Big Game

Four big game species are found in Northcentral Texas including:
White-tailed Deer | Mule Deer | Pronghorn | Javelina

White-tailed Deer

Statewide Deer Antler Restrictions and White-tailed Deer Management

White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) are popular big game animals for hunters and other wildlife enthusiasts in Northcentral Texas. They are found in all counties where suitable habitat occurs. Habitat types vary considerable in the ecological regions of Northcentral Texas but generally consist of a mosaic of brush, woodlands, rangelands, agricultural croplands, and riparian zones with adequate sources of surface water. Carrying capacity of habitat for white-tailed deer is most influenced by land use, livestock grazing practices, hunting pressure, and site specific features such as soil types, plant communities, topography, and land size. Larger land holdings with suitable habitat offer land managers greater opportunity to manage populations of white-tailed deer and regulate harvest. Excessive hunting pressure, overgrazing or over-browsing by livestock, habitat modifications (large scale brush control and spraying of herbicides), conversion of native rangelands to improved grasses for livestock grazing, urbanization, and drought are limiting factors that most influence white-tailed deer populations in Northcentral Texas.

Almost all white-tailed deer found in Northcentral Texas occur on privately owned properties. Proper habitat management to support populations of white-tailed deer and other native wildlife species by landowners is fundamental to their reproduction and survival. White-tailed deer live in populations of interacting individuals that may live and die on several individually owned tracts of land. Home range of individual deer often exceeds one square mile and may be much more than that for bucks during the rut. White-tailed deer are a shared wildlife resource that require cooperative land management between neighbors and sensible harvest by sportsmen.

White-tailed deer's annual diet of native or naturalized plants consist of browse (leaves and stems of certain woody plants) forbs (weeds or broadleaf herbaceous plants), mast (acorns, nuts, seeds, and fruits), and grasses (annual and perennial, cool and warm season species). Agricultural forage crops (wheat, oats, rye, peas, peanuts, etc.) and supplemental feed (corn, protein pellets, and other rations) may also be eaten when available.

Peak conception of does in Northcentral Texas ranges from mid-November in the West Cross Timbers to late November-early December in the Edwards Plateau regions. Most fawns are born during late May and early June.

Estimated population densities range from 5 deer per 1,000 acres in marginal habitats in the Rolling Plains, East Cross Timbers, Fort Worth Prairie, and Blackland Prairie areas to 100 deer per 1,000 acres in more productive habitats in the Edwards Plateau, West Cross Timbers, and Lampasas Cut Plain areas of Northcentral Texas. Wildlife biologists and wildlife technicians in District 3 conduct annual white-tailed deer population census using spotlightmedia download(PDF 42.6 KB) and aerial surveysmedia download(PDF 40.6 KB) to determine trends in population density, sex ratios, and herd composition. Sex ratios vary, depending on hunting pressure and management objectives, ranging from approximately 1 buck to 2 does to 1 buck to 4 does or greater. Annual reproduction rates also vary, depending on annual rainfall and range conditions, ranging from 0.20 fawns per doe to 1.00 fawns per doe or greater during optimum years.

Most white-tailed deer hunting opportunity in Northcentral Texas is by lease agreement between private landowners and hunters. Several public hunts on state parks in Northcentral Texas under Texas Parks and Wildlife's Public Hunting Lands Program may be applied for annually

Harvest recommendations, population estimates, hunting season and bag limits, and other information can be found on the individual county webpages. Click for a district map to locate your county.

Regulations on hunting seasons and bag limits are also available in the Texas Parks and Wildlife Outdoor Annual. An annual hunting license is required to hunt white-tailed deer.


Mule Deer

Mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) in Northcentral Texas are limited to small populations in the extreme northwestern areas of the Rolling Plains and southwestern areas of the Edwards Plateau Ecological Regions. Larger populations are found in the High Plains and Lower Rolling Plains of the Panhandle and the Trans Pecos Ecological Regions.

Mule deer are larger in body size than white-tailed deer and may also be differentiated by their large ears, black-tipped tail, 8-12 cm metatarsal gland located above the midpoint of the shank, and dichotomously branched antlers. They may also be recognized by their high bouncing gate when running. White-tailed deer and mule deer can and will occasionally interbreed in areas where their ranges overlap. The resulting offspring are hybrids.

