A Fun & Adventurous Weekend at Ox Ranch
As we were signing in and admiring the magnificent Lodge and all of the wildlife mounted on the walls, Larry walked up and said "I'm your guide for the weekend and it's my goal to make sure that you have a great time during your stay" - and he more than accomplished that goal.
A couple of Texas Outside visitors had sent me an email saying the we need to check out Ox Ranch. And after a visit to their website we immediately called and booked a weekend stay. Ox Ranch is quickly turning into and gaining a reputation as one of the finest resorts in Texas thanks to their luxurious cabins, fine dining, lots of fun activities, and thousands of exotic wildlife for hunting, photography, or observing in the wild.
A large part of what makes Ox Ranch so special is that it's owner Brent Oxley, who purchased the property in 2013, has set a goal of "creating the finest hunting ranch the world has ever seen." I'm no hunting ranch expert but from my perspective he's far exceeded that goal already:
- the diversity, topography, and water features (creeks and 50 acres of lakes) on his 18,000 acres with over 33 miles of high fence set the Ranch apart from the competition
- the over 1800 animals and 58 different free range species of native and exotic wildlife are as plentiful and diverse as the terrain; everything from Arabian Oryx to Zebra and Brent stated "I am not going to rest until we have large herds of any and all species that flourish in a Texas environment" - Ox Ranch currently has the largest herds of Axis deer, Blackbuck, and Scimitar Horned Oryx in Texas
- there are over 100 miles of roads carved through the property that can be used for hunting, biking, hiking, ATVing, or wildlife tours
- the log cabin lodging is unique and rustic, as well as upscale and comfortable and dining is truly a gourmet experience
- the staff is first class - friendly, outgoing, and committed to making sure that you have a very memorable experience
- the 5800 foot paved and lighted runway is perfect for guests with their own plane
- the hunting is outstanding and diverse and you're guaranteed 100% success
- and the non-hunting experiences are unequalled from driving and firing a World War II tank to caving, jet skiing, or survival skills and lots more
And Brent is not afraid of spending the money to achieve his goal, for example: the annual protein budget for wildlife is over $500,000; he's launched a $2,000,000 wildlife budget and has been building upon the Bongo, Sable, Arabian Oryx, Markhor, and Sitatunga herds, in fact, the day we were leaving a herd of 21 beautiful Red Stag (over $80,000 worth) arrived from the east coast and were released on the ranch; and some of the ever growing list of expansion plans include a new 12,000 square feet pavilion, a new cookhouse and dining room, more cabins including the Summit Cabin that is perched high on a hill with an unbelievable view from it's private hot tub and pool; and a beautiful new swimming pool adjacent to the lodge.
Ox Ranch Hunting
A large part of what makes Ox Ranch unique and special are the various options for hunting and the diverse population of animals that you can hunt, the major categories of which include: whitetail and exotic deer; 15 different types of antelope; a variety of sheep; goat; buffalo and bovine; hogs; and birds ranging from dove to ostrich or turkey. And there are a lot of other animals to hunt like kangaroo or zebra. See this Ox Ranch Hunting Game Page for a list of what you can hunt on Ox Ranch.
You can hunt with bow and arrow or a variety of provided guns; stalk your prey or hunt from a truck or ATV; hunt from a blind; or use night vision goggles, IR laser beams, or thermal binoculars and thermal scoped weaponry with noise suppressors. Over 20 live cams will show you what animals are hanging around the feeders. It's hard to beat the experience of hunting from the $80,000 "Big Blind" which is perched on the top of a hill with a 360 degree view for miles. I've seen lots of blinds but nothing that I've seen even comes close to matching what the Big Blind offers:
- 10 windows for shooting on 1000s of acres with 5 game feeders at ranges from 300 to over 800 yards visibility from the blind
- 8 game cameras and a high tech display system
- air conditioning and heating
- a game table, fully stocked bar, refrigerator, and ice maker
- comfortable swivel chairs
Each group of guests (usually up to 4 or 5 hunters) is assigned to an experienced guide and is guaranteed 100% success - wounded animals are not guaranteed. In addition to lodging and dining, the hunting packages also include: weaponry, field dressing, and transportation of your animal to a local meat processor and taxidermist. In addition to hunts, your guides can take you to the archery range, one of two gun ranges, the 5 station skeet range, or let you shoot a 50 caliber or any of several machine guns.
