Big Deer with Little Horns  

By Dr. Johnnie Rosenauer

The only prenuptial agreement my bride agreed to before our marriage nearly 3 decades ago was that she would try hard to hunt with me on the opening weekend of each deer season.  We did not fret too much about what was hers and what was mine before we joined up, but that one clause mattered to me.  I think she has only missed 3 or 4 over the years.  That included the 2017 season opener because she was up in Oklahoma dealing with her 90-year-old mother’s fall and subsequent broken hip.  But Grandmother is recovering well now and the Lady Danell went out to our 25+ year high fenced lease the afternoon of the 3rd Saturday with me.

We sat about ¼ mile apart on a long pipeline that runs through numerous ranches.  It is 80+ feet wide and a good travel road and sendero.  We have food plots and a feeder at both locations.  The wind was high but favorable to sit at those spots and we got all settled in before spooking any wildlife off.

She had a doe with a still nursing fawn come out and I had a good looking 2.5-year-old 8-point that showed lots of promise in front of me before the feeder went off. A text came from the other blind saying a big buck with little horns was standing just inside the tree line behind the feeder.  I responded back to sit still and make certain he was exactly that… a mature buck with under average headgear.

Sure enough that is what she confirmed a few minutes later, and I encouraged her to make the shot. About that same time my little buck was sure getting nervous, staring over into the thick brush from the same direction he came.

Danell fired and then reported the buck dropped in his tracks.  I responded with congratulations and said I planned to sit there a spell longer and see what was making that young deer so spooky.  Sure enough, out walked a fully mature 10-point that got my attention.  He carried decent width, with good tine length and mass.  My “Aggie Guesstimate Calculator” would put him in the upper 150’s to lower 160’s Boone and Crockett score.

I watched him for maybe 10 minutes and then slipped out and made it quietly to the truck.  Driving the “long way” around, I went over to my wife and her buck.  He was just what she reported… a 6-year-old with not much of a set of horns.  I had tried to harvest this guy last year and failed to see him during buck season.

We pushed and pulled and with the help from a winch on my truck managed to get that big bruiser loaded.  He was as fat as a grain-fed steer and not one bit “stinky” like he would have been in a few more weeks.  Even after cutting out multiple pounds of fat in order to cleanly field dress him, the deer weighed just under 150 pounds at the processer.  The buck I left feeding at my spot was the same size or a bit larger.

In reviewing the events of the day later on with our daughter, a fine huntress in her own right with 3 national magazine articles about bucks she has harvested, Jessica asked why I did not shoot that big 10.  My answer was partly based on stewardship to be sure as I want that dude to breed this year.  But it was also based on being well into my 6th decade on this earth.  I reminded her of our ages (her mom and me), and said one buck that size was all the energy we had in us for one afternoon!

The Last Hurrah

By Dr. Johnnie Rosenauer

Well the end of general hunting season is now officially over. It lasts for about 90 days in La Brasada; starting the first weekend of November and running this time through the first weekend of February. To the “hunting widows and widowers”, that period has been an eternity. For those of us who love being out there, it seems to fly by.

In my younger, more intense days, this was a time of annual depression and regret. Now with some additional wisdom, or maybe it is old age and fatigue, I see things differently. It is a time for reflection and review.

I can go out and walk the game trails without worrying about “bumping up” a deer. It is still a bit too cool for much snake activity and so that caution is not eliminated, but reduced. The thermometer is still a friend, so the walks are not filled with a sweaty brow and soaked shirt. A shed might be discovered before long. I call looking for them: “Adult Easter Egg Hunting”.

Much good can come from this period. It is also a time for thinking about and discussing certain deer to monitor for November 2018.

On one ranch we have a very wide 8-point that is four years old. Another four-year-old 10-point, that we call White Patch because of some color on his hips, shows great promise. It will be fun to see how/if they “grow out” next fall.

Several of the deer we harvested this year were post mature and past their prime. Thank goodness old Aggie doctors are not “managed” in the same manner or this writer might be in trouble!

