Deer, quail and ducks highlight season opener

Deer, quail and ducks highlight season opener

Opening day of deer season in Texas is Saturday, Nov. 3. That’s the most anticipated opening day of hunting for over a million hunters in the Lone Star state. It’s estimated that Texas has around 4.6 million white-tailed deer, which are among the most popular big game animals in the nation. Deer hunting brings in more than 2 billion dollars each year, and as fall comes to Texas hunters begin gearing up for another season. The general gun season runs through Jan. 6 in North Texas and Jan. 20 in South Texas.

Three of the most popular regions of Texas for deer hunting are the Hill Country, South Texas and the Pineywoods.

Hunters might need to adjust their game plan for Saturday’s season opener due to recent rains.

Hunting might be a little tough with the amount of rainfall we’ve had lately. It has created a giant food plot of native forage across the state, according Alan Cain, TPWD whitetail deer program leader.

“Deer may be visiting the feeders less frequently with the abundant forage, so hunters might rely on information gathered recently on their trail cameras to help narrow down windows of opportunity as to when deer are visiting feeder and blind locations,” he says.

The following are a few facts on deer that you might not be aware of.

The white-tailed deer is a warm-blooded mammal found all across Texas. Deer eat twigs, leaves, grasses, forbs (weedy plants), fruits and nuts.

The buck sheds its antlers between December and March. Starting in May of the following year, the buck grows a new set of antlers. Bucks with new antlers are called “in velvet” because the new antlers have a fuzzy covering. As the year goes on, the velvet wears off. You can’t tell how old a deer is by its antlers. The best way to age them is by looking at their teeth to see how worn down they are.

Many animals eat deer, so deer are prey. Since deer do not eat animals, they are not predators. Predators that eat deer include the coyote, bobcat, cougar, wild dogs and humans.

If food is plentiful, deer have twins or triplets. Hunting helps keep the deer population in balance with its food supply. Many deer can now be found around cities, where there are few predators and hunting is restricted.

One pair of adult deer, living in a good habitat, can produce two fawns per year. Fawns are born 50-50 males and females (bucks and does). Fawns mature at two years of age.

Duck season opens

The South Zone duck season opens this Saturday, Nov. 3, but due to a whole lot of water on the ground in the upper Central Flyway a lot of ducks have not migrated to Texas.

“It seems that precipitation events are dictating duck movements and defining hunter opportunities more often than not, and that is certainly part of what is going on in South Dakota so far this fall,” says state waterfowl biologist Rocco Murano, who works for the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks.

Both ducks and geese are utilizing areas of sheet water in flooded fields, although Murano notes that some of the most impressive waterfowl numbers have occurred on Sand Lake National Wildlife Refuge, where officials performed a “draw-down” this summer.

“The draw-down allows moist-soil plants to emerge, and over the past several weeks they have been putting new water on areas of smartweed and other food sources,” Murano says.

The most recent waterfowl survey at Sand Lake NWR shows around 80,000 mallards, pintails, green-winged teal, gadwalls, and other duck species, along with smaller numbers of Canada, snow, and white-fronted geese.

The wet weather has delayed the soybean and corn harvest in South Dakota, and the limited number of combined fields is concentrating birds and hunters.

Quail season opener is not looking that great

The quail season opened Oct. 27, and according to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s experts; everything’s up in the air.

Bobwhite numbers are down across the board, due in large part to dry conditions last winter that left hens scratching to get by. Untimely rainfall during the latter part of the summer also could have an impact on nesting success, and the recent deluges that have hammered much of the state, in combination with an unexpected cold snap, may not bode well for late hatch efforts.

“Our surveys statewide indicate bobwhite numbers are below the 15-year average, and that’s due mainly to the weather,” said Robert Perez, upland game bird program leader with TPWD. “That doesn’t rule out hotspots where quail production did maintain some birds. Our surveys don’t fine-tune down to the county level, but overall, right now it’s just a big unknown.”

Although production appears down this year, Perez is hoping late nesting birds will help fill the gaps, providing they escaped flooding. Like most things quail, there are no guarantees.

“This past winter was exceptionally dry across all of quail country, especially in the Rolling Plains where some places went without any precipitation for 100 consecutive days,” said Perez. “Unfortunately, these conditions can reduce the availability of foods like winter greens, which are needed to get quail into breeding condition. Spring was also dry over much of these areas with few exceptions. Fortunately, quail are opportunistic when it comes to the breeding/nesting season and can take advantage of the rains even if they come late like they did this summer.”

TPWD projections are based on annual statewide quail surveys that were initiated in 1978 to monitor quail populations. This index uses randomly selected, 20-mile roadside survey lines to determine annual quail population trends by ecological region. This trend information helps determine quail populations among the regions of Texas.

The quail season runs through Feb. 24. The daily bag limit is 15. Legal shooting hours for all non-migratory game birds are 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset.