Exceptional year for white-tailed deer predicted for hunters

Courtesy: TPWD

The season for white-tailed deer opens for archery hunters has already started, and the general season will start Nov. 6.

Both bow and gun hunters can expect what TPWD biologists are calling an exceptional season for white-tailed deer this year, thanks to months of near-perfect conditions.

“Overall, the 2021 year is expected to be one for the books, with high expectations for deer season on the horizon,” said Alan Cain, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s white-tailed deer program leader.

Across the state, conditions look good for a healthy and large deer herd this fall and winter. Cain said the optimum conditions have been driven by weather and its positive effect on habitat over the past year.

“Though the end of 2020 was dry, and early 2021 experienced freezing conditions that delayed green-up of important browse plants, the late spring and summer rainfall acted like liquid fertilizer for forb, grass and woody plant production and has provided a buffet of natural forages for deer,” Cain wrote in his annual deer analysis.

Cain said antler quality is expected to be above-average for most regions of the state, and that landowners and hunters have been sharing trail cam photos of “well-developed main beams and long tine length in early July,” and that was with one more month of growth to go.

Texas supports a robust white-tailed deer herd with the latest statewide population estimate of 5.4 million deer in 2020, down a bit from the previous two years.

“If fawn recruitment predictions hold true, coupled with a good carryover of deer from the 2020 hunting season, landowners and hunters should expect to see an increase in the overall statewide population,” Cain wrote.

The South Texas Plains ecoregion is famous for mature bucks and above-average antler quality compared to most of the rest of the state.

Deer densities in South Texas range from 24 deer per 1,000 acres to 40 deer per 1,000 acres. Population trends show a stable population that has been slowly growing over the last five years, Cain wrote.

“Antler quality in the region is expected to be above-average with the exceptional habitat conditions and relatively mild temperatures compared to previous years,” Cain wrote. “Should be an exciting year to be in the brush country.”

Drawn hunts deadlines

The next TPWD drawn hunts deadlines are Oct. 15 and Nov. 1. There are private lands hunts as well as guided hunts for gemsbok, scimitar-horned oryx and bighorn sheep. To apply go online here: https://tpwd.texas.gov

rkelley@valleystar.com