A Texas Hill Country Respite at Joshua Creek Ranch

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.

At first, I wasn’t sure of what I was seeing; it looked like a discarded hunting coat, but I could see the white dots first, and then the eyes. A doe Axis deer had made her bed for the night at the foot of a scrub oak about 40 yards from the corner of the porch. I’d risen early to watch the morning. She had a perfectly adequate view from where she’d slept, but she was doing the same thing.

Dick and Cherie Jones on the porch at Joshua Creek Ranch.

We were at Joshua Creek Ranch for a side excursion on our annual trek to SHOT Show. The plan was to get in a morning hunt and an afternoon clays shoot, before continuing our trip to Vegas and four days of immersion into the trade world of guns and hunting. This year, we were doing an extended road test of the Nissan Pathfinder, a mid-sized SUV with a great combination of handling, economy, and off-road capability. The Pathfinder was particularly appropriate, since Nissan was the SHOT Show Press Room host for 2015, and is active in promoting traditional outdoor pursuits.

After breakfast, we trekked to the shooting fields for a mixed bag hunt of pre-released pheasants, bobwhite quail, and chukar. Hunting pre-released game birds is as close to wild bird hunting as it comes and our birds flew like rockets and worked well for the dogs. Given a choice between leaving the guns or dogs, I’ll leave the guns and follow the dogs every time. Our guide, Ryan Trovato, did a great job of handling the English setters, Diamond and Wyatt, and our English cocker, Scooter did a great job as the flushing/retriever, adding a certain amount of comic relief in the process. I’m always impressed by good dog work and when I saw setter Wyatt pass off a located bird from mouth to mouth with cocker, Scooter, I was really impressed. This level of training requires hours of work and wisdom, and the dogs made a wonderful hunt even better.

Guide Ryan Trovato with Scooter at Joshua Creek Ranch.

After a lunch of Axis venison chili, and a short nap, we headed for the clays fields for some clay target shooting. The clays course at Joshua Creek is world class with challenging targets that are still within the reach of recreational shooters. Sporting clays are great fun and even better when the course features scenic views and varied landscape. The course covered almost every imaginable presentation and the trail could easily be walked or driven. Since we’d covered quite a bit of terrain on the morning hunt, we chose to take the Pathfinder and park where we could cover two or three stations before getting back behind the wheel. Individual rounds are reasonably priced. Joshua Creek also hosts regular registered competitions, and offers great sporting clays packages with lodging, food, and unlimited targets.

The entrance to Joshua Creek Ranch.

We chose Joshua Creek Ranch in Boerne, Texas, because of its reputation as one of the foremost outdoor locations in the country. As an Orvis Endorsed and Beretta Trident Lodge, the ranch provides a perfect retreat for discriminating sportsmen. Within the confines of the spacious and rustic limestone lodge, we found a wonderful dinner experience. We came in from our afternoon of sporting clays to a warm fire and bacon wrapped grilled quail with Serrano peppers. With an extensive wine list that includes Becker Vineyards in Fredericksburg, Texas, and entrees like the Axis peppercorn steaks, the meal was as enjoyable as the hunt.

We stayed in a guest house called, “The Porch,” named after the aforementioned wide veranda that surrounded the house. The Porch offered us a comfortable and rustic retreat. Placed on a limestone bluff overlooking the valley, it offered a spectacular view of the sunset over the Texas hills to complete the day.

Cherie Jones with Wyatt in the field at Joshua Creek Ranch.

Established in 1990, Joshua Creek Ranch offers a summer Youth Outdoor Adventure Program and fly fishing opportunities on the creek. The ranch also handles conferences for groups or companies, and is building a new 10,000 square foot conference center that will be ready for next season. For those interested in larger game, there are hunts for Axis deer and other exotics found in the Texas hill country. In fall, the whitetail season and upland hunting begin, and waterfowl hunts are available. Spring offers turkey hunts, making Joshua Creek a year round outdoor opportunity. Besides hunting and fishing opportunities, Joshua Creek would be worth the visit simply for the first rate lodging, extraordinary food, and wonderful service.

As we drove out the drive, leaving the ranch, my wife, Cherie, was pointing out pheasant roosters sunning along the edge of the drive. As we drove, she spotted an angler in the creek with fly rod bent in a parabolic arc with rod quivering. We’d seen big game, waterfowl, upland hunting, and a great clays course. The accommodations were both spacious and luxurious, the food and wine were wonderful and the views were inspiring. Apparently, there’s some good fishing at Joshua Creek as well.

Dick Jones began competitive shooting in 1976, winning his first practical pistol competition. He began shooting Hunters Pistol in 1979 and became a AAA shooter. He took up High Power Rifle in 1984 and took first Marksman in the state championship that year in his first match shooting an M14 rifle. He became a Master and captained the third place National Trophy Civilian Team in 1988, became a Distinguished Rifleman in 1991, a High Master in 1992, and Presidents Hundred in 1996. He was the 1,000 yard NC Service Rifle Champion in 1988 and 1989 and captained, coached, and fired on the winning service rifle 1,000 yard team those years. He captained and coached multiple national level teams both junior and senior, across the course and long range, from 1984 to 1996 at Camp Perry, Ohio.

He is an NRA Rifle, Pistol, and Shotgun Certified instructor, a North Carolina Hunter Safety Instructor and certified by the state of North Carolina to teach the Concealed Carry Handgun Certification course.  He is also an award winning outdoor writer and writes for Gun Mag Magazine as a regular contributor as well as writing for other magazines, newspapers and WXII TV. He and wife Cherie own the Lewis Creek Shooting School. Visit the web site at http://lewiscreekshooting.com.

Useful resources:

The Joshua Creek Ranch web site



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