Free Range Hunts Vs. High Fence

Discussion in 'Deer Hunting' started by cheechin, Sep 15, 2018.

  1. cheechin

    cheechin Well-Known Member

    Jun 28, 2018
    First of all, I don't have the money or the interest in a high fence hunt but some people do or high fence operations wouldn't be around. They made them illegal a few years ago here in Montana.

    I'd never thought too much about them and like most people my impression was that it would be like shooting a prize bull in a pasture, but I happened to be on a caribou hunt a few years back with a wonderful old fellow who had hunted all over the world. He'd hunted caribou 9 times and his trophy room was 16,000 square feet (to give you an idea of his experience). He was 80 years old at the time and over the course of the hunt we visited a lot about the different hunts he'd been on and somehow or another the topic of high fence hunts came up. He said he'd been on a few and here's what he said he'd learned about whitetail High Fence Hunts. Keep in mind that they are not all the same, but this is what he told me about the ones he's researched.

    In the high fence operations he researched, the fawns are separated at birth. The doe fawns are bottle fed and raised up so that they are relatively tame so they can be handled more easily. All are artificially inseminated. The buck fawns are put in separate pastures based on age....1.5 year old are together, 2.5 year olds are kept together, etc. As soon as the antlers are fully developed they are sawed off the first two years so that the bucks do not injure each other fighting, etc.. Human contact with the bucks is kept at a minimum so that they do not become tame. When they are 3 years old, they are released into the preserve several months before they are hunted. Within a couple of weeks, they revert back to how a buck in the wild behaves.

    By fall, they act like any normal buck in the wild. Many are never seen during daylight hours and many are not even caught on trail cams. Some preserves use corn, etc. to lure the bucks out but others do not.

    Some high fence operations are several thousand acres in size, while others are much smaller. One operation in Texas has 30 miles of fencing to maintain. Deer do escape... Many in the south have hogs and the hogs are continually rooting around and breaking the fences created holes were deer can escape also.

    The gentleman who was telling me all of this said he hunted one high fence preserve for a specific buck they knew was on the property, but he never laid eyes on it.

    As we all know, these hunts are not cheap. Most charge according to the size of the buck killed but some do not... Some charge a flat rate and you can shoot any size buck you find... Prices range from about $7,500 on up...

    So, the question is why would anyone pay to hunt a high fence preserve? Other than the gentleman I have mentioned, I've never talked with anyone who has hunted a high fence preserve, so I'm not sure. This gentleman said he was curious about how a preserve hunt would be compared to a free range hunt. He obviously had the money!!! He said it was fun...much different than he'd envisioned it would be. I asked him if he'd done others and he said a couple, but he much preferred hunting free range game. When I met him he had 16 hunts scheduled around the world that year..5 of them in Manitoba. After our Caribou hunt we dropped him off at another camp for moose and then he was hunting whitetails there later in the fall and geese and he had a spring bear hunt planned!!!! What a life!!!

    Most hunters frown on High Fence operations, but my guess is that 99,9% have never even visited one say nothing about hunt on one. Leasing and buying land specifically for hunting has become the big thing these days.... Is leasing or buying land, planting food plots in the middle specifically designed to grow large bucks and keep them on the property really that much different than a high fence operation? Bucks are basically grown up until they are fully mature until they are on the "Hit List". I'm just tossing that out there for food for thought...

    Hunters these days travel all over the country, Canada, etc. in search of a large buck. Everyone seems to want to kill something bigger, and bigger, and bigger......Probably the reason high fence operations exist. I know a guy back east who traveled to Saskatchewan 4 times looking for "the big one" and never shot anything bigger than a 130" buck and he probably spent well over $20,000 by the time it was all said and done. Did he have fun trying? I really don't think so.. He sat in a ground blind from daylight till dark every day and froze his butt off... Not my idea of fun!!!

    For me, I'll continue to hunt right here around home. I may travel to another state or to Canada to hunt deer, but probably not. We have good bucks, but generally speaking we don't have huge bucks. I don't have much interest in hunting Muleys because quite frankly they are no challenge at all... Many will disagree, but I see thousands of them each year and they just aren't anything that I find to be much of a challenge. For those who choose to hunt a high fence area, lease land and plant food plots, etc., go for it...... Any kind of hunting is better than watching tv, playing video games, etc. It's all about getting outdoors and enjoying ourselves and NOT judging each other.
    NeedForSpeed likes this.
  2. reloaderlen

