Hunting season is a time of year my entire family enjoys. It's another great aspect of our ranch land.

All of us enjoy deer hunting but on a limited basis. None of us take more than we can eat during the year.

Our game management is very important to us on the ranch, and nothing makes us angrier than poaching.

Controlling Trespassers

We have a very difficult time controlling unwanted hunters trespassing on our property. This year wasn't as bad as some, but the problem is still present. We work closely with our state game officers and welcome their presence on the property.

However, we always find evidence of unwanted guests. Not only does the senseless loss of game make us angry, but the management problems it causes on the ranch do as well.

During hunting season we spend more time checking gates than we do any other time of the year. It never fails. At this time of year, what we call “gate gremlins” magically appear and rearrange our gates.

The rule on the ranch is to always leave a gate how you find it. I don't know what's so difficult to understand about that concept. But then again, I guess if you're willing to break the law to poach game, then gate etiquette probably isn't very important to you.

These gate problems are very costly for us. The time we spend sorting cattle and then resorting cattle is labor intensive and expensive. It's something we can't seem to completely stop.

Good Cow Horses

On a good note, we have a new addition to the ranch. My brother's favorite horse, Dunny, had a beautiful, little, dun-colored filly a few weeks ago.

All of us are excited about this because Dunny has been a part of the family for years, and we are glad to get a foal from her. If the foal is only half as good-spirited and half as cow-smart as this mare, then we have another good cow horse in the making.

It's a little bittersweet for me, however. My mare Sue didn't breed this time around. She's getting older, and I'm not sure I'll be able to get a foal from her.

It's a shame because she's another good cow horse. I joke about her cantankerous personality, but truthfully she is cow-smart and has worked a lot of hard hours on the ranch.

Getting good workhorses with cow sense is getting more difficult. We need horses that have cow-smarts, not show ring glamour. That's hard to find and, when we do find them, they're usually horrifically expensive.

We used to raise and break our own horses, but we stopped years ago. We now purchase horses from proven individuals who know what we need. There's always an element of luck involved, no matter where we get the horse, though.

We currently have a cowboy working with us who's very gifted with horses. He understands cattle and can make a horse understand them, too. I call him our horse whisperer.

That might be stretching it a bit, but he truly is an excellent cattleman and horseman. I look forward to seeing what he can do with our new foals.

We gather pastures on horseback almost every day of the year. These horses are a critical part of our cattle operation.

I know that breaking and training these young horses will take time, but maybe we can get our next generation of cow horses trained just as we need them to be.

Mary Anne Cruse, brother Wes, their parents and grandparents operate Ru-Mar Inc., a large commercial cow/calf operation in South Florida. Contact her by e-mail at mccruse@msn.com.