Despite recent rains, drought a hunter concern

Despite recent rains, drought a hunter concern

With the saltwater fishing going full blast, there have also been many questions about deer range conditions. Certainly the rains that have been widespread have benefited all of the deer ranges. We all remember that by this time a year ago, we were well into a super drought. Many deer hunters are questioning the outlook for the upcoming hunting season.

Whenever most of our local deer hunters think of trophy antlered bucks, they dream of the Texas brush country. That situation has been well documented over the years. There are many supersize antlered bucks in the brush country. The use of selective breeding has created some record-scoring animals. The rains that have come along will promote the growth of the plants that those dry country deer feed upon. If the brush country has gotten an ample amount of rain, then there should be successful antler production. Keep in mind that most of the so-called trophy ranches supplement feed for the animals all year around.

There is a trophy whitetail deer mecca that has been, in my opinion, under utilized, especially by local trophy hunters. That area near Natchez, Miss., is loaded with some really outstanding bucks. For some reason unknown to me, few of our local trophy hunters choose to head east.

Ross McGehee, who owns The Washes Plantation near Natchez, told me that the ranch has been trophy managed for 20 years. Many of the 2-1/2-year-old animals will have body weights of more than 200 pounds. There will normally be a guide in the stand simply to help Texas hunters to identify management bucks versus trophy animals. McGehee told me his hunters are encouraged to take management bucks and females as part of their hunt.

I’ve hunted in Mississippi for several years, and the shear size of the animals still amazes me. Local trophy whitetail hunters, either archery or rifle, would do well to contact McGhee. I truly believe that those deer are a so-called diamond in the rough soon to be discovered.

The Texas Hill Country has long been the go-to place when shear numbers of whitetails are concerned. Right in the middle of that area is Llano, Texas. On the opening weekend of the gun season, a couple thousand deer are reported to be taken by hunters. Last season was an exception due to the extreme drought, but there were still a large number of the deer taken. As expected, their antlers were not up to par, but the Hill Country deer were still present in good numbers. There was a noticeable decline in younger animals. Whether they died because of dry weather or whether the does aborted their offspring, it was obvious that there were fewer young animals. Whether that will have an effect on this year’s deer herd is yet to be seen, but with the staggering overpopulation of whitetails in the Hill Country, I do not expect any dire consequences this season.

Vernon Stehle of Nederland and I hunted on the Winkel Ranch last season, and we saw many more bucks than we did does. I recently contacted July Brooks, who operates the Winkel Ranch, about the current range conditions. She told me that they had received some welcome rain, but they could use some more. The pastures are in good shape and the deer, including does and fawns, are in good conditions. If we continue to receive ample rainfall and the vegetation continues to grow, we can expect to have some better antlered deer and in good body condition this season.

Realizing that it is a good idea to know what’s happening in various deer hunt areas will allow hunters to choose where to head afield.To locate the South Texas brush country hunting ranches, you can contact the chambers of commerce in the towns nearest the hunt area. It is also possible to locate them on the Internet.

For a Mississippi hunt, contact Ross McGehee at (601) 431-6881. The telephone number for the Winkel Ranch is (512) 345-8090, or visit