Ray: Drought Has Been Severe on Deer

Rut Reporter Brandon Ray is an expert on the region. Ray was born in Dallas and shot his first deer with a bow in Central Texas at the age of 15. The full-time freelance writer manages his family's Texas Panhandle ranch, is a licensed New Mexico guide, and last year took a 184 gross P&Y non-typical trophy. States covered: TX, OK, NM.

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The short term effects of the 2011 drought are obvious: Dry, dusty pastures. Very limited native browse for deer. No hiding cover for fawns or newborn turkey poults (easy prey for predators). Does are in poor condition, so they often abandon the fawn.

That means fewer offspring this year. And antler size will be down. Because of limited native feed, you can bet deer will congregate on any available agriculture fields. And you can bet deer will be hitting automatic corn feeders hard this season.

So what are the long term effects of a drought like this? The worst in Texas and New Mexico in 150 years according record-keeping. I asked Texas Parks & Wildlife biologist, Todd Montandon, for his thoughts.

"On recent deer surveys, I have not seen a live fawn yet. I've seen several dead ones. The long term effects of this drought, because of very low reproduction this year, is essentially a loss of age class. That means in 5-6 years, there will be few to no mature bucks. And if the weather stays dry through the winter and spring of 2012, we could have back-to-back drought years. That would mean the loss of basically two years worth of age class.

"So for ranchers and hunters carefully managing their property or lease, it's very important to harvest a very limited number of mature bucks this year and in years to come. On properties that already shoot too many bucks, there will be a serious lack of good bucks in the years to come."