Faith has four ingredients that has allowed it to produce
large white-tailed bucks: (1) a large ranch itself (40,000
acres), it is surrounded by large ranches; (2) the ranch is
remote—located far away from any population center; (3) its
soils are diverse with a sandy belt called the Carrizo sand
that runs through the ranch; and (4) the low rainfall the
ranch receives, paradoxically, produces big bucks by keeping
the population well within the carrying capacity of the land.
The size and remoteness of Faith Ranch and its
neighbors is Faith’s greatest asset: it allows bucks to grow
old. Ranches surrounded by small tracts of land often face
intense hunting pressure from their neighbors. Similarly,
deer herds on ranches located near large population areas
are often beset by illegal hunting pressure. Although one’s
management practices can control what happens on a ranch itself,
one cannot control a neighbors harvest practices without a
high fence. Illegal hunting is also very difficult to control.
Faith Ranch does not face these problems.
Size and remoteness, however, does not explain the high
quality of bucks produced by the Faith Ranch. Many ranches
in other parts of South Texas have these characteristics.
The soil diversity at the Faith Ranch is one possible
explanation. Faith Ranch has a diversity of soil types that
other big ranches do not enjoy. The map pictured below shows
the different soil types of the Faith Ranch. The three broad
soil families are shown as variations of three colors: sandy
soils (red), clayey soils (green), and gravelly soils (blue).
These diverse soil type, interlaced with each other, provide
deer at the Faith Ranch with a variety of nutritional sources
in many different weather conditions. This nutritional variety
has the effect of creating a higher plane of consistent nutrition
that would not be present without this soil diversity.
The final ingredient that allows Faith Ranch to produce
large white-tailed bucks is its low rainfall. Rainfall
at Faith Ranch averages about 18 inches per year (a semi-desert
environment), but the variation around this average is extreme.
At first blush, my claim that low rainfall helps produce big
bucks at Faith seems paradoxical. After all, research conducted
at the Faith Ranch has shown that antler sizes of mature bucks
vary positively with March and April rainfall; the more March
and April rainfall Faith receives, the bigger the antlers.
At one level, then, more rainfall is better than less.
But if more rainfall is better than less rainfall, why
does the Golden Triangle area of Texas (a low rainfall, big
buck area of which Faith is a part) produce bigger bucks,
on average, than some of the higher rainfall areas in eastern
South Texas? The answer, I believe, is in population control.
Low rainfall keeps deer populations from outstripping the
carrying capacity of the land. This population control effect
of low rainfall is, in my opinion, the secret of the success
of the Golden Triangle in producing big bucks. When spring
rains do come, the deer population is never at a level that
puts significant pressure on the forage.
Low rainfall might benefit the Golden Triangle in another
way. In areas of higher rainfall, large amounts of rain can
leach important minerals from the soil. The minerals contained
in the diverse Faith Ranch soils, in contrast, are not leached
out by excessive rainfall. That much is a fact. Whether the
higher, preserved mineral content of the Faith Ranch soils
produce forbes of greater nutritional value than other areas
is a subject that needs research. But it does offer another
explanation why the Golden Triangle produces the biggest bucks
In sum, Faith Ranch enjoys size and remoteness
to allow its bucks to grow old, diverse soil types that provide
a variety of nutrition in many types of weather conditions,
and low rainfall that keeps its deer population well within
the carry capacity of the land. Few ranches in South Texas
have all of these ingredients that produce big white-tailed
--Stuart W. Stedman