John's Journal... Entry 250, Day 5
THE BUFFALO EFFECT FOR DEER MANAGEMENT
My First Morning's Hunt
Editor's Note: I've discovered the mystical Valhalla of the Vikings' dreams. In Norse mythology, Odin chose great warriors to come to his Great Hall, Valhalla, the resting place of brave Viking warriors, to rest and enjoy recreation before finally going to heaven. There they could eat, drink and fight because this magical place renewed everything the following morning, including the healing of their wounds from the "battles" of that day. At today's Valhalla for sportsmen, the Ford Ranch in Melvin, Texas, a deer hunter may say, "I can see more bucks in four hours of hunting in either the morning or the afternoon than I'll see in two to five years of hunting at home." Or, he may tell the other hunters, "I've never seen as many trophy bucks in all my life as here at the Ford Ranch. None of my friends will believe the number of bucks I've seen and passed-up." The Ford Ranch, managed by Forrest Armke produces some of the biggest trophy bucks and the largest number of turkeys of any area I know of in the nation. But what type of management program does the ranch use to yield these numbers of big bucks and gobbling birds? Come back each day this week, and I'll answer this question and more and show you how you can use the buffalo effect on your lands to improve your wildlife.
The first morning I hunted the Ford Ranch I sat in a shooting house with guide Mark Morvan. When I had enough light to see, I immediately spotted a huge buck and said to myself, "There he is." I quickly forgot everything I'd promised myself, got out my Remington 7mm and started pointing the barrel outside the window of the shooting house to prepare for the shot. Just as I got my cheek down to the stock and looked through my riflescope at this huge trophy buck, I felt a hand on my shoulder. Morvan said, "Wait a minute, John. That's just the first buck we've seen this morning. Let's wait and see what else shows up. I couldn't believe my eyes as in front of me, not 60-yards away, stood one of the biggest bucks I'd ever seen in my life with 10 points out past his ears, some 9- to 11-inches long. I knew everyone would consider him a shooter at any deer camp. But, I took my cheek off the stock, looked back at Morvan and saw him smiling. He told me, "You'll have plenty of time to take a shot. You've still got three days of hunting left."
But I didn't want this trophy to get away. However, from 50 years of deer hunting, I'd learned that when you hunted with another man on his property, he definitely knew more about his deer and the size of bucks he had than you did. I knew I needed to follow his advice. In less than 10 minutes, a second buck with a much-wider rack but fewer points showed up. "Should I shoot this one?" I asked Morvan. "This one has a wide rack but the other one has a tall rack." Morvan smiled again and said, "Well, let me add them up." Morvan actually took a pen and a small notepad out of his shirt pocket. Using his binoculars, he estimated the length of each point on each buck's head until he finally came up with his best-guess total.
"The tall-racked buck is about a 138 on the B&C scale," Morvan announced. "The wide-racked buck is about a 136 on the B&C scale. They are both really-nice bucks, and either buck is a fine trophy. But, John this still is the first morning of the hunt. There's a very good chance you may still see a buck bigger than either one of these."
Now totally confused, I had two really-nice bucks in front of me that I proudly would have mounted and put on my wall. But the guide kept telling me that I might see an even bigger buck. Finally, in my frustration, I made a decision.
"Ok," I said. "I know enough to realize I don't know what a big buck is here on the Ford Ranch. I also know that I haven't hunted here long enough to know the possibilities of seeing an even bigger buck. So, because you know the land and the deer on it, let's play like this is your hunt. Mark, if this was your hunt, would you take one of these bucks, or would you continue to hunt?"
Morvan laughed and replied, "No question about it. I'd continue to hunt. Then that's what I'll do," I said as I sat there watching those two bucks for about 45 minutes until they walked off. Over the next three days, I saw approximately 50 bucks, 12 that would have scored 130 B&C points or better. Finally I bagged a buck that scored between 138 and 140. I saw bigger bucks than the one I took, but I just couldn't get shots at them. The Ford Ranch homes some of the biggest deer and the largest number of longbeard turkeys of any lands I know of in the nation because of the wildlife-management system the ranch utilizes. You too can use some of these principles on the lands where you turkey and deer hunt with great success.
To learn more about the Ford Ranch, contact Forrest Armke at Route 1, Box 81, Melvin, Texas 76858, Phone: (325) 276-4572, or visit the Web site at www.fordranchhunting.net.