Late Season Deer Hunting in Texas: Time to Go!

It’s almost over, but late season deer hunting is a great time to hunt in Texas for a number of reasons. The weather is typically colder and deer have depleted many of the natural foods that were available during fall. This means deer are hitting stable energy sources, such as spin feeders and winter food plots, on a regular basis.

It’s good timing, too. Getting outside is a great idea because kids are out of school and both parents and youth are looking for a reason to break the cabin fever funk. Fortunately, these late season hunting shots exists in Texas, allowing quality time with family and friends, the chance to complete harvest quotas, and put up some protein for the remainder of the year.

Deer Hunting the Late Season

Late Season Hunting Opportunities

The general white-tailed deer and Rio Grande turkey season closed in most parts of the state on New Year’s Day, but that doesn’t mean hunters with unused tags are out of luck. Special youth-only and late season opportunities start Jan. 2 and run through Jan. 15.

The two-week youth-only late season is open in all counties where there is a general open season for white-tailed deer or a fall hunting season for Rio Grande turkey. All legal hunting means and methods are allowed, except in Collin, Dallas, Grayson, and Rockwall counties, where hunting is only allowed with archery equipment and crossbows. Only licensed hunters 16 years of age or younger may hunt deer during a youth-only season and hunter education requirements still apply. Be sure to check the county-specific harvest restrictions in the Outdoor Annual.

Youth-only open season provides young hunters with opportunities to learn about wildlife conservation through an enjoyable and memorable outdoor experience allowing parents and mentors to introduce them to safe and responsible hunting.

During the special late white-tailed deer season in 106 counties in the North Zone and 30 in the South Zone, harvest is restricted to antlerless and unbranched antlered deer only. The late season provides additional opportunity for landowners and managers to attain deer harvest goals on their property.

Late Season Muzzleloader

The special muzzleloader-only season provides an opportunity for hunters, adults and youth alike, in 90 Texas counties to pursue white-tailed deer with primitive firearms. A muzzleloader is any firearm that is loaded only through the muzzle. A cap and ball firearm in which the powder and ball are loaded into a cylinder is not a muzzleloader. Muzzleloader deer seasons are restricted to muzzleloading firearms only.

Late season deer hunting can be quite productive for the reasons noted earlier, but it’s also a good opportunity to pull out the muzzleloader and knock blow out the dust. And bring the kids, too!

If you love Texas, you will LOVE this video!

TYHP Hunts: Schedule of Hunting Opportunities

Texas Youth Hunting Program

The Texas Youth Hunting Program (TYHP) offers hunts for a variety of game species, but the most popular hunts are those for white-tailed deer. The TYHP is a cooperative program between Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) and the Texas Wildlife Association (TWA) and but also incorporates the membership of hunting enthusiast and other conservation-minded groups.

Each year, the TYHP works with a number of private ranches and public lands across Texas to organize and schedule hunts for youth new to hunting. It is only through cooperation from private citizens, TPWD and conservation organizations that TYHP can provide youth with high quality hunting experiences year after year.

Texas Youth Hunting Program Scheduled Hunts

TYHP Goals

  • Preserve the hunting heritage in Texas for future generations.
  • Promote the highest ethical standards in hunting.
  • Teach the basic skills, values, techniques and responsibilities involved with hunting.
  • Instill a basic understanding of practical conservation measures in youth.
  • Promote wildlife habitat access, enhancement and management.
  • Provide our youth with an initial, educational, safe, positive, mentored hunting experience.

TYHP Structured Hunts

  • Usually on weekends.
  • Group format: at least 4 hunters.
  • A parent or guardian is required to accompany the youth.
  • Hunts are run by trained volunteer Huntmasters, assisted by volunteer Guides.
  • Meals are provided.
  • Lodging varies from bunkhouses to tent camping.
  • A Guide accompanies the youth hunter & their adult, acts as mentor and helps with all aspects of being in the field and with harvested game.
  • Costs is typically $150 per youth but grants are available.

