We may be three and a half months away from the beginning of a deer hunting season in Texas, but the dry weather has a lot of hunters thinking about what this year will entail. Deer habitat across much of the state is in poor condition at best.
The Hill Country is a bad as I can remember and reports from across the state are dismal. In fact, my buddy up in Clay County said it’s so dry on his deer lease that there just is not much for the deer to eat.
That’s the sentiment of landowners across Texas right now: habitat is bad and deer are on the prowl. Many are seeing deer out all hours of the day trying to find browse and water. With fawns on the ground, you can expect to see does looking for food to support lactation and their fawns. Of course, with habitat as bad as it is this year, deer are having to more than ever. One ranch owner had this to say:
“Even been seeing them up around the house and barn lately… never have before. They are emptying out the two protein feeders of 350 to 400+ pounds per week— that’s getting expensive. I’d say pray for rain, but at this point I’m not even sure that the forbs and browse would respond in a helpful way this summer. It will take several days of back-to-back or well-spaced rains to soak the ground and sprout the seeds in this heat.
This time of the year, all that will grow is grass and noxious weeds that do not do deer much good in most areas. New-growth grass will help some, but only short term. Rain will help deer browse, but it’s going to take the slow-soaking rains to get the new growth started.”
A ranch with a high whitetail deer density is probably going to look much worse than those with deer in-line with available habitat. Getting new growth browse will not happen where deer exceed the carrying capacity of the land. The landowner located in Clay County told me that what he fed in supplemental protein pellets all of last year is the same as what he fed in the first six months of this year.
It’s not looking good for deer this fall for antler growth, overall body condition or as far as fawn production. With habitat in poor condition, fawn numbers will be down this year but I suspect deer will be hitting feeders hard, increasing the number of whitetail seen while deer hunting this year over last season. I’d suggest that landowners and lease hunters perform at least some type of deer surveys to estimate the whitetail population and prevent over-harvest, because it may take a while to bounce back.
If you love Texas, you will LOVE this video!