New Mexico and Texas mule deer, elk, whitetail, sheep and more.
Over the course of 34 years being in business, Backcountry Hunts has outfitted hunts in New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, and Mexico. They currently offer hunts in New Mexico and Texas for mule deer, elk, whitetail, aoudad sheep, javelina, a number of exotics, and spring turkeys. We spoke to owner Steve Jones to learn more about this southwestern hunting institution and how they differ from their competition.
Backcountry Hunts hosts around 150 hunters per year, but this is not a crowded camp. Jones recruits the help of 15 or more experienced guides each season, most of whom have been with him for many seasons. He also has exclusive rights to several prime hunting ranches. Jones said, “I think the smallest ranch is like 20,000 acres and the largest is something like 350,000. There’s a lot of places and we’ve got a lot of country to hunt.” If you’re after exotics, Backcountry Hunts offers both high fence and free-range hunts to suit your hunting style and make your hunt everything you dreamed of.
Jones said that opportunities for whitetails, mule deer, and antelope typically run 100 percent. Elk are a little more of a challenge, but success rates are usually over 70 percent and he has had several seasons and hunts where they’ve gone 100 percent on elk. Jones said, “We live on return business. That’s what it’s all about. If I can’t go to an area that’s got a way better opportunity than average, I’m probably not involved. I’m not interested. We want to have extremely high hunter success in whatever species [we’re hunting.] Probably 85 percent of my business is return business and I think that says a lot for any outfitting business.”
As mentioned, Jones employs a stable of guides to help his hunters succeed, but don’t think he’s not overseeing the action. Jones said, “I am on most every hunt, with the exception of a time or two where I’m at sports shows. On most every other hunt, I’m there. I’m in camp personally.”
Jones said, “Some hunts require that you be there at the crack of dawn and be there at the meadows early and some don’t. But we’re big believers on getting up, getting the day started, and getting going. We plan on staying out all day for all of our hunts regardless of what species it is. That’s not to say that we don’t roll back by camp at lunch, depending on where we’re hunting. We make every effort to plan on hunting from daylight to dark every day.”
Like many outfitters, Backcountry Hunts includes meals, lodging, and guide services with all their hunts. However, on some hunts, lodging is different than you might find elsewhere, with hunters staying in a group of tepees. Jones said, “Our tepee camps have been kind of a big draw for us. I set up a camp with tepees on it. We’ve got a cookhouse, which is a 20x40 event tent that we deliver our meals in and there’s lodging for the evening meals. I have several big tepees we put up and we put hunters in the tepees. Then I have one lodge set up with a shower and a wash basin in it with hot water. We have hot running water. We set up a couple of outhouses, but we’ve got flush toilets in our outhouses.” If a tepee camp doesn’t sound like it’s up your alley, Backcountry Hunts also offers lodging in a more traditional hunting lodge setting.
When it comes to food, hunters can expect some traditional southwest style cooking including a big breakfast, prepared lunches, and evening entrees like steak and potatoes. Jones said, “We try to serve good meals because that’s the one thing that we do have 100 percent control over and I like to see our hunters have a good meal.”
The tendency for eastern or Midwestern hunters going on their first southwestern hunt is to change their setup and gear list to what they feel is necessary for hunting the new terrain and species. According to Jones, this is often a mistake. He said, “I think [hunters] should just bring gear that they’re familiar with. Guys will call when they’re going on an elk hunt and say, ‘I’m going to buy a new rifle.’ Let’s just say they’ve been shooting a .270 all their life. For me personally, the .270 is kind of the entry level caliber for hunting elk, but it’s a good caliber. If you’ve been shooting that all your life, don’t go out and buy a .300 or a .338 Lapua that you’re scared of. Bring something that you’re familiar with, that you can handle well, and you know what it does.
A hunt with Backcountry Hunts offers exceptional value at a fair price. As mentioned, all hunts include meals, lodging, and guide service. Prices start as low as $850 for javelina and go up from there depending on the species. Elk hunts start at $4,150 and mule deer hunts go for $5,000, a bargain when you consider that you’ll be gaining access to decades of hunting knowledge and prime hunting areas.
As hunters, we have a responsibility to keep our hunting tradition alive. The best way to do this is to introduce new hunters to the sport in a way that will keep them coming back for more. It’s also great to help "would be" hunters who may not be able to head afield without some help. Backcountry Hunts understands this and is active in getting both these types of hunters in the field and on game they can be proud of. Jones said, “We have a really good youth hunt and a mobility impaired hunt that’s really good; really high hunter success rates on really good quality elk. I always enjoy hunting with youth hunters. Whether it’s father/daughter, father/son, or grandparents who bring their grandkids out, that’s always a lot of fun to be around them and to see the excitement those little guys have.”
If a southwestern style big game or spring turkey hunt in New Mexico or Texas sounds like your dream of a lifetime, contact Backcountry Hunts.