Mountain Lion Really Killed this Whitetail

Mountain Lion Kill: Whitetail Buck

Readers of this site know that I usually write about deer management and anything related to hunting and white-tailed deer. In addition, I do my best to get the facts correct before  publishing content that I feel is accurate and helpful to hunters and landowners managing the deer and habitat found on their hunting properties.

Well, about a month ago I wrote an article that featured the photo above of a mountain lion dragging a dead buck, and stated that surely the photo was a fake. As it turns out, the mountain lion dragging a buck photo is not fake, but an actual, amazing trail camera photo taken on a ranch in South Texas.

 This photo caught a mountain lion near a feeder after killing a whitetail buck

Mountain Lion Kill Caught on Camera

Every deer hunter that has spent any amount of time in the woods, or more appropriately around a campfire with other hunters, has heard stories related to mountain lion sightings.  This can include the alleged black panther sightings that your buddy/uncle/friend/nephew claims he saw, too.

One of the best things about getting outdoors and into the wildlife woods is that you really never know just what you are going to see. And speaking from experience (and the mountain lion photos below), there are some pretty amazing things going on outside all of the time.

Photos, like campfire stories, are not always truthful. Before writing the first article about this photo of a mountain lion dragging a buck, I did a little research regarding the photo. If this photo had been faked, it would not have been the first. To make a long story short, someone initially admitted that they had “made” the photo. To get some attention, someone actually claimed to have faked a real-to-life photo. Wow.

Mountain Lion and a Successful Hunt

As it turns out, the real owner of the mountain lion photo saw the article, contacted me, gave me the real story that took place on his South Texas property and even provided me with additional photos to corroborate the mountain lion kill.

The ranch owner even said he found the whitetail buck’s head and remains about 6 weeks after these game camera photos were taken, the buck had been killed by the lion.

The photos below are in time succession and show a deer fleeing the area prior to the buck being killed, and you can even see the drag marks in the dirt after the mountain lion walks right in front of the game camera.  A truly remarkable occurrence, especially since it was caught on film. A special thanks to Chet Markgraf for his story and these photos!

Photos Document Lion & Whitetail BuckMountain Lion Kills Whitetail Buck

Lion Attacks Whitetail Deer

Mountain Lion Attacks Buck

Mountain Lion Kills Buck at Feeder

Video: Mountain Lion Kills Deer

Cold Weather, Overpopulation Leads to Deer Die-Off

Deer Hunting: Be Safe!

Every hunter wants to harvest a trophy buck, but when it comes to white-tailed deer hunting the reality falls somewhere between shooting a big buck versus deer overpopulation. On one hand, you have hunters that really just want to harvest a single deer, preferably a big, mature buck. Then on the other hand, you have deer numbers that need to be controlled. This will probably not come as a surprise to you, but the average deer hunter only wants to harvest one deer, or more precisely, one buck. While most hunters love seeing numerous deer while out in the field, an important part of deer management is population management.

The reason I bring this up is because just this last week ranches near Kerrville, on the western edge of the Texas Hill Country, were finding dead deer after several days of cold and wet weather. The cause of these deaths — malnutrition. And before assuming that these deer were confined within a high fence that maintained too many animals, I’ll let you know that they were not. In fact, most of the animals found dead were free-ranging white-tailed and axis deer, but they were all starving. Basically, the deer population of the area has exceeded the carrying capacity of the winter range. They were all competing for limited winter forage, and the weakest died.

Deer overpopulation can lead to winter die offs

Reports indicate that the found deer were in poor physical condition, hip bones exposed, backbones showing, and no internal fat. The rumens of most of the dead whitetails were packed with cedar, some dead oak leaves, and even yucca leaves. Axis deer rumens were packed primarily with dry grasses. The cedars (ashe juniper) in the vicinity of the dead animals were severely browsed. Obviously, the cause of death was malnutrition caused by overpopulation that was exacerbated by the cold, wet conditions that persisted over several days.

Axis deer are more susceptible to cold, wet weather than white-tailed deer because they are an exotic subtropical species, but the end result of malnutrition is realized when mixed with winter weather. Deer in less than optimal condition are always more susceptible to disease and death. Additionally, parasite loads can only make an individual animal’s situation worse. So how can winter die-offs be avoided?

