Texas pronghorn hunters will do well to look north this hunting season when searching for a trophy goat.
Despite drought, fires and a parasitic worm, pronghorn populations in the Panhandle are doing well, and biologists expect more tags to be issued this season.
“In the Panhandle, the pronghorn population is doing fine,” said Calvin Richardson, district leader for Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. “We received some good moisture this past winter and spring. Pronghorn rely on forbs more than any other big game animal, and they were able to take advantage of the forb abundance through June.”
Richardson said the hunting prospects this season should be very good.
“(The hunting prospects) are good to excellent,” he said. “The Panhandle supports as many or more pronghorn than it has in decades. Winter and early spring moisture has set us up for an above average year regarding horn growth.”
Richardson added that more permits could be available this season.
“We are in the process of allocating permits right now,” he said. “We issued just over 1,000 permits in the Panhandle last year. We expect to issue approximately 1,100 permits this year. This includes 12 to 13 permits available through the Public Hunt drawing.”
Richardson said the best herd densities were located near Dalhart, but many areas hold limited numbers of bucks.
“A few quality bucks can be found in just about every herd unit due to excellent nutrition available to most herds in the Panhandle,” he said.
Farther south, the outlook isn’t so good.
“Due to last year’s drought and continued problems with the Haemonchus worms, the pronghorn population decreased again this year in the Trans-Pecos,” said Jason Wagner, TPWD biologist in Pecos County. “Due to the lack of permits, we are not expecting much of a pronghorn season this year in the Trans-Pecos. Most landowners in Presidio, Jeff Davis, and Brewster counties are concerned about the population decline in the Trans-Pecos and don’t want to hunt them this year.
“Pronghorn permits will probably be limited to Culberson and Hudspeth Counties where populations can withstand some harvest.”
Wagner said hunters should expect the best hunter success in Hudspeth County, which historically produces good bucks and will have a limited number of permits available.
Fawn recruitment is up across the state, with some areas reaching 30 percent.
“Fawn crops were down last year, 17 percent, but very little adult mortality occurred during the brutal drought,” Richardson said. “Fawn crops are substantially better this year — 39 percent in the northeast Panhandle, 23 percent in the northwest Panhandle, and 35-40 percent in the southern herds in Borden County and west of Lubbock.”
Dr. Louis Harveson of Sul Ross State University said the Trans-Pecos region received 5 inches of much needed rain the last week of July, and the pronghorn are slowly recovering from the drought.
“This year, fawn weight is almost double what it was last year,” Harveson said. “We are seeing about 10 to 20 percent recruitment in the Trans Pecos. Last year we saw about 5 percent. We need 30 to 40 percent for three years to get out of the dumps.”