This is always a heated topic and for good reason on both sides. I have a bit of personal experience with "High Fenced" hunts. I started going on a few about 8 years ago. These were pretty low priced and just a rancher that wanted to make some extra $$ so they pinned in an area and threw in some Russian boars.
In every instance where I booked a hunt on one of these ranches we did alot of research to find out what type of place we were contracting with.
In a couple instances, the hunting enclosures were not very large, 100 acres or so. In both instances, one for Russian bores, one for Exotic Sheep, I chose to use a traditional open sighted handgun for both because a rifle would simply have been a joke.
My point is this, you can make of the hunt what you want. If you want to go sit in a 100 acre enclosure with a rifle and snipe things and feel good about it, by all means, that is up to you. To me that would not offer anything meaningful to me as the one taking the game. Put a 4 5/8" stainless, open sighted Ruger Blackhawk in 45 Colt in my hands and you have a totally different challange. Instead of being able to reach across the hunting enclosure with a rifle, now you are basically limited to traditional archery ranges with your shots, at least I am. 40 to 50 yards is all I will shoot with open sighted, short barreled revolvers.
Now the easy thing becomes MUCH more challanging. To get a shot, you have to get close to animals that more then likely know your there and have played the game MANY more times they you have. If you take the same ethics into one of these hunts as you would to a wild game hunt, which you should, the challange grows even more.
Simply put, if you want a challange, you can make it a challange by choosing what type of weapon you want to use.
On other hunts the hunting enclosures were measured in square miles instead of acres. The first head of big game taken with the 257 AM and 270 AM were on private hunting ranches because I could get field test data 1/2 a year earlier then if I waited for general big game season.
On those hunts, I was able to reach 500 yard across a big canyon and harvest a pure white Fallow buck that we had hunted for an entire morning without a glimpse of him. When he appeared across the canyon, he was in the exact same place we had been earlier that morning hunting for him. I am sure he was there when we were there, just held tight and did not move and was undetected.
The elk hunt we just got back from was much more of a challange then I ever expected it to be.
Cerrtainly there are game ranches that have no business being called hunting ranches because that is not what they are. Personally, if an animal has the ability to flee from me by means of cover or lay of the land or simply range, it is a form of free chase. If an animal does not have the ability to escape from my view, it is not something I have any desire to be a part of even if using traditional short range weapons.
As far as the guaranteed shot thing. Well, I have talked to many ranch owners and while I do not want to brag or sound like I am bragging because I am certainly not but many of them have been pretty much speachless when they see some of the shots my family and I have made.
I can remember one hunt we were on a group was leaving the morning we arrived. They had been boar hunting and were sitting around the breakfast table telling stories of their hunts. One guy was getting pretty hammered because he had used a 44 Mag revolver to try to take his bore. The story was he shot 14 times and only wounded the boar with one shot to the ham and the rifle had to be later killed with a rifle.
Just because you will get a shot does not mean you will make the shot and for the general public, unfortuntely, the odds of missing or wounding an animal, in the wild or in a high fence area, are pretty high, the only benefit with high fence hunting is that the animals are generally recovered whereas wild came usually is wasted. That right there is a huge bonus point in favor of high fence hunting for most hunters. They may not think so but many once a year hunters would be far better off if they were limited to high fence hunting........
Again, back to the guaranteed shot thing. I do alot of deer hunting from the end of October to the end of November. I shoot very little during that time and watch more then anything. When it comes time to take the shot, in my mind the hunt is over at that point. When I decide to get that game animal in the scope, I have not a doubt in my mind that my hunting season is over because I am sure the animal is dead, just not offical yet.
Now yes I miss, we all do, but not much. The shooting of the game animal in my opinion is the easy part. Its finding the animal worthy of being taken that is the challange and that is determined by the goals you set prior to any hunt.
Just like this elk hunt. The ranch owner told us if we worked hard enough and were able to pass on some REALLY big bulls, we should both leave with 400 class bulls, IF WE COULD SHOOT!!!! We can, we were patient, we put in our time and we went home with two 400 class bulls.
Had we shot the first couple big bulls we saw we would have come home with two bulls in the 350 to 370" range.
So again, the guaranteed shot thing does not bother me at all. Like Lance said, this is a business and as such you need a good advertising pitch, just because you will get a shot seldom means anything. I bet Lance could tell us some stories of shots that went bad with some of his customers. It happens but just because guaranteed shot is said, do not mistake that for saying, you will shoot at a critter tied up in the middle of a 5 acre pen.
The animals on these ranches also need to be researched. Some ranches only kick out a few animals right before a hunter shows up. Then the ranch hands drive you all over hell making it look like you are really looking for the game and then drive you back to the hay bail where they dropped the critter off the night before.
Other places, like the ranch we hunted in Nebraska, the bulls have been together in these hunting areas since they were taken off their mothers as yearlings. They have been in that hunting enclosure for 7 to 8 years for the older bulls. They have seen alot of hunters, as buffalo, fallow deer, exotic sheep, Sitka
deer and several other speicies are all hunted in the same area.
My biggest complaint which has been mantioned already is when someone takes an animal off a hunting ranch but then tried to claim it was a wild animal because they are so ego bound they need that attention. That really upsets me.
There are records for hunting ranches. Saffari Club International has "estate" catagories for nearly all of their speicies listed. They also have "free Range" listings as well.
As long as we are honest, I see no problem at all with these ranches and have spent some very enjoyable times in the field on these hunts. Is a 466" SCI bull in the same class as a 400" B&C bull, certainly not, but they are both amazing animals in their own right and memories would be made with either if hunted correctly and honestly.
I have no problem with high fence hunting. Sadly enough, if you hunt in Texas and do not think you are high fence hunting, in most cases you would be wrong!!!! Even if your hunting "native" game as nearly every Texas ranch is surrounded by high fence.
Just my long winded opinion.