Texas Outdoors: How deer hunting improved in the San Antonio area

Texas Parks and Wildlife restrictions have led to bigger, more mature bucks for hunting the last few years in the San Antonio area.

It’s hunting season and hundreds of thousands of hunters are in the woods chasing whitetail deer, among the most hunted animals in North America.

In fact, deer almost outnumber humans within a 100-mile radius of San Antonio.

“This area in Central Texas, around San Antonio, north up through Fredericksburg and Kerrville, Llano and Mason, that’s the highest deer density in the state,” said Alan Cain, a whitetail program leader at Texas Parks and Wildlife.

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Parks and wildlife estimates that more than 2 million deer roam this area of the Hill Country. Understandably, it also has the highest concentration of the state’s roughly 750,000 hunters.

Several years ago, the state cracked down on what some hunters could take.

“In 117 counties in the State of Texas, we have antler restrictions in place,” Cain said.

That area is mostly north and east of San Antonio but the restrictions have paid off, allowing the deer herd to mature.

“Prior to the restrictions, 60 to 80 percent of the harvest was 1- or 2-year-old bucks,” Cain noted.

Now Cain says that the average is somewhere around 3- to 3-and-a-half-year-old bucks.

But there are problems, too. Right now, there are 39 cases of chronic wasting disease. It’s a highly-contagious disease that can decimate a deer herd. Any deer taken in a zone from Hondo to Tarpley over to Utopia and back to Sabinal have to have the deer checked.

“It’s mandatory that hunters that harvest a deer in that zone bring the deer to the CWD check stations in either Hondo or Tarpley to allow our biologists to collect a CWD sample,” Cain explained.

That’s to insure the disease doesn’t spread. There’s only been one case reported in a wild deer. The rest are all related to breeders or breed-and-release operations.

Right now, most hunters aren’t seeing a lot of deer at their feeders because the rain earlier this year allowed for a bumper crop of deer’s favorite food, acorns. Eventually, that natural supply will run low and deer will go where they know there’s food.

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“As the season progresses, I expect to see it pick up and hunters to have good success,” Cain said. “The deer are there, they’re just hiding.”

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