Mule deer are an overlooked species in Texas.
Due to living in the the most remote regions of the state relatively few people see them and even fewer understand their interesting history, especially in the Panhandle.
Historically mule deer probably occurred throughout most of the Texas Panhandle according to Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD) officials.
“The current Panhandle population may represent a mixture of the desert subspecies and the Rocky Mountain subspecies. Dallam, Sherman, Hansford and Ochiltree, Lipscomb counties lie within the historic range of the Rocky Mountain subspecies, whereas the remainder of Panhandle is considered historic range for the desert subspecies. As a result, desert mule deer from the Trans-Pecos region of Texas were used to re-stock several sites in the Panhandle. The first relocation of desert muleys by the Texas Game, Fish and Oyster Commission (TGF&O) occurred in 1949 when 89 deer were released in Randall and Armstrong counties.”
TPWD officials said subsequent releases of mule deer were conducted between 1950 and 1988 in Garza, Kent, Oldham, Ochiltree, Roberts, Floyd, Motley, Briscoe and Cottle counties. Rocky Mountain mule deer from Colorado were released by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation in southwestern Oklahoma and may have expanded their range into the eastern Texas Panhandle. Additional mule deer herds have subsequently developed in Andrews, Bailey, Cochran, Gaines, Hockley, Lamb, Terry, and Yoakum counties as a result of emigration form eastern New Mexico. Distribution of mule deer is generally across much of the Texas Panhandle.
Whitetail also live in the Panhandle area.
The earliest sightings of white-tailed deer in the Texas Panhandle were made in 1854 by Marcy in Palo Duro Canyon according to TPWD.
“Preferred habitat for white-tailed deer at that time was probably limited to scattered riparian drainages in the Northern Rolling Plains of the central and eastern Panhandle that contained cottonwood, mesquite, juniper, skunkbush and other specie of brushy plants. Since these early reports brushy cover preferred by white-tailed deer has expanded in the Rolling Plains and the distribution of the white-tailed deer has done likewise.”
Occasionally hunters will take muley/whitetail hybrids in areas where both are abundant.