2018 Season May Start Slow, But Outlook is Good for Texas Deer Hunters
By Lynn Burkhead
Remember the old saying about the grass being greener on the other side of the fence?
Well, on the eve of the 2018-19 general deer season in Texas, that green grass and vegetation — on both sides of the fence to be honest — is likely to be a little bit of a problem.
Why? Because after a fall of record breaking rains in many areas of the state, range conditions are lush and natural food is plentiful as the season starts this weekend, scheduled to run Nov. 3 through Jan. 6 in North Texas and Nov. 3 through Jan. 20 in South Texas.
Here in Grayson County, where the means and method of take is restricted to legal archery and crossbow gear only during the Nov. 3-Jan. 6 general season, the issue is much the same.
Meaning that right now, as the leaves quickly turn their brilliant autumn hues a week or two early, there is ample whitetail food in the Red River Valley thanks to very heavy rains in September and October.
You know, the multi-inch monsoons that raised Lake Texoma high enough to scrub this weekend’s scheduled Segment A archery hunt at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge. Not to mention dampening the enthusiasm of local trick-or-treaters on Halloween a couple of days ago.
All of this might be a bit of a trick for deer hunters, but it’s a big treat for the state’s whitetail herd.
“There’s a huge flush of green, like a giant food plot, so that’s good for the deer,” said Alan Cain, deer program leader for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
Such sterling range conditions for the state’s whitetail herd will likely result in slower than usual movement for the state’s army of deer hunters, at least early on in the season. And that’s in a state where TPWD estimates some 4.6 million deer at last count.
“Hunters may need to adjust their hunting strategies to find deer that may not be readily seeking out corn because of the green conditions, but the benefit for bucks coming out of the rut and for bred does should set the stage for a good spring,” said Cain.
But if the deer hunting action is likely to start out slowly this season thanks to a natural banquet table awash in wild groceries, then the hunting should become increasingly good as Old Man Winter does his seasonal work on the landscape.
When the Lone Star State’s deer herd does move about this season, odds are, there will be a good supply of trophy bucks carrying around magnum sized sets of calcified headbones on top of their noggins.
Despite drier conditions observed earlier this year, TPWD wildlife biologists note that they observed reasonable forb production and good brush green-up in much of the state last spring.
That gave the state’s deer herd a good foundation of native forage, enough to get them off to a good start this summer in terms of fawn production and antler growth.
“I think based on what we’ve seen coming in during archery season, hunters should be pleasantly surprised with antler quality,” said Cain. “Overall, I’m fairly optimistic about the 2018 deer season.”
And that’s even with floodwaters ravaging much of the deer rich Hill Country in recent weeks, a place where Cain is optimistic that any long term negative effects will be minimal after the near-Biblical rains in October.
“The flooding displaced deer temporarily, but they’ll move back as the waters subside,” said the TPWD biologist. “Hunters might notice deer have shifted around into areas they haven’t seen them in before, but as things settle down they’ll move back into their usual areas.”
Cain does urge hunters to check their feeders and dispose of any wet or spoiled corn, which can lead to aflatoxins that can prove harmful to deer and other wildlife.
While there is concern over such things as the state’s growing number of chronic wasting disease positive animals (Editor’s Note: Be sure and check TPWD regulations concerning CWD zones, testing requirements, and carcass movement restrictions), for the most part, the news is good heading into the 2018-19 deer season.
A season where the hunting might start slower than hunters would hope for, but a season that with any luck, will end with a bang during the coming peak rut dates and beyond.
And that’s the kind of bang that comes after a hunter pulls the trigger, tagging a fresh supply of venison for the freezer and maybe, just maybe, a set of Muy Grande antlers destined for the wall.