All of the hunting guides at Ox Ranch have decades of hunting and guiding experience. We met and talked to several of the guides and they all seemed knowledgeable, friendly and outgoing, and committed to making sure you have a successful and fun hunt. Our guide, Larry, was outstanding - very knowledgeable about the Ranch and wildlife, funny and interesting, and he truly loved his job. He treated our grandkids like they were his own kids and addressed them as adults. More importantly he was willing to do whatever we wanted to do and whenever we wanted to do it - he was willing to get up at 6 AM for hunting, take the kids fishing, or take us on a late night hunt. I don't know where he got all of his energy!
Larry was like what I would envision a horse whisperer to be - he has a true love for all the wildlife from a horny toad to a giraffe and he had names for a number of them. As we drove around the Ranch he was constantly yelling out the window for Tom, Bacon, Julie, or Jerry, or any of the wildlife he's named and on several occasions to our surprise out of the brush would appear a giraffe, a water buffalo, some type of deer or something else that would meander or, in some cases, gallop up to the truck to be petted and fed by Larry and us. He would call them by name, pet and feed them, and talk to them like they were a part of his family! A lot of the animals found out where Larry lived and they loved hanging around his house waiting for a handout. During our tour Larry coached a couple Watusi Cattle out of the brush to show us one of them that was sick. I thought Larry was on the verge of tears as he told the story of this poor Watusi that he thinks got an ear infection that has now caused him to not be able to hold his head straight - the weight of his right horn has forced his head and neck to tilt on a severe angle to the right - he'll most likely not survive.
Larry's older brother, Paul (a guide and the Ranch manager), is close to being an exact replica of Larry or vice versa! Paul always had a smile on his face, a warm greeting, a love for Ox Ranch and the animals, and an offer to help make our stay enjoyable. He was always checking with us to make sure that we were having fun that that Larry was taking good care of us.
One of the things that we all thoroughly enjoyed during our stay at Ox Ranch was what I would call a "wildlife tour" in Larry's pickup truck. We spent several hours driving the back roads in search of wildlife. As we drove through the Ranch Larry would point out and tell us a little bit about the animal we were looking at, or something about the Ranch history, or some hunting experience, or something about the landscape or fauna. He would also stop, call out some animal, give us a few tips like approach slowly and keep your hand flat, and then hand us something to feed the animals. We had ostrich, pigs, and deer eating corn out of our hands, got within 6 feet of several animals, fed the giraffe carrots, and had camels and kangaroos eating bananas out of our hands! A unique experience that the grandkids and the wife and I will never forget. We've visited several wildlife and safari parks in Texas and nothing came close to comparing what we experienced at Ox Ranch.
Midway through our tour Larry asked the boys if they would like to shoot some hogs before we headed back for dinner - that got them excited! We drove close to one of the feeders, set it off with a remote control, and watched as 10 hogs came out of nowhere to feed. Larry brought out his AR 15, gave the boys some coaching, and let the 11 year old take the first shot - and he nailed a small hog. Of course that scared them off so he let the 8 year old shoot some of my empty beer cans - and he blew it apart! I love a safari tour with a cooler of cold beer on the front of the tour truck! Of course I had to have another beer so he could have another can to shoot.
After dinner Larry was going to take the boys with the wife and I in tow on a night vision hunt. He must have spent 30 minutes trying to get the night vision goggles and helmet to work with the boys small heads, but the goggles were too big. But we did enjoy taking turns looking through the night vision goggles, using the IR flashlight, and tracking some wildlife. The equipment was amazing - almost pitch dark and you could still see animals that we couldn't see with the naked eye. The boys were disappointed about not being able to use the night vision goggles so I let them beat me at a couple games of pool, shuffleboard, and video games - and they went to bed happy and exhausted!
