White-tailed deer buck in southern Texas

In Texas, white-tailed deer hunting contributes an estimated $1.2 billion in economic output.

White-tailed deer season begins this week for Denton County hunters. Youth season is open this weekend, Oct. 30-31, before the official season begins Nov. 6-Jan. 2.

Youth season is only open to hunters 16 years of age and younger. Hunters under 9 years old must be accompanied by a licensed hunter who is exempt from hunter safety education or already completed certification. Hunters 9-16 years old must complete the hunter’s safety education course to be eligible to hunt this year.

All hunters must purchase a license through a certified dealer from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. The bag limit for white-tailed deer in Denton County is four deer, no more than two legal bucks (males), and no more than two antlerless deer (females).

Legal bucks have two different definitions: A deer with an inside spread of at least 13 inches meets the qualifications. If the deer’s inside spread is outside the length of the ears, that is a good indicator to use. Another definition is a deer commonly called a “spike” deer with at least one unbranched antler.

If a deer has branched antlers but is inside the 13-inch spread, it is an illegal buck to harvest. While any branched antlered deer over the 13-inch indicator is legal to harvest, more conservative hunters and game managers may choose to leave a buck until they are more mature, around 5 or 6 years of age. An ideal stocking rate for an area would be one buck to two to three does.

According to Texas Parks and Wildlife, an estimated 5.4 million white-tailed deer live in Texas. These deer have rebounded greatly from an estimated population of 232,000 in 1938.

“White-tailed deer forecasts and expectations are, in large part, driven by habitat conditions that the deer are experiencing across their range in Texas in the eight to 10 months prior to the season,” according to Alan Cain, TPWD white-tailed deer program leader. “Though the end of 2020 was dry, and early 2021 experienced freezing conditions that delayed green-up of important browse plants, the late spring and summer rainfall acted like liquid fertilizer for forb, grass and woody plant production and has provided a buffet of natural forages for deer.”

Deer typically stay in their home area and do not migrate more than 1 square kilometer. White-tailed deer hunting contributes an estimated $1.2 billion in economic output to the state, and $15.7 billion nationally.

White-tailed deer venison has a lot of advantages over beef from a nutritional standpoint. In 4 ounces of meat, venison contains 2.2 grams of fat compared to 18.5 grams of beef.

Calories have another noticeable difference, with 128 calories vs. 290 calories. White-tailed game meat is characteristic of buzzwords in the produce section these days. It’s all-natural, never exposed to antibiotic treatment, and is predominately fed by forbs, or vegetation.

ZACH DAVIS is the agriculture and natural resources extension agent with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension. He can be reached at 940-349-2889 or via email at zadavis@ag.tamu.edu.

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