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December 7, 2023 •iSportsman Staff
South Texas deer hunting is on the bucket list of many outdoor enthusiasts. The desire is well justified: there are more whitetails in Texas (estimated 5.3 million) than any other state. Land in Texas is 97% privately owned, so hunting here usually involves an outfitter or leasing land. Here is a look at the different regions and what to expect from each area.
Most outdoor shows highlighting Texas deer hunting filmed in the famed South Texas brush country. This area ranks third in deer population in Texas and is largely made up of cacti and woody brush that is nutritious for deer. Recreationists mostly hunt on high fence ranches that charge a fee, but there are some big ranches offering free range hunts. South Texas is the most expensive region to hunt due to its history producing monster whitetail bucks, but this also makes it a great area for harvesting the buck of a lifetime. It’s not the only destination in the state, but it rates amongst the best.
Don’t overlook East Texas when choosing a hunting destination. With over 15 million acres of forest land, thick cover, and high hunter success, East Texas is one the best kept whitetail secrets. Hunting opportunities have increased throughout the past couple decades and East Texas offers the chance of bagging a wall hanger at a fraction of the cost elsewhere.
Llano, Mason and Kerr Counties have the highest deer density in the state — possibly in the entire country! People used to know the region as a quantity destination featuring lots of smaller bucks with tiny racks but, thanks to proper habitat management and applied deer sciences, the Hill Country produces its share of heavy-antlered bucks.
The famous YO Ranch in Kerr County was the first Texas ranch to popularize the term “deer lease” last century. Deer hunting opportunities abound in this region, drawing hunters from across the country every season.
This region is quickly gaining popularity as a trophy whitetail destination. High-fenced ranches exist here, but the region is better known for free range hunting on large tracts of land.
I’ve hunted the expansive Ranger Creek Ranch in Knox County for years: The ranch is typical of large cattle ranches in that it depends on income from hunters in addition to the sale of beef. If you want to hunt in “The Big Country” and harvest a big buck, this region is worth looking into.