Diversifying Ranch Income with Hunting

By: Tyler Jacobs

According to a recent article in Beef Magazine, CattleFax CEO Randy Blach states, “low calf prices are likely to remain in the $130 to $140 per cwt. range in 2017.” In other words, prices that cattle producers are likely to see in 2017 are very similar to what they are experiencing today.  What does that mean for ranchers? Now is the time to run a tight ship and make critical business decisions. For many, that may include diversifying a property’s income stream.

One form of income expansion would be to offer hunting opportunities. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation report, 13.7 million people aged 16 or older hunted that year and spent $38.3 billion on equipment, licenses, trips and more. This tells us that there is a strong desire for hunting opportunities in the U.S. and obviously landowners stand to benefit from that. Hunters not only stay in their home state (resident) but they also actively travel out of state (nonresident). This provides a rich pool of hunters to work with.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife – Hunting in America, An Economic Force for Conservation

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Hunters are also diversified in their interests, which can range from big game to upland game birds like bobwhite quail, chukar, turkey and pheasants. These are all species for which we, as land managers and wildlife biologists, can actively manage a property for. More often than not we are able to do so in balance with the overall goals of the farm or ranch. This is well illustrated in the book “Beef, Brush, and Bobwhites” by Hernandez and Guthrey. Livestock, agriculture and wildlife can function very well together. The King Ranch of south Texas is one of the best examples of this concept in action.

So what influences hunting prices? One might think it is a multi-million dollar lodge. Others would suggest it is food and amenities such as a swimming pool, wet bars and nice vehicles. However, the critical factor is the quality and quantity of wildlife present on a property. The majority of hunters partake in hunting for more than just the harvest. Outdoor recreationists cherish the opportunity to simply be a part of that environment. They appreciate the wildlife, the associated habitat and the opportunity to hunt.  A large percentage of hunters actually understand the investment in time, energy and finances that are made by landowners to ensure healthy wildlife populations that live in vigorous habitats. Hunters will remember the experiences from time spent in the field far more than the food or lodging.

quail hunting ranch georgia

The business side of hunting operations such as marketing hunts, making the land available for leasing, booking hunters, managing hunting camps, overseeing lessees, lease documents and working with the local state game biologists can be tedious to some. Many landowners simply choose to hire a service, such as that offered by Hall and Hall to manage their hunting operations. In this situation, the landowner knows that the ranch is faithfully represented and that the hunting operations will be professionally managed.

So what does all this mean for landowners, especially ranchers who may have to be tightening their belts due to low cattle prices? This is an opportunity to add income that had previously been left on the table and broaden the ranches income stream into the future. Selfishly, this gives us an opportunity to educate those who spend the majority of their time in urban environments about the importance of ranching and agriculture. Perhaps they will even celebrate their successful hunting experience with a steak. That works for all of us!.

Advice on Buying Texas Farms and Ranches For Sale

By: Tyler Jacobs

So you want to buy a ranch in Texas?   Having worked with Texas ranch buyers for the last 16 years, I’ve found that most do not end up buying in the first location they set their mind to, for one reason or another. It is ever important to know your goals as a buyer, and at Hall and Hall, we want to match our clients’ goals precisely with the right ranch location.

For example, I am in regular contact with buyers and sellers who want to own a weekend ranch in the “Hill Country”.   The Hill Country is a beautiful region of Texas, west of Austin and north of San Antonio. The region is marked by its large limestone hills covered with juniper, crystal clear rock bottom creeks, big views, strong deer populations, and more recently, vineyards and wineries. If a buyer, however, lives east of I-35, near Houston, buying and enjoying a Hill Country ranch can have significant traffic challenges. It is no fun to sit in Austin traffic, extending a 4 hour drive to the Hill Country into a 6 hour drive.

If you are not going to live on your Texas ranch as a primary residence, and maintain a regular work or family schedule, consider focusing your search within a 2-3 hour drive limit or approximately 150-175 miles. This travel limitation seems to be the sweet spot. It’s far enough to feel like you gone somewhere, and not so far as to consume the entire day and a majority of your energy.

Cripple Creek Ranch is located just north of Groveton, 80 miles northeast of The Woodlands.

Cripple Creek Ranch is located just north of Groveton, 80 miles northeast of The Woodlands.

If you live and work within or near one of  the 3 large metropolitan areas in TX, a 150 mile range will allow you to choose from a great diversity of Texas ranches for sale. A Dallas buyer, for example, could go north into the ranchlands towards the Red River, east towards the pines and lakes of East Texas, and south west towards the Brazos basin and the blackland hills.  There is an abundance of Texas beauty and variable distinction in such a radius. Don’t limit your choices by looking too far away.

Odds are, you will find a ranch in that limited radius that will capture your imagination and become your new refuge.  The best part is that it will be close enough to enjoy on a regular basis.  It’s tough trying to schedule a hunt with your grand-daughter with her busy schedule, and it’s tough trying to keep your cows fed in the winter when you are just too far away.

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Lucky Star Ranch is a unique and diverse ranch property located in southwest Wise County, approximately 7 miles southwest of the community of Bridgeport, Texas.

I was recently able to help a client reduce his drive time assisting in the sale of his ranch in the southern part of the Hill Country, which was a 5 ½ hour drive, and  replace it through a IRC Sec 1031 tax-deferred exchange, with a beautiful East Texas ranch 2 ½ hours away. In his mind I saved him almost a full day with every ranch visit, and his grandkids visit more often.

Now that’s a good location…..deep in the heart of Texas.

Rose Buffalo Ridge

Hall and Hall Partner Tim Murphy Hits the Duck Blind

A Day in the Life – Hall and Hall Partner Tim Murphy Hits the Duck Blind

It’s 5 a.m., and the ground is covered with a light dusting of snow. The temperature reads seven below zero.  My dog gives me a curious look as I start the layering process of dressing, and then crawls back into her bed.  Maybe she has the right idea, but it is too late. My good friend and photographer, Craig Hergert, and I decided days ago to hit the duck blind this morning, and he is en route to pick me up.

We arrive at friends’ ranch here in the Gallatin Valley, take one more sip of hot coffee, and head down to the slough to set up the decoys.  With the East Gallatin gorged with ice, we have an attractive spot for the ducks to visit.

We wait as the sun begins to rise and the ducks start to arrive, landing in the steamy rise of the spring-fed slough.  Singles and small groups fly right into the call, and of course, we knockdown the first seven drake mallards in that many shots.  We feel like hotshots.

Then we turn on the GoPro Camera, and things fall apart.


Video: Duck Hunting GoPro

Of course, we come up with all sorts of excuses for missing our shots, none of which relate to our shooting abilities. But the evidence is pretty clear in the video. Some of our shells did not have BB’s in them.

The action keeps us warm, although the dogs look like popsicles after a dozen or more water retrieves in temperatures that dipped as low as ten below.  As 9 a.m. rolls around, with 13 ducks in the blind, we pick up and get home in time for breakfast with the kids.

After breakfast, I wonder if it will warm up enough to perhaps ski Bridger Bowl or to head back out to the ranch to chase the pheasants around with my family.  My old spaniel has a different idea and curls back up in her bed in front of the fireplace.