The porch was long and spacious. There were comfortable chairs and tables along the wall, and a short drop from the porch down to the natural flora of Texas Hill country spread a few dozen yards out to a limestone bluff that overlooked the valley of Joshua Creek. I was leaned back in a chair with a cup of black coffee, watching the morning unfold. Across the valley, I could hear the calls of quail, pheasant roosters, and a couple of hen mallards gossiping, or arguing, or whatever it is they talk about.
Beneath a Texas mesquite tree, I sat on the camo bucket seat with a 20-gauge Zoli Expedition EL resting across my lap, watching skyward for doves.
Realistically we have only two seasons here in this Texas Hill Country. The autumn/winter seasons sort of run together with mostly mild days, intermittent cold nights and lots of sunshine for six to eight months. Then spring comes and all too soon yields to four months of warm (sometimes VERY warm) summer weather, marked by long, sunny, and mostly dry days. As for Joshua Creek Ranch, we have just two seasons as well. They happen to coincide with the autumn/winter and summer seasons. We refer to our seasons here as “hunting” and “farming/construction.”
It’s no great intellectual leap to figure out which time of year is my favorite. Obviously it’s the autumn/winter/hunting season when the torturous temperatures of the Texas summer fade away to brisk mornings in the 40s, and delightfully sunny afternoons in the 60s. It’s paradise, and tends to stay that way for six to eight months.
Not only does it feel like paradise, it looks like paradise. Historically rainy September gives a last burst of growth to the parched yet resilient pasture grasses that endured the hot summer. The upland bird hunting habitat gets better by the day until the first frost that typically comes by Thanksgiving. From then through the rest of the hunting season tufted tops of long golden grasses wave in the afternoon breeze, sheltering quail, pheasant and partridge till their scent is detected by the expert pointing dogs at the Joshua Creek Ranch.
There’s a sound of paradise, too. It’s the “buzz” of the bird hunting business that resumes at Joshua Creek Ranch each October through March. The phone is ringing with requests for reservations, guests are arriving, shotgun blasts are heard in the distance, aroma of the fire pits fills the evening air, porch lights are flickering at all the lodges, and the dining room beckons the hunters with delectable presentations of quail, pheasant, and venison. What fun. It’s like a giant household with company coming and going all the time.
This particular autumn/winter hunting season of 2013-14, I’ve got still another reason for calling these my favorite months of the year. A new chapter opened for Joshua Creek Ranch in November with the hiring of a Rick Terry as CEO to join our team of dedicated individuals. Rick’s primary objective: enabling Joshua Creek Ranch to raise its services to an even higher level of excellence. And there’s a secondary objective I’m equally excited about: enabling ME to focus on some things beyond Joshua Creek Ranch, like grandchildren, travel adventures with my husband, Joe, and taking time to enjoy this Ranch in addition to working at it.
I won’t deny that it’s hard taking a step back from this business that’s largely consumed me for 25 years. And I probably couldn’t do it except for the encouragement of Joe and my confidence in the professional management and marketing expertise of Rick. But I’ll still have a role and it’s one that really lights a fire in me.
You know the CEO’s primary objective I mentioned, the one about “raising the Joshua Creek Ranch services to an even higher level of excellence?” Well, I get to be involved in defining and developing the infrastructure for those services. In fact, we’ve already accomplished one of them that is serving our clients right now in this current hunting season. A seldom-used bunk bedroom at Cypress Lodge (our lodge where meals are served) was converted to a private dining/conference room. The flexibility that this opens to guests is fantastic. Couples can enjoy a quiet candlelit dinner in the main dining room while a group of hunters cheer their favorite college football team to victory in the private dining room. A corporate group can carry on a private business conversation over their meal while other guests dine jovially in the nearby comfort of the main dining hall.
Exceptional services and facilities planning are underway as I write. New, high-end private accommodations are on the drawing board, as well as an extension of the sporting-clays course. A duck shooting scenario is in the works and hunting habitat improvements are in the making for spring 2014.
The new chapter that’s opened for Joshua Creek Ranch is an exciting opportunity for our business, our staff, our members and clients, and for me as well. We’re ALL-IN for the plans we have to raise the level of excellence for services at Joshua Creek Ranch. There’s so much to look forward to!
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.
On a brilliant autumn afternoon, a helicopter packed with oil men from Texas and Mexico touched down on a grassy field at Joshua Creek Ranch. With rotors revolving overhead, they filed out toward an idling SUV and three minutes later the contingent occupied a table on the limestone patio in the shade of a magnificent 400-year-old oak tree, the rush of the Guadalupe River rising from below, enjoying a hearty lunch and talking business.