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Texas Sportsman
Texas' 2010 Deer Outlook -- Part 1
With a series of good deer seasons behind us, will that trend continue through this fall's hunts? Here are the answers you've been waiting for.

It's good to be a deer hunter in Texas, no matter what part of the state you call home.

We've long had the highest deer population in the country at nearly 4 million animals, even in average seasons, and no shortage of tags to fill in the process. This fall has shaped up to be above average in terms of deer available after impressive fall, winter and spring moisture levels this past year. There also was a significant carryover of animals across the state and there should be no shortage of forage this fall, which likely could present some challenges to hunters; deer won't have to move much to find food.

However, there should be plenty of opportunity to fill your freezer with tasty, high-protein venison later in the season for young and old hunters alike. With that in mind, here's a statewide look at what you can expect this season, and some of the top spots for filling your deer tags.

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This region always is the first place to look for quality bucks, but it also boasts the second-highest harvest totals for the past decade. That simply means that while you may be looking for a Boone and Crockett bruiser in December, you also have the opportunity to fill your other tags and your freezer in the process.

Alan Cain, South Texas District Leader for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, said his region continues to be a superb locale for deer due to a variety of reasons.

"This should be a good year overall in my opinion, and it's easy to see why since we had such a terrific winter and spring for rains," Cain said. "We had good moisture from down in the Valley all the way up to where I'm at in Pleasanton. There was one spell where we had 22 inches of rain in one big event, and that's something we haven't seen in years.

"All that moisture has led to exceptional forage and weed growth for deer and they also came through the winter OK, which is always great for the herds in South Texas. There were ranches that harvested does late under the Managed Lands Deer Program and those guys said those does they took even into February still had lots of fat on them. The moisture also bodes well for a great fawn crop, and it should be a fantastic year for production. We haven't seen conditions like this in 15 years or so. (Back in the spring and summer) the wildflower and vegetation growth was simply amazing."

Cain noted that while excellent moisture levels have laid the groundwork for an above-average season, the carryover factor can do nothing but contribute to an excess of deer across the region.

"As far as numbers of bucks, there was not a lot of buck mortality this past season, and there was a good overall winter survival rate of deer in South Texas," Cain said. "From a hunter perspective, the season could start slow down here just because there will be so many forage sources and deer won't have to move very far at all to eat.

"I would anticipate the season to pick up after the first few weeks and into the end of November and into December. Hunters should take as many does as they can this fall. There's going to be a surplus of animals on the range, and it's going to get competitive if the vegetation falls back this season." Cain also offered his take on age structure and what to look for this season.

"I expect there to be a decent number of 3 1/2- and 6 1/2-year-old bucks out there, and we had good fawn crops back in '04 and '07, the last times we had good moisture levels," he said. "Those older bucks will be at their potential or past it, and this could be a season when 4- and 5-year-old bucks are a little weaker. However, hunters should be cautious since some of those younger bucks out there might put on some extra weight with all the good forage and fool some people into thinking that they're 3 or 4 instead of just a 2-year-old deer."

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