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Old 03-28-2018, 12:08 PM   #1
venado
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Default Big Antler Experiment and Results (Picture /Text Rich)

Just to throw a relatively unique approach to growing deer with big antlers into the pot, let me relate a bit about a ranch that I got personally involved with a few years ago:

Nine years ago the owner decided to high fence 1200 acres east of San Antonio in Guadalupe County. An effort was made to remove all of the native deer and then high genetic quality buck and doe deer from breeders were released into the ranch. The plan was to allow "pasture" breeding of the does. The goal was to see what exceptional introduced genetics could produce on a working cattle ranch where the deer would have to share the ranch with 175-200 mother cows. The deer were provided year around protein and food plots. There are 30 earth dam and concrete watering locations readily available to both cattle and deer scattered throughout the ranch. The owner gave the deer everything that he could provide for their benefit.

In summary, we have:

1. genetics for large antlers (exceptional)

2. nutrition (native forage and unlimited protein)

3. age (under owner control except for natural mortality as noted)

Within just a few years we began seeing wonderful young bucks as would be expected, but we noted that the fawn production was not what we expected nor was the survival of bucks what we hoped for. Through fence snares and shooting we have done our best to control fawn loss due to coyotes. Our conclusion is that the genetic make-up of these deer, that came from roughly 50% Texas/50% Northern gene pen born deer, is that they simply were not tough enough for the dry Texas hot weather and an open ranch where their interface with that tough environment was totally unlike a pen.

After 9 years all of the tagged bucks in the ranch are now gone with only one exception, buck #21. He was born on the ranch but was caught and tagged in the pasture when a newborn fawn. He was a spectacular buck in the 2017-18 season scoring about 360 as a 4 1/2 year old based on his sheds.

"#21"


There are still a few tagged does remaining in the ranch but all of the rest of the deer in the ranch are what we call "pasture" bred deer that we have no idea as to parentage. We lost to natural causes several really awesome bucks such as this one who died during the summer of 2015. His sheds put him at approximately 255 at 4 yo.

"Holy Smoke"


Many of the buck losses showed up after antler shed leading us to believe that it was primarily the drought and heat that got them during the summer. During this 9 year period, there were 2 or 3 severe drought periods. We also are aware of several bucks that were injured from fighting that contributed to their poor physical condition going into late winter.

We killed a couple of management bucks in the 2014-15 season (two mainframe 8s, a 168 and a 180, both 6 1/2 yo). We did not kill any bucks in 2015-16 or the 2016-17 seasons but decided to kill the first serious trophy bucks in 2017-18 even though none had reached 7 1/2 yo (those premature deaths had us spooked..!). One was truly a spectacular non-typical, a pasture bred buck that took the 2017-18 Los Cazadores High Fence Division #1 buck at 333 2/8" as a 5 1/2 yo. This non-typical won the division by about 80", had 51 measurable points, over 50" of mass, and a drop tine of over 13".

"Monster Mass"




The other buck taken had a classic typical 10 point frame with lots of desirable extras and scored 196 7/8 as a 6 1/2 yo even though he had broken off a matching drop tine just a few days before harvest. With that drop tine he would have scored 204.

"Prickly Tines"


It appears from what we see so far that the common 4 yo and 5 yo buck is going to be a mainframe 10 pointer with significant extras and score about 200. Obviously, there will be exceptions but we believe that there will be as many above as below that norm. It also appears that these top-line genetic deer show mature level antlers much sooner than native deer as we have seen degradation between 4 yo and 5 yo in a few animals. Of course, it is possible that the drought was a factor.

The owner is quite clear that even though there was a lot of learning and a few disappointments along the way, the bucks that have come from this experiment have more than made up for the cost and effort that he has expended. He has a great interest in seeing and producing exceptionally antlered bucks for his own pleasure and for his friends and guests but does not have any interest in any commercial aspect of hunting in any form on his ranch.

