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
In the last few decades, the concept of deer management has changed drastically. In Texas, we've gone from believing that does were sacred and sacrosanct, that spikes grow up to be big bucks, and that you only shoot bucks with more than 8 points, to the present, when we cull a tremendous number of does, shoot all the spikes and 8-pointers, and leave most of the deer with more than 8 points to breed.
This huge paradigm shift has resulted in a healthier deer herd and a tremendous increase in both the average size and the average age of the trophy bucks we shoot. The deer mentioned here, which would have been considered top-grade trophies just a few years ago, are now culls, their genes regarded as not good enough to pass on.
Ten years ago, I was working on an article about deer hunting in the Edwards Plateau. In the process of gathering information, I called one of the biologists with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Part of what he told me was that the average age of a buck shot in the Hill Country was 1 1/2 years. The bucks in that area were being shot as soon as they developed antlers of sufficient size to be visible from 100 yards or so.
The biologist also told me that, for the most part, deer genes in the Hill Country were just as good as those in the famed Brush Country farther south. The major differences were that the Hill Country had too many deer and too many other competing animals such as sheep and goats; further, the buck-to-doe ratio was totally out of balance, and as the males were killed well before full maturity, they accordingly didn't live long enough to get nutrition sufficient to allow them to express their full genetic potential.
I suppose this is still true in some places, but the vast majority of landowners have seen the light. Even those with very small plots of land are attempting to implement game management practices intended to increase the quality of their deer, so it's nowadays a rarity to find someone in Texas who doesn't believe that spikes (true spikes at least 1 1/2 years old, not nubbin bucks) should be culled because they're genetically inferior, and that does need to be shot in order to keep the deer herd's sex ratio in balance. Such practices explain the notable uptick in trophy bucks taken in areas formerly known for large quantities of poor-quality deer. We still have a long way to go, but giant steps in the right direction are being taken.
For 25 years my family hunted a 6,000-acre ranch near Uvalde. No deer blinds or feeders were to be found on the place. The owners, old-time ranchers, didn't shoot does, and believed that spikes grew up to become Bullwinkle. Their only attempt at management was an 8-point rule, mostly ignored.