The general white-tailed deer season came to a close across most of Texas on Sunday.
While that’s somber news for hundreds of thousands of residents who annually spend time in the field, it’s not all bad news. There still is plenty to do outdoors, including heading to other portions of the state if you still haven’t bagged a buck or partaking in a late-season hunt to fill the rest of your tags and freezer with tasty venison.
Here is a look at ongoing hunting seasons from the top of the state to the bottom:
- The general white-tailed deer season runs through Jan. 20 in South Texas.
- The special youth-only and antlerless and spike-only seasons in northern counties are Jan. 7-20; the late antlerless and spike-only framework in South Texas runs Jan. 21- Feb. 3.
- Quail season continues through Feb. 24;
- Waterfowl seasons continue through Jan. 27 statewide;
- Goose and sandhill crane seasons continue through Feb. 3 in the Rolling Plains and Panhandle.
- The late mourning dove season closed Sunday in the north and central zones and runs through Jan. 22 in South Texas; the season in the special white-winged dove area in South Texas along the Mexican border runs through Jan. 18.
If you plan to continue to pursue whitetails, don’t forget to be mindful of the associated hunting license requirements. Not only must you affix a legal tag to a harvested buck or doe, it must have the day and month cut out, in addition to the written county and tract of land the animal was taken on. You also must fill out the “deer log” on the back of your hunting license with the same information.
A family friend tagged along on a late-season doe hunt in West Texas exactly a decade ago and found out there’s no way around the proper tag protocols. After harvesting two does, affixing the tags and getting the meat into a cooler, we headed in to town for lunch, only to be stopped by the county sheriff, who was accompanied by the local game warden. They were interested in the cooler that was on the bumper rack of the Suburban and upon inspection found everything to be in accordance with the law – except for Rob’s tags, which had been marked, but not notched out.
He got a warning on one and a citation on the other, which didn’t sit too well with him, especially because it was the final day of the late season!
When it comes to a scourge that has laid waste to an ever-growing swath of the state, there’s no better time to root them out. Feral hogs are classified as exotics by TPWD, which means there’s no closed season or bag limits, but you must possess a valid hunting license. Hogs may be taken with a variety of methods including through the use of spotlights at night. However, it’s advised to contact the local game warden field office to let officials know if you plan to go that route, especially with some form of deer season still under way across the state.
The state could have more than 3 million hogs, according to Texas A&M University researchers and AgriLife Extension specialists, and about 80 percent of Texas is viable habitat. Data also indicates that 60 percent to 70 percent of the feral hog population must be removed to effectively keep it in control, which I'm convinced will never be attainable with any mechanism, even the so-called “pork chopper” legislation that was passed allowing hunters to pay to shoot hogs from helicopters.
However, the critters are an easy quarry with which to introduce someone to hunting, while also providing more good table fare if the meat is handled correctly.
Fall and winter hunting seasons may be winding down, but there’s still time to get out and enjoy a variety of pursuits. And for the gobbler fanatics out there, it’s exactly three months until spring turkey season opens in these parts.