TEXAS

Deer Forecast 2004 -- SOUTH

Outdoor Life Online Editor

State deer biologist Mitch Lockwood says favorable conditions the last few years have resulted in healthier populations across the board.

"Many ranchers whom I work with in the Edwards Plateau suggest that this is the best spring in more than twenty years," Lockwood says. "I expect these conditions to positively impact antler and fawn production. We always like to see good fawn production, because it indicates healthy conditions within the habitat and, thus, the deer population."

Ample forage created by the rainfall has pushed many hunters away from supplemental feeders into brush and loafing areas, Lockwood says. More than 2,900 tracts totaling 7.4 million acres were issued Managed Lands Deer Permits last year to assist with flexible harvest goals.

This season, MLDP participants will have a total harvest number for their property instead of individual bag limits. Some tracts in the program will also have seasons that extend through the end of February. "I have seen improving conditions of the deer populations the past few years," Lockwood says. "A big reason is that each year more private landowners have established range and wildlife management objectives and are dedicated to achieving their goals."

Contact: Parks and Wildlife Department (800-792-1112; www.tpwd .state.tx.us).