Last year’s Texas deer hunting season was consiedered textbook by state wildlife biologists. However, this season hunters may have to throw out the book. Indicators leading into the November 3 season opener point to potentially great hunting across much of the state, according to Texas Parks & Wildlife Department biologist.
“Generally speaking, it’s a banner year for (fawn) production,” said Mitch Lockwood, TPWD Deer Program leader. “As far as quality of the animals, the deer we are seeing are in pretty good condition, and I expect antler quality and body weights to be above average. Not only do we expect this year’s crop to be better, but there are more mature bucks out there simply because harvest was down in 2006.”
Whitetails have responded well from last year’s extended dry spell, thanks to an unseasonably wet spring and summer and the deer have taken advantage of resurgent plant growth, Lockwood said.
That bodes well for the deer, but could pose a challenge for hunters hoping to find success from a blind over supplemental feed. Biologist point to 2004, when timely spring rains created ideal range conditions, healthy deer and high expectations from hunters. Due to the abundance of vegetation available to deer during that year, hunters observed fewer animals during the season and overall harvest numbers were down.
When conditions became relatively dry in 2005, deer harvest jumped considerably and, in particular, more mature bucks were killed that season. “That’s what makes this year tough to predict,” Lockwood said. “There will be more deer on the ground this fall, but hunting could be tough early in the season.”
Because some parts of the state are drying up as rainfall slacked off in September and October, deer movements and hunting conditions could change. “Deer were seeing so much good native groceries all year, corn was something new to them,” the TPWD program leader said.
“In the Edwards Plateau, we’re loaded with acorns. Once those food sources run out, deer should hit the feeders.”
With the expected high percentage of recruitment into the deer population this year, it’s important for landowners to actively manage whitetail numbers. “It’s important for hunters to use those antlerless tags this season and get excess animals off the range before winter sets in to ensure there’s enough food to go around,” said Lockwood.