Urban Deer Conservation
“We were treated to the musical stylings of Taylor Swift from a nearby strip mall as we waited for the sun to rise from our blind.”
The golden-cheeked warbler is an endangered bird that is found nesting nowhere else in the world except the oak-juniper woodlands of Central Texas. How does that relate to deer hunting? Well, because the bird requires a dense canopy of mature trees, the area’s healthy population of whitetail deer, which browse on the leaves, needs to be managed in order to protect this sensitive habitat.
Through a multi-agency partnership, strict conservation efforts are applied to preserve this habitat for not only the golden-cheeked warbler, but also the endangered black-capped vireo in the area as well. As a result, a select number of hunters are allowed access to this restricted land each year only through a public draw held by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. With the unique opportunity to hunt in our hometown, we felt extra fortunate to have been able to draw four doe tags.
The hunt was conducted on the private Barton Creek Preserve, which occupies 4,000 acres inside Austin city limits. It’s surreal to hunt deer amidst the street noise created by rush hour commuters on the large thoroughfares just a stone’s throw away. On certain nights, one can even make out the lyrics to songs being performed by major recording artists at Zilker Park, situated in the heart of the city. We were treated to the musical stylings of Taylor Swift from a nearby strip mall as we waited for the sun to rise from our blind.
Despite the lack of hunting pressure, the deer population on the preserve was relatively low, in part due to the natural population of coyotes. With the thickest coats I’d ever seen, these were the healthiest song dogs I’ve ever encountered. It was obvious that they, like us, were doing their part to manage the whitetail population and bringing balance to this incredible ecosystem.
The action was slow, but we were able to fill one of our four doe tags by the end of our hunt. Desiree became the first woman to have successfully harvested a deer through this hunt. Unfortunately, we were the only hunters that week to have had success. However, as with many of the public drawn hunts in Texas, it’s always a privilege to just be out there on land that you would otherwise never have access to. Deer or no deer, there was no way we would have left the preserve empty-handed. And knowing that we helped play a role in the conservation of another species that calls the area home, made for an even more special experience.
Tight Lines and Big Tines!