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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
>> Five Surefire Tips For December Bucks
>> 12 Mistakes To Avoid During The Rut
>> Texas' 2007 Deer Outlook -- Part 2: Finding Trophy Bucks
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Texas Sportsman
Texas' 2007 Deer Outlook -- Part 1: Our Top Hunting Areas
If you measure a successful deer season by the amount of meat in your freezer, then here's where in the Lone Star State you should concentrate your hunting efforts this fall. (October 2007)

Photo by Mike Biggs.

Whoever coined the saying about variety being the spice of life must surely have been talking about the Lone Star State.

From its dense pine forests, cottonwood-laced river bottoms and mesquite thickets to its rolling sandhills, oak-dotted prairies and wide-open plains, Texas can boast a seemingly never-ending complement of varied terrain. And across nearly all of this plethora of different ecoregions, one element remains constant: the white-tailed deer.

For many hunters in the Lone Star State, the pastime begins and ends with the whitetail. Other game's out there, but when the leaves start changing and the days shorten, these men would rather be in a deer stand than anyplace else on earth. And while some are more discerning when it comes to touching off the trigger, many are simply looking to fill their tags -- and freezers -- with some tasty, high-protein venison.

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And do they ever have opportunities to harvest their share!

Texas has been blessed with the nation's largest population of whitetails and hundreds of thousands of square miles across which to chase them. And while the whitetail's one of the wiliest, most-sought game animals in the country, Lone Star hunters have had consistent success filling their tags for years.

Last fall's whitetail season, though not as fruitful as in years past, showed the consistency that's made our deer hunting famous. For the fourth straight season, Texas hunters enjoyed a success rate of 61 percent and, for the second season in a row, spent an average of 7.75 days in pursuit of deer. Dropping a bit, however were total deer harvest -- from an estimated 464,378 to 449,030 -- and the number of hunters -- from 539,086 to 533,237.

That said, at least one factor likely kept some hunters from going afield in pursuit of whitetails last season. Unlike in previous seasons, the range conditions were marginal to bad in some locales, owing to a lack of moisture in spring and summer. The dry winter and early spring preceding contributed to the largest wildfires in state history, which charred more than 1 million acres of habitat in the Panhandle and Rolling Plains.

If range conditions were viewed as poor last season, they'd have to be seen as good for this season. Most of the state received average to heavy precipitation throughout the winter and spring, leading to increased production of food and cover during times crucial to antler development and fawn survival.

Clayton Wolf, big-game program leader for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, said that moisture at the right time coupled with antler restrictions in many counties should help more deer get some age to them. "Last season, the Hill Country started slow," he said, "but regionally the eastern part probably did pretty well. People will see a big change in antler-restriction counties. Those had a high preponderance of young deer, and the restrictions should push a lot of animals into another age-class that might not have had protection before.

"The restrictions were intended to get most deer to 3 years of age or more. We've gotten a lot better soil moisture leading into the summer, so we should be in better shape."

Prior to last hunting season, whitetail hunting in 21 counties in the Post Oak Savannah and Gulf Prairies and Marshes regions was subject to antler restrictions. The success of those restrictions in previous seasons saw 41 more counties were placed under antler restrictions last season.

Under the restrictions, a lawful buck in the designated counties is defined as any buck having at least one unbranched antler or an inside antler spread of at least 13 inches. The bag limit in the affected counties is two bucks, no more than one of which may have an inside spread of greater than 13 inches. The restrictions have essentially created what is a slot limit for hunters wanting to take two bucks.

"The rainfall has been outstanding, and couldn't have come at a more opportune time for antler production and fawn survival." --Mike Krueger

TPWD harvest data show that the restrictions have improved the age structure of the buck herd, increased hunter harvest opportunities, and encouraged hunters and landowners to involve themselves more actively in improving habitat management.

Wolf observed that hunter numbers have seemingly been on a slide for the last decade or two. "Fortunately, we have stabilized in hunter numbers since the late 1990s," he said. "We were on a bit of a slide there for a while. Usually when we have prospects for a good season, we have higher hunter numbers. We know there are some hunters out there who don't hunt every year."

Though hunter numbers may have been down, Texas hunters are able to harvest as many buck deer as ever. Bag limits are on a countywide basis, so hunters can go to three different one-buck counties and harvest bucks as long as they don't exceed the county or total buck limits for the season. In past seasons, a hunter who harvested a buck in a one-buck county was finished for the year in all one-buck counties.

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