Woods, waters and wildlife

Mucho grande deer

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The first month of white-tailed deer season is in the books. The season began with good rains over much of the deer range. Some popular areas may have had it a little too good.

The Junction-Mason-Llano-Kingsland area received massive amounts of rain causing heavy flooding and road closures shortly before the season opened. The Kerrville area got sopped, too. Rains fell all over the Hill Country, some of South Texas and the eastern part of the state. No doubt hunters had difficulty getting into parts of their leases to put the finishing touches on blinds and feeder areas. Hunters on a few leases probably discovered new leaks in roofs of cabins I’ve bunked in. But, did they complain? Probably not. You can get hurt complaining about rain in Texas!

The worst aspect of it – other than the loss of life and property – came in the form of a vegetational growth spurt. That affects both the deer feeding patterns and their visibility. They prefer natural vegetation – forbs and woody browse -- to corn and pelleted feed, and new plant growth conceals their movement.

Despite the difficulties, hunters are succeeding in bringing in the venison. It’s a little easier nowadays than it used to be to discover who’s shooting what, which county he/she hunted in and what the critter scored. Prior to 1965, about the only source of information was the San Antonio Express-News’ annual deer contest. There were two divisions -- one for the Hill Country and one for South Texas. Believe it or not, those were the two main areas where most of the hunting took place. A creative reporter with the paper started the contest. I even subscribed to the Express-News so I could see what hunters were bringing to ice.

As statewide restocking of deer hit its peak in the late 50s and the 60s, the Kerr Wildlife Management Area began conducting its milestone research into what enhances antler growth. The term “wildlife management plan” crept into our vocabulary and radio, TV, print publications and landowner and hunter education from Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) tremendously increased statewide interest in and knowledge about deer and deer hunting. Other areas got into the action.

In 1965, the first statewide deer contest was initiated. The “Muy Grande Deer Contest” was run by Leonel Garza out of a gas station in Freer. It’s still going muy fuerte (very strong), today, and still operated by Garza and his family. In 1985, Darwin Avant consulted me regarding another contest he was contemplating in Cotulla. His “Los Cazadores” contest is still functioning well, now in Pearsall. Texas Wildlife Assn. (TWA) and TPWD collaborated to form the Texas Big Game Awards in 1991, recognizing hunters and landowners upon whose land the winning game was taken. It started with a memo from TPWD biologist David Synatzske to TPWD headquarters. All three organizations’ websites show the leading contenders’ deer in numerous categories ranging from “High Fence” to “Youths” and “First Harvest.”

Check ’em out!

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