Woods, Water & Wildlife: As one door closes

During the regular whitetail deer season that ended on Jan. 5 in North Texas and ends in South Texas Jan. 19, many hunters don’t shoot does for fear they might spook a big buck that was about to be seen. That fear disappears during the late antlerless and spike buck seasons that follow the regular season for two weeks. This gives hunters one last chance to help reduce the overpopulation of does and put high protein meat in the freezer. Do it! Don’t let those big brown eyes talk you out of it! (Photo by John Jefferson)

It was a beautiful December day, the kind that makes poets pen lines like “There’s nothing as welcome as winter sun.” And the fish were biting.

Bruce Monroe and I had rented a boat from Mr. Cooper, who ran a bait shop and boat rental livery at the southeast end of the low water bridge over upper Lake Austin. Bruce had a small outboard motor. We were in a Lone Star semi-V aluminum fishing boat.

Bruce said we were going to fish for perch. Big perch. In swift water. Huh? I had never done that. But this was the first time I had fished from a boat in Central Texas, and I was willing to learn. We motored upstream toward Mansfield Dam. Bruce said we were in luck because the Lower Colorado River Authority was generating electricity and the water was swift. He said that stimulated the fish to bite “like crazy”.

He asked if I had an H&H, a spinnerbait that nowadays would be considered small or medium size. Surprisingly, I had one in my meagre collection of lures. It was black and white. We anchored and began casting horizontally into the current and letting our lures drift downstream, bumping the rocks as they s tumbled downstream, keeping our lines tight.

I didn’t get it. But I realized I didn’t know much about fishing the big lakes. I had grown into my 20s fishing still water on the Guadalupe River and creeks in east Texas. But I was willing to learn.

Bruce caught a couple of trophy-size yellow breast sunfish, and I watched his method. Gradually, I caught on. We had boated about a dozen with Bruce catching about three to every one of mine. In addition to experience, he had better equipment – a nice fiberglass rod and a Mitchell 300 reel. I had a Zebco 202 and a steel rod. We ended up catching 17. As the shadows of the hills along the west bank began lengthening, he said, “This is a beautiful day for the last day of deer season.”

That stabbed me. I had only hunted deer once – with Bruce – and hadn’t even seen a deer. But something inside me felt a loss that deer season was ending. I realize now that I was becoming at least as interested in hunting as fishing. 

So, the same pangs struck me recently. My separation anxiety was stimulated by the forthcoming end of deer season.

But I consoled myself, knowing that the LATE antlerless and spike season would open on January 6, the day after the regular season closed in North Texas. It’ll run until Sunday, January 19. In South Texas, the late season will end on February 3.

Some of my most enjoyable hunts have occurred hunting does and spikes. Table fare! And no pressure to shoot the biggest buck! Just good hunting and even better camaraderie in camp. And removing does is wise conservation. It combats overpopulation while putting meat on the table. 

Tell me that’s not a win-win!

John Jefferson is a lifelong outdoorsman, former regulations coordinator at Texas Parks and Wildlife Dept., past executive director of the Texas Chapter of The Wildlife Society, and author of two books on Texas hunting.

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