Shotgun Lives

Ann Kercheville

Ann Kercheville

Ann Kercheville is President of Joshua Creek Ranch. Located in the renowned Texas Hill Country just 45 minutes northwest of San Antonio and 90 minutes southwest of Austin, Joshua Creek Ranch occupies a uniquely diverse terrain including miles of Joshua Creek and Guadalupe River bottomland planted in fields of grain crops for prime upland and deer hunting habitats. You can visit their web site at http://www.joshuacreek.com.

Ken Hartshorn

Ken Hartshorn

Ken is a technical writer and has spent the majority of his career documenting storage hardware and software products for start-up companies. Although start-ups demand long hours, he always finds time to get to the club and break some clays. Ken is not a shooting instructor and he is not a professional shooter. He’s part of the majority of people who love to shoot clays just for the sheer fun of it.

I’m approaching one of those BIG milestone birthdays.  You know, one of those that ends in a "0", one where the total of your past years is a higher percentage than the total of your expected future years.  One that makes you stop and think about your life:  past, present, and future.

It’s a “Wellies Morning.” That means it’s raining, an always welcome circumstance in this Texas Hill Country. It’s a day to don those Wellington boots if you’re destined for the field whether shooting or not.

Who but the taxing authority that devised it would ever consider a retroactive tax rate increase a good thing?  Certainly not a conservative thinker like myself.  But such a thing actually happened back when President Clinton retroactively increased federal income tax rates in 1993.  As the president made law with the stroke of his pen, the leader of our household declared we would NOT pay additional taxes, but instead we would work less and vacation more.  That sounded like a great plan to me, as the prior few years had seen very little vacationing for our family since the opening of our year-round hunting/shooting resort.  Some quick calculations determined that a month of vacationing would net us the same tax burden as the old tax rates, so destinations became the next order of business.

I grew up in a rural area of deep south Texas in an agricultural community where, as a kid, I conjured up some pretty glamorous and exciting ideas about faraway city life. It’s no wonder I went to college in Dallas and stayed eleven years for a corporate career in Dallas and San Antonio. But in those years the lure of the city life wore thin and eventually wore out. The fates were good to me though and caused my path to intersect that of my intriguing future husband, Joe, who lived on a small ranch just outside San Antonio. His home was surrounded by acres of grassy fields and lightly wooded pastures, reminiscent of the openness where I’d grown up. The only thing better than his place was the man himself and his exhilarating enthusiasm for the sporting life, which was a whole new world to me. He introduced me to sailing, dove and quail shooting, deer and turkey hunting, duck hunting, and snow skiing. I wasn’t just an observer. I packed the spinnaker, shot, cleaned and cooked birds and deer, and came down Aspen Mountain my third day on skies.

Operating a hunting lodge is a lot like managing a household of all boys where company is coming every day. Some of the visitors are like family who've been coming over for years. Some are new acquaintances we're anxious to know better. Regardless, company is coming, so everything must be at its best. That means, getting the household back in order from the guests who've just departed: laundry, house cleaning, menu planning, grocery shopping, lawn and grounds spiffing, and, of course, finding a spot to store the items that the last guests forgot to pack up and take with them.

You can’t imagine the variety of items that are left at a hunting lodge by the boys who come for a stay. More than just the odd sock under the bed, we’ve found hunting boots, every possible layer of clothing, high-tech shooting glasses, gun cases, cell phones, laptop computers, and on and on. The greatest mystery is how some of these things can be left behind and never missed. Honestly, no one calls to claim them....and we’re talking about some highly desirable things from a hunter's perspective.

The day before departure on an Alaska fishing trip several years ago, we discovered that my husband, Joe, didn’t have a light weight summer jacket appropriate for the climate. Given that it was a sweltering Texas day in early July and the nearest shopping center an hour away would not likely be selling jackets, I suggested to Joe that he consider checking out the lodge’s lost and found for something he could use. I’d in fact myself been borrowing a fabulous Boss hunting coat for years on those rare frigid days in my deer hunting blind. Luckily, he found a navy canvas bomber style jacket that fit him fine and the “loan” was made for the duration of the trip.

thumb_Kerchevilles-Fishing-Bear-experience-Alaska-2000
Joe Kerchivelle flanked by Joseph and Joshua Kerchivelle.

