View Full Version : High Fences

Art Eatman
February 7, 2008, 08:14 AM
Okay, kiddies, get out your Texas road map. Here's the deal: Yesterday, I drove home to Terlingua from Corpus Christi and for part of the way I took FM 624 through Cotulla and on to Carizzo Springs.

West from US 59 to Cotulla, I'd guess that one-third of the ranches along the way were high-fence. From Carrizo Springs on to Del Rio, there were fewer of the high-fence ranches, although still a good many. Call it ten percent, maybe.

I checked the mileage from time to time, and looked for cross-fencing going away from the road, fencing that might have been internal and not boundary.

Generally, no ranch had less than three miles of road front. A few were up to ten miles. I saw but one high cross fence, and it was over a mile from any boundary fence.

Guesstimations: Ranch sizes were from 5,000 to 25,000 acres. I'd have to say that Bambi's not suffering ffrom confinement-itis.

Terrain: Flat to gently rolling. Relief of no more than twenty to thirty feet per mile.

Vegetation: Much of it as thickets of mesquite, prickly pear, catclaw acacia and other stuff with thorns. Quite a bit of it is impenetrable to a man on foot, and I mean that literally.

I'd say that in many pastures, a man on foot would have a clear view without obstruction of at most ten yards. Some were cleared so you could see motion at 50 to 100, but clear shots of 20 to 50 yards at most.

Yes, there were some with maybe 50/50 semi-cleared pasture--but that's still a lot of brush and cactus.

Still and all, a walking/stalking hunter is gonna need tweezers. If you ever stumble, well, pliers become your friend. But, no real problem. The broken-off pear thorn of December will fester out by March. BTDT.

I saw very, very few high box-stands. I'm guessing from seeing signs of senderos here and there that a fair amount of the hunting is from high seats in the back of a pickup truck. From what I've seen of those, I'd call shooting from on high as "seated, off-hand". Remember that riding up there is not the deal if you're subject to motion sickness.

Anyhow, from what I saw for a helluva lot of miles, anybody who goes to yacking about "penned deer" and "canned hunts" on these high-fence ranches hasn't been there, hasn't seen one, and doesn't know what he's talking about. I'm not saying there's 100% absolute purity, but I don't claim a total absence of poachers among "hunters", either. But it's a big mistake, it's very poor judgement to categorize an entire group because of the behavior of a very few.


February 7, 2008, 08:50 AM
The purpose of the high fence is generally to help the owners of the land control and manage the deer population. If you cull out all the bucks with small antlers you will usually get a lot of bucks with big antlers. Then you can charge higher prices for the bucks with big antlers.

February 7, 2008, 09:59 AM
I am a meat gatherin' hunter not a sportsman so I would not spend the money to try a fenced hunt nor would I enjoy the "theme park" feeling I would have knowing no matter how large that it was enclosed. I don't mind the concept and realize many folks are just sport hunters while others just don't have the ability to get out in "wild" areas to gather game.
Heck I will sit on a porch in the darkness and shoot a deer that has made a routine of walking within shotgun range. He is likely more tame to humans than some fenced animals but like I said it is about the meat to me and not burning gas to go hunting is a plus too...

Art Eatman
February 7, 2008, 05:14 PM
bitmap, while there's some culling of scraggle-horn bucks and mature spikes, there's more effort spent on reducing the number of does. The idea is to get the total number in the herd down to, or below, the actual carrying capacity of the range. It's no different from good range management in the cow or sheep/goat business.

In a sense, the moral issue can be whether it's better to have a lot of small deer--or fewer deer of larger size.

We no longer have large predators. Coyotes do work over the fawns to some extent, but now that there are no more screw worm flies, only homo sap is left to manage the herd.

Sure, for those who are primarily intersted in just eating venison, it's of no importance, generally.

The days are long gone when even Hill Country bucks from unmanaged ranches dressed out regularly in the 110 to 140 pound range. But "back when", that's the way it was. Nowadays, there are just way too many deer for the habitat to have sizable deer in the Hill Country. Insufficient predation.

What got me started on this thread, though, was the impression of some that the high fences meant ONLY some sort of "canned hunt, no skill required".

That's just not factually correct. This particular trip reinforced what I already "sorta knew" about the high-fence ranches.


February 7, 2008, 05:51 PM
i got invited for a deer hunt on a high fence ranch along hwy 77 in texas. the pasture i hunted in was just south of sarita. the pasture i could hunt in was 20k acres. the host told me the smallest pasture on the ranch was 14k acres. this ranch was larger than most but i agree with Art it was tough country to hunt. the deer were jurassic big and nilgai taste as good as elk.

