Texas Has New Buck Antler Restrictions
Deer hunters in all or parts of 61 counties will need to size up the rack before making a shot as new buck antler restrictions take effect in many eastern and central Texas counties with the start of archery season Sept. 30.
Under the new regulation, a lawful buck in the designated counties is defined as any buck having at least one unbranched antler OR an inside antler spread of at least 13 inches. The bag limit in the affected counties will be two lawful bucks, no more than one of which may have an inside spread of greater than 13 inches.
These antler restrictions have been in place in 21 counties in the Oak Prairie ecoregion for several years. Harvest data collected by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department wildlife biologists indicate the regulations have been effective in improving the age structure of the buck herd, increasing hunter opportunity, and encouraging landowners and hunters to become more actively involved in better habitat management.
Counties that fall under this regulation for the first time include: Bell, Bosque, Bowie, Burleson*, Camp, Cass, Cherokee, Comal (east of IH 35), Comanche, Coryell, Delta, Eastland, Erath, Fannin, Franklin, Gregg, Hamilton, Harrison, Hays (east of IH 35), Hopkins, Houston, Lamar, Lampasas, Leon, Marion, Morris, Nacogdoches, Panola, Rains, Red River, Rusk, Sabine, San Augustine, Shelby, Somervell, Titus, Travis (east of IH 35), Upshur, Williamson, Wilson, and Wood counties.
Hunting pressure on buck deer in these counties has been excessive for many years, say wildlife officials. In 1991, the bag limit in most counties in the eastern third of the state was reduced from two bucks to one in an effort to mitigate excessive hunting pressure. Despite the reduction, the data continues to indicate excessive harvest of bucks, which results in very poor age structure, according to Mitch Lockwood, TPWD's deer program leader. Research results indicate that poor age structure within a buck herd creates a longer breeding season, which in turn leads to a longer fawning season and a reduction in fawn production. Poor age structure also contributes to adverse hunter satisfaction.
"This regulation is the answer to the problem we've been hearing from smaller landowners who are worried that if they let a buck walk, the neighbor would shoot it," said Gary Calkins, TPWD district biologist in Jasper. "People are more excited about going hunting this year than they have in a long time."
The criteria used for candidate counties were: the county currently must be a one-buck county, 60 percent of the buck harvest in the county must consist of bucks less than 3.5 years of age, and the county must have a contiguous border with another county in which antler restriction regulations have been implemented. On this basis, the department identified the 40 counties affected by the new regulation.