Whitetails in Texas have experienced drought for so long that the species has adapted and now thrives despite little moisture falling from the skies.

“Deer population trends over the last eight years indicate increasing deer populations in the Pineywoods, Cross Timbers, Post Oak Savannah and the Rolling Plains,” said Alan Cain, whitetail deer program leader for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. “Populations continue to remain stable in South Texas and Edwards Plateau.

With over 3.6 million deer, the Lone Star State boasts the highest whitetail population in the country. Most parts of the state received some spring rains to “green up” the brush and produce a few weeds that will provide adequate forage and help out with antler growth. South Texas, Trans Pecos and the western edge of the Edwards Plateau are still very dry, so hunters should expect lower fawn crops in those areas.

Last year’s harvest rates were skewed toward bucks, with hunters taking 309,207 bucks and 265,601 does. The harvest was down compared to recent years, resulting from heavy acorn and mast crops in several regions of the state. Heavy mast means deer don’t move as much, limiting some hunters’ opportunities. But the harvest should shoot back up this fall.

“We are predicting a target rich hunting environment in 2013, where opportunities to harvest a deer are high,” added Cain. “Considering that we have over 636,000 hunters and the harvest rate average is around 0.91 deer per hunter, the odds of bagging a deer aren’t bad.”
Regulation Changes**
This year hunters will be allowed to use up to two dogs to trail wounded a deer in 12 more counties. Counties where the use of dogs to trail wounded deer is still prohibited include Angelina, Hardin, Jasper, Nacogdoches, Newton, Orange, Sabine, San Augustine, Shelby and Tyler. And it’s still illegal to use dogs to hunt, pursue or take deer.
Public Land**
While public land hunting is by draw-only, there are many good wildlife management areas (WMAs) that offer a good opportunity at a mature buck. They include the Chaparral, Gus Engeling, Kerr and Matador WMAs.