What you should know about Texas High Fence Hunting
Photo Credit: Tejas Ranch & Game Fence
“I'm a deer hunter,” says Marty Brown from Brush Country Outfitters. “ We spend thousands of dollars on feeding these deer. Without the fence, it's a complete waste of time. That young buck has great potential… it wanders a little too far into a neighboring property and BANG! There goes your buck and there goes your money. High fences make it possible for us to manage and control our deer herd. There’s a lot of work that goes into producing such trophy animals and then getting our clients on them.”
According to Marty, “It’s more of a business operation. It's all about controlling your deer herd. Managing your doe to buck ratio and keeping superior genetics.” He has been doing this for over 30 years. He used to be a cattle rancher, and it’s generally the same with breeding “champion whitetails.” “We spend countless hours on these bucks, waiting until they are mature enough to take down. The fence helps us keep the herd healthy, manage the amount of game harvested and select which animals will be culled. It also gives us the opportunity to control what gets to our animals from the outside. Lots of diseases never touch our animals because they don't interact with the wild population.”
High fence hunting is a Texas way of life. It's been like this for many years. For generations, hunters in Texas have been able to harvest a great variety of game in a relatively controlled environment. It has yielded one of the great hunting traditions in our country.
High fence game ranches began popping up in Texas the early 1950s when cattle prices began to decline. The Y.O. ranch near Kerrville was one of the first. Seeking additional revenue, the Schreiner family began leasing hunts on their land. Other ranchers began to follow suit after seeing their operation. The trend spread like wildfire and today, the state of Texas has more miles of high fencing than anywhere else in the world.
Supply and demand
The demand for hunting in the state is huge. Texas’ affluence and lack of public land have led to a burgeoning supply. 97% of the state is in private hands. With a thriving economy, many have the ability to pay top dollar for a hunt. Landowners came to realize they could tap this resource and offer unique experiences. It then becomes incumbent upon those ranchers to manage their top-dollar resources.
That resource is those animals. Marty’s herd exists because they’ve taken painstaking care in cultivating good breeding. They’ve put in the right resources into each animal’s genetic pool. They’ve culled the herd properly to continue desirable traits in their animals. Additionally, disease and poor qualities are kept out by the fence. The result is a predictable looking population.
The Next Generation
High fence ranches offer an opportunity to teach the next sportsmen in a state with a strong family tradition. Cody Hirt of the Georgetown based Veteran Outdoors offered this: ”It’s nice to know there may be an opportunity for my son. Those animals are in there… we’ve just got to find them.” Cody is a fourth-generation Texan. “Everyone I know grew up this way and we all learned pretty fast.”
A handful of these ranches produce some of the largest bucks you’ll ever see.
Chances of harvesting one of these mature bucks is greatly increased while hunting on a high fenced ranch. It’s not a 100% given that you’ll harvest an animal, but Hirt says, “Your whole mentality changes when you’re in the fence with animals.” For instance, Brush Country has over 100,000 acres. Their rugged terrain, thick brush and hilly country still makes it extremely difficult to harvest, let alone find one of Marty’s animals. Rattling Texas whitetails can be very effective in these areas when timed properly with the rut.
Because of their containment, the list of huntable game in Texas is extremely long. What do you want to hunt? Odds are you can find it in Texas. Some animals include: Ram, Buffalo, Whitetail Deer/Mule Deer, Antelope and Elk. What about Exotic Game? Impala, Sika Deer, Black Buck Waterbuck, Aoudad Sheep, and even Zebra. The list doesn't stop there. Most ranches go out of their way to make sure the habitat will sustain quail, chukar, fox, turkey or pheasant.
Marty's focus is on big whitetail deer and he is good at what he does. Over his career, he has created a great herd and knows what it takes to manage and control it. There is a lot more that goes on behind the scenes than what meets the eye. Brush Country Clients only get shots at mature deer. “We’re in the business of creating records.” Their harvested animals are usually 4 ½ - 6 ½ year old bucks. Some of those trophy deer will score anywhere from 170-190 in Pope and Young.
The hunt itself is another level of work. “Not only do we have to breed these bruisers, but we have to know where they are and how they move.” The guides at Brush Country spend countless hours working food plots, marking travel corridors and getting trail camera pictures of the animals. All of the hard work of keeping the healthy herd with fantastic genetics can be lost if the clients are unable to get a chance at a mature buck or the exotic animal of their dreams.
As for this Idaho hunter growing up having the privilege of chasing wild game across my state, getting this assignment put a sour taste in my mouth. This writer owes a huge debt of gratitude to Guidefitter for allowing me to talk to their great network. There is a new interest sparked in this kid who usually is chasing animals around the mountains. The idea of a high fence always seemed synonymous with “unfair chase” and I can now say I knew nothing. The time and energy these outfitters put into their herds and land is extraordinary. The care and consideration they have for their clients is second to none. We are all hunters enjoying the outdoors. We thrive on the thrill of the hunt. All of us get the same butterflies when a huge buck walks in front of us. I, for one, can’t wait to get to Texas and put a bead on a Lonestar State Monster.
If you’re interested in a Texas high fence hunt or a free range hunt of your own, start by browsing Guidefitter’s Texas Hunting Outfitters.