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I've never hunted whitetails - just mulies and our Columbia blacktails, and would like to line up a hunt. The internet sites on Texas whitetail hunting make it sound like you see lots of bucks, but they charge by the Boone and Crockett score of the buck you shoot. What are these hunts like? Do you really feel like you're hunting? Is it a good experience?
 

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Guys, get ready to pay through the nose!

The economics of the commercial South Texas trophy whitetail hunt have exploded in recent years. For a quality hunt on a well-managed ranch, you are probably looking at in the neighborhood of $3K + for a 3 or 4 day hunt.
Some ranches are better than others as far as the price per quality experience. Unfortunately (lucky me), I have hunted on family-owned land my whole life, and haven't had to pay the big bucks for big bucks (couldn't help that one). I don't have any personal recommendations for good ranches. But I do have a few points that might help in your looking.

If I was looking for a good trophy hunt on a Texas ranch, I would ask a few questions. Some of the high-fenced properties are so large that they aren't essentially different from low-fenced ranches (like 10,000 acres) in terms of deer management or "fair chase". And high-fenced places often have as much or more management problems as the low-fenced places. It takes a lot of specific research and hands-on management when the herd is confined in this way. I would definitely steer clear of high-fenced property that isn't at least a few thousand acres in size and doesn't have a sterling record of trophy production for more than five years.

Here are some things I would want to know:

1) Who is in charge of wildlife management on the ranch? A degreed biologist is the only answer I would accept. This might be a TPWD agent or biologist, but there better be more than just the "I reckon we oughta kill some does this year" approach to management. It is KEY in the drought-prone SW Texas brush country.

2) What is the AVERAGE B&C score of a TROPHY whitetail buck harvested from the ranch in any given year? Of course any good ranch will have some sort of "culling" program wherein lesser bucks are harvested to improve genetics, but what is the average "wallhanger you are likely to see? About every ranch in Texas has had one or two very nice deer killed on them at one time or another, but the AVERAGE will tell you how good most of the deer are.

3) Is the hunt guided, is it by assigned blind, or is it free-range in an area? The best bet is the free-ranging kind of hunt, simply because the older deer are more adept at reading the signs of hunter presence in blinds and "typical" hunter locales. They aren't going to waltz out in a sendero 50 yards from a tower blind they know is hunted from most of the fall season. not on purpose anyway. And most "guides" are not really going to put you on a big deer, especially not from assigned tower blinds. They are there mostly to make sure that you don't kill a younger deer and provide luxury services, like transportation and processing the kill. Most places that charge a lot have good enough management that you will see and probably kill a very nice deer, even from a tower blind, but if you really want that cagey monster, the solo free-range hunt is the way to go. That said, you may not be able to find one--bigtime hunts on commercial ranches are mostly conducted in the tower-blind, guided mode.

4) What is the supplemental feeding program on the ranch? If it doesn't include some sort of protein (farm fields, irrigated food plots, protein supplements) during the spring and summer, forget the truly impressive antlers. There may be some good racks, but they aren't the best they can be without the nutrition being high-quality.

5) How many hunters per acre per year? And, with that, how many of the hunters are successful at bringing in a trophy? If there are a lot of hunters per acre and few are successful, look out. If there are a lot of hunters per acre and they are successful, why? Are they restocking deer to make up for the high loss, or is the quality low? It's got to be one or the other, and neither bodes well for a trophy hunt. I would look for low hunter numbers per acre and high trophy success rates.

6) What are the accomodations? This is a deer hunt, not a resort vacation. A good bunk and good rations is great, but are they really funding a swimming pool and big-screen TV with your steep fee? It seems incredible, but some guests actually hang out more at the ranch house, soaking up luxury accomodations instead of hunting hard, paying big bucks for the opportunity to 'get away from it all'. And conversely, if there are no accomodations, what will that mean for the cost and convenience of your hunt? If it takes an hour to drive fromt the nearest motel to your stand, your hunt is going to be a lot less fun and/or productive, than if you're just a short pasture-ride away. Or if you have to worry about camping, cooking, etc. instead of hunting, is it worth the price tag?

Good luck you guys in finding a decent hunt. I wouldn't trade a crisp morning in a Texas pasture during the rut for half of New York City. You're in for a memorable experience. :grin:
 

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Varsity,

What's your issue with high fences?

Most of the better ranches are now high fenced and for 1 reason. So they can effectively manage the deer to allow them to reach their maximum potential. It ain't to make it easy to hunt them suckers.

I guess that there are some places up North that have a couple of hundred acres high fenced with about 500 big bucks on it, but that's not what Texas hunting is like. On places like that it's not hunting, it's shooting.

Conversely, most of the ranches in Texas with high fences are several thousand acres, and that's a small one. These ranchers spend lots of money maintaining and managing their herd and that's why it cost a good deal to hunt on these ranches.

You can find hunts for not much money, but the chances of getting a good buck is pretty slim. On a managed high fence ranch, you are offered a fair chance of getting a good buck, but by NO means are you insured that you will.

A little story. I once hunted a high fence ranch of 4000 acres or so for axis. I hunted with the ranch manager, who was on the ranch 365 days a year, and rode the fence 3 times a week. In short, he pretty much knew all the rocks and stumps there. The 1st day I had an opportunity to take a really big axis buck that I unfortunatley missed. The ranch manager told me that he had NEVER seen that deer before. I spoke with him later in the year and he said that this deer had not been seen again.

So here's a guy that's out riding this high fenced ranch 365 days a year, and there was at least 1 very large trophy buck that he had never seen before that day and he never saw it again.

On most high fenced ranches the only time you will see the fence is when you come in and leave.
 
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