Deer capture combines high intensity with extreme efficiency

DEERCAPTUREIt’s part biology and part rodeo.

Combine a helicopter flying just over the treetops, a passenger firing a net-gun out of the craft, four ATVs buzzing like bees in and out of the brush and two trucks with young men at the ready to load and move white-tailed does to the trailer — and you have real-life TTT (Trap, Transport and Transplant).

“It’s very efficient,” said Jason Sekula, ranch manager at Shiner Ranch in Frio County. “These guys really know what they’re doing — it’s all designed to cause the least amount of stress on the deer as possible.”

By law, the process requires permits and must comply with the ranch’s wildlife management plan. This TTT took place Feb. 20-21.

Once the deer reach the trailer, they are aged, ear-tagged and examined for their overall condition. Then they are sent on their way from an overpopulated location to their new home at another ranch where they are needed.

It’s the process, though, that is exciting. And it’s easy to tell this group has done this before.

Chris Atkinson, the chief pilot of Sendero Helicopters in Bandera, provided the crew and most of the equipment. No easy task with a helicopter, four ATVs and trailers for transport.

Radio communication between the pilot and crew is essential to get them to the netted doe as quickly as possible and notify of “misses,” requiring a trip to retrieve the net.

After the doe is netted, the steer wrestling and calf-roping skills of the workers is evident — and almost as fast as spectators at the San Antonio Rodeo witnessed over the past few weeks.

Once the deer’s legs are tied, the workers are off on their ATVs in a flash to tie another. A half-dozen students from the wildlife biology program at Texas A&M — Kingsville load the deer and man the trucks, while gaining valuable experience for their future careers.

In just a few hours, 50 white-tailed does were on their way.

“It’s a blast,” one of the students said. “It sure beats going to class.”