Smokey Merkley

If you have never heard the phrase that, “Texas is a whole ‘nother country,” take it from me that it is true. Where else can you hunt exotic game from around the world without leaving the United States?

While I was living in Texas, there were two exotic game ranches that I was aware of: Y.O. Ranch near Kerrville and Ox Hunting Ranch near Uvalde. Both are basically located in the hill country of Texas. Both ranches have websites you can browse through with pictures of the species of game offered for hunts at their facilities.

The Ox Hunting Ranch is the larger of the two ranches and offers more species of exotic game, but the hunting should be a great experience at either ranch.

In the interest of conserving space I’ll discuss the Ox Hunting Ranch in this column.

The Ox Ranch is a little unique in that you don’t have to be a hunter to enjoy a vacation there. They can cater bachelor parties, outdoor weddings and corporate retreats and offer hand feeding giraffes, driving and firing a World War II Sherman tank, firing a .50-caliber Barrett M82A1 semi-automatic rifle, machine gun shooting, shooting skeet, fishing, jet skiing and cave exploring, in addition to hunting 60 different species of game from around the world, including white-tailed deer and elk.

The Ox Ranch conducts hunting year around. As I understand it, the reason they can hunt all year is because they own all 18,000 acres that comprise the property of the ranch, and in Texas the game on one’s property belongs to the owner of the land. The exotic game imported by the ranch are not native to the united States, and U.S. Fish and Game laws do not apply.

If you are starting to suspect that the hunts on the Ox Ranch are canned hunts in which the client is virtually assured success once he or she puts down the money for the hunt, you would be correct for the most part. They do want you to have a good time and go home happy for the money you pay to hunt.

However, don’t expect any of the staff to shoot your trophy for you.

Speaking of cost, you might be wondering what it costs to hunt at Ox Ranch? You will be charged a fee for the particular species you want to hunt. That could be $1,000 for two turkeys to $35,000 for bongo (antelope) or elk that score 500-plus points, Safari Club International Score (SCI). The cost of your hunt could be the same or more than an African safari depending on how many different species of game you want to include in your hunt. You also have the option of hunting with a bow or firearm.

Accommodations include The OX Lodge, Pavilion and cabins, as well as a dining area, so you don’t have to find off-site lodging or dining.

For those who have their own private planes or business jet or have a good friend who has one and is willing to take you along, there is an on-site runway for your convenience.

Many who were brought up in Idaho, including myself, may look down on game ranch type hunting as unsporting, but before you become too critical, there are a few things you might want to consider about Texas and The Ox Ranch.

Texas has very little public land compared with privately owned land. The exotic game ranches are owned by hunters who have hunted all over the world and decided to bring that type of hunting to their home state of Texas. They have gone to a great deal of expense to stock the ranch with exotic game species.

Several wealthy Texans who have their own ranches have stocked them with some exotic game for themselves and friends to hunt when they can get away from the business they own. Texas really is a whole ‘nother country, and Texans don’t care if others approve or not. That brings to mind another popular phrase in Texas, “Don’t mess with Texas.”

If you have ever wanted to hunt African plains game or other exotic species, but couldn’t afford the cost of air fare, gratuities, a professional hunter, gun bearers, trained skinners, trackers, tags, for each species you are planning to hunt, and the professional hunters’ choice of spirits for the evening campfires, etc., the Ox Hunting Ranch might appeal to you.

Smokey Merkley was raised in Idaho and has been hunting since he was 10 years old. He can be contacted at