MeIn the rolling expanse of the western Texas countryside, the Southern White Rhinoceros, named Killian, learned to come when he was called. Killian stands there like a big fat puppy and dares to love him. He and his rhino companion, Sebastian, like to scrape much better than snacks.
We stand at Ox Ranch, a land of over 18,000 acres in Texas where exotic animals crawl. Some are shot down by paying guests a trophy. Others like Killian and Sebastian live here just for the show. There are an estimated 8,000 animals on the land, but if CEO Jason Molitor needs to pick a favorite, it’s two rhinos.
“It’s a good boy,” Molitor tells Killian. “I know I didn’t bring you food, but you overeat.”
A remote hunting ranch owned by tech entrepreneur Brent Oxley is a contradiction and a natural wonder that sometimes feels eerily unnatural. Like many in Texas, white-tailed deer and chitals roam. But so are zebras. Kangaroos are laid-back thousands of miles from Australia. And there are dozens of endangered Eld’s deer in Southeast Asia.
They are all almost healthy, spoiled and loved – until the day someone sees them from behind the barrel of the gun.. Shooting one of the zebras at Ox Ranch costs $ 6,500, but for kangaroos it’s a bit more expensive. Eld’s deer is priced at $ 12,000, and bongo and cape buffalo are priced at $ 40,000 and $ 80,000 per head.
These are what critics call “canned” hunting, where animals in the enclosure are shot at meat and trophies. Even Boon and Croquet Club, who support hunting, strongly oppose them and are critical of the “artificial or fake hunting situation” that arises when a target is captured and unable to escape.
At Ox Ranch, Molitor likes to think of the high fence of the facility as a management tool. He suggests that the vast area of the area blunts the benefits for hunters, but unlike the wild, someone rarely leaves without killing.
“These animals are literally bred for bullets and then bred and shot in a fenced enclosure with no escape,” said Samantha, Humane Society of the United States Wildlife Conservation Director.・ Hagio explains.
“Therefore, these farms are not quite like traditional hunting and there is nothing ethical about shooting captive animals.”
In a complex tapestry of state law on exotic animal and canned hunting, Texas sits along the more generous edge of the spectrum. According to Texas Parks and Wildlife, exotic animals can be harvested “at any time of the year, by any means or method.”
However Both Molitor and Oxley say that if someone sends millions of dollars a year to maintain a ranch, they will end the hunting part of their operation. It’s a promise with a low stake, as they are confident that it will never happen.
Their business is far from the only company of its kind in Texas, where more than 95% of the land is privately owned and property taxes are high. Ranchers need to make money – and exotic animals provide a stable source of income.
Therefore, instead of sheep and goats, landowners are looking to Bongo and Kudus. The Humane Society of the United States estimates that there are approximately 500 captured hunting activities in Texas, with more than 1,000 nationwide.
“Literally, only Google Texas’s exotic hunting ranch will show you pages, pages, and results pages,” says Hagio.
Exotic ranches are themselves cosmic, self-managed and primarily self-sustaining. The industry does not deplete or destroy the naturally occurring population. Instead, create your own population for breeding and gun feed. For example, all the exotic ox lunches came from within the United States. Owners sell to other owners, but sometimes through auctions where animals are shocked and compliant.
The hunter then goes out of the target with a guide to ensure that expensive livestock are kept safe. Professor Perry Balboza of the Department of Agricultural and Life Sciences at the University of Texas A & M explained that it was clean with few killings and would suffer little or no trauma.
Asked about animal welfare and how to achieve their goals, Barboza likened it to a canned hunting target for raising cattle at a slaughterhouse. The way they were dispatched “may actually be quite humane,” he said. “Well, does that make us comfortable? No. It makes us all very uncomfortable … these are violent deaths.”
At Ox Ranch, about 1,500 animals were shot last year. Whether a creature lives or dies is usually summarized in its economic and practical value. In general, killing is an “excessive male” that is not needed for breeding. For example, female zebras roam undisturbed. They breed many times and are not hunted when they can be sold instead. Males, on the other hand, are worth thousands as wall hangings, and hunting them keeps their population low enough that they do not slaughter each other while fighting for companions.
“If you take out some of those men, you don’t compete so much for women, and you [have] The loss of natural death is much less, “says Molitor. For him, the whole operation falls within the conservation of the free market version. Shoot some Arabian oryx, and profits feed their brothers, sisters and cousins on the ranch.
“When an animal loses its monetary value, it no longer exists,” Molitor says frankly. “After all, I believe it actually works better to give people incentives to protect these animals.”
But even in this laissez-faire economy, not all creatures have price tags. An eclectic combination of orphans was raised by hand or jar, just outside the central lodge of the ranch, which is full of stuffed trophies. Now that they have lost all their fear of humanity, no one hunts them. That wouldn’t be fair.
Molitor points out a kudu bull that is becoming trophy-sized, but he will still survive his days as an eye candy. Then, the castrated red kangaroo Scarlet swings by the lodge every morning in search of peanuts, popcorn, biscuits and bananas. Rhinoceros can be stroked and admired, but never hunted.
Deep in the complex, Molitor found the place he was looking for. A tall and magnificent giraffe. “Hey buttercup!” She lives a big and carefree life. No one shoots a giraffe. Not when one living woman is worth more than $ 150,000.
Molitor says buttercups are “ranch stars.” Raised in a bottle, she will be happy to take a selfie if a stranger provides her with a glass of corn. She is as gentle and not creepy as the animals at the Petting Zoo.
“Dad can go hunting for chitals, and moms and kids can enjoy feeding buttercups and turtles and stroking rhinos,” says Molitor. ..
Ox Ranch customers travel from all over the country to other parts of Texas, the deep south, and even the coast. Many people come to shoot familiar species at affordable prices, such as chitals and blackbuck. But then there are more niche customers full of disposable income who go to exotic hunting ranches in the United States to save their trip to Africa.
Maybe they don’t want to renew their passports, handle permits or get immunity. Or they have already gone abroad but couldn’t bag the seeds they wanted. So they came to Texas, where those animals were stored and waiting.
“Basically, it’s a pay-to-play operation, isn’t it?” Hagio says. “For a wealthy, somewhat lazy shooter who doesn’t want to spend the time, skill, and effort required for fair chase hunting to hurt his boots.”
She’s not wrong, at least not always. Some clients prefer to sit in the hunting blinds and install a corn feeder that seduces the animals directly. If that’s what they want, that’s what they do. Ox Ranch also hosts a bachelorette party where men can hang out in the big blinds with poker tables, refrigerators and satellite TV. And if a wild pig appears, the bachelor will shoot it.
But if you have the option, Ox Ranch staff prefer safari-style hunting, driving a jeep along the hill’s country road until you find an animal. Moritol likens these hunts to his experience in Zimbabwe, South Africa and Botswana, but he believes it may be even more difficult. In Africa, he says, animals are not conditioned to distrust humans. At the ranch, he says, they know it’s time to leave when the jeep approaches.
Still, Oxranchi animals have grown to depend on people for $ 1.5 million in hay and feed each year, antibiotics that bring them back to good health, and even the aquariums they drink. From the native continent to the rest of the world, these species must adapt to versions of humanity who are guardian angels, performers, allies and enemies.
During the unexpectedly harsh winter weather of February last year, ranch hunting guides installed heat lamps, destroyed ice from the aquarium twice a day and took care of the animals as much as possible. “They love animals, but they still hunt animals,” says Molitor. This is a relationship that is almost impossible for outsiders to understand.
Fragile ecosystems emerge in this tame wilderness. Some people die hard to pay for the rest. The most vulnerable and beloved animals are rarely endangered, and the land feels like a transcontinental experiment, complex but beautiful.
At times, it all seems very wise. Until the gunshot sounds.
Want to hunt kangaroos? Or a zebra?In Texas you can pay to play | Texas
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