by Rick Nagelmueller
I have had the privilege of hunting all over the south Texas brush country for some 30 years now. Course, I have also come out on the bad end of a lot of deer leases before I finally learned with the help of local residents what to look for to determine if the pasture you are looking at is any good or not. First of all, I mentioned above the term deer lease, let me explain what that actually is. You see, here in Texas, we have a very limited amount of state-owned land. Almost all is laid out in state parks. Hunting on state owned land is conducted in two different ways. One, a lottery type drawing is held which people sign up for to try to get drawn to hunt whatever specific park you put in for. The other type is what they call type II wildlife management areas. I prefer the private deer lease method. This method is where local landowners lease their property to you for the right to trespass on their land to hunt deer and other wildlife. The price per gun/person varies depending on how much land you are leasing -vs- the amount of hunters you will have on the lease with you. The more land per person, the more cost per gun. A good average going price is anywhere from about $6.00 per acre to about $10.00 per acre. Anything over $10.00 an acre, the deer better being tearing the barb wire fence down off the post trying to get into the pasture or you're probably getting ripped off.
OK, enough about what a deer lease is. I hunted for numerous years in south Texas and basically got what probably was the worst pastures around. Pastures that nobody else wanted I came to always find out later. Finally, one day in deep south Texas in a town called Hebbronville. I walked into a little local restaurant with a couple of my hunting buddies to eat lunch. Sitting at a table next to us was an older gentleman, probably in his seventies. He overheard us talking about hunting leases and kinda invited himself to our table. As we sat and talked about our past experiences and how we had gotten burned on a lot of different deer leases. The old gent just sat there and seemed to be taking it all in. Every once in a while, he'd just hang his head down and shake it back and forth and chuckle. Finally, he looks up and says, "Youngens, y’all listen up to what I'm gonna tell y’all and remember it the rest of y’alls life". What he told us basically was a lot of information about what to look for and to look at when your checking out a pasture to lease for deer hunting. I wish I had paid more attention when the gentleman told us what his name was. Because of how long ago it has been, I'm certain he is now in heaven giving advise out up there. However, I would dearly love to mention his name and give him the credit he deserves and to show I really did listen to what he was telling us. He says, "Boys, y’all goin’ about it all the wrong way. Don't drive to the pasture, get out of the truck, and walk all over and around it through that thick brush. First of all, we don't get that much rain down around these parts and if you’re looking for tracks, the ground is too hard to see any of them. If you’re thinking your gonna walk up on some deer to eyeball, your kiddin’ yourselves. This brush is so thick, even a deer that's half blind, has a serious head cold and an ear infection is either gonna see you, smell you or hear you and be gone before you ever get an eyeball on him... He says, I've been livin’ in these parts for 70+ years. Been all over these woods in a six-county circle and know them all. What you boy's need to do is simple as apple pie. When y’all go looking at a deer lease, if there are roads along the bordering fence lines, drive them. If there's no roads, walk those fence lines paying attention to how many crawls y’all see under the fence where deer and hogs are crossing through. You can tell the difference in them by paying special attention to the barb wire on the bottom row. If it's hogs, there's gonna be some long thick bristly black hair stuck in that wire. If it's deer, you'll find some deer hair stuck in that wire. Boy's, everywhere down here in any south Texas county, if y’all don't find a fence crawl where deer are crossing about every 100 to 200 yards. Get your behinds off of that place and keep looking at other pastures till you do. Most times if it's a good pasture, you'll find a crawl every fifty yards or so." Well, all I have to say to all of that is, My hat is off to you Sir. We have been using your logic looking at deer leases ever since that day and trust me, it works. Every place we have leased in the last 25 years we have used this man's logic and it has never let us down even once.
I am now getting to be "the Older gentleman". In tribute to this kind gentleman that gave a handful of inexperienced young men all his knowledge and wisdom. I would like to share this wisdom for other young hunters to use in their search for their future deer leases. And to the gentleman himself I would like to say thank you. We will remember you, cherish your wisdom and try to pass on your knowledge as you did to us as many times as we can.