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Hunters Out in Force as Deer Season Begins

General season for white-tailed deer in Texas runs Nov. 4-Jan. 7.

LLANO — As Thursday and Friday roll around, you can expect to see several trucks hauling trailers loaded down with ice chests, grills, and four-wheelers. They aren’t fleeing some urban catastrophe; they’re just escaping to the Highland Lakes for that annual celebration known as deer season.

“As an economic driver, deer season is probably the biggest one we have, along with the bluebonnet and wildflower season,” said Llano Chamber of Commerce Director Briley Mitchell. “It brings in millions of dollars to the county.”

The general deer season opens Saturday, Nov. 4, and runs through Jan. 7, 2018, giving hunters lots of time to get their deer — and local businesses lots of extra business.

“Hunters eat in our restaurants, shop in our stores, and they just do so much for our community,” Mitchell added.

And the Llano Chamber of Commerce and local businesses recognize that.

The Llano Chamber of Commerce is holding its annual Hunters Appreciation Day from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Friday at the chamber office, 100 Train Station Drive.

The chamber has invited several vendors to set up during the event with one caveat: They can’t sell anything.

“They can give things away, but it’s really our way of just showing the hunters how much we appreciate them,” Briley said.

The only thing for purchase are chances to win a 2007 Kawasaki Mule. Tickets are $20 each, $100 for seven, or $200 for 15.

Just to the northeast in Lampasas, the Lampasas Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Center is holding its annual hunters welcome as well. The Buck Stops Here celebration is 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Friday in the H-E-B parking lot, 705 S. Key Ave. The first 250 people who show up get a free goodie bag. There will also be a barbecue lunch available at $8 a plate.

While the chambers and businesses appreciate the hunters, there wouldn’t be any if it weren’t for one very important thing: white-tailed deer.

White-tailed deer are the most popular big game in the United States, especially in Texas. The Hill Country offers a good mix of habitat from open areas to brushy swaths, providing food and cover for whitetails.

According to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, the state’s estimated 4.3 million white-tailed deer are continuing to do well in most regions.

“The vast majority of the state had good habitat conditions going into last winter and early spring, which helped the bucks recover from the rigors of the rut and gave them a good foundation to start the antler growth cycle this year,” said Alan Cain, TPWD white-tailed deer program leader.

The summer months brought a mix of dry conditions with some rainfall that bolstered forage in some parts of the Highland Lakes. The acorn crop, sometimes referred to as “mast,” could impact deer coming to feeders. The crop isn’t necessarily uniform across the region, so hunters in one area could see more deer at their feeders where acorns are less prevalent, but just a few miles away, deer be eating native food sources.

In Burnet County, hunters can enter Griffith Taxidermy’s annual big buck contest. The contest is open to adults and youth who get a buck on low-fenced properties in Burnet County on Saturday, Nov. 4, and Sunday, Nov. 5. Bring the field-dressed buck (hide on) to Griffith Taxidermy, 1751 Texas 29 in Burnet.

Prizes in the youth category are a shoulder mount and processing for first place; a shoulder mount for second place; and a European mount for third place. In the adult classification, first place earns a shoulder mount and second place a European mount.

Whether a big buck or not, hunting season is upon us. Back in Llano, Mitchell said it’s an important part of the community, not just for the economic benefit.

“A lot of these hunters, they’ve been coming back for years,” he said. “They’re like family.”

daniel@thepicayune.com

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