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DEER SEASON OPENS: Bullets optional
by Jason Collins
Nov 05, 2012 | 2055 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
George Gilchrist shot these bucks not with his rifle but his camera. The hunter of 47 years hasn’t given up his rifle but often finds himself grabbing a camera instead.
George Gilchrist shot these bucks not with his rifle but his camera. The hunter of 47 years hasn’t given up his rifle but often finds himself grabbing a camera instead.
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George Gilchrist photographed this bobcat. This avid hunter is finding photographing wildlife as fun as hunting it with a rifle.
George Gilchrist photographed this bobcat. This avid hunter is finding photographing wildlife as fun as hunting it with a rifle.
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The hunt for the elusive Odocoileus virginianus began Saturday.

No not rabbits. There is no season on them. Same goes for squirrels — assuming you don’t live in East Texas.

It’s deer — specifically whitetails.

General season runs through Jan. 20. Limit is five deer with no more than three bucks.

Those hunters using bows, or some form of archery, got an early start during their special season, as did the youth of the area.

Alan Cain, who heads up the state’s white-tailed deer program, said, “South Texas, known for trophy bucks, should be in good shape as we’ve had rain this summer.”

David Veale, another biologist, added, “Deer age structure is still going to be impacted by the previous drought, with low fawn crops in 2008, 2009 and 2011. This will affect the number of bucks in the population available for harvest in many age classes, although the large fawn crop of 2007 should carry over decent numbers of mature bucks where they managed to live that long.”

And, finally, biologist David Synatzske adds, “Antler development is expected to be good on more mature-aged bucks but may be somewhat lacking in younger age classes unless the drought ends soon. Higher fawn crops are in order from low production evident during the 2011 drought.”

For many hunters, the opening of deer season is almost a religious experience.

It’s anticipated like Christmas morning.

George Gilchrist has been hunting now for 47 years.

However, his perspective has changed over time. He still shoots. It’s just done a little differently.

“My first hunts were with my dad, going from my hometown in Brownsville to a corporate, antlerless-only lease outside of Mason,” he said. “At that time, Mason and a lot of the rest of the Texas Hill Country was overgrazed by sheep and goats; cedar trees were ubiquitous on the landscape, and deer were the size of German shepherds.”

In Brownsville, deer were few, and in Mason, about all that could be seen were does and small fawns.

“I’ll never forget one afternoon in a pasture they called Devil’s Canyon, lugging around my dad’s spare 12-pound Springfield 1903-A3 military surplus rifle.

“I saw a buck...a big buck, and I was mesmerized.

“I daydreamed about seeing a shoulder mount on my wall, but again, this was a doe lease. Thinking back on it now, I’m sure it was probably still more of a German shepherd with a 12-inch wide typical 8-point rack.”

Gilchrist continued hunting, although it wasn’t the most important thing in his life. As a teen, he had discovered girls and cars, which took precedent.

“For quite a few years, I was lucky enough to be drawn for prime hunting opportunities with my dad on nearby wildlife management areas like the Daughtrey, Kerr and Chaparral, upgrading my rifles over the years.”

He still hunts — just now out of Laredo on a 9,000-acre lease where mature deer in the 140-150 class range roam the countryside.

“Over the past 10 years or so, I began taking binoculars and a camcorder with me to the blind,” he said.

“Then, I began taking my still camera also.

“At times, it’ a real challenge to determine what to pick up first.

“Binoculars? No, he might run off without hanging around.

“Better pick up the camcorder. No, this is a good deer, better get him on film before he leaves.”

As when he was younger and was upgrading his rifle, Gilchrist is now upgrading his photo equipment, switching from film to digital and snagging better lenses along the way.

However, the decision of with what he wants to shoot is still there.

“My dilemma is filling me with anxiety,” he said.

Whatever the decision, his blinds are likely complete now and ready to go.

“Man, I can hardly wait,” he said. “Deer season is coming. It’s almost here, bullets optional.”

Jason Collins is the editor at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 121, or at editor@mySouTex.com.
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