A historical Texas drought, which has already cost Texas farmers and ranchers more than $5 billion this year, was forecast to have a negative impact on the state’s white-tail deer population with smaller and malnourished wildlife expected to dampen prospects of a good opening weekend or a long successful season.

But in spite of the warnings that the drought might make for a slim deer harvest and be the cause of poor health among white-tail deer, a random check across the state indicates opening weekend yields were near average and more surprising perhaps, deer health conditions are being reported better than expected.

“So far we are seeing some fairly healthy mature bucks that were taken opening weekend with fair antler conditions,” reports David Ross, Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD) biologist in Uvalde. “It’s fair to say the buck numbers are down about 20 percent and doe numbers down about 10 percent, and fawn survival was, of course, down as a result of the drought. But late season rains in Kinney, Maverick and Uvalde Counties brought the mesquite beans out and the deer seemed to have fattened up a bit prior to the start of the [hunting] season.”

Kathy McGinty, TPWD wildlife biologist in Abilene, agrees.

“You know, we’re seeing pretty healthy deer, especially those on managed land. Free range deer didn’t do so well, but hefty feeding throughout the summer has provided some fairly healthy deer in our region. The fawn crop is really bad and young bucks haven’t developed the way we would like, but mature bucks are fairly fat and in good health,” she reports.

McGinty says her husband hunted the Central Hill Country on opening weekend and was surprised to see “fat bucks down there as well.”