Texas bow season for deer off to strong start

Posted Saturday, Oct. 05, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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Texas bowhunters got the jump on firearms hunters last weekend as the archery-only season opened in 238 counties under forecasts that they would see larger numbers of deer and bucks carrying larger-than-average antlers.

Now, with the season only a week old, those predictions appear to be right on target.

The archery-only season will continue statewide through Nov. 1. The general season in 212 North Texas counties is Nov. 2-Jan. 5. The South Texas general season for 30 counties is Nov. 2-Jan. 19.

“We took in more deer opening weekend than we did on opening weekend last year,” said Steve Meyer of M&M Deer Processing in Lampasas. “We had 28 deer by the second day and that’s a lot of deer for bow season. “We also got a lot of rain Sunday that either kept some hunters in camp or slowed the deer’s movements around feeders, but it was a very good opener overall.”

Indeed, Mother Nature did play a role in slowing some hunting activity in several Hill Country counties in addition to Lampasas. The showers followed heavy downpours a week earlier that dumped more than 4 inches of much-needed rain in portions of the Hill Country and lesser amounts northeast to as far as Corsicana.

Other deer processing plants in Lampasas, San Saba, Burnet and surrounding counties also reported good success by opening weekend archers.

Jimmy Watkins of Clear Fork Country’s deer processing facility at Graham said opening weekend bow hunters reported the hunting was good despite steady rain and high temperatures in the Young County area.

“We took in 11 deer opening weekend and that’s good for this area,” Watkins said.

Although Watkins said many of the deer were spikes and small bucks, that isn’t surprising because the major rutting season for that area generally does not peak until around Nov. 15. As the deer move into their peak rutting periods, hunters can expect to see more larger bucks moving about statewide.

The use of trail cameras to record deer around feeders, food plots, trails and fence crossings continues to grow almost as fast as the popularity of crossbows that now are legal for hunting during the archery-only season. The ever-growing technologies of trail cameras help hunters learn the best times and places to set up for a hunt without having to visit the area.

For instance, some trail cameras, such as models made by Moultrie, instantly email photos. And that can save a lot of “scouting time,” especially when looking for a trophy buck.

Wildlife officials have said the state’s overall deer population numbers are stable, if not above the long-term average. The 2011 fawn crop declined by 29 percent statewide but has since rebounded. In fact, the deer in the Hill Country alone had 60 to 80 percent fawn production this year, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department officials report.

Antler quality in many areas is above average, mainly because of adequate amounts of rain even as late as September. Rainfall plays a key role in influencing the growth of native habitat and forage, which affects the quality of nutrition a buck receives in order to grow antlers.

Basically, dry years result in poor antler growth; wet years result in good antler growth.

While some landowners attempt to spur antler growth on bucks by providing high-protein supplemental foods, native habitat is more important than supplemental foods for the deer’s nutritional needs to grow large antlers, studies by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and other agencies have reported.

While South Texas long has been noted for its production of many of the state’s largest antlered deer, trophy bucks likely are to be found in almost any region of the state. Compared to other states, Texas ranks No. 5 for entries in the Boone and Crockett Club’s world record books.

Also, a study of Boone and Crockett Club bucks taken over a 40-year period conducted by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department show that each season the average Boone and Crockett score for a 5 1/2-year-old buck was 124 points with 9.1 points and a 15.8-inch spread.

The same study revealed younger bucks at 3 1/2 years of age averaged a 13.5-inch inside spread with eight points. While these B&C scores and measurements are not particularly impressive, one must remember that these are averages of deer taken in different regions of Texas. It is those deer outside these “averages” that have helped bring Texas into the No. 5 state ranking for B&C world record deer.

Examples of this are two deer taken by archery hunters in 2012. Each scored more than 250 B&C points, one from North Texas and the other from Southeast Texas. Both were free-ranging deer shot on low-fenced properties.

Many hunters in counties that now have antler restrictions limiting the harvesting of bucks to those with an inside spread of 13 inches or greater or those with at least one un-branched antler are beginning to see the benefits of those restrictions.

Last year, 59 percent of the bucks taken in counties with the 13-inch or greater restriction were 3 1/2 years old. That compares to 30 to 35 percent of bucks that age before the implementation of the antler restrictions.

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