Deer Hunting in South Texas
South Texas has a reputation for great deer hunting, primarily because of the number of large bucks with big racks of antlers that are harvested there. There is public land available, but much of the land is private. Those private lands are often available for hunting in the form of a lease or a guided hunt. Hunting has become one of the major growth areas of the tourism industry in Texas.
There are two main types of deer hunted in South Texas--the whitetail and the mule deer. The whitetail is by far the more popular deer to hunt, and is the most popular animal to hunt in the state. The mule deer does not grow antlers as large and is not quite as big as the whitetail, but is still hunted. Texas has high numbers of whitetail deer, and South Texas in particular has a lot of deer with big sets of antlers
In South Texas the regular gun season is Nov. 5 through Jan. 16. There are some restrictions on size of antlers. There is a late season for non-antler deer, which is Jan. 17-30 for modern guns. The season for primitive weapons is Jan. 3-16. Archery season is Oct. 2 through Nov. 5. Special youth hunts are set for Oct. 30-31 and Jan. 3-16. The statewide bag limit for whitetail deer is five, with no more than three bucks. Some counties have a lower limit. The limit for mule deer is two, with only one buck. The limits are for all seasons combined.
When the Spanish arrived in the 1600s they reported ample wildlife, and plenty of deer, in South Texas. There was little grazing pressure then, and not a lot of predators, so deer flourished. There were a lot of deer in Texas until around the 1860s when the population began to decline. Overgrazing and over-hunting combined to push deer into other areas. By the end of the century there were far fewer deer and conservation measures were started. It took until the late 1960s and early 1970s for the statewide deer herd to recover to the point that there were enough to be hunted in large numbers. Today there are well over 1 million deer in the state.
One of the most popular--and most expensive--ways to hunt deer in South Texas is through a guide or outfitter. Much of the land is private, and many ranchers run guided hunt operations on their land during deer season. Sometimes they lease their land to other hunting outfitters who work as guides. Guides will put you in the best position to make a kill, and sometimes the size of the animal you kill affects the amount you pay. They take care of all the details except licensing. Sometimes whitetail hunts are separate from mule deer hunts, and you can often combine your hunt with a turkey hunt. The hunts are usually one to five days. Meals and lodging are included if you so desire.
There are public lands available for hunting, and often there is no cost for the actual hunting apart from your license. There are four national forests in South Texas, and all of them take up large areas. They all have campgrounds--both developed and primitive--as well as miles of trails for hiking or horseback riding. There are often restrictions on motorized vehicles, which would include an ATV. There may be additional restrictions on areas to hunt, such as areas in use by other people. Hunting in these areas can be very remote, so precautions should be taken. Some state parks are open for hunting in certain areas. The same rules apply there as those in effect for the rest of the state.
A famous area for hunting in South Texas is called the Golden Triangle This area starts near Laredo and goes along the Rio Grande. It includes Dimmit, LaSalle,Maverick, Zavala and Webb counties. This area has the largest bucks with the largest sets of antlers in the nation. Dimmit and Webb Counties rank in the top five nationally in this area. There are several outfitters that are available to give guided hunts in this area. Most of it is private land, and there is not much public hunting land available here.