DEER MANAGEMENT -- Jim Matthews column-ONS -- 27nov02
Private ground gives DFG model for better deer management
In California this deer season, I probably glassed over 25 different bucks before taking a nice, mature four-pointer. My deer wasn't as big as the huge-based, three-pointer one of my hunting buddies, Dennis Culley, shot the same weekend in nearly the same place. And there were two other older age-class deer taken in the same area by other hunting partners.
Where were we hunting? What secret spot is this?
Actually, the Tejon Ranch is no secret spot. It has been producing lots of deer, along with a few quality ones, for a lot of years. The Tejon is a participant in the state's Private Lands Management (PLM) program, and the ranch works diligently to enhance the value of the property for wildlife. On our deer lease on the Tejon, we are in the second year of a trophy deer management program where only older age class deer are legal bucks.
Last season we didn't shoot a buck on our 6,000 acres, although we saw a couple that fit the criteria. This year, we have taken four bucks so far, and our season doesn't close until Sunday, Dec. 1. In just two short years, the quality of the deer has increased pretty dramatically. When I was a kid and hunting this ranch on this same lease, then run by my uncle, it was a rare occurrence to see a buck older than three years old, and most deer were killed as two-year-old forked horns. For the last two seasons, we have been letting those deer grow up as part of the ranch's effort to increase the average age and trophy quality of the bucks shot on the property.
Bucks that would have been shot the first few days of the season in the past get nicknames: the "crab-forked three pointer on Red Mountain" or "that big-bodied forked-horn in Canyon Two." Deer that would be shot out on public ground are allowed to get bigger on the Tejon now. We found ourselves saying, "Oh man, that's going to be a heck of a buck in two years," when we'd see a spindly, young three-point with a tall rack.
What is utterly amazing to me is not that the hunting on this private ground is so good, but that the hunting on the adjacent public ground is so bad. And the only real difference between one side of the fence and the other is how the ground and wildlife is managed.
If the Department of Fish and Game would learn from the lessons of the PLM program and apply those lessons to public ground we could again have terrific hunting in California. Whitetail states throughout the country are adopting trophy deer management strategies to increase the average age of the bucks harvested -- and it's working. The fact that the trophy value also increases is a bonus. Yet, here in California, the few zones that we once managed for trophy deer have dropped the antler point restrictions and reduced tag numbers.
There are two ways to improve the average age of the bucks in a herd. Reduce the total number of deer killed so more bucks survive to the following year, or only allow hunters to harvest big, older age class deer. The first reduces hunter opportunity, while the second only reduces the harvest for the first couple of years of the program, not the number who participate. Today we manage Southern California's public deer herds for the highest take possible. We issue basically an unlimited number of permits and encourage hunters to shoot the first legal buck he sees because it might be the only buck he sees during our long season.
It could and should be different.
Our program on the Tejon allows us to shoot forks or three points, so long as they are older age class bucks. Antler mass is more an indicator of age than number of points, and the Tejon puts its hunters through a great class session to teach them the difference. The Tejon's buck ratios are also about double what they are on the surrounding public ground, and the number of big bucks is increasing each year of this program.
Could we have the same thing on public ground? Absolutely. We have a jump start on the program for the D11, D14, D15, and D19 zones this year because the seasons were essentially ended because of fire closures. Many of those young, forked-horns that would have been whopped will survive this year. Buck ratios should increase, and we should set a target of 40 to 60 bucks per 100 does for these zones in the future -- not the 20 to 25 we hope for now. Next year, we need to allow only trophy deer hunting in these zones. Within two or three years, you would be amazed what would be happening on public ground.
Will the DFG try it? Do they care? Do you care? Those are the questions that need to be answered. The question is not whether or not we can grow more and bigger bucks on public ground. That has been proven on private ground all over the state.
Jeff "Jesse" James - Owner of Jesse's Hunting & Outdoors
You can always tell who's in 2nd place by who's whining and crying the most. - Old hockey coach.
Dum spiramus tuebimur
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"In the beginning of a change, the patriot is a brave and scarce man, hated and scorned. When the cause succeeds, however, the timid join him... for then it costs nothing to be a patriot." -Mark Twain
Many more areas should be managed for mature bucks. A bigger piece of the puzzle is habitat. Controlled burns and managed clearing need to be a part of it.
Didn't we do this one recently? Seems like it generated some pretty good responses.
He has no gallery to applaud or disapprove of his conduct... Whatever his acts, they are dictated by his own conscience rather than a mob of onlookers. It is difficult to exaggerate the importance of this fact.
where is all this public land adjacent to tejon ?
im guessing they mean near tehacapi city, i know there is a HUGE chunk of BLM land in the tehacapi mtns (via BLM map), but dont know how to get to it Legally.
Hell Aint a Bad Place To Be