DEER HUNTING HAS CHANGED FOR THE BETTER
As a youngster growing up in northeast Texas in the late fifties and sixties, I can remember the years when deer numbers were very low in our area and, throughout much of the state. Thanks to restocking programs and enlightened management practices, deer numbers rebounded quickly and with the increased hunting opportunities, many landowners discovered there were additional dollars to be made by leasing their properties to hunters.
Today, we deer hunters are truly living in a time of plenty, both for numbers of deer and quality. I was reading a post on Facebook this past week where a ranch owner was discussing the benefits of introducing good genetics into a deer herd and then properly managing the habitat. This gentleman is a deer breeder with a large tract of high fenced property where the herd is intensively managed. His post was immediately hammered by folks condemning the practice of building high fences to contain wildlife. The “low fence” proponents made statements such as “high genetic, deer stocked and bred inside a high fence aren’t ‘native’ deer and hunting them is just not sporting.” Others commented that the high fenced ranches are fencing “in” deer that belong to the people of Texas and thus taking away their opportunity to hunt them. While reading these posts, a smile came over my face as I wondered just what would happen if one of these 200 inch bucks escaped from a high fenced ranch and showed up at a corn feeder on an unmanaged piece of adjacent property. Did the writer of this post not understand that much of the deer herd in Texas can be traced back to “stocked” deer. Chances are pretty good the hunter on the tract adjacent the high fenced ranch would instantly know this buck wasn’t one of his “native” bucks, but would he shoot the deer? I would bet dollars to donuts the answer would be a resounding YES!
As a lifelong deer hunter and outdoors writer for almost three decades, I’ve had the opportunity to hunt deer extensively not only here in Texas, but across the country and in Canada and Mexico. I’ve hunted low fenced ranches and high fenced operations. My conclusion about the “sporting” aspect of deer hunting has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not the property is high fenced. It has everything to do with cover on the property and how the deer herd is managed.
A good case in point, is a hunt I enjoyed on a big low fenced ranch out on the western edge of the Edwards Plateau 20 plus years ago. The manager of the ranch invited me out to do a muzzleloader hunt and said I should have multiple opportunities to harvest a good buck. While driving around the many corn feeders and hunting blinds, he stopped and ran a group of deer from the feeder, and ground the butt of his cigar into the soil near the feeder. “I don’t want my deer to be afraid of human scent.” It was obvious to me they were not! The deer trotted off into the scrub oak brush and I could see them watching us, obviously ready to return to the feeder the minute we drove off. I shot a good buck within ten minutes of when the rancher dropped me off at my stand the next morning. I wasn’t complaining, I had spent hours on stand on previous hunts where I did not even see a deer, buck or doe. But even though this was a low fenced property, the real challenge of hunting had been diminished because of the way the native deer had been conditioned.
My point here is that regardless, if the property is high fenced of low fenced, deer can be conditioned to interaction with man and when this occurs, some of the “wildness” that is hard wired into whitetail is removed.
I have enjoyed many challenging hunts on both high fenced properties and low fenced. Because I mostly hunt with a bow, these hunts are even more challenging. So, it matters little to me whether the ranch I am hunting is under a game proof fence or not. What does matter is the way the manager/ranch owner manages the deer on his or her land. Introducing good genetics, planting food plots and keeping high protein feed available ensures the deer herd will achieve its maximum potential and these practices can take place regardless the height of the fence.
Would I hunt deer if my only opportunities would be to shoot a goat horned spike on overgrazed property down in the Hill Country? You bet I would! I simply love hunting deer, processing and cooking the meat, and everything else that goes with the hunt. But thank goodness we “modern day” deer hunters have options, and a lot of them. Deer hunting opportunities have never been better than they are today and I am in full support of the fellow that leases 125 acres in East Texas or the ranch owner that owns an 11,000-acre ranch in South Texas.
This coming week, I am making plans to join a new friend, Alan Walker on his ranch, “Next Trip Whitetails”, up in Lamar County. Walker and his partner Jason Bolen’s ranch is high fenced and intensively managed. Although I’m sure there are some monster bucks on the place, my goal is to simply take a mature animal and when visiting with Walker, I stated that if there was a fork horn on the place with 24-inch main beams, that would be my buck! The truth of the matter is, I wasn’t kidding. At this stage of my deer hunting career, it’s all about killing a mature buck and I could care less if I’m hunting a high fenced or low fenced ranch, just as long as the deer are wild!
Listen to “Outdoors with Luke Clayton and Friends” on radio stations from Nebraska to Texas or anytime online at www.catfishradio.com.