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Old 09-24-2022, 06:05 PM   #1
HogHunter34
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Default East Tx vs Hill Country Deer Debate

Iím born, raised & still live in East Tx. Iíve always wondered how the deer population in the hill country & south Tx is so much more in quantity & buck quality vs East Tx numbers & quality
I know not all counties in the hill country have real big bucks but in general you see more deer & better quality vs East Tx. Donít get me wrong there are pockets of areas in East Tx that produce nice bucks especially your river bottom areas

My main question is how are there so many more deer in the hill country but less natural food sources to sustain them?

My wife & I stayed in a B&B outside of New Braunfels and there were deer everywhere roaming around like herds of cattle. I saw more in one setting then I will see an entire season here in East Tx
However the terrain there was rocky with cacti & shrubs not many mature trees

Compared to East Tx where we are plentiful in oaks dropping acorns, pastureland & agricultural areas, natural berries, persimmons, etc

What sustains the deer in the areas that looks like a rocky desert?

In for the debateÖ.
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Old 09-24-2022, 06:17 PM   #2
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In for this...
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Old 09-24-2022, 06:20 PM   #3
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That my man is an age old question that is still to be answered.
SETx in my opinion has better quality than Edwards Plateau area.
S Tx, thats a different animal altogether.
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Old 09-24-2022, 06:22 PM   #4
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Deer in hill country are smaller bodied for one.
I would say lack of predators but really the only predator they lack that east Texas had or still has is the spot light.

But, I’m not entirely sure why the numbers in the hill country are the way they are. It’s not from lack of trying to thin them I can tell you that. Years ago something like 10% of the United states whitetail deer population was in the edwards plateau area alone. Now I’m sure that number has changed since the 80’s and 90’s but for whatever the reason, there’s plenty there number wise.
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Old 09-24-2022, 06:27 PM   #5
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My 2 cents having hunted Alan of the areas mentioned
East texas has monsters but the biggest difference IMO is “ranch” size.
Most in the hill country and south texas are larger on average than east texas. Less hunters per acre. Far less pressure 24 hours a day. When we hunted east texas I heard gunshots and atv’s all hours. Not so in other parts of the state.

The deer are in east texas they just adapt to their world. No feeders and move largely at night.

Like I said just my opinion.
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Old 09-24-2022, 06:38 PM   #6
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In my opinion it is density of population (civilization) and density of hunters.

More habitat to live in due to less population of people and larger tracts of land with less hunters per acre.
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Old 09-24-2022, 06:41 PM   #7
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Itís only part of the year, but when live oaks are loaded there are many, many acorns on the ground. The rest of the year they must eat rocks !
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Old 09-24-2022, 06:50 PM   #8
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East Texas quality can rival anyplace out there if they get some age on the herd.

As to the numbers…it is because more spotlights are sold in East Texas.
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Old 09-24-2022, 06:57 PM   #9
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Predation and over hunting is what hurts ET population IMO. Large timber tracts that have sufficient cover and nutrition are leased out with 1 hunter per hundred acres all wanting to fill there tags. And then there’s the exceptions where large tracts are managed properly and not over hunted allowing the numbers to be sustainable with proper supplemental feeding. As for as quality, native ET deer can hold they’re own compared to ANY other region when allowed to reach they’re full potential.
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Old 09-24-2022, 07:16 PM   #10
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This should get interesting later through the evening.
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Old 09-24-2022, 07:21 PM   #11
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Predation and over hunting is what hurts ET population IMO. Large timber tracts that have sufficient cover and nutrition are leased out with 1 hunter per hundred acres all wanting to fill there tags. And then thereís the exceptions where large tracts are managed properly and not over hunted allowing the numbers to be sustainable with proper supplemental feeding. As for as quality, native ET deer can hold theyíre own compared to ANY other region when allowed to reach theyíre full potential.
This is a very good summation imo in the above attachment.

Closing the season for running dogs was one of the best thing that has helped from my simple world. Even though the hunting ethics have improved in East Tx we are a long way from being where they need to be. I ďwasĒ one of those generations if itís brown itís down. I can remember growing the deer numbers were very scarce some years.
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Old 09-24-2022, 07:30 PM   #12
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Every east Texas lease I see posted.

ď400 acres. Looking for 26 hunters at $1k per spotĒ.

