David Sikes (firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @DavidOutdoors) from the Corpus Christi Caller Times came out for a visit earlier this year. It’s pretty safe to say he fell in love with the ranch, and especially Biscuit, our resident hunting pup.
He published an article in the Caller Times after his trip and here it is in it’s entirety. You can find the original article here
March 14, 2015
FREDERICKSBURG, TX. Fritz and Sophie Kothmann began building a two-story brownstone near the Hill Country community of Loyal Valley in 1875, the same year a deadly hurricane nearly flattened the coastal town of Indianola.
These two events may seem disconnected, but the Kothmann family archives indicate otherwise. Years earlier Kothmann’s mother and father uprooted their family from Hannover, Germany, and sailed for the shores of Matagorda Bay. In 1845, Indianola was the immigrant family’s first introduction to the New World. Wisely, Fritz’s parents did not plan to linger long on the Texas coast. A second storm and fire destroyed the bustling harbor town of Indianola in 1886.
Seeking fellow German expatriates, the intrepid Kothmanns struggled to relocate in New Braunfels and then Fredericksburg. Fritz and his siblings grew up during hard times, made more difficult by lawlessness and cattle thievery in the region, Indian raids and hostility from locals toward German immigrants. The senseless feud centered in Mills County ultimately erupted into what became known as the Hoo Doo Wars, a smirch on Texas history.
At 21, Kothmann married Sophie Hartwig in 1856. Armed with a hardy heritage and a double dose of perseverance, the young Kothmann found success as a cattleman and freighter. Some historical accounts list Kothmann as the first appointed sheriff of Mason County. In this turbulent atmosphere the couple had seven children by the time they decided to build a plantation style home among the hills of this German enclave. A small stone building still stands beside the main house, where the family slept and ate during construction. And sunlight still streams through a series of gun ports in the thick walls of the cramped structure, which now serves as the ranch’s smokehouse. Someday I hope to return when sausage links hang from the ceiling and smoke rises from the gun ports.
It was in this pastoral setting not far from Cold Spring Creek that last week I followed a mirthful and energetic quail chaser named Biscuit through waist-high grass. The history and lore of this ranch only enhances its impressive hunting opportunities. Beyond the Premier Ranch’s (www.premierranchtexas.com) stone archway on U.S. Highway 87 is a monument to German fortitude, chronicled within several volumes outlining the Kothmann’s century of struggles and successes. Branches of descendants remain in the area, but the original property eventually was sold outside the family.
A portion of the property’s story intersects with one of Texas’ most eccentric moguls, the mysterious Howard Hughes. During the 1930s and 1940s, Hughes Tool Co. leased part of the ranch and built a small hunting lodge on the property. The original stone structure remains as part of an expanded seven-bedroom guest facility appointed in Texas chic. On one of the chiseled stone walls hangs a framed document verifying the Hughes-Kothmann lease agreement. I forgot to check for Hughes’ signature.
Outside the lodge, wafting from the front porch overlooking a pond, the aroma of steaming camp coffee escapes a pot dangling above an open oak fire. A heartfelt howdy comes from cowboy cook Bob Mimms and his pleasant wife JoAnn, who make a point of greeting hunters and other guests there.
From charcoal stains on the crown of his Stetson to the longhorn silhouettes on his boots, Bob Mimms, with a mustache-shaded smile, serves as yet another throwback relic at the lodge, serving meals as rich as the ranch’s history. Don’t dare call him chef.
Decades earlier the pioneer ranch, established in 1872, was known as a premier Hereford cattle operation under the management of Kothmann’s youngest son, Elgin Otto Kothmann. Some say the operation’s premier status is how its name came to be. Both father and son are buried, along with other family members, inside an iron filigree enclosure below the big house, occupied by a Kothmann until about 1998. A majority of the ranch was held in the family for 126 years, according to Jed and Victoria Tedder, who now manage the hunting and cattle operations for new owners and live on the property with their children. Kothmann descendants still own portions of the original ranch.
The previous owners started a deer breeding operation about 10 years ago. The Premier Ranch today boasts a trophy whitetail population that combines genetics from Northern states with transplants from South Texas, plus a proven management program. Three artesian wells at the ranch help keep the habitat healthy and the wildlife hydrated.
This latest whitetail effort is not the first time deer from other areas were brought to the ranch. Texas Parks & Wildlife records from the 1940s show hundreds of white-tailed deer, mostly bucks, were either trapped or released by the state in Mason County to supplement a declining population.
Later the dreaded screwworm further devastated the Texas deer herd and crippled livestock production in many parts of the state. Following the eradication of the insidious parasite beginning in the late 1950s, ranches such as the Kothmann property were instrumental in repopulating the whitetail herd and then nurturing it with sound conservation and land management practices.
Since last year the 1,800-acre ranch has been headquarters for the Haverlah Ranch’s registered Angus cattle operation. In harmony with this, the high-fenced ranch sports hundreds of deer bred on site and released to open pastures, along with a few exotics, plenty of Rio Grande wild turkey, dove and a resurgence of bobwhite quail. The ones I chased along with Dallas wingshooters Ladd Webber III and Curt Linn allowed us an offseason taste of a gentlemanly bird hunt at the ranch.
Ultimately hospitality crew member Jon Hubble and the Tedders, plan to host families and especially wingshooters and deer hunters who expect the kind of comfort, hospitality and tradition you might expect from a visit to the Kothmann homestead during earlier Texas times. If your free time doesn’t coincide with a wingshooting season, they’ll be happy to stock the hills with game birds of your choice.
This request surely will not bother a certain wire-haired pointing griffon at the ranch. I don’t believe Biscuit’s well-educated nose will know they’re pen-raised birds. This double-duty pup will even retrieve them for you.