John's Journal...

How to Grow Big Bucks Texas Style

Rewards of Conscientious Deer Management

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 with 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.Click to enlarge

According to David Kitner, the Duval County Ranch manager “We are under what’s known as the management-lands deer-permit system that’s promoted and sponsored by the Texas Wildlife and Parks Division. Under this program, if a landowner has set up a management system that enhances the deer herd on his property, the landowner can have longer seasons than Texas’s normal season. Too, hunters will have the ability to harvest more deer there than what’s typically allowed. In addition, you can harvest deer according to that permit, which doesn’t affect the number of tags you receive for the statewide deer season. In other words, if a hunter hunts at our ranch and buys a Texas hunting license with deer tags, he can take a buck on our property and not use the tags he has on his license. Under the permit, we have to abide by the harvest recommendations provided by state wildlife biologists, which are all based on the census data we provide to Texas Parks and Wildlife. We work very closely with the state wildlife biologists. So, much of the census data is acquired from the deer we report seeing from our helicopter surveys, as well as the age and the size of thClick to enlargee deer. Also, from these surveys, we usually can determine the buck to doe ratio, age structure and the size of our herd.

“Eight-years ago, before I came to the ranch, there never had been a buck harvested on the ranch that scored 160 on the Boone & Crockett scale. The average score of the top-five bucks we’ve harvested off the ranch in the last 3 years has been 180 or higher. The biggest buck we’ve taken gross-scored 209. Today, our bucks are field dressing from 175 to 200 pounds or more. When the bucks start to rut, the weights will decrease about 10 to 15 pounds per animal.

“When we first started our management program 8-years ago, tClick to enlargehe average buck weighed 155 pounds. Each year, the average weight of our bucks and the average score of our bucks’ antlers have increased. Our management bucks (deer scoring from 130 to 145) are considered trophy bucks in most parts of the country. We can produce these kinds of numbers because we spend a lot of money on protein pellets and corn and habitat management. We feed our deer 100,000 pounds of corn during deer season. We feed somewhere between 250,000 to 300,000 pounds of protein pellets to our deer after deer season. We also perform pasture irrigation and brush chopping to improve habitat. So, we’re not just managing our harvest to grow these big bucks. We’re feeding them protein and corn, improving habitat and green fields and controlling the number of hunters hunting and the number of cattle grazing the property. It’s an overall management program. Of the 125,000 acres we have on the ranch, we only allowed 50 hunters to hunt on 17,000 acres this year. For $3,500, our hunters get a one-on-one guide situation, meaning all our hunters have their own guide to make sure they harvest the right-size buck. This price also includes lodging and meals for 3 days and 3 nights. Our hunters usually can shoot a doe, a javelina (a pig-like animal native to the deserts of the southwestern US), a coyote or a feral hog. However, we ask our hunters not to take these other animals until after they harvest their management bucks.”

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

To learn more about Trijicon, go to

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 5