Their diet consist of a variety of desert plants, forbs, and woody species such as mesquite and juniper. Breeding occurs during November and December but may extend into January and February with fawning during June, July, and August.

In Northcentral Texas, mule deer may only be hunted in Coke and Reagan Counties. Regulations on hunting seasons and bag limits for mule deer are available in the Texas Parks and Wildlife Outdoor Annual. An annual hunting license is required to hunt mule deer.

Learn more about mule deer in Mule Deer Management in Texasmedia download(PDF 1.3 MB).


Pronghorn (Antilocapra americana) historically occurred from central Texas south to the Rio Grande River and west to the wide open spaces of the Trans Pecos and the High Plains Ecological Regions of the Panhandle. Pronghorn in Northcentral Texas are currently limited to a few isolated populations on privately owned ranches in the southwestern region of the Rolling Plains and Edwards Plateau Ecological Regions of District 3. They are a prairie species with special adaptations for living in open environments with limited trees and brush. Pronghorns are fleet-footed and have acute vision that enables them to survive in these open terrains.

Pronghorns breed during late August through early October. Mature bucks gather small herds or harems of does and defend them from younger bucks. Young (usually 2) are born during May or June following a 7 to 7 1/2 month gestation period.

Pronghorns prefer forbs (broadleaf herbaceous plants) in their diet but also eat browse and grasses. Growth of these plants is determined by annual rainfall and during periods of drought, food resources may become limited. They compete with goats and sheep for food where they occupy the same rangelands. The long-term declines in pronghorn populations can primarily be attributed to habitat and land-use change, competition with livestock for food and forage, and reproduction losses to predators. Pronghorns, which are not inclined to jump fences, can crawl under most barbed-wire fences. Net-wire fences constructed throughout their range, however, has limited their movements and range expansion. During consecutive years of optimum reproduction and low harvest, numbers of pronghorn on individual ranches may exceed range carrying capacity and result in lower reproduction rates or die-offs.

Annual aerial surveys are conducted in Northcentral Texas by wildlife biologists from District 3 to determine population estimates, sex ratios, reproduction rates, and surplus populations. Special antelope permits may be issued to individual landowners for the fall hunting season. See the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Outdoor Annual for information on regulations, seasons, and bag limits. An antelope permit issued to the landowner by Texas Parks and Wildlife and a hunting license are required to hunt pronghorns.



Javelina (Tayassu tajacu) or collared peccary, are fairly common in the southwestern counties of Northcentral Texas where prickly pear cactus and mesquite trees dominate the landscape. Another isolated population occurs in the extreme northwestern counties of Northcentral Texas (Wilbarger, Wichita, Archer and Baylor counties) and Lower Rolling Plains of the Panhandle (Foard and Knox counties), originating from restocking efforts by Texas Parks & Wildlife during the 1950s. In the past, landowners viewed these pig-like animals as pests, but recently this unique species has become more popular as a big game animal - especially among bow hunting enthusiasts. Javelina occur in Texas, New Mexico and Arizona with Texas having the largest population.

Javelina are herd-type animals with an average herd size of 20 or more individuals. Their primarily diet is vegetation, especially mesquite beans, prickly pear and other cactus species, and other succulent vegetation. They will also feed on carrion and insects when the opportunity presents itself. They breed year round with a litter size of 1 to 5.

Although resembling domestic pigs, they are not true pigs and are separated by mammologists into the separate family Dicotylidae. They have four hoofed toes on the front feet and three on the back. They are approximately 30 inches tall at the shoulder and weigh 30 to 50 pounds when full grown. Characteristic coloration is grizzled black and grayish with a whitish collar across the shoulders in adults and distinct "mane"from crown to rump. Young are reddish to yellowish brown with a black stripe down the back. Javelina have odiferous musk glands which they use to mark their home range territory and for communication.

Regulations on hunting seasons and bag limits for javelina are available in the Texas Parks and Wildlife Outdoor Annual. An annual hunting license is required to hunt javelina.

For more information about Javelina read Learn About Javelina media download(PDF 119.2 KB).