Middle of March is the peak of the antler shedding period as most are dropped during that window from March 10 thru 25 based on my observed and recorded data of pen reared bucks during the last seventeen years. There are of course exceptions as some bucks drop antlers in February, and a very small percentage will still possess headgear in the second week of April. This annual occurrence in whitetails is based primarily on testosterone levels. When making the rounds on March 7, I’m confident I observed a buck cross the road in hot pursuit of a young Doe. It’s quite possible that a doe born in late summer of 2013 was just now coming into estrus. If my interpretation of what I observed for that brief five second period is correct, that particular Doe would not fawn until September 20 if indeed she breeds successfully.
March 8 and 10 brought some decent rains to the ranches that are helping to green things up. Little Arrowhead ranch received 1” that followed a half of an inch on March 3. The family ranch northwest of Three Rivers we refer to as Good Hope received right at 3” total during this same period. With another brief shower on March 16, we are hopeful the breaking of another drought period in South Texas is occurring. South Texas weather is very difficult to predict though as shower and thunderstorm activity often misses the area where Little Arrowhead ranch is located by just a few miles.
Mesquite trees are about a week late, but are beginning to sport their new leaves. In the next 10 days, they will go from basically providing no shade to evolve into a full yellowish green colored canopy that provides shade animals and humans both appreciate.
We hand fed over three tons of cottonseed and a substantial amount of protein pellets in that cold dry period from mid January to the end of February. The cold artic fronts in the peak of winter had very little moisture accompanying them, and range conditions got tough. Other than guayacon and prickly pear, there was very little green in McMullen County during this period. Deer (especially bucks trying to regain their weight after experiencing the aggressive rut) needed to be supplemented aggressively, particularly with the high deer densities we carry on our ranches. At the same time, I feel it is important to make the deer hustle in search of the nutrient rich native browse food that does exit on Little Arrowhead. The native forage is what is preferred by the whitetails when it does exist, so there is well defined balance that exists during times of plenty and need. As proud stewards of the land, it’s our job to evaluate and implement the feeding strategy to maintain that balance as range conditions change throughout the year.