It’s time—the day before the opener of Texas’ General White-tailed Deer Hunting Season! That means the trucks are packed, the trailers are loaded, the guns have been sighted-in (hopefully), the knives are sharpened, the corn used to “chick-chick” the roads is waiting at a gas station to be purchased along the way, and guys and gals and boys and girls all across the great state of Texas will be making tracks today on the way to their deer leases, public hunting lands or personal properties. It’s amazing at just how fast a year goes by now days, but another deer hunting season is upon us.
Like many hunters, I grew up with a father that hunted. He introduced me to the outdoors and taught me how to spot the dove flyways on the property where we ran cows, how to hunt squirrels, rabbits, deer and how to skin them all, including coons and nutria that we trapped, as well as anything else you could skin. Actually, furbearers brought a good price back then, and I think that really help control a lot of those mid-sized predator populations. Now that I think about it, we did see more quail and even some pheasants around still at that time. Hunting allowed me to experience nature up close, as well as spend time with family and friends.
When I was barely a teenager my dad and some other relatives and his long-time friends found us a deer lease in Mason County. Talk about excited. I recall making the first of many five hour treks out there. It was the Hill Country, after all, and the lease and our camp house were located right on the beautiful Llano River. With what seemed like a whitetail deer under every tree and hungry channel cats waiting in the clear waters of the Llano to bite even a crank bait, I thought we had found heaven. I think we drove up there every weekend in November and December of that year.
I recall one weekend in December in particular. Everyone on the lease had decided the time had come to start filling doe tags. Even then we had some ideas about deer management, but looking back that property was severely over-populated with whitetail. I even remember hearing radio adds while driving through the Hill Country about Llano County being the Deer Capitol of the World, having a deer density of 1 deer per acre. I still think that river lease in Mason County had an equivalent deer density.
One evening was particularly memorable with seven does and a spike buck having been shot between four or five hunters. I remember taking a picture of eight deer hanging from the live oak trees. At that point in my hunting life I had never skinned a deer without some type of assistance and/or instruction and I thought my dad was pretty good at it. He instructed everyone to work on dinner while we worked on the deer. As my dad cut around the first hock, I started the stopwatch feature on my wristwatch, which was pretty high tech for back then, as I held the flashlight. All eight were skinned and gutted within 40 minutes. My dad was strong as an ox back then and popped off deer hides like they were bed sheets.
We had a lot of good times out there. The bucks were not big, especially by today’s standards, but they were all trophies. I still have the horns and can tell you where I was sitting when they were shot, as well as the direction they came from. I would live off of Shasta soda and eat ravioli and chili straight from the can for lunch. We had a lot of good meals, too. I remember the barbecues, the long drives to Mason County at 55 miles per hour and waking up freezing in my sleeping bag because no one woke up to stoke the wood-burning stove. That was 25 years ago. Things sure do change, but the one thing that does not is a hunter’s desire to head out to deer camp for camaraderie, good food and even some deer hunting. I will see my dad this evening, and I’ll have dinner waiting for him.
I think the opening weekend of the General Deer Hunting Season is going to play out fairly well. The weather is not going to be ideal, but it rarely is. Hey, at least no shorts and t-shirts for opening morning. Native food sources are looking good for deer right now because of the recent green-up and most oaks have dropped their acorns. That does not help the hunters though. I’ve heard quite a few instances recently of corn piling up at feeders and game cameras with few deer pictures. The good news is that bucks are on the move with the cooler weather and decreasing day length. Some parts of Texas (middle coast and post oak region) are seeing heavy rutting activity while many are still in the pre-rut stage. But we’ve got all season. Make the most of it. Best of luck to you, your friends and family!