"DEER SEASON NOT OVER YET" Luke Clayton Its seems an eternity since I first took to the whitetail woods way back on September 29, the first day of bow season. Texas has a very long deer season that is already closed in some parts of the state. The general whitetail season officially ended in north Texas on the first Sunday of January. In South Texas, the general season runs through January 20 with a special late season for spikes and does (Jan. 21- Feb. 3). In many Hill Country counties, the special late season for spikes and does runs from Jan. 7-20. Several years ago Texas Parks and Wildlife Department implemented a program that allowed property owners whose property and game numbers met certain criteria, to enroll in one of three levels of a Managed Lands Deer Permit Program. Level One allows harvest of spikes and does, but the Level Two and Three programs allow harvest of a prescribed number of bucks and does, during a season that lasts from late September through the end of February. Several of the ranches I hunt on are enrolled in the Level Two Program and the good news is, we have a full month and a half to enjoy deer hunting on these ranches. Heres the way the program works: TPWD biologists come out and conduct a study of the habitat and conduct a deer census. Then, the property owner is issued permits for harvest of a prescribed number of bucks and does. As hunters, we have the benefit of hunting post rut bucks that are almost as easy to patter as they are when in pre-rut or before the breeding season begins. In past years, I have enjoyed some of by best hunts of the season on ranches that were on these state sponsored and endorsed management plans. Granted, some ranches under the Level Two system have already reached their harvest quota but many have not. The commercial ranches that sell package hunts have found a ready market of hunters, especially trophy hunters that havent tagged the buck of their dreams during the general season. My friend Mike Fork, who with his wife Lori, owns and manages the Rio Rojo Rancho in Red River County, says he still has both trophy and management buck hunting opportunities. Mike says more and more hunters are taking advantage of these late, LATE season hunts. This year, we still have several management bucks that score between 125-140 BC., as well as some big ten pointers that will score well above 150 BC. Our client base during the end of the season consist of hunters that simply did not have the opportunity to harvest a nice buck during the general season, either because the leases they hunted didnt have mature deer or they simply didnt have time to hunt during the Holiday Season. says Ford. Photo by Lori Ford Solitude is another thing I love about hunting bucks during this extended season. You pretty much have the woods to yourself to hunt deer that have settled down and are going about their daily patterns of feeding and bedding. Being a devout bow hunter, I enjoy hunting the rut (breeding season). Its often possible to SEE a lot of bucks during the rut but taking one with a bow can be iffy. I prefer to hunt bucks that are much easier to pattern during the pre rut or now, during late season. I visited with the biologists at TPWD in preparation for this article, and inquired how ranch owners and lease managers get their ranches enrolled in one of the Managed Lands Deer Programs. The process is relatively simple. First contact TPWD and locate the biologist that is in charge of the county where your ranch is located. Then, schedule a time for him or her to come out and visit with you to determine if the ranch you hunt is suited for the program. Ive done a great deal of hunting this Fall and Winter, and let a number of immature bucks walk but about the time youre reading this, I plan to be locked down on stand in Red River County on my friend's ranch, in hopes of tagging a late season buck. If you still have room in the freezer for some more quality venison and a spot on the wall for the trophy mount you hoped to acquire during the general season, consider hunting a ranch that offers these late season hunts. Contact Mike Ford at the ranch at 903-674-3750 or cell 214-802-4184. Photo by Mike Ford Level 2 Managed Lands Deer Permits Level 2 MLDPs offer additional harvest flexibility for landowners, but require active habitat and population management and apply only to white-tailed deer. Some of the benefits include: Completion of the hunting license log and use of a hunting license tag are not required on a deer harvested under the authority of this permit; therefore, county and statewide bag limits do not apply to individual hunters. Allows harvest of antlerless deer and spikes (a buck deer with no antler having a fork or branching point) with any lawful means, including modern firearms, from September 29, 2007 through February 29, 2008. Allows harvest of any buck deer: with archery equipment from September 29, 2007 through February 29, 2008, with any lawful means by a youth hunter during the early Youth-Only Season (Oct. 27-28), with any lawful means from November 3, 2007 through February 29, 2008. Once permits have been issued, archery stamp requirements do not apply. Level 2 MLDP Requirements: The approved WMP must include deer population data from the current year and the preceding year, complete deer harvest data (including age, weight, and antler data) from the preceding year, and must identify at least 2 recommended habitat management practices that are being conducted or will be conducted on the property. Once permits have been issued, every deer (buck and antlerless) harvested on the property must be tagged with an appropriate Level 2 MLDP (no MLDP is required for deer taken on the property under the authority of an Antlerless and Spike Deer Control Permit). Be sure to catch Luke's weekly radio show at www.catfishradio.com. And check out the new Radio Station feature at www.catfish1.com: http://www.catfish1.com/forums/radiostations.php.