With the mule deer hunting season opening this Saturday, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is reminding hunters about experimental antler restriction regulations in place in seven Panhandle counties.
The regulations, which took effect last year in six of the seven counties, prohibits the harvest of any mule deer buck with a main beam outside spread of less than 20 inches in Briscoe, Childress, Cottle, Floyd, Hall, Lynn, and Motley counties.
Mule deer season in Lynn County runs Nov. 23 – Dec. 1. In the other six counties participating in the experimental antler restriction, the mule deer season will run Nov. 23- Dec. 8.
The goal of the new regulations is to improve buck age structure and sex ratios in these counties by reducing excessive hunting pressure on younger bucks. A similar antler restriction for white-tailed deer has been in place for a number of years in other parts of the state and has successfully shifted the age class structure toward older bucks.
TPWD has set the minimum legal outside spread of the main beams at 20 inches in order to protect younger bucks. This means any buck having main beams with an outside spread smaller than 20 inches is not legal to harvest.
See Mule Deer Regulations for a guide depicting the legal vs. not legal mule deer buck antlers
Additionally, any buck with at least one unbranched antler (e.g., spike) is not legal to harvest, unless the outside spread of the main beams is 20 inches or more in width. Based upon data collected by TPWD, the average ear-tip to ear-tip spread of 2 ½ to 8 ½+ year old mule deer bucks with ears in the alert position is about 21 inches. This information on ear-tip to ear-tip measurement can be a useful guide to mule deer hunters attempting to field-judge mule deer bucks with at least a 20-inch main beam outside spread.
The experimental antler restriction will be conducted for four hunting seasons. This hunting season will be the second year of the experiment. TPWD wildlife officials will collect age and antler measurements at voluntary hunter-harvest check stations to assess the effects of the regulation on buck age structure. Annual aerial surveys will be used to document sex ratios. Based on findings after four years, TPWD will either propose to extend the regulation, modify the antler restriction, or permanently terminate the restriction.
To gather the most harvest data possible, TPWD will offer incentives to hunters who check their harvest. Hunters who bring their harvest to a check station will be entered in drawings for items such as rifles, lifetime hunting licenses, and other great prizes donated by Dallas Safari Club, the Texas Panhandle Chapter of the Dallas Safari Club and the Mule Deer Foundation. These data are essential to effectively evaluate the success of the experimental antler restriction.
More information regarding mule deer seasons, the experimental antler restriction, check station locations, dates and hours of operation, check station incentives, and drawing results is available online.
Folks can also voluntarily enter their harvest information and submit photos of the deer’s teeth in the My Texas Hunt Harvest app. The My Texas Hunt Harvest app is available for free at tpwd.texas.gov/myhunt. The app works without a data signal as long as it has already been downloaded to the device. The app is also bilingual and available in Spanish to customers who use Spanish as the main language setting on their phone or other mobile devices.