Other Fun Activities At Ox Ranch
Ox Ranch is best known for hunting, but if free chase hunting isn't your thing there are plenty of other activities to keep you and/or the kids busy. You can:
- take a wildlife safari tour and hand-feed several animals like giraffe, camels, ostrich, and more
- tour a small cave
- rappel down the side of a cliff
- enjoy a fun and exciting ATV tour
- catch some bass - typical lakes are stocked with 40 bass per acre but at Ox Ranch the ponds have 100 bass per acre
- go swimming in any of the 5 ponds or the new swimming pool
- enjoy a jet ski ride or board or tube behind a jet ski
- paddle the lake on a paddleboard or kayak
- learn some survival or bush craft training from a former Green Beret
- try target shooting with bows or guns or shoot some skeet from a 5 position skeet range
- take a hike or go bird watching or stargazing under unbelievable starlit skies
- drive and fire a World War II Sherman tank or shoot a 50 caliber machine gun or a variety of other machine guns and weapons
During our visit, we spent several enjoyable hours touring the Ranch and observing the wildlife with Larry and his truck but we also had fun on a long exciting ATV tour, some hog hunting, a night hunt in the Big Blind, fishing, feeding the animals, and a cave tour. After a delicious breakfast Larry said "let's go on an ATV tour today " which was greeted with a resounding "yeah!" by all four of us. I figured that the kids would need to ride with the wife and I but Larry brought them out a helmet and had them pick out the Yamaha 300 that they wanted to ride - which I figured means we stay on a nice flat road that the kids can handle. Not the case, we went off the trail, across creeks, up and down steep rocky paths, saw lots of animals, and had a blast - read more about our Ox Ranch ATV Tour.
During the ATV tour Larry asked if we would like to explore one of the many caves on the property - absolutely!!! We parked the ATVs, walked across the creek, scaled a small limestone wall, climbed up a steep ladder, carefully edged our way along a narrow ledge, and entered a fairly large cave that ended in a very narrow passageway. A few stalactites and stalagmites, some low spots, clusters of daddy long legs, ancient marks on the wall from fires, and pitch dark (couldn't see my fingers) when Larry turned off our flashlights.
From the cave we took a short ride to check out the Drive A Tank Barn. Ox Ranch is the only company that allows civilians to drive and shoot an authentic World War II Sherman Tank! Not only can you drive and shoot what Brad Pitt drove in Fury but you can also shoot artillery, machine guns, and other weapons of war. Ox Ranch has a huge collection of tanks and other weapons, some of which includes: Russian T-34-85, Leopard, and Chieftain Tank; German Half-Track; Pak-40 anti-tank gun; Howitzer 105; M134 Mini Gun; Vietnam Flamethrower; 81mm Mortar; M2 Machine Gun; and more. To learn more visit their Drive A Tank Website.
After checking out the tanks, I was ready for a cold beer and a nap but Larry was still fresh and full of energy and said "you guys rest and I'll take the kids fishing." And they loved it - he took them fishing for more than 2 hours at a couple different ponds. The ponds are well stocked and one out three casts landed a big bass. When they returned, the kids went to the lake in front of our cabin for some more fishing while we enjoyed a few beers and some of Larry's stories and experiences. A fun day.
We asked the Chef for an early dinner (8:00) so we could go night vision hunting as soon as it got dark. Around 9 we jumped in Larry's truck and headed to Big Blind. The technology in the blind is amazing - cameras showed us exactly what was at each of the nearby feeders, which Larry could set off by remote control to spray feed and attract the animals who within minutes would appear out of nowhere to eat. When we saw a lot of hogs at a feeder, Larry would confirm with night vision binoculars (worth $12,000), and one of the grandkids would confirm he saw the same target through the rifles night vision scope and then he took a shot. Meanwhile I ate snacks and drank beer - loved it!
After a good nights sleep and a hearty breakfast we watched 21 new Red Stag being released from a truck that brought them to the Ranch from the east coast. The boys gave Larry a long hug and a thank you and we sadly departed for home. What a fun action filled couple of days.
