer will suffer most. The axis deer is the species most reported on Hill Country ranches, and they are more aggressive that the whitetails so they get the most food. That situation is not good if whitetails are your main concern. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has highly recommended that hunters and ranchers take the free ranging exotics as often as they appear. There is no closed season on them and this is a great source for some really great tasting low-fat red meat.