Participate in TYHP Hunts

If you have not participated in the past then the first thing is to create a youth hunter account. In order to participate in the scheduled hunts all youth must be 9 to 17 years of age. In order to create a youth hunter account youth will need a valid Texas hunting license and appropriate tags or stamps when required, they will need to be accompanied by a parent or guardian, and they will need to complete Hunter Education for Texas or another state.

Call TPWD at 800-792-1112 or visit the the agency’s webpage to view a schedule of upcoming Texas Hunter Education Courses in your area.

Lakeway Deer Management Program, Population Questioned

The white-tailed deer is a highly adaptable animal that can live in a variety of habitat types and situations. Lakeway, Texas, for example, works for them. So well, in fact, that the city has been trying to keep whitetail numbers at manageable levels for almost two decades. It’s worked, but not everyone is on board with Lakeway’s management program.

Whitetail call most of Texas home, but they really do well in suburban environments where they have irrigated food sources and protection from predators. This makes Lakeway and other suburban fringes found throughout sprawling Texas prime real estate for deer.

Lakeway Deer Population

Problems with the Lakeway deer population culminated in the late 1990s. It was at that time the City of Lakeway started looking into managing an ongoing problem that was plaguing residents. With the help of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) the City of Lakeway took action; they trapped 650 deer that first year. While the management program has been successful in maintaining whitetail numbers, some residents in the community believe the method is inhumane and want to explore other options.

Source: The City of Lakeway is widely known for its heavy population of urban deer. For the most part, deer are considered to be a desirable asset for the city. Their affable behavior and cute appearance make them attractive to most people. Their diminished fear of humans is also interesting and adds to their desirability. It is quite a unique situation to have so many deer in proximity of homes.

The City of Lakeway says the urban deer herd found there has impacted Lakeway negatively through increased deer-vehicle crashes and human-deer encounters since prior to their management program. Biologists will tell you that when the deer population is too large, it also negatively impacts the health of the herd.

Managing Urban Deer Populations in Texas

Lakeway Deer Management

Deer are removed from Lakeway through a permit the City obtained from TPWD. The permit, called a Trap, Transport and Process (TTP) Permit, allows cities to trap white-tailed deer and transport them to a facility where the animals are then processed and the meat donated to charitable organizations. It seems like a win-win for Lakeway residents and those in need of lean protein, but others argue that it’s not that good for the deer.

Source: “My belief, my basic belief, is that no animal should ever be treated cruelly, there’s no reason for it,” says Lakeway resident Rita Cross. “There’s always options, there’s always other ways of control and management.”

Cross started the nonprofit Citizen Advocates for Animals (CAFA). They want to see the city implement a sterilization program that utilizes ovariectomy – the removal of a doe’s ovaries. They say the process is humane and less invasive than neutering cats and dogs. The process takes about 20 minutes, and the deer receive pain management during surgery and post-surgery.

Their first goal: raising $12,000 to bring in two wildlife biologists to count how many deer live in Lakeway. And then after surveys are done, they’ll work with biologists to create a sterilization program.

City of Lakeway: Willing to Try

The City of Lakeway has noted that they will not help the nonprofit fund the CAFA deer management initiative, but City Manager of Lakeway, Steve Jones, says the City would consider working with biologists to develop a program that would supplement or complement what’s already being done to manage the Lakeway deer population.

Jones reiterated that the City will continue to trap until something else proves it can achieve their goals, maintain a stable white-tailed deer population within Lakeway. The goal is not to eliminate deer from Lakeway, but to maintain healthy deer numbers and residents in Lakeway. The City typically traps 100-800 deer per year, but over the past several years those numbers have been stable and on the low end of that range.

It would appear that the deer management program implemented by the City of Lakeway is working. It also seems they will stay the course until another option is funded. The effectiveness, or lack thereof, of any deer sterilization program have yet to be proven. At an estimated $800-$1,000 per doe, the biggest concern of ovariectomies are the costs.

