This article is featured in the Summer 2021 issue of Texas LAND magazine. Click here to find out more.


If you’ve ever thought about investing in the Hill Country, here are great points to consider.

In 1976, the same year that Hayden Outdoors was founded, my folks bought a small motel on Lake of the Pines, Texas, just outside the town of Ore City. I spent two summers and one school year loving life on the lake, catching big bass and helping my 70-year-old friend, “Catfish John,” run his trotlines. I wish it were mandatory for every 15-year-old boy to spend at least one year of school in a small Texas town. That’s where it was ingrained in me to say, “Yes sir,” “yes ma’am” and treat everyone with respect. 

Lessons started on my first day in class as my science teacher, Mr. Shellnut, walked me outside and down the sidewalk, passing by the windows of every classroom from Grade 1 to Grade 12, to the library where the librarian could be a witness to him using his custom-made paddle on me. The cute girl sitting in front of me in class had turned back to introduced herself and I answered, considering the Texas motto is “friendship.” Shellnut took the opportunity to set an example with the new kid. It turned out to be one of my best school years ever. I knew when we moved back to Colorado it would be a matter of time before I returned. 

Over the years I had a lot of hunters from Texas in my Colorado “Phil’s Bowhunting Adventures” guide and outfitting camps and was fortunate to hunt all over the Lone Star State while hosting outdoor television shows for the Outdoor Channel, Sportsman Chanel and Pursuit Channel. I met some great people in the quaint Texas cities and towns along the way and learned why Texas is famous for its barbecue. As I witnessed the pride Texans felt over standing on Texas soil, I thought about how this place delivered real estate opportunities from small parcels to as big as you could dream. 

Then in 2016, I met up with Dax Hayden of Hayden Outdoors, who invited me to join his family’s farm, ranch and recreational real estate company to work Colorado’s Western Slope. Hayden operated in nearly 20 states—now it’s 22—so there was always the opportunity to get a second license. Already blessed to be a part of its tight-knit family of brokers and sales agents, in 2019 I was asked if I wanted to help open Texas. I jumped at the chance. Texas is big enough and diverse enough to be its own country, and there are beautiful ranches across the entire state, some better for grazing, some better for hunting and some excellent for both. Texas serves up wide open spaces for pursuing “life on the land,” which, by the way, fittingly is the name of the Hayden Outdoors TV show on RFD-TV. 

Of course, being a Rocky Mountain boy, born and bred, I loved the Texas Hill Country—the scenic Central and South Texas countryside with signature rolling hills, spring-fed rivers, fish-packed lakes and pastures full of bluebonnets. And then there is the climate that produces unique vegetation and the fact native and exotic big-game species thrive around every corner. Spanning 31,000 square miles, it is the fourth largest region in Texas, boasting everything from traditional livestock to high fences holding some of the most interesting wildlife from around the world, and there are some areas that produce fantastic wine. 

As my wife, Karen, and I narrowed down our landing spot, we took an extra close look at Fredericksburg, Kerrville and Comfort. We chose a place eight miles east of Boerne with easy access to the San Antonio airport and an easy drive in any direction to hundreds of fantastic cattle and hunting ranch properties. We joined Boerne’s Clubs of Cordillera and immersed ourselves in a community featuring small-town charm despite being one of the fastest-growing places in the state. I was excited to get up and running in 2020, just as COVID-19 hit, but not even a pandemic can keep Texas down for long. The real estate market was on fire as people traded in their city life for a new lifestyle and put their money into land—something Texas Governor Greg Abbott refers to as “the tidal wave.”                                              

But there is never a bad time to invest in land. As Mark Twain said, “Buy land, they aren’t making it anymore.” It’s the American dream to yearn for a parcel to call our own. Plus you may qualify for an exemption that decreases property taxes by the thousands if your land is used for agriculture, grazing land, timberland or wildlife conservation. All that said, people are increasingly buying land more for recreation in the midst of COVID-19, and that works too.

As for why Texas, in case you missed the news reports, the Texas Economic Development & Tourism Office, Gov.Texas.gov/business/page/why-texas, notes it leads the nation in job creation and population growth. In 2020, Texas added more residents than any other state, with 237 new relocation and expansion projects since the pandemic. Texas is home to 50 Fortune 500 companies and is the ninth largest economy worldwide. Throw in a business-friendly atmosphere, no corporate and personal income tax and fewer regulations—and the fact Texas also is home to advanced manufacturing and energy development—and it’s tough to beat.

But again, for me it’s the Hill Country for its business and year-round outdoor opportunities. This sportsman’s paradise offers great fishing and hunting for whitetail and mule deer, turkey, javelina, mountain lion, waterfowl, small game, dove and quail. Then there are all the free-range exotic wildlife species, such as the axis deer, which beats just about anything else you put on your plate. While racking up the Hill Country miles in my Ram 1500 checking out properties to list or sell, I’m always on the lookout. So while some in North Texas get to call the town of Paradise home—so-named for being a “cowboy’s paradise”—the heart of the Hill County maybe goes one better for hunters, who get to hang their hat in the town of Hunt. 

No wonder I’m more excited than ever to help Hayden Outdoors expand here. The company not only specializes in total real estate services, including water and mineral rights, land development, hunting leases and habitat consultation, but proven results include more than $700 million in land sales and 55 percent growth in 2020, over 1,200 transactions and 750 properties sold annually, over $1 billion in inventory and over 400,000 acres for sale. Our land brokers and agents know the lands we represent, make client service a priority, and do what we say we will. This is what put Hayden Outdoors on the map and why it has remained successful for 45 years. 

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