I am not sure that any of this contributes greatly to the many discussions regarding whether age/genetics/nutrition is the most important factor in antler production but it does show that with all three of the key factors in place some spectacular results can be obtained.
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Old 03-28-2018, 12:14 PM   #2
Fajkus7
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This is super interesting information to read. Great bucks too. Keep us updated on the ranch
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Old 03-28-2018, 12:25 PM   #3
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Good information. Thanks for sharing.
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Old 03-28-2018, 12:28 PM   #4
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Great read!
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Old 03-28-2018, 12:36 PM   #5
88 Bound
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Good stuff. Thank you for posting.
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Old 03-28-2018, 12:37 PM   #6
AntlerCollector
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Thanks for sharing.
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Old 03-28-2018, 12:49 PM   #7
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Good write up. Definitely an interesting read. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 03-28-2018, 12:53 PM   #8
TAMU84
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thanks for sharing
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Old 03-28-2018, 01:00 PM   #9
Bryan2014
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Great info. I wonder if the deer had been all natives if they would have been hardier. Would be interesting to see the results of that experiment
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Old 03-28-2018, 01:02 PM   #10
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Thank you for that. Very interesting!
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Old 03-28-2018, 01:24 PM   #11
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Imho, deer cant live on protein alone and the cows are eating all the natural food. Too many cows.
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Old 03-28-2018, 02:12 PM   #12
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If you are experiencing more buck loss post antler drop, what are their body conditions post-rut? January and February are some of the hardest months for a buck to get through. Also, what is the estimated buck:doe ratio? Low numbers of does and high on bucks will almost always give you mortality loss due to fighting, and can even lead to lower fawning rates as bucks are fighting more than breeding at times.
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Old 03-28-2018, 02:56 PM   #13
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Just pure speculation based on absolutely no data, but it seems like hybridizing with the native deer that were there when it was fenced would have maybe produced hardier deer if the experiment was to ever be reproduced.
Very cool info....Thanks for posting....
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Old 03-28-2018, 04:53 PM   #14
roberts
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Great information. Thanks for sharing.
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Old 03-28-2018, 04:57 PM   #15
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Awesome. Great read and refreshingly well-written.
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Old 03-28-2018, 06:08 PM   #16
bukkskin
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Awesome bucks, thanks for the thread.
50% Northern is a lot to drop in the pasture in South Texas. I like 1/8th max. But 1/4 Northern would probably work too.
Anyways, ya'll got it wooped now.
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Old 03-28-2018, 06:18 PM   #17
Arrowflinger84
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nice! Like the looks of them!
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Old 03-28-2018, 07:48 PM   #18
buckerup
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Thanks for the great read.
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Old 03-28-2018, 07:53 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bryan2014 View Post
Great info. I wonder if the deer had been all natives if they would have been hardier. Would be interesting to see the results of that experiment
My bet is they would have, 100 percent native deer are genetically adapted to the area from which they came. I'm sure there still would be mortality but nothing close to 50 percent in that environment. Just a guess.
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Old 03-28-2018, 08:04 PM   #20
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Just curious as to the buck to doe ratio and deer density per acre. Great read, thanks for sharing.
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Old 03-28-2018, 08:06 PM   #21
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No a guy in the wimberly are with good deer from native genes.
170 -190" @ 6.5 and one broke 200
He just shot stuff he didn't like and let the good genes grow
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Old 03-28-2018, 09:49 PM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Walker View Post
Imho, deer cant live on protein alone and the cows are eating all the natural food. Too many cows.
The ranch is not overgrazed. There are about 20% less cattle on the ranch than it would normally support. Much care is taken to be sure the deer are a high priority.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hawkpuppy 1 View Post
If you are experiencing more buck loss post antler drop, what are their body conditions post-rut? January and February are some of the hardest months for a buck to get through. Also, what is the estimated buck:doe ratio? Low numbers of does and high on bucks will almost always give you mortality loss due to fighting, and can even lead to lower fawning rates as bucks are fighting more than breeding at times.
Bucks are in top condition going into the first of December and the rut, by mid-January there is what I consider normal weight loss, just as a WAG I would say 30# on a 200# live weight buck. The buck to doe ratio is 1 to 1.7 so shortage of breeding partners should not be an issue. We have noticed that dominance has been pretty well established prior to the rut, but that if a dominant buck happens to lose his antlers earlier than a lower ranking buck that the lower ranking buck becomes aggressive and the shed buck reacts as he always has even though he has lost his knife in the knife fight..!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Black Gold View Post
Just pure speculation based on absolutely no data, but it seems like hybridizing with the native deer that were there when it was fenced would have maybe produced hardier deer if the experiment was to ever be reproduced.
Very cool info....Thanks for posting....
I certainly would agree that hybridizing with native deer more attuned to the tough life would give better survival results, but those native does would not likely come close to the released does ability to produce buck fawns with top-flight antlers. The goal was/is to produce maximum antler in "pasture" deer and with what we have learned the hope now is that a few generations of pasture-raised fawns will be better survivors. In essence that is some of the uniqueness of this experiment. The genes are in the herd though obviously greatly mixed from what it would be in penned deer. It is not like some ranches where does are collected and the better ranch buck is put with them as in a DMP program.