EHD in Deer: How Does EHD Kill Deer?

Hemorrhagic disease and the hot, dry weather from late summer to early fall go hand-in-hand. Hemorrhagic disease includes both bluetongue (BT) and epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD). Both BT and EHD are very similar and clinically indistinguishable except by virus isolation and the testing of blood samples. Most biologists classify them together as hemorrhagic disease (HD). Hemorrhagic disease is a highly fatal viral disease that is likely one of the most important diseases that occurs in white-tailed deer.

How do Deer Get EHD?

BT and EHD in deer is caused by a biting fly and occurs seasonally in late summer and fall. This disease occurs throughout the United States. These flies may also be commonly known as biting midges, sand gnats, or sand flies. Normally after a hard freeze, the flies will die off and disease transmission will cease.

In milder climates, the flies may persist and cause year-round infection. With this years’ milder than normal winter, this could occur in our part of Texas. EHD and BT are not spread by contact between deer. Occurrence of the disease may involve a few scattered cases or highly visible outbreaks with numerous animals over larger areas.

EHD in White-tailed Deer: Where does it occur?

EHD in Whitetail

Hemorrhagic disease can have three forms: peracute, acute, and chronic. The peracute form can kill a white-tailed very quickly, sometimes in a few as 8 hours. Because of this, body conditions do not have time to deteriorate and carcasses often appear relatively healthy when found. The acute form is considered the “classic hemorrhagic” form with various symptoms which will be discussed later. The chronic form is slower acting and is not always fatal to deer. This form can lead to poor body condition, hoof sloughing, and emaciation during the winter and leave the animal with permanent ailments. These ailments makes them more susceptible to predation or secondary infections even though HD itself does not cause the deer to die.

Deer can overcome the disease and it is not 100% fatal. Similar to the virus people are exposed to, deer that have been exposed will develop an immunity or resistance to EHD. Each time a deer is exposed to the virus its resistance increases. The large disease events occur when the virus hasn’t been present for several years and the young haven’t built up resistance, or a new serotype (strain of the virus) that the deer are naive to shows up.

How does EHD Kill Deer?

Common symptoms of classic EHD in deer include ulcers or lesions on the tongue, fluid in the lungs, hemorrhaging in the heart muscle and rumen, erosion of the dental pad, and interrupted hoof growth. Bluetongue appropriately gets its name from the hemorrhaging of the blood vessels of the tongue causing it to turn blue. While deer have the disease, high fever sets in and sick or dying deer are often found near water. Some deer may exhibit no signs or mild while others are more severe, depending on their resistance to the disease and their level of exposure. Neither EHD nor BT is infectious to humans, but as always any deer that shows signs of sickness should not be consumed.

Symptoms of EHD in White-tailed Deer

So you see a deer that does not seem right, HD or something else? While it is likely that sickness observed in late summer or early fall can be caused by EHD or BT, other diseases as well as parasites cannot be ruled out and a final determination cannot be made without a necropsy and proper testing. Hot and dry weather is hard on deer and can lead already stressed deer to decline even faster. Often times, the end stage of a disease or parasite overload in deer looks somewhat similar, regardless of the type of ailment.

Some characteristics of BT and EHD in deer would be poor body condition, panting, confused appearance, and unaware of surroundings. White-tailed deer, of course, are susceptible to a host of diseases and parasites. Wildlife do not have the opportunity to ‘go get checked’, so the sickness simply has to run its course, which ends in death or the survival of the individual, with enhanced immunity to that specific illness.

Management for HD, Other Deer Diseases

Additionally, much like the humans, there are years when sickness may be more prevalent in the wildlife populations. With a white-tailed deer population, as in any population, as the density increases the odds of disease transmission and outbreak significantly increase. Maintaining a deer herd within the carrying capacity of the habitat should be the goal of most every deer manager. An abundance of food helps maintain health for individual animals, which equates to better bucks and more productive does, but also a decrease in the rate of spread of any diseases within the deer herd.

