Most people, even hunters, don’t think about what goes into creating the essentials for an exceptional hunting experience at a resort like Joshua Creek Ranch. But if you’re an upland bird hunter, you know that certain criteria must be met to ensure a successful hunt, like good habitat and cover to hold the birds, well-trained, healthy and vigorous pointing and flushing dogs, and fully feathered birds that flush and fly strong. Beyond the hunt itself, it’s a real plus to have comfortable, clean, well-maintained accommodations, good food (especially wild game menu items), and knowledgeable, friendly staff who’s committed to hunters’ satisfaction.
So from April through August, it’s those essentials we’re busily working to ensure….farming to cultivate food plots and upland bird habitat; hatching and raising a small percentage of the birds we’ll be hunting; breeding, raising, and training new dogs; making improvements and repairs to our facilities; creating new wild game recipes for clients to enjoy and take home, and on and on. Not nearly so many guests are around in our off-season to witness how much work goes into making all their upland bird hunting dreams come true.
An early discovery we made in this business was that we obviously would want our tried-and- true, high-caliber professional staff to be around when the next season opened. In order to assure that, we needed to provide them with full-time, year-round employment. But then, that meant there would be a bigger payroll we’d have to meet in addition to all the other expenses incurred in preparing for the next season like seed, fertilizer, bird feed, dog food, equipment repairs, etc., etc. And since we had to be here working in the off-season months, we might as well be open for business and try to produce some revenue to offset our expense load – which meant we also had to think of some alternate revenue sources.
Over the years, we’ve tried a variety of things to bridge the income/expense gap in the off-season, even some things that are way outside our comfort zone, like weddings. (Do I need to define the term “Bridezilla” for you?) But the trial balloons that floated to the top of the off-season activity list over 20+ years are the ones that fit most appropriately with the primary mission of the Ranch: having a safe and enjoyable time in the outdoors. It’s outdoor and sporting activities that have proved to be the best niches of appeal for the uniquely beautiful setting of Joshua Creek Ranch.
One of the most enduring offerings remains sporting clays for individuals, private corporate groups and fundraising events. We frequently hear that Joshua Creek Ranch has one of the most beautiful courses in the country. Two years ago, the appeal got even greater when we invested in Promatic’s state-of-the-art fully automated wireless sporting clays system. It features a 12-station course with two automatic traps at every station. Issuing individual access cards worked to extend the hours for shooting sporting clays every day of the week.
A close second in popularity to sporting clays is the Youth Outdoor Adventure Program (YOAP), initiated 19 years ago and still growing. This summer, the stay for participants ages 8-15 is extended to 10 days on the Ranch. These kids are thrilled to learn shotgun and rifle shooting, archery, fly-fishing and more, with lots kayak, tube, and swim time spent in the clear spring waters of Joshua Creek and the Guadalupe River. What’s more, we’re cultivating future hunters and shooters.
Another off-season business opportunity resulted from the intensive work done to manage the wildlife habitat for enhancement of upland bird hunting conditions. With our low-fenced fields and pastures, the free roaming Axis deer herds in the area found the food plots and improved grasses we plant for the birds irresistible. When we added a protein feed program 6+ years ago, Joshua Creek Ranch was able to offer the finest axis trophy hunting in Texas.
Corporate meetings, reunions, dinner parties and a variety of other activities featuring the unique beauty of the Texas Hill Country are scheduled throughout the off-season as well. It’s interesting how what began as an effort to generate revenues that would enable us to keep our valuable professional team employed through the off-season worked to make The Ranch a year-round destination for sporting and outdoor enjoyment. That wasn’t part of the original plan, but it sure works for our team and our enthusiastic summer guests as well.
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.