The trout and salmon fishing were fantastic and so was the weather. In fact, it turned warm enough one day that Joe didn’t need his jacket, so he left it laying on the bank of the river while he did some wade fishing. Bear were active in the area and it so happened that a big brown bear wandered upon the jacket. He proceeded to have a frolicking good time with that jacket, tossing it around, giving it several good shakes and thrashing it with his paws. Needless to say, no one attempted a jacket rescue and the bear eventually got bored and moseyed away, leaving the jacket where it laid. Amazingly, the jacket came back home to our hunting lodge with only a shredded lining as evidence of its encounter.

Months pass, and when a brisk autumn day arrived in the Texas Hill Country, I got a call from a San Antonio client who asked if he’d by any chance left his jacket at the ranch. He proceeded to describe the jacket Joe had borrowed for that Alaska fishing trip. Can you believe it? A jacket lays around in our lost and found for over a year, goes on an Alaska fishing trip, gets mauled by a bear and then its owner remembers where he left it. I told him we indeed had his jacket, that it had been on quite an adventure and had an amazing story to tell. He was enthralled by the jacket’s story and just wished he’d been in it except for the bear encounter. I assured him I’d have the torn lining repaired and give him a call when the job was done.

A couple of weeks later, I called the client to say the jacket was ready. For his convenience, he preferred to pick it up at Joe’s San Antonio office. So Joe took it into town and left it with his receptionist for our client. Within the same week, our client called me sounding very dejected. “I went to get my jacket and I’m terribly disappointed,” he said. I immediately asked if the tailor had not done a satisfactory job. “It’s not that,” he muttered, “The jacket looks fine. The trouble is that it’s not mine. And it wasn’t the jacket that I wanted so much anymore. I wanted the story that goes with it!”

Ann Kercheville is President of Joshua Creek Ranch. Located in the renowned Texas Hill Country just 45 minutes northwest of San Antonio and 90 minutes southwest of Austin, Joshua Creek Ranch occupies a uniquely diverse terrain including miles of Joshua Creek and Guadalupe River bottomland planted in fields of grain crops for prime upland and deer hunting habitats. You can visit their web site at http://www.joshuacreek.com.

It's late morning on a Saturday in mid-July at Joshua Creek Ranch and seems unusually still and quiet after being abuzz day and night for the past week with high-energy active teenage guests.  The JCR staff performs post-guest clean-up dutifully, but with the help of some extra young people. All are anxious to be done with their work and on with enjoying some time off after a very intense week of managing the busy itinerary of the group that just departed.  What's been going on the prior week has become one of my favorite activities at the ranch...the Youth Outdoor Adventure Program (YOAP).

Having dogs around all the time is just part of my day-to-day life as a hunting lodge operator and wife of a wingshooting enthusiast.  They’re everywhere...in my house, my yard, my office, around the lodge, at the ranch kennels, in the hunting guides’ trucks and dog trailers, in the hunting fields and pastures. I mean, literally everywhere.  I think we’ve either owned or hosted every imaginable breed of bird dog at Joshua Creek Ranch at one time or another over the past 22 years, including some deaf dogs, three-legged dogs, half-blind dogs, and old arthritic dogs who wouldn't give up hunting any more than their deaf, half-blind, old, arthritic masters. And I love having all those dogs around....IF they’re well trained and have nice manners.

I’m a Texan so, of course, I’m tuned in to what’s going on in our great state. But wherever you reside, you’d have to be living in total isolation not to have heard about the catastrophic drought, heat and wildfires that have plagued Texas all summer long. Truth is, for us it started a year ago in September 2010, when Mother Nature turned off the rain faucet in our beautiful Texas Hill Country after lavishing us with abundant and timely showers throughout the prior summer.  Since then, our average annual rainfall of 30 inches has shrunk to a meager 20% of that amount, a total of 6 inches in a whole year. Spring-fed creeks are bone dry and rivers are a trickle. Parched landscape holds its breath for fear of wind-driven wildfires, and residents sweat out record-breaking high temperatures. Many of us remember our parents and grandparents reciting stories about the drought of the 1950’s, but the summer of 2011 will likely prove to rival those days.

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