Chester Moore, Jr.
The Port Arthur News
There is a “live free or die” type of attitude in the Lone Star State that has helped to create what can only be described as the most unique and diverse sporting opportunities found anywhere.
This week I would like to look at the state of some of our most popular game animals and birds.
Next week we will check out another facet of the Texas outdoors dynamic.
It almost goes without saying the whitetail hunting in Texas is stellar.
With more than four million deer statewide, hunting is rock solid in each region of the state but the drought most of the state has faced is impacting them in certain regions.
Although the harvest data for 2012 was not available at the time of this writing, looking at the 2011 data gives an interesting snapshot of the Texas population.
The 2011 estimated harvest was 574,808 white-tailed deer; 309,207 being bucks and 265,601 antlerless deer. You can compare those statistics to the 2010 season, one of Texas better seasons, when total deer harvest was estimated at 647,975 deer; 336,550 being bucks and 311,425 antlerless deer.
Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD) reports a little perspective is in order here.
“Keep in mind the 11-year average for annual total harvest is 574,423 deer and the lowest estimated harvest occurring during the 2007-08 was an estimated 512,852 deer.”
Overall, range conditions in key areas of the state improved and hunters should see solid numbers of deer in the field. In Texas, a bad deer season is better than a good in many states and even if this year turns out to be slower than normal, it will be strong overall.
Feral hogs are the second most popular game in Texas and for good reason. With nearly three million of them roaming from border to border there are massive hunting opportunities, especially considering there is no season or bag limit and they can be hunted at night and even out of helicopter.
Texas is bringing in tens of thousands of out of state hunters annually who watch reality TV programs based on these potentially vicious Texas residents.
Texas has several species of dove, all of which are similar in appearance and habits, but that each has their own unique attributes.
Mourning doves are the most common and they prefer a mix of wild and agricultural settings.
In most of the state, their preferred foods are milo, wheat and corn and they feed heavily on wild plants such as dove weed (croton) and ragweed.
Whitewings are more of a city loving species and although they were once relegated to the southern half of the state, their numbers have increased dramatically and the range now includes parts of East Texas. Hunters also take Eurasian-collared doves in fair numbers in certain areas.
The dove population in Texas is the largest in the nation and hunters can expect many doves in the field this year, especially in close relation to water.
Waterfowl is an area where Texas has taken a hit. Our duck hunter numbers are strong and Texas still winters the bulk of the ducks in the Central Flyway but we are losing habitat rapidly, especially agricultural wetlands.
Hunters with access to fresh water with good vegetation will take many ducks this year and our teal season will be really unique with the Feds allowing six birds a day in the early season (more on that next week).
Goose hunting is another issue entirely as fewer and fewer snows in particular are wintering in Texas. In fact, we have seen some of the lowest numbers in decades as documented in several feature stories we have ran in this publication.
Isolated pockets of strong goose hunting exist but the tradition of super strong goose hunting in most of Texas is on the decline.
(To contact Chester, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. You can hear him on “Moore Outdoors” Fridays from 6-7 p.m. on Newstalk AM 560 KLVI and online at http://www.klvi.com/. You can watch his wildlife series http://www.godsoutdoors.com/