On Deer Leases and Boredom

I’ve spoken with some people who don’t know what a deer lease is, so I thought I’d do my best to explain. Note that I’m still a n00b to all of this so I may not have all the details right.

Essentially a deer lease is an agreement between a hunter and a landowner to allow the hunter to hunt on the landowner’s land. Most of the land in Texas is privately owned. Consequently if you want to hunt, most of the opportunities are on private land. Texas does have public hunts, but they are few and far between. So you need to find someone willing to open their land for hunting, and it’s great that many land owners do just that. That’s really about all it is. You give them money, they allow you access to the land. Exactly what you can and cannot do varies from agreement to agreement. Cost varies as well. You just shop around, the joys of the free market.

So how do you hunt on a lease? Well, most of the hunting down here ends up being done by sitting in a stand or a blind, which will have a feeder stationed some distance away (e.g. 100 yards). Then you sit and wait, watching for a deer. Being creatures of habit, they will have their favorite paths and feeding locations, and hopefully over time they’ll discover the feeder as an easy and reliable source of food, make it a part of their routine to visit it, and if you wait and watch long enough you’ll have a deer.

Doesn’t sound very sporting or much like hunting does it?

It all depends how you look at it.

You still have to do work. At my deer lease, that land hasn’t been hunted in ages, thus there’s nothing established. We had to scout the land looking for places where deer were likely to come. Can we find trails, looking for well-worn paths and deer poop? How about good sources of food, like grasses or acorns. Looking for cover and places to bed. So there has to be a lot of work done to try to find where and how the deer will be, move, act, and generally carry on. Then no matter what and how you hunt, there will be waiting, and you are likely to shoot the deer at a source of food be it a corn feeder or a grove of oak trees that dropped acorns or a nice patch of clover.

Can you sit in the stand? Sure. Can you get out on the ground and stalk around? Maybe, as it depends upon the land and setup. For instance, at my lease if I was the only person on the property it would probably be OK for me to get on the ground and walk around. However if my 2 lease buddies were out there too, we’d probably only sit in the stands for safety… don’t need to mistake someone tromping around for a deer! When I was out at Storm Ranch, the place was huge and the hunting plots were very distantly sectioned off so even if others were out hunting they’d be so far away from you that you’d be safe.  Furthermore, consider what happens when you track and stalk: you’re walking around on the ground. You’ll have boots on, and likely the ground is going to be covered in something that makes noise when you step on it. Deer have good hearing and strange noises are what make deer flee, probably before you ever set eyes on them. So technically there’s nothing that stops you from doing a tracking and stalking hunt, you just have to consider the conditions.

That all said, sitting in the stands these past 3 days had many boring moments. Certainly I spent some time considering the land and conditions, scanning for deer, watching and waiting. But folks if not for my iPhone and the 3G coverage out there, I might have gone totally nuts. 🙂  I actually passed some of the time using Google and searching for information on hunting that was relevant to my current situation. For example, activity was dead and I wondered about deer calling through grunts or antler rattling, so I spent some time in the stand searching and reading about that topic.

One question I had always intended to ask an experienced hunter was “Is it really just that boring in the stands? What do you do to pass the time?” I figured there was maybe some trick or maybe there was something I was supposed to be doing (e.g. keeping watch, always actively scanning). I finally remembered to ask the question to my brother-in-law (Wife’s brother) last night. He told me no, it is just that boring. 🙂  He said sometimes he sleeps (e.g. gets to the stand well before sunrise, gets situated, then dozes off and the feeder going off is his alarm clock), he’ll listen to his iPod, talk with friends, whatever he can do to pass the time. So there we go… must always remember to bring boredom killers with me. 😉

Brother-in-law also told me about how growing up most of their hunts were in Colorado (I remember that; they only started dedicatedly hunting in Texas in the past few years) and those Colorado hunts were mostly walking/stalking hunts, thus you did a lot more and things weren’t so boring. He said he prefers that, and I think I would too. That feels more like hunting…. this feels more like “waiting”. I was thinking about fishing, and I’ve always said there’s a difference between “fishing” and “catching” because I can fish all day, catch nothing, and it’s still a good day fishing. Hunting is the same way, because it’s not like going to the grocery store and coming home with meat. However, at least when I’m “doing nothing” while fishing I’m still doing something: I’m working my line in and out, if the fish aren’t biting here I can cast over there or move to a different spot entirely. Even if I’m just still fishing I have the ability to reel in the line every 20-30 minutes to try again. It’s still some sort of activity, and I don’t feel I get that with this stand hunting.

