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Granite Shoals reinstates deer harvesting program to control numbers

White-tailed deer

The Granite Shoals City Council voted to reinstate the city's Wildlife Advisory Committee, which helps manage deer overpopulation by harvesting the animals within city limits using archery equipment. The program can’t start until the 2025-26 hunting season due to population survey requirements from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Staff photo by Nathan Bush

The Granite Shoals City Council voted to reinstate the Wildlife Advisory Committee to help control the city’s deer population. The seven-person committee will begin laying the groundwork for the archery harvesting program, which cannot start until the 2025-26 deer season. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department regulations require two consecutive seasons of deer population surveys before management practices can be implemented. 

The council approved the committee’s reinstatement at its regular meeting on Tuesday, April 11.

“Granite Shoals has a need to manage its deer overpopulation,” said newly appointed committee member Brad Hammel, who was also on the previous committee. “We’ve had the need for this committee. I think it could be very successful again, and it’s something I think Granite Shoals really needs.”

The Wildlife Advisory Committee was created in 2015 and lasted about three years. By 2020, it had faded away after key members moved from the city and COVID-19 pandemic restrictions made it difficult for remaining members to meet.

Surveys collected during the committee’s initial formation showed the city had roughly 2,000 deer, according to Todd Holland, another former and now newly appointed member. 

During its three years of operation, the committee harvested about 350 deer, Holland said. 

The committee will function under strict procedures and protocols to lower the risk of accidents during harvests. Designated harvesters on the committee will sit in specific zones and kill deer using archery equipment. 

Shots can only be taken if the deer is in front of a plywood backstop that prevents the arrows or bolts from going beyond the target in the event of a miss. 

Harvesters will have to pass written tests and deer-identifying assessments with 100 percent accuracy before they can go to work. They must also qualify with an archery skill test by hitting a 3-inch target at 20 yards in one attempt. 

The committee has a $5,000 annual budget to provide corn, feeder batteries, and replacement broadheads. Committee members supply their own seats and feeders in some cases, but the city has purchased these materials in the past.

Harvested deer meat will be donated to local residents on a first-come, first-served basis.

Hammel gave a personal account of the city’s problem. Deer have done $1,000 worth of damage to his home, and he has spent $10,000 fencing his yard so he can protect his garden and landscaping.

Police Chief John Ortis, who was instrumental in the original Wildlife Advisory Committee, said deer are also a traffic hazard.

“At one time, we did not have a single police car in the city of Granite Shoals that did not have deer damage,” he said.

Exacerbating the problem is that residents feed the deer, keeping the animals within the city limits. Granite Shoals has an ordinance against feeding deer, but it still allows for “occasional” feeding, which is difficult to enforce, according to Ortis.

Councilors unanimously agreed to reinstate the Wildlife Advisory Committee. Over the next two years, while population surveys are being conducted, committee members plan to work with the community and government to provide more thorough education on the issue of deer overpopulation and deer feeding practices.

dakota@thepicayune.com