September 8, 2017 - The Texas Big Game Awards Program recently announced rule changes that will make deer taken on properties where pen-raised, Trap / Transport / Transplant and / or Deer Management Permit deer have been released since March 1, 2017 ineligible for entry in the program's scored entry category. The rule will apply to those properties for five years from the last release date.
Run by the Texas Wildlife Association and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department since 1991, TBGA is designed to promote sound wildlife and habitat management practices while providing recognition to hunters who harvest high quality animals as well as landowners responsible for producing them. White-tailed deer are categorized by geographic region in two divisions including low fence and high fence.
TBGA has been a good deal for Texas deer hunting, and the organization's leaders plan to keep it that way by continuing to recognize bucks that are produced as the result of sound deer and habitat management initiatives.
However, according to TWA's David Brimager, the use of some of these intensive management practices like captive deer breeding and genetic enhancement through stocking have eroded the original intent of the TBGA program, which focuses on sound stewardship of the land as well as quality big game animals benefiting from good land management.
"The use of breeding programs, including stocking deer on ranches for genetic enhancement, moves the focus away from long-term land stewardship and rewards shortcuts, which are not the intention of this program," Brimager said. "After review, the TBGA Committee felt it was appropriate to re-focus the TBGA back on the original intent of the program and make changes to the program’s rules to support that re-focus.
"In today’s world of whitetail management, trying to keep our certified scorers up to speed on how to look for tagged deer, and keep the integrity of the mission of the program at the forefront, is imperative to making sure we recognize the correct awardees," Brimager added. "Excluding release sites will help to ensure that the 900 volunteer scorers across Texas do not unknowingly or inadvertently allow deer that may have been released, but show no visible marking to be entered into the program."
Brimager reiterated that the rule was amended for the scored entry category only and does not apply to first harvest/youth division entries.
"These new rules took effect for those ranches that release/released animals after March 1, 2017," he said. "Therefore, as long as a ranch hasn’t released animals after that date, those ranches are eligible to be recognized contingent of the program’s rules."
Under TBGA guidelines, certificate awards are given to all scored entries that meet minimum Boone and Crockett scores for the region in which the animal is in harvested. All entries score must be tallied by a certified TBGA or B&C measurer.
In East Texas, the minimum score for required for entering a typical whitetail buck is 125 net; non-typical, 140. Minimum scores vary with other regions.
There also are categories for mule deer, pronghorn antelope, javelina and bighorn sheep. Deadline for entering deer taken during the upcoming season is March 1, 2018.
See texasbiggameawards.org for a complete list of program rules and certified scorers in your area.