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Texas Bowhunters Should "Go Native"

PhotoFrom the Texas PWD

-- An early and abundant acorn crop may force Texas bowhunters to seek out native food supplies during archery season, which runs Oct. 3-Nov. 6.

Reports from Texas Parks and Wildlife Department field biologists indicate above average mast crop production and an early acorn drop. Recent rains across much of the state have also helped generate forb production, adding to the availability of native food sources for deer.

By some accounts, the number of Texas bowhunters has grown during the last 20 years, and those ranks are likely to grow even more now that crossbows are allowed during the archery-only season.

For the first time since 1975 when Texas implemented a Special Archery Stamp requirement, hunters will be allowed to use crossbows during the archery-only hunting season.

Previously, crossbows could only be used during an archery-only season by persons with an upper-limb disability. Recent legislative action gave authority to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission to allow any person, regardless of physical ability, to use a crossbow during the archery-only season.

One exception is that crossbows may be used in Grayson County during the archery-only season only by hunters with an upper-limb disability who possess a physician’s statement attesting to the permanent loss of the use of fingers, hand or arm in a manner that renders a person incapable of using a longbow, compound bow or recurved bow. Any licensed hunter may use a crossbow during the regular deer season.

Bowhunters are reminded that an archery stamp and a valid Texas hunting license are required. Hunter education requirements must also be met.

While recent rains will help improve current range conditions, whitetails in South Texas are battling through an extended stress period that started with last year’s rut, according to biologists.

"Last season the rut was later and more spread out than normal and this did not fare well for mature deer," said Daniel Kunz, TPWD biologist in Alice. "By the first of February bucks were extremely drawn down and numerous reports of early antler shedding were occurring; an indication that bucks could be in poor shape. This will likely affect antler quality."

Hunters should expect a reasonable number of 2 ½ year old bucks and 5 ½ to 7 ½ year old bucks as 2002-2004 and 2007 were good fawn production years resulting in good carry over, added TPWD biologist Dustin Windsor in Cotulla.

One region of the state that is entering the fall hunting season in prime condition is the Panhandle, according to Calvin Richardson, TPWD district biologist in Amarillo.

"The Panhandle deer herds---both mule and whitetail---are in great condition and should go into the fall in great shape," said Richardson. "With harvest being down last year, we should have some older aged bucks carry over into this year’s season. My guess is that both mule deer and white-tails are not going to have to move around much to find quality forage, so hunting feeders might not be as productive as in years that we have been dry.

"Probably, the only downside that I could imagine is that we probably are going to have a heck of a mosquito crop at the beginning of archery season with all of the playas full," he added.

Bowhunters in 52 counties this season will be joining those in 61 existing counties having buck antler restrictions. Legal bucks in those counties are those with at least 1 unbranched antler (e.g., spikes and 3-pointers) or having an inside spread of at least 13 inches.

Newly affected counties include: Anderson, Angelina, Archer, Atascosa, Brazos, Brown, Chambers, Clay, Cooke, Denton, Ellis, Falls, Freestone, Grayson, Grimes, Hardin, Harris, Henderson, Hill, Hood, Hunt, Jack, Jasper, Jefferson, Johnson, Kaufman, Liberty, Limestone, Madison, McLennan, Milam, Mills, Montague, Montgomery, Navarro, Newton, Orange, Palo Pinto, Parker, Polk, Robertson, San Jacinto, Smith, Stephens, Tarrant, Trinity, Tyler, Van Zandt, Walker, Wichita, Wise, and Young.

Archers should also note whitetail bag limits have changed in several counties across the state. Be sure to check the county listings in the 2009-2010 Outdoor Annual of hunting and fishing regulations for the county hunted.

Also, bowhunters taking advantage of opportunities on TPWD managed public lands under the $48 Annual Public Hunting Permit should take note that crossbows are legal on those sites open for archery season, unless otherwise stated in year’s Public Hunting Lands map booklet.

The crossbow restriction allowing only hunters with documented upper limb disabilities remains in effect in all six units in Public Hunting Region-4 Dallas /Ft. Worth (Cooper Wildlife Management Area, Sulphur Unit of Cooper Lake State Park, Caddo National Grasslands WMA both units, Tawakoni WMA and Pat Mayse WMA) and three of the 14 units in Public Hunting Region-5 Pineywoods (White Oak Creek WMA, Caddo Lake WMA and Old Sabine Bottom WMA).

"Most of these WMAs have moderate deer densities and because TPWD does not control the number of hunters for APH access hunts, we do not have direct control over the harvest numbers on these areas," said Kevin Herriman, TPWD district biologist in Tyler. "We do not have data available that provides us with a clear understanding of what effect the use of crossbows will have on total harvest numbers."

Herriman went on to add that on public hunting areas having drawn public hunts during the archery season where hunter numbers and harvest can be monitored, crossbows will be allowed.

"We will be investigating the effect crossbows have on their deer harvest," he said. "Once we are able to better determine what effect crossbows will have on archery deer harvest rates we will re-evaluate the season restrictions on the WMAs that allow archery season through the APH."

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