most nature photographers, we have suffered the frustrations of trying
to shoot on public lands. Although this can be rewarding at times, it
is more often a constant interruption from competing non-photographers.
The freedom to move and rearrange things is very limited and equipment
cannot be left unattended or overnight. Early on we realized that, while
some subjects must be photographed on public land, we preferred shooting
on private property. We worked hard to develop relationships with private
landowners which would allow us the access we desired.
even on these private lands there have also been frustrations. As great
as these ranches have been, they are in the ranching business and photography
must fit in however possible. Many of the things we have wanted to do
were just not possible due to conflicts with the day-to-day schedules
of the ranches. It has been a long-time dream to one day own a piece
of native south Texas brush land where all management decisions and
actions revolve around photography. After searching for several years,
the opportunity to pursue that dream presented itself in 2002 with the
discovery of Dos Venadas. This 370 acres of native brush fit all of
the parameters. It was native brush, secluded, protected, reasonably
close to population centers, and the price was right.
land had been owned by an absentee landowner since 1910 and essentially
forgotten. Considerable work was required to get it up to speed. The
roads had to be reclaimed from the brush (an ongoing process), a well
was drilled, three miles of water lines were laid, six water holes were
constructed, a game-proof fence was erected, genetically superior whitetail
deer were stocked on the ranch and a camp was established. Bird and
deer feeders were established around the ranch and blinds were built.
It has been an intensive development campaign, but well worth it.
Dos Venadas is devoted to wildlife photography. All management decisions
are made around the needs of photography. There is no grazing by domestic
livestock. Hunting is limited to that which is necessary to control
game populations and occurs in a very short time frame during the photographic
off-season. The wildlife is fed all year and is quite tame. Unlike most
south Texas properties today, there is only a small amount of bufflegrass
and other non-native plants. Efforts are being made to eradicate those
that do exist.
owners are professional nature photographers with many years of experience
in south Texas. In addition, their many photographer friends have all
contributed time and advice to help make Dos Venadas a nature photographer’s
dream come true. This is an ongoing process, but the rewards are already
clear in the photos that are being obtained by ourselves and our guests.
We expect the shooting to improve continually and hope you will want
to try it for yourself.
Dos Venadas is located in the heart of Starr County, 20 miles
north of Rio Grande City on highway 755. The ranch gate is located at
the junction of Hwy 755 and FM2294, approximately 20 miles northeast
of Rio Grande City.
Starr County is one
of the four southernmost counties in Texas, which collectively are referred
to as the Rio Grande Valley, or simply “the Valley”. This
is a transition zone where the semi-tropical Rio Grande River habitat
meets the semi-arid chaparral brush of south Texas. In this transition
zone are found plants and animals of both habitats, including occasional
vagrants from northern Mexico (a mere 15 miles away). All four Valley
counties will share many species of wildlife, however there will be
some plants and animals which do not exist across the whole area, but
are either eastern Valley or western Valley species. The altitude across
the Valley ranges from sea level at the coast to slightly over 500 ft.
at Dos Venadas.
This is a temperate
area and the temperature most of the year ranges from warm to hot. Temperatures
over 100 degrees are common in the summer. We also have a high humidity,
which can accentuate the heat. However, we have a prevailing gulf breeze
which helps make the heat more tolerable. It can be quite cold for brief
periods in the winter. The humidity accentuates the cold, just as it
does the heat. And, like the rest of Texas, the weather can change without
notice. In the fall and spring, it is best to be prepared for unexpected
weather changes. During the hot months, the risk of heat stroke must
be taken seriously. However, the hottest months can be some of the most
rewarding for waterhole photography and the coldest months are the very
best for mammal and hawk photography.
Most species of wildlife
found in the central Valley area will also be present here. However,
many of the western species which are found here will not be found in
the mid or eastern Valley. These include birds such as Scaled Quail,
Common Poorwill, Black-tailed Gnatcatcher, Chihuahuan Raven and Audubon’s
Oriole. Unique western species of reptiles include Banded Geckos, Reticulate
Collared Lizards and Desert Kingsnakes. Desert Cottontail is the native
rabbit here, as opposed to Eastern Cottontail in more eastern areas
of the state. In October, the butterfly photography is outstanding.