Bugs and Daffy can argue all day about whether it’s duck or rabbit season, but starting this Saturday and continuing through New Year’s Day, for most hunters in Texas, the debate will be over and it’ll just be deer season.

Bow hunters have been afield since Oct. 1, and as the window on archery season closes Nov. 4, the door to the general white-tailed deer season will swing open the next day.

Deer hunting is a long-standing tradition in Texas, going back thousands of years to when hunting was a way of life. In fact, it wasn’t very long ago that hunting and fishing weren’t sports, but ways people fed themselves.

For most of us, thanks to innovations in technology, hunting these days is more of a recreational pursuit than a way to put meat on the plate.

Central Texas is home to a bounty of wild deer, and it’s also got a growing number of game ranches, where deer are raised similar to cattle – in herds with strict diets that promote maximum body and antler growth. These high-fence ranches provide hunters with opportunities to hunt trophy bucks without having to travel far from home.

Many hunters in our area opt to hunt at deer leases, ranches that charge a fixed amount per hunter for a specific period of time – either throughout the season or even by the day. Some also have extra charges for things like bucks having more than a given number of antler points.

A number of hunters I’ve spoken with recently have spent the summer and early fall scrambling to find a new lease after having lost access to ones that, in some cases, they had been hunting on for more than a decade.

If you find yourself with the “want to” but no place to hunt, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has a possible solution. The state fish and wildlife agency has teamed with private landowners, as well as other state and federal agencies, to open up more than 1 million acres of land to hunters – a good number of which are located in Central Texas.

For nearly 30 years, the $48 Annual Public Hunting permit has given hunters access to hunting grounds that feature small game, turkey, white-tailed deer, exotics, wild hogs, predators, furbearers, fishing, camping, and other recreational uses.

The permit is valid from Sept. 1 though Aug. 31 of the following year, and allows hunting without daily permit fees or, in most cases, without having to be selected in a drawing. A valid license, plus any necessary stamp endorsements, are required.

In other hunting news

Quail season opened statewide on Saturday, and if you can find any, you can hunt them through Feb. 26. Dove season for the Central Zone closes Nov. 6, but the second split re-opens Dec. 17 and runs through Jan. 8. North and South Zone dove hunters will have through Nov. 13 to bag some more birds.

Duck season is also around the corner, with splits running from Nov. 12-27 and Dec. 3 – Jan. 29 for the North Zone, which includes all area counties. Goose gunners can start their hunts Nov. 5, and turkey hunting will correspond with deer season dates.

If you’re going snipe hunting with a gun, the season is open through Feb. 12, but you’ll have to wait until Dec. 18 to go after a woodcock.

Know what to look for

The best anglers are the ones who watch and listen, and when you see something like a school of shad riffling the water’s surface, you can bet the boat there are some bigger fish below chasing them around.

This time of year, keep an eye out for schools of shad in the backs of coves and near the mouths of feeder streams. Predator species will “corral” balls of shad into tight spaces and then go into smashmouth feeding mode. Cast your bait into a skittish shad school and wait for the fun.

Crappie fishermen on Lake Waco are finding their quarry stacked in about 15 feet of water around brush piles and other submerged structure. Sand bass are going strong on area lakes, with jigging slabs bounced off a 15-foot bottom being the top way to load the live well.

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