13 New Cases of CWD Confirmed in Texas

Thirteen new cases of chronic wasting disease (CWD) were confirmed at a Medina County captive white-tailed deer breeding facility on June 29.

Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) discovered these cases while conducting an epidemiological investigation on the quarantined facility after a 3 ½-year-old captive white-tailed doe tested positive for CWD in April 2016. This initial positive doe was tested for CWD due to increased surveillance testing required by the facility’s TAHC herd plan. The herd plan was developed to assess the risk of CWD in the facility for its association with the first Texas CWD positive herd.

USDA diagnostic sampling funds were utilized to conduct the testing. Of the 33 samples submitted to National Veterinary Services Laboratory (NVSL) for testing, 13 of these samples revealed the presence of CWD prions. TAHC and TPWD will be working closely with the facility owner to develop future testing strategies to assess the CWD disease prevalence within the facility.

CWD in Deer in Texas

With these new positive cases, 25 total white-tailed deer originating from captive white-tailed deer breeding facilities have been confirmed positive for CWD in the state, including the initial CWD positive deer detected in June 2015.

The disease was first recognized in 1967 in captive mule deer in Colorado. CWD has also been documented in captive and/or free-ranging deer in 24 states and 2 Canadian provinces. In Texas, the disease was first discovered in 2012 in free-ranging mule deer along a remote area of the Hueco Mountains near the Texas-New Mexico border. Earlier this year, a free ranging mule deer buck harvested in Hartley County was confirmed CWD positive.

CWD among cervids is a progressive, fatal disease that commonly results in altered behavior as a result of microscopic changes made to the brain of affected animals. An animal may carry the disease for years without outward indication, but in the latter stages, signs may include listlessness, lowering of the head, weight loss, repetitive walking in set patterns and a lack of responsiveness. To date there is no evidence that CWD poses a risk to humans or non-cervids. However, as a precaution, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization recommend not to consume meat from infected animals.

Whitetail Antler Growth: The Last 50 Percent

It’s hot and dry, but it’s also nearly July. Nothing new with some intense heat during the summer months, but there should soon be something worth seeing on your game camera. June marks the mid-way point for antler growth in white-tailed bucks. Up until now it’s been about bucks getting their foundations set, but the next 8-10 weeks will be about putting on the really good stuff, so if you’ve not placed out your cameras then get ready to do so.

July is the month when most of us are kicking it by our favorite watering hole, but bucks are out there trying to maintain stable nutrition during what can be a stressful time of the year. Most places in the eastern half of the US have received good amounts of rain this year. Some places have received way more. Not a good thing if your house is submerged, but have comfort in knowing that antler growth in bucks will be better than average this fall.

That middle-aged buck you were watching last year – well, he may really catch your eye in a few weeks.

Antler Growth in White-tailed Deer Bucks

Antler Growth Takes Food

Source: “This is the time of year when bucks seek out two key elements. First, they scour areas for food with a protein level of at least 20 percent. During this time of year they’ll devour more than 15 pounds of food each day.

In my Western backyard alfalfa hits the spot, but across the Midwest deer also seek out soybeans and clover-based food plots. They need the best nutrition possible since antler is growing at the fastest rate during the next two months (nearly half an inch per day under the right conditions).

Second, bucks seek shady refuge. Home territories shrink if food and water are in abundance. Find a bachelor herd of bucks now and you should be able to keep tabs [using game cameras] on them until they strip their velvet in early September.”

More on Antler Growth in White-tailed Bucks

New CWD Rules, Deer Movement Rules in Texas

Who wants chronic wasting disease (CWD) in their white-tailed deer? How about in their backyard? Not a soul. Will additional regulations stop it? It remains to be seen whether or not the new CWD rules that are slated to be implemented in Texas in the upcoming weeks will curb the spread of the disease in the state’s whitetail herd.

After extensive public testimony, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission Monday approved an amended set of regulations for artificial movement of deer by permit as part of the state’s chronic wasting disease (CWD) management plan.

