Central Texas is typically a standout when it comes to white-tailed deer hunting. No other part of the state boasts the numbers found there, where there are often more deer than there should be based on the habitat. But just because there are deer doe not mean tagging one is a sure thing. “I was at a landowner’s last week and he had corn piling up under feeders. The corn was actually growing under the feeders. I told him it was time to turn them off,” said Kevin Schwausch, TPWD technical guidance biologist in Burnet.
“We know the deer are there. About a month ago we had three inches of rain and the forbs came up. Between the forbs and the acorns, corn is just not very appealing.” With tough deer hunting conditions across the region, that tips the odds in favor of the deer. Schwausch predicts the harvest will also be down in the Hill Country, but that is based more on hunter habits than deer visibility. As far as deer movement, he expects it to start increasing as the acorns disappear. “It has been slow because of acorns, but the acorns have been slowing down the last two or three weeks. The ones that are still falling are hollow,” Schwausch noted.
The Hill Country has produced some good bucks this hunting season, but Schwausch cites the drought years from 2009 to 2011 and notes that overall deer numbers are limited because of low fawn crops. “We are starting to see a lot of bucks in some places, but they are young bucks. Hopefully hunters can lay off those deer for a year or two,” Schwausch said.
He said the overall impact of the drought on buck numbers varies greatly from high fence to low fence properties, and from highly managed low fence ranches to those not managed. Schwausch added that by letting younger bucks walk another year or two, hunters could be looking at improved years of deer hunting down the road.
The biologist said there is typically a late-season push in the Hill Country because of the Christmas holidays and hunters finishing up their Manage Lands Deer permit quotas. With the slow start, there could be even more hunters looking to take a deer as Texas’ General Season comes to and end.
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