John's Journal...

How to Grow Big Bucks Texas Style

How We Have Monster Bucks with David Kitner

Click to enlargeEditor’s Note: Today, the concept of trophy-deer management or quality-deer management is learned from how deer are managed in Texas. To raise trophy deer like Texans do on the land you hunt, you’ll need a lot of money, plenty of land and numbers of trophy deer. This week, we’ll take a look at Texas deer management, where I hunted withClick to enlarge Trijicon, a company that provides aiming solutions for hunters, law enforcement and the military with its various rifle scopes. Trijicon is supporter of the Wounded Warrior Project (, giving a portion of each sale of Trijicon to this organization.

According to David Kitner, the Duval County Ranch manager, “When Iarrived at the ranch 8-years ago, the deer herd was in bad shape. The area had experienced droughts and overgrazing by cattle. We had low densities of deer in some areas and overpopulation in others. I drew up a management plan I thought would move the ranch forward, which included ridding the ranch of cattle until the rain conditions improved. I decided to reduce the buck harvest by insisting we only take mature bucks. At that time, we harvested numbers of immature bucks. Today, we basically hunt management deer, which we define as bucks that are 5-1/2-years old and score 140 to 145 or less on Boone & Crockett (B&C). We don’t shoot spikes just to shoot spikes. If we have an overabundance of deer on the property, which we determine by a helicopter survey, then we shoot them. But we don’t shoot the bucks until we’ve conducted the survey. Our trophy bucks are left alone until they’re at least 6-1/2-years old or older. To take our trophy bucks costs the price of the management hunt plus $200 per inch of antler over 145. We don’t harvest really-big, mature, beautiful whitetails. We leave those bucks in our herd until they die of natural causes because we want these deer to pass on their genes to future generations. Since I’ve beenClick to enlarge managing the ranch, we’ve only harvested three bucks that would score in the 180s, and those deer have been taken within the last 3 years.

“Today, we have 10 or 12 bucks that will score 180 or better still breeding on our ranch. We protect our breeding bucks at all costs. We want most of our trophy bucks to reach 8- oClick to enlarger 9-years old. We have one monster buck we protected until he was 11-years old. We called him “the Yard Buck.” At 11-years old, the buck scored about 180 B&C. Most people believe that as a buck grows older, the quality of his rack diminishes. But I don’t believe that. Our Yard Buck is a classic example of this assumption not being true. That buck took care of himself, which is the reason he lasted so long and had such good antlers. Deer can live longer in the wild than most hunters believe. We harvest a lot of bucks we consider management bucks that are 8-1/2-years old that will score 120, 160 and even higher. Aging deer past 8-1/2-years old is difficult, but we know the Yard Buck was 11-years old because we had video of him for at least that long. This year, we’ll harvest 200 bucks and about 100 does. For the previous 2 years, we had poor fawn crops, but this year, we had an excellent fawn crop. Therefore, we want to try to increase the number of deer we have on the ranch by not harvesting as many does as we normally would. This way, next year, our doe harvest should be much higher than this year.”

For more information about the Duval County Ranch, call David Kitner at (361) 394-6313, or visit, or email

To learn more about Trijicon, go to

Tomorrow: Rewards of Conscientious Deer Management

Check back each day this week for more about "How to Grow Big Bucks Texas Style"

Day 1: What Is the Duval County Ranch?
Day 2: How We Judged the Bucks’ Antler Sizes
Day 3: How to Judge the Buck’s Age by Studying Him
Day 4: How We Have Monster Bucks with David Kitner
Day 5: Rewards of Conscientious Deer Management


Entry 436, Day 4