October 23, 2011
By by Jake Moore, OutdoorChannel.com
Texas is more like four states than one. Not only is it huge, it has everything from plains to desert to forest to hills to coastal habitat and then some, and the adaptable whitetail deer fills them all.
So it's no surprise that Alan Cain, Texas' whitetail deer program leader, said his state is a good place for everything from filling your freezer to harvesting the deer of a lifetime. And with somewhere between 3.6 million and 4.2 million whitetails, your deer is definitely out there.
Texas has been suffering through what amounts to a record three-year drought, but Cain isn't too concerned about that when it comes to deer. "Deer can recover quickly as rainfall conditions return back to normal," he said. He added that hunting during a drought is important so the herd isn't allowed to build up to unhealthy levels, particularly given the reduced food and water available.
Deer Population: 4 million
Economic Impact of Deer Hunting: $2 billion
For numbers of deer, Cain said, "Typically that would be the Texas Hill Country – Llano, Mason, Kerr, Bandera, Edwards counties – and a wide swath of the Edwards Plateau." He added that surveys conducted by Texas biologists indicate some of the highest densities are in the eastern edge of Terrell County and parts of Pecos County, right along the Pecos River. That said, many areas of the state have "tremendous deer populations," he noted.
When it comes to quality deer, "south Texas obviously comes to everybody's mind," he said. "That's pretty standard. But another place that doesn't get a lot of notoriety is the Texas Panhandle, around Canadian, Amarillo and Childress. They grow some tremendous whitetails there – big antlers, just not a high density of deer."
Current Status of the Deer Population: 1-5 scale with 1 being poor and 5 being optimal
Cain rated his state a 4. "Texas has an estimated 4 million whitetail deer, and the statewide population remains stable. Hunter opportunity is great, and hunter success averages around 67% with an average of 0.99 deer harvested per hunter."
He noted that "in some areas deer populations are likely exceeding what the native habitat can support, and a reduction in deer numbers in those areas would benefit the habitat as well as the deer themselves."
Status 5 Years From Now
Cain: "It'll be a 4 or 5. The only thing that would concern me or change that would be if we continue with the drought the next five years along with the number of fires we've had. But I don't see that happening."
Biggest Factors Over the Next 5 Years
"Weather. Whether the weather conditions improve. Here at my house we've had 4 inches of rain since last October. Normally we have 24 to 25 inches of rainfall over here."
Any Doom and Gloom?
To the question of whether he can foresee any areas of his state having a large population decline or crash at some point, Cain said: "There's too much habitat out there. I don't see any signs of major population crashes in the next couple years – in the next five years or the next 10 years.
"Last year we had a record number of hunters and our highest harvest ever – plus record non-typicals, a 307 and 308 – and we still have a lot of deer out there."