Quote:
Originally Posted by deerwatcher51 View Post
Just curious as to the buck to doe ratio and deer density per acre. Great read, thanks for sharing.
The relative high doe ratio is our attempt to get fawn production up. No one involved feels any great necessity to harvest deer as would normally be the situation on most places.

Density is about 18 ac. deer; we think plenty of room to expand herd. (There are times that I go throughout the ranch and never see a single deer. So much for the "fish in a barrel" comparison that is occasionally made by the anti-high fence contingent..!)
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Old 03-28-2018, 10:30 PM   #23
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Interesting. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 03-28-2018, 10:55 PM   #24
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Good read.
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Old 03-28-2018, 11:04 PM   #25
Black Ice
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Default Big Antler Experiment and Results (Picture /Text Rich)

Great info! I sometimes wonder what the difference would be on my family’s ranch with a high fence without introducing any deer.

It would be cool to see two different scenarios:

1. High Fence no new deer no feed other than corn
2. High Fence no new deer and protein feeding


Does anyone have any detailed info on the two listed options kinda like the OP posted?

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

Last edited by Black Ice; 03-28-2018 at 11:09 PM.
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Old 03-28-2018, 11:13 PM   #26
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Very interesting!!
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Old 03-28-2018, 11:13 PM   #27
Sleepy
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Nice write up
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Old 03-28-2018, 11:57 PM   #28
bukkskin
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Btw, I like "Holy Smoke" the best. Dang shame to loose him at just 4 yrs old.
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Old 03-29-2018, 10:10 AM   #29
venado
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bukkskin View Post
Btw, I like "Holy Smoke" the best. Dang shame to loose him at just 4 yrs old.
bukkskin, we agree completely..! As you might guess he was called HS and we really did not think "Smoke" but this is a family publication.
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Old 03-29-2018, 12:12 PM   #30
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im gonna guess that transition date is critical. going north to south, id expect sept 15th-ish to nov 1st-ish to be optimal.

the next best option being in march i assume.
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Old 03-29-2018, 09:39 PM   #31
bukkskin
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Black Ice View Post
Great info! I sometimes wonder what the difference would be on my family’s ranch with a high fence without introducing any deer.

It would be cool to see two different scenarios:

1. High Fence no new deer no feed other than corn
2. High Fence no new deer and protein feeding


Does anyone have any detailed info on the two listed options kinda like the OP posted?

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
#2 is your best option, of course, if you are not going to upgrade genetics.
You can at least control age of harvest.
So, according to many on this site, All deer have the same genetic potential.
If you believe that point of view, which I Do Not then you should be Good to go.
All you have to do is high fence, feed the hail out of your native deer, and in 9 yrs you will harvest a low to mid 300" buck.
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Old 03-31-2018, 07:59 PM   #32
Markobowlom
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Very good info
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Old 04-01-2018, 08:16 AM   #33
EastTexasMan
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bukkskin View Post
#2 is your best option, of course, if you are not going to upgrade genetics.
You can at least control age of harvest.
So, according to many on this site, All deer have the same genetic potential.
If you believe that point of view, which I Do Not then you should be Good to go.
All you have to do is high fence, feed the hail out of your native deer, and in 9 yrs you will harvest a low to mid 300" buck.
I wish there was a way to calculate how much money people spend on protein per inch of growth bucks see due to it.
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Old 04-02-2018, 12:09 AM   #34
CaTx
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Cool stuff
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Old 04-02-2018, 12:16 AM   #35
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Wow. Lots to think on. Thanks.
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Old 04-02-2018, 06:11 PM   #36
venado
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Quote:
Originally Posted by EastTexasMan View Post
I wish there was a way to calculate how much money people spend on protein per inch of growth bucks see due to it.
I would bet on a cost per inch basis it is pretty doggone high..! In this case and I suspect in most if not all others that cost is seen in the pleasure derived from treating the deer well and seeing the results in antler growth. Obviously, it is not what one would consider "cost-effective" but in the same light I think the price we pay for venison might also not be "cost-effective". Yet the pleasure we get from hunting and feeding our family venison does not have a price tag on it either.
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Old 04-02-2018, 11:09 PM   #37
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Care to share where the original release stock was purchased from and any specific pedigrees utilized?
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Old 04-03-2018, 05:31 AM   #38
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Pretty interesting. Thanks for sharing.
I would think that from here on out things would continue to improve in antler size, mortality rates, and age of harvested bucks.
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Old 04-03-2018, 09:03 AM   #39
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Black Ice View Post
Great info! I sometimes wonder what the difference would be on my family’s ranch with a high fence without introducing any deer.

