Farm and Ranch life

Your absolutely right though I tend to disagree though I could be wrong but have done enough comparatives to believe I'm right.{ I hope thats clear:) } One of the main things a fence does for a manager is create the 'opportunity' for deer to age. If circumstantially that opportunity isn't there and the opportunity for age cant be impacted then exploring tactics to maximize longevity and health are mostly irrelevant . That said wether a deer is inside an enclosed property or on the King Ranch how well they age and their health status is a function of the nutritional plane, social stress, social structure and environmental constraints.

The point I was trying to make is I do believe the deer on my farm perform at a higher level later in life that the typical herds I have been involved in. And I believe it is because of the nutritional plane as well as the subtleties of not having them eating foods drenched in poison as well as population dynamics and the relationship to the habitat. Course if I went and started shooting all the bucks at younger ages that wouldn't matter fence or not.

As an aside we are seeing bucks on the ranch reach very old ages. I have one buck from last year that I know to be a 16 yr old. One of the best bucks I ever took from the ranch was a 10 yr old. We generally look to take trophies in that country between 8-10 when the majority show peak performance. That wasn't so when I first bought the ranch as 6 was considered mature. But after 25 years of intensive protein supplementation the deer live longer and show high quality much later in life.

I can offer corresponding experiences from my time on the King Ranch where the deer peaked out much earlier in life and die offs were more common but I never introduced any nutritional improvements in that country. we focused most resources on quail.

Happy to continue this if it is interesting cause its cool stuff. But as you point out its not relevant to most as most herds in the country simply have almost no chance of full age expression and herd composition.
continue it please!
OK, I'll explore a little deeper down the rabbit hole.

But first know that I am not a biologist, just a redneck from La. unencumbered with the scientific method.This promises to be rambling, disjointed and perhaps nonsensical but maybe I can find a point to it.

And secondly agree that for many, the ideas I investigate are only valid IF one is in a position where deer can fully age normally. I am quick to agree there aren't many places naturally like that without a game fence or giant scale.I have been fortunate to spend a lot of time on two places where the majority of the deer died of old age.

My father was friends with a biologist from the King Ranch and we were privileged to lease a pasture on the Norias division that we kept for a good many years starting the year they opened it up for hunting. Most of the 800,000 acre ranch had essentially never been hunted . The deer behaved as nature had programmed them with a 'natural' age structure, buck doe ratio, movement and behavior patterns etc. The population was high and experienced die offs when severe drought hit the area. 140"-160" bucks were common and seemed to peak around 5-6 yrs old. Body weights weren't especially high. It was a grand and educational experience into what a herd could look like and quite a departure from my La. experiences growing up.

In the 80's I became good friends with a Mexican family that owned 250,000 acres along the Rio Grande River in some of the finest deer country in the world. Oceans of high quality brush, zero pressure, but very few openings and water was the limiter. But again the deer reflected their natural behaviors and herd dynamics without mans intervention. Nonetheless because water was so limiting the population was very low but quality was much higher. 170"-200" bucks were a real possibility...if you could find them. Most died of old age or lions.

Spending a lot of time in those two environments taught me a lot about what a deer herd could be. That coupled with having hunted South Texas most of my life as well. The deer herds were so far superior to where I hunted in La. that I wanted to bring that experience home.AS I have mentioned previously, my father basically gave me 1350 acres when I was 18 to do whatever I wanted with it. He had paid $25/acre for it and his interests laid elsewhere. A huge blessing was that I met Dr. Harry Jacobson as a teenager and we became great friends. He has been a mentor and guide for me both in La. and Mexico. There is no better biologist in the nation and he has exposed me to the finest deer programs that exist.

Which brings me to age, longevity, and quality. Having been exposed to a variety of properties and some of the top professional and private managers in the business I wanted to create that on my farm. It was an empty pallet with very few deer, mostly logged and crappy timber, bad soil, and rampant poaching. I'll skip all the developmental and control steps I went thru to develop the property but state that irrespective of countless improvements the one thing I couldn't accomplish was getting bucks into the older age structures I wanted. Until I game fenced the property. That was the best thing I ever did as suddenly I could effectively manage the deer herd, create the age structure I wanted yet didn't sacrifice any of the challenge of the hunt.

With about 8 yrs of game fenced property under my belt I have seen a dramatic shift in age structure with a corresponding improvement in antler quality.In the olden days the conventional wisdom was bucks peaked at 4. Then the thinking became 6 and they probably go down hill after that. I think all that is wrong and I am proving it in La. and Mexico. I am a fanatic about nutrition. Dr. Jacobson taught me that and everything from the experiments of Frank Vogt in pre WW2 Germany to the deeper understanding of the epigenetic environmental response support the realization that we have no idea what the top end potential of a whitetail is over time. How many people/places are there that keep nutrition 100% 365 days a year for decades? How many people/places are willing to let the vast majority of the bucks die of old age? That and related data sets simply don't exist that I am aware of. But that is what I am experimenting with on my farm and ranch. My goal is to manage to the 100% on every aspect of the world of deer.

