By Tom Behrens
Will the drought that we have experienced affect the upcoming deer season hunting success? Texas Parks & Wildlife Department biologist foresee a moderate season for hunters this fall.
“Overall, 2022 year is expected to be good in terms of harvest numbers and opportunities, so don’t let the chance to spend time afield with family, friends and fellow hunters pass you by,” said Alan Cain, White-Tailed Deer Program Leader for TPWD. “Texas has one of the longest deer seasons in the nation, so take some time this fall and winter and enjoy one of the best deer herds in the country right here in your home state.”
Deer hunting kicks off with archery season on Oct. 1 across most of the state. Cain noted that while harvest numbers may look good, drought impacts on deer habitats mean hunters should generally expect average to below average antler quality and body weight this fall.
Recent rains have improved habitat conditions, providing an abundance of native forage that means deer won’t have to travel far to find something to browse, which means the deer won’t be coming to feeders as much as they might do. Archery hunters may need to alter their hunting strategies to find harvest success.
Temperatures in the early summer months frequently soared above 100 degrees across most of the state, and lack of significant rainfall limited the spring production of important food sources like forbs (weeds) and woody shrubs for deer.
“Woody plants are critical in times like these because these deep-rooted plants are often the only abundant supply of green groceries for deer, but even these browse plants are showing some signs of stress,” said Cain. “Mesquites appear to be on track to produce an abundance of beans this year and were critical sources of natural forage for deer in late summer in the central, south and western portions of the state.”
Wildfires have plagued large areas of the state as well, causing significant habitat loss and damage, but Cain said nature finds a way to rejuvenate the landscape. “Where fires have occurred, there’s been new grass and weed growth providing some much-needed nutrition and cover for deer,” Cain said. “Although habitat conditions have improved immensely with recent rains, the timing was a bit late to have any meaningful influence on antler quality.”
Season Dates and Regulations:
Archery-only season kicks off Oct. 1, the general season opens more than a month later, on Nov. 5. The general season runs through Jan. 1, 2023 in the North Zone and Jan. 15, 2023 in the South Zone. A special youth-only gun deer season is set in both zones for Oct. 29-30 and Jan. 2-15, 2023. For additional late season deer hunting opportunities, county specific regulations and information on how to property tag and report a harvest, consult the 2022-23 Outdoor Annual.
Archery hunters are required to purchase an Archery Endorsement in addition to their hunting license.
TPWD reminds hunters that TPWD wildlife biologists and animal health officials are collecting and testing Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) samples from hunter-harvested deer to get a clearer picture of the prevalence and distribution of the disease across Texas. Proactive monitoring improves the state’s response time to a CWD detection and can greatly reduce the risk of the disease further spreading to neighboring captive and free-ranging populations.
Hunters in surveillance and containment zones must meet submission requirements of harvested CWD susceptible species. Additionally, hunters outside of established surveillance and containment zones are encouraged to voluntarily submit their harvest for testing at a check station, for free, before heading home from the field. A map of TPWD check stations for all CWD zones can be found on the TPWD website.