Might be a piece of the puzzle
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Old 09-24-2022, 07:45 PM   #13
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I think a lot has to do with the hunting culture in the area you hunt. If you hunt in an area where if it’s brown it’s down, then you will probably never have good deer numbers or quality regardless of the region. There are parts of South Texas that have tons of pressure on small acreage and if you see 5-6 deer a season your lucky.

If you are selective with the animals you take and can get your neighbors on the same page, deer will be allowed to get to their full potential. I don’t know what deer eat in the piney woods that is a consistent source of protein, but I’m sure their are some thing they survive on other than acorns. In South Texas the brush is short and extremely high in protein, and with deer being mostly browsers the nutrition is right in front of their noses all year long depending on rain.


High deer numbers is not always a good thing. Dense deer populations often restrict forage, therefore creating poor quality specimens. I believe this to be the case in alot of the hill county. Keep numbers in check, let them mature and provide good habitat and you’ll get what your looking for.

With all this being said based on my observations over the years, East Texas has in my opinion moved up to a good steady production of good quality bucks in the last 10-15 years. So it maybe turning around up there.
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Old 09-24-2022, 07:49 PM   #14
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I always heard there was a lot of inbreeding in East Texas. ymmv
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Old 09-24-2022, 08:14 PM   #15
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Good points & I agree on hunting pressure & the spotlight masters keeping numbers down in East Tx

What’s the thoughts on natural food sources sustaining the deer population in the hill country & areas that are rocks & lack of nutrition?

I agree with DryCreek there are areas with thick live oak groves & deer love those softer live oak acorns
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Old 09-24-2022, 08:26 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HogHunter34 View Post
Good points & I agree on hunting pressure & the spotlight masters keeping numbers down in East Tx

Whatís the thoughts on natural food sources sustaining the deer population in the hill country & areas that are rocks & lack of nutrition?

I agree with DryCreek there are areas with thick live oak groves & deer love those softer live oak acorns
Pine forests and hay meadows are not the most nutritious things for deer.

What you see as lush, green and productive can actually be very a very sterile environment.


Lots of natural browse in the hill country
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Old 09-24-2022, 08:35 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by HogHunter34 View Post
My main question is how are there so many more deer in the hill country but less natural food sources to sustain them?

.

Where is your data on this? Is this just a guess?



Common sense says, if the food isn't there it wouldn't be able to sustain them......period. They are there and they don't live on hope and prayers.
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Old 09-24-2022, 08:40 PM   #18
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This goes back to 1970 when hill country deer weighed 50 pounds on the hoof - there were zero deer in east Texas - and south Texas had a few large survivors. Since then there have been a lot of additions and subtractions in all the regions mentioned.
The biggest doe I have ever seen killed was 5 minutes from Carters Country off Telge, blocks from Intercontinental Airport N. Houston. So is it a E Texas deer or a S Texas deer? Maybe a bit of both...

Last edited by Johnny Dangerr; 09-24-2022 at 08:45 PM.
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Old 09-24-2022, 08:58 PM   #19
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Where is your data on this? Is this just a guess?



Common sense says, if the food isn't there it wouldn't be able to sustain them......period. They are there and they don't live on hope and prayers.
General observation from areas Iíve seen lots of deer but terrain was lacking imo
Like mentioned above the area appeared rocks & cacti, just didnít appear to hold the level of natural browse, etc
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Old 09-24-2022, 09:01 PM   #20
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Pine forests and hay meadows are not the most nutritious things for deer.

What you see as lush, green and productive can actually be very a very sterile environment.


Lots of natural browse in the hill country
Iíve got property in northern Anderson Cty thatís not as thick with pines
However tons of oak trees plentiful with acorns
Lots of persimmon tree groves, deer berries, huckleberry bushes

Anyone have biological studies from local biologist that can shed light on what deer mainly browse & eat?
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Old 09-24-2022, 09:06 PM   #21
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I think fawn retention has suffered more from doe harvest to manage the deer herd in a lot of east Texas areas more than folks realize. In the late 70s through the 80's there were many places in east Texas we hunted that seeing 40 to 50 deer a day was the norm. During that time there was zero doe harvest on these properties.