It would be cool to see two different scenarios:

1. High Fence no new deer no feed other than corn
2. High Fence no new deer and protein feeding


Does anyone have any detailed info on the two listed options kinda like the OP posted?

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
I am pretty sure that Marko, Encinal on here, their place is in your #2 category.
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Old 04-03-2018, 09:40 AM   #40
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Quote:
Originally Posted by venado View Post
I would bet on a cost per inch basis it is pretty doggone high..! In this case and I suspect in most if not all others that cost is seen in the pleasure derived from treating the deer well and seeing the results in antler growth. Obviously, it is not what one would consider "cost-effective" but in the same light I think the price we pay for venison might also not be "cost-effective". Yet the pleasure we get from hunting and feeding our family venison does not have a price tag on it either.
you're spot on. there's nothing cost effective about deer hunting! gotta pay to play!
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Old 04-03-2018, 09:55 AM   #41
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Great info. and thanks a ton for taking the time to share yalls findings.

Rwc
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Old 04-03-2018, 10:15 AM   #42
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Great thread, I always enjoy your posts.

The mortality subject is an interesting topic.
It'll be interesting to look back in a few years to see if future generations have increased survival rates.
I think they will, but the brush country is a tough environment.
Best of luck.

And keep sharing the great pics.
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Old 04-03-2018, 05:51 PM   #43
venado
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Quote:
Originally Posted by STXJunkee View Post
Care to share where the original release stock was purchased from and any specific pedigrees utilized?
Not wanting to get in the weeds with this, but we studied and looked for deer genetics that was 1/4-1/2 northern (because we did want good mass with a lot of NT extras), and were recognized as consistent antler producers. The does that were purchased had 250” or more bucks in their pedigrees, along with being consistent producers. Just to name a couple, Maxbo and Dreambuck were both in the imported pedigrees.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Clark View Post
Great thread, I always enjoy your posts.

The mortality subject is an interesting topic.
It'll be interesting to look back in a few years to see if future generations have increased survival rates.
I think they will, but the brush country is a tough environment.
Best of luck.

And keep sharing the great pics.
Thanks to all of you that have provided encouragement and kind words regarding this post. Because of the high fence and imported genetics I anticipated that I was going to get some of the irrational comments that I have seen over the years at TBH, I really appreciate the cordial atmosphere that all of the posts have maintained.

It was through photography that I initially got the opportunity to meet this rancher/owner and to get involved in this unusual experiment. I hunted in south Texas and Mexico for about 50 years and seeing a 150 class buck was a real rarity but because a great owner has taken me into his program I have gotten the opportunity to get close to deer that would have been too big for my dreams years ago.
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Old 04-03-2018, 07:41 PM   #44
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Thanks for sharing. Has the owner considered installing a predator apron along the bottom of his HF? The install cost might seem high, but fawn survival should increase and thus, would be cost effective over time.
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Old 04-03-2018, 08:19 PM   #45
venado
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DeerGeek View Post
Thanks for sharing. Has the owner considered installing a predator apron along the bottom of his HF? The install cost might seem high, but fawn survival should increase and thus, would be cost effective over time.
It certainly would be nice to have a predator barrier, however with 6.5 miles of high fence and quite a number of dry creek crossings, the cost would be prohibitive. The fence is run 3-4 times a month and snares are used at any entry points as needed. Following catches, the entry points are filled with rock available within the ranch. Even with all of this effort, there are a few coyotes that get in but we do not think that they greatly influence fawn survival.

Last edited by venado; 04-03-2018 at 08:31 PM.
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Old 04-03-2018, 10:52 PM   #46
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Very interesting. Thanks for sharing


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Old 04-04-2018, 12:26 PM   #47
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tag
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Old 04-04-2018, 01:12 PM   #48
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Nice bucks. Thanks for sharing.
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Old 04-05-2018, 10:35 PM   #49
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Wow...just seeing this for the first time Paul. Really interesting stuff that’s for sure. Especially the part about contributing the high mortality rates to the harsh dry Texas elements. You would think providing plenty of consistent habitat (like controlled water sources and supplemental feed) would be enough to protect even the non native introduced genetics. I can only assume that overall survival rates will continue to increase for the herd in the future provided they’ve adapted to the heat.

Well written my friend and thanks for sharing. And YES, Holy “Smoke” would not have been my first translation for the HS acronym!
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