That is why I do not plant GMO's . My wife and I don't eat them. I'm not feeding them to the deer. That is why I am so careful about not spraying poison on things deer eat. Wife and I wouldn't eat that. Not feeding it to the deer. That is why I work so hard to improve the soil. Studies show that food crops grown today are much less nutrient dense than crops grown just a few decades ago. Some significantly. That is directly attributable to soil health and ag practices . Wife and I get most of our food from a whup ass organic garden I grow. Nutrient dense. I want to do the same for the deer. And I am convinced that when you start adding up all the little details the differences become material. How? You get deer that live longer on a higher level of health with more years of peak productivity.Bigger bodied deer . Healthier social groups. Higher reproduction. Deer behaving more aligned with how nature programmed them . There is one negative though and that is I see more mortality from fighting especially in the 3 and 4 yr olds.

Thats enough for now. I'm off to the ranch but happy to continue next week when return.
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Nice start! You've been privy to some exceptional circumstances and situations. Pretty cool how you've taken advantage of them and ran with it!

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Re reading my earlier post about deer and longevity let me point out the deer in the top picture is 9, has been highly visible most of his life and has been about this size every year since he was 4. The buck in the bottom picture is 8 ...I think...and has been in the mid 190's for the last 3 years as I found one of his sheds two years ago. He is very reclusive and rarely seen in hard antler.
I like your openness on your property. You pre ious post left me at a cliffhanger... keep going love the lessons learned

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You ever wonder what he early European settlers thought about whitetails when first encountered? Particularly if the bucks reached maturity which one would assume was often. My guess is that most hunters in the southeast will go a lifetime and probably not encounter a 5 yr old or older buck. Regardless, they're still thrilling to hunt regardless of age.
Rusty, you do a hell of a job with your places. Time consuming, certainly expensive, but it has to be very satisfying too.
Show time here in Central La. First outer band of Laura just arrived. Forecasting winds between 40-100 mph with " Very heavy rain." Maybe as much as 15". Going to be festive about 4am. I moved all object capable of flying into storage.Sure glad bought the wife that generator!
Good luck, Rusty. These things are always a nail biter.
Watching the weather channel now. Keep us posted on how you fare through this thing. Michael wiped out so many long leaf & loblolly pine plantations in SW GA a couple of years back. Folks still recovering from that.
Been a tumultuous month! 2 hurricanes, 32 days without internet or computer, one throat surgery, and a list of unexpected additional tasks too long to count.

A recap of hurricane Laura shows we lost somewhere between 50-75% of the timber across most of the farm. The hardwoods in particular took a hit. It took nearly 100 hours with a skidder, cutter, and bull dozer just to open the roads to be able to travel the farm. There are still trees down everywhere in all the road right of ways and fields . We salvaged 50 loads of downed timber off about 75 acres before the crew needed to move on to more profitable opportunities. Have about a thousand acres to go. It will take years.

The two silver linings are from a deer perspective it will create a giant thicket to their liking. Course we may never be able to find them. The other benefit is as I have mentioned I am moving towards a regenerative ag program on the farm. The idea behind cattle grazing in the woods is to create a "savannah" landscape keeping underbrush at a younger succession. Well, Laura certainly thinned the timber to a savannah!!! May take me a couple of years to create the infrastructure and skill set to take advantage of this but the habitat is there.

Perimeter fencing is a disaster. A crew worked everyday from just after the storm [ August 27 ] till mid last week with chain saw , tractor and sweat and we still do not have all the fence back up. Probably need two more weeks. Is what it is and nothing we can do about it.

We were taking a break from fence repair to start belated planting. Then Hurricane Beto came along and dumped a bunch of rain on the farm stopping that in its tracks. Just Sunday it was dry enough to begin spraying but after one day a front has come thru with more rain today. The hope is we can finish spraying later this week and finish planting hopefully by early next week. I'm ok with the timing and certainly there is plenty of moisture to get things going but I haven't been able to experiment and play as I usually do.

While the woods are a disaster, as mentioned the deer couldn't be happier. Excepting a couple doe groups you cant find a deer now. I haven't seen a buck to speak of since the storm. Cameras are a luxury we simply don't have time for now. Hunting the woods will probably be impossible this year with all the downed timber and who knows if any deer will come to a food plot with all the fresh browse in the woods. Class B problem Guess it forebodes greatness next year.

I continue working with Dr. Allen Williams and Understanding Ag to transform the farm with a regenerative ag approach. We have the overall design outlined and I have taken soil samples across the farm for Haney and PLFA soil tests. New for me so keen to see what they reveal. I need a dozer to create r.o.w's. for electric fencing but every dozer in the south is busy with clean up. TBD if I can get that done before too wet this winter.

Enough for now. we are crawling out of the hole, everyone is safe, and as with all things habitat and wildlife oriented we do what we can and work with nature as she dictates.