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Larry Weishuhn, a.k.a. Mr. Whitetail, is a wildlife biologist and outdoors writer and TV host. He has been deer hunting since he was in diapers, when his father would strap him on his back and head for the woods.

The average deer has grown tremendously compared to what it was. Before the early seventies, we had screwworms all over Texas. I grew up in Colorado County, and until we got control of the screwworm flies, our deer population was very, very low. The same thing pretty much happened all over the state. But the flies were eradicated, and the influence on white-tailed deer was huge. Then there was overpopulation, and body size and antlers got smaller because there were way too many deer for what the habitat could support. Landowners and hunters both started seeing a decline in the quality of the animals.

At the same time, there was a guy by the name of Jerry Smith who shot photographs of mature deer down on the King Ranch. People started seeing what deer could look like if they had an opportunity to develop. Since then, we’ve seen a better understanding from both landowners and hunters about what deer need in order to produce healthy herds. 

Hunting has changed a lot. Years ago, we didn’t have things like GPS; we didn’t have trail cameras. Now we have all this information about when the rut is going to occur and what the best times are to hunt, based upon lunar tables and such. There’s also an acceptance of the modern hunting rifle, which is the AR type. We’ve seen optics greatly improve. Forty years ago, everybody hunted with a fixed power scope, and now we’ve got scopes that do everything but pull the trigger for you.

We’ve essentially made it easier to be a hunter these days. We’ve moved away from what I would consider true woodsmanship—reading tracks, reading signs—but I’m happy when anybody hunts.

This article originally appeared in the February 2023 issue of Texas Monthly with the headline “How Bambi Got His Hooves Back.” Subscribe today.