A Look Back at the Season—and a Look Ahead

For most of us, deer season is over. Extended hunting is available in Texas on MLDP (Managed Lands Deer Permit) ranches. These extended dates allow some landowners to hunt through February in some counties to meet harvest objectives. But for most of us, whatever venison is in the freezer now will have to last us until next year.

A few observations: In the Texas Panhandle where I live, we finished the 2013 calendar year five inches below normal on rainfall. And so far January has been dry. The whole region is dry and we are essentially starting year four of an extended drought. We need moisture this winter and spring to grow grass and weeds to help deer rebound from the stress of winter, help our does raise fawns, and help our bucks grow bigger racks. If we do not get the moisture, expect another below-average year on fawn recruitment and average antlers in fall 2014. Ranches that reduce livestock stocking rates, offer supplemental feed programs for wildlife, and have good water sources evenly distributed on the property have the best chance of helping the deer through tough times.

Personally, I had a memorable season. I arrowed five Pope & Young-caliber bucks: One pronghorn, two mule deer and two whitetails. I shot one whitetail on my birthday and another on Christmas Day (shown above), two things I've never done before. I did not get to do much rifle hunting, but plan on it next season. How could I complain about anything? But honestly, the two most memorable hunts this past season were hunts where I helped someone else be successful. Truly, hunting is at its best when it is shared.

Part of my post-season ritual includes what I call a "List of Survivors." Whether through personal observation or trail cameras, I record which middle to older age class bucks survived the season. Beside each buck's profile in my journal, I list how often I saw them, where I saw them, what month of the year he was most visible, estimated size of rack, etc. These details give me a firm place to start next season when I'm looking for a quality buck to wear my tag.

Bucks will be dropping antlers soon. Then come turkeys gobbling in the spring. I'm ready for warmer weather and turkeys strutting around my decoys. The cycle continues. Happy hunting!