That all said, it’s still not that bad. I mean, is it that different from how the Indians did it? Granted we’ve got more technology on our side, but fundamentally it’s the same thing. You find where the animals eat, where they go… hunting won’t be successful where the animals aren’t. To work the land to make it more enticing and keep the animals around, all the better. And in the end, you still have to sit and wait because it’s not like the deer have pagers, take requests, or make reservations. We just have a lot more fancy technology these days.

So it is what it is. All in all, it’s not too bad. Certainly those moments of excitement make up for the stretches of boredom. Not just seeing that buck and going for the shot, but things like the morning I got to hear the symphony of the coyotes and turkeys. There is lots of good stuff out there. Take the good with the bad, have some ways to manage the bad, and in the end you wind up winning.

2 thoughts on “On Deer Leases and Boredom

  1. I’ve been hunting in Texas for as long as I can remember. I’ve also been hunting in Idaho and Montana and I can tell you that I’ve also gotten flack from non-hunters and hunters from the mountain west for the style of hunting we practice here, which is mainly hunting in stands over bait. The usual kneejerk reaction from these people is that hunting from a blind over bait isn’t really hunting or that its somehow not sporting.

    What they don’t seem to realize is that here in Texas, hunting is done almost exclusively on private land. There is really no public land that you can hunt on worth mentioning, at least nothing like the millions of acres of national forest/BLM land available for hunting in places like Colorado, new Mexico, Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana. Out there hunting is done on foot where you get up high, scan/glass the mountainsides and valleys for your intended prey and then stalk over to them to get a shot. If you manage to spook them, no biggie. You just climb back up again and look for them again. They may be thousands of yards away from where they were, but that doesn’t matter.. there are no fences out there on these millions of acres of public land, you just repeat the glassing/stalking process all over again.

    Most plots of land that are leased out here in Texas are relatively small, 200 acres or less. Texas is also relatively flat compared to the mountain west (even the hill country… the only area that might even come close is the Davis Mountains but most of that is off limits to hunting). That means that even if you were to manage to be stealthy enough to find a deer on flat ground through brush here in Texas, getting close enough for a shot would be considerably more difficult and if you were to unfortunately spook the critter, it would likely be over the fence and onto the neighbors property within seconds.

    Now there are intensely managed high-fenced managed game ranches in TX such as the 777 Ranch but for the most part the deer here are more livestock than wild game. These places are in the business of selling trophy antlers to wealthy customers who will pay thousands of dollars to be plunked down into a cushy deer stand (with heaters, AC, and a bar — I shit you not) and have a pet trophy buck with no fear of humans paraded into short range for them to ceremonially slaughter. This sort of operation I do not consider hunting at all but I recognize their right to run their business as they like (though I wonder why the state still thinks they can tax and regulate these animals when they are essentially no different than cattle), its just not for me. I primarily hunt meat over horns, and the thought of spending ultimately more than $100/lb for venison turns my stomach. To each their own, I suppose.

    On my own property in Caldwell county I have a fair number of hogs and some deer (nothing like hill country deer though). My 23 acres really isnt big enough for more than 1-2 stands, but theres enough critters there for some decent hunting. If youre interested in hog or deer hunting out there as well as shooting on my private 200yd range, let me know and we might be able to work out an arrangement.

    • Rog, thank you. That’s great insight, especially as to the WHY of how things are here vs. other states.

      I admit, I’d love to do some stalk hunting… did some of that going out for hogs and it’s fun. I can see the appeal of it. But in the end, much of this ends up being the same… different roads taken perhaps, but not really THAT far off of each other, from what I can tell.

      777 Ranch. Geez… well, if they want to do that more power to them. Sure the antlers are nice, but yeah I prefer the meat. And frankly, I think getting a massive set of antlers that you had to work for means a lot more than just well… buying them. But to each their own.

      Thanx for the invite. After things calm down around here I would love to take you up on that!

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