Hunting season is right around the corner for dove and white-tailed deer. While it's not exactly like waking up on Christmas morning, it's still pretty exciting for hunters in South Texas.
"Everybody gets excited for hunting season in South Texas," said Charles Lassmann of the Double L Ranch in Victoria. "At one time they would close schools because all of the kids would be out hunting."
Schools won't close for the opening of hunting season, but it's still a fun time for all.
Dove season opens for the south zone (which includes the areas south of I-10 and east of I-35) on Sept. 21, while white-tailed deer season opens Sept. 29 for bow hunters and the general season opens Nov. 3.
"I'm pretty excited for the season to open up," Brian Pnacek, owner of Blue Quail Taxidermy and an avid bow hunter, said. "The cool weather lately has helped cool things down. You can try and predict what will happen, but you never know. What I do know is that everybody in south Texas will be out hunting."
Sean Campbell, who holds a PhD in animal nutrition and works with roughly 15 ranches, says the deer population should be up from what he's seen.
"From what I've seen on camera and in surveys, there are a lot of twin fawns," Campbell said. "Over the spring and summer there has been enough native vegetation for the deer to grow solid horns."
The experienced hunter understands the impact weather has on the area, but the young, new hunters may not fully understand its importance.
Last year, the lack of rain hurt the hunting season, preventing the deer from becoming big and fat like hunters would like. This year, there hasn't been much rain, but more than a year ago.
"I've seen some good quality deer with better looking horns and such," Lassmann said. "The drought came after the spring which isn't as critical of a time. The deer won't be overly fat because at the time they needed vegetation they didn't have much."
Pnacek also said he's some good-quality deer in the area
"The white-tailed (deer) have looked pretty good," he said. "There have been decent rains locally, which have helped. I've also seen some trees start to grow acorns. We should see a good acorn crop this year."
Acorns are a good source of nutrition for deer because they are very high in fats and carbohydrates. Because they are also easily digested, deer can eat lots of them per day and provides them with the necessary protein content to be healthy. Through eating the acorns, by late October, the deer could have a thick slab of fat underneath the coat and along the inside of the paunch.
Not only will the rain, or lack thereof in some parts, have an affect on deer but also on the dove.
"It has been dry, so there aren't a whole lot of water sources for them," Campbell said. "There is plenty of dove weed around and people have been planting bird plots, but the limiting factors are with the water sources. However, with this cool front that has been coming through, hopefully, it will bring more birds.
"The second season can be really good, though. It all depends on the birds."
Dove are attracted to farm fields where the seed are plentiful, as well as watering holes. With the large amount of rain that has fallen in certain areas, they'll be headed to those areas and not others.
"Dove feed in the evening and then go to a watering hole before they roost," Lassmann explained. "So, they will be around the watering holes. Really, though, it's hit or miss the first few weekends of the season."
Quail hunting - which opens Oct. 27 - has always been one of the favorite birds to hunt in Texas. However, the population numbers of quail have decreased over the past five years. Several factors have played a role in the decrease, including the 2011 drought and the destruction of their habitats.
While the number of quail has increased over the year, the population total has yet to reach what it once was. In the Victoria area, however, Campbell said he has seen some good indicators for quail hunters.
"I've seen a lot of birds hatching and a lot of pairs of quails," Campbell said. "They probably hatched around three weeks ago and are now half-grown."
Overall, hunters can expect a good hunting season for whatever animal they decide to hunt for. As it always is, though, it's difficult for humans to predict what animals are going to do.
But that's where the fun in hunting comes from.