WOODS, WATERS, and WILDLIFE

DEER DELUGE!

As deer hunters, we should be careful what we wish for. Granted, the 100-degree weather we had in September is far from the ideal hunting weather, but the last week in October and first part of November – including Opening Day – in the thirties? Sheeesh!

And, the weathermen hit his prediction. Hope you had your long johns and wool socks in your duffle. The Hill Country got a couple of freezes. And four weekends of hunting without rain!
If you wanted more deer on your range, you’re in luck. The deer guys have said for years that Texas has about four million deer. But new census techniques and steady rainfall for 14 months have increased that. According to Alan Cain, TPWD’s white-tailed deer program leader, the population is now about 5.4 million!
The largest concentration – about 2.4 million – is in the Hill Country. Hunter success there runs roughly 78%. For antler fanatics, the large fawn crop in 2013 means there are many 6.5-year-old bucks polishing their antlers as I write. Cain expects an “above average” season in the hills.

The Cross Timbers region northeast of the Hill Country contains the second most whitetails. Highest deer densities are in areas northwest of Killeen. Cain expects an increase in bucks 5.5 – 6.5-years of age this season. Some great bucks should be harvested there.

If you’re a meat hunter, Cain encourages shooting as many does as licenses permit to control overpopulation. Doing that early in the season will help the remaining deer find enough to eat after the freezes.
For South Texas hunters, a good fawn crop there in 2015 indicates more 4.5-year-old bucks south of I-10 and 90 this year. A deer below San Antonio that’s been eating protein-rich brush country vegetation for that long is a real prize. Antler quality is forecast as “above average” by Cain due to “amazing habitat conditions”!
The eastern and western Rolling Plains have the lowest deer populations due to infrequent annual rainfall and vegetation. But quality-wise, Cain suggests hunters looking for mature bucks should consider this region. Hunter success has been higher in the eastern portion. Large ranches, light hunting pressure and wise management have made this area a Mecca for large bucks.

The Post Oak Savannah runs from the Red River south to around Floresville with the highest concentrations of deer along I-10 and the lowest along I-20 east of Dallas. Cain predicts a few more 6.5-year-olds this season. A buck/doe ratio of one buck for every 4.5 does screams for increased doe harvest.

In the Pineywoods, antler restrictions have allowed bucks to age, resulting in bigger ones each season. Cain expects the usual “tremendous bucks” being taken.

Winding down from the Pineywoods to the Gulf Prairies and Marshes, north of Highway 59, 42% of harvested bucks were 4.5 years old. Not bad. Below Hwy. 59, the habitat becomes more coastal, so the population declines. There are still plenty of deer and good buck age structure.
These habitat condition may not recur for years. Enjoy them!

JJ

Seeing even one buck like this is a noteworthy treat but seeing two at once is unimaginable. These two bucks are rare-even for the South Texas Brush Country, but every year, bucks like these are brought to ice in several regions of Texas. Photo ©John Jefferson 2019.

Full moon on Tuesday, the 12th.
But stay warm!

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