New CWD Rules Adopted

Adopted provisions are the result of extensive collaboration between the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC), the deer breeding community and landowners to address concerns over the future of permitted unnatural deer movement qualifications following the discovery of CWD in 2015, while providing continued protection against the fatal neurological disease for Texas’ 4 million free-ranging and captive deer.

“This is bigger than the interests of one group and it’s not about choosing winners or losers,” said Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission Chairman T. Dan Friedkin. “The fundamental issue is how best to protect our state’s deer herds from a deadly disease. The overwhelming amount of interest this issue has generated illustrates just how passionate Texans are about deer and our deer hunting heritage. The actions taken by the commission today are the result of extensive deliberation with input from all stakeholders, and I applaud the many individuals and groups from all over the state who took the time and effort to remain engaged in the process until the end.”

New CWD and Deer Movement Regulations

Texas Deer Movement Rules Addressed

Among the provisions adopted by the commission include a suite of options to attain artificial deer movement qualified status through a multilevel system of ante-mortem (“live”) and post-mortem deer testing for CWD. Key changes to the rules include:

  • Establishing a minimum level of post-mortem testing in deer breeding facilities at 80 percent
  • Providing an opportunity for all captive deer breeders to test-up to Transfer Category 1 (TC1) status through 50 percent ante-mortem testing of their entire herd (a proposed May 15, 2017, testing deadline was eliminated from the rules) and breeders may choose their preferred ante-mortem testing means (rectal, lymph nodes, tonsillar etc.).
  • Clarification that the 5-year, 80 percent eligible mortality testing requirement to realize TC1 status may be obtained through testing a 5-year average of annual mortalities and deer breeders may use a 3:1 ratio to substitute live tests for post-mortem tests to meet required testing thresholds.
  • Property owners may request to expand release sites, provided release site requirements apply to the expanded acreage.
  • Elimination of testing requirements on Trap, Transfer and Transplant (Triple T) release sites.

Details of the CWD Rules

Details of CWD rule changes affecting specific artificial deer movement permits are available online at The rules take effect upon completion of programming modifications to the Texas Wildlife Information Management System (TWIMS), but no later than Aug. 15, 2016, and apply to the movement of deer under TPWD permits, including Triple T, DMP (deer management permit), TTP (trap, transport and process) and deer breeder.

Texas Deer Harvest Down, Buck Quality Up

Texas Whitetail Hunting 2015-16

Texas’ general deer hunting season has ended for the 2015-16 year, but there are still opportunities for hunters with the remaining youth weekend, late antlerless and spike season as well as those hunting on properties participating in the MLD Permit program. Despite favorable conditions for antler growth and fawn recruitment throughout 2015, it has been a challenge for many deer hunters. This is especially true of those in the eastern portions of Texas.

“It’s been an interesting hunting season, for sure,” Mitch Lockwood, big-game program director for Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s wildlife division, said this past week. “We won’t have hard data until after deer season, but, anecdotally, it looks like whitetail hunters have had good success where they had access (to hunting areas), and overall buck quality has been exceptional. But in some areas, access has been a problem all season. Wet weather has played a big role this year, preventing many folks from accessing deer hunting grounds.”

And it’s true. There were many cases were the abundance of rain kept hunters from being able to the enter the gate. Not because they didn’t want to go, but because they couldn’t get to their stands. And it they could have, would the deer have been there? All of the rain led to an abundance of cool season forage so there was no need for deer to visit feeders, at least until later in the season when much colder weather set in.

Deer Harvest About Participation

Hunter participation is a huge factor when it comes to evaluating a deer hunting season in Texas. If hunters can’t get out they don’t shoot deer. “A lot of country in river basins has been inaccessible all season,” Lockwood said, noting East Texas has been especially hit hard with season-long flooding on rivers such as the Sabine, Sulphur and Trinity. I’m guessing harvest will probably be down this year because of the weather conditions,” Lockwood said.

