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Texas Sportsman
Texas' 2008 Deer Outlook Part 1: Our Top Hunting Areas
Tagging a Lone Star deer (or two) gets easier every year, it seems -- but it's still the case that some spots produce more venison than do others. Here's a close-up look at the fall's most promising deer-hunting locales. (October 2008)

It's a good time to be a deer hunter in Texas! The Lone Star State boasts the largest deer population in the country and the widest variety of terrain through which to chase our wiliest game animal. And while most dream of looking through the scope at the buck of a lifetime, more are out for an enjoyable time, and to put some tasty, high-protein venison in the freezer.

This should be another great season for setting forth on that quest.

Good range conditions across much of the state last season provided relief to areas previously hampered by drought and set the stage for a year for the books. However, improved habitat and substantial forage were arguably no boon. The truth is that, with plenty of food and cover sources, deer didn't have to move around much. That made for tough hunting in many regions, and surely reduced numbers of deer seen.

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Texas hunters may see better results this season than they did last. Adequate rainfall and good carryover numbers will likely result in plenty of healthy animals that, lacking quite as much available food and cover, will be forced to travel more and, thus, expose themselves more. (Continued)

In the 2007-08 whitetail seasons, Texas hunters harvested a total of 512,852 bucks and does -- a drop from 2006-07, when hunters took a total of 604,800. Overall hunter numbers also dipped from 621,105 in 2006-07 to 578,864 last season, while total hunter days fell from 4,950,693 to 4,707,551.

The Edwards Plateau region of the state again had the highest harvest (229,391), hunter (176,074) and success (75 percent) totals in Texas. The High Plains again had the lowest harvest (1,160) and hunter (1,733) totals in the state, while Blackland Prairie hunters again had the lowest overall success rate (26 percent).

Overall, Texas hunters enjoyed a 60 percent success rate and spent an average of 8.13 days in the field last season, up slightly from the previous season (7.97). Statewide, bucks constituted 56 percent of the total harvest with the Blackland Prairies (75 percent) and Post Oak Savannah (70 percent) having the highest antlered kill rates.

Just going by the numbers, most hunters should see more deer, and, with a drop in the total harvest numbers, no shortage of opportunities to bring home some meat is expected.

Clayton Wolf, big-game program director for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, noted that though hunter numbers took a hit in the previous decade, their ranks are leveling off overall. "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."

According to Wolf, antler restrictions in 61 Texas counties have helped to get a lot of young deer into an age-class they might not have made in previous seasons. He said the restrictions were put in place to help get deer to at least 3 years, or more, and so far they seem to be working.

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