Whitetail Hunting and High Fences

High Fences and Whitetail Deer Hunting

Question: There always seems to be a big debate in the whitetail hunting community over shooting deer on a high fenced ranch. I don’t understand why some hunters get so bent out of shape that other hunters pay to shoot deer on high fence ranches. Big deal. There are many Texas hunting ranches that operate this way, but many others that do not. Besides, some hunters pay to shoot deer on low fenced ranches.

I don’t have a problem with hunting deer within a high fence. It’s not like the hunters who harvest them are filling the record books with them. I would rather shoot a truly wild buck, but what do you think is best?

Answer: You pose a really good deer hunting question that has no obvious correct answer. I have deer hunted for almost 30 years and have shot only one deer behind a high fence. It was a doe. That being said, I have been on many high fenced ranches and they vary quite a bit. Some places are so big you would be hard-pressed not to consider it “free range.” Others are so small that you know that something is just not right.

The reason a landowner would construct a high fence around a property is so that they can implement increased whitetail deer management. They want to keep the deer in so that they can manage the herd’s age, genetics, and nutrition. But it’s not so much about keeping the deer on their property, it’s more about bucks not getting shot at an early age on a neighboring property.

The owners of high fenced ranches do not intend to chase “their” deer into a corner to shoot them. That is not any kind of whitetail hunting that a real hunter would be involved with. The fact is, deer living within high fenced ranches are less likely to be shot. Every whitetail hunter knows that a major factor in growing big deer is controlling age.

With deer hunting purist, deer harvested off low fences is the only way to go. In fact, I would suggest that most hunters would prefer to harvest deer off low fenced ranches, but with the price of land it would be difficult for most landowners to have enough property that the bulk of the deer do not also use neighboring ranches. Because landowners want highly managed deer herds, the result is high fences.

In the end, the height of a ranch’s fence should not matter. Although most high fences are constructed to better manage both the deer herd and habitat, I’ve seen some that have gone the other direction — too many deer! And the habitat suffers as a result. Of course, I’ve seen poor habitat on low fenced ranches as well because of either deer or livestock or both. In Texas, landowners can work with the state wildlife department and use MLDP permits to improve their deer herd, but habitat management practices must be implemented.

Better whitetail hunting can be had through proper deer population and habitat management. So I would say, regardless of the height of one’s fence, if they are working to improve habitat and grow better whitetail deer, then hunting is hunting.

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