Texas deer hunters could be blessed with too much of a good thing this fall, at least early on, as excellent range conditions throughout the state have set the stage for what could be a season to remember.

The Texas deer hunting season opens Saturday, Oct. 2, for bow hunting and Nov. 6 for the general gun season. A special youth-only weekend season is set for Oct. 30-31. The general season runs through Jan. 2, 2011, in North Texas and Jan. 16, 2011, in South Texas. A late youth-only season is also slated for Jan. 3-16, 2011. For additional late season deer hunting opportunities, consult the 2010-11Outdoor Annual of hunting and fishing regulations.

 Texas Parks and Wildlife Department biologists equate good habitat with healthy wildlife populations and suggest you don’t have to look hard to find plenty of both this year. Timely rainfall that began last winter and continued throughout the first half of 2010 has helped maintain range conditions and provide an ideal environment for deer to flourish.

Forage abundant

Estimates of high fawn production in most regions of the state with upwards of 100 percent fawn survival on some intensively managed ranches, coupled with quality native food supplies, should give hunters a lot to look forward to this season. It also means that like last year, hunting over corn feeders may not be as productive because of the abundant natural forage available.

 “Acorn crops have been pretty good and there is plenty of vegetation in South Texas, so the deer have plenty to eat,” said Alan Cain, TPWD whitetail deer program director. “That’s going to make it difficult for bow hunters to attract deer to supplemental feeding locations.”

 At the onset of the archery season Cain said most deer are still in a summer pattern, especially in South Texas where the rut is still a couple of months away. Bow hunters might consider focusing efforts along heavily traveled game trails or near acorn producing trees.

 He also suggests hunters take advantage of opportunities to harvest antlerless deer this season, too, in order to offset high fawn production. “Folks need to keep deer numbers at a level the habitat can sustain during lean years,” said Cain.

 TPWD field biologists are concerned last year’s drop in overall deer harvest could carry a double-edged sword into the 2010-11 season. Nearly half of all deer taken by Texas hunters come from the Edwards Plateau and last season marked the lowest harvest in 10 years, attributed mainly to reduced deer movement.

More older bucks

The upside is there should be a greater percentage of older bucks in the population due to the carry-over of bucks that weren’t harvested last year. The downside is there likely are more deer in the population than the habitat in many areas can adequately support without being degraded when range conditions return to normal.

 “I don’t wish for it to be dry, but hopefully conditions will be such during the upcoming season that deer movements will be high (i.e. deer will come to feeders), resulting in high deer observation and harvest success rates for hunters,” said Trey Carpenter, TPWD wildlife biologist.

 One aspect biologists are not concerned about this season is the overall health of Texas’ deer herd. The abundance of acorns during the fall and winter of 2009, combined with the flush of cool-season and warm-season herbaceous plants produced from the rains provided high-quality forages for deer that helped them come through the winter in good condition and were adequately available to the deer throughout the early stages of antler production, throughout pregnancy, and during fawn-rearing.

 steve.lightfoot@tpwd.state.tx.us