Border landowner’s 20,000-acre hunting grounds become human smugglers’ paradise

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DEL RIO, Texas — Page Day is a professional outfitter who makes a living by hosting hunters on guided expeditions for deer and exotic animals on his family’s 20,000 acres of land just miles from the U.S.-Mexico border in south-central Texas.

But lately, Day has started losing some of his business because hunters are scared to come to the border.

“I’ve had some groups cancel, so they did not want to come. They didn’t want to deal with it,” Day told the Washington Examiner during a tour of his property. “It’s kind of like if you’re gonna go on the 9th Ward in New Orleans and say, ‘OK, it’s safe right now, but when might something happen?'” said Day. “That’s what I was trying to explain.”

Hunters travel from across the state and country to visit Acorn Outfitters, paying up to $3,500 to hunt on either of the two properties that his family owns. Page puts up the ranchers in guesthouses on site.

While animals such as whitetail deer roam freely in the region, he also keeps exotic animals and keeps them in a field that is enclosed with an 8-foot-tall fence until they are ready to be released for hunting.

TEXAS TROOPERS CREDITED WITH RETAKING CONTROL OF DEL RIO BORDER

“The major problem we’re having now is [illegal immigrants] cut the fence, [and] they let those animals out. We’re talking high-end animals that are worth anywhere from $2,500 to shoot one, up to $8,000 or $10,000,” Day said during a tour of his roughly 10,000-acre personal property. “They did cut a high fence, left the gate open, too, and let some fallow deer that I was getting ready to breed. So, I just lost five grand right there one night.”

He pointed to a black tarp and a Superman blanket in the back of his pickup truck that he found on the ranch in the morning while out with hunters, saying they were left behind by trespassers.

“This started last January,” said Day. “We’re hunting all day up here in these canyons and stuff on the creek and literally run across groups while we’re hunting.”

Customs and Border Protection might have come into his property once every two or three weeks in the past to apprehend illegal immigrants. Since the start of this summer, he has been aware of 1,500 to 2,000 people who have trespassed into his land from the border.

(Page Thomas Day / Acorn Outfitters, LLC)

The professional outfitter is not worried about the influx of Haitian migrants surrendering to border agents at the international bridge, but he is concerned for the groups of mostly men crossing through his property and how it is hurting his family’s business and livelihood.

Day has lived on this land for most of his life and launched his outfitting business in 2001 because it was becoming difficult to raise cattle. While similar rates of illegal immigrants were being apprehended at the border in the late 1990s and early 2000s, he said most were coming to work, and they did not cut the fences or bother residents.

He pointed to his neighbors’ properties, which dot the horizon across the rolling hills, listing the recent break-ins at every property. No one was exempt except for him.

“My neighbors, this house right here on the hill behind us, they got broken in earlier this year. They literally ransacked the whole house, they peed, urinated, and s*** all over the floor,” Day said. “The one on the ranch where they stole the Polaris Ranger — they were playing with a gun, and it went off, ricocheted on the pool table, and hit the guy in the belly.”

Day is always armed, as is his wife when she goes out to check the fences across the property twice a day. Many ranchers have started hiring people to come in twice a day and check fences for cuts by smugglers because of how often it is happening lately and the financial loss that comes when animals escape. For those other ranchers, it costs around $2,000 a week just to monitor the fences twice a day, he said.

(Page Thomas Day / Acorn Outfitters, LLC)

The family relies on dogs at the house to deter would-be trespassers and notify their owners if anyone enters the property. The house, though, is always locked.

“We definitely don’t feel safe like we used to when we were relaxed and driving around and we didn’t worry,” said Day. “My daughter — she gets nervous. She can’t go to work her show goats like she wants to because she needs either me or Mom to go down there because she just doesn’t feel comfortable going down there to the barn by herself. She’s been with me in the ranger when we saw them — been there when I’ve apprehended them and got them sitting on the ground.”

(Page Thomas Day / Acorn Outfitters, LLC)

On mornings that Day is not out with hunters, he accompanies his daughter to the barn to check on her show goats to make sure trespassers have not stolen or slaughtered one for food. He is in the process of buying more game cameras in order to monitor human activity on his land, but he said they are sold out in many places.

Border Patrol installed state-of-the-art camera towers on his land, but it has not been able to monitor them continually or send agents to respond when people are spotted. Even when Day calls Border Patrol to report people he has encountered while out, he says he’s been told, “Hey, Page, we’re too busy — we can’t get anybody out there.”

(Anna Giaritelli / Washington Examiner)

“There’s probably a million dollars worth of equipment out here that is useless because they cannot utilize it,” Day said before he recommended the Texas National Guard be sent in to monitor cameras.

Texas Department of Public Safety officers deployed to the region from across the state, whom Day called a “blessing,” are heavily present in the Del Rio area. But Day said the Border Patrol agents assigned to this area know his land better than visiting troopers, making working with the troopers somewhat challenging. Troopers mostly monitor highways and county roads, but only special response teams will chase trespassers into the brush. Day’s property is comparable to a safari with dense mesquite thickets and black brush.

“The ranchers had no help until DPS helped us. We were just like the Wild West. We were on our own. It was like you’re your own government out here and security and everything else because [Border Patrol] couldn’t help you,” Day said.

Even when Border Patrol agents are able to get around to his property two or three times a week, he said it can hurt his business. When he runs into illegal immigrants while leading a hunting expedition, he tells them to get lost, and if he calls the Border Patrol, he will ask them to stay out of his specific area so as not to “mess the hunt up,” especially if it is the last day of a trip.

(Page Thomas Day / Acorn Outfitters, LLC)

Page said the Texas Farm Bureau asked the federal government to reimburse landowners for costs associated with the damage left by trespassers. He is not hopeful he’ll see any money through that initiative or from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and mentioned landowners have talked about suing President Joe Biden for property damages. Reinstating an 8-foot-tall fence that has been cut costs about $26,000 per mile.

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“I think we’re in for four years of this,” said Day, who is torn over the idea of a border wall because of how it would negatively affect landowners’ access to the Rio Grande. He would rather see a return to Trump-era border and immigration policies that he viewed as an effective deterrent to would-be illegal immigrants.

“We’re tired of getting beat up and everything going on. And now, we’re almost just saying, ‘Nothing’s going to happen. We’re just going to have to accept this,’” Day said.

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Tags: News, Immigration, Border Crisis, DHS, Texas, Hunting, Border Security, Foreign Policy, Customs and Border Protection, Human Smuggling

Original Author: Anna Giaritelli

Original Location: Border landowner’s 20,000-acre hunting grounds become human smugglers’ paradise



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