Campos Viejos-The Ultimate Hunter/Photographer Locale

Campos Viejos is located about 15 miles North of Rio Grande City, Texas and is the ultimate destination for someone interested in a combined hunting/photography experience. Owned and operated by Hardy Jackson and family, they offer some of the finest hunting (deer, dove, exotics) in the state. Additionally, the ranch also offers birding and photographic opportunities. Hardy and his father have been committed to developing the ranch as a premier hunting destination and if you visit the Campos Viejos homepage, you will see that there are some quality whitetail bucks roaming their property.

While I love to hunt, it is the photography opportunities at Campos Viejos that I want to share with you in this log. I have taken photos on the ranch about a half-dozen times over the past few years and I absolutely enjoy shooting there. The ranch is over 1,000 acres in size and Hardy has approximately 6 photo blinds overlooking dedicated ponds, including one raptor blind. Two of the blinds are very spacious and can fit 4-5 photographers comfortably. The others are one-man blinds that have been placed in dug-out pits to give the photographer a low-angle perspective.

The ranch is equipped with a lodge, complete with wide screen HDTV, wifi, and pool table. It’s a nice place to spend the hottest part of the day, downloading/editing the images photographed that day. In 2006, Hardy participated in the Valley Land Fund wildlife photo contest. Shooting entirely on his own ranch, Hardy was the First Grand Prize winner which is a testament not only of Hardy’s skills, but also of the abundance of bird, mammal, and reptile species that inhabit the ranch. Below are only a few of the images that I have captured at Campos Viejos. Click on any of the pictures for a higher-resolution image.

For additional images, and to setup a photographic safari at the Campos Viejos ranch, you can contact Hardy through the Campos Viejos homepage.

Crested Caracara. Sometimes referred to as the "Mexican Eagle" it is actually in the falcon family.

Northern Cardinal.

Common Ground Dove.

Bobcat. Active primarily during twilight hours. Your best bet of photographing these animals is at dusk from a blind overlooking a watering hole, particularly during the hot summer months.

Scaled Quail. Named for obvious reasons looking at it's breast feathers, it is also known as "Cottontop" and "Blue Quail".

Harris's Hawk. Capable of hunting alone, these hawks prefer to hunt in groups.

Equipment:  Like most South Texas ranches with photographic blinds, you will need a long telephoto lens for birds (500-600mm). However, these long focal lengths can present a problem when mammals appear and you’ll be left with the dilemma of taking a close portrait, or switching to a second lens.

The tight bobcat portrait above is an example of what I’m referring to. I had been shooting dove and quail with a 500mm lens when the bobcat suddenly appeared. At the time I had only one camera body and I knew I had to make a fast decision. I opted for the tight portrait rather than risk losing any shot by switching lenses. After I was convinced I had a good portrait, I quickly and quietly changed to my 70-200/2.8 lens. I had to shoot handheld and I was able to get some decent shots this way, but I preferred the portrait as I loved the trickle of water from the bobcat’s mouth.

I highly recommend a two-camera setup. One with the long telephoto and the other with a high quality zoom. If you are going to shoot with only one camera body, I think the ideal setup for this type of shooting is a high quality zoom on a crop-factor camera (e.g. Canon 7D and 100-400; Nikon D300s and 200-400/4).

That’s all for now folks and remember, spend some quality time with your kids outdoors, they’ll thank you for it someday…

6 thoughts on “Campos Viejos-The Ultimate Hunter/Photographer Locale

  1. Thanks Irene. I’d always wanted to photograph this quail but seemed like I was always on ranches where they did not exist, or existed in small numbers. I have plenty of bobwhite pics but the scaled quail had eluded me until this day. I captured several on this trip and haven’t photographed another since….maybe I need to pay the ranch another visit.

  2. Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment Steve. Drinking cardinals and other birds/mammals/reptiles are quite frequent on the ranches dedicated to photography down in South Texas. In fact, given the summer heat, having a pond is a magnet for all kinds of wildlife so photography is great as long as we can endure the heat. We lose some of the migratory birds at this time but there’s so much action around the ponds that it’s worth getting out there.

  3. Well that’s what makes these ranches down in South Texas special for photographers. The landowners have built the ponds with levels so the supply is constant and never dries up. I used to shoot on a ranch that relied on nature for the water supply and when the pond was dry, the ranch was dead. When it rained, it would come to life. Once I discovered the ranches I’ve been writing about in my blog, I quit shooting at the other location. The action down here is fantastic year-round. You should consider a trip to visit/shoot at these ranches. Well worth the ranch day fees.

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