Staff Report – TheRecordLive

AUSTIN – Texas deer hunters could be blessed with too much of a good

thing this fall, at least early on, as excellent range conditions

throughout the state have set the stage for what could be a season to


The Texas deer hunting season opened Saturday, for bowhunting

and Nov. 6 for the general gun season. A special youth-only weekend

season is set for Oct. 30-31. The general season runs through Jan. 2,

2011 in North Texas and Jan. 16, 2011 in South Texas. A late youth-only

season is also slated for Jan. 3-16, 2011. For additional late season

deer hunting opportunities, consult the 2010-11Outdoor Annual of hunting

and fishing regulations.

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department biologists equate good habitat

with healthy wildlife populations and suggest you don’t have to look

hard to find plenty of both this year. Timely rainfall that began last

winter and continued throughout the first half of 2010 has helped

maintain range conditions and provide an ideal environment for deer to


Estimates of high fawn production in most regions of the state with

upwards of 100 percent fawn survival on some intensively managed

ranches, coupled with quality native food supplies, should give hunters a

lot to look forward to this season. It also means that like last year,

hunting over corn feeders may not be as productive because of the

abundant natural forage available.

“Acorn crops have been pretty good and there is plenty of vegetation

in South Texas, so the deer have plenty to eat,” said Alan Cain, TPWD

whitetail deer program director. “That’s going to make it difficult for

bowhunters to attract deer to supplemental feeding locations.”

At the onset of the archery season Cain said most deer are still in a

summer pattern, especially in South Texas where the rut is still a

couple of months away. Bowhunters might consider focusing their efforts

along heavily traveled game trails or near acorn producing trees.

He also suggests hunters take advantage of opportunities to harvest

antlerless deer this season, too, in order to offset high fawn

production. “Folks need to keep deer numbers at a level the habitat can

sustain during lean years,” said Cain.

TPWD field biologists are concerned last year’s drop in overall deer

harvest could carry a double-edged sword into the 2010-11 season. Nearly

half of all deer taken by Texas hunters occurs in the Edwards Plateau

and last season marked the lowest harvest in 10 years, attributed mainly

to reduced deer movement. The upside is there should be a greater

percentage of older-aged bucks in the population due to the carry-over

of bucks that weren’t harvested last year. The downside is there likely

are more deer in the population than the habitat in many areas can

adequately support without being degraded when range conditions return

to normal.

“I don’t wish for it to be dry, but hopefully conditions will be such

during the upcoming season that deer movements will be high (i.e. deer

will come to feeders), resulting in high deer observation and harvest

success rates for hunters,” said Trey Carpenter, TPWD wildlife


One aspect biologists are not concerned about this season is the

overall health of Texas’ deer herd. The abundance of acorns during the

fall and winter of 2009, combined with the flush of cool-season and

warm-season herbaceous plants produced from the rains provided

high-quality forages for deer that helped them come through the winter

in good condition and were adequately available to the deer throughout

the early stages of antler production, throughout pregnancy, and during


“This year deer didn’t have to go to browse until well into the

growing season, unlike in dry years when they utilize browse earlier

because herbaceous plants are lacking,” Carpenter explained. “Not

dipping into the ‘savings account’ of browse until late into the growing

season should have a positive influence and due to the steady and

consistent supply of good nutrition that has been available to deer

since last fall, all segments of the deer population should be in good

body condition going into the fall, buck antler production should be

above average for the 2010-11 season, and fawn production and

recruitment should be above average.”

In parts of the state having special antler restriction, landowners

and hunters should reap the rewards of above average antler growth this

season as more bucks meet the requirements for legal harvest, said Cain.

“It may be tough spotting those deer because they won’t have to move

much, so hunters need to keep that in mind. In East Texas, the antler

restrictions coupled with good rainfall should mean good quality bucks.”

Cain said folks involved in cooperative wildlife management groups

should also see the fruits of their collaborative habitat management

labors this season and expects deer hunting on ranches under wildlife

management plans to be above average, too.

“It really doesn’t matter what part of the state you’re in, if you

effectively manage the habitat for the benefit of wildlife, you’re going

to see better quality deer,” he said. “Our biologists are working with

thousands of land managers on more than 25 million acres and hunters are

becoming more educated not just on how they hunt, but also wiser on

management strategies.”

On intensively managed ranches under Level 3 of the Managed Lands

Deer Permit program, Oct. 2 is the “soft” opening day of the general

deer season. Hunters on Level 3 properties have the flexibility to

utilize issued permits from the archery season opener through the last

day in February by any legal means and methods. MLDPs are used instead

of deer tags, which means deer taken under the program do not count

against a hunter’s annual bag limit.

The MLDP program is a multi-tiered incentive based and habitat

focused initiative that allows landowners involved in a formal

management program to have the state’s most flexible seasons and

increased harvest opportunities. Higher levels offer additional harvest

flexibility to the landowner, but also have more stringent requirements.

Some in South Texas already have their sights set on a specific buck

they’ve spotted during deer counts or captured on trail cameras,

according to Cain. “There are some landowners down here that have

already got some huge bucks located,” he pointed out. “We’re talking

bucks that will score 200 or better. Now those don’t grow behind every

tree but these bucks were able to recover from last year’s rut and

develop better because of quality range conditions.”

This could also be a breakout year for the Class of 2004. That was a

peak year for deer productivity and range conditions, which means the

odds of seeing a mature 6 ½-year-old buck this season are pretty


“In 2004, at least in South Texas, we had good rainfall and a good

fawn crop,” recalled Cain. “Consequently, even with normal deer harvest

over the years, we should have good carryover and I would suggest

hunters consider waiting on that older buck and not pull the trigger on

the first deer you see.”