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Getting away from it all, ranch style

By by carolina astrain/castrain@vicad.com
Dec. 5, 2012 at 6:05 a.m.

A bright moon waits for the sun to fall on Los Cinco Ranch, Thanksgiving weekend.

IF YOU GO

Here are a few area hunting and non-hunting ranches in the area to meet your outdoor weekend escape needs.

• WHAT: Mellon Creek Outfitters - A family-owned ranch known for its hunting, Mellon Creek is the place to go for your next big trophy deer.

• WHERE: Refugio

• CONTACT: Jimmy Brown, 361-484-2398

COST: $250-$7,000 per lease

• WHAT: Fennessey Ranch - This eclectic lot offers birding, photography opportunities and wild boar hunting.

• WHERE: Bayside

• CONTACT: 361-529-6600

COST: $100-$200 per day

•  WHAT: JNF Campground/RV Park - Interested in getting away from it all? This Victoria ranch is pet-friendly and has access to more than 3 miles of the San Antonio River bottom

•  WHERE: 6464 San Antonio Road, Victoria

• CONTACT: 361-550-4603

•  COST: $30-$400

A loud hoot came from the canopy above.

"Cover your eyes in case it tries to get in," my father whispered.

It was dusk, and the sun was setting on our 1,019-acre ranch about eight miles west of Benavides.

We had spent the last three hours spotting deer and antelope from the perch of a towering deer blind.

The great horned owl above us, rustled around searching for its first kill of the night.

Although we had a rifle in tow, no killings were made by humans that day.

All the deer we spotted were either too young or too rare to shoot for ourselves.

For a non-hunter like myself, this was good news.

In my corner of the blind, I spent the afternoon alternating between Instagramming photos of the expanse and peering through my father's binoculars.

One hour in, my phone dies.

"Now you're really free," my father said through a chuckle.

Living in South Texas, it's hard not to end up on a ranch at least once in your lifetime.

The rustic, metro-free surrounding areas provide great forms of escape for the small-town socialite, weary of repeating parties.

But if you're not a trigger-friendly sort of person, going to a ranch where hunting is usually the weekend's main event can be intimidating.

No worries, here's what you can do to cope - away from the rifles.

Leave your game consoles at home. You really don't need digital forms of escapism in a beautiful country scene.

Try bringing a canvas and some paints. Stop by your area arts and crafts store to pick up some cheap supplies. You may surprise yourself at the end of the weekend when you walk away with a handmade gift ready for someone special.

Study your map.

Are there any notable wineries on the way to your weekend destination? Call up the visitors center of small towns on the way and ask. Impress your country friends with some rare finds.

Don't forget the Shiner brewery is just an hour north of Victoria.

Bring outside toys. Nab the four-wheelers collecting dust in your neighbor's garage and invite him, too. Kites, Frisbee disks and soccer balls are welcome too - just be aware of the sort of terrain that awaits you.

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