|Innovative ranch breeding genetically superior deer
By Jerry Lackey
San Angelo Standard-Times
Sunday, November 5, 2006
ELDORADO The Lasater family that created the Beefmaster cattle breed in 1931 is putting the same philosophy into practice on a 1,400-acre ranch seven miles northwest of here to develop a superior breed of white-tailed deer.
Lorenzo Lasater manages the family ranch. “Through a scientific deer-breeding project, we are raising buck deer in pens like we do our Beefmaster bulls and putting the same thought into pedigree and performance,” Lorenzo Lasater said. “My grandfather (the late Tom Lasater) preached six essentials when he established the Beefmaster breed. They were disposition, fertility, weight, conformation, hardiness and milk production.
“However, we have already discovered in the deer breeding business, it’s all about antlers.”
The Lasater Whitetail Ranch, in Schleicher County about 50 miles south of San Angelo, is among many deer-breeding efforts across the Concho Valley. Ranchers have found breeding deer is a viable way of supplementing their income, and hunters are happy to have that many more trophy deer to shoot.
A Deer Management Permit from the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department authorizes the Lasaters to own their white-tailed deer herd under high-fenced properties and to temporarily detain white-tailed deer in breeding pens on the property for the purpose of natural breeding.
Lorenzo Lasater said a normal white-tailed deer in the Edwards Plateau area weigh about 135 pounds and carry an average 8-point rack of horns. Lasater wants to push bucks to a 180-pound range with a 10- to 12-point horn count.
The goal is to put the emphasis on trophy white-tailed buck genetics.
“We do a lot of intensive culling and aging of our deer,” Lasater said, pointing to a high-fenced 10-acre pen area from aboard a 4-wheeler. “We purchased these 30 does last spring from another ranch herd with approximately 20 years of proven genetics. We bred them to our larger bucks, and now they have fawns at side.”
He said by controlling the genetics and feeding the deer in a pen environment, they can produce a 140 percent fawn crop and be protected from being killed by predators.
The Trap, Transport & Transplant program carried out the past two years consists of capturing ranch does with a helicopter and bringing them to a 10-acre pen for breeding to true genetic white-tailed bucks. Different from the 30 head of purchased does, these females are released back on the ranch following breeding to give birth to their fawns in the wild.
The Managed Lands Deer Permit allows for an extended hunting season and helps manage the wildlife better by harvesting at different times to keep the numbers in balance.
When small deer or spikes are killed during the culling process, they are turned over to a local game warden, and the meat is given to the needy.
“Most modern-day hunting operations just take the cattle off the ranch completely, but our ranching business started with cows, and we will continue to diversify and run them together. There are 50 head of spring-calving cows here now.” Lasater said. “Even at that, we find the wildlife usually stay in pastures where we don’t have cattle.”
The ranch’s perimeter is high-fenced, while regular cross fencing divides four pastures. The cattle are rotated periodically, but the deer and other wildlife roam throughout the pastures.
In addition, there are two food plots 18-acre fields planted with small grain, one on the north end of ranch, and another on the south. The fields are strictly for deer to graze.
Lasater, who’s also president of the San Angelo Chamber of Commerce board, estimates 300 head of deer populate the ranch, with about 100 seen on the food plots every evening. With cameras mounted around the fields, he monitors the deer herds’ progress.
Besides the food plots, the deer receive feed year-round. Since Aug. 28, the ranch has received about 10 inches of rainfall, which fell slowly and at comfortable intervals, about 1 to 2 inches each time, Lasater said. The whole place has a good cover of tobosa grass a tough prairie grass common to San Angelo and West Texas.
There are two main water wells on the property. In addition, dirt stock tanks and numerous small watering holes are spread throughout the ranch, designed with deer in mind although cattle also drink from them.
The tanks and water holes are filled from windmills and submerged pumps.
Lasater said long-range plans include selling breeding deer to stock other ranches. With so many large ranches being divided into smaller tracts, he wants to supply a new recreational rancher with bucks in their third year of age, allow them to adjust another year and be ready to hunt in four years.
Like some other operations, the Lasater family ranch offers accommodations for hunters.
Guest hunter accommodations at the Eldorado ranch include a four-bedroom, three-bath lodge with kitchen and a relaxing living room, plus a barn nearby with a one bedroom apartment and a bunkhouse-style bedroom upstairs for guides.
“We have a cook who prepares all the meals, including Texas home cooking and Mexican dishes,” Lasater said. “We have some hunting guests who come to enjoy good food, good wine, the charm of a beautiful view and the accommodations.”