Deer population expected to rebound after drought conditions
Austin—Biologists with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) hope deer hunters across the state will have abundant opportunities to fill their freezers this season thanks to significantly improved habitat conditions.
"Overall, the 2023-24 deer hunting season is expected to be good in terms of numbers of runs and opportunities, so don't pass up this great opportunity to spend time in the field with family, friends, and fellow hunters," Blaise Korzekwa, TPWD white-tailed deer program leader, said. "Texas has one of the longest hunting seasons in the nation, so take some time this fall and winter to enjoy one of the best deer herds in the country, right here in your own state."
In the spring, much of the state received drought-mitigating rainfall, allowing for excellent habitat improvement during the early part of the growing season. There was abundant production of native grasses and spring weeds (flowering weeds), which are a critical component of the deer's diet as it is coming out of winter, and this offered essential nutrients for growing male deer, lactating females, and new fawns. In addition, improved habitat conditions earlier this year helped the fawns' health enough to survive the first six months (also known as fawn survival rates).
A few areas of the state that didn't receive spring rains will expect average antler quality, which is still expected to exceed expectations for the 2022 season.
In addition, last season's reduction in harvesting will pay off this year, as these male deer had the opportunity to reach older classes and benefit from the abundance in the spring.
Landowners and hunters play a critical role in the management of Spongiform Encephalopathy Disease (SCD). Hunters are reminded to be aware that several new CWD surveillance and confinement zones have been established for the 2023-24 season before heading out into the field. New carcass travel restrictions were also established for this licensing year, so Texas hunters who take on deer, elk, deer and other susceptible species in states where CWD tests positive will have to comply with the new carcass transport restrictions when bringing the hunted animals into Texas.
The most effective way to help stop the spread of CWD disease is to report sick deer, properly dispose of inedible parts of the carcass, and voluntarily test harvests. More information about zone boundaries and requirements, as well as the dates and times of operation of the Screening Stations, can be found on the TPWD website.
Hunters taking advantage of the Texas Public Area Hunting program must have an Annual Public Hunting Permit. It is also important for hunters in public areas to consult the Public Hunting Lands Map Booklet to review the rules that apply in specific areas. The mobile hunting app, My Texas Hunt Harvest, can be used to electronically fill out the online registration for a public hunting area.
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