After receiving some very helpful input from a few of the THF celebrities (thank you!), the detailed info for the lease is as follows:
The lease is on the Middle Verde Ranch in Bandera, Texas. Historically speaking, openings on this ranch are few and far between. It’s not uncommon for these pastures to be held for 15, 20, or 25 years at a time. For anyone that knows the ranch, this is a rare opportunity.
The lease is for a 1k acre pasture, which includes its own camp house. Only the 5 guns on the lease have access to this particular camp house. The pasture is one of six that the ranch leases for hunting. Each hunting pasture has its own camp house. The ranch totals ~ 9k acres and all of the hunting pastures are managed the exact same way. There is very little disturbance/pressure during the offseason and supplemental feeding takes place year round, all across the ranch. The management plan and ranch rules have been very successful in growing and holding the animals, while also improving the habitat.
Trophies (5.5+) are in the 140-150 range. Seeing 10+ deer per sit is common. The current survey showed that the ranch ratio was 7:1. We are now required to shoot 3 does before punching the trophy tag. This particular pasture has had very little pressure over the past 5 years and even less before that. No one wanted to shoot does, everyone held out for THE trophy, and then very few deer were taken. That scenario combined with the ranch survey resulted in the 3 doe rule being implemented for this year. The pasture has a well-balanced age mix. The lease openings are by and large from the guys that went back to STX looking for bigger deer. If it wasn't bigger than what was already on their wall, then they let it walk, and they let a lot of good, mature deer walk....only 5 trophies were taken in this pasture over the last 5 years (the 10 in the first pic was the only one in 2014).
We also have the hunting rights for culls, one exotic, one turkey, hogs and predators. We do not have the fishing or hunting rights for birds (dove, ducks, or quail)….no one else does either. It’s a ranch rule that there will be no fishing or bird hunting, by anyone.
Regarding the exotics, each paid gun is allowed to harvest 1 exotic. Axis, fallow, sika, aoudad and even a cow elk, among others, have been seen in this pasture. That said, I wouldn't describe the pasture as being overrun with exotics. We are overrun with deer. As with all things hunting, taking an exotic of your choice is a possibility; i.e. it’s an opportunity, not a guarantee. If you enjoy hunting, shooting, and eating wild game, then your barrel will be hot and your freezer will be full!
The hunting pasture has great cover and natural food sources. The ranch philosophy on supplemental feeding is that’s it’s, well, supplemental. It’s intended to assist but not to create dependence. This is good for our feed bill and the deer when temps are extreme or the rainfall is low. The pasture has some elevation…..it’s basically a series of canyons. There are 6 huntable areas in the pasture that have been designated as blind sites. Some are higher up while some are lower in the valleys below. All 6 blind sites are easily accessible by truck, UTV, or 4 wheeler. The pasture boundaries follow the ridgelines. There is cover both high and low, but the ridgelines are extremely thick and provide the most sanctuary. The animals bed up high, and come down to feed and drink. If we see something we’d like to try from a blind/feeder location, all we have to do is ask…..we cannot just set up anywhere we want to though. Also, this is not a spot and stalk type of lease; there will be no game taken from beyond the blinds. The ranch roads in the pasture are all shale rock or caliche. 4WD is not required. There are multiple water sources, wet weather creeks and stream beds but even when wet, 2WD is fine for crossing due to the rock formations. All animals are to be cleaned/logged at the ranch HQs (close to our camp house). Ranch hands will dispose of the carcasses. Bow hunting is allowed, but you will need to complete a ranch certification process before bow hunting on the ranch.
