AUSTIN – Landowners participating in the highly-popular Managed Lands Deer Program (MLDP) will be able to complete the enrollment process and print their tags online beginning this summer, thanks to a new automated system being implemented by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
The new online process is just one aspect of a much-needed overhaul of the MLDP, which began in 1996 and has become so successful that it outpaced the department’s manpower and resources.
Currently, more than 10,000 farms and ranches covering about 26 million acres are enrolled in the MLD program, which is designed to foster and support sound management and stewardship of native wildlife and wildlife habitats on private lands in Texas. Participation is recognized through incentive-based deer tag issuance that provides extended hunting season lengths and liberalized harvest opportunities beyond what is allowed under the county regulations. Participants also have access to varying levels of technical assistance regarding wildlife and habitat management from TPWD biologists.
TPWD has simplified the program down to two options — Harvest or Conservation — from the previous three levels of white-tailed deer MLD, mule deer MLD, and the Landowner Assisted Management Permit or LAMPS. Both options retain issuance of deer tags that can be used during an extended hunting season from about Oct. 1 through the end of February, but the Harvest Option does come with early season buck harvest restrictions (archery equipment only in October for branched-antlered bucks). Antlerless and unbranched antler bucks may still be harvested by any legal means during the entire MLDP season.
Landowners seeking to enroll in either the MLDP Harvest or Conservation Option must use the new Land Management Assistance online system when it becomes available to submit an application for participation. The application process will require the landowner to create an account and to draw a property boundary in the online system. An email address is required for the landowner and any designated agents the landowner may assign to the account.
Participants selecting the Harvest Option will receive automated harvest recommendations, tag issuance, and general correspondence about wildlife and habitat management; no site specific deer population data or customized harvest recommendations from a TPWD biologist required. The Conservation Option is similar in scope to the old Level 3 MLD, and comes with customized technical guidance and harvest recommendations from TPWD, requiring at least three approved habitat management practices be implemented each year.
TPWD currently issues about 330,000 deer tags each year through the MLDP. “Phenomenal growth in the MLD program over the last 20 years has presented significant challenges for staff to meet the increasing number of requests from landowners for technical assistance and simply administer the program,” explained Alan Cain, TPWD white-tailed deer program leader.
Effective this year, participants will be able to print their own MLDP tags, which will eliminate issues with tags lost in the mail, not arriving on time, or bad address, and provide greater convenience and flexibility to participants.
The system retooling won’t sacrifice the core mission of the program, Cain reassured, rather will enable limited wildlife biologist staff to focus private lands technical guidance efforts on site-specific wildlife population and habitat management recommendations.
“Our primary goal is to continue developing long-term relationships with private landowners, engage and educate them about the importance of management in promoting healthy habitats and wildlife populations, and ultimately put more resource conservation on the ground,” said Cain.
Details and additional information about the MLDP is available online.