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Are high fence hunting ranches profitable? #8483792 12/22/21 05:20 PM
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I’ve considered developing a high fence exotic hunting facility in Central TX.

I think there is increasing demand for more hunting opportunities closer to Houston/Austin/Dallas but I’m a numbers guy so I’ve looked at a few other smaller facilities from 100-500 acres and I can’t really see where the potential profit is sufficient to offset the capital cost over time or the operating cost today

I haven’t been able to find much information out there on developing or running wildlife Hunting businesses but figured there has to be resources and/or consultants who might have a better idea of the true costs, expenses and potential business revenue from this type of hunting property.

For everything I’ve seen, the typical operations look to be either part of a larger ranching or breeding business or a tax write off for wealthy oil men, of which I’m neither. If it’s one of those “best way to make a million dollars, start with five million dollars” businesses, I’d like to find out sooner than later.

Would truly appreciate any insight from those in the know.

Re: Are high fence hunting ranches profitable? [Re: TxsDirtDad] #8483802 12/22/21 05:28 PM
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Can be if you have the client base, or business connections. It’s competitive though. With that said end of the day you are just trying to beat cattle grazing & hunting lease returns


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Re: Are high fence hunting ranches profitable? [Re: TxsDirtDad] #8483809 12/22/21 05:34 PM
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welcome It can be profitable if you own the land. But what you have to look at is the long term. Can you survive by raising enough animals to shoot on a smaller place? Not really. That means you have to buy them (at an expense on top of the rest) to stock your ranch with to then hunt. Put and take operation. Someone else foots the expense and time to raise them, you then have to buy them at their price. Then keep them or raise them till you can hunt them. Unless you go with a couple of specific high end species then buying is cheaper than raising them. If you raise them you know have a chance to make more money long term but you have to raise them to a mature age. Then another issue comes into to play is numbers. You can hunt males of all species but they have to get a mature age to be a high dollar trophy class animal. So you now have a lot of males on the land....but only will shoot a few each year. Expense is in raising all of them to a mature age. The other issue is now females come into play. If you have 20 young per year 10 will be males and 10 will be females. You have to do something with excess females. For example if you pay $1000 for females but can only shoot them for $500 then you are loosing money to raise them and then remove them. If you can catch them to resell as breeders to another ranch then it may work. The expense is then in catching them and selling them. If you have enough good habitat to support a breeding group of animals then feed will not figure into the expense...but if you have to feed then it will make it less profitable...unless you are raising and hunting high end exotics. This is not taking into account other expenses...fence, road, taxes, feeders, blinds, fuel, maintenance, advertising, death losses, etc.


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Re: Are high fence hunting ranches profitable? [Re: TxsDirtDad] #8483859 12/22/21 06:27 PM
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Thanks! I probably should qualify my question with “if you already had suitable land”. I see no way hay, cattle or hunting could support the expense of buying that much land purely for a hunting facility today.

I’m just wondering after the costs and expenses of high fencing, improvements, equipment, feed, livestock purchase, vet, transportation, labor and management, would you potentially have a profitable cash flowing business or just struggle to break even with a nice place to hunt?

As I tell my wife, just because they’re in business doesn’t mean they’re making a profit. 🤣

Re: Are high fence hunting ranches profitable? [Re: TxsDirtDad] #8483866 12/22/21 06:30 PM
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Unless you already own property and have it paid for (or mostly so) I'd find another way to invest your money. 'Partners' would offset the cost to you....but also any profit potential and creates a whole host of legal concerns.

Typically, high fenced operations (these days) are owned by folks that already have money and made it other ways. The exception being very small properties offering basically 'canned hunts'.

Last edited by flintknapper; 12/22/21 06:30 PM.

