Page Day is a professional outfitter who makes a fortune by hosting hunters on guided deer and exotic animal adventures on his family’s 20,000 acres of land in south-central Texas, just miles from the U.S.-Mexico border.
However, Day has recently begun to lose part of his business due to hunters’ fear of coming anywhere near 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 flock from all over the state and country to Acorn Outfitters, paying up to $3,500 to hunt on one of his family’s two farms. Page arranges for the ranchers to stay in nearby guesthouses.
While whitetail deer and other game animals walk freely in the area, he keeps exotic animals in a field surrounded by an 8-foot-tall fence until they are ready to be released for shooting.
“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 claimed that trespassers put a black tarp and a Superman blanket in the back of his pickup truck, which he discovered on the ranch in the morning while out with hunters.
“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.”
In the past, Customs and Border Protection may have visited his property every two or three weeks to catch illegal immigrants. He has been aware of 1,500 to 2,000 people who have trespassed onto his farm from the border since the beginning of this summer.
The professional outfitter is unconcerned about the influx of Haitian migrants surrendering to border agents at the international bridge, but he is concerned about the groups of mostly men passing through his property and the impact on his family’s business and livelihood.
Day had spent most of his life in this area and started his outfitting business in 2001 when it became impossible to raise cattle. While similar numbers of illegal immigrants were detained at the border in the late 1990s and early 2000s, he claimed that most were coming to work and did not cut fences or harass locals.
He listed the recent break-ins at each of his neighbors’ residences, which dot the horizon across the rolling hills. 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.”
When Day and his wife go out to check the fences across the property twice a day, they are both armed. Because of the increased frequency of smuggler cuts and the financial loss that occurs when animals escape, many ranchers have begun hiring someone to come in twice a day and check fences for cuts by smugglers. He estimates that monitoring the fences twice a day costs roughly $2,000 per week for the other ranchers.
The family relies on their canines to keep trespassers at bay and alert their owners if anyone enters the property. However, the house 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.”
On mornings when Day isn’t out hunting, he goes to the barn with his daughter to check on her show goats, making sure no trespassers have stolen or butchered one for food. He’s looking to buy more game cameras to monitor human activity on his property, but he says they’re sold out everywhere.
The Border Patrol put up high-tech video towers on his property, but it hasn’t been able to monitor them continuously or dispatch agents to respond when persons are observed. “Hey, Page, we’re too busy — we can’t get anybody out there,” Day says he’s told when he calls Border Patrol to report persons he’s seen while out.
“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.
Officers from the Texas Department of Public Safety from all across the state have been stationed in the Del Rio area, which Day has described as a “blessing.” However, Day claims that the Border Patrol officers assigned to this area are more familiar with his farm than visiting troops, making cooperation with them difficult. Troopers typically patrol highways and county roads, but only special response teams will pursue trespassers into the woods. With deep mesquite thickets and dark vegetation, Day’s land resembles a safari.
“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 permitted to visit his farm two or three times a week, he claims it hurts his business. When he encounters illegal immigrants while leading a hunting trip, he urges them to go home, and if he phones the Border Patrol, he tells them to stay out of his specific region so as not to “mess up the hunt,” especially if it’s the last day of the trip.
The Texas Farm Bureau, according to Page, has urged the federal government to reimburse landowners for expenditures related to trespasser damage. He doesn’t expect any money from the program or the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and he says landowners have discussed suing President Joe Biden for property damage. It costs around $26,000 per mile to reinstall an 8-foot-tall fence that has been hacked.
“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.