From the Campfire

by: Calan Ahrens

As these hot summer days continue on, I can’t help but think of cooler days ahead. The first real chill from an October northern across the cedar trees in the hill country, Aoudad sheep bounding off mountain faces out in Marfa, Pronghorn season getting underway in the open pastures near Amarillo, the opening day of Texas Whitetail season, and large Mule deer bucks appearing from their greasewood hideouts as rut gets underway. As hunting season draws nearer, I wanted to take a moment to give some of my reflections and projections of Native & Exotic game hunting here in Texas for our Texas Ranch Journal readers, almost as if we were in a hunting camp out in   Brewster county, talking and discussing, “From the Campfire”.

Texas Freeze of 2021

Back in February, Texas was rocked if you will (as you all well know) by the horrific winter storm Uri. Among many issues that sprung from this storm, Texas ranchers and wildlife managers battled several issues with their livestock and wildlife. Although, there is probably ten or more articles I could write on this subject alone, I am going to hit on one particular topic for now, and that is Axis deer. 

From our company experience with the ranches we work with and the hunts we have ran so far this summer cycle, exotics took a major blow from this storm. During and after the freeze, we found several Axis dead from the storms wrath trying to get out of the freezing temps and the moisture. Axis deer (like many exotic game) can not handle the cold as well as our Whitetail deer for example. A lot of the issue, was that many Axis could not get ample cover from the snow. So those Axis that were in more open range areas, were the most susceptible. Many of the deer suffered from hypothermia causing them not to be able to digest their food properly and thus changed the temperature of bacteria in their stomachs. The deer that were strong enough to survive had to battle pneumonia for several weeks and the bucks, were dealing with the effects of frostbite. 

During an important time of year, axis bucks that had lost their horns back in November/December were in an important phase of their horn regrowth when Uri hit. Some bucks got frost bite at their pedicles, some lost brow tines, some grew funky horns, some bucks that were near grown out or half way, got entire frost bite in their horns causing them to turn black and essentially rot off. Although, we as a company have taken many great Axis bucks this summer with minimal or no horn damage, we have seen several many mature Axis bucks that are missing points, horns, or have some funky-ness to their shape. The bright side to this coin is that these bucks in particular that are of mature age and are missing these points/horns, only insures that they will get through this year and become much larger next year. Just because these bucks suffered frost bite from this past February to their horns, doesn’t mean it will be an issue for next years horn growth. The frost bite only affected the blood flow into the Axis bucks horns, not into his skull. That calculates to more mature and larger bucks to be harvested in 2022!

Texas Hunting Forecast Fall/Winter 2021

Looking forward to the fall/winter hunting season, I am very optimistic for all our native & exotic hunters across the state. The reason is simply from the amount of rainfall we have been receiving throughout many areas of the state. In the areas we mainly operate (south Texas, Trans Pecos, hill country, and panhandle) we have received ample amounts of much needed rainfall at the right time of year which translates to cover for new born fawns, turkey poults being born, Whitetail bucks continuing growing their horns, plenty of natural groceries for our many species of exotics, and so on. You can feed all the protein in the world, but there is no substitute to God’s given rain and the natural browse/forbs that is provided with it. Again, this is a projection, but it is my professional opinion that when rain is provided like we have been getting, Texas will experience an above average hunting season with great trophies being produced from all across this great state. Timely rains = Success for all Texas ranches. 

Wrapping Up

As we come out of summer and move into the early months of hunting season across Texas, I wish the best of luck to all hunters, huntresses, youth, and landowners. I look forward to hearing successful hunting stories from the readers of Texas Ranch Journal around the campfire in the near future. 

Buena Caceria- Good Hunting

Calan Ahrens is the Owner and Founder of Ahrens Ranch & Wildlife, LLC. serving several landowners encompassing 600,000 acres all over Texas for their commercial hunting, managing, and exotic/native game needs.