Our journey began in the mid 1990’s after the acquisition of prime hunting land in Bullock County Alabama. This area in central Alabama is known for its great whitetail deer and turkey hunting. Myself, my three sons and several close friends – all of whom are accomplished outdoorsmen – greatly enjoy quality hunting and fishing. My fascination with biology and science coupled with a love of all things outdoors has blessed my life since I was a small child. Our early efforts to raise trophy bass and whitetail deer were not very productive, so in the late 1990’s work on Sanctuary Timber & Wildlife (STW) began in earnest.
As a late in life deer hunter, I was frustrated by the infrequency of Alabama buck encounters. Not having the time to spend hours and weeks in the woods just to observe whitetail bucks, I was fortunate to experience whitetail excursions in Texas. Yearly Texas hunting vacations in the 1990’s led to an appreciation of trophy opportunities afforded by fair chase properties. As an outdoorsman and biologist, seeing multiple bucks on every hunt fueled my interest in whitetail behavior and antler development while providing hours of pressure free entertainment.
When we enclosed our site in Bullock County, we assumed that developing superior hunting and fishing would be relatively easy. As with most projects concerning Mother Nature, this was not the case. Our property is just on the edge of the Black Belt, a particularly fertile area in west central Alabama. Our first few years were not very productive due to a variety of problems inherent to wildlife management and farming. At this point it was readily apparent that there was no easy roadmap to success, and I began to put together a team to develop the methodology for exceptional wildlife habitat design and implementation.
Much of our land was in open pasture and suffered from decades of marginal farming practices resulting in depleted and compacted soil. This led to special challenges when designing fertilization to remedy unique mineral deficiencies. STW was fortunate to partner with an accomplished biologist with extensive R&D experience in southern agriculture and horticulture. To optimize habitat quality, careful soil analysis and selection of appropriate plant species was of upmost importance and made a significant advancement toward achieving our wildlife management goals. The same is true when dealing with water quality in fishing lakes.
Mother Nature is the ultimate architect and teacher in all things wildlife. Wild crabapples are abundant at our farm in Bullock County, and most hunters know crabapples are at the top of a deer’s list for preferred browse and of course they love the fruit as well. Our genetic variant had larger apples and did not drop its fruit until late October or early November. Our photo gallery documents the attraction of this special tree. Hours spent watching the deer’s relationship to this tree intrigued me and served as the inspiration and catalyst for our R & D project to develop fruit trees for wildlife. After several years of selection, we have put together selections of pear, crabapple and apple trees that provide late fall to winter fruit drop for the ultimate in natural deer attraction.
Our Bullock county property had relatively limited stands of oaks for acorn production. We planted over 2500 sawtooth acorn trees (Quercus accitimus) which over a 5 year period began providing thousands of pounds of acorns for our abundant whitetail deer and turkey population. Following the inspiration of our crabapple, we have identified several individual trees that drop acorns 3-5 weeks later than normal. Our hard mast R&D has focused on producing significant numbers of these individual late dropping trees as part of a package to allow the landowner to have the potential for rapid acorn productions from these precocious trees. As everyone knows, native oaks take 15-20 years to begin producing meaningful quantities of acorns, but in as little as 5 years with the STW sawtooths you can begin feeding your wildlife naturally over a several month period.
After the first 6 years of our high fence we found that our average central Alabama whitetail buck scored 130-140 on the Boone and Crockett system. Several exceptional individuals have been taken by our bow hunters, 170+ but for the most part despite optimal nutrition and herd management individuals over 150 B&C score are uncommon. For the last few years we have introduced new genetics taking advantage of recent developments by our outstanding Alabama deer breeders. The goal of introducing meaningful quantities of new genetics and learning how this integrates into our native population is well underway and already producing impressive results.
Some of the most important nutrients that Mother Nature provides for wildlife and humans come in small brightly colored packages. Fresh fruit and berries are an integral part of a healthy diet. Our Family Orchard was one of our first projects and of course proved to be very challenging. The pleasure of growing blueberries, plums, peaches, pears and apples for our friends and family has been a special part of our journey. We have long, hot, humid and recently very dry growing seasons in central Alabama making fruit production problematic. Even more challenging was keeping the deer, fox squirrels and raccoons from consuming all of our fruit. While still very much a work in progress our R & D has developed packages of fruits that do well in the southeast and we have developed a few tricks to minimize the damage done by wildlife.
My first love is fishing and has been since my youth. I realized from our wildlife and plant research that just accepting the status quo in the recreational fisheries management was a mistake. I started applying the same R&D approach to our lakes and have met with some breakthrough results in growing trophy largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides). Many bass fishing TV shows have been filmed at the Sanctuary highlighting our efforts and of course the unbelievable fishing. Female only largemouth bass ponds are the focus of our current trophy bass project. Now in its’ tenth year we have learned a lot about how to produce trophy bass without the hassle of constantly removing excess bass from the population.
The ultimate focus of our work is to develop trophy hunting and fishing experiences for our families, friends and clients. Please enjoy our website.