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Why deer are bigger and hunting in Texas is easier

This article is part Texas Monthlyspecial issue commemorating the fiftieth anniversary. Read about other icons that have defined Texas since 1973.

Larry Weishun, also known as Mr. Whitetail, is a wildlife biologist, writer, and television personality. He’s been hunting deer since he was in diapers when his father tied him to his back and headed for the woods.

The average deer has grown significantly compared to what it used to be. Until the early seventies, we had grubs all over Texas. I grew up in Colorado County, and until we got fly-fly control, our deer population was very, very low. The same thing happened practically throughout the state. But the flies were eradicated and the impact on the white-tailed deer was enormous. Then there was overpopulation and the body size and antlers became smaller because there were too many deer for what the habitat could support. Landowners and hunters began to notice the deteriorating quality of the animals.

At the same time, there was a guy named Jerry Smith who was photographing adult deer at King Ranch. People began to see what deer could look like if they had the opportunity to develop. Since then, we have witnessed a better understanding by both landowners and hunters of what deer need to produce healthy herds.

Hunting has changed a lot. A few years ago we didn’t have things like GPS; We didn’t have surveillance cameras. Now we have all this information about when the rut will occur and what is the best time to hunt, based on lunar tables and such. A modern AR-type hunting rifle is also adopted. We have seen that the optics have improved significantly. Forty years ago everyone hunted with fixed magnification scopes, and now we have scopes that do everything but pull the trigger.

Today we have greatly simplified the task of the hunter. We have moved away from what I would call the true art of forestry – reading tracks, reading signs – but I am happy when someone is hunting.

This article first appeared in the February 2023 issue of the journal. Texas Monthly with the title “How Bambi got his hooves back”.Subscribe today.

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