Lodging at Ox Ranch
The centerpiece and gathering point at Ox Ranch is the 6,000-square-foot lodge with it's two massive stone fireplaces; 34 foot high vaulted log ceilings; help yourself antique bar loaded with a wide variety of top quality liquor, soft drinks, snacks, and ice; soft comfortable leather couches and chairs; and an upstairs game room with a pool table, shuffleboard, fooseball and several video games. Seems like almost every square inch of the lodge walls are decorated with stuffed animals ranging from a giraffe to an alligator to birds, a full brown bear, a rhino, an elephant head and lots more. The Lodge also has a large deck with chairs and tables that overlook a lake and a large fire pit.
On both sides of the lodge are unique and luxurious log cabins that were from from the early 18,00's. They were relocated to OX ranch from Kentucky and re-assembled in the exact order they were taken apart. Each of the cabins are a little different from the others and they sleep 4 to 6 guests in one or two bedrooms or one bedroom and a loft. From the decks of any of the cabins you'll have a great view of the lake, wildlife grazing or trying to stay cool by lying in the creek, or 5 ostrich who hang around the lodge and your cabin waiting for you to feed them. And occasionally a kangaroo will hop up and ask for some corn.
Our cabin was made from recycled barn wood and the deck that wraps around the entire cabin had wooden rocking chairs, tables, and lots of antiques - an old scale, grinding wheel, milk container, farm implements, and an antique wheelchair. The inside of the cabin was luxuriously appointed with a soft leather couch with a matching chair and a half, lamp and side table, coffee table, wood floor with an animal skin rug, small table with a bowl of snacks and 4 chairs. a huge stone fireplace, 5 mounted animal heads (a Kudu from Africa, 2 Scimitar Horned Oryx from Africa, and an Eland which is the largest North American Antelope at over 1600 pounds), an espresso machine, small refrigerator filled with Miller Lite (Ox Ranch called us before we arrived and ask what we like to drink and then stocked our refrigerator) and some water and soft drinks, and a free bar with Tito's Vodka, Jack Daniels, Captain Morgan, and Gray Goose. Scattered around our cabin were several antiques including an old fashioned phone that actually worked.
The bathroom had a copper sink, huge soft bath towels that rivaled those found in the best resorts, a toilet and a glass enclosed tile shower with two shower heads. One bedroom downstairs had a very comfy full bed and the loft upstairs had a full bed and two twin beds. The cabin was nicely appointed, clean, and brand new.
Dining at Ox Ranch
After all of those activities the four of us were starving and looking forward to loading back up on some carbs to keep us going. During our visit we enjoyed two delicious dinners, two scrumptious lunches and two great breakfasts.
The Master Chef, Eric, trained at Le Cordon Bleu and specializes in French cuisine, exotic game, and old-fashioned country cooking. The vast majority of the ingredients are sourced from the ranch - wild game, the organic garden, Jersey cows, range chickens, the orchard, and local beehives. Here's an example of one of the meals that Eric cooked for us:
- a delicious appetizer of roasted poblano and tomatio succulent cornmeal fried oysters with citrus roasted sweet corn - wow, delicious and I begged and pleaded and finally got to devour my youngest grandson's portions
- a wonderful and perfectly cooked entree of pan roasted chicken breast over wild mushroom orzo topped with dried sherry wine reduction and lemon and white wine broiled asparagus
- desert was a melt in your mouth dark chocolate cake with a braised dark cherry sauce with toasted almonds - good thing there were two of them because the grandson demanded that I repay him for his appetizer
Breakfast and lunch and our other dinner (tender oven roasted pork loin, bacon wrapped quail with raspberry chipotle sauce, green beans wrapped in prosciutto, and pineapple sweet potatoes) were equally delicious. To allow guests to maximize their hunting and activity time, breakfast is served around 9, lunch around 2, and dinner at dark.Bottom Line
Wow, Ox Ranch has it all - unequalled hunting, luxury accommodations, gourmet dining, first class service, beautiful scenery, plentiful wildlife, and lots of fun things to do. It's perfect for a hunting trip, a fun weekend getaway, a corporate event or reunion or even a wedding. What are you waiting for - call and book a stay.