Why hunt the Faith Ranch?

Why does Faith produce big bucks? 

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 Texas.

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 bucks.

--Stuart W. Stedman


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