With the Sept. 28-Nov. 1 early archery season kicking off for Texas bowhunters a half-hour before sunrise tomorrow morning, the local weather forecast is predicted to be a little bit on the warm side of things.
After all, the autumn season that brings pumpkin spice sightings and football games across the Lone Star State is mostly a state of mind, a time when the weather map often tries to hang on to summertime for a few more weeks.
But heat or no heat, that doesn’t mean that big bucks can’t fall to a bowhunter’s well-placed arrow during the early days of the state’s archery season.
In fact, believe it or not, some of the best bucks in Texas’ bowhunting history have actually been arrowed during the warm weather of early October.
That includes John Wright’s former Pope and Young Club state record typical, a 173 3/8-inch monster buck that fell on opening weekend 1998 in Wilbarger County out near Vernon. As Wright wiped sweat from his brow and guarded a waterhole, the huge mainframe 9-point buck came in and rewrote the Lone Star State’s record book.
There’s also been a few huge non-typicals that have fallen in early October down through the years, doing their best to rewrite the state’s record books too. That includes George Courtney’s 214 4/8-inch buck, a 31-pointer arrowed in Parker County back in 1991. And don’t forget Scott Layne’s 187 1/8-inch Palo Pinto County bruiser that sported 18-points when the bowhunting fireman tagged it in 1994.
Need some local inspiration as you prepare to head out to your deer stand tomorrow morning? Then look no further than the 201 2/8-inch Boone and Crockett monster that Sherman’s Brock Benson took in the early days of October 2007!
Clearly, big bucks can still fall to bowhunter’s who are well prepared, no matter what the thermometer says. Especially real early in the morning hours between bedding areas and food sources and near food and/or water sources as the sun sinks low in the late evenings.
“Although dry conditions should encourage deer to frequent feeders more consistently and more often, the hot temperatures may curtail movement during much of the day except for the periods around dawn and dusk,” agreed Texas Parks and Wildlife Department white-tailed deer program leader Alan Cain in a news release.
“Until cooler temperatures arrive and deer movement picks up hunters may consider using game cameras to narrow down peak deer movement near their favorite hunting location and increase chances of success.”
Once again, there appears to be no shortage of bowhunting opportunity this fall across Texas, a state that boasts a whitetail population numbering around 5.3 million in the latest TPWD estimate. Add in the fact that range conditions are good across much of the state, and a great deer season appears to be forthcoming.
“Hunters should expect an excellent deer season with above average antler quality and fawn recruitment,” said Cain, who added that good rains last fall set the stage for an excellent burst of wintertime plant growth heading into spring. That meant good habitat, solid amounts of protein, and good conditions for whitetails as fawns were born and bucks began to grow antlers. More rain over the spring and early summer only helped add to the nutrition equation.
Keep in mind that this next week, the archery deer season also kicks off to the north of the Red River as the Oct. 1-Jan. 15 archery campaign begins in Oklahoma.
And in the Sooner State, Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation big game biologist Dallas Barber expects another solid year of archery hunting for whitetail deer.
“Yeah, it’s really kind of lining up like it has for the last couple of years,” said Barber earlier this week. “We’ve been blessed with mild, wet summers here in Oklahoma recently, so the habitat is in good shape across the majority of the state.”
With the last ODWC estimate showing some 750,000 whitetails across the state — and with the deer population trending upwards along with good trophy buck potential too — Barber expects an A+ kind of deer season in 2019-20.
Like his counterpart in Texas, Barber admits that the warmth of the autumn season thus far may force deer hunters to adapt. But there’s still plenty of reason to be optimistic too.
“Obviously, we’re relatively warm during the first part of October, but there’s a lot of people still getting into the woods,” said Barber. “There is a lot of excitement with the season being open.
“Despite the heat, there’s always some high harvest totals during the first couple of weeks of the season,” he added, noting that’s likely because deer are still very patternable as their summertime routines wind down.
How well do southern Oklahoma archers do during the state’s bowhunting season? Over in Bryan County, Barber said that last year, there were a total of 1,396 deer taken during all seasons combined with 240 does and 252 bucks being tagged during the archery season.
In Marshall County, he said there were 425 deer taken last fall, all seasons combined, with a total of 62 does and 70 bucks being tagged by archers.
While Marshall County and Bryan County lag behind other Sooner State counties in terms of overall deer numbers, that doesn’t mean that archers don’t occasionally take a whopper buck.
Take, for instance, the buck taken on Oct. 1, 2011 by Keith Thompson of Norman. That whitetail was a 165 7/8 inch net typical buck that currently ranks second on the ODWC’s Cy Curtis Program website listing for white-tailed deer tagged in Bryan County.
Not bad, especially when one considers the searing heat and drought that plagued North Texas and southern Oklahoma that infamous year. Despite the unfriendly weather, Thompson’s Bryan County deer falls behind only the famous Larry Luman buck of November 1997, a giant bow buck taken north of Durant that was the Oklahoma state record typical for several years.
Barber said that the current state of deer hunting is good in south-central Oklahoma and that even though some hunters look elsewhere for big bucks in the state, he wouldn’t be all that surprised to see another good one come from the counties lying on the perimeter of Lake Texoma.
“Southern Oklahoma certainly still has some trophy buck potential,” said Barber. “It’s gotten to a point with the age structure that we have across the state in our deer herd, along with folks that are pursuing older deer and passing on younger bucks as they manage their property, that big bucks can come from just about anywhere.
“I’m not surprised anymore when someone says ‘Hey Dallas, did you hear about that 200-incher that came out of X-Y-Z county?” he added. “The Red River and the Red River Valley, it’s a very nutrient rich system and can certainly still produce some big deer.”
And who knows, with just a little bit of luck, maybe that includes this year. All it takes is a willingness to climb into your deer stand with a bow and an unused deer tag in your pocket to see what might happen.
Just remember to shoot straight when bowhunting opportunity comes calling!