As printed in the San Angelo Standard Times on Friday, July 21, 2006 in Section B
Name of game is biggest bucks
Seminar focuses on management issues
By Matt Phinney
BRADY-Hugo hardly had a care in the world. The young whitetail buck walked up to about 20 strangers Thursday with little more than a passing interest. As the group started to walk off, Hugo followed with his neck stretched out.
He wasn't looking for affection.
"He's looking for food," said Grant Evridge. "The heck with you guys. he wants the feed bucket."
Evridge led several similar tours through deer pens as part of a seminar on the family land near Brady. Evridge's deer breeding seminar; which drew about 100 attendees, was intended to give other deer breeders practical information on several breeding topics.
The topics included bottle-feeding fawns, darting and transporting deer, culling deer herds and pasture management.
Evridge and his brother, Joe Evridge, own Heart of Texas Trophy Whitetails, where they raise genetically selected deer for sale to other ranches. They also plan to offer hunts of their own in about two years, Grant Evridge said.
The family has dozens of pens containing does, bucks and young fawns. The deer, all whitetails, come from several northern states where large racks are prevalent and from Texas, Grant Evridge said.
Fawns bring as much as $2,500 each, he said. Bred does can bring as much as $10,000 and there is no ceiling to the price of a trophy buck, he said. he knows of a breeder who got $500,000 each for two deer.
The owner of the Hoof & Horn breeding ranch near Zephyr paid $450,000 for Jake The Dream Buck, Evridge said.
Evridge said he designed Thursday's event to speak to other breeders in a way they can understand. He said it's distinct from other such seminars and he wants to hold it annually.
"I've been to seminars for several years and everyone talks like it's a college course," Evridge said. "It's all above my head. And a lot of the things they say we shouldn't do, we do and have found it to work."
Deer breeder Vicki McLean began the day talking about the virtue of bottle feeding fawns. Hand feeding fawns might not be for every breeder that doesn't have the time to feed each animal every day, but, she said, the benefits out-weigh the drawbacks.
"You can look at them closely and study them," she said. "You get to know their personalities. And they don't freak out in the pens."
Landowners continually strive to find the best genetics for their deer herds because every landowner wants to have the deer with the biggest antlers, Evridge said. It's that old West Texas competitive edge, and everyone is looking for what he calls the "Shaquille O'Neal," genetics.
As antlers get bigger, so does the price of hunting leases in West Texas, he said.
"The whole point is to increase the size of the antlers on your ranch," he said. "But that also is taking over the price of hunting, and many of your average hunters can't afford it anymore."