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Old 09-24-2022, 09:07 PM   #22
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Iíve never hunted the hill country other than a couple of draw hunts.
As far as East tx deer, they are there. You just have to actually hunt them. Iíve been thru the hill country many times and the deer there are very small compared to East Texas. As far as bucks, there are some monsters in East tx. They are mostly nocturnal but if you time the rut just right, you will see some.
If you want to see a lot of deer, then the hill country is for you. Want to kill a big ole buck, not only antlers wise but weight wise, then go east, but it wonít be easy.
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Old 09-24-2022, 09:16 PM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HogHunter34 View Post
General observation from areas I’ve seen lots of deer but terrain was lacking imo
Like mentioned above the area appeared rocks & cacti, just didn’t appear to hold the level of natural browse, etc

I'd say you observation is incorrect because they aren't going to stick around without food. You are probably missing all the green forbes that grow throughout the year. Our place out west holds a high deer density and is very much like the hill country terrain with a bunch of rocks, cedars, cactus, live oaks, shinoaks and some mesquites. You could say we are on the downslope of the Edwards Plateau. Our deer are bigger bodied deer for the most part with some hill country sized type deer mixed in and they live on mostly forbs, some brush, cactus tunas and acorns when they fall. When we get a big rain the deer go to the fields and under the trees looking for new growth and the feeder activity shuts down..
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Old 09-24-2022, 09:27 PM   #24
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I'd say you observation is incorrect because they aren't going to stick around without food. You are probably missing all the green forbes that grow throughout the year. Our place out west holds a high deer density and is very much like the hill country terrain with a bunch of rocks, cedars, cactus, live oaks, shinoaks and some mesquites. You could say we are on the downslope of the Edwards Plateau. Our deer are bigger bodied deer for the most part with some hill country sized type deer mixed in and they live on mostly forbs, some brush, cactus tunas and acorns when they fall. When we get a big rain the deer go to the fields and under the trees looking for new growth and the feeder activity shuts down..
Good info here. Thatís what I was curious about from others with more experience hunting those areas what you see deer eating & their changing habitats throughout the season. I guess Iím just jealous seeing all those bigger racks you guys keep flaunting from hunting those areas
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Old 09-24-2022, 09:31 PM   #25
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Quote:
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Iíve never hunted the hill country other than a couple of draw hunts.
As far as East tx deer, they are there. You just have to actually hunt them. Iíve been thru the hill country many times and the deer there are very small compared to East Texas. As far as bucks, there are some monsters in East tx. They are mostly nocturnal but if you time the rut just right, you will see some.
If you want to see a lot of deer, then the hill country is for you. Want to kill a big ole buck, not only antlers wise but weight wise, then go east, but it wonít be easy.
True. Most shooters I see are at night
Our place in Anderson cty is thick bottomland & is about 95% wooded with scattered openings
Youíve got to really put in the work to find the hot spots

Our place has more potential now that a property owner across the farm road has purchased 650 acres over the past 10+ years & he is very management minded & feeds protein year around
I spoke with him this past spring & he said heís got two on camera last fall/winter pushing 140s & the larger one could hit 160s
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Old 09-24-2022, 09:32 PM   #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Smart View Post
I'd say you observation is incorrect because they aren't going to stick around without food. You are probably missing all the green forbes that grow throughout the year. Our place out west holds a high deer density and is very much like the hill country terrain with a bunch of rocks, cedars, cactus, live oaks, shinoaks and some mesquites. You could say we are on the downslope of the Edwards Plateau. Our deer are bigger bodied deer for the most part with some hill country sized type deer mixed in and they live on mostly forbs, some brush, cactus tunas and acorns when they fall. When we get a big rain the deer go to the fields and under the trees looking for new growth and the feeder activity shuts down..
The forbs are a big thing when conditions are right. I had a lease in Runnels Co. for 18 years, right off the Colorado River. The ground was covered in forbs if we had any rain at all and a deerís front teeth were made to pick and choose, just right to harvest those low growing forbs. When we had a drought year, (about one out of four), the forbs werenít as plentiful, but still there. We usually had 75 acres of oats too for the first five years, then our rancher passed and his wife turned it into grass. The deer were still in that field in decent numbers, eating forbs I assumed, but not like when the oats were there. We tried to kill 20 does a year and you could never tell it. We just kept our heads above water. Didnít kill many good bucks we had a bunch of fun !
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Old 09-24-2022, 09:35 PM   #27
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There’s no shortage of food in the hill country imo. You just gotta know where to look.
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Old 09-24-2022, 09:36 PM   #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by txtrophy85 View Post
Pine forests and hay meadows are not the most nutritious things for deer.



