How a Texas Rancher Dealt with the Drought

My old high school buddy, Whit Peterman, is now managing his family's ranch in Texas's Bosque and Hamilton counties. His parents bought the first piece of the property back in 1978. Today, Fall Creek Ranch is 580 acres. Whit's late father, Jerry Peterman, put lots of time and resources into making the place the best it could be for white-tailed deer. The place also has a few exotics, namely axis deer and blackbuck antelope. Understandably, the entire Peterman family is proud of their special retreat.

I asked Whit what the outlook was for this deer season at his family's ranch.

"This year our fawn crop is close to 100 percent. Fawns and does appear in good condition. Antlers are also better than last year. We've got a couple of bucks in the 135-140 range and one big 13-point that should score 150-plus.
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"In 2011, antlers were average due to the drought. We sold our cattle last year so the place would not get overgrazed. Out of the 13 ponds we have on the property, last year all but three of those dried up. This year, we have more water thanks to good spring rains. We also had much better cover to hide fawns. The broom weeds were waist-high this summer, helping conceal fawns from predators. By contrast, in 2011 when it was so dry, the fawn crop was only 50 percent."_

Whit keeps two, 2000-pound protein feeders full about nine months out of the year, from January through September. The 16 percent protein pellets certainly help keep deer in good condition when the environment is under stress. He also runs corn feeders.

As Whit put it, "That feed is expensive, but seeing all those fawns standing around a feeder on the trail camera pictures makes the hard work feel like it's paying off." The photo above is a testament to his efforts.

In years past, Whit's dad even tried black-eyed peas and soy beans to help the deer through the hard times.

Whit has also seen three groups of turkey poults, about ten poults with each hen, this summer. That's something he did not see last year.

While the drought has impacted some ranches harder than others in Texas this year, Fall Creek Ranch has a lot to be excited about.