by Kristi Willis
photography by Jody Horton
The tradition of hunting and fishing in Texas—both for sport and to provide food for the table—is beloved by many and intricately woven into our culture. Yet, as Texans continue to move away from open land to more urban areas, many have lost their deep connections to the outdoors and what it means to harvest what they eat.
This trend means hunting and fishing guides and outfitters play an increasingly vital role in keeping those customs alive.
Whether it’s teaching a novice about fly-fishing or offering a new perspective to an experienced hunter, a skilled guide can not only open a door to the diversity of Texas’s bounty, but also reinforce the responsible stewardship of caring for what is killed—thus better connecting the hunter to the plate. “The difference between picking up a shrink-wrapped package of hamburger patties at the grocery market and sitting in a blind and killing an animal—with all that represents and signifies—can be pretty shocking for people who might not be experienced hunters,” says Martin Kohout of Madroño Ranch, who hosts hunting classes for local culinary artisans, Dai Due. “It encourages people to think about what they eat, and how they relate to the other species in a much more thoughtful way.”
In fact, Dai Due’s New School of Traditional Cookery encourages new and experienced hunters alike to embrace the full circle of directly sourcing meat—from hunting in the field, to butchering and transforming the meat into delicious dishes. Hosted at the Kohout’s expansive Madroño Ranch outside of Medina, Texas, the class gives guests the opportunity to hunt white-tailed deer, feral hogs and Barbary sheep—as the season dictates—in the heart of the Hill Country. “The school is a natural continuation from our butchering class,” says Dai Due founder Jesse Griffiths. “I thought it would be amazing to incorporate the butchery class into a game class and cover the entire process from start to finish.”
The food-focused, three-day guided hunts—now in the fifth year of operation—teach participants about renewable game management, how to select harvestable animals and shoot properly, as well as how to field dress, skin, store and age game animals. A butchering and cooking class follows the hunts, and each meal incorporates the game—giving participants a taste of the diverse array of preparations and demonstrating how to use all of the edible parts of the animal.
Griffiths began offering a course exclusively for women after hearing from female customers that they were interested in learning how to hunt or sharpen their current skills. “Women are good hunters,” he says. “They are very good shots and they approach hunting with such a clean slate that I find it surprising that it’s not more part of our culture to have women involved in hunting. That’s what we’re trying to accomplish with the women-only class.”
Encouraging a family experience is what inspired Agarita Creek Farms—located outside of Fredericksburg—to offer self-guided hunting packages as part of their farm-stay experience. Each of the well-appointed, 1,500-square-foot log cabin guesthouses easily accommodates a family, and with a mix of activities available to guests, non-hunters can pitch in on the farm by collecting eggs or milking goats while other family members hunt white-tailed deer. “Our place is kid-friendly,” says proprietor Beverly Carnes. “And the hunting package is a good fit for a dad who wants to come out with his child and also bring non-hunting members of the family. We offer a family package, so if the family has three kids, we don’t do an additional hunting charge per child. It’s affordable for everyone to come and practice shooting.”
Casting a diverse net
Central Texans are uniquely situated to take advantage of fly-fishing for a variety of species; Texas is the southernmost location for trout fishing in the United States, and the state hosts several species of bass, including the Guadalupe Bass (found exclusively in Texas) and redfish just a few hours away at the coast. “There are very few places where you have trout in one area and then drive a few hours and catch redfish on a fly rod,” says Christopher Adams, a guide with Gruene Outfitters. “That’s pretty cool.”
Adams and his colleagues foster the pursuit of fly-fishing with private lessons and guided tours on the Guadalupe and San Marcos Rivers. They offer free casting instruction in the large lot next to the store for those curious about the basics or for those just needing a few pointers to perfect their cast. Those interested in more comprehensive training can participate in a two-hour, private fly-fishing class with one hour of instruction on land and the other on water.
Guides lead half- and full-day trips for all skill levels, with half-day trips covering three to four miles of water and full day trips exploring up to seven miles of the river. Novices receive up to an hour of casting instruction before heading out on the water, and tackle, rods and reels, as well as refreshments, are provided. Adams says the trips are a good introduction to the sport for any age group and are an excellent way to introduce kids, though he recommends that children be at least ten years old. “Fly-fishing is like golf in that you can spend the rest of your life doing it and always get better,” he says. “Perfecting casting is something that takes years and years, and you can always get better and find it more and more enjoyable. Experience plays a big part of that…getting out and fishing different areas and trying new things.”
Some prefer to pursue their sport with a bit of pampering on the side, and the Inn at Dos Brisas—just outside Brenham—is more than happy to oblige. The beautiful 300-acre resort features deluxe accommodations in private casitas or larger haciendas with amenities such as private porches, 1,200-thread-count Egyptian cotton sheets and a personal golf cart for exploring the property. The upscale appointments are firmly grounded in a Texas experience, though, with a variety of outdoor activities available to guests, including gardening instruction at the organic farm, horseback riding, catch-and-release fishing in the stocked ponds and clay shooting. “When the [original owners] purchased the property, they wanted outdoor activities the entire family could enjoy—like sitting around a pond and fishing together or shooting clay together,” says Andrew Jay, general manager of the inn. “They kept those activities when they opened the property to the public.”
The inn provides instruction and equipment for all of the activities, as well as customized picnic lunches. “We want people to experience the commanding beauty of this place that embodies the Texas Hill Country,” says Jay. “We’re creating an experience that is touchable, tangible and taste-able.”
Agarita Creek Farms
Inn at Dos Brisas
Lodging and guided hunts at the ranch home of the Edgertons
Deer and turkey hunting packages near Fredericksburg
The Guides of Texas
Guided fishing trips in the Texas Hill Country, South Padre Island and the Devils River
Brushy Creek Outdoors
Guided hunts and lodging outside of College Station
Texas Parks and Wildlife Hunter Education
Classes for gun and bow hunting certification
Texas Parks and Wildlife Hunt Texas Online Connection
Database of hunting opportunities available for lease on private lands