This summer I attended the North Texas Buckskin Brigade on the Stasney Cook Ranch in Albany, Texas. The Stasney family allows the North Texas Buckskin Brigade to hold the camp on their 25,000 acre ranch. At the camp you will learn about Whitetail Deer, everything from plants they eat, to their anatomy and why they shed their antlers.
When you arrive you are assigned to a group (also called a herd) that contains seven other cadets from within the state with whom you will bunk with and spend most of the time together. At this weeklong camp you can expect to spend long days (one of the instructors said we were lucky if we got14 hours of sleep the whole week!) learning various facts about Whitetail deer and competing against other "herds" for the top spot on the leader board. Your heard can earn points from doing well in plant test, room inspections, marching and other activities. We even got to compete in a marksmanship competition. At the end of the week if your "Herd" is in first place you win a free hunt!
On a typical day we would wake up fairly early about 6:00 a.m. After waking up, each "herd" thoroughly cleaned their room to make it ready for inspection. Then we would participate in marching drills for about thirty minutes to practice for the drill competition. After we had breakfast we would have morning classes, which normally involved learning several new species of plants or being quizzed over ones we had learned the previous day. We then typically went out into the field (different areas on the ranch) and participated in a type of activities. Lunch was served once everyone had returned from their various tasks. We then prepared for another round of instruction, and went back into the field for some more activities after class. Dinner was served at about six or seven, and afterwards you guessed it, more class! Once we returned to our rooms we had to work on projects called "Tri-Folds" which are similar to science fair projects but relate to whitetail deer topics. Some of you may have seen my Tri-Fold around Mason the last several weeks.
Thursday was competition day. Each "herd" participated in: marksmanship, plant identification scavenger hunt, and several other activities that would determine which "herd" was the "top herd".
At this camp I learned a lot of valuable skills, from identifying different types of plants that deer eat to why they shed their antlers each year. Some of the highlights from camp were participating in a deer spotlight survey one night, (which was a lot of fun) and observing and participating in a dissecting of a harvested doe.
If you attend this camp you will walk away with invaluable knowledge about Whitetail deer, their habitats and conservation. You will also leave with strong friendships you create over the week with your friends in your herd.
To learn more about the North Texas Buckskin Brigade or to participate in the next camp you can contact the North Texas Buckskin Brigade at http://www.texasbrigades.org/ or 800-TEX-WILD.
John Aycock is the grandson of Tommy and Alice Starks of Mason.