A couple of other younger deer did not meet the criteria of what we want our breeder bucks to pass along to our future deer herd populations, and now will be enjoyed at our supper table and with those we enjoy sharing the harvest with.

The last Saturday of the season, I watched several up and comers that promise good possibilities and a couple of others that will have to show some significant improvement or they will join the early season “hit list”. Feeding those type of deer is not my idea of good management, but our practice is to let them get to three years of age before making the final decision of whether to remove before maturity.

Looking over and culling out trail camera footage is another pleasant task this time of the year. There are a couple we “shot” on camera that never showed up in my presence. I sure would have liked to get my eyeballs on them, but those wise old trophy bucks are a lot smarter than me. I am pretty much resigned to seeing them once, if lucky, and not even that some years.

It is also time to get those protein feeders up and running. The deer I have been seeing since mid- January, especially the males 2.5 years or older, all look like greyhounds after the rut. And the bred does are “feeding two” so they could use some help as well. Of course, the Good Lord is the best food maker by giving our fertile soils some much needed moisture. We sure could use some soon on our little pieces of heaven.

All in all there is no reason to be sad that hunting season is over. We just shift into post-season mode and continue to try and be good stewards of the blessings bestowed upon us as land owners and managers.

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Ground Shrinkage

By Dr. Johnnie Rosenauer

There is a situation most hunters will experience during their deer hunting times. I have been guilty of falling victim to it and have seen it happen on many different occasions. The process goes something like this. A hunter sees a buck that is an exact replica of the Hartford Insurance Elk logo and launches a bullet towards it. Whether immediately or after some searching, the animal is found and the Boone and Crockett award-winning specimen has somehow mysteriously transformed into a MUCH smaller version of what the hunter thought he was looking at. We call this ground shrinkage and it is alive and well in La Brasada, and I am pretty sure in other places as well.

Such an experience happened to one of our paying hunters recently. On that particular ranch, the two men have hunted with us for several years and are good guys. They have been patient and supportive of the management program we have in place. Our goal is the harvesting of mature bucks and an adequate number of other deer to keep the population in check on this long-time high fenced operation.

This year we have been blessed to raise up a really nice fully mature buck that is a ten-point with about a 22-inch inside spread. The more experienced of the two paying hunters and I have seen the old boy several times and agree he might grow a little bit with one more year of age but does not appear to be one either of us want to harvest.

A really pretty buck, he would be a great deer for the newer hunter. So I gave the “green light” to take him. I received a picture of a deer laying on the ground from this fellow. Assuming he did not stumble across the buck taking a nap, wise old Aggie that I am, I figured he was showing me his trophy. Many years of using trail cameras has taught me one photo can be tricky to get a fully accurate story of a particular animal. My reply text was that the buck seemed to be narrower and younger than the one we had discussed him taking.

Well that comment proved to be true. Observed on a foggy and cloudy day, the deer was two years younger, six inches narrower in spread, and 30 or more Boone and Crockett points smaller than the targeted buck. While disappointed, I was quick to acknowledge mistakes happen and it was not in my purview to start casting stones, having done the same thing more than I care to admit.

The above event made me recall the last “mistake deer” I took. It was a cloudy and gloomy evening and just before dark a profile appeared out of the thick brush along a creek bottom where a blind I usually don’t hunt much is located. The deer showed a forked brow tine one side and a kicker on the other. The 12-point was further away than I thought but more importantly was two years younger than my estimate. While a unique and beautiful specimen of his species, my thoughts often wander to what he could have been without my bad judgement interfering in his life cycle. I mounted that buck as a reminder to myself and others who see him that even a very serious and a bit talented steward can make a mistake from time to time.

If the worst thing that came out of the entire 2017-2018 hunting season on our places is one too young a deer being taken, it will be just fine. Chalk it up as a lesson learned and a reaffirmation that the phenomenon known as ground shrinkage is still alive and going strong in our little neck of the woods out in La Brasada!


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