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CTW 02-21-2020 07:34 PM

Best Trophy Free Range/Fair Chase Ranch?
Hi all.
Long time whitetail hunter from GA but first time ever posting to a forum! I figured I could spend weeks trying to figure things out on my own...or I could ask everyone here!

I'm looking for a 2020 whitetail hunt on a free range/fair chase ranch anywhere in the lower 48 that has proven to consistently produce trophy +160 class deer. I had the pleasure of hunting up in Alberta at North River Outfitters this past Thanksgiving week. It was my first time hunting with an outfitter and I had a blast! I shot a nice 8 on my last day, but nothing like the monster one of the other guys shot, which scored 207. There are absolute monsters up there, but I firmly believe there are equally big monsters in the lower 48. Having to go through customs, etc was just a pain to get to Alberta, which is why I am hoping to find something in the lower 48.

I've been researching and found the following ranches that seem to produce monsters; however, I can't tell if they're high fence or not. I am not interested in hunting high fence. No offense to others that do, but it's just not my cup of tea.

If you know of any others please let me know, but here's what I've found so far. Anyone have any experience with these places?
Johnson Ranch
Hash Knife
La Violeta
Novillos Ranch
Rocking Chair Ranch
Laredo Ortiz Ranch
Chain Ranch
Charco Marranno

Thank you for the advice!

CalHunter 02-22-2020 09:48 AM

You could check the Hunts/Outfitters section of the Classified forum here (see below) for information about outfitters and hunts. There's a sub-forum within that forum for outfitter and hunt reviews. It's also searchable if you're just looking for info on a specific outfitter/hunt. There's a mix of positive and negative reviews.

On for your list of possible ranches above, I'm assuming you've already done some type of search to see if they're a high fence ranches or not. Most (but not all) high fence operations tend to not advertise that aspect up front or on the internet. You will likely have to send them an email and simply ask. If they don't respond, that's probably not going to be promising either way. If they do, you'll possibly gain a source of information in that area. Even if they're a high fence outfit, they may be able to point you in the direction for what you're looking for in their area.

Another option is to attend a hunting expo in your region. Most of the expos have a website and you can do some research on outfitters that have displays at that particular expo. If you go to the expo, however, you can meet those outfitters and ask them about high fences while seeing if they're possibly somebody you'd want to do a hunt with. I realize this isn't an easy or simple answer like "go on this hunt with this outfitter" but those answers aren't always the best answer since you may want something different than the person offering the recommendation. Only you know what kind of hunt will work for you which is especially important when you're the one spending big $$ on the hunt. Best of luck in your search.

mrbb 02-22-2020 10:14 AM

any free range ranch is going to be a gamble, to a point, some that have baiting allowed will be higher more consistent odds IMO

but that comes with the question of if your ok with shooting one over bait or near it!
and I honestly DON"T think there is BEST place
there are many that have huge amounts of land they manage in extremely high cost ways that ensure there are deer of the size your after, but weather, and other factors can cause percentages to have highs and lows!

the best advice if sicne its your money , =make phone calls and ask questions that matter to you and hunting types that matter to YOU

what I like, or dis like, maybe different than what you like

and then there is also deer size issue's that can matter to you or not

is tolerant size ALL you care about
as there is IMO a HUGE difference when you have a 160' set of antlers on a 120 lbs buck as to the same 160 inch antlers on a 300+ lb buck
time of yr you harvest the animal can also matter you want summer coat, or winter, you want thin necks, or swollen one's from the rut side of things??

do you want to HUNT< or sit in a comfortable blind and SHOOT a deer?
as I said, lots of things that can matter or NOT to you, maybe different to me??

and a LOT of great OUTFITTERS are NOT Ranches period!
so only looking at Ranches, might cause you to miss out on a lot of options!

as hunting is hunting, and shooting is shooting
there two different things
HOW bad you want a 160?

Rob in VT 02-22-2020 02:54 PM

1 Attachment(s)
A 160” Whitetail is a GREAT deer. Any place promising you a 160” that’s fair chase isn’t being honest. Of the ranches you listed the only one I have heard of is the Hash Knife. Is that in Kansas?

I would look in Iowa. Again, a 160 isn’t behind every tree but Iowa has their fair share. I hunted Iowa in 2017 and saw chasing, grunting bucks every day. I even saw a mid 170s buck at about 200 yards. It was a super fun DIY hunt on a friends farm. I took a 126” 5.5 year old 9pt. A far cry from a 160”, but still a mature buck.

You should check on recent EHD and Blue Tongue breakouts where ever you decide to hunt. I know the Midwest keeps getting hit with these diseases every few years and it kills mature bucks. Be careful.

Best of luck!

CalHunter 02-22-2020 03:37 PM

That's a nice buck Rob!

