Sabine Parish hunters benefit from Midwest-style deer management

There is an area in Louisiana capable of naturally producing habitat amenable to growing big, healthy bucks and does. Land along the Mississippi delta is rich in nutrients with plants growing naturally there that are highly nutritious. Deer that feed on such a bountiful buffet tend to grow larger bodies with bucks sporting impressive racks.

The northern part of the state, for the most part, consists of rolling red clay hills and pine trees, not the type of habitat where deer can reach their maximum potential.

Sabine Parish is just such a location with habitat basically that you don’t expect to see deer grow to impressive weights and antler growth.

Ten years ago, something began taking shape to change the production of deer in a portion of Sabine Parish from piney woods averages to eye-popping characteristics. A group of hunters, who own and lease some 3,000 acres in Sabine Parish, decided to see if their piney woods could do something to produce higher quality deer. Ryan Masters was one of the group who set out to see if it could be done.

“Ten years or so ago, I was fortunate to be able to hunt in the Midwest. I began wondering how those guys up there had much bigger deer that we had here in our part of Louisiana,” said Masters.

“I began realizing that up there, they were allowed only one buck tag per season and bucks must be five years old or older. It started dawning on me that I get six tags and can hunt deer for over two months and there is no restriction on age or antler size here,” he said.  

Masters and his friends decided to try and do something about it. Could bigger bucks be raised in Sabine Parish? They were determined to try to find out.

“We developed what we’re calling the ‘Midwest Style’ of management. We changed our regulations to allowing members to take only one buck a year and the one they can take has to be at least five years old. Our property is in the piney woods with not much quality natural deer food. We keep food plots out all year and we developed our own protein blend of supplemental food we have been using on our club.

“We studied up on things that can help any area produce more quality animals and learned that the amount of sunlight, the amount of minerals, the availability of water sources along with genetics are keys to raising deer that are above the norm,” Masters said.

By the 2018 deer season, Masters and his friends began seeing positive results from their more aggressive approach.

On a personal note, I write stories of big bucks taken around the state for LA Sportsman magazine and just about every year, I’ll be hearing about and writing about one the Masters’ group has produced. The current 2022-23 season has produced one when Ryan Masters’ son, Joel, downed a big 10-point buck weighing 220 pounds with an inside spread of over 20 inches, a buck with antler measurements of 156 2/8 inches.

By improving the land you’re permitted to hunt, providing year around nutritious food sources high in protein, limit the number of bucks members can take during season and passing on those smaller bucks giving them time to grow and reach their potential, results are possible.

“I am able to tell folks that if they want to grow big deer on marginal habitat,” Masters said, “it can be done.”

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