Sports and Outdoors

     
   

Drought conditions impact Texas deer population
By Keith Warren
Special to The Monitor

“It’s sad,” said my friend as we entered his ranch. “I have never seen it this dry, and we have been here over 20 years.”
He was showing me his ranch, located about an hour east of San Antonio. The ground was so dry that a huge cloud of dust followed behind the truck and then engulfed us as we came to a stop.
I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw what was left of one of the best fishing stock tanks I had ever seen. Instead of seeing catfish boil the surface waiting for a handout, buzzards flew from the dry hole. The carcasses of hundreds of fish lay baking in the hot sun.
Cracks in the ground more than two inches wide were a grim reminder of just how serious the current drought is in parts of Texas.
“We have had only five inches of rain since the end of August, and I don’t think folks in the city understand just how bad the drought is,” he said. The ranch is well known for its trophy deer, and I wanted to know what his hunters could expect this fall.
For more than eight years, the ranch has provided supplemental feed to the deer herd. Combined with the improved nutrition, the rancher has been very aggressive culling off inferior genetics and allowing some bucks to mature.
His efforts have paid off well, as his hunters return year after year taking trophy bucks.
He told me that supplemental feeding has never been as important to the deer herd as it is today.
“There is hardly anything natural for the deer to eat now, and I have been forced to change my feed,” he told me.
Instead of feeding his standard 16 percent protein ration, he has now switched to a 20 percent Record Rack feed because it has more fiber.
We drove by more than a half-dozen supplemental feeders. The ground was heavily worn, with nothing growing for more than 50 feet in all directions – the deer traffic was so heavy nothing could grow.
We did see more than 30 bucks lying near feed areas. Their antlers were beginning to grow, and I was impressed at their size, given the drought conditions.
It is so dry, he has had to sell how cows and run thousands of feet of water line so the deer have something to drink.
In years past, I had always seen turkeys on the ranch, but not this time. “Even the turkeys are gone,” he said.
So what should deer hunters expect this fall?
According to him, it will be another record year for trophy bucks being taken on his place, thanks to the supplemental feed.
But, for those ranches that are in similar drought conditions and not feeding deer, it is going to be tough – look for reduced antler size, body weights and smaller fawn crops.
“Six years from now, most places down here will have a lot fewer mature bucks, because those bucks will die as fawns soon after they are born this year,” he said.
If you have ever thought about feeding your deer a good supplemental feed, this is the year to start.
Keith Warren is the host of two weekly outdoor television programs that broadcast on The Outdoor Channel. For questions or comments about our shows or the outdoors, contact Keith at www.keithwarren.net.

 

Beat the heat and bass
By Larry Nixon
Special to The Monitor

BEE BRANCH, Ark.–The calendar says summer is still a week away – but tell that to people around the country who are already experiencing record-high temperatures.
Summer might not arrive until June 21, but the heat is already here.
Some people think that the summertime is not the best time to catch bass – much less big bass.
The hotter and higher the sun gets, the better sitting in front of the air-conditioner begins to sound. It’s during this time of year that too many anglers opt for sipping iced tea instead of fishing.
I fish for a living, so retreating to the climate-controlled house when it gets hot simply is not an option. I have to be able to catch bass in the wind, rain, sleet, snow and the heat.
In fact, I really like to catch big fish during the summer. When it’s hot and sunny, bass – like a lot of anglers – like to get in under the edge of a shade line and will feed looking out. The fish will suspend under cover, so what I like to do is get up close and pitch right down the edges, letting the bait free fall.
In the heat, I will target both structure and vegetation.
In these environments, I like to pitch a Berkley four-inch Power Flippin’ Tube, a bait I helped design specifically for these situations, or a Berkley Classic Power Jig. In heavy wood, I might go with a 10-inch Berkley Power Worm with a big half-ounce sinker.
The big weight is critical at this time to help sink the bait pretty fast, which can go a long way towards making a sometimes sluggish summer bass excited enough to strike.
When targeting summer bass with these finesse presentations, make sure to keep an eye on your line.
When you pitch a big worm and a sinker into heavy cover, you have to watch the line, because when it stops, you want to immediately lift up on it and see if there’s tension or weight.
The perfect line for this is Vanish Transition because it changes color in the sunlight, which allows anglers to see it better and detect the subtlest movements.
And because it has little or no stretch, you can strong-arm that big bass out of its shady hangout more easily.
There’s no sure-fire way to catch big bass. Different presentations work in different places at different times, regardless of season.
But being on the water is the first step towards a successful and memorable summer fishing trip.
So if you’re out there, find the cover and make sure that you have the gear you need to be able to get them out of it.
Larry Nixon is a former Bassmaster Classic winner with more than $1.5 million in career earnings on the BASS Tour. Nixon, who currently fishes the FLW Tour, lives in Bee Branch, Ark.
 


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