GunsWhitetail Deer, Turkey Seasons Open in Texas for Modern Guns

Thanks to spring rains, state biologists are optimistic about the populations of both game animals, even after February's freeze.
November 6, 2021
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Modern gun seasons for whitetail deer and wild turkey began this morning in Texas, though archers have already been chasing the state’s most sought-after big game since October 2. Unlike neighboring Arkansas, where muzzleloader season opens before modern guns, musket-toting Texans will have to wait until January 3 for their own deer season.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) estimates the statewide whitetail population to be around 5.4 million deer, down slightly from previous years. However, biologists are optimistic about antler quality and fawn recruitment, the technical term for the number of fawns that survive from birth until fall.

“Even though dry conditions existed throughout much of the state at the end of 2020, coupled with the early 2021 winter storm, the late spring rains provided needed relief and accelerated forb (weeds and flowering plants) and grass production have helped to bolster deer body conditions ahead of the fall and winter,” TPWD writes.

“Statewide, antler quality is predicted to be well above average. Native forages, vital to providing the quality nutrition needed to produce large antlers, were plentiful during the critical antler growing months of April and May. These conditions were perpetuated into early August from additional early summer rains and should help bucks maximize antlers as they finish out the growing season.”

Out of all the regions in Texas, the Edwards Plateau has the highest deer population, greater than 2 million deer this year. Though the South Texas Plains region has fewer deer, the harvest rate per 1,000 acres in this region is estimated to equal the Edwards Plateau rate.

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Biologists expect higher concentrations of older bucks in the Hill Country and South Texas Plains region compared to other areas of the state.

Turkey season is not as widespread as deer in Texas, with only 177 of the state’s 254 counties participating. For the season beginning today, the turkey hunting zones reach from the Panhandle to the Rio Grande Valley in a rough stripe mostly between the Interstate 35 corridor and the Pecos River. The spring season includes more East Texas counties and two more West Texas counties, Jeff Davis and Brewster.

As with deer, TPWD Wild Turkey Program Leader Jason Hardin forecasts a healthy turkey population this year. Despite the severe freeze in February, the subsequent rainfall and mild summer should have made for a strong recovery by fall.

“If you had birds last year in the areas that you’re hunting, you’ll have them again this year,” Hardin said. “We’ve had a pretty decent hatch the last few years, so across most of the state, you should have similar opportunities to what you’ve had in the past.”

Antler restrictions apply in 117 counties. Also, for the first time, all wild turkeys harvested in Bastrop, Caldwell, Colorado, Fayette, Jackson, Lavaca, Lee, Matagorda, Milam, and Wharton counties now have mandatory harvest reporting requirements.

Here are comprehensive explanations of hunting regulations for turkey and whitetail.

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Isaiah Mitchell

Isaiah Mitchell is a reporter for The Texan, a Texas native, and a huge Allman Brothers fan. He graduated cum laude from Trinity University in 2020 with a degree in English. Isaiah loves playing music and football with his family.

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