Whoever said there are only two seasons in Texas, pre-season and regular season football, wasn’t a deer hunter.
In the blink of an eye since last season’s closing in January, the 2013-14 Texas white-tailed deer season opens Sept. 28 with a month of archery hunting and hunting using Manage Lands Deer permits.
Opening day also marks the opening of the 34th annual TylerPaper’s Big Buck Contest, sponsored this year by Army/Navy Store-Tyler, East Texas Seed, Lynch’s Food Store, Mac’s Gun Shop, Noonday Gun Trader, Still Life Taxidermy-Athens and The Tire Barn.
This year’s contest will again feature an adult North Texas, South Texas and Women’s divisions. Winners of each division will receive a mount of their deer and a Remington .270-caliber rifle. Second places winners will be awarded gift certificates.
The big change in the contest will be in the youth contest. This year the North Texas and South Texas divisions are being dropped. In their place will be statewide Boys and Girls divisions. Winners in each youth divisions, open to hunters 16 and under, will be awarded a mount of their deer. Second place finishers will be given gift certificates.
The change is being made to accommodate the growing number of female hunters. According to Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, about 26,500 youth hunting licenses are sold to girls.
Approximately 110,000, or about 10 percent, of all hunting licenses sold in Texas are sold to females.
This should be a competitive year for the contest because antler quality is again impacted by dry conditions.
“I’m expecting an average year from a statewide perspective on antler development,” said Alan Cain, TPWD’s white-tailed deer program leader. “There obviously have been some areas that received more rainfall throughout the summer and I expect those areas to produce some good bucks. I suspect parts of the Cross Timber in North Texas will fall into that category.”
In contrast, Cain said South Texas hunters probably won’t see high overall quality.
“I’ve talked with some landowners in the southern end of the Hill Country who have some good bucks on camera late this summer and are excited about some of those prospects. Some of the ranches in South Texas I spoke with are expecting an average year as far as quality. These ranches are seeing some good bucks, several over that 170 B&C mark but nothing over 200 B&C like they did last year,” Cain said.
East Texas has been dry this summer, but may have benefitted from early rains.
“The Pineywoods has been a bit dry this year, but still plenty of forage available. After visiting with our TPWD biologists in that part of the state they are expecting average antler quality for that region. The deer came through the winter in decent body condition and had some good spring rains to give them a good start with regards to antler production,” Cain said.
He said had the summer been wetter the buck quality in the Pineywoods might have been exceptional.
What could mitigate range conditions are some older bucks in the population because of a reduced harvest last year and good production years in the past.
“I expect to see a larger proportion of 3½-, 6½-, and 8½-year-old bucks compared to other age classes as a result of good fawn recruitment in 2005, 2007, and 2010,” Cain explained.
Looking down the road hunters can bank on good years because of a good fawn crop in 2012.
Last year’s contest saw good deer coming from around the state. Howard Britain of Tyler won the North Texas division and was the contest’s high scorer with a Motley County 10-pointer gross scoring 170 4/8. Brad Morris of Flint won the South Texas division with a 10-point Dimmit County buck scoring 147 3/8. Pam Lott of Tyler captured the Women’s Division with a 14-point McCulloch County buck scoring 149 1/8.
Tyler’s Cooper Hill won the North Texas Youth division with a 9-point Anderson County buck scoring 156.
Registration is under way for the contest at any of the contest sponsors, Army/Navy Store of Tyler, 1201 E.SE. Loop 323, and East Texas Seed, Cotton Belt Rail Yard, Lynch’s Food Store, 3400 E. Fifth, Mac’s Gun Shop, 213 E. Elm, and Noonday Gun Trader, 14674 Texas 155 South, The Tire Barn, Spur 364 at F.M 206, and Still Life Taxidermy, Athens. Registration is free, however, hunters must register at least 24 hours before taking their deer.
In no division may deer be taken within a high-fence property. Only bucks with hardened antlers may be entered in the contest.
All entries must be taken to either Still Life Taxidermy or Lynch’s Food Store within 10 days of being harvested to be scored and entered in the contest.