Texans and visitors alike have reason to celebrate this weekend, as deer hunting season officially kicks off in the Lone Star state.
As the feed is bought, the trucks are loaded, and warm clothes are packed, joys of the season are found not only in the excitement of the hunt, but also in the camaraderie found while waiting in the still mornings, soaking in the natural beauty of Texas, and of course, the juicy venison backstrap steak that awaits after a successful hunt.
With the 2019 kickoff set for Saturday, experts predict this year will be one for the books.
Despite the heavy rains and flooding last year that created less than ideal conditions for the kickoff to the 2018 season, those heavy rains last October gave way to fertile habitats prime for deer breeding and feeding throughout the spring and summer.
Texas Parks and Wildlife estimates there to be approximately 5.3 million white-tails roaming the expansive Texas landscape compared to the approximately 4.6 million white-tail population estimated in 2018.
Some of the most popular hunting grounds for Texans and out of staters alike include the Cross Timbers and Post Oak Savannah region in north-central Texas, the central Hill Country areas with its sweeping hills and grassy knolls, and the forested Pineywoods area located in east Texas.
It’s in these areas among others that white-tails gather in the early morning hours and later in the day, while skilled hunters wait for the opportune time to make their move.
Jon McClellan, a Texas resident who looks forward to deer hunting season every year, says what he personally loves about the season is having the chance to introduce his young kids to Texas wildlife and giving them the opportunity to experience the outdoors away from the city.
On their hunting lease outside La Grange, about two hours from their home in Sugar Land, Jon says deer hunting to him is about spending time with family, friends, and being “together out in the wild away from technology, phones, Twitter, Facebook, all that and just getting some good bonding time.”
Deer hunting, specifically, he says is “the trophy of them all,” when compared to other hunting seasons, like dove and quail, because it requires a unique level of patience, skill, and discernment on the part of the hunter.
A study published in 2017 by Texas A&M assessing the economic impact of deer breeding and hunting found that both activities brought a combined total of $1.6 billion in revenue to the Texas economy.
More specifically, farming expenditures alone on necessary products for deer breeding, such as veterinary supplies and feed, like deer corn, had an economic impact of nearly $787 million on the state economy with an additional $860 million generated from money spent by hunters on the same products.
By comparison, the island country Dominica located in the West Indies posted a national GDP of $524 million – an amount nearly one-third of the revenue generated from deer breeding and hunting in Texas – the same year the study was published.
Over the last 15 years, experts at Texas Parks and Wildlife say the population of white-tail deer has steadily increased, particularly in the Hill Country, Oak Prairie, and Cross Timber regions. This has led the department to issue new regulations that effectively create more harvesting opportunities for hunters.
This season also marks the first since Texas Parks and Wildlife issued an expansion of doe days from four to sixteen days in 20 counties, thereby creating more opportunities for hunters to take antlerless deer in the Blackland Prairies and Post Oak region stretching across 41 Texas counties.
Additionally, hunters in 21 south-central Texas counties will now be permitted to take two antlerless deer during the four days between Thanksgiving on November 28 and the following Sunday on December 1.
The expansion is also aimed at reducing deer herd effects on the environmental habitat, balancing buck-to-doe population ratios, and alleviating pressures created by buck harvesting.
As Texans and visitors alike pitch their deer blinds, put out the deer corn, and prepare the campfires for the venison backstrap steaks to be enjoyed later on, here’s some logistics and important things to remember:
- All hunters must carry a valid Texas hunting license, and hunters visiting from out-of-state must complete a state-wide hunter education course, if they are born after September 2, 1971.
- Harvested deer must be tagged appropriately, logged, and properly secured to all deer.
- Antler restrictions are in place across 117 Texas counties and effectively limit hunters to two whitetail bucks, one of which may have an inside antler spread of 13 inches or more with the second having at least one unbranched antler.
- Bag limits are established by county. However, the annual bag limit per person for each hunter is five white-tail deer, no more than three of which can be bucks.
- All deer carcasses must be properly disposed of through a trash service, landfill, or burial after processing by hunters. It is illegal to leave carcasses and other trash along public roadways or on private property without permission.
- Further information about white-tail deer season and regulations according to Texas Parks and Wildlife can be found here.
The kickoff to the season officially begins for the North Zone this Saturday, November 2 and runs through January 5, 2020 with a special late-season offering January 6 through January 19.
Similarly, the South Zone season opener is this Saturday until January 19, 2020 with a special late-season beginning January 20, extending through February 2.
With the arrival of colder weather across much of the state, dawn your camouflage and flannel, and let deer hunting season begin!
Sarah McConnell is a reporter for The Texan. Previously, she worked as a Cyber Security Consultant after serving as a Pathways Intern at the Department of Homeland Security – Citizenship and Immigration Services. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Texas A&M as well as her Master of Public Service and Administration degree from the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M. In her free time, Sarah is an avid runner, jazz enthusiast, and lover of all things culinary.