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First, the deer population must be kept in check with the habitat. Sure, you may only want to harvest one buck, but realize that the health of each individual deer depends on the availability of food. Supplemental feeding can help, but only if it’s at an adequate level and of the proper type to support the deer population. Each deer impacts every other deer because of the competition for limited resources, but this contest can be greatly reduced if free-choice supplemental food is provided 24-7, year-round. When animals are found dead, remember that the weakest die first.

When monitoring a deer population, many factors can indicate potential deer management problems. Individual body weights, fawn survival (as an indicator of doe and habitat health), and habitat use can all be used to gauge herd health. With that said, pay close attention to the health of deer harvested early in the season. Underweight deer (for their age) are good indicators of a potential problem. In addition, if deer are eating undesirable species, such as cedar, they and the habitat are in very poor condition.

Deer Not Eating Protein Pellets?

Supplemental feed provided by free-choice protein pellets. 

Genetics (genes) are the most important factor in determining antler characteristics in whitetail bucks. However, genes are not the only factors that determines a buck’s antler potential. Both age and nutritioninfluence how a deer’s genes are expressed. For example, even a buck with the genetic composition to grow the largest rack in the world was harvested at a young age or was malnourished, then the genes that the buck carried were never fully observed. Because age and nutrition determine how a buck’s genes are expressed, these factors are critical to the success of a sound deer management program that strives to produce high-quality bucks.  

Although proper buck harvest is necessary to promote age and antler characteristics, nutrition can be achieved through a combination of habitat management and supplemental feeding. Habitat management is the single best way to provide year-round, high-quality food for deer, but this is typically only a viable option for land owners. Habitat management is not always feasible for hunters that lease land for deer hunting for a variety of reasons. In this case, hunters are limited to providing supplemental food through either food plots or free-choice protein pellets. Continue reading “Deer Not Eating Protein Pellets?”

Buck Management: What’s Up with Missing Brow Tines?

Are missing brow tines caused by genetics? 

The hunting season may have have ended for majority of white-tailed deer hunters, but there is no better time to reflect back over the past season than while it’s all fresh in your mind. If you had to opportunity to spend many days in the field, then you should have a good picture of the overall deer herd in your area. Better yet, if you recorded deer observations while hunting, then you have the hard data to support what is happening under your ranch’s current deer management program. These field observations, in addition to game camera photos, will allow you to track individual bucks from one year to the next. I strongly recommend keeping both photo and stand observations since some bucks always seem to avoid getting caught on camera.

With regards to antlered deer, one issue that always seems to come up is the lack of brow tines on individual white-tailed bucks. Hunters often have questioned why some middle-aged and older bucks simply lack brow tines. And yes, antler characteristics are genetically linked and highly heritable. To back up this claim, I will cite some long-term data collected from the Texas’ Kerr Wildlife Management Area.        

From 1974 to 1997, this research facility was involved in a number of studies designed to determine the role of nutrition and genetics in white-tailed deer antler development. During each of various studies that took place over that time, researchers recorded antler information for individual bucks throughout that 23 year period. This wealth of data allowed biologists to back-track 217 bucks from yearlings (1 1/2) to 3 1/2 years of age and 168 bucks until they were 4 1/2 years old. So what did they find? Continue reading “Buck Management: What’s Up with Missing Brow Tines?”

Texas Deer Hunters Have One Last Shot

Texas’ Late Season Allows Managers to Harvest Does and Spikes 

The General Deer Hunting Season has ended across much of Texas, but whitetail hunters still have an opportunity to take some deer during the Special Late General Season for spike bucks and antlerless deer. Although deer are very wary right now after a full season of being hunted, the late season gives deer managers one last chance to harvest the few remaining deer needed to achieve their deer harvest goals. Now, not all Texas counties have a Late Season in place for white-tailed deer, but most 5 deer counties do have the special season that runs from January 5-18. Make sure to review your county’s deer hunting regulations before heading out into the field.

As valuable as Texas’ Late Season may be for some hunters,  it’s not the only option for harvesting white-tailed deer outside the General Season. For deer managers looking for some additional flexibility, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has the Managed Lands Deer Program (MLDP) that not only allows for an early start in some cases, for the early harvests of does, spikes, and other undesirable bucks, but for an extended season that runs until the end of February. I would recommend that any landowner interested in sound deer harvest and habitat management look into the specifics of the MLDP program. The winter weather is cold as I write, so deer are moving. Get out there and take advantage of Texas’ late season — and pray for rain!