Texas Deer Hunting: Whitetails

Texas Whitetail | Odocoileus virginianus texanus

Texas Deer Hunting: Whitetails | Ryan Burrus

Texas Deer Hunting

Texas Deer Hunting: Whitetails

by Ryan Burrus

[perfectpullquote align=”left” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]The whitetail deer show variations throughout their range of distribution.[/perfectpullquote]

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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The Regions of Texas

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 to calling techniques. Texas deer hunting in the south region provides a chance at a true free-range giant!

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 makeup for in numbers. Still, the region does still produces trophy class deer, they are just harder to locate. Texas deer hunting across the sprawling plateaus that make up this region allows for excellent glassing opportunities to put on a spot-and-stalk or to take a 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.

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 of Texas deer hunting in this region is the availability of pine trees to get elevated and hunt over 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.

West Texas

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. Texas deer hunting in this region is for heavy-bodied bucks that 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.

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 agricultural 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! Texas deer hunting, throughout the state, comprises 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.


Whitetail Deer Hunting | Texas Regions

For more information on Texas deer hunting, visit https://tpwd.texas.gov/.

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One thought on “Texas Deer Hunting: Whitetails

  1. Gutzdeep says:

    I have been hunting the piney woods of east texas since I was little boy and granted it actually has a pretty large population of deer especially seems to have grown over the past 5ish years the downside it probably the worst for any hunter other than ones just looking for some meat. Sadly being the closest place and easiest to access near Houston and other major populated areas this means it gets slammed the hardest and mostly by inexperienced or first timers meaning they shoot everything that moves and then some. My property is 150 acres long but the fence line on the backside with no road is backed up to Davey Crocket National Forest aka a major public hunting area. The only real chance to get any type of good buck out here at least in my 20+ years of hunting experience is the short bow season just before rifle season. Reason being opening morning of rifle season sounds like the 4th of july pushing the freakishly rare big bucks deep deep into the woods far away from human presence without anyway to get there outside of on foot. Bucks rarely make it to 3 years old out there due to this… in all my years hunting out there I have only bagged one buck worthy of putting its horns on the wall (not mounted just the horns he wasn’t that big) and that was pure lucky my father who has double the hunting experience I do who has hunted the same area most his life has never gotten a shot at one that qualifies as anything other than slightly above average. This said its the craziest thing… over the past 10 years we have cleared out and set up food plots and feeders putting stands and blinds up and every year we see 3-5 really nice bucks on our trail cams and optics but its like some kind of magical internal clock they possess and every single year in and year out opening morning they become ghost like they never existed and we dont see them again until several months after season ends. In conclusion east texas hunting is great for meat hunters due to the abundant amount of public free hunting land but terrible and insanely frustrating for buck hunters especially us with private land near public reserves.

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