You know you’re in Texas when you easily understand the term "Friday night lights," when corn is put up and cotton is baling out, and when Dad misses the opening minutes of Monday Night Football because he’s making certain the deer feeders have enough corn to last the night.
If you couldn't feel the fall in the air of a balmy San Antonio August last month, you could at least experience it in the spirit of the record Texas-sized crowd that came from all across the state and nation to participate in the 2013 Annual Texas Deer Association Convention at the JW Marriott Hill Country Resort.
In its fifteenth year, the TDA Convention attracted a diverse crowd of 2,000 property owners, lease operators, wildlife specialists, cervid breeders, hunters, vendors, researchers and enthusiasts of all kinds who enjoyed the ranch-like surroundings of the rural Hill Country setting.
“The annual TDA Convention & Fundraiser has always been the state’s largest event of the year for whitetail and mule deer, but this year’s event smashed records for attendance and sales and raised the bar to a whole new level for the industry nationwide,” says TDA Executive Director Karl Kinsel.
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Just about everyone knows the deer industry in its many forms is big business. Nationwide, hunting accounts for $2.7 billion in just travel and equipment expenditures. The economic impact of hunting in Texas exceeds $3.6 billion annually, and nearly one million deer hunters live and hunt in Texas.
In the deer-rich Hill Country region of Central Texas, as in all areas of the state to one degree or another, a growing number of ranchers and even many farmers are enjoying the benefits of hunting lease operations to supplement their off-season incomes or, in many instances, to build substantial year-round operations that provide a dependable and steady stream of business income. Some have even become involved in deer breeding programs and are active in protecting and providing for a healthy deer population across the state.
Regardless the size of their lease, property owners and hunters alike are in a frenzy once again as the 2013 deer hunting season quickly approaches.
According to the its website, the TDA, founded in 1999, is the only non-profit organization solely committed to improving the quality of whitetail and mule deer herds through better habitat practices, modern harvest strategies and use of managed deer to enhance the herds.
This year's convention sparked nearly a 20 percent increase in membership, and the TDA Select Sale grossed $2.61 million, making it the largest single sale event in the history of the deer industry in North America.
“Our deer auctions continue to be an important part of our ongoing mission to improve the quality and health of Texas deer...the state’s No. 1 resource for whitetail sales,” Kinsel added.
All across the state, feed stores are reporting typical brisk corn and salt sales; retailers featuring outdoor and hunting goods report brisk sales and interest in hunting related programs and events; and hunting lease holders and owners are feeding deer, dressing up blinds and cleaning up bunk houses and camp sites in anticipation of the state's first wave of outdoorsmen, the bow hunters, the first to take to fields and blinds later this month (Sept. 28-Nov.2).
The big boys with the big (and loud) toys get their chance Nov. 2 - Jan. 5 for the North Zone and Nov. 2 - Jan. 19 for the South Zone.
What kind of hunting year will it be?
Reports as recent as late spring pointed at an average year for animal health among the state's white-tail and mule deer herds. Two years of drought lingered throughout much of the summer to emphasize the forecast. But late summer and September rains are causing many biologists and wildlife specialists to revise their dire predictions as there now appears to be ample acorns on the ground to sustain herd health throughout the season, at least in many places.
In areas that benefited from sporadic summer showers followed by good drenching rainfalls in early September are now reporting an exceptionally healthy deer population, especially in the eastern half of the state and across large areas of the Hill Country.
No one is saying it will be a bumper hunting year, but attitudes are improving in most areas and lease owners are reporting good activity at feeders from animals that looked "improved."
Too many deer are proving to be a problem
The Weatherford Democrat recently reported city officials are concerned with an increased number of automobile and animal accidents within the city limits and the growing number of residents who are feeding deer, effectively teasing them into more urbanized areas by using deer feeders in their lawns.
The result is too many deer and too much animal-human interaction. Officials met with Texas Parks & Wildlife Department officials recently and devised a three-point plan to help with the problem. First, a letter will be sent to residents of the Hudson Oaks area asking for voluntary removal of deer feeders. Failing that, a city spokesman said personal visits would be made to feeder owners and finally the possibility of a city ordinance to prevent feeding within the town limits.
While on the subject of deer and the potential for big business, connectarmirillo.com is reporting Rancher Jason Abraham and Veterinarian Gregg Veneklasen have just cloned two white tail does. The deer are from a line proven to produce large bucks.
The two are famous for being the plaintiffs in the American Quarter Horse Association Cloning lawsuit, which they won.
Abraham says they have also recently birthed a mule deer doe from a white tail doe, just to see if it could be done. At last check, the animal was doing well.