John's Journal...

How to Grow Big Bucks Texas Style

What Is the Duval County Ranch?

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 Click to enlargemilitary with its various rifle scopes. Trijicon is supporter of the Wounded Warrior Project (, giving a portion of each sale of Trijicon to this organization.

I was hunting with Douglas Kubetka on the 125,000-acre Duval County Ranch in Duval County, Texas, near Freer, Texas, which is 80- to 90-miles west of Corpus Christi. The ranch is part of Killam Ranch Properties, Ltd. and is owned by David Killam and his family, who came to this section of Texas around 1920. Oliver Winfield “O. W.” Killam, the grandfather of the family, was a state senator from Oklahoma. He sold his holdings in Oklahoma and moved to Texas, where he became a wildcat oil man. He drilled a couple of dry oil wells. But on his third or fourth attempt, he struck so much oil that he was dubbed “King Petrol.” Looking to expand his properties and mineral rights, around 1940, O.W. began to buy ranches in the region, eventually purchasing 100,000 acres to form the Duval County Ranch. Through acquisitions, the Duval County Ranch has increased to 125,000-plus acres. Today, his son and grandson are wildcatters, meaning they are men of courage, seeking oil in unproven areas of oil and gas reserves. So far, the Killams have had a fairly-high rate of success in finding oil and natural gas. Although there are producing oil wells still on the ranch, they never seem to bother the deer. Click to enlarge

The Duval County Ranch only allows the public to harvest mature 8-point, 4-1/2-year old or older bucks. They don’t allow the shooting of trophy bucks until after Christmas. The ranch harvests trophy bucks when they are 6-1/2- to 8-1/2-years old because they want to get as much of those trophy bucks’ genetics in the herd as possible. A buck that will score 145 or more on Boone & Crockett (B&C) is considered a trophy buck onthe Duval CounClick to enlargety Ranch.

“I’ve only been here 8 years, and the best buck I’ve seen scored 185 B&C,” David Kitner, ranch manager, explains. “The really-big bucks are only harvested by the Killam family. We charge $3,500 for any buck that scores up to 145 B&C. We charge an additional $200-per inch for bucks up to 185 points. Bucks that score 145 or less are considered management bucks. If you shoot a buck that scores more than 145 B&C, you’ll have to pay $200 per inch over 145. If you want to hunt bucks that score 125 or less, you can take them for $2,500. We also have feral hogs, javelinas (pig-like animals native to the deserts of the southwestern US), bobcats and coyotes to hunt. On an average day, each hunter will see from 1 to 15 bucks. In late February, we fill our feeders with protein pellets to supplement the native browse. In September, we fill our feeders with corn and continue to feed the deer corn throughout deer season, which is a pretty-expensive feeding program.”

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: How We Judged the Bucks’ Antler Sizes

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 1