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Re: Are high fence hunting ranches profitable? [Re: TxsDirtDad] #8483872 12/22/21 06:43 PM
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there's no agricultural related activity these days that supports/justifies the cost of the land. You would have to take it from the viewpoint that buying the land is a stable/growing equity investment and then whatever you're doing on it whether it AG of some kind or wildlife is a tax shelter on that investment that can provide some rate of return. With regular leasing for ag/hunting or both i'd think you've got pretty low cost because you're just making the land available the the lessee is basically taking care of their own needs. With a trophy hunting operation....i would think it would need to be much more hands on because you would not be successful in letting potential lessee's/clients make their own trophy harvest decisions. They'd shoot whatever. that means though you'd have a lot more cost in providing guides/lodging/as a package hunt operation you'd be providing all blinds and feed. your cost goes way up.

as with a lot of things, you'd need to have a lot of money to start with and you'd have to really like what you were doing. i don't see that it would be the case that you could do it only because it really made financial sense.


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Re: Are high fence hunting ranches profitable? [Re: TxsDirtDad] #8484003 12/22/21 09:13 PM
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I have often times wondered the same thing as the OP. The "How" is the question.

My answer seems to lie in the "you have to already be rich or own a lot of land" to make it worthwhile.

I think one of the reasons the HF ranching business grew up in Texas is largely becasue a lot of people got really rich with oil and gas money in south texas and west texas. Without those checks that were coming in, the costs to high fence and do infrastructure work are largely not paid for, and the operation as a whole is not profitable. But, you add some oil and gas money into the mix and those expenses are tax deductions for those land owners and these things can become money makers.

The business is growing outside of texas for sure, I don't want to sound like it is all simply because of O&G money, but the huge boom I believe was from that. There will be uber rich people who need some way to offset some of their money in a stable "tax shelter" if you will, and land and hunting operations are those. But those people became a dime a dozen overnight in Texas and thus the rise of the HF trophy ranch with it.


Would be interesting to see how many HF owners have received a chunk of money from O&G leases/production/etc...

Re: Are high fence hunting ranches profitable? [Re: TxsDirtDad] #8484012 12/22/21 09:24 PM
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All the guys I know with them got rich from oil. They don't sell hunts though. Nor will they or their next generation ever have to. I can see old existing HF being profitable but not if you have to buy land and develop it.

Re: Are high fence hunting ranches profitable? [Re: TxsDirtDad] #8484022 12/22/21 09:32 PM
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The short answer is “no” for hunting only. Breeding operations can be, but the whole captive cervid industry is on a pretty steep decline.

Leasing for ag and/or hunting won’t bring in much income, but there’s no cost overhead, time investment or chance of loss involved either.


Originally Posted by Russ79
I learned long ago you can't reason someone out of something they don't reason themselves into.


Re: Are high fence hunting ranches profitable? [Re: TxsDirtDad] #8484031 12/22/21 09:42 PM
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Most of 'em owners will talk about legitimizing their operations by talking about the need to sell hunts in order to pay for feed.

Re: Are high fence hunting ranches profitable? [Re: TxsDirtDad] #8484032 12/22/21 09:43 PM
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and just wait until you go pick up some high roller at the airport and figure out you don't want to be with them before you even get on to the ranch.

I could go on.

Re: Are high fence hunting ranches profitable? [Re: TxsDirtDad] #8484036 12/22/21 09:50 PM
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Where your HF ranch is located also has a lot to do with whether or not it becomes profitable. I know a man that is selling his HF ranch near the border right now because he's tired of dealing with the losses the damn fence cutting illegals are costing him. He's invested boo coo money on exotics and has lost a bunch of them, especially now under Brandon's border policy.

Re: Are high fence hunting ranches profitable? [Re: TxsDirtDad] #8484048 12/22/21 10:01 PM
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I think STXranchman said it right. The only thing I believe him and others left out is the competition. There are a lot of hunting ranches out there. It is a very competitive industry. Starting from scratch would take either having some world class animals or being very reasonable. Even then you better have enough money to go quite a few years before even breaking even. I raise Nubian Ibex. I own the land and do not have any employees. There is still not enough money generated to say I could make a living from just doing it.

Re: Are high fence hunting ranches profitable? [Re: Hudbone] #8484058 12/22/21 10:14 PM
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Originally Posted by Hudbone
Most of 'em owners will talk about legitimizing their operations by talking about the need to sell hunts in order to pay for feed.


