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Hunting prospects for America's favorite and most abundant big game—deer—have never been better. There are now more than 12 million roaming the U.S. and by season's end an estimated one and three-quarter million will have fallen to hunter's guns. The whitetail, hunted in 43 of the 48 states, continues the nation's top big-game animal. Rhode Island, for the first time in many years, opens a deer season this year, but limits it to archery only.
Kentucky, which last year had a similar archery season, reports such increases that this year firearms will be permitted. In all states, with the exception of Minnesota, populations are either up or the same as last year's record levels. Virginia reports more deer now than when Captain John Smith settled Jamestown, and Maryland, which had only three small herds in 1930, now has so many deer they are creating crop problems.
The only two states where deer cannot be hunted are Kansas and Illinois.
Mule deer in the West continue to maintain excellent herds and 12 states, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas and Utah, all report increases. In California, clearing of heavy timber has resulted in deer moving into the new forage areas, and bigger herds are building up there.
Blacktail deer, found primarily in Washington, Oregon and California, are following the same trend. Oregon's population is up, and California and Washington report its numbers about the same as last year. Even the number of stragglers border-jumping into Nevada has increased measurably.
Once threatened by extinction and down to a total of only 31,000 in 1924, the pronghorn through conservation has now been built up into the second largest population of big-game animals in the U.S. Top antelope hunting state is Wyoming with a population of 110,000 and an expected kill of 30,750. Montana is second with 60,000 and an expected kill of 30,000. Antelope can also be hunted in Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas and Utah.
Hunting methods and weapons for antelope are the same as for deer except that shooting is generally at longer range.
Found in Arizona, New Mexico and Texas, this fast-moving relative of the domestic pig provides excellent sport whether hunted on foot or horseback. Texas, which has 100,000 of the 125,000 javelina in the U.S., reports increases this year and regular seasons in November and December.
Arizona's population is 18,000 and a kill of 3,000 is expected during its season in February. New Mexico's 1,000 javelina are still protected by a closed season.
Usually hunted with a pack of dogs, the javelina requires a fast, clean shot in the brain or spinal column to drop it quickly. An average deer load is adequate, or a 12-gauge shotgun loaded with rifled slugs. Shooting is at close range and generally through heavy brush.