Oak Prairie Hunting Forecast 2009/2010
Deer hunting for the upcoming season is shaping up to be very good from the stand point of finding deer. Due to the severe drought and less than lush habitat conditions, deer will be very easy to encounter especially if you are hunting over a food source. Also, if you have a water source in your hunting area, hunting trails to this source can prove to be very productive. Although antler production may be average to less than average due to the dry conditions, there are older bucks in the herd, and we have reports of some impressive antler production. Finally, last year's fawn survival was above average, so there should be a decent number of yearling deer in the herd.
Since the entire district has experienced dry conditions for almost two years, fawn survival appears to have suffered this year. Fawn survival may be average to just below average in your creek and river bottom areas, but in your upland sites fawn survival appears to be well below average. As mentioned above, last year's fawn crop (which was good) should translate into more yearling bucks this year. You may see a higher number of spikes this year than in past years.
In most of the Oak Prairie district doe harvest during the general season is only legal via Managed Lands Deer Permits. It is important to follow the biologist's recommendations on doe harvest. We have experienced about two years of drought which has severely impacted the native vegetation and browse that deer utilize. We have also been experiencing a continuous increase in the overall deer population across the district for the last several years. Harvesting doe is the one means we have of keeping populations at sustainable levels where the deer herd remains healthy and the habitat remains healthy. Remember, we should be trying to manage for all wildlife, not just deer.
Drier conditions in late spring/early summer generally translate into better turkey and quail production for most of the Oak Prairie district. This is contrary to what is experienced in South Texas. However, we experienced dry conditions all the way back to last year's spring. Reports from the field indicate lower production for turkey and quail, although there were reported sightings of poults and broods.
Feral hogs are still doing very well in the Oak Prairie district (as they are in most of the state). Like last year, the dry conditions have confined a lot of the hog activity in the bottoms and near water sources. There is no hunting season on feral hogs and you can take them by any legal means. As long as you are hunting hogs on your own land or have landowner permission, and there is no money changing hands, you don't need a license to harvest hogs.
Make sure you look at this year's Outdoor Annual if you have any questions about hunting seasons, bag limits, and other restrictions. There have been changes to the youth only season and there is an added muzzle loader season. A quick note regarding archery season: Anyone with a current hunting license can harvest 2 doe during archery season. You do not have to have an MLD permit to harvest doe during archery season in the Oak Prairie district. If you need clarification call your local game warden or biologist. If you are still in doubt, don't shoot. To my knowledge, no one as ever received a ticket for not shooting.