The general hunting season for white-tailed deer opens Nov. 4, and Texas hunters should expect good opportunities in the field, according to a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service specialist.
Dr. John Tomecek, AgriLife Extension assistant professor and wildlife specialist, San Angelo, said good weather conditions have provided good forage and cover for deer.
“The deer we’re seeing are healthy, and the bucks have good antlers,” he said. “There were a few places around the state that dried out early in the summer, but the common complaint I am hearing is that everything is so green that the deer don’t care about the corn, so they’re not coming to the feeders.”
Hunting is a multi-billion industry for the state, Tomecek said. Deer leases and hunting provides a critical source of income for rural landowners, ranchers and communities.
“You have communities that may have one diner and a few businesses, and once deer season starts, those diners are full of hunters,” he said. “Those businesses rely on that money. It’s the same for landowners. We have a lot of landowners who might have a bad year with their agricultural ventures, but then their hunting lease payments come in.”
As opening day nears, Tomecek said signs indicate 2017 will be a good year. He suggests checking Texas Parks and Wildlife hunting rules and regulations in the area where hunting before going afield.
Tomecek said deer movement is increasing as daylight hours shorten, which activates the rut, and temperatures cool.
“Animals are starting to move, and a good cold spell or freeze may reduce the available forage and push deer to corn,” he said.
Tomecek said there appeared to be a good yearling crop and that conditions provided good forage and cover for does and fawns during a critical time.
“Those mothers need good food sources or their bodies may tell them it’s not a good time to go into estrus,” he said. “But once you have healthy fawns on the ground, they need good cover to help them avoid predation by coyotes, wild pigs and other predators.
Tomecek said hunters typically take younger deer, but that it’s preferred hunters take deer 3-5 years in age.
“We like to see hunters take full-bodied, muscled bucks that aren’t going to get any better,” he said. “They’ve done their part in reproduction and we like to see them taken before their bodies begin to decline.”
Tomecek said there are some lingering issues hunters in certain areas of the state should be aware of. Hunters in the southernmost parts of Texas, around the Rio Grande Valley, should be aware of quarantine areas where health officials continue to monitor for cattle fever ticks.
“You can harvest animals,” he said. “They’re safe, but remember that state inspectors will want to inspect that carcass or cape for ticks to prevent them from being transported to other parts of the state,” he said. “It’s a simple inspection that only takes a few minutes. You just want to contact the Texas Animal Health Commission and have them look at it before you leave if you’re in one of those quarantine areas.”
Tomecek said he encourages all Texans to participate in hunting, and to share the experience with youth hunters.
“That’s the fun part, the getting out in the field with friends and family and creating generational memories,” he said.
AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries.
CENTRAL: Dry conditions dominated the area, and rain was severely needed. Oat and wheat planting stopped in some areas due to lack of moisture. Armyworms were seen in large numbers on small grain fields and Coastal Bermuda grass fields. Farmers sprayed for armyworms on emerged fields. Cotton harvest was winding down, and harvested cotton was being ginned.
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Ryegrass was planted or over-seeded on pastureland. Cattle remained in good body condition and doing okay on native and improved pastures. Supplemental feeding started. Overall, livestock were in super condition. Sale barns were unusually busy with buyers and sellers. Stock tank levels were declining. Most counties reported good soil moisture. Overall crop, rangeland and pasture conditions were good in most counties.
ROLLING PLAINS: Fall armyworms continued to be a serious problem and were causing some losses. Several fields needed to be replanted. Cotton was close to harvest. A low percentage of cotton was prepped and could be ready for harvest soon. Most acres of cotton were slightly behind and needed heat units and delayed frost for best yields.
Peanut harvest was going better since producers could get in the fields. Livestock are in good condition. Counties that received moisture reported good rangeland and pasture conditions. One county reported cattle were on supplemental feed due to inadequate pasture conditions. Cooler temperatures set in during nights but remained high during the day.
