If you ever have the opportunity to visit one of the great hunting ranches in the state of Texas you should jump at the chance. These ranches typically constitute thousands of acres and offer some of the last true old west wilderness experiences in North America.
Texas ranches also offer another unique opportunity you won’t find anywhere else in North America – the chance to hunt exotic African game animals. You don’t have to fly to Africa.
A visit to a Texas hunting ranch can be one of the most memorable trips in a hunter’s life, but if you’re going to enjoy it you have to remember to follow some simple rules.
Most of these are common sense guidelines that any hunter anywhere should follow, but there are some do’s and don’ts which are somewhat unique to the Texas hunting experience. Here’s our list of the top 8 do’s and don’ts to keep in mind when visiting a Texas hunting ranch.
#1 Do Obtain a Licence and Tags
The first thing you have to do is remember to obtain your hunting license and tags. This is important as you shouldn’t be hunting without them and if you’re caught without them it will likely result in some hefty fines.
Texas (and any other jurisdiction) requires you to have a licence specific to that state. Your local hunting licence for your own state or country will not help you in Texas. This may seem obvious, but a surprising number of experienced hunters seem to misunderstand this important fact.
Make sure you apply for your licence well in advance of your visit to the hunting ranch and you’ll have one of the best experiences of your life.
#2 Do Stay within Designated Areas
As we’ve already alluded to hunting ranches usually cover huge territories that in many cases are larger than some of North America’s biggest cities.
Most ranches offer guided hunts, but some do allow you to venture off in your own group if you’re an experienced hunter. If you do have this opportunity be sure to stay within the designated areas as spelled out by ranch policy.
It might be tempting to explore territory you’re not supposed to, but don’t – respect the ranch owners wishes as they’re probably in place for a reason. For example, they may be trying to increase the population of a certain type of game in an area deemed off limits. Don’t venture outside designated areas.
#3 Don’t Hunt Endangered Species
A hunting ranch is essentially one large game preserve. It’s full of wildlife you probably won’t see anywhere else and that’s a good thing.
A visit to one of these ranches will be both a great hunting expedition and an opportunity to see nature like you’ve never seen it before.
There’s a good chance you’ll cross paths with a lot of species that you’re not hunting including endangered species such as the Whooping crane. These birds have seen their populations dwindle to dangerously low levels in the last couple of years and it just so happens that Texas is one of their main wintering spots.
Shooting one of these birds either accidentally or on purpose will result in large fines. Don’t hunt endangered species no matter what the temptation.
#4 Don’t Hunt Animals Deemed Off Limits by Ranch Personnel
When you visit a ranch the staff will provide you with a set of rules and regulations for you to follow and that will include a list of animals it’s okay to hunt. There may be many other species on the ranch, but make sure to follow the rules.
The ranch may be in the middle of a breeding program in order to develop certain game populations. If their efforts are going to be a success they need the cooperation of their visitors. Don’t hunt animals deemed off limits by ranch personnel.
#5 Do Bring out Everything You Take in
As human beings we typically carry a lot of baggage with us – especially when we’re heading out on a hunt. There’s nothing wrong with taking snacks and liquids with you to replenish your strength while you’re on a hunt, but make sure you pick up after yourself.
Littering is definitely frowned upon no matter what ranch you’re visiting. Do bring out everything you take in with you on a hunt.
#6 Do Keep the Noise Down
This is one of those rules every hunter should know and live by. The hunting trip is not the time for loud noises and parties.
Any animals that hear this type of raucous behavior will quickly turn tail and run the other way. Do keep the noise down and respect the other hunters around you.
#7 Do Extinguish Your Camp Fires
A hunting ranch will normally include some beautiful wooded areas and scenic vistas that will simply take your breath away. It’s a once in a lifetime experience for many hunters, but that also means you have to take care of it for the next set of visitors.
Some ranches allow you to camp out on the ranch lands and that will likely include a late night fire along with some great stories of the day’s hunts. This can be a great bonding experience, but you do need to make sure that fire is completely extinguished when it’s time for bed to prevent wildfires.
#8 Don’t Take Shortcuts on Safety
When you’re hunting on a ranch the safety of yourself and those around you should be at the forefront of your mind. You should be aware of where everyone in your hunting party is at all times.
Even if that perfect shot presents itself don’t take the chance if you have any doubt that everyone around you is safely out of harm’s way.
It only takes one little lapse in judgement to change lives forever. Don’t ever take shortcuts on safety and remember to store your firearms safely with the ammunition removed at the end of each hunt.