February 7, 2008, 05:56 PM
Art - thanks for the post. When I hear "high fence", I don't usually think of that much area. Heck, I am sure that some of them are bigger than some of the tiny "public land" spots I hunted in Maryland.

February 7, 2008, 06:43 PM
If you have had the pleasure of tracking a wounded deer through the South Texas brush you would understand what Art is saying. This brush is 10 to 15 feet high and thick all the way to the ground. If not for man made roads and man made senderos it would be almost impenetrable.

During the season I was helping track a wounded doe in the dark just South of Carrizzo Springs, and found myself crawling on hands and knees in places to follow the blood trail. The next day we killed a 6 ft diamondback and I was glad I didn't meet him the night before.:eek:

High fences are very good to have in the hill country along the roadways to keep deer off the roads. I have a lease in Mason, and its not unusual to count 100 deer browsing on the side of the road at night on Hwy 29 between Llano and Mason.Very dangerous situation.

You just can't hunt Rocky Mountain style in a lot of places around this fine state.

February 9, 2008, 12:54 PM
Art, why didn't you give me a call???:D

Art Eatman
February 9, 2008, 10:23 PM
C&B, this is the first time in years that my son and I have been able to wander off by ourselves without having wives along. :)

Johnny Guest
February 10, 2008, 08:38 AM
Gasoline: $3.00 plus per gallon

Bad hamburgers: Six bucks each.

Dad-and-Son road trip: PRICELESS.


February 10, 2008, 09:59 AM
Much of it as thickets of mesquite, prickly pear, catclaw acacia and other stuff with thorns.

Don't forget our cascabel.:eek:

Art Eatman
February 10, 2008, 11:21 AM
Bad hamburgers? No!!!

We found a little hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant in Carrizo Springs that had the best tacos I've ever thrown a lip-lock on!

February 10, 2008, 12:24 PM
Great point made in the original post but us Texans deserve a little criticism too. In the last two years I have declined invitations to a Blackbuck "hunt" on 500 acres near Junction and another doe cull "hunt" on a 800 acre place near Kerrville (400 acre pens x 2). Even worse, the main business at the 800 acre place is to ship-in farm raised 6x6 bull elk from Colorado that clients pay thousands to "hunt" each year. There is so much cover the clients never know they are on such a small place. And as a third example, there is a place near Bertram that offers a variety of hunts in their spacious 110 acre shooting pen :cool:. These types of operations are the reason why I dismiss each and every buck picture from Texas that lands on a magazine cover. A good number of these animals are captively bred and are fresh out of the feedlot. The motivation behind the manipulation is that the media and outfitter industry needs those stories and pics coming - it's just showbiz. Of course, well off clients need their BBQ story too so everyone is "in" on the erosion of truth. That said I've also hunted Encino in San Angelo (6,000 acres) and it was closer to real hunting. In the end though, I'd rather just shoot an honest Hill Country buck than a Frankenbuck any day. If I want a genuine big buck, I'll get on a plane to Alberta!

February 10, 2008, 01:28 PM
My wife's old man has been planning a high fence Axis and Fallow game ranch. He plans on setting the high fence at least 100 yards from the property line. I wonder how many you drove by are using the same plan.

February 10, 2008, 02:36 PM
Just giving you a hard time Art...I imagine you had a great trip...That's the same route, and probably same restaraunt we stopped at when we came up last year...BTW, my little girl wants to go hunting, (2.5 years) so she get's to go turkey hunting w/ me if she get's 100% potty trained by then...She says Turkeys...BANG!:D

Art Eatman
February 10, 2008, 11:35 PM
Powder Burn, you can find that usual percentage of sleazoid anywhere you go, in any endeavor. I went by, what, fifty or more ranches with high fences? I'm not about to claim they were all Simon Purity.

I'm against the whole idea of the pen-raised deer, except that some ranches use them for "stud bucks" and they aren't for hunting. Their offspring are wild and are as "huntable" as any buck ever could be. Overall, though, I don't like it. I'd rather have "natural", managed-numbers sized deer on improved (well, actually, restored) pastures.

Exotics? That's a whole 'nother deal.

castnblast, you get that youngun a few years older, and you can bring her out here for some varmint hunting...

February 12, 2008, 11:13 AM
Art, I live in Del Rio and make the trip between here and Carrizo Springs (the locals call thier city Cheto) often. I would say it is more like 30% then 10% of high fences. And you are right, those high fence ranches in this area are between 5-20 thousand acres. Too bad I will never afford a hunt there. I challange anyone who has never hunted south Texas brush country to try and still hunt the thicket. I've done it and will take a blind overlooking a sendero anyday! On a side note, you can always tell when a trophy buck has manged to get out of a high fence ranch: a headless deer carcus on the side of the highway. Saw 3 of them this past year.