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A Deer Management Icon Has Left Us

I lost a hero recently. I lost a mentor and a very close friend. I lost someone that had more passion and compassion about deer management than me. The deer hunting and management community lost a leader and a pillar recently.

Mrs. Elizabeth (George) Jambers passed away February 27, 2008 at the age of 88. Mrs. Jambers lived on her ranch for the past sixty years, the last twelve by herself. George and Elizabeth Jambers constructed one of the first high fences in South Texas way back before high fences were ever heard of. They had managed their ranch for many years and grew tired of having their young trophy bucks harvested prematurely by the neighbors. Once the fence was completed, local townsfolk figured they had lost their minds for certain. During this educational growth, Mrs. Jambers began taking very detailed notes of the rainfall and how the deer herd responded to their management efforts. She had several “pet” bucks that she watched grow each year and even named several of them. As the program progressed, so did her involvement with the management program. Eventually, Mr. Jambers passed on and it was up to Mrs. Jambers to continue the cause.

After several decades of intensive deer management behind one of the first high fences in Texas, an incredible deer herd evolved. She fed the deer every day of her life, actually twice per day of her life. She enjoyed nothing more than driving her ranch and viewing the animals while dispensing feed along the road with a tailgate feeder. She knew the deer and knew them well. She had kept detailed rainfall records since the early 1950’s and could recite to you every major weather occurrence that ever happened. She had a collection of shed antlers and skulls unrivaled in Texas. She spent days and days afield during peak antler shedding season and she knew most bucks by their individual antlers. Her home was a museum of deer management. She had shoulder mounts, skulls, sheds and even paintings and photographs of her bucks all over the house. She remembered the first bottle-raised fawn she produced on the ranch and how he grew into a fourteen year old 170” trophy buck before succumbing to old age. She told the stories of the sets of locked antlers in her living room. She remembered the story of the mountain lions taking down several of her most prized bucks. She remembered the screw worm, the long hard droughts, the days before supplemental feeding and when it was illegal to harvest a doe or a spike buck. She had lived the history of deer management as we know it today and she was always willing to share her stories with anyone that would listen.

I looked forward every year to surveying her property. Each day would begin with coffee and cake before daylight. We would sit at her kitchen table and visit and discuss the weather and antler production and perhaps even politics and local gossip. She knew just about everything going on locally, both in the brush and in town. She was a friend to many and an enemy to none. She was a pleasure to be around and she always had a positive outlook on things.

When my son was getting old enough to travel with me and hunt deer, I took him over to meet Mrs. Jambers. I think she forgot I was in the room as she took him by the hand and gave him the entire tour of her house and retold every story, just as she had done with me so many years before. I followed closely behind and only wished I had a recorder handy. I was again witnessing the history of Texas deer management and knew I should be recording it. When the hunting season arrived, she invited him to hunt her property and said she had a buck picked out for him. I was nervous about what her intentions were and knew some of the largest bucks in Texas resided on her ranch. When the magical day finally arrived, Mrs. Jambers instructed me to sit with him at the “Honey Hole” blind. I quietly and politely asked her NOT to allow him to harvest a large buck for his very first buck of his life. She gave me a wink and told me to let him harvest the mature eight point frequenting that blind and I would know him when I saw him. We headed out to the blind ahead of her and anxiously awaited sunset. About thirty minutes after we settled down, she came by in her ranch truck feeding the roads with her tailgate feeder. She placed the corn on the road precisely for the young hunter and as she passed by the blind, she stopped her truck, rolled down the window, and wished my boy good luck before she drove off spreading more corn down the dusty ranch road. I told my son that he should remember that event forever as it was a very powerful and special moment in our lives. As Mrs. Jambers drove down the bumpy dirt road, I had a huge lump in my throat knowing just how special this scenario really was. And just as she predicted, a mature and dominant eight point emerged from the brush and soon began feeding on the corn she had strategically spread. Once he got close enough, one shot from a very nervous hunter (and guide) did the deed. Within minutes, Mrs. Jambers arrived to help us load the buck and drive us back to camp. It was a great moment in my life and I know it was special for her and my young son. She enjoyed sharing her ranch with people and especially young or first time hunters.

She was justifiably very proud of her ranch and it showed. She loved to talk about the history of the ranch, the deer herd, the deer management progressions and the trials and tribulations over the decades. She had one of the best deer herds in Texas and she was very proud of that fact.

Mrs. Jambers lived on her ranch until the very end of her life. She lived alone on the ranch, in her sprawling ranch house that set atop a hill that overlooked much of the property. Deer, feral hogs, javelinas, quail and turkey, all shared her yard each and every day. She would sit by her large windows and just watch them go about their daily business and that was what made her the happiest. She loved the wildlife and they loved her without a doubt.

Mrs. Jambers passed away quietly on February 27, 2008. Deer management, wildlife stewardship, habitat management and outdoor appreciation lost a champion that day. Her funeral was the ending of a great era and I want you to know that I lost a friend, mentor, idol and hero in her and it sure does hurt.

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