Ray: Youngest, Oldest Bucks Hit Hardest by Drought

Rut Reporter Brandon Ray is an expert on the region. Ray was born in Dallas and shot his first deer with a bow in Central Texas at the age of 15. The full-time freelance writer manages his family's Texas Panhandle ranch, is a licensed New Mexico guide, and last year took a 184 gross P&Y non-typical trophy. States covered: TX, OK, NM

My long-time friend, Ronnie Parsons, is a master when it comes to dropping big whitetails with a bow. To date, he's arrowed 32 Pope & Young-class bucks. Every one of those from the same low-fence ranch in the west-central region of Texas. This year, the forecast is not so good.

On the ranch Parsons hunts, rain has been scarce, to put it mildly. From January through early August, the ranch recorded less than 2 inches. In Parsons words, "The deer looked like the walking dead. Ribcages and neck bones visible in trail camera pictures."

Since then, they've received 4 inches of rain, in late August. The problem is, it all came in two days raining as hard as imaginable. Since the drought-stricken ground was hard as concrete, most of the rain ran off. Pastures greened for a short period of time, but then more 100 degree temperatures dried things out.

Here's more insight into west-central Texas from Parsons himself.

"As of late September, deer look better than they did this summer. The deer are not fat, but they aren't the skeletons they were back in July and August.

"This season will be tough. Of the 7 trail cameras I have running, I've only seen three P&Y-class bucks so far. The best buck a 140-class 10-point. In a good year I see 8-12 P&Y bucks on my trail cameras before season.

I've also seen 3 bucks I can positively identify from last year by their unique antler characteristics. These are mature bucks that were shooters last season. Each one of those have lost 15-20 inches of antler due to the drought.

It seems like the younger bucks are hit the hardest, and the oldest bucks. Three to five year old bucks are doing the best. Does appear to be abandoning fawns, to save themselves in my opinion. Fawn recruitment this year will be very low. I've already seen ten fawn carcasses close to my corn feeders."

Like the rest of the region, expect low fawn recruitment this year from west-central Texas and antler size to be down due to drought.