    reloaderlen Well-Known Member

    Aug 18, 2011
    Well I’m born and raised a Texan .
    Before moving out of the state 6 years ago I had hunted Texas for everything the state had to offer and still do when I have a chance to get back to the place I call home .
    I have a friend who has more money than he knows what to do with and he has taken me on a many of high fence whitetail hunts on all the notable ranches across the state .
    The ranches will give you what you want, you can hunt from a blind or you can hunt from a tree stand or ride around and shoot them from a top of a truck . I’ve been there when the big time Camo , game calls,
    Archery manufacture or hunting show Guru's are there to film the hunts. I’m here to tell ya it’s not hunting , it’s shooting. My brother raises whitetail deer , axis ,elk on and on and I’m not talking about a few animals on 40 acres I’m talking about 4500 acres of animals. Lots of work involved. Animals are animals and no one can predict where or when they will show up in the wild even with food plots or feeders . Even if you do your very best to plant the best plots and feed the best protein
    Doesn’t mean you will have monster bucks But for the High fence ranches
    They will be there and I assure you what you are willing to pay for you will some how get that dream buck .
    It’s shooting not hunting. The lazy man who is not a hunter pays for this so he can hang that big boy on the wall and lie to themselves and their friends what a fabulous hunter they are. I have these kind of friends with that kind of money to blow and I just laugh to myself because I know the truth .
    Yes I have went shooting at their expense and will continue to do so . I have and will continue to tell them this is not hunting. It’s really no different then if you went to the zoo for a African Safari. So the high fence is shooting and free range is much different. You can put the feed out but you can’t make them eat.
    Or you can have a drive to flush them out doesn’t mean they will be there to flush out.
    If your yard is fenced and you have a dog then the dog is there when you call
    He will be there to eat when you feed him so he will be there to shoot if you like.
    You decide . For me hunting is far different then shooting
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2018
    MNbogboy and Barrelnut like this.
  3. just country

    just country Well-Known Member

    Aug 6, 2014
    morning, MONIES!!! justme gbot tum
  4. twister

    twister Active Member

    Jan 18, 2018
    i have been to one, my buddy owns it. they bread some deer but now its all just managed on cull. if you raise a deer in a small pen they never really leave it and will kill themselves trying to get back home. for them to range they cant really be cooped up in a small spot. i went to his place for 2 weeks last year we were looking for 1 buck that he wanted me to take, it took 10 days siting morning and evening for him to show. with a fence all you are doing is trying to keep them in an area, but there is no sure thing if you want a specific deer. i saw more deer on the low fence side anyway, they just weren't culled to keep bad genes out. I'm sure like any farm there are plenty of ways to do it and that way is just one. all in all i prefer hunting public land up here, but its sure nice to see all those big bucks.
  5. CMP70306

    CMP70306 Well-Known Member

    Sep 12, 2011
    Personally I prefer free range hunting as that is what I've done for pretty much my entire life to this point. Where I hunt in PA it is a mix of plots averaging around 75 to 100 acres so every deer you see is traveling across multiple properties in a day. There is no way to keep the deer on your property and the one property we hunt is across the street from public land so as soon as we start shooting all the deer jump the road to hide.

    When it comes to high fence hunting I personally think there needs to be a distinction made between the two types of high fence hunting. On one hand you small properties that import the animals right before a hunt and make sure you see a bunch of giant deer because they have nowhere to hide. On the other you have large ranches with a couple thousand acres whose fences are simply meant to keep the expensive exotic animals from wandering on to someone else’s property rather than to hinder their movement and make them easy to find.

    I went on one high fence hunt when I was 13, my dad’s buddy found a place within a few hours drive of our house where me and his son could hunt wild boar. While it was fun and we still tell stories about it to this day I doubt I’d ever go back. This was partially because of the hunt itself and partially because of the place we were at. The total hunt was short, if I wasn’t a super excited kid shooting offhand and had actually hit the head instead of pulling my shot it would have been over in about 45 minutes. The resulting chase added another 45 minutes to the hunt until we got ahead of it and I was actually able to shoot it in the head. So total hunt from when we left camp to when we returned with the boar was an hour and a half. Price was 400 bucks for a meat boar not one of the giant trophy ones.

    The other part was the place we were at and the people it seemed to attract. A few examples, a guy shot a wild boar 18 times with a 9mm, another had water buffalo chase his group around the woods after he shot it several times with a bow before accidentally hitting the femoral artery and it bled out, a guy had his 10 year old son shoot a Bison 5 times with a 20 gauge while chasing it all over the property (it wandered by the lodge and didn’t even look injured, we left before we found out if he actually got it) and there was a guy who, from the lodge porch, kept taking 200 yard pot shots with his shotgun at some Rams until he finally hit one 10 or so shots later and then shot several more times because he only knocked it down and didn’t kill it. Basically not a ---- person in that place could shoot except my 12 year old friend who shot his boar in the ear.