COASTAL BEND: Cotton gins were still running at full capacity, and some gins took in more cotton from areas affected by Hurricane Harvey. Field work continued with cotton stalk destruction and some producers were already sampling fields for soil tests. Fall armyworms continued to be a problem in forages.
Huisache and Macartney rose treatments were made on pastures and rangeland. Livestock were in good shape with many ranchers marketing calves through local auction with large numbers reported. Pasture conditions remained good in most areas.
EAST: A cold front swept the area and brought much-needed rain to several counties. Harrison County was added to the burn ban list. In Anderson County, a wildfire was reported due to the dry conditions. Jasper County conditions were drier than normal since Hurricane Harvey. Anderson County producers tried to finish mowing and baling hay.
Gregg County grasses all but stopped growing, and Marion and Upshur counties reported grasses were getting short. Wood County noted some producers planted winter pastures ahead of the cold front, hoping to get enough moisture for germination. Pasture and rangeland conditions across the area were mostly poor, but Anderson, Marion, Upshur, and Wood counties reported good conditions.
In Anderson County, 80 percent of the winter wheat was planted with 30 percent emerged. Anderson County also reported cotton was defoliated, and the bolls were 90 percent opened. Cool-season vegetables were looking good in Anderson and Marion counties. Subsoil and topsoil conditions across the area were short, while Anderson and San Augustine counties both reported adequate conditions.
Most counties reported livestock were in good condition and cattle prices were holding steady. Anderson County reported producers were supplementing with protein, and Gregg County reported producers were feeding hay. Marion County cattle started to calve. In Anderson and Henderson counties wild pig activity was on the rise while activity was down in Gregg and Upshur counties.
Harrison County reported large numbers of calf deaths due to coyote activity and deer were spotted in the middle of the day foraging. Henderson County noted fly numbers were high and horn flies were still a major issue in Houston County.
SOUTH PLAINS: Subsoil and topsoil moisture levels were beginning to dry out. Defoliant was applied on cotton and harvest was underway. A lot of cotton was expected to be stripped over the next few weeks. Pest problems were nonexistent. Corn and peanut harvests continued. Sorghum and sunflowers continued to finish out. Winter wheat continued to mature. Pastures and rangelands remained in fair to good condition. Cattle were in good condition.
PANHANDLE: Near-normal temperatures were reported. Soil moisture was adequate in most areas. Deaf Smith County producers were in full harvest mode in corn, grain sorghum and sunflower fields. Corn harvest was coming along, but some problems with mycotoxins were reported in some loads of food corn headed to local elevators.
Sorghum for seed crops were being harvested after corn harvesting was complete. The cotton crop was holding on with some producers starting to apply boll openers to their crop. Winter wheat was at all stages with some earlier plantings ready for cattle, and producers were just starting to put seed in the ground on other fields.
Hall County cotton continued to mature with warm days. Harvest was underway in peanuts and cotton there. Mycotoxins in corn were being monitored with most fields reporting elevated but acceptable levels of fumonisin. Cattle and pastures looked good. Wheat planting was nearing completion with excellent moisture conditions.
Randall County producers were in the field every day this reporting period. Harvest was in full swing. Corn harvest was active with fields averaging around 160 bushels per acre. Cotton harvest was just now underway, so no yield reports were available. Sorghum harvest was expected to be underway within the next 10 days.
NORTH: Temperatures started dropping to mid-to-upper 40s in the morning hours. Weekend rain relieved moisture stress for winter pastures. Several counties reported up to 3 inches of rain. Topsoil and subsoil moisture levels ranged from mostly short to adequate, with some counties reporting very short.
Cotton harvest continued with about 50-60 percent of the crop harvested. Reports indicated the crop was very good with some fields yielding two bales per acre. Wheat planting was slow as many farmers were waiting for soil moisture. Hay producers were still in the field baling last cuttings.