If Lockwood’s predictions hold, private lands will not be the only places where fewer deer were harvested. Several public land deer hunts were shut down as well as a result of a lack of accessibility and public safety. “TPWD had to cancel 16 public deer hunts in East Texas because of flooding,” Lockwood said.

A Tale of Two Hunting Seasons

It appears in hindsight the 2015-16 deer hunting season will be memorable for many reason. “Body condition of deer has been phenomenal; they’re just so fat. Every deer I’ve seen has been in great shape. Antler quality has been just exceptional,” Lockwood said. Hunters able to tag bucks were all grins while others had reduced hunting opportunities as a result of of field conditions.

Illegal Deer Hunting in Comal County

Deer Hunting Season Ends

The general deer hunting season has ended in Texas, but not before many were cited for hunting violations. One instance reported by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Game Wardens in Comal County sounded particularly bad. Two Comal County game wardens responded to a call for assistance from a Garden Ridge police officer who had stopped a vehicle for running a stop sign.

Are Those Your Deer Guns?

Over the course of the traffic stop, the officer saw a .22 caliber rifle, a .40 caliber pistol and spent shell casings inside the vehicle. While interviewing the occupants in the backseat of the car, the officer heard several thumps coming from the trunk. When he opened the trunk, the officer found a white-tailed deer that had been shot but was still alive. A little late night deer hunting?

Road Hunting in Comal County

The officer then called a game warden to investigate the circumstance of the deer and exactly what type of hunting had taken place. The vehicle occupants told the warden they shot the deer at about 11:30 p.m. while it stood in the street near a residential area.

Hunting at Night, Too

The warden arrested two of the suspects for hunting deer at night and charged the vehicle operator for unlawfully carrying a weapon. While booking the suspects at the jail, the warden overheard one of them comment to the other he couldn’t believe they got in so much trouble for killing a deer. The other suspect replied, “Yeah, but it sure woulda been good eatin’.”

Texas to Test Hunter ‘s Deer for CWD

Get Deer Tested for CWD

“In the wake of our increased concern about CWD we are ramping up our sampling effort state wide,” said Mitch Lockwood, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Big Game Program Director. “We will be collecting samples from deer and elk, and other cervid species, in every county where deer hunting occurs.”

With the recent discovery of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in two captive deer breeding facilities in south-central Texas, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department will be stepping up efforts to strategically test hunter harvested deer for CWD at a greater level during the 2015-16 hunting season.

Hunters are encouraged to assist with this statewide monitoring effort by voluntarily submitting samples this fall. TPWD biologists will collect and submit samples to the Texas A&M Veterinary Diagnostic Lab at no cost to the hunter. Tissue samples from the heads of harvested deer must be collected within 24 hours of harvest, up to 48 hours if kept chilled. It is very important that the deer head not be frozen.

CWD Testing in Texas

Since 2003, TPWD biologists have been monitoring the state’s free-ranging deer population for CWD. Using statistical sampling tables commonly used by animal disease experts, biologists set a sampling goal that would detect the disease with 95 percent confidence if at least one out of every 100 deer was infected. Thus far, biologists have collected nearly 30,000 samples from hunter-harvested deer across Texas’ eight ecological regions, in most cases surpassing 95 percent confidence standards. To date, CWD has not been found in Texas free-ranging white-tailed deer.

The sampling strategy for the 2015-16 hunting season is being refined to target disease risk levels within the state’s 33 unique Resource Management Units (RMU); wildlife conservation areas that TPWD uses for all other deer management decisions. Criteria for establishing risk levels include factors such as deer density, susceptible species importation history, proximity to a CWD-positive site, etc.

CWD Testing Goals

Sampling goals will rely upon hunter harvest submissions ranging from 60 to 433 (lowest to highest risk) deer for each RMU, and if biologists can achieve these goals, will result in excess of 7,000 samples. TPWD will also specifically target sampling efforts within a 5-mile radius around the CWD index facility in Medina County to determine the prevalence and geographic extent of the disease in that specific area.