For area hunters who have waited eagerly for the opening of deer season with their sights set, ready to bag that big buck, Saturday marks the official start of white-tail deer season. The season will continue through Jan. 3 in 208 North Texas counties.

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) said in a recent release that the state has more than 83 million acres of available range for Texas white-tailed deer to roam. And with so much of that country in ideal condition, TPWD biologists have said hunters may have to cover more ground this fall to bag their buck.

The excellent range conditions have welcomed more than four million white tailed deer in the Lone Star State and thanks to excellent range conditions biologists expect above-average antler development and high body weights.

TPWD said white-tails attract more than 500,000 hunters who bring more than $2.5 billion annually.

With the opening of the season, comes the need for hunters to follow the guidelines established for fair hunting conditions and the proliferation of the species.

For hunters still needing to get their licenses, The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission approved fee increases for the 2009-10 season. Below are some of the fees as listed at the TPWD Web site,

• Resident hunting license, $25. Senior and youth hunting licenses, $7

• Non-resident hunting license, $315

• Super combo all-inclusive hunting and fishing license, $68. Senior super combo, $32

• Lifetime hunting license, $1,000; lifetime combination license, $1,800  

The above-mentioned counties are among a list of 52 counties added to a list of counties with antler restrictions, according to TPWD.

In Erath, hunters are being reminded that there is a bag limit of four deer (versus five statewide), no more than two bucks and two antlerless on all seasons combined. Also in Erath, special late general season, for the take of antlerless and spike-buck deer will run from Jan. 4-17.

Those ready to bag those two legal bucks are being reminded by local Game Warden Tony Navarro, who has served Erath County for 16 years, that one of the two must be a “spike” and only one may have an inside spread of 13 inches or greater. Bucks with smaller than 13-inch spreads are not allowed. (See graphic.)

As another precaution, Navarro is warning against a common violation - hunters’ education requirements.

“Once hunters turn 17, they must be hunter certified,” Navarro said. “Everyone is required to carry the hunting license and proof of hunter education certification.”

A few other things to keep in mind, according to TPWD:

• On United States Forrest Service, Corps of Engineers, and river authority lands, the take of antlerless deer is allowed by permit only.

• On all other tracts of land, no permit is required to hunt antlerless deer unless Managed Lands Deer Permit antlerless permits have been issued for the tract.

• Licensed hunters 16 years of age or younger may hunt deer by any lawful means during this season.

Finally, Navarro said there is a rule of thumb that all hunters can follow to make sure they are following the letter of the law.

“When in doubt, don’t shoot,” Navarro said.

If the laws are broken, Navarro warns that fines and penalties will be accessed.

According to TPWD, violators can be fined $25-$10,000; be jailed for a Class B misdemeanor or higher offense; face automatic suspension or revocation of licenses up to five years; and forfeit hunting gear, including firearms, used to commit the violation.