What you see as lush, green and productive can actually be very a very sterile environment.





Lots of natural browse in the hill country
This right here. Everyone always see all the green vegetation in east tx but it's hard to grow horns on sweet gum and pine needles. I think it's hunter density followed by nutrition is the east tx downfall

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Old 09-24-2022, 09:37 PM   #29
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I took my son on a hunting trip in south texas and the guide was very knowledgeable about the plants and their nutritional value. He pointed out a lot of shrubs and browse that was very high in protein when I mentioned it didn’t look like anything there was edible for the deer.
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Old 09-24-2022, 09:49 PM   #30
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As far as quantity of deer in the Hill Country vs East Texas, I have no idea. But regarding quality, I would put East Texas above the hill country. I am fortunate to hunt on MLD managed property, and there are very nice bucks year after year
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Old 09-24-2022, 09:54 PM   #31
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Human population and predation. The overwhelming majority of Texans live east of I 35.


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Old 09-24-2022, 10:05 PM   #32
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Quote:
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East Texas quality can rival anyplace out there if they get some age on the herd.

As to the numbersÖit is because more spotlights are sold in East Texas.
I was gonna say....rednecks. not meaning no disrespect, but it seems the season is open year round 24/7.
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Old 09-24-2022, 10:06 PM   #33
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My opinion?

Incest and other un-Godly activities. Probably due to the proximity of East Texas to the Deep South states
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Old 09-24-2022, 10:07 PM   #34
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My opinion?

Incest and other un-Godly activities. Probably due to the proximity of East Texas to the Deep South states

But no goat ****ing like they do out where the hills get rocky


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Old 09-24-2022, 10:16 PM   #35
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Look down at your index finger. Then realize how many of them are in East Texas that are quick to pull a trigger with one.

The hill country can produce some giant deer when managed right. As can East Texas. Hill country seems to be more deer friendly forage. Look at the amount of goats and sheep. There’s a reason.

Keep the deer density within reason and you can produce some amazing deer. Genetics are there.

I know East Texas can and does as well. Hunters are the problem there.
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Old 09-24-2022, 10:24 PM   #36
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We hunted two properties in East Texas. One was a very nice place that had a great mix of hardwood to pine. Lots of water; Ponds, creeks, etc. That place had quite a few deer and did produce some decent bucks.

The other place was a full of 20 year old planted pine, dark timber type stuff and very little to no hardwood. Not many deer there and what was shot was pretty spindly.


Habitat plays a big part in both density and quality. There are places in the Hill Country that is low on density and quality as well, the areas around Leakey, Concan, and Utopia can be pretty sparse on the deer numbers
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Old 09-24-2022, 10:32 PM   #37
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But no goat ****ing like they do out where the hills get rocky


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Hah, hahÖfunny man.
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Old 09-24-2022, 10:36 PM   #38
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Good info here. Thatís what I was curious about from others with more experience hunting those areas what you see deer eating & their changing habitats throughout the season. I guess Iím just jealous seeing all those bigger racks you guys keep flaunting from hunting those areas.
Ainít nuthiní but cedar bushes ,caliche and rocks where I hunt.
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Old 09-24-2022, 10:45 PM   #39
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This goes back to 1970 when hill country deer weighed 50 pounds on the hoof - there were zero deer in east Texas - and south Texas had a few large survivors. Since then there have been a lot of additions and subtractions in all the regions mentioned.
The biggest doe I have ever seen killed was 5 minutes from Carters Country off Telge, blocks from Intercontinental Airport N. Houston. So is it a E Texas deer or a S Texas deer? Maybe a bit of both...
That would be a SE Texas doe sir lol. Idk but Iíd consider Houston area coastal Texas
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Old 09-24-2022, 11:05 PM   #40
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Originally Posted by Johnny Dangerr View Post
This goes back to 1970 when hill country deer weighed 50 pounds on the hoof - there were zero deer in east Texas - and south Texas had a few large survivors. Since then there have been a lot of additions and subtractions in all the regions mentioned.
The biggest doe I have ever seen killed was 5 minutes from Carters Country off Telge, blocks from Intercontinental Airport N. Houston. So is it a E Texas deer or a S Texas deer? Maybe a bit of both...
Considering Houston is a real long way from south Texas. Imma say it ainít a south Texas deer. Lol
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Old 09-24-2022, 11:09 PM   #41
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Percent of protein in forage gots along way…that south Texas brush browse is the best
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Old 09-24-2022, 11:10 PM   #42
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Funny… every time I go see family in San Marcos I see more deer than an entire season on my place in East Tx. However, I will take Polk County over Hayes any day regarding body and anthers. East Tx was abused hard for a long time … year round hunting and reliance on deer for food. Although it seems a lot of this is past us, it’s my opinion the herd is hit pretty hard in hunting season. Long season and way to many does shot. But that can’t be the only reason… for whatever reason the hill country just supports a big deer herd.
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Old 09-24-2022, 11:48 PM   #43
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Iíve seen a 200# buck an hour from Austin.

