KAUFMAN COUNTY, Texas – Drought following good spring conditions could impact Texas game animals, but early population reports and estimates suggest a favorable hunting season, according to a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service expert.
John Tomecek, Ph.D., AgriLife Extension wildlife specialist, Thrall, said good spring conditions favored most wildlife species, but dry summer conditions may have created some difficulties. However, he said, it appears young animals likely had plenty of cover, food and water sources to support growth.
Both winter and spring provided good conditions for pregnant does throughout their gestation period, Tomecek said. Deer were showing good body conditions during and after breeding season.
Despite extended dry and hot weather over the last few months, Tomecek said he expects does to enter rut relatively healthy and bucks have had good conditions for antler production.
“I’ve not seen many reports of sickly animals or poor antler condition, outside of a few areas,” he said. “Trophy bucks should have been in excellent body condition going into this dry stretch. So, that means their bodies were able to put energy into antlers.”
Tomecek said the anthrax outbreak this summer in parts of South Texas should not deter hunters from taking to the field.
“Anthrax flares up in a small area of the state for a period and then it goes away,” he said. “People should understand this happens naturally, and it is typically long gone by the time deer season starts.”
“Anthrax is a naturally occurring phenomenon, and these outbreaks will mean more resources available for surviving animals,” he said. “Hunters in those areas may see lower numbers of deer, but the outbreak should benefit those animals that survived by providing better nutrition to fewer animals.”
Regardless of local conditions, Tomecek emphasized hunters should not hesitate to go hunting. Harvesting animals is important, but getting youth outdoors, passing on fall hunting traditions, and spending time with friends and family is just as important as the actual harvest.
Tomecek said an accurate report on quail populations is still a few months away, but the spring moisture was likely good for quail with regard to cover and food.
Quail don’t travel far from where they hatch, he said. Therefore local habitat conditions on individual ranches are very important. Individual landowners are one of the most critical components in ensuring healthy quail populations.
They mostly feed on seed grasses, grains and forbs, but insects are an important part of laying hen and newly hatched quail’s diet due to their protein content, Tomecek said. The indications suggest an abundant supply of bugs for those young birds.
Tomecek said another good trend for Texas quail is landowner acknowledgement of the birds’ need for habitat.
“There’s a lot of momentum among landowners to do better for quail,” he said. “They’re mindful of the habitat necessary to support healthy quail populations, and there are a growing number of people re-establishing native plants that provide cover and food for them.”
Tomecek said early reports on Texas turkey populations were positive, but interesting because of reports of younger birds in July.
“Usually young birds are getting bigger by summer, but we’ve been getting reports of very small birds in some areas, so we’re wondering if all the spring rains may have pushed the breeding season later than
usual,” he said. “There were excellent nesting conditions, and this late dry weather helps those younger birds locate bugs, which are also a big part of their early diet.”
Tomecek said those birds will transition to seeds, grains and forbs, and conditions and resource availability going into fall and winter will impact how turkey populations progress.
Tomecek noted hunters and landowners should harvest as many wild pigs as possible. The pest animal not only causes damage to property and agricultural crops but also consumes resources needed by preferred species and is a predator for young animals, including fawns.
Although they may seem fun to hunt, they do more harm than good to hunting opportunities.
Trapping, especially using larger corral-type traps that can catch entire sounders of pigs, is the most effective method, but Tomecek said every opportunity should be taken to reduce their numbers.
“Most landowners know what we’re up against when it comes to wild pig populations in Texas,” he said. “They’re a nuisance when it comes to property and crop damage, and they’re also a detriment to healthy ecosystems.