by Brock RAY
Enclosure preserve hunting has come a long way in recent years.
Modern hunters have few things more precious and close to their hearts than off time. In an ever more hurried world, time away from home and work seem tougher and tougher to make happen. It is bad enough that most hunters feel like they already spend too much time away from wives and children, but in an increasingly harried world we find all too often that we often sacrifice personal recreation time. This is never more true than if you are an avid whitetail hunter. Whitetail deer are found over most of the country and their numbers have never been higher than they are today. Still, hunting these animals takes planning, time and patience, especially if you dream about taking a trophy buck. Trophy bucks are rarely less than three years old, meaning they have been hunted for three seasons and have eluded harvest by being wary and spooky. Even if a hunter takes a week or two of vacation time, the odds of taking a real trophy class buck are heavily against them. Even hunters who ply prime big buck country all season long rarely bag real trophy caliber animals.
The key to the availability of trophy bucks is having controlled harvest that permits most of the bucks in an area to reach four to six years old. Studies show that over 90 percent of all bucks will reach record book or near record proportions if they are allowed to mature to such ages. On public hunting land, less than 2 percent of all bucks make it to four years old. In farm country where hunting pressure is less and habitat is generally better, the odds are better, but in these areas, bucks reach such ages by becoming predominately nocturnal.
I was a member of small hunting club that leased a huge tract of very productive, high quality habitat. We spend lots of money putting food plot, and the members agreed to shoot no buck with less than eight points showing. Big bucks were on the property, but none of us ever killed one that score over 140 points. Each of us knew the property well, hunted well, and spent more time there than was approved of by our wives at that time. The tough to swallow truth is, so so very few members of the deer hunting community can afford to spend the time needed to have a realistic expectation of a record book buck.
There is a remedy to this problem and a growing number of hunters have discovered what that remedy is. Each year the number of hunting lodges that offer preserve style hunting grows nationwide. So-called ‘high fence’ hunting is open to the public on a pay-to-hunt bases. These vary in size from a few hundred acres to many thousands of acres. In most cases, the whitetail found here are native stock, wild animals that have enjoyed professional management and habitat protection that enables the bucks to reach maturity in a food and mineral rich environment.
Many hunters perceive hunting preserves in a negative way, often regarding it has hunting penned animals and has not being a fair chase hunt. There is an argument to be made they are right, and especially so the way preserves were twenty years ago. However, that has really changed in recent years. In Texas for example, high fences are solely meant to keep trespassers and big bucks from wandering off private property. High fence enclosures in that state often top 10,000 acres. Since whitetails are often fed to maintain their health and their high numbers, ranchers regard them as investments. They know that there is an eager hunting market willing to pay to come to Texas to experience the unique form of whitetail hunting the Lone Star State has to offer.
One of the biggest explosions in high fence hunting preserves has occurred in eastern states like Pennsylvania and New York. Enclosures being created there today are typically larger than 1,000 acres and often as much as five times that size. Owners know about how many bucks can be harvested and cease hunting when that number has been reached. I have often gone to Quest Haven in Pennsylvania, an outstanding preserve where native whitetail bucks are allowed to live fat and sassy until their fourth to fifth season.
Quest Haven’s hunting package includes overnight stays at their outstanding lodge where delicious meals are provided as well as guides who know where the big bucks are hanging out. My hunts there usually take three to four days, which is fine the accommodations and food alone are worth the stay at Quest Haven. My family members and I have been there several times filming my television show, Brock Ray’s World of Outdoors. We have taken several record book class bucks.
Hunting at most modern preserves is hardly like shooting fish in a barrel. These are not penreared animals, but are the same wild whitetail you see in farm pastures and wildlife management areas. The difference is hunting pressure and selective harvest. At Quest Haven if a buck winds you, he runs over the ridge as if it was shot out of a cannon. You may have to hunt long and hard, but success rates are in the 90 percent range. Best of all, you know trophy animals are there and you will get an opportunity to take such an elusive animal.
Costs vary, but the least such a hunt will cost is $2000, and the charge can be as much as three times that amount. Generally, these are inclusive packages that cover everything from food and lodging, to guides and trophy care. It is not cheap, but neither is a week at the beach with our family, or more costly still, a week at a major recreational resort such as Disney World. More importantly, how many hours would you expend, and money spent in taking a trophy buck on public or farm country hunting land. Many hunters spend decades hunting hard in such places and never take a record class buck.
High fence hunting is also an attractive option for taking young hunters to. Today’s youth are accustomed to fast action of video games, and when they begin hunting if they do not see animals pretty fast the tend to loose interest. I have taken both of boys to high fence enclosures, and got a real kick out of watching them nervously observe a trophy class buck. It might spoil them a bit to do this, but you are investing in the creation of a life long hunter.
The Internet is perhaps the easiest way to locate hunting preserves. Using a search engine like Google, you can to searches titled “Pay to hunt whitetail in Texas” or “hunting preserves in Illinois.” The better high fence whitetail hunting preserves have detailed websites that cover costs to everything provided. If you are on the road, you can email them about any questions you might have such as available dates or anything else.
Years ago for many hunters high fence hunting used to have a negative ring, but with the modern approach owners to these preserve take, these are increasingly better and more sure enough fair chase oriented.
If you are an avid hunter looking for a record book class buck and time is precious, then this aspect of hunting is worth considering. It takes three to five years for a buck to mature into a trophy of this caliber. High fence enclosures give bucks protection until they mature.