The evolution of techniques, results, and trends from yesterday to today.
Story and Photography by Bob Zaiglin
The management and pursuit of whitetail deer has evolved as much as the iPhone over the last 30 years. Modern day sportsmen have at their disposal a variety of new tools from fine-tuned compound bows to long range shooting rifles to pursue some of the largest racked bucks in existence.
Obviously, the playing field has changed whether one’s favorite piece of hunting turf is high fenced or not, as no time in the history of Texas deer hunting has the number of exceptionally large racked bucks inhabited managed lands as they do at present.
Like all challenges man faces, the concept of making it better is inherent. But to critique the methods, whether it is the management of the species or the pursuit of the animal in the wild, it’s important to look back at the history of modern day deer management.
I was privileged to witness the advent of modern day deer management as a graduate student at Texas A&I University under the supervision of renowned deer researcher Dr. Charlie DeYoung. An innovative and curious-minded individual, Charlie wanted to investigate the practical aspects of managing whitetails, and together we researched the benefits of supplemental feeding free-ranging whitetail deer. Documented as the first study of its kind in 1975, it was less than popular at the time, but we discovered that it was an applicable yet expensive tool to impact deer in a positive fashion. Many more studies followed as the Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute emerged as the reliquary for such research and its findings.
More important to me at the time was where I was privileged to conduct my research, which was on the H. B. Zachry Rancho Blanco located in Webb County, Texas, right in the center of the golden triangle. More importantly, the ranch manager was Al Brothers, and under his tutelage I was privileged to witness just how intensively a deer herd could be managed. The Rancho Blanco to me is ground zero when it comes to defining the origin of modern deer management.