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Southeast: numbers are high throughout the region, with many states forecasting a solid year.

ALABAMA

Last year's poor season should be a boon to this year's hunters.

According to the state's Chris Cook, the Alabama deer herd remains stable. "Poor hunting conditions--abundant natural foods and warm weather--appear to have reduced deer activity and total deer harvest for the 2004-05 hunting season," says Cook. "More 2 1/2-year-old and older bucks should be available for hunters during the 2005-06 season." Data from this past season were not complete at this writing.

The southern half of the state continues to have the highest success rates, but Cook says the northern half is coming on strong. The Black Belt and the northwestern counties are good bets for trophy bucks; northwest Alabama can be considered a sleeper spot.

Cook reports several counties will have more either-sex days this gun season, which means more opportunities for hunters to take antlerless deer.

"Barbour County will have a county-wide antler restriction for buck harvest beginning with the 2005-06 hunting season," says Cook. "Bucks must have at least three antler points one-inch long or longer on at least one main beam to be legal.

Barbour County is the first county in the state of Alabama to have such a restriction.

GEORGIA

Try the coastal plain for big bucks.

The state's Kent Kammermeyer says three hurricanes, a huge acorn crop and warm weather contributed to a poor year in 2004. "WMA hunter numbers were down 11 percent, and kill numbers were down 21 percent. It was an awful season." But that should mean good things for the upcoming year. "We stockpiled quite a few deer from this past season," he says. With luck they can repeat the '03 season, which netted 484,000 animals, along with two that made the Boone and Crockett minimum.

The western Piedmont is always best for numbers, but the coastal plain will probably produce the best bucks. Metro Atlanta's bow season will run January 1-31, and the southern zone will extend its firearms season to January 15. The bag limit is now 10 antlerless and two antlered deer. Nonresident fees will increase.

LOUISIANA

The Mississippi flood plain holds the most promise.

The state's Emile P. LeBlanc says the bright spot is the reforested habitat along the Mississippi River's agricultural lands, where the population is increasing. The flood plain is where hunters often have the most success, although consecutive mild winters and abundant mast crops are environmental impacts that have affected hunters and deer movement.

For any deer, hunters should try the Sherburne and the Red River/ Three Rivers WMAs. For trophy animals, LeBlanc suggests the Mississippi flood plain areas and for sleeper spots says Avoyelles Parish (Lake Ophilia NWR) and Red River/Three Rivers WMAs have good potential.

No significant season changes from last year should be expected, and there are no changes in nonresident regulations.

MISSISSIPPI

Archery season has been extended to February 15.

The 2004-05 season was relatively poor because of an abundant mast crop and warm weather. But deer numbers remain high almost everywhere in the state.

Biologist William McKinley says youths under the age of 15 can take a spike or three-point as one of their three bucks at any time during the 2005-06 season. For adults, a buck must have four points to be legal.

Traditional hot spots for trophy deer have been along the Mississippi River, and in the central, west central, southwestern and east central regions. During archery season, bucks are legal from October 15-31 only on lands south of U.S. Hwy. 84 and east of MS 35. Either sex is permitted from November 1-18.

The primitive gun and archery seasons are extended to February 15 in that area.

SOUTH CAROLINA

Not quite peak, but still plentiful.

"South Carolina's deer population is healthy and down slightly compared to peak years in the mid-1990s," says the state's Charles Ruth.

"Jasper, Marion, Bamberg, Union, Sumter and Williamsburg counties all had 80-plus percent success rates [this past season]," says Ruth. Good bets for any deer are Bamberg, Allendale, Abbeville and Union counties. Expect the best trophy quality in Aiken, Orangeburg, Kershaw and Anderson counties.

NORTH CAROLINA

Urban and suburban areas in the Piedmont could be sleeper spots.

According to the state's Evin Stanford, deer populations are decreasing in much of the state. "A few exceptions are the Cape Fear River, Roanoke River, Neuse River and Sandhills areas, where populations are relatively stable," he says.

The northwestern portion of the state (Ashe, Allegheny and Wilkes counties) and the northern reaches of the Roanoke River (Northhampton and Halifax counties) are areas where hunters have had and are likely to have the most success.

Expect the upper coastal plain to be a good bet for any deer and the northern Piedmont good for trophy quality. Sleeper spots are urban/suburban areas in the Piedmont, where there are no restrictions prohibiting archery hunting.

TENNESSEE

State's herd is in the best shape it's ever been.

"The Tennessee herd is in the best shape it has ever been in," says the state's Daryl Ratajczak. "The population has been holding stable for over five years. Older age-class bucks (2 1/2 years and older) comprise 50 percent of the buck harvest. Unit 1 counties accounted for the majority of the record harvest [2004-05], mostly due to the increased doe bag limits."

Hunters wanting to take any Tennessee deer would do well to look at the central and western parts of the state. These areas, according to Ratajczak, hold very high deer counts. "Northcentral Tennessee and certain wildlife management areas under QDM regulations are your best bet for a trophy deer."

TEXAS

Several regulation changes go into effect this season.

"The habitat conditions of 2004 were far better than they had been in many years," says the state's Mitch Lockwood, "and it showed in the harvest, as the body condition of harvested deer was excellent." But he adds that the whitetail population for much of Texas continues to be "higher than desired, and a more aggressive doe harvest is necessary."

Lockwood says the highest hunter success is in the Edwards Plateau or Texas Hill Country, where average harvest is approximately 1.1 deer per hunter.

Several regulation changes will go on the books for the upcoming year. Twenty-one counties of the Oak Prairie region will define a legal buck as having a hardened antler protruding through the skin and at least one unbranched antler, or an inside spread between main beams of 13 inches or greater.

The bag limit in those 21 counties has gone from one buck to two, but one buck must have at least one unbranched antler, meaning you can take only one buck with an inside spread of 13 inches or greater.

The aggregate buck-bag limit in one- and two-buck counties has been eliminated. Hunters may now harvest one buck in each of three different one-buck counties. And hunters in two-buck counties may take two bucks in one county and a third in another county. Doe hunting opportunities from east Texas to the Panhandle have been increased as well.

KENTUCKY

Eastern portion of the state coming on as a sleeper spot.

According to the state's Jonathan Day, there were no environmental conditions that affected herds or numbers, and he reports a stable to increasing herd. There was, however, at this writing a pending regulation change allowing crossbows to be used during archery seasons.

Day says that Zone 1 counties are where hunters have had the most success in the past. All counties statewide are good for deer numbers and trophy potential. Eastern Kentucky can be considered a sleeper spot.
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Title Annotation:2005 Deer Forecast
Author:Kinton, Tony
Publication:Petersen's Hunting
Date:Oct 1, 2005
Words:1262
Previous Article:Midwest: if you dream of trophy bucks, there is no better region of the country to find one.
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