Night Hawk Stories... Entry 35
Why So Many Trophy Bucks
EDITOR'S NOTE: How much does taking a trophy buck cost a hunter? You may not truly want to know. If you calculate the prices of transportation, food, lodging, a lease, a hunting license, time away from work and other expenses of taking a trophy white-tailed buck, you'll find that the average hunter spends a minimum of between $2,000 and $5,000 a year - whether he's hunting with a bow, a black-powder gun or conventional weapon. Since often a deer hunter will hunt for five to 20 years attempting to take a trophy buck, that buck can cost from $25,000 to $100,000. Think about how many years you may hunt without bagging a big buck. Then you'll realize how much money, time and energy go toward that one opportunity to bag the buck of lifetime with your bow.
In the four days Chris Kirby of Orchard Park, New York, the president of Quaker Boy Calls, and I hunted the Ford Ranch, we saw an average of three to eight bucks in the morning and three to eight more in the afternoon.
"All but the three spike bucks I saw would have been taken by hunters anywhere else in the nation," Kirby told me one night at supper. "Most of the bucks I turned down would have been the biggest bucks bagged on any property I'd ever hunted."
When you hunt the Ford Ranch with your bow or gun, you won't have any trouble passing up the little bucks. But you also must pass on bucks you'll shoot in a heartbeat anywhere in the East, especially on public-hunting lands.
I asked Forrest Armke, the manager of the Ford Ranch, why so many bucks lived on the 30,000-acre Ford Ranch. Armke reported that, "The Ford Ranch has been managing these deer for almost two decades. When I first came to the Ford Ranch, we didn't have the size or number of bucks we do today.
"This ranch had four major problems at that time. Feral hogs ate up much of the deer's browse and killed and ate many of the newborn fawns. Second, our deer herd was out of balance with too many does and too few bucks. Our third problem was that the bucks didn't live long enough to become quality or trophy bucks. And last, we didn't have the quality of genetics in our herd to produce the size and number of bucks I knew most hunters wanted to take."
Armke first eliminated the hogs. Then he drastically reduced the number of does on the property and harvested the inferior bucks every year. He instituted antler restrictions on harvested bucks to allow most of the bucks to survive to reach an age of four or five years old.
"Now each year we do a helicopter survey with a camera to allow me to check the size and number of our bucks," Armke explained. "From this survey, I've determined that every year we consistently can produce bucks at least four years old, with a 120-point or better rack. That's why the Ford doesn't allow but 100 hunters to take 100-trophy bucks each season."
You can contact the Ford Ranch at (915) 286-4572 and the Quinn Ranch at (915) 597-2647.
Tomorrow: What About Gimme Trophies