    So long story short I would not spend the money on a small place like that which has a ton of different animals on a few hundred acres of land. To me that is not really hunting and if I’m gonna spend the money I would rather go to a large ranch out west or down south where i get to hunt something other then white tails and it takes more than 45 minutes to complete the hunt.
  6. ATH

    ATH Well-Known Member

    Oct 7, 2003
    "He sat in a ground blind from daylight till dark every day and froze his butt off... Not my idea of fun!!! "

    In my book that's part and parcel to what we call hunting, and for me, it is all part of the fun. If I get cold I get up and do some still-hunting, which I FAR prefer to sitting in a blind.

    Hunting =/= shooting. If it's guaranteed it's shooting, and that seems to be what high fence seeks to accomplish.
    MHO likes this.
  7. Beardeddeer91

    Beardeddeer91 Well-Known Member

    May 14, 2018
    I worked at one of the larger breeding ranches in Texas as an undergrad in college, and I can tell you from experience that even the males there were quite tame. The “spooky” ones would let you get 50 yards before they would walk away. I took pictures with a 320” buck who was particularly fond of his daily back scratches!
    Almost all of the fawns were bottle raised. The males were kept in pens based on age (1,2,3 and breeder bucks were kept by themselves), and does were kept in pens based on the date they were artificially insemenated (that made sure that 250 does weren’t having fawns at the same time). The males that weren’t sold or intended as breeder bucks were released in to two different large enclosures (700-1000 acres each) a month before “hunters” showed up after they were all scored.
    While it is true that the buck became more “wild” after that month, they were by no means free range deer. They were dependent on food from the feeders, and were very easy to pattern to those feeder. This meant that a guide would know which bucks were going to which feeder and already knew the score of the majority of them. The feeder would go off about 7:00 am and less than a minute later there would be 20 bucks in the 200-300” range at that feeder. Most of the people “hunting” an very little experience and were there for a good time. We always said that they were “shopping for wall furniture.”

    I learned a lot working there but I decided after working at a high-fenced operation that I would never go a high fenced hunt. The challenge of the pursuit isn’t there and those challenges are one of the best things about hunting for me.
    Diamondback likes this.
  8. Plinker147

    Plinker147 Well-Known Member

    Feb 7, 2015
    So high fence or low fence, bait or no bait, long shots or close shots hmmm.

    Most of the hunting in Africa hunting is high fenced, doesn’t seem to be an issue for folks going there.

    Hunting is hunting if it is fun for YOU and legal- do it don’t worry what others think. Just cuz you don’t prefer it doesn’t mean it not right or ethical. Don’t debate ethics for others. High fence operations have there place. Support all hunting.
  9. Beardeddeer91

    Beardeddeer91 Well-Known Member

    May 14, 2018
    Definitely, there is enough division as is. If you are a supporter of hunting and the 2nd then you’re alright in my book. If high-fenced hunting provides the experience that hunter wants then more power to them, it’s just not for me.
    NeedForSpeed and tmmcampbell like this.
  10. Oscare66

    Oscare66 Well-Known Member

    Sep 20, 2018
    Last edited: Sep 25, 2018
  11. Hatrick

    Hatrick Well-Known Member

    Sep 15, 2016
    The person pulling the trigger can. Some people just don't like fences!:)
    Diamondback likes this.
  12. Barrelnut

    Barrelnut Well-Known Member

    Dec 16, 2013
    High fence - low fence - stuck in the fence. As long as it is legal and the meat doesn't go to waste.
    Some folks have a lot of money and no time. Others have a lot of time and no money.
    Though, you have got to have admiration for the guy with a 6 point bull hanging on the wall, that did it on his own, without a guide and on public land.
  13. Oscare66

    Oscare66 Well-Known Member

    Sep 20, 2018
  14. Ndfarmer

    Ndfarmer Well-Known Member

    Apr 11, 2017
    I too think the person who can tag a trophy all on their own should be the most proud. That said I am married with four children and am the owner of two small businesses. When I am not working, which is rare, I am spending my time with the most important thing my family! Even though I really enjoy it Hunting and shooting time will hopefully increase when kids get older. That said I am taking one week off this year to go on a high fence hunt it will be my first one. We usually do public land hunts but had no time to plan or scout last couple of years. It is a father son hunt that will probably be once in lifetime! I will hold my opinion of these hunts Untill I try it.