Hay supplies were very good, but quality was not as good. Many cattle producers were weaning calves and working cows. Many stocker cattle producers needed rain on planted winter annual pastures. A cool front helped relieve some livestock stress and slowed fly development. Wild pig activity was moderate.
FAR WEST: Temperature highs were in the 90s, and lows were in the 40s. Rain amounts ranged from a tenth of an inch to 1.5 inches for the reporting period. Cotton harvest moved into high gear as everyone in the far western part of the region was running hard and working long hours. Several days were very humid and harvest work did not begin until around noon, but producers were able to run until late into the night.
Yields on dryland fields were not as good as most producers wanted. Producers were just getting into irrigated fields. Fall armyworm activity was very high in most wheat and small grain fields and in some alfalfa. Producers were encouraged to scout and make applications if needed. Pastures were looking better, but there were still areas not recovered from drought conditions.
Mosquitos and weeds were a problem around structures where runoff water amounts were higher. High weeds could be a fire hazard after frost. Pawnee pecan harvest started, but no production assessments were reported. Producers continued to feed wildlife and livestock.
WEST CENTRAL: Temperatures were seasonable with warm days and cool nights. Some areas reported a few scattered showers, but nothing significant. Dry conditions continued and all areas needed rainfall. A light frost was noted in some areas. Stock tank water levels continued to drop.
Field preparations and planting continued. Armyworms were a problem in all areas. Many wheat fields were destroyed by armyworms and were replanted. Producers started applying pesticides to control them. Cotton fields were progressing with a large percentage showing open bolls. Cotton fields were defoliated in preparation for harvest.
Some cotton harvest was underway and should be in full swing in the next few weeks. Rangelands and pastures were doing very well going into the fall season. Conditions continued to look good, with good vegetation available for livestock and wildlife. Growth of forages and grasses slowed some. Livestock remained in fair to good condition. Respiratory problems were emerging in livestock in a few areas. Cattle prices were down some. Pecan harvest was underway.
SOUTHEAST: Conditions were dry in Walker County. Rainfall was needed to maintain good growing conditions and to ensure successful germination and subsequent growth of cool-season forages and crops. Waller County received about 1 inch of rain throughout the county following a cold front. Brazos and Jefferson counties received showers, and Lee County reported up to 2 inches of rain. Cooler weather was forecast and should relieve livestock.
SOUTHWEST: Counties reported slightly lower temperatures in the evenings and mornings, with warm temperatures during the day. No rain was reported for most counties, and signs of stress from lack of moisture were evident. Fall armyworms plagued some fields. Rangeland and pasture conditions remained fair to good. Livestock conditions were good throughout the counties. Fall calving was in full swing, and supplemental feeding began for most livestock producers.
SOUTH: Northern parts of the district reported adequate moisture levels and mild temperatures but no rain. Live Oak County reported scattered showers. Temperatures were around 80 degrees during the day and down to 60 degrees at night in western parts of the district. Peanut harvest was in full swing, but wheat planting stalled due to heavy armyworm infestations.
Pasture and rangeland conditions were fair to good with some reporting armyworm damage. Some producers were aggressively treating for armyworms. Supplemental feeding declined in recent weeks. Starr County reported range pastures improved from previous rains. Body condition scores on cattle remained decent overall. Livestock conditions were starting to drop after 60-90 days of drought conditions in most areas.
Cull cows were marketed with body condition scores from 2-4 with very few in optimal shape. Consequently, prices continued to slip on that class of beef cattle. On the other hand, prices for feeder calves climbed about a nickel per pound in most weight classes. In Zavala County, native rangeland and pastures continued to provide adequate forage for grazing.
Pecan harvest was about 15 days out. Cabbage and spinach crops developed well thanks to very cool mornings across the area. Ranchers were planting winter forages for cattle and wildlife. In Hidalgo County, vegetable planting continued, and sugarcane harvest was expected to start soon. Row-crop land was plowed and being prepared for winter moisture and early spring planting.