Texas Deer Hunting: Whitetails | Ryan Burrus
Texas Deer Hunting: Whitetails
by Ryan Burrus
Whitetail deer hunting in the Lonestar State is unlike hunting anywhere else, largely in part due to the sheer size. Texas covers 268,586 square miles. For reference, Delaware, the first state could fit into Texas 108 times while Rhode Island, the smallest state, could fit 221 times. Luckily Texas whitetails are one of the most studied, written about, and outright famous members of the deer family, Cervidae. Texas is home to an estimated 3.6 million white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus texanus), providing a vast amount of hunting and wildlife viewing opportunities. The whitetail deer show variations throughout their range of distribution. Some variations are due to genetic changes from being isolated and others simply examples of local herds adapting to habitat, forage or climatic conditions. Now, why is this important to know when hunting whitetails in Texas? The first being there is plenty of opportunities to hunt whitetails, and second, you need to understand the terrain and behavior of hunting Texas deer by region. There are what I consider the five main regions of Texas whitetails highlighted below.
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Texas Deer Hunting | South Texas | South Texas Plains and Gulf Prairies & Marshes
The South Texas region boasts a sprawling array of prickly vegetation in hot humid temperatures, which produces some of the largest whitetails killed anywhere in the state. The South region is known for its large private ranches both low and high fence, where towering tines overshadow body size. There are several effective tactics to harvest a mature trophy whitetail down south including Sendero roads, rattling, food plots, bait and elevated blinds/stands. With so much flat shrubland to cover, it is key to get elevated. Baited Sendero roads are highly effective in the south to pull the deer out from the mesquite trees, the challenge is still getting close enough for a clean shot. The late-season rut in South Texas is my personal favorite as the deer are highly responsive and you have the chance to see some true free-range giants!
Texas Deer Hunting | Central Texas | Edwards Plateau
Deep in the heart of Texas lies a sub-species of deer that can be seen in yards, open fields and just about anywhere with some green grass. Hill country deer have smaller bodies and antlers when compared to its cousins in the south, but what they lack in size they more than make up for in numbers. Now that being said, the region does still produces trophy class deer, they are just harder to locate. The sprawling plateaus that make up this region allow for excellent glassing opportunities to put a spot and stalk or long-range shot. Baited hunting is another common tactic in this region. Setting a pop-up blind near travel corridors, bedding areas and food plots here is a great early morning tactic followed by glassing a mid to late afternoon vantage point.
Texas Deer Hunting | East Texas | Pineywoods & Post Oak Savannah
East Texas is home to the Pinewood forests and marches that nestle up to Louisiana, which make you feel as though you’re in a time long ago. East Texas deer are similar to their cousins of Central Texas, as they sport a smaller body frame and smaller antlers. One advantage hunters have in this region is using the pine trees to get elevated to hunt travel corridors, creeks or baited areas. The population density in this region is lower than any other in the state largely due to the lack of agriculture development and focus on the lumber industry.
Texas Deer Hunting | West Texas | Trans-Pecos
The whitetails of the Trans-Pecos region are adapted to life on the prairie. This region is home to the agriculture industry featuring miles and miles of farmland. The brush is sparse in this region making pinpointing the bedding areas easier; however, these deer have a wider home range and use the plains to their advantage. The deer in this region are heavy-bodied and sport big racks. To be effective in this region you need to have good optics, a long flat shooting gun and time to spot and stalk. Hunting baited areas and blinds can be effective here but the preferred method is to cover ground. West Texas is also home to the Mule deer and can be seen in the same herds or even cross-breeding.
Texas Deer Hunting | North Texas | Cross Timbers and Rolling Plains
The magical land of the north Texas whitetails is in large my favorite species and region to hunt. The deer here feature large bodies and large racks. Deer here have an abundance of agriculture fields, hardwoods, draws and rivers throughout. Some of the biggest deer in the state are taken here on some of the largest ranches in the country. The Waggoner, for example, is a staggering 500K acres. This region like the south finds rattling highly effective during the rut time in mid to late November. The country here has large open fields with dense woods covering the edges. Finding early morning corridors with glassing opportunities in the late afternoon is a great strategy. If you are hunting on a smaller property, baited areas with pop up blinds are a common approach. The Red River, in particular, has low hunting pressure, tons of land and giant whitetails.
With that being said, Texas is a whitetail hunter’s paradise! There are opportunities to hunt throughout the state, all with unique features, challenges and chances for success. Most attractive land is private and can be leased out for the season to hunt not only whitetails but also hogs, turkey, varmint, dove, waterfowl and predators. But fear not, there is also a lot of public land with similar game opportunities.
For more information on Texas deer hunting, visit https://tpwd.texas.gov/.