It’s been a good fall for deer hunting in Texas yet the month of November is not yet over. There have been numerous reports of really nice whitetail bucks being harvested across the state as well as Oklahoma, with everyone indicating above average body weights and antler growth in deer. Nothing grows more muscle, fat and antler than good habitat and that is mostly what we had this year.
“We saw a diverse buffet of whitetail deer foods this spring where vegetation growth was measured in feet rather than inches this year,” said Alan Cain, TPWD white-tailed deer program leader. “Meeting nutritional demands of antler growth, raising fawns and building up body fat reserves for the rigors of breeding as well as the winter should be an easy venture for white-tailed deer this year.”
Unlike in recent years, whitetail did not have to look far to find a highly-nutritious diet of native weeds and browse plants. White-tailed deer are quite selective and prefer native forbs and browse high in protein and energy that are easily digestible. Forbs, a biologist term for weeds, fit that bill, and there were in abundance this year. The can have protein levels ranging from 20 to 35 percent!
Source: Buck antler growth should be well above average, predicts Cain. Exceptions to this overall excellent outlook may be in areas of East Texas where unusually wet years can result in lower-than-normal fawn recruitment.
“I have no reservations suggesting antler quality will be above average this year, and with a good number of bucks in the 5-year-old age class I expect a number of hunters to harvest some exceptional bucks this year,” Cain said. “The habitat conditions statewide are much better than we’ve seen in years, and the abundance of native forage will help bucks maximize antler growth this year.”
So what can hunters expect with regards to deer numbers and quality. For starters the 2014 statewide deer population estimate was 3.95 million deer, the highest estimated population since 2005. Statewide population trends indicate a slow but steady growth in the deer population during the last 10 years.
“Although these numbers are from 2014 I would predict the deer population to be about the same if not break the 4 million deer mark for 2015, so hunters should experience a quarry-rich hunting environment this year,” Cain predicted, citing above average fawn production this year.
He also suggests hunters take advantage of opportunities to harvest antlerless deer this season, too, in order to offset high fawn production. “Hunters need to keep deer numbers at a level the habitat can sustain during lean years,” said Cain.
The key to producing good deer year-in and year-out is to maintain the proper carrying capacity for the habitat. It helps when ample rain falls because then every property produces good deer, even in areas with fair habitat for whitetail. Rainfall equates to forbs and those forbs translate into healthy deer, good fawn production and big bucks, even in areas where deer numbers are higher than what would be considered optimal.
Chances are the next spring will not be as good for whitetail as the last one, so do your part for local deer management and take a doe or two if there is a need to do so.