East Texas landowner revamps property for deer, ducks and bass

By Craig Nyhus
Lone Star Outdoor News

When Steve Favre bought what he named Riverview Farms in 2002, he had a vision. The vision is now reality.

“This was row crop land,” he said of the 1,450-acre, low-fenced property along the Sulphur River on the Delta/Lamar County border in Northeast Texas.

After buying the ranch, he got to work. For the deer, the work involve a lot of prescribed burning, developing food plots and getting rid of Johnson grass.

“We also to multiple disking, spraying and planted 11 native species,” Favre said. “And then there were the cedars — most of them were reduced by burning — it’s fun watching them explode into flames. Then we planted 220,000 hardwood trees, including oaks and persimmons.
Riverview Farms became part of the Managed Lands Deer Program, and the deer population and numbers were addressed.”

“There were fair numbers of deer when I bought the place,” Favre said. “But the quality of bucks was really bad — it was hard to find anything that would score 100 inches.” Favre quickly learned he had 10 does for every buck, and with help from biologists, permits were obtained, the doe population was reduced, and the quality of animals increased tenfold.

“We shot more than 20 does each year for four years, and no bucks,” he said. “Now, the ratio is 1.5 does for every buck, and the average buck ranges from the high 140s to 160. East Texas isn’t known for big bucks, but the genetics are here if you give them the right environment.”

The ranch isn’t a commercial operation, and the available hunts are reserved for family, friends and hunts donated to charities. Two years ago, the deer management effort paid off.

“I shot a 25-inch wide buck that scored 165,” Favre said. “The fact that I squeezed the trigger on this deer was the easiest part, it’s creating the environment where they can thrive and exist that was the most rewarding.”

Sharing his information with the neighbors also has paid off.

“The people all around are starting to do the same thing, so we are all on the same page,” Favre said. “Some contacted me and I contacted others.” Favre’s favorite hunting, though, involves ducks, and even though the Sulphur River was there, there was little duck habitat or food on the property.

“I needed water for ducks,” he said. “A series of levees stretching 4.5 miles was designed by Ducks Unlimited. They target a 16- to 18-inch average depth, and we pushed up some islands.” Dakota, the Lone Star Outdoor News’ newsroom dog, went on his first real duck hunt at Riverview Farms, where three hunters saw waves of green-winged teal, and good numbers of gadwall, wigeon and mallards. Dakota retrieved 16 of the 18 ducks brought in.
Favre didn’t ignore fishing opportunities, either, and created a fishing lake on the property.

“The largest bass caught was 9.5 pounds,” he said. “We have to do fish shocking to reduce the total number of bass each year.”

Favre’s efforts at Riverview Farms haven’t gone unrecognized. He received the Delta County Outstanding Wildlife Conservationist award from the Soil and Water Conservation District and the Region IV Texas Conservation award in 2015.
“I’m extremely proud of creating something from almost nothing,” Favre said, noting the efforts have been at considerable cost.

“All of the money is outgoing.”