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Final Report: Broken Antlers, Dry Ground, An Average Season—and a Fine Old Trophy Buck

For most of us, deer season is over. In north Texas, the general season closed on January 6. In south Texas, general season lasts until January 20. In north Texas, there’s still a youth season and a spike and antlerless season (106 counties) from January 7-20. In south Texas (30 counties), there’s a late antlerless and spike season from January 21-February 3. Also, a late muzzleloader season runs from January 7-20 in 57 counties.
 
From the many people I’ve talked to throughout the season, I’d say it was an average year overall. Very few of my friends tagged big bucks. Several hunted hard, but never tagged a deer.
 
The most common complaint I’ve heard since mid-October was the high number of bucks with broken antlers. One biologist I talked to suspects the widespread occurrence of broken racks this year was due to a mineral deficiency in antlers during growth caused by the drought.
 
The entire region is still in the grips of a two-year drought. We need moisture now to break that trend. If it stays dry, you can bet there will be a low fawn survival rate this summer and antlers will be average. If we get average or better than average rains, expect bigger antlers next fall and a higher fawn recruitment rate.
 
Robert Sanders, above, manager and biologist for the Temple Ranch in south Texas whom I've quoted a couple of times in reports, shot the great old buck on the morning of January 8. It was a buck he'd nicknamed “Muley” because of the forks on each of his tines. Robert made a 25-yard shot with his bow in dense fog. Unsure of the shot, he backed out for two hours, then returned with his Labrador retriever. The dog tracked 250 yards and found the old buck stone dead.
 
The deer was aged at 8 1/2 years old, and his rack scored 167 1/8 inches. Robert said it was one of very few mature bucks he’s seen without a single tine broken. Live weight was 170 pounds, and it dressed out at 132 pounds. Robert has two years worth of shed antlers from “Muley,” making the hunt that much more meaningful.
 
As I type, I’m chewing on a stick of peppered jerky from a fine 8-point whitetail I shot in north Texas in mid-December--the only whitetail I killed this year. Guess I’ll have to ration my meat supply to make it last.

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