Is A Texas Exotic Hunt For You? – Some bowhunters are happy plying away the days between the end of spring turkey and beginning of early deer seasons bowfishing, competing in 3D tournaments, fishing and mowing lawns, allowing their bows to gather dust until a few weeks before fall season opener. Still others can never get enough, preferring to make bowhunting a year-round sport. Some of those travel to exotic locations like Africa for plains game or Hawaii for exotics. These are pricey expeditions for sure, adventures well out of financial reach for most of us. But for those seeking an off-season big game fix and a taste of the exotic, Texas offers adventurous bowmen an opportunity to pursue a huge variety of imported big game.
Is A Texas Exotic Hunt For You? – The sky is the limit in The Lone Star State in terms of possible game—though there is no public land to speak of in Texas, so you will pay to hunt. While in Texas I’ve witnessed all manner of African game, including impala, kudu, gemsbok and zebra, game animals essentially extinct in their native lands such as addax, and some of our largest North American big game such as elk and bison. These are obviously huge-ticket items. The average blue collar bowhunter will likely be more interested in animals in the mid- to lower price range.
I’d call the most popular mid-priced Texas game axis deer, blackbuck antelope, nalgai and aoudad or Barbary sheep—animals that can typically be hunted for $2,000 to $3,500, depending of services rendered, trophy quality and property type preferred. Lower-priced game usually consists of ever-popular wild hogs, mouflon or feral merino sheep, feral goats or native javelina.
Services rendered ranges from room and board in a fancy lodge, to a cowboy cabin with attending cook, to staying in a local hotel and eating fast food. Services might also include a guide and transportation, skinning and meat processing, and shipping trophies and meat home. The more services rendered, obviously, the more hunts cost. At the other end of the spectrum are semi-guided or self-guided hunts. A semi-guided hunt may entail drop-off and pick-up at an active corn feeder, or a designated parcel of land. I’ve been on self-guided hunts where a camp and cowboy cook were provided but we were on our own hunting-wise. I’ve also been simply granted trespass to an entire ranch or specific pasture, with lodging and food my problem. All options can include a daily or weekly fee, or a flat hunt rate plus trophy fee. That is something you’ll work out with your host.
Fully-outfitted, lodge-based, fancy-meal hunts with a reputable outfit are just like any other guided hunt. These outfits advertise and are easy to find. Hunts are booked after talking to outfitters to determine who best serves your goals and needs, chatting with multiple references and generally double checking that everything is on the up and up.
Is A Texas Exotic Hunt For You? – Semi-guide and self-guided hunts often come this way, but just as likely will be discovered through word of mouth, or digging deep. A local chamber of commerce, major feed mill in continuous contact with area landowners, or a local sporting goods store is often a good starting point, making inquiries to determine if someone knows someone who might allow hunting.
Making one-on-one contacts for simple self-guided access can prove dicey, or help you strike gold. For example, I once met a rancher through a college job. He offered that he had some hogs I could bowhunt for a low daily fee. The first couple trips to that ranch were absolute duds, with hardly any sign in evidence. The fee was reasonable enough I persisted, discovering things changed dramatically following heavy rain. That ranch would ultimately become my off-season get-away and relinquish 30-plus hogs in the five years I bowhunted there.
Self-guided hunts are most likely to include hogs on larger northern ranches, or aoudad and/or javelina on larger West Texas ranches—perhaps axis deer on the right central Texas land. These are places with plenty of room to roam, and little chance of wandering onto the neighbor’s place.
I’ve hunted hogs and javelina for as little as $50 a day, translated to 2022 dollars, looking more like $150 a day. If you’re lucky, you might find a landowner willing to let you hunt cheaply, say a $75 to $100 daily, with a trophy fee added if successful. Trophy fees may seem foreign to many American hunters, but it does give a landowner a vested interest in your success.
Deciding what to hunt is a more difficult proposition. Hogs are always attractive, as their destructive nature dictates cheaper hunts and hog meat is always good for least some breakfast sausage. Javelina, Mouflon, feral and aoudad sheep and feral goats can generally be hunted affordably, but don’t always provide the very best eating. They aren’t completely uneatable—unless an old trophy-class boar, ram or billy is taken—but they don’t rank up there with, say, hogs or white-tailed deer. A young sow, ewe or nanny make the best eating with these species. Boning and layering older animals in ice, allowing the cooler to drain while adding additional ice as needed, followed by grinding for spicy sausage, can do the trick. In the world of game meat, axis deer, nalgai and blackbuck simply can’t be beat. Axis, in particular, is the best game meat I’ve eaten on any continent. If an opportunity to take a doe axis is offered, it is greedily taken.
One of the biggest questions in Texas exotic hunting is free range or high fence. Free range is the norm with hogs, javelina and aoudad, and certain axis territory. Free range means low-fence properties hemmed in my barbed wire only, where animals are free to come and go as they please. A low fence made of woven wire is as good as a high fence when mouflon, feral sheep and goats are involved. True high fence is required to keep exotics such as axis deer and other leggy exotics contained, as they easily jump any fence less than 10 feet high.
Is A Texas Exotic Hunt For You? – The low-fence/high-fence argument is a matter of degrees, just as it is in Africa. In Africa the fence is generally there to keep the outside at bay, while in Texas it is there to contain what is inside. A “fair chase” high-fence hunt can certainly be had, on big enough properties, say, 2,500 acres minimum. On the largest high-fence ranches you might hunt a week and never see the fence. When high-fence properties become too small, especially when including limited water or food sources, the situation becomes more canned and less sport. That decision is entirely up to you, as there are certainly no laws pertaining to property size and high fences, as exotic game is considered livestock and owned by the landowner.
Despite these discrepancies, there is a lot of fun and challenge to be had by bowhunting Lone Star exotics. This is especially true during the so-called off season when bowhunting is closed in much of the nation.
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