I think it is more about age and letting deer get older and fully mature to potential.

Any area in Texas can produce an above average buckÖjust need age/time.
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Old 09-25-2022, 12:09 AM   #44
hpdrifter
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Join Date: Sep 2014
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Johnny Dangerr View Post
This goes back to 1970 when hill country deer weighed 50 pounds on the hoof - there were zero deer in east Texas - and south Texas had a few large survivors. Since then there have been a lot of additions and subtractions in all the regions mentioned.
The biggest doe I have ever seen killed was 5 minutes from Carters Country off Telge, blocks from Intercontinental Airport N. Houston. So is it a E Texas deer or a S Texas deer? Maybe a bit of both...
When I first moved to Houston(1978) the Houston Post had a picture where some apartments were being built in the background. There was a tree line in front of the apartments and there were 3 monster bucks walking the treeline.
We did some pipeline work over in Atascocita and there were deer tracks all up and down the right of way, some were huge.
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Old 09-25-2022, 12:53 AM   #45
Longue Carabine
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Hunt In: Medina County, Colorado
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Some parts of the hill country and especially South Texas actually have more food and higher quality food than east Texas. Timber is a food desert. Brush country is a buffet.
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Old 09-25-2022, 06:32 AM   #46
Snowflake Killa
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Location: Shepherd
Hunt In: East Texas
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Clear cuts really help east Texas for sure

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Old 09-25-2022, 06:45 AM   #47
ttaxidermy
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Location: Brazoria county
Hunt In: Brady,McCulloch Cnty, Brazoria cnty, South Africa, Namibia Nebraska
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The biggest factors are legal hunting pressure and outlaw hunters.. You wont see many "deer leases" in the hill country or South Texas advertised as "Looking for 25 guns to fill 3,000 acre lease, guest welcome".. This is the norm for east Texas though..
Almost all leases in east Texas are WAY over pressured which leads to too many deer being killed and the remainder pressured into being nocturnal... It is a shame because east Texas is really where i would like to hunt.. It grows GIANT bucks if done right..
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Old 09-25-2022, 08:20 AM   #48
Gumbo Man
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Location: Livingston Texas
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Actually ET numbers have been on the rise and year round hunting is on the decline. I contribute these factors to the overwhelming rise in Meth users. Meth heads only eat about once a month!!
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Old 09-25-2022, 08:28 AM   #49
HogHunter34
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Location: Troup, TX
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Originally Posted by Gumbo Man View Post
Actually ET numbers have been on the rise and year round hunting is on the decline. I contribute these factors to the overwhelming rise in Meth users. Meth heads only eat about once a month!!
Terry you never disappoint

Sounds like many contribute lower numbers to a cultural problem
I guess the next question is why did all the outlaws & redneks move to East Tx

I will add when I was a youngster on our place I did see more deer
Not uncommon to see a group of 10-15 at a time crossing the farm road
Now days only see 3-5 in a group
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Old 09-25-2022, 08:56 AM   #50
ttaxidermy
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Location: Brazoria county
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HogHunter34 View Post
Terry you never disappoint

Sounds like many contribute lower numbers to a cultural problem
I guess the next question is why did all the outlaws & redneks move to East Tx

I will add when I was a youngster on our place I did see more deer
Not uncommon to see a group of 10-15 at a time crossing the farm road
Now days only see 3-5 in a group
The small towns of west Texas and the Texas hill country are ate smooth up with meth heads and meth labs...

It is totally out of control...
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