Deer Forecast-South

Hill Country

South Texas may be home to the majority of the biggest bucks in the state, but it's possible for a bruiser to come from anywhere. Leading the Texas Big Game Awards (TBGA) program last year, in which 1,031 whitetails were entered, was nine-year-old Sarah Nunley with a 1844/8 typical whitetail taken in Uvalde County. Six counties regularly appear in the TBGA standings: Kleberg, Webb, Dimmit and Zavala in South Texas, Young in the northern part of the state and Lampasas in the central. "Those counties are going to have the soils, moisture and forbs to produce big deer," says Dr. Jerry Cooke, game branch chief for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. "To produce high-quality whitetails, two basic things must occur: the deer have to live to be four, five and six years old, and you have to have the habitat, because 80 percent of their skeletal growth is in the first eighteen months of their lives. If you don't have that, you can forget about it." Of the state's estimated 4 million deer, about a third are found in the Hill Country. Also expect excellent hunting in the Pineywoods region, which includes Angelina and Nacogdoches counties. "A lot of the state is coming out of the drought, although West Texas still is not after about ten years. Most of our field staff is saying that if we have an average summer, we should beat last year," says Cooke. "The Pineywoods in East Texas should see an outstanding year. This season's five-year-old deer in that region came from the biggest fawn crop in Texas history." Much of Texas is privately held, but 50 wildlife management areas offer almost 750,000 acres of diverse habitat, from the rolling prairies of the Panhandle to the dense forests in the lower Rio Grande Valley. Seasons open in late September and extend through early February in South Texas for antlerless and spike buck opportunities.