Building a Legend and Creating Memories of a Lifetime
[Originally published May 19, 2017] Our story began in June of 2014 when we purchased what is now Starry Night Ranch. The ranch is located on the western edge of the beautiful Texas Hill Country. We were fortunate to find a place that had much of the foundation in place for what we had hoped to build in a ranch. The previous year the former owner had high fenced half of the ranch and stocked it with sixteen whitetails with improved genetics. The ranch also had a wonderful old log and native rock lodge in place. Some recent remolding and upgrades made this 4 bedroom, 2.5 bath very comfortable. With some hard work and the artist touch of my wife and co-owner, it is ready to welcome guests.
One of the first things we did to build the quality hunting ranch we dreamed of was to hire a professional biologist. I had met Leif Henderson many years before when he guided me on an Axis deer hunt on a ranch he was managing. I knew at the time that if I was ever fortunate to own my own place I would be calling him. After many years as a biologist for the state he started his own business and has been helping ranchers all over Texas develop amazing trophy deer. We had a good head start with the quality deer that had been released on the ranch which included one mature buck and fifteen bred does. Through a well-designed supplemental feed program, food plots, and aggressive culling we have already produced several deer exceeding 200 inches B&C.
I once read a quote from a famous outdoor writer that said a “cull buck” was another word for a harvest “mistake”. That may be very true on some ranches or with some hunters. On the SNR we have eight to ten game cameras active year-round. The game camera maybe the single most important innovation in deer management. In the fall we view 5,000-10,000 pictures a week. This monitoring enables us to study the herd and catalog our bucks by age class. We use this buck inventory to work with our professional biologist to evaluate the deer on the ranch. Collectively we decide on the bucks that will produce and grow the biggest trophies in this part of Texas. We are very aggressive in culling out younger deer, often harvesting 50% of the year-old bucks.
Last year we high fenced the remaining ranch acreage and began to stock this pasture with exotic deer and antelope. It has been a learning experience and not everything has gone smooth in our journey to create a legendary ranch. We made the mistake of not having a strong contract with the fence builders which in the end cost us more then we budgeted. Twice in the past couple of years we have had flash floods that knocked down sections of fence. We were fortunate that this did not happen during hunting season and we were able to recover the deer that escaped. Last year, as the rut was winding down, our largest buck was injured in a fight with another bruiser. Being in a weakened state from the rut, he did not survive his internal injuries. We recovered the antlers and rough scored him at 270 inches B&C. What makes this more exceptional and heartbreaking is he was only three years old.
To get our business started we have been donating hunts to charity and conservation organizations. Many of these hunts were for youth hunters. We are very blessed at Starry Night Ranch to have many great bucks. Yet the best trophies we took this past year won’t win any contest, or grace the cover of any magazines. Most had less then 8 points and many did not even have antlers. These were the trophies that were harvested by our many youth hunters. Based on the excitement created and ear-to-ear smiles, though, you'd think they shot the biggest deer in Texas. For some kids it's their first deer, or maybe their first buck. These are the experiences and memories that will last a lifetime, for the kids and their parents. It is so wonderful to see the experience shared with mom or dad, or the whole family. These hunts are a great experience for SNR staff as well. Our guides work to promote a safe, comfortable environment and turn each hunt into an outdoor classroom. We have incorporated into our business plan that kids under the age of 17 may hunt for free when accompanied by a paid adult. It is very rewarding to give back and promote hunting and the outdoors to our youth. It is not just a cliché when you hear “they are the future of our hunting heritage.”
The goal of Starry Night Ranch is to be an exclusive, premier trophy hunting and outdoor experience destination for a limited number of clients. We will offer some of the best trophy whitetail deer hunting in Texas as well as exotic game and Rio Grande turkey, and at a fair price. We strive to provide a great trophy hunting adventure by focusing on the quality of our deer herd and the overall experience of our clients. There are a lot of ranches and outfitters that can sell you hunts for big deer. We understand that your time is also very valuable. With first class customer service, exceptional game, and the ultimate hunting vacation experience, at Starry Night Ranch you'll create memories that will last a lifetime!
Robert & Pam Emmons