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Texas Sportsman
Texas' 2005 Deer Outlook Part 2: Our Top Trophy Areas
Big bucks were plentiful across the Lone Star State in 2004-05. How will last year's successes affect your chances of taking a serious wallhanger this season? Here are some answers.

Photo by Mark Werner

It's a brave new world for those of us who live to hunt big white-tailed deer in Texas.

A generation ago, when we were growing up and learning deer hunting all at the same time, there were a few absolute laws in Texas hunting. Big deer came from South Texas; little deer came from the Hill Country. The rest of Texas was where a lot of us hunted, and shot darn few big bucks.

Forget all that in the 21st century. We've had an explosion of big bucks all over the state. Today there are few places in Texas where you can't find a trophy whitetail.

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For instance, my old home on the High Plains of the north-western Panhandle produces darn few big whitetails, but only because mostly pronghorns and mule deer roam there. An hour's drive to the eastern Panhandle puts you in the midst of some of Texas' heaviest, largest-antlered bucks. And in the cropland of the Rio Grande Valley, cover for deer, much less big bucks, is scanty. There are plenty of whitetails west of the Pecos, but the arid country tends to be stingy with the moisture and forage adequate to grow big antlers.

Beyond those extremes, every other region of Texas has the potential to produce huge whitetails any year.

But you really can't paint Texas with that broad of a brush any more. Today the dynamic has changed dramatically. Quality deer and habitat management, supplemental feeding and high fencing have paid dividends.

With enough money, time, high-protein feed and a little luck, almost any landowner can foster a deer herd that will include some epic antlers.

Years ago I toured a 2,000-acre ranch in a Post Oak Savannah county with few deer. No whitetails were present when the landowner high-fenced the place and began creating a deer paradise of lush food plots, water and intermittent cover. He purchased a herd of huge northern-strain deer, and within a few years, that ranch produced several bucks scoring 200-plus Boone and Crockett points.

The Texas Big Game Awards Program set a record for entries from the 2004 season -- more than 2,100, at least 33 of them large enough to qualify for the B&C; record book. That's only the bucks entered in TBGA, and doesn't include at least a half-dozen other known whoppers. That's at least a dozen more "book" deer than have ever been killed in Texas before.

While it's easy to ogle the biggest of the big, what's really impressive from last season is the huge number of big bucks not just in the record books, but across the board as well.

Not every buck gets entered in the awards program, but it is the most accurate statewide barometer we have of big deer production. And in terms of big bucks, 2004 was the best Texas deer season every according to David Brimager, assistant vice president of the Texas Wildlife Association and director of TBGA.

"The general trends I see are a lot more upper-class deer -- deer over 170 and better. It seems to be increasing every year," he said. "There have been a lot of deer from open range, in addition to high-fence places."

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