Question: “I just got a 430 acre pasture for the upcoming whitetail hunting season in South Texas. The property is actually part of a 3,000 acre ranch that is all being leased out for deer hunting. I have been hunting for several years, but I want to know how I can manage the place properly to get some good bucks next season. I understand that it will not happen in a single year, but want to see a bit of improvement over a series of years, especially with regard to antler quality.
The lease is mostly heavily brushed with mesquite and huisache. There are cleared shooting lanes. I do have a water well and access to tanks to provide the deer with water. In addition, I plan on feeding corn year-round and supplying “all they can eat” protein until the end of September. What else can I do?”
Answer: There are a number of things you can do to improve the quality of deer and the whitetail deer hunting on your South Texas lease. First and foremost, allow the bucks found on your property to mature. This is the single easiest way to produce good quality deer. It’s also the easiest. I would cull some inferior deer, but don’t get carried away unless your place is covered up with animals.
If you do have an overabundance of deer, then the next most important thing you can do is implement deer population control. Individual deer must be healthy for the deer herd to be healthy. Bucks will grow bigger antlers and does will produce better fawn crops if they are well fed. Deer can not be well fed if the deer density is too high, unless you are ready to foot an really expensive protein bill.
Speaking of protein, do provide supplemental foods. Since you are in South Texas, food plots will not be reliable. Protein pellets are great for your situation. For the hot, dry environment found there I would suggest a pellet with 16% protein. You can feed more, but you could also have issues during the summer. If you want to provide additional protein, look at feeding a 20% protein pellet in January and February, then switch to 16% through September.
To help the hunting on your place, keep the property quiet and the shooting to a minimum. This will make deer want to stay on the place more. In addition, set aside sanctuary areas, such as parts of the ranch with thick cover you do not go into. Place protein feeders near these areas, preferably around the core of your deer lease. This will help hold animals on the place, especially if you keep in quiet and supplied with food and water.
A 430 acre place is a good amount of land, but you will not be able to keep bucks only on your land. You must understand that they will roam off of your place, or will at least be able to. That said, bucks will also come from neighboring leases. But bucks are smart, especially older ones. If possible contact these neighboring places and set up some common deer management goals. This will get the best results, although implementing the above recommendations will definitely help your whitetail hunting and the quality of animals on your leased property.