AUSTIN – Record high temperatures in the upper 80s and 90s from Amarillo to Austin left ardent bowhunters sweltering in their deer stands throughout October; a trend weather models project could come to a welcome end heading into Saturday’s general rifle season opening day.
Unseasonably hot weather over the last month may have hampered hunting during the archery-only deer season, but Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) biologists maintain that prospects remain excellent.
“I’m still expecting an excellent deer season,” said Alan Cain, TPWD deer program leader. “It has been warm and a bit dry in October, which may have impacted early MLD (Managed Lands Deer) harvest and archery harvest. The deer are still there but some of the hunters I talked to said it wasn’t much fun sitting out in 80-90 degree weather, especially the afternoon hunts, so they’re waiting for the cooler weather. I expect hunting to pick up in November as cooler temps become more of the norm.”
Extended forecasts call for a reversal in weather patterns by mid-November, but even moderate temperature drops this weekend should be a welcome reprieve for hunters.
The general deer season opens statewide Saturday, Nov. 5 and runs through New Year’s Day in the North Zone and through Jan. 15 in the South Zone (see the TPWD Outdoor Annual of Hunting and Fishing Regulations digest for county-specific bag limits and season dates). Printed copies of the digest are available at hunting license sales outlets and in digital format as a free mobile app download on iOS and Android platforms at www.txoutdoorannual.com/app .
What can hunters anticipate seeing in the field during the early part of the season? According to TPWD field observations, acorns have been prevalent in October and will persist into early November and may influence deer movements, but as dry as it has become in the last month or so deer are still coming to deer feeders.
“Antler quality is excellent,” Cain noted. “I’ve seen photos of several big deer, including a low-fenced buck harvested in Webb County with a gross B&C (Boone & Crockett score) of around 198. Deer are in excellent body condition. I’ve seen a number of harvested deer with 1-3 inches of fat on their rump and across the back.”
Texas boasts a whitetail deer population in excess of 4 million and those numbers are climbing across much of the state due to high fawn production and survival this year. Parts of East Texas that have experienced extended flooding conditions over the last two years may be the exception.
Changes to deer season regulations this year include new provisions for the special late season in January, which now restricts harvest to antlerless and unbranched antlered deer. An unbranched antlered deer is one that has at least one antler with no more than one point. An additional 14 Panhandle counties were added to the general season, along with additional “doe days” in 26 East Texas counties.
Hunters are also reminded of new chronic wasting disease (CWD) carcass movement restrictions and testing requirements for hunter harvested white-tailed and mule deer this season. For details visit the CWD informational page online.
TPWD reminds hunters to check out the “My Texas Hunt Harvest” mobile app that allows Texas hunters to voluntarily report and track their harvested game from a smartphone or tablet. Hunters can log harvest for all resident game species, including white-tailed deer. The information collected will help TPWD biologists assess annual harvest and manage healthy game populations across Texas. Hunters should note that electronic reporting using the app does not fulfill tagging requirements for any game required to be tagged or requirements for the completion of the harvest log on the back of the hunting license as it applies to white-tailed deer. The app is available at the App Store for IOS devices and Google Play for Android devices. Harvest can also be reported online at https://apps.tpwd.state.tx.us/whs/ .