Deer hunting season in Texas is on the way!
Here we are, the time of year not far away from the first Texas archery seasons opening. Finally, hunters can get back into the woods after whitetail and mule deer.
Before deer hunting season begins, we've got a preview of the season outlook. We'll run down all the major season dates and hunting regulations changes.
Most of all, we'll give you an idea of what you can hopefully expect of the deer hunting in the Lone Star State in 2019-2020!
When does deer hunting season start in Texas?
We're glad you asked. These are the days you'll want to be in Texas if you hope to hunt native deer.
We've got a full rundown of the final season dates right here for easy access and review straight from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
- Archery: September 28 - November 1
- Youth Season (North Zone): October 26-27 & January 6 - 19, 2020
- Youth Season (South Zone): October 26-27 & January 6-19, 2020
- General Season (North Zone): November 2 - January 5, 2020
- General Season (South Zone): November 2 - January 19, 2020
- Muzzleloader: January 6-19, 2020
- Special Late (North Zone): January 6-19, 2020
- Special Late (South Zone): January 20-February 2, 2020
Bag limits for the 2019-2020 seasons are five deer, three of which can be bucks. It's also worth noting that the special late season is open only to antlerless and deer with one unbranched antler.
Chronic wasting disease or CWD continues to be a concern for the Lone Star State. Mandatory testing of all deer harvests is required in the CWD zones. These zones include the westernmost part of the state. All of El Paso, Hudspeth and much of the west and northern parts of Culberson County are included in the Trans-Pecos zone.
The South Central zone spills over three county borders encompassing parts of Uvalde, Medina and the southernmost part of Bandera County. The TPWD did mull over expanding this zone back in April due to a spike in the number of positive cases from this area.
And finally, the Panhandle zone is the largest CWD containment zone. There are carcass movement restrictions in effect there in addition to mandatory testing. The zone covers all of Oldham and Hartley counties, most of Dallam and Deaf Smith and portions of Parmer, Randall, Potter, Moore and Sherman counties. This zone was created in response to a road-killed deer testing positive for the always-fatal neurological disease last January.
Check the TPWD's website for a list of check stations in your area. Remember, you have to bring the animal in to have it checked within 48 hours of the harvest. Both whitetail deer and mule deer can get this disease, so have your harvest tested!
There are some major changes to the regulations going into effect for the 2019-2020 seasons. The most notable of these is the additions of antlerless seasons to over 40 counties in the northeastern and south-central parts of the state.
For your convenience, we've listed all the counties and season dates for these "doe days." The limit in each county is two antlerless animals.
- Bell (east of IH 35)
- Van zandt
- Williamson (east of IH 35)
November 28-December 1
- Travis (east of IH-35)
- Hays (east of IH-35)
- Comal (east of IH-35)
- Goliad (north of U.S. 59)
- Jackson (north of U.S. 59)
- Victoria (north of U.S. 59)
- Wharton (north of U.S. 59)
Texas has also just legalized airbows (or "arrowguns" as the TPWD is referring to them) for deer hunters to use. However, before you run out to buy one, just know that they aren't legal to use during archery season.
We're guessing few traditionalist hunters will be picking one of these up. They seem more geared towards the hunter who has already harvested a deer via every other legal method. Still, it's cool to see Texas constantly expanding hunter options!
There are also new, species-specific and region-specific regulations for mule deer. Only mule deer bucks with an outside spread of at least 20 inches will be legal this year in Briscoe, Childress, Cottle, Floyd, Hall, Lynn, and Motley counties.
Overall outlook for deer hunting season in Texas
Much like the rest of the country, Texas received a lot of rain this spring. Many areas set new records for rainfall. Things have dried up a bit in the waning stages of summer, but that may change as hurricane season arrives.
But all that rain up front should mean a healthy deer herd going into the season. More rain means more food and more food means bigger and healthier deer. In fact, Alan Cain, a biologist with the TPWD told The Item Newspaper back in July that it could mean bigger antlers.
"Overall, antler quality in 2019 is expected to be above average across most of the state," Cain told the publication. "The statewide average Boone & Crockett score in 2018 was 126.1 for bucks 5 ½ plus and 121.2 for 4 ½-year-old bucks. That's respectable quality bucks for anywhere in the state."
Those are respectable scores for just about anywhere, not just Texas deer. However, we expect the biggest bucks will likely come from south Texas counties. Considering the addition of all those antlerless deer seasons, we're guessing overall harvest numbers should be way higher too. Some of the counties being opened to these seasons haven't had a long antlerless season in years.
If you haven't already purchased your hunting license or gotten in some additional practice with your new bow setup, what are you waiting for? Texas hunting seasons will be here before you know it and it should be a great season!