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December Deer Are Different
Wise to the fact that they're being hunted, East Texas whitetails aren't likely to slip up once December rolls around. here are some time-tested tips to help you score now. (December 2007) ... [+] Full Article
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Texas Sportsman
Great Year For Deer!

“Just wanted to comment on the number of bucks that were killed and left in the woods,” said James Powell. “I saw seven this year (2006-07), just in the area that I hunt, that were killed and left. I guess the hunters did not want to risk getting a fine, so they were wasted. I think that if private hunting leases want to enforce this rule to build a ‘big buck’ lease, then great. But the state of Texas should only be concerned with buck and doe populations, not antler size.”

Hill Country hunting was uneven last season. On the positive side, the antler production was much better than expected -- by state biologists and landowners alike. However, deer movement was minimal in some of the top counties like Llano, Gillespie and Mason.

Some of this could be due to improved range conditions that came with pre-season rains.

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“Due to the greenup, hunting may be a little tough during the first few weeks of the season,” TPWD biologist Max Traweek predicted just before the season opener.

“Also, fair to heavy acorn crops in a few areas will result in even more restricted movement by deer in those locations. But, the Hill Country is known for high deer densities, and, even with lower than average fawn survival observed this past summer, hunters will have plenty of animals to choose from during the hunting season.”

Apparently his predictions proved valid.

That drop in fawn survival was likely affected as much by coyotes as the drought, according to Lewis Hogan who operates a lease in Llano County. (Editor’s Note: See “Hill Country Being Invaded By Coyotes?” on pg. 12 of Texas Sportsman’s May issue.)

“At night it sounded like South Texas or the Trans Pecos for coyote numbers,” he said. “They have moved into the Hill Country and we saw almost zero fawns around feeders on a lease with 10 experienced hunters. Drought and coyotes are a bad mix for fawn survival.”

That’s likely to have an effect on hunting in the region, with a general lack of 1 1/2-year-old bucks, which typically make up a big portion of the harvest in the Hill Country.

But not all reports were poor, as the southern and northern parts of the region had strong harvest. Rodney Clark reported that his lease near Brady produced more bucks than ever. “We only hunt a little 200-acre lease, but we had more bucks than ever and saw more bucks than does,” he said. “The deer were in really good shape too. I was surprised at the antler and body condition.”

Clark said there seems to be a dividing line between the north and south parts of the Hill Country in terms of consistency. “Up around Brady, we have pretty consistent hunting and antler production. The deer density is high, but there seems to be more management, which can make a big difference.”

Across the board, antlers were much better than most hunters thought, with some true head-turning bucks taken. More important, there were a lot of high-quality bucks -- and there should be even more of those bucks in Bell, Coryell, Lampasas and Williamson counties with the 13-inch-inside-spread rule in effect there now. The same regulation has been in effect in areas of Travis, Hays and Comal counties east of Interstate 35 for the last couple of years.

These counties typically have had a high harvest of young bucks. So far, the regulations have received a warmer welcome than they have in the Pineywoods where some hunters are extremely resistant to change.

If there is a lesson to be learned from last season, it is that South Texas should never be counted out of the trophy deer production equation. No matter what the conditions before the season, a little rain can change things dramatically; there are always a few monster deer hidden away in the thick cover.

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