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Texas White-Tailed Deer Outlook Good

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Alan Cain, whitetail program leader for the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, provided his findings as to how this fall and winter will shape up in quantity and quality in the Lone Star State. "Spring rains are always a good first indicator of just how good a deer season may end up being." He noted that 2020 got off to a great start in that regard.

"We’ve been blessed in Texas with well-distributed and timely precipitation across much of the state during late April, May and early June, and that has many hunters and deer managers hopeful for a great 2020 season," Cain said. "These spring rains helped many areas of the state, including South Texas, the Edwards Plateau and areas west recover from very dry conditions persisting from fall and winter of 2019. The habitat conditions set the stage for good early antler growth and fawn recruitment numbers are looking good."

Cain noted that Texas' overall whitetail count -- already the highest in the nation -- has continued to expand, with new hunting opportunities being added in recent seasons.

"The deer population in the state continues to see positive long-term growth with most recent estimates around 5.5 million deer or a density of 49.35 deer per 1,000 acres," Cain said, noting that the density is obviously not uniform across the state, with places like the Hill Country having much higher deer figures per acre.

"From a statewide perspective, hunters might expect to see a higher proportion of bucks in the 6.5- to 8.5-year age classes as a result of above-average fawn crop in previous corresponding years while other age classes reflect a more even distribution. Doe harvest has been down slightly the last couple of years, likely contributing to widening of the ratio of does to bucks from 2.95 in 2018 to 3.32 in 2019.

"The good news for hunters is that there should be plenty of carryover from previous years. Results from the TPWD annual big game harvest survey estimate 846,330 deer (54% bucks and 46% antlerless) harvested in the 2019 season, which was down about 4.2% from the 2018 season. Antlerless harvest was slightly up compared to 2018 while buck harvest was down 9.4% from 2018. The hunter success rate in 2019 was estimated to be 60% with an estimated 1.07 deer harvested per hunter or about 7.46 deer harvested per 1,000 acres. Similar harvest trends are expected for the 2020 season."

The Texas whitetail deer hunting forecast brakedown per Pineywoods, Cross Timber, and the Rolling Plains Deer Outlook:

Pineywoods Deer Outlook
"The most recent population estimate in East Texas is 286,000 deer, a positive increase over the previous two years. That positive trend in population growth is expected to continue in 2020 with favorable conditions for a high fawn recruitment," Cain said. "Deer densities range from a low of 7.88 deer per 1,000 acres in DMU 13 in the southern portion of the Pineywoods to 25.25 deer per 1,000 acres in DMU 14 in the central portion of the region. Although deer densities are lower than other regions of the state, those properties engaged in good habitat management practices are seeing good deer densities and good fawn recruitment.

"Based on previous years of fawn production, hunters should expect to see a good number of 2.5-, 3.5- and 7.5-year-old bucks relative to other age classes. Buck harvest trends indicate that 53.4% of the buck harvest were bucks 3.5 years old or older, a byproduct of the antler restriction regulation. Hunters should expect the same trend for 2020, and as always, the region is likely to produce some tremendous bucks.

"Hunter success in 2019 was estimated to be 56% and a harvest of 6.13 deer per 1,000 acres with harvest trends expected to remain stable in the Pineywoods for the upcoming season."

Cross Timbers Deer Outlook
"The Cross Timbers region in North Texas has the second-highest deer population in the state, just behind the Edwards Plateau region," Cain said. "The Cross Timbers encompasses five DMUs with deer densities ranging from 14 to 88 deer per 1,000 acres. The highest deer densities occur in DMU 23 (88 deer per 1,000 acres) and DMU 25 South (81 deer per 1,000 acres) in the central portion of the region.

"Fawn production in the Cross Timbers has generally been greater than 50% for the last eight years and 2020 is expected to be at least average if not above-average as a result of great range conditions, especially in the eastern portion of the Cross Timbers. As a result of these relatively consistent fawn crops, age structure of the buck herd is well-distributed. Hunters may notice a few additional 7.5- and 8.5-year-old bucks relative to other age classes as 2012 and 2013 were good fawn recruitment years.

"Harvest trends for 2019 indicate that 70% of the buck harvest was represented by bucks 3.5 or older, above the long-term average of 57.3%. Hunters should expect to see good numbers of mature bucks in the harvest for 2020. Hunter success for 2019 was estimated to be 60% and a harvest of 7.43 deer per 1,000 acres."

Rolling Plains Deer Outlook
"The eastern and western Rolling Plains region generally have lower deer populations compared to other ecoregions, with deer densities ranging from 31 to 69 deer per 1,000 acres in the eastern Rolling Plains, and 21 to 33 deer per 1,000 acres in the western Rolling Plains," Cain said. "Population trends are stable but fawn production is expected to be down for 2020 in the Western Rolling Plains that missed most of the spring rains.

"The projected number of bucks in the 4.5- to 5.5- and 7.5-year-old age classes will be higher relative to other age groups in both regions of the Rolling Plains. In 2019, 85% of the buck harvest in the western Rolling Plains was represented by bucks 3.5 or older, well above the previous year and the long-term average of 70%. Because of larger property sizes and relatively light hunting pressure, as well as moreinterest in deer management, harvest trends of older age class bucks are expected to continue in 2020.

"In the eastern Rolling Plains, bucks 3.5 or older represented about 79% of the harvest in 2019 with the long-term average of 63%. Hunters should expect this trend to continue in 2020, and if looking for mature bucks, this would be a good region to consider. Harvest success is slightly higher in the eastern Rolling plains (74%) than in the western Rolling Plains, 69%. Harvest per 1,000 acres in 2019 was estimated to be 7.3 in the eastern plains and 2.8 deer per 1,000 acres in the western plains. The lower harvest rates in the western portion of the region are not unexpected with much lower deer densities."

Photo courtesy TPWD.

Picture caption. "Here’s the Texas white-tailed deer outlook for 2020-21, which overall has shaped up to be excellent in almost every hunting hot spot broken down by region with facts and figures from Cain."

 




Tom Behrens has over 50 years experience in fishing and hunting across the United States. Much of this time was spent in Oklahoma and Texas where he became very familiar with the outdoor opportunities in these states. You may contact him by email at: tbehrcomm@gmail.com


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Lake Palestine Fishing Report from TPWD (Oct. 21)

GOOD. Water clear; 73 degrees; 0.28 low. Largemouth bass are good working Texas-rigged worms, shaky heads, and small crankbaits near boat docks, drop-offs, and rocks. Crappie are good on minnows and jigs around bridges and timber in 15-25’. Hybrid stripers are good on live bait, A-rigs, and swimbaits. White bass are good on slabs and jigging spoons. Look for birds diving over feeding schools. Catfish are good on punch bait, chicken liver, and cut bait.