Rob in VT 02-22-2020 04:20 PM

Thanks Cal! My largest archery buck to date.

CTW 02-23-2020 10:14 AM

Thank you for the tips!

flags 02-23-2020 02:55 PM

Just a question but are you of the mind set that a 160 buck is any better than a 150 or even a 140 buck? In the end what does a couple of inches of antler really mean? If the buck is fairly taken and you're proud of him, score matters little. I have never been able to wrap my head around the fascination on scoring antlers.

Bocajnala 02-23-2020 05:03 PM

Originally Posted by flags (Post 4371188)
Just a question but are you of the mind set that a 160 buck is any better than a 150 or even a 140 buck?

Yes, by the tone of your question..... 160" is better than a 150". You mentioned sizes, 160 is better than 150 when antler size is the measuring stick.

In the end what does a couple of inches of antler really mean?
Nothing to me and you, but not everybody hunts for the reasons we hunt. This is the USA still right?

​​​​​​buck is fairly taken and you're proud of him, score matters little.
unless it matters allot. Either way is fine. It really is. I don't even require a person to be "proud of him" I've taken many deer I'm proud of. I've taken many deer that are nuisance critters and that I considered 'work.' I've taken deer because the freezer was empty. I've taken deer when the freezer was full and donated them. I've taken deer cause I wanted to, I've taken them when I didn't really wanted to but needed to. There
are many motivations. Mine doesn't have to be yours.

I have never been able to wrap my head around the fascination on scoring antlers.
it's possibly that you do things that someone else somewhere "can't wrap their head around" and that's ok.



CTW 02-23-2020 07:10 PM

Fair question, Flags.
Yes, I do think a 160 is better than a 150...just like a 170 B&C is better than a 160. In my perfect world I'd love nothing more than to get a B&C on the wall, but I know that's pretty much a fantasy; however, a 160 is attainable. it's a stretch, but it's attainable. The largest I've ever got is a mid 140 class buck and I'm super proud of him. I don't have any other serious hobbies, but I have friends that are big golfers, other friends that are huge bass fishermen, etc. So, for them it would be like shooting under 70 in golf or catching a 12 lb bass. Whatever your passion is most people have some high level bar set that that they hope to achieve. For me a +160 is just a dream.

mrbb 02-24-2020 10:35 AM

personally I think most folks if they were honest are guilty of having countless things the WANT more than they need, from money to the size of the house they have to all sorts of toys(guns, car's and so on)

Nothing wrong with trying to get what you want in life,
and lets face it hunting is a BUSINESS these days and NOT about a MUST do to get by on food it provides for 99% of us!
NO one needs to travel to other states or countries to hunt, that's all a luxury if were honest!
and how you want that luxury to play out is a individual's right, when there paying for it!!

BUT I will dis agree, a 170 is not a real possibility,
as these days there are more of them walking about than any other time in history
I have [personally seen several over the yrs on hunts I have been ion(DIY hunts too)
and have friends that have hunted with me on same hunts that have tagged them!, a few several yrs in a row too, or have gotten several in there yrs of hunting!
a 160 or a 170 are NOT that far apart in the big picture, about any place one can make it to a 160, they can make it to a 170
the name of the game is picking your hunting spots better, there HAD to be a LOT of decent management in the WHOLE area your hunting and NOT just one piece of land your on! thru an outfitter, unless they own, Thousands of acres!(which many do, or have control over any how)
you can hunt a life time in a place that there are NO older classed deer due to hunting pressure, or you can hunt where the odds are higher, again due to management, it can be in the same county, and even be a few miles apart these two things/types of lands!

I managed a few properties over the decades, and seen this first hand, could be 150-17's on lands, and go not too far away and a hunter behind every tree killing every deer they see!(exaggerating here some what, but you get the idea)
and its then becomes finding a good place/area
but you still need management, meaning controlling how many deer get killed each yr, and what one's

HOW many hunters a outfitter takes in matters, on turn over of next yrs bucks

the only way your going to guarantee a KILL< on a 160 will be a pay to shoot place, as weather and other factors always can happen

BUT on a prime well managed property, set up,
a 160+170 +deer is NOT a fantasy, they happen every yr on most well set up places!

its your job to find the place that appeals to you and then do your part
NOT all hunters hunt as smart or effectively as others,
so its NOT just about the PLACE your one either
your hunting, and the animals your hunting that are wild are trying to avoid you, and most have better skill sets than you at avoiding you!, as to you them

so, keep in mind, when you find a place, its NOT Over , you still have to beat the animals senses!
something again, some do a better job of than others
and then HUNTERS SKILLS alone
not all hunters can sit still./quiet for any amount of time!
seen this first hand way too often and that prevents them from getting deer ! all the prime land in the world doesn't help this!

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