Hunting For Acorns Many hunters bewail the years when the acorn crop is abundant. That may make it harder to find deer in food plots -- and you may actually have to hunt them! Here's how. ... [+] Full Article
Believe it or not, some of the so-called "management" bucks bagged on Texas ranches today would have been considered trophies in seasons past. It's a phenomenon that deserves a closer look.
I sat in the blind with my host and dear friend, keeping watch on a huge expanse of Southwest Texas brush. In front of us was a large clearing containing a big silver deer feeder. To our left 150 yards was a water trough, and 75 yards beyond that was an on-demand protein feeder.
The author was delighted with this ancient buck that he shot in South Texas last season. It sports a tall, massive rack with 8 points — yet it was deemed undesirable by the ranch’s owner!
Photo by Steven LaMascus.
Visible in the various openings here and there were 46 deer ranging in age from last spring's fawns to one ancient buck at least 10 years old --painfully skinny, every rib showing, the arthritic gait that emphasized its years causing it to stumble awkwardly when it set a hoof wrong. We thought about shooting the poor creature just to save it from what would probably be its last winter, but we finally decided to leave it in peace.
Then, from the right, came another huge deer. Younger than the sad senior, it walked as if it too might be in considerable pain. Its antlers showed several broken tines and all the hair was rubbed off an area as big as my hand on the left side of its withers. Its front feet were tattered, chipped and broken, the toes pointed up like a pixie's. It went ungainly on its heels, dewclaws digging into the rocky ground. The rut was obviously winding down, and the bucks had been fighting for the last of true love -- or at least true lust -- leaving many of them battered, bruised and injured.
Deer came and went. A buck would come to feed, eat its fill and then wander over to get a drink. Another would show up, stand watching the other deer for many minutes and then vanish back into the surrounding brush.
A fawn of the year tore out on a run, circled the area at high speed, bucking to a stop a few yards from our blind. I guess that youth is in some sense the same in all species, and this exuberant youngster was having fun. I was having fun observing the interplay between the deer when another buck would show up. It was like being at a clinic in white-tailed deer behavior.
Soon I noticed movement beyond the farthest edge of the clearing, where a ranch road snaked its way through the brush. As I watched through my binoculars, a big 10-pointer materialized and moved slowly toward the protein feeder. It would certainly score around 160 B&C.; The really amazing thing: It was only 3 1/2 years old!
Twenty-five years ago that deer would've been winning big-buck contests all over the state; today he's deemed "undesirable." That's hard for me to wrap
my mind around.
Then another buck appeared, ambling down the same path. This one too was a very substantial buck, and a year older, but where the first buck's antlers had been wide, this one's were high, with tremendously long tines. On its left side, all the tines were long; on its right, all but the G-2 were broken off short from fighting.
As the bucks noticed each other, the hair of each suddenly bristled, making both look almost black. Their posture immediately changed from relaxed to something seemingly almost belligerent, and they walked slowly toward each other with stiff-legged strides until they were a foot apart. There they stood for a few moments, apparently sizing each other up, before they finally lowered their heads, meshed antlers and half-heartedly pushed each other around for a few seconds. The buck with the broken antlers turned tail and trotted away a few yards, and it was over.