D eer hunting in Texas remains tops in the country, largely due to the quantity and quality of our overall whitetail herd. However, the Lone Star State also is home to a healthy population of mule deer, and in some places you could even say muleys are thriving.
That is tied in large part to conservation and scientific research, namely protecting smaller populations in some counties while opening up hunting in areas with growing numbers of mule deer. This is the same approach used in whitetail regulation changes.
Texas Parks & Wildlife in the past decade has opened a number of counties in the Panhandle and Rolling Plains to muley hunting. In some cases TPWD set inaugural season frameworks in places that never before had good numbers of deer.
Calvin Richardson, TPWD’s wildlife district leader for the Rolling Plains and High Plains Eco regions, again is expecting a good outlook when it comes to hunting the top of Texas and into western areas of the state.
When looking at a new season in advance, it’s important for deer to be in good shape during the time their antlers drop, Richardson said. It’s also good to look back at previous seasons to look for trends.
This fall and winter will include good moisture levels the past couple of years after lingering dry spells from 2011, 2012 and 2013. Those years were somewhat detrimental to fawn production for all deer species, but there should still be plenty of bucks, including mature ones, across much of the area Richardson oversees.
“Most portions of the Rolling Plains received above-average rainfall this spring (15 inches to 20 inches), resulting in abundant cover and forage,” Richardson said. “Conditions are almost as good as you get for expecting a bumper crop of fawns. To the west, on the High Plains, rainfall came a little later in the spring.
“In general, the High Plains has seen less rainfall; and as usual, thunderstorms are hit and miss across that country that stretches from the Oklahoma Panhandle almost down to Midland-Odessa.
“As a result of that moisture, and lack thereof in some areas, the forecast may not be as optimistic as in some other seasons,” he said. “However, even being on par with relatively average years is typically really good in our state.
“Forage conditions can be categorized as average going into the summer months,” Richardson noted. “There are more mule deer than white-tailed deer on the High Plains. The muleys tend to perform well even in dry times, especially given the intermittent buffet of wheat, corn, sorghum, alfalfa, and vegetables they may access on a seasonal basis.
“When it comes to horns, many hunters should see the benefits of spring rains on both muleys and whitetails. In lightly hunted areas, there’s a potential for older deer (six- and seven-year-olds) from a ‘decent’ fawn crop in 2009-10,” Richardson noted.
“Antler growth got off to an excellent start, and if we got a few more showers in June and July, those will help bucks finish off a good antler production year,” Richardson said. “One possible downside is that we anticipate a reduced number of mature bucks in the herd as a result of poor fawn survival during 2011-13 (historic drought conditions). As always, this country will produce some Boone & Crockett mule deer and whitetails, but mature buck numbers may be affected by the low fawn crops during 2011-13 (reduced number of 4.5- and 5.5-year-olds).”
Richardson said TPWD will remain vigilant in the fight of chronic wasting disease, noting that the Hartley County discovery will make check stations all the more important this fall and winter. Texas deer hunters as always are urged to properly dispose of carcasses from deer they shoot and safe handling recommendations include avoiding cutting through bones, spine or brain when processing deer. It should be noted that safe parts to transport include quarters or other portions of meat with no part of the spine or head attached; hides or capes from which all excess tissue has been removed; and antlers, including antlers attached to skull plates or skulls cleaned of muscle and brain tissue. Also, for taxidermy work, use a licensed taxidermist to ensure proper carcass disposal.
Will Leschper’s work has been recognized by the Outdoor Writers Association of America and the Texas Outdoor Writers Association. His email is [email protected]
The Texas Parks & Wildlife Foundation and Coastal Conservation Association-Texas are partnering with the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department to create the largest artificial reef in our state’s waters. The 381-acre reef will be positioned six miles offshore from the Port O’Connor jetties and Matagorda Island.
The project is being funded through TPWF’s fundraising effort Keeping it Wild: The Campaign for Texas.
Private dollars raised by CCA’s Building Conservation Trust and donated to TPWF for the campaign will be leveraged with state dollars from the department’s Texas Artificial Reef Program and funds from Shell Oil Company through the Coastal Conservation Association’s national habitat program.
The structure, which will be called the Keeping it Wild Reef, will be about twice as big as any currently in place. It will be constructed in waters roughly 70 feet deep. The reef will consist of 500 concrete pyramid structures with holes large enough for fish to swim through. The outside of each pyramid will be embedded with limestone to provide marine life such as worms and other invertebrates with a hard substrate to burrow into. The structures also will have an opening at the top large enough to allow sea turtles to escape. The reef material is expected to be under construction by the end of this year, with placement of structures in 2017.
—BY Will Leschper
The Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities, and Revived Economies of the Gulf Coast States Act—the RESTORE Act.
What’s in a name? If a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, this name is loaded with meaning. The emphasis and interpretation placed on it will have far reaching impacts for Gulf Coast citizens long into the future.
The RESTORE Act was signed into law in July of 2012. It established the Gulf Coast Restoration Trust Fund where 80 percent of the civil penalties paid under the Federal Water Pollution Control Act in connection with the Deepwater Horizon oil spill will be deposited and invested. The Trust Fund will be used for programs, projects, and activities that restore and protect the environment and economy of the Gulf Coast region.
Resource and ecosystem sustainability, tourism, and economic revival—these are the bricks upon which the RESTORE act was built. As implementation plans develop and funds are obligated, it is critical to stack the benefits from these investments much like a brick layer stacks bricks to ensure the stability and longevity of a home. Ducks Unlimited and its many partners believe that longevity will be accomplished by investing in natural resources and ecosystem sustainability first and foremost.
All along the Gulf Coast, the economy is built on the back of our precious natural resources. The delicate coastal ecosystem provides the economic basis for tourism, consumptive uses, commercial fisheries and protection for communities and the industry infrastructure on which much of the nation depends. In areas like the Texas Gulf Coast, making investments in the ecosystem directly stimulates the economy, and therein lies the magic.
In the years since the spill, enactment of the RESTORE Act, patterns of decision making among the five Gulf States are emerging. Texas stands out as a state making solid, long-term decisions that benefit the coastal ecosystem and the economies, communities and people that depend upon those systems.
Other states have made investments in high speed internet or baseball stadiums. Although these are not intrinsically bad investments, they do fail to stack benefits and tend to provide shorter term impacts to the local economies.
For this reason, DU lauds the vision of the Texas RESTORE Advisory Board members, appointed by Governor Greg Abbott with Chairman Toby Baker from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Executive Director Carter Smith, and General Land Office Commissioner George P. Bush with representatives from the Texas Department of Agriculture, Water Development Board and Department of Transportation and others.
Ducks matter, fish matter, people and communities matter. The RESTORE Act and other coastal funding sources provide a rare opportunity to make investments that will pay dividends for generations. All Texans should take pride in the legacy that such decisions leave for future generations.
—BY Andi Cooper