San Diego, Texas isn’t a big town, but right outside of it is a ranch that couldn’t be described any other way.
My friend William Paul Kaffie owns the ranch with his brother Harold Charles, and their uncle who remains part owner and lives in Austin, Texas. The ranch is easily one of the biggest in the San Diego-Duval area, expanding across the South Texas landscape for miles upon miles.
They inherited it from their family, which has owned the land for close to 75 years. In fact, the Kaffies were the first Jewish farmers to settle anywhere in the Lone Star State, hailing from Weil, Germany.
I arrived at Kaffie Ranch on Wednesday night, and a cold front brought wind and rain from the coast inland 60 miles and straight onto the front porch we sat on to talk about the next 36 hours.
View of the Kaffie Ranch
The plan was simple: take the lead-off trip of the season and return with at least some meat for the freezer.
The ranch house we stayed in was typical, with more mounts on the walls than beds, and it could have probably slept 15 comfortably.
While we sat on the porch, William explained how he installed a high fence on a portion of the ranch within the last few years, securing all the deer inside and establishing a management plan to keep track of what it contained.
Last season, the Kaffies counted and documented the numbers they encountered, the first step in setting themselves up for guided hunts down the road. In a few years they hope to begin operating the ranch as a prime South Texas hunting opportunity.
Decreasing the number of doe will cause more competition from the bucks, leaving the biggest and best more likely to find mates and reproduce offspring, season after season.
I was told I really wouldn’t get a chance to shoot at a buck, so that William and his family, who use it in part to entertain business associates with a weekend hunting trip, would have the opportunities to shoot, or choose who shoots, the most sought-after bucks.
William has used the land to entertain clients through his job as an agent for Glass, Sorenson & McDavid, which specializes in oil and gas company and trucking insurance.
Ultimately, bucks and turkeys are saved for the Kaffie family, and of course, we’d eventually see some of both. Nonetheless, if there’s anything I’ve realized when hunting on private land, it’s to follow the rules of your hosts. Some may scoff at the idea of only bagging doe, but hey, they’re known to taste a little better anyway.
The next morning started with a text message at 6:45 a.m. from William, telling me to be outside of the house. It was still cold and I pulled on boots, camo, and a hat and walked out to meet the rumbling, doorless and windowless 1970s Chevy Suburban with William behind the wheel.
One of the watering holes located on Kaffie Ranch
I opted to keep the front window down when he offered to lower it, thinking it would save us about 15 degrees while the thermometer barely touched 60.
We drove into the ranch, passing Spanish dagger and sage grass, running mesquite and prickly pear cactus. We saw some wild hogs, and I took a shot, but missed wide. That wasn’t really what I was there to get, but William had no problem with me taking one, as they’ve proven their nuisance on his ranch and the surrounding area.
In fact, William’s brother, who managed to shoot a hog with his bow right before dusk later that night, went out of his way to explain that he and those who frequent his ranch don’t hunt just for the sake of killing things. Instead, their frustrations with hogs have driven them to limited choices, and hog hunting introduces another challenge, another opportunity to better their hunting skills.
They’ve even taken to calling them “Smileys,” as in “I got a couple Smileys, should we go for sausage or bratwurst?”
Back in the truck, earlier that morning, William and I reached the electric gate that led us into the high fence area.
This was where we would see some deer.
Sure enough, several showed up around the first bend, and we stopped to view them. More followed around the next corner. Within 25 minutes, we had seen close to 20 deer.
Like a flash, a group showed up in the brush to our right, within 40 yards. William confirmed they were all doe, and that I can take one if I had the shot.
I peered through the scope on the Browning .270, and snapped a shot that dropped the deer where it stood.
First deer shot of the season, first success.
That let the pressure off, and the rest of the trip consisted of one of the most educational and interesting experiences I’ve had in a long time.
Keep an eye out for Part 2 of the South Texas Hunting Trip on WideOpenSpaces.com.