How Trans Pecos Texas Is Producing Big Desert Mule Deer For Hunting


Published: April - 2010

Trans Pecos Texas is emerging as one of the best kept secrets of mule deer hunting in America. Only four to five years ago a giant mule deer in the Trans Pecos measured about 170 inches. Most good bucks went 150 to 160 inches. Right now a number of ranches in this region are producing desert mulies in the 180- to 190-plus class. The reason for this upswing in trophy quality is an innovative feeding program that several large landowners have implemented. What is truly unusual about this program is that it has been done without high fences. During the 2009 season, six of the top 10 highest scoring deer in the Texas Big Game Awards for Region 1 came from this area. And all six were taken by clients of Hunter Ross, who merged his Desert Safaris hunting operation with Leoncita Cattle Company in 2005.

I first started hunting with Ross eight years ago in the Big Bend region of southwest Texas. Since he implemented this feeding program, I have seen an improvement in the deer quality every year. Besides antler growth, the owners of Leoncita and several other ranchers wanted to increase fawn recruitment and general improvement of the deer herd's health in this harsh desert environment. To do that they hired a biologist and began working closely with Lyssy & Eckel Feeds to conduct research on the nutritional needs of West Texas mule deer and formulate a feed specific to these deer. Part of the research included taking browse and soil samples from each ranch in the area. Using the results, they custom-designed a protein feed formula and started feeding the deer.

Desert Safaris also began investigating the Texas lands program that allows landowners to manage for deer in exchange for longer hunting seasons. This program has been used mostly for the management of whitetail deer, using high fences and protein feeders in south Texas. Parks and Wildlife agreed to increase the deer season for ranches in the Trans Pecos that succeeded in increasing deer recruitment and the herd health of free-ranging mule deer.........(continued)

 
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