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Not all ranches are the same, and it helps to know the differences.

Ranches make a difference

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This article was first published in my email newsletter in June of 2024. I've added it to my website, because I think the information is useful in general, not just for the month it was published. If you'd like to keep up with the latest hunting information, including my open dates and available hunts, you can subscribe to my newsletter at the bottom of this page.


Where you hunt makes a difference.

In some ways, I guess that’s obvious. But unless you’re really involved in the Texas hunting business, you may not know exactly how it makes a difference. So I’d like to explain it a bit.


The overwhelming majority of hunting land in Texas is privately owned. It’s on ranches where, if they allow hunting, they do it in one of two ways:

1. They operate as a commercial hunting ranch. For those ranches, hunting is their business, and they run it like a business. They’ve got a lot of guides on staff, and they can handle a lot of hunters.

2. They let outfitters like me organize hunts on their land. These ranches don’t really make their living on hunts. In the big picture, for these ranches, any money they take in for hunts is a nice bonus or inconsequential to the ranch’s operating expenses.

(Note that there’s also a very limited amount of public land that’s open for hunting in Texas, but it all falls into one of two categories: State Parks, where you have to get drawn for a hunt (which is difficult), and non-parkland (very very limited), where so many people are out hunting that you’ll be lucky to see any game animals. So I’m not going to talk about that.)

An aerial view of a rugged Texas landscape under a bright blue sky.
A significant part of your hunting experience is dependent on where you hunt. That's not just because of the landscape and the terrain, it's also because of the way hunts are organized and game is managed on individual ranches.


The best thing about a commercial hunting ranch is that it runs a lot of hunts. When my schedule is full up, you might still be able to get a reservation at one of those ranches.

That comes at a price, however. These ranches are volume businesses. They need to move a lot of hunters through the ranch in order to pay the bills. To do that, they have to keep the ranch stocked with game.

We call these ranches ‘put and take’ ranches. They don’t have their own, native herds of game animals. Instead, they buy their animals from breeders and from other ranches and put them on their land to be hunted. That’s ‘put and take’. That approach makes a difference to you in a couple of ways, and I’ll explain it in a minute.


I don’t own a ranch, but I’ve got over a million acres of ranch land where I hunt. I’ve got a half-million acres in West Texas alone, all of it free range / fair chase*. These are ranches where I’ve got contracts with the owners that allow me to use the land for hunting.

It’s taken me twenty years to build this collection of ranches. I’ve looked for places with a good population of game animals. I’ve looked for owners who shared my philosophy of game management. And I’ve looked for ranches where I could have exclusive hunting rights.


*Note: Fair chase is a type of hunting that depends on skill, experience, and knowledge, without relying on pens or other artificial restraints that limit the ability of game animals to escape a hunter. I plan to write more about fair chase in the near future.


Let me talk a bit about that game management piece.

On the ranches I hunt — in agreement with the owners — I limit the number of hunts I do each year. I don’t want to over-hunt and put pressure on the animal population. I want to allow trophy animals to grow to full maturity, to become real trophies.

That makes a difference. In the past ten years, my hunters have taken countless gold medal axis from just one ranch. In 2023 I took twenty trophy axis. Those axis averaged right at 150” on the SCI scoring system, with two of them scoring 170”. And none of those animals were stocked from a breeder or purchased from another ranch.

Honestly, a rancher can’t afford to buy that kind of gold medal animal.

Recently, at an auction, a terrific gold medal axis deer sold to a breeder for $70,000. So think about it. If a ranch is buying animals to stock their population, they’re not going to be buying the kind of animals that are growing naturally on my ranches.

A hunter with his trophy axis.
This axis deer was taken by one of my hunters within the past forty days. The best trophies can be found on land that allows its game animals to grow to maturity, without the pressure of over-hunting.

The owners of my ranches aren’t making their living off hunts, so they support this kind of game management.


Of course, not all ranch owners feel this way. Many of them let multiple outfitters use their land, and they don’t limit the number of hunts in a year. I simply won’t hunt those ranches. 


There’s another issue with ‘put-and-take’. Very often, those animals have become comfortable around humans. As a result, they don’t react the way a wild animal reacts in the field. Your experience can be akin to shooting fish in a barrel.


I aim to give my hunters what I consider a ‘real’ hunting experience. 


Part of that is hunting style. For the most part, I use spot-and-stalk, unless my hunters want something different. 


A second part of the experience is that the animals we hunt belong to the ranch we’re hunting. My ranches do not practice put-and-take. My ranches have their own native animals that grow up wild on their ranches. They’re not comfortable around people.

A hunter with a trophy axis.
Another axis deer that was taken on one of my ranches within the past forty days.



I can sum up the differences like this.


First, working with my ranch owners, I limit the hunting on each ranch. And because I have exclusive use of the ranch, I can make sure that we don’t over-hunt it.


Second, the game animals on my ranch are ‘wild’ — they haven’t been raised by a breeder or purchased from another ranch. They haven’t become used to people.


Third, I’m not in the volume business. I don’t hire guides and run a lot of hunts. I organize a limited number of genuine hunting experiences each year.


I’ve spent a long time building my business so that I can deliver a real hunting experience. As I like to say, ‘my experience makes yours.’

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