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MOORE OUTDOORS: Time to think about late-season hunts

The general whitetail only season will be over before you can say “Christmas”.

But hunters should note there are late season options available in Texas, and so this week I thought I would give a few of these to consider.

Jan. 2-15 marks the late muzzleloader season for whitetail deer in 90 counties across the state.

It gives hunters an option to score on deer that eluded them during the archery only and general season.

“The last muzzleloader season is a great way for hunters to bag the does they passed up while holding out for that trophy buck or maybe get the one that got away,” said TF&G Hunting Editor Lou Marullo.

“Muzzleloader hunting is a big deal in many northern states because of the restrictive gun seasons but it has never taken off at the level I think it should in Texas. I am hearing more hunters talk about it and with two extra weeks at the end it is a great incentive to get in the game.

There is also a late youth-only season in 213 counties in the North Zone Jan. 2-15and 30 counties in the south zone during the same time period. All legal hunting means and methods are allowed, except in Collin, Dallas, Grayson and Rockwall counties, where lawful means are restricted to lawful archery equipment and crossbows.

Although the new year is just around the corner, it is not too late to get in on finding bucks in the rut.

According to the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD) South Texas had the latest rut in the state. Breeding dates ranged from Nov. 9 to Feb. 1 during the three years. In the eastern part of the area the peak breeding date was Dec. 16, while in the west it was Dec. 24. The pregnancy rate was 95 percent and there were 1.5 fetuses for each sampled doe. The majority (90 percent) of the fawns are born by July 19 in the eastern area and by July 25 in the western area.

Conception dates in the Trans-Pecos ranged from as early as Nov. 4 to as late as Jan. 4 during the same three-year study, so if you have a lease out near Crockett County or maybe even further west, there is still hope of finding some rutting action. The peak date of the breeding season was Dec. 8 which is the second latest peak in Texas.

Speaking of the rut, there could be does in estrus stirring up bucks right now in virtually any part of the state.

“Within a specific area, habitat conditions not only affect fawn survival, but can affect the timing of breeding. A doe in poor condition or a young doe may not breed until late in the season. A doe may be attractive to bucks for about five days, but may be willing to breed for a period of only 24 hours. If the doe is not bred during her first cycle, she will generally come into heat again about 28 days later,” TPWD reported.

“In areas where there are few bucks, a doe may not encounter a buck when she is first receptive and may not be bred until one of her later cycles. A hunter, landowner or biologist who sees the late breeding activity may be convinced that there was a late rut. On the other hand, those who see does attended by bucks in the early part of the season believe there was an early rut. This helps explain the wide variety of opinions on the timing of the rut during a particular year.”

That means with the remaining days on the calendar there are good chances to find that big buck when he focused on something besides survival.
To contact Chester Moore, e-mail him at chester@kingdomzoo.com. You can hear him on “Moore Outdoors” Fridays from 6-7 p.m. on Newstalk AM 560 KLVI or online at www.klvi.com.