Deer season opens Saturday in Texas

(Photo by Chase A. Fountain, Texas Parks and Wildlife Dept.)
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CORYELL COUNTY, Texas (KWTX) Texas annual whitetail deer season opens at sunup Saturday if hunters can get to their stands because rains have set them back a bit.

“There are some hunters who haven’t built feeders or stands yet because it’s just too wet,” Texas Parks and Wildlife Game Warden Colt Gaulden, who is assigned to Coryell County, said.

The rifle season opens Nov. 3 and runs through Jan. 6, 2019 in North Texas, and Jan. 20, 2019 in South Texas.

Recent rains have rivers and creeks rolling, the ground is saturated and even a moderate rain like the one the area experienced Wednesday, creates ponding, runoff and erosion in plowed fields, which makes setting up a deer camp muddy, dirty work, Gaulden said.

“Hunters will be parking at gates or on the roads and walking into their stands or camps because they just can’t drive through a muddy field,” Gaulden said.

At the state office TPWD says this year’s deer hunters will see greener pastures and fields, “and possibly fewer deer coming to the feeders in early November when the general season kicks off Saturday statewide,” a news release issued this week by the Austin office said.

But, despite dry conditions earlier this summer hunters could be pleasantly surprised with the antler quality of bucks they do find,

“There’s a huge flush of green, like a giant food plot, so that’s good for the deer,” said Alan Cain, TPWD deer program leader.

“Hunters may need to adjust their hunting strategies to find deer that may not be readily seeking out corn because of the green conditions, but the benefit for bucks coming out of the rut and for bred does should set the stage for a good spring.”

While floods ravaged much of the Hill Country recently, Cain said deer and other wildlife likely will not see a negative be impact long term.

“The flooding displaced deer temporarily, but they’ll move back as the waters subside,” he noted.

“It’s just wet,” Gaulden said, “It seems like that’s happened about three of the last five years where it rains, hard, just before opening day.”

Gaulden said this year, like every year, his main focus will be on safety.

“My biggest concern always is safety,” Gaulden said.

“We just don’t want anybody to get hurt.”

But following the rules is an issue, too.

“There are still people out there who don’t believe they ought to have to buy a hunting license because they just want to kill a deer or a turkey for the meat, and they think they won’t get caught,” the warden said.

The license issues always are prominent in the numbers of citations issued, state data shows.

“I’ll walk into a deer camp and there’ll be carcasses hanging, maybe already butchered and quartered, and there’s no tag filled out or attached to the deer,” Gaulden said.

“That tag’s got to be attached to that deer carcass immediately after it is killed.”

Most, by far, hunters are honest and law abiding, but some, either because they’re not properly educated or because they’re just trying to skirt game laws, will make almost any excuse for violating the rules.

“Last year (2017) I had issues with hunters using 2016 tags on deer they’d killed in 2017,” Gaulden said.

“I didn’t really know if the guy just made a mistake or if he was trying to use an old tag so he’d still have all of his new ones.”

As well, many hunters fail to fill out the game harvest log that’s printed on the back of their license.

That log lists each kill and details where and when it was killed, Gaulden said, and filling out the form isn’t intended to be just one more step for a hunter to take, but the data provided is given to the department’s biologists who can use it to determine the fawn population and to track deer from birth to adulthood.

The data enables people like Cain to make projections about how successful any given year’s hunt might be.

Gaulden, a game warden for 11 years, grew up in Central Texas and was assigned to Coryell County five years ago, and he says from what he’s hearing and seeing, the 2018 white-tail season “seems to be really good.”

Hunters just, for at least a while, have to be willing to put up with the conditions left by the rains.

“Hunters might notice deer have shifted around into areas they haven’t seen them in before, but as things settle down they’ll move back into their usual areas.”

Cain also said the wet conditions mean hunters should check feeders and dispose of any wet or spoiled corn, which can lead to aflatoxins.

“I think based on what we’ve seen coming in during archery season, hunters should be pleasantly surprised with antler quality,” Cain predicted. “Overall, I’m fairly optimistic about the 2018 deer season.”