I did receive some questions regarding the off-season and guest access. During the off-season, wives/kids are welcome as space allows. I can't imagine that all 5 guns will show up at the same time to fill feeders (intent is to designate a rotation). That said, during the off-season, the only ranch activity allowed is filling feeders (there is no hunting/fishing of any kind allowed, there is no off-roading/trail riding allowed, and there is no target shooting allowed). There is a public gun range in Bandera, there are plenty of activities (music, nightlife, restaurants, shopping) in town, and depending on the month, there are a lot of other outdoor activities nearby (fishing at Medina Lake, dove hunting in Hondo, etc..,). Paid guns are welcome to bring their immediate family on their designated feeder fill weekends to enjoy all that the Bandera area has to offer, but there are no activities offered by the ranch during the off-season. Also, during the off-season, we are allowed access to the camp house to fill feeders on the 1st and 3rd weekends of the month, and from 5p Friday to 5p on Sunday. We cannot show up early, stay late, or deviate from the schedule. The ranch is a working cattle ranch and just as we expect that the cattle operations will not impede our hunting during the season, the ranch expects that we will not impeded their cattle operations during the off-season.
Licensed and hunters ed. certified kids aged 12-16 of paid guns can hunt with a paid gun, and off of the paid gun's allotment, in the month of November only. We are required to shoot 3 does before punching the trophy tag and we can't punch the trophy tag until December 1. The intent is to time the doe harvest, the rut, and the trophy tag to our collective advantage while providing the kids with an opportunity to hunt. Only the paid gun can exercise the trophy, cull, and exotic tags and no kids are allowed to hunt after Nov 30. At this point there is only one age eligible kid “on” the lease that has any interest….since she belongs to me, I know she will not be seen more than one weekend in November.
During the season, no other family or guests are allowed. The house is a 3/2. We just aren't set up to accommodate non-hunting guests for 5 guns, or some combination thereof, during the season. The camp house is currently being remodeled and includes recent appliances, heat/air, new paint, and new flooring. It's a 3/2 bungalow style that was built in the 40s. It’s not a resort, but it's much nicer than many places I've stayed in to hunt. It's clean, odor free, bug/animal free, and sits on a fenced, one acre lot (dogs that play nice are welcome). We have an attached garage (used for storage) and there is a covered, outdoor area for cooking, eating, cold beverages, and story-telling. The camp house is nice enough that the wives would stay there, but they wouldn't want to move in. Satellite and internet providers are accessible at the camp house, but service is at our expense. Cell service can be spotty and is carrier dependent.
The cost/gun is $4,500. This includes the lease, the camp house, utilities, and an even share of the annual feed bill for both protein and corn. The total of $4,500 will be collected up front. Within the $4,500, there are a couple of one-time “buy-ins” for the camp house deposit and the protein feeders. These lines will not repeat after the first year and the cost/gun will decrease in subsequent years. For those that are interested in the breakdown of the cost/gun, please see the attached pic.
As you can see I rounded down and the actual feed bill and utilities could be higher or lower based on the feed prices paid and the utilities used. The 5 guns will share any +/- in the feed bill and the utilities evenly, but these estimates should prevent any surprises. If you can provide a large (1k – 2k lb), free choice, protein feeder, then that may reduce/restructure the first year costs to your benefit. Full disclosure will be provided re all costs and you will sign a lease with the landowners, not me. Also, the ranch (and lease) does not provide any blinds or corn feeders....each gun will need to provide their own blind and corn feeder. Last, every feeder is required to be in a feed pen. Feed pen materials are at each paid gun’s expense and are not included in the attached cost table or provided by the ranch.
In addition to all of the above, and the usual safety and etiquette rules, we are expected to clean up after ourselves, leave the alcohol at the camp house (don’t bring it to the pasture, blind, or vehicle), and we must not discharge a firearm at the camp house under any circumstances…..you’d be surprised.
Including myself, the 2 guns on the lease at this point are from the Houston area, in our 40s, professionals/college educated, and married with kids (all girls). I am taking one very interested gun on the pasture tour this Sunday, May 3rd, and based on the context of our conversations, I do expect that we will be down to two open spots by Sunday evening.
If I missed anything, please do not hesitate to ask or send me a PM. I have room for two more to join the pasture tour this Sunday. I will prioritize the commits for a pasture tour in the order that they are received. A commit for a pasture tour does not obligate you to join the lease or guarantee that the lease will be offered, but if we’ve made it that far, then I’d say the odds are pretty good! I will update the post on Monday with the confirmed number of open spots and add some pics of the camp house and the pasture landscape.
Thank you for following the post and happy hunting!