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How We Manage Our Deer Herd to Produce Great Hunter Success


Editor’s Note: This week Justin Eakins, one of Mossy Oak Deer Thugs, tells us how he manages and hunts deer on 30,000 acres at the end of the season on his land at his Canadian River Hilton Hunting Lodge in Crawford, Oklahoma, and how he grows a crop of bucks that he doesn’t plan to harvest for 4 years. Eakins is a deer hunter for over 30 years. 

As I’ve mentioned earlier, to provide the best late season hunting, you have to manage the number of hunters you have on the property. This relates to the amount of hunting pressure that you put on your deer. You have to constantly monitor your deer herd and make management decisions based on a 4-year plan. At Canadian River Hilton Hunting Lodge, we manage our deer herd to produce 4-1/2-year old bucks. 

We've had 3 years of droughts on our property. Last year we came out of the drought, and we had a really good fawn crop. However, after a 3-year drought, the number of deer that we have on our property is lower than we think it should be. Therefore this year, we haven’t allowed any does to be harvested. We want to get our deer numbers higher after the drought. We know that we need to do this based on our camera surveys, and the reports we’re getting from our hunters and guides. When you're managing a property to produce 4-1/2-year-old deer each year, you have to manipulate the harvest based on the number of deer you think you have on your property, the weather conditions and the number of deer you may have lost to weather and disease. If you don’t have bad weather – like droughts and floods – and you know there’s not been a die-off, then more than likely, you’ll need to harvest a certain number of does. But if you know that weather or disease has lowered your deer density, you may not want to harvest does every year. Instead, only harvest them when your deer density is high. You have to try to continually work every year to get your buck-to-doe ratio as close as you can to one-to-one. 

EakinsJ3_llAs a good land manager, I feel like our harvest requirements have to change almost every year, depending on the factors that increase or decrease our deer numbers. Some seasons, we try to take two does for every buck we take. Other seasons, we may only want to harvest one doe for every buck we take. During the 2014-2015 season, we’re not taking any does. Each spring, I look at my fawn crop as producing the bucks that we’ll harvest 4 years from then. So, I have to make deer management decisions based on bucks that I want to take 4-1/2-years from the time they're born. We manage deer on our lands just like we’d manage cattle. We know about how many mature 4-1/2-year-old bucks we want to take 4 years from now. This is the reason that determining how big the fawn crop was is so important, as well as what factors limit the fawn crop and the number of deer that we have on our property. 

We only hunt 25 to 30 clients per year. Because of the management program we've been on for the last several years, even after having 3 years of drought, we’re still running an 85-percent-plus success ratio, and our bucks are averaging better than 135 Boone and Crockett points. This average is holding true for our bowhunters, our gun hunters, our late season hunters and our early season hunters. I don’t just operate a hunting lodge. I'm a land and deer manager who tries to produce the number and sizes of bucks that my hunters want to see and harvest each year. That’s why we have to access our herd and adjust our harvest every year, regardless of the weather or the number of deer we have on the property. 

To contact Justin Eakins, call his cell phone at 580-497-7500, and leave a message. His home phone is 580-983-2500, the website is, or you can email him at

Day 2: DEER THUG Justin Eakins Says for Late Season Deer Hunting - Scout Hard and Hunt Smart

Tomorrow: DEER THUG Justin Eakins Tells How He Raises and Manages for Mature Bucks on Large Tracts of Land

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