Most ranchers and farmers just tell you they are forever in a drought too…..or have to use plywood for utv roof

I have a buddy that’s expanded acreage three times, it’s not cost share, straight business. He doing well off it and doesn’t sell many hunts just raises high end exotic’s, traps and takes to sale.

Think it’s like any other business diversification tool, some investments you are good with 5% return others it better be 20% due to risk, but nonetheless, you didn’t get to be a landowner or pay for that fence via having a losing businesses


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Re: Are high fence hunting ranches profitable? [Re: BOBO the Clown] #8484091 12/22/21 10:53 PM
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Originally Posted by BOBO the Clown
Originally Posted by Hudbone
Most of 'em owners will talk about legitimizing their operations by talking about the need to sell hunts in order to pay for feed.


Most ranchers and farmers just tell you they are forever in a drought too…..or have to use plywood for utv roof

I have a buddy that’s expanded acreage three times, it’s not cost share, straight business. He doing well off it and doesn’t sell many hunts just raises high end exotic’s, traps and takes to sale.

Think it’s like any other business diversification tool, some investments you are good with 5% return others it better be 20% due to risk, but nonetheless, you didn’t get to be a landowner or pay for that fence via having a losing businesses



'Hangin' around with too many square heads. By the way, my ranch is in a drought. For real. (And I have just enough German in me that I can say that and mean it.)


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Re: Are high fence hunting ranches profitable? [Re: TxsDirtDad] #8484095 12/22/21 10:56 PM
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A few years back wife and I bought 600 acres and lived there. I killed all of the native deer and then HFenced the place (that is not cheap). I started over with 3 young breeder bucks and 3 bred does. Also put in exotics. My goal was not to commercially hunt it but rather for my family and friends to use and hunt. I leased out the grass rights for a little income. We eventually sold the place 5 years later for double what we paid for it. So in our case it ended up being a fun project and we made our money off of the equity increase in the property. In general I agree with what most have said here - it would be a tough go trying to create a profitable business out of it unless you had a large place and enough cash to invest up front


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Re: Are high fence hunting ranches profitable? [Re: Creekrunner] #8484098 12/22/21 10:58 PM
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Originally Posted by Creekrunner
Originally Posted by BOBO the Clown
Originally Posted by Hudbone
Most of 'em owners will talk about legitimizing their operations by talking about the need to sell hunts in order to pay for feed.


Most ranchers and farmers just tell you they are forever in a drought too…..or have to use plywood for utv roof

I have a buddy that’s expanded acreage three times, it’s not cost share, straight business. He doing well off it and doesn’t sell many hunts just raises high end exotic’s, traps and takes to sale.

Think it’s like any other business diversification tool, some investments you are good with 5% return others it better be 20% due to risk, but nonetheless, you didn’t get to be a landowner or pay for that fence via having a losing businesses



'Hangin' around with too many square heads. By the way, my ranch is in a drought. For real. (And I have just enough German in me that I can say that and mean it.)



Ya we went from a crazy green summer to rough fall. Starting to see wheat burn.


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Re: Are high fence hunting ranches profitable? [Re: TxsDirtDad] #8484101 12/22/21 11:00 PM
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There's an old saying in the land business and is sort of a carryover from the oil & gas business..... GO BIG OR GO HOME! Years ago, I met a guy in Odessa by the name of Frosty Gilliam, who became a bigtime petroleum billionaire; so much so, he has a building named for him on the TAMU campus.

His primary copany is AGHORN OIL & GAS, INC, base in Odessa, TX. One of his spinoff companies is a land acquisition company that buys ranches and farms and converts them to a high fence operation. About 5 years ago, his land company bought 12 ranches along Hwy 573 in Comanche, TX; they were all adjoining ranches. They were also across the road from our lease at that time, so we watched for a little over a year as it unfolded into a gigantic ranch for whitetail deer, elk, and an assortment of exotics.

Seeing this evolution, one can only think that it will be at least a decade for this size operation will be able to break even, much less become profitable. Consequently, it is very obvious this operation will appear as strictly a tax write off somewhere in that oil company operation s balance sheet.

So, with all this in mind, can the average hairy-legged guy, or gal, be able to survive in the high fence world as a start up business?


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Re: Are high fence hunting ranches profitable? [Re: TxsDirtDad] #8484131 12/22/21 11:34 PM
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I like the name "Frosty". It says so much. up


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Re: Are high fence hunting ranches profitable? [Re: TxsDirtDad] #8484179 12/23/21 12:18 AM
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I have given this some thought. I don’t see how with the current prices of land it could possibly be profitable. Not to mention the amount of man hours that would have to be put in.

Re: Are high fence hunting ranches profitable? [Re: TxsDirtDad] #8484221 12/23/21 12:50 AM
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Wow..the feedback is excellent and gives me a much better picture. Thank you all!

It’s been hard to lose money buying and holding Ag exempt acreage in TX over the past 30 years. But when you start pouring big money into Class A improvements and high fencing, I think it would get much easier fast. Here’s my take away from the feedback.

1. If you’re a multi-millionaire and are willing to throw some big bucks at the project, have fun and don’t worry about profit, you’ve got plenty of money already!

2. If you already own the land, you can start your own operation but you’ll be competing against folks with much more land and money who aren’t worried about the actual bottom line profit. Cant compete with that on pricing, so just enjoy your private hunting oasis and sell a few hunts a year to pay for some of your expenses.

3. If you’re going to start from scratch, buy land in a location desirable for future residential subdivision development then wait.

Honestly, it explains why those places charge what they do to hunt exotics. In reality, they probably have ten grand wrapped up in that $3,500 axis! Much more profitable to just go pay to hunt on their money losing enterprise than build one yourself.

Re: Are high fence hunting ranches profitable? [Re: TxsDirtDad] #8484333 12/23/21 02:24 AM
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I think the best way to make a dollar is exotics

I know 2 guys in the whitetail game and both have about called it quits

Re: Are high fence hunting ranches profitable? [Re: TxsDirtDad] #8484725 12/23/21 02:37 PM
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Excellent discussion, gents. up

Re: Are high fence hunting ranches profitable? [Re: TxsDirtDad] #8484808 12/23/21 03:35 PM
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No one is making money off hunting. Offset some of the cost to be a landowner, but probably not even paying the taxes, lol.


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Re: Are high fence hunting ranches profitable? [Re: TxsDirtDad] #8484832 12/23/21 03:58 PM
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A lot of HF operations were started back in the 90's. Many were done without O&G monies by the landowners. Fencing and labor was much cheaper. Feed was much cheaper. Ranches could HF and recoop the money from hunting income. I know a several ranches that the landowners had not other business income. Some owned the land some bought or added to their land. Several of these ranches sole source of income was the cattle, farming and hunting income. Two ranches I know made there living off their land(no outside income). One bought his land and HF. He started managing his deer herd and selling hunts. He also became a deer breeder for the extra income. He sold breeder deer to other ranches and only time I remember, he turned out some bucks on his ranch to shoot that season. The rest of the time he sold deer to other breeders or ranches. He made ends meet the first few years by guiding for outfitters or other ranches. He added an exotic to the ranch to allow more income from live sale and hunting. He also did turkey hunts in the spring and leased quail hunting to one gentleman. He did this for about 20 yrs till he finally sold out and retired.
The other ranch owner had one property he lived and ranched cattle on. It had a small farming operation that he put into CRP. He then bought a second ranch about the same size as his personal ranch. Both were HF and setup to feed and manage the deer herd. Hunting operation was started and every deer shot was paid for by a hunter...doe, cull, management or trophy. He did spring turkey hunts and then quail hunts later on. He had two sons that helped out and one worked for the ranching and hunting operation. He then leased a ranch next to one of his and started a hunting operation on it. Same as his other 2. Many years later he added another lease ranch to his hunting operation. After a few years and age catching up to him, he downsized to hunting his two ranches he owned.....deer, dove quail and turkey. Still doing it today.
At todays land prices, it would be difficult to replicate these two examples. If you owned the land it would be easier. Fencing, feed, equipment, insurance, etc have all escalated in price while the hunting prices have increased, they have not gone up at the same rate as the rest of the expenses have.


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