Can you grow quality bucks with impressive antlers on poor habitat? You can if you put together a program like the hunters on Whitetail Masters Hunting Club have done for the past 10 years in rural Sabine Parish.
It begins when a particular buck begins showing potential to become something special at an early age. That’s what happened when four years ago, a 1 ½-year-old buck began appearing on trail cameras, a buck that showed good potential and was given the nickname of Hercules. He was placed on the “do not shoot” list and was downed by Ryan Masters, Assistant Fire Chief for the Natchitoches Fire Department, on Nov. 11.
“We have had this land, some 3,000 acres, for the past 28 years. Ten years ago, we decided we would see if we could raise better bucks on this property with marginal habitat,” Masters said.
The plan of action
In order to see if this plan could be realized, two components were implemented. First, the club members agreed not to take a buck until he reached 5 ½ years of age. Next, the plan was to supplement what the deer were trying to get by on with food that would give the deer the necessary nutrients to grow bigger antlers.
“Our goal was to see if we could get these deer living on marginal habitat into the 130 to 140 class. We decided to implement the ‘mid-west’ rule like is being done in Missouri and Iowa and that is giving them high quality food and allowing them to grow older. We agreed not to shoot a deer until he had reached 5 ½ years of age,” said Masters.
The supplemental food the club used was one they developed themselves. Realizing that for antlers to really grow, their food should be high in minerals, protein, calcium and phosphorous. The product they came up with is called MnT Trophy Blend, a product that has been used extensively on the club for the past three years.
“I had been in Illinois on a deer hunt when my brother texted me telling me he had Hercules on camera Friday, Nov. 8. My brother hunted and actually got a glimpse of the buck Saturday and found him on camera again on Sunday. I hit the road, driving 13 hours from Illinois with plans to be on my stand Monday,” Masters said.
Not long after climbing into his box stand Monday morning, Masters took out his doe bleat call and hit it three times. Shortly afterward, a doe came out into the clearing he was watching.
“Two minutes later, Hercules came out chasing the doe. At first, I wasn’t sure it was him because since I last saw a photo of him, he had broken off his G-4 on his left side. Then I saw the crab claw antler on his right side and knew it was him. I got on him with my 35 Whelan, took the shot and he ran 40-50 yards before piling up,” he added.
The 5 ½-year-old buck was scored as a 10-point with an inside spread of 18 inches. Main beams were 26 inches each, G2s were an incredible 15 inches each, G3s were both 13 inches long and he had 5 inch bases. He weighed 185 pounds. Measuring the rack, the unofficial score on the 10-point rack was an impressive 172 6/8 inches.
“It has been a roller coaster of emotions to say the least,” Masters said. “This deer is the result of hard work and dedication of so many people that I feel almost selfish that I was the one to be able to harvest him.”