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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
Texas' 2007 Deer Outlook -- Part 2: Finding Trophy Bucks

Lockwood also said the myth about only seeing big deer on high-fenced hunting operations is constantly proved wrong.

"We find out every year how wrong the low-fence myth is," he said. "Your chances to shoot big deer will go up if people form wildlife cooperatives and other things like that. The only thing with a high fence is that it keeps a deer from jumping it and getting shot before it should be."

Texas Big Game Awards director David Brimager reported that range conditions reduced last season's program entries. "Entries were down about 20 percent this past hunting season," he said. "You can tie that into habitat and rainfall conditions being less than average. The conditions just weren't as good for big deer last season."

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While conditions may not have been as conducive to producing bigger bucks, Brimager said, this season is shaping up to be topnotch. "This hunting season is shaping up to be as good as it gets," he said. "It's easy to say this season will be better because last year was bad, but I'm optimistic."

Brimager echoed Lockwood on the fact that big deer are being taken in nearly ever corner of the state. "South Texas has become just another region in my mind," he said. "We're getting TBGA entries from across the state and this year is going to be no different. I definitely attribute big deer to landowners doing their part and taking off inferior deer and letting other ones grow and age. It's also the hunters working with landowners and having a plan."

While many do hunt high-fenced places, Brimager noted that most TBGA entries come from low-fenced leases. "On our end, we'll average about 2,000 entries," he said. "Out of that, you're looking at probably 90 percent of those coming off low-fenced places. We'll also get some entries from the wildlife management areas and national forest lands. It looks like we're going to have to get our pencils ready this season because we're going to have plenty of opportunity to score big deer."

Clayton Wolf, TPWD big-game program leader, has remained cautious when it comes to the prospects of this season, but like most, he expects things ultimately to shake out on the good side. "I am cautiously optimistic that we are going to have an excellent year," he said. "The only reason I say cautious is because it doesn't take long for things to turn south in Texas if we have some kind of scorching hot high pressure dome that decides to settle in. All that being said, we are set up to have as good a year as we've seen in a while."

As for increased antler size, Wolf said, a little age can go a long way. "As far as antlers go, the bucks are already well on their way to producing a great set of antlers, so anywhere there is sufficient age structure, we should see some good horns. More important for the future, we should realize some excellent fawn recruitment. In most of the state, the fawns hit the ground by the middle of June. All the forage and cover should result in excellent survival. There should be enough residual moisture to maintain critical cover."

Though South Texas has become "another region" to many involved with Lone Star whitetails, it remains the most consistent spot to see and harvest a possible B&C; buck. With good cover and food sources in some of the best whitetail habitat anywhere, South Texas whitetails seem to have a better chance of sprouting big antlers than deer in other locales do.

Despite rough range conditions statewide last season, South Texas again produced the highest number of TBGA entries. South Texas also has a higher minimum score for entry into the TBGA than other regions do. To be a TBGA entry from South Texas, a typical whitetail must score at least 140 inches, while a non-typical buck must score a minimum of 155. In the Panhandle, Cross Timbers and Edwards Plateau regions, a buck must meet a typical minimum of 130 and a non-typical minimum of 145. In the Post Oak Savannah, Pineywoods and Coastal Prairies regions, the minimums are 125 and 140.

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