South Texas Ranch Owners Sue Seller and Real Estate Broker Over Subpar Deer Herd

