Texas Brush Country Bucks
The hotbed of big buck production in Texas is situated within an irregular triangular-shaped area referred to as the golden triangle, encompassing all land within a region defined by Eagle Pass east to Cotulla and south to Laredo. Counties within this area, including Dimmit, LaSalle, Maverick, Zavala, and Webb, are nationally recognized for their trophy buck producing potential, with Webb and Dimmit Counties recognized as the all-time number one and two record book, buck producing counties in the United States.
Why do bucks in this harsh, semi-arid region of thorn scrub develop such large racks? One reason is size of landholdings complemented by a strict trespass policy affording bucks protection from excessive harvest. Bucks inhabiting this region are able to reach their optimal antler-producing years.
Deer within the triangle benefit from a diet composed of a diversity of brush species that yield substantial amounts of crude protein, phosphorus, and calcium. Even the ubiquitous prickly pear cactus, which contains approximately seven percent crude protein, is fortified with carbohydrates, representing an important source of energy for deer when their energy levels are lowest, during the post rut period.
The abundance and diversity of plant species occurring within the triangle is dependent on a number of factors, none more important than soil type. Within this region is a preponderance of red sandy loam soil. The remainder is composed of clay soils. Sand is more efficient in absorbing rain. This is principally the result of soil particle size, thus size of air spaces. Sand particles are much larger than clay particles, thus less compact and more efficient than clays in absorbing moisture from the excessive rainstorms common in the area. The reverse is true on clay soils, as water from intense storms simply runs off with little entering the compacted soil. This is the principal reason red sandy soils produce protein-fortified forbs in abundance, and in South Texas, forb production equates to quality antler production. In reality, the “golden triangle” actually should be called the red triangle.
Drought is the whitetails’ greatest nemesis. But in an average rainfall year, with rain occurring throughout the spring and early summer period, antler quality spirals upward—a direct result of the resilient brush and forb species that generate tons of high quality digestible forage proceeding rainfall.
Possibly the most unique advantage this country does have is a natural population control mechanism. For example, if deer hunter access is limited, how can deer numbers and balanced sex ratios be maintained? Although many landowners desire a balanced harvest, few are successful at removing adequate numbers of does to insure that herds remain within the carrying capacity of the land. This is where predators and periodic droughts play a significant role.
During the fawning season, which peaks around mid July, fawns are subjected to sub par range conditions. Seldom does fawn survival exceed 30%, or 30 fawns per 100 does, compared to the common 80+% experienced in other portions of the state. Spend a July or August in the brush country, and you will see why. With temperatures exceeding the 100 degree mark daily, accompanied by incessant wind, forbs disappear and brush growth ceases. Deer not only endure intense heat, they must do so on a poor quality diet. This not only affects antler development, but more importantly, herd health, particularly lactating does upon which the fawns depend. Fawn survival is minimal, particularly during the first three months following parturition, July through September, unquestionably the most grueling months of the year.
Drought also reduces standing water and escape cover. As a result, d are forced to concentrate on fewer water sites, enhancing the coyote’s efficiency.
Predation does not cease once drought or summer is over. During the late winter period, coyotes predate on mature bucks worn down or hurt following the deer rut. The combined effect of drought and predators represents a significant population regulation system on the deer herd.
The trinity of big buck production is age, nutrition, and genetics, and the golden triangle has all three. Brush country whitetails contain the right DNA. The average sum of circumferences per antler is around 16 inches, which is not extremely heavy, but tall, symmetrical tines and long, 25-inch beams which add substantially to the rack’s final Boone and Crockett score are characteristics exuded by these desert dwellers. In other words, deer within the triangle are composed of the right stuff, which becomes even more pronounced in wet years, and present day sportsmen are letting more young deer walk in order for those animals to reach their optimal antler-producing years of six years or older.
Although the triangle is a natural, big buck producing area, it is doubtful there is another area on the continent where deer receive as much professional attention.
Wildlife managers in this region continually investigate new methods to enhance deer quality.
The golden triangle is Texas’ breadbasket for trophy buck production, but that’s not to say big deer do not exist elsewhere. As a result of intensive deer management practices, other portions of Texas have been placed on the same playing field. Just take a look at the Texas big game awards, and you can see that huge racked bucks are taken in the Texas Panhandle. Some of Texas’ best kept secrets as to where big deer occur are now being discovered. The point is, one doesn’t have to hunt the golden triangle to take that buck of a lifetime, but for the betting man, the odds of realizing that dream are nowhere greater than in the fabled triangle.