The Shooting Sportsman Endorsed Lodge program continues its “behind the scenes” series with Joshua Creek Ranch, in the heart of Texas Hill Country. President and Co-Founder Ann Kercheville was happy to answer a few questions about the lodge . . . .
SSM: How long have you been at Joshua Creek Ranch, and what compelled you to get involved with the lodge?
Ann Kercheville: After going to Scotland for driven pheasant shooting in the late 1980s, my husband, Joe, and I recognized that our Texas Hill Country ranch was laid out perfectly to offer driven shooting right here in the US. We saw an opportunity to introduce driven pheasant shooting to American wingshooting enthusiasts who would likely never travel “across the pond” for the experience. We opened Joshua Creek Ranch in 1990 and are going into our 30th season of wingshooting this fall.
SSM: What’s a typical day of hunting like at Joshua Creek Ranch?
AK: A typical day at JCR starts with breakfast at Cypress Lodge—either eggs to order or a country-style buffet of a variety of hot items, the most popular of which is our biscuits and sausage gravy. After seeing a safety video upon their arrival, hunters meet up with their professional guides for the 9 AM hunt. (Our hunting director carefully orchestrates each hunt to ensure that the great variety of offerings is fully experienced by every hunter. Some shooters will head to the hills and bluffs, where they’ll shoot driven pheasants; others will head to blinds on ponds for decoying mallards; and still other pairs of hunters will be taken to the uplands for our popular mixed-bag hunt for quail, pheasants and chukar. In every case the habitat has been planted and nurtured for many years to produce excellent bird cover. The guides’ well-trained dogs find, flush and retrieve birds in impressive fashion, and on the upland hunts a team of shooters often will bag 40-plus birds in a half-day. The Hill Country fall and winter weather is generally mild and sunny, so most days lunch is served on the oak-canopied, flagstone patio at Cypress Lodge. The menu usually includes favorites like pheasant pot pie, duck gumbo, pheasant enchiladas and the like. Before their afternoon hunt, guests can cast a fly to rainbow trout in spring-fed Joshua Creek, which flows just below the main lodge. At 2 PM the guides take their hunters to the fields. Guests often choose a different style of hunt from their morning hunt. The diversity of hunting is one of the best features of JCR. Hunters begin returning from their afternoon hunts at 5, when they’ll find the English Cocker Pub open at the Cypress Lodge. Bar snacks and favorite cocktails are available, and appetizers and dinner are served at 6:45.
SSM: What aspects of your operation seem to impress guests the most?
AK: The compliments we hear most frequently from guests: “The best and most diverse hunting we’ve ever experienced.” “Surprisingly beautiful countryside.” “Very helpful and hospitable staff.” “Great food and accommodations.”
SSM: What is your favorite item on the dinner menu?
AK: Axis Venison with Peppercorn Sauce. This is a dish that my husband, Joe, and I first tasted in Vienna, Austria, in the early 1990s. It was so wonderful that we had it added to the Joshua Creek Ranch menu. (Axis deer are abundant at JCR, and hunters harvest 40-plus world-class trophies annually.)
SSM: What part of the job do you find the most gratifying?
AK: Interacting with our guests is the most gratifying part of my job. I like getting to know them, because so many of our guests come back year after year. They become our friends. After 30 years we’ve seen some of their children grow up, and now we’re even seeing some of their grandchildren!
SSM: What has you most excited about the coming season?
AK: We have many new clients on our schedule this season, and I’m looking forward to showing them an awesome hunting experience in these beautiful Texas hills. I’m equally excited about welcoming our returning guests of years past who will be coming back to make more memories at Joshua Creek Ranch.