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Landscapes, Special Wildlife Edition 2008

Hog Heaven for Hunters

hog in silhouette

Photo by Russell Graves

If you farm or ranch in East Texas, you almost certainly have feral hogs on your property. And if you’re like many landowners, you find them to be a menace — a menace to crops, domestic animals, fences and other property.

East Texas ranchers Walter "Harold" Baty Sr. and his sons, Walt Jr. and Will, see another side to feral hogs, however. For them, the prolific creatures represent a business opportunity.

Last year, the Batys purchased 844 acres of rolling, wooded land surrounded by 8,000 acres of Sabine National Forest near the Louisiana state line, financing it with Heritage Land Bank. Their goal was to expand their commercial hunting operation and generate income to supplement their cattle and poultry operations.

A Whole Lotta Hogs

But the family soon discovered the property was home to a large hog population as well as to deer and turkey.

"When we got this place, it was phenomenal how many pigs there were. So we thought that maybe we could make a go out of that — hog hunting," Walt says.

"But we knew it’d be a full-time job, and no one had time to do it," he adds.

No one, that is, until Walt quit his job as a poultry producer in May of 2007.

Walt, Harold and Will Baty

Photo by Sheryl Smith-Rodgers

From left to right are Walt, Harold and Will Baty, owners of 3B Hunting Ranch.

Since then, he has devoted himself full time to developing the new family business — the 3B Hunting Ranch. 

One of Walt’s first jobs was to fence a 45-acre area for hog-hunting. "If someone shoots a pig with a bow, that pig may run several yards or a mile. But in a fenced area, we will find it," Walt explains. Boars as heavy as 300 pounds have been harvested on the ranch.

Wildlife Everywhere

As for white-tailed deer, Walt is working with a state biologist to manage and improve herd quality. Earlier this year, he planted numerous food plots with cowpeas, corn and pinto beans. "What I plant is also good for quail and turkey," he adds.

"The potential for wildlife is great here. It’s everywhere!" notes Will.

Meanwhile, Will and Harold still operate 20 chicken houses for Tyson Foods Inc. Together, the three men continue to run 1,000 mother cows as part of their 3B Cattle Ranch and offer hunting leases on the main ranch, as they have done for years.

“In the beginning, I kept buying places. I’d get one paid for, and then use it for collateral to buy another place. Without help from the Land Bank, we couldn’t have done what we’ve done.”
— Harold Baty

The Batys bought the ranch in 1996, with financing from Heritage Land Bank, their lender since the early 1980s.

"I’d always wanted to own land of my own," says Harold, who serves on the Land Bank’s board of directors. "In the beginning, I kept buying places. I’d get one paid for, and then use it for collateral to buy another place. Without help from the Land Bank, we couldn’t have done what we’ve done."

"We all help each other out," Will says. "Since Dad’s been on the board, I take care of his chickens. Everyone pulls together to do what needs to be done. Last weekend, our little girl had a softball tournament in Lufkin, and Dad took care of everything."

bobcat

Photo by Sheryl Smith-Rodgers

Hogs are a common sight in the cattle pastures at the 3B ranch.

Hunting, Bird-Watching and More

To date, the Batys have hosted family members and hunters at their lodge, which complements the hunting and recreation business. But they envision a multitude of other uses, too, such as a gathering place for family reunions, birthday parties, corporate retreats and youth groups.

"People can also use this as a vacation rental," Will says. "We’re only 6 miles away from the eastern boat ramp at Toledo Bend Reservoir. Our ranch foreman will take guests out who want to experience a cattle roundup in the spring or fall, and we have horses for people who want to horseback ride."

During the day, wildlife watchers can spot mockingbirds, scissor-tailed flycatchers, hummingbirds, red-headed woodpeckers and other birds. On clear nights, dark skies over the ranch sparkle with stars. Coyotes sometimes howl over a loud chorus of frogs in nearby ponds.

Hunting, though, stands as the 3B’s star attraction. Year-round, hunters can harvest feral pigs, both free range and fenced within a large area. Guests may schedule quail hunts, complete with trained dogs and a guide, spend time target shooting, or use an area designated for sighting in rifles.

In season, they can hunt wild turkey and ducks, not to mention go fishing, too. "This place is covered with farm ponds," Walt says. "One day, I got a pole and caught the largest bass I’ve ever caught!"

If someone wants to hunt from horseback, the Batys will make arrangements. Predator hunting? ATV riding? "Whatever folks want to do, give us a call," Walt says, "and we’ll give it a try!"

For more information, go to www.3bhuntingranch.com or phone (936) 488-0195.

 

– Articles by Sheryl Smith-Rodgers
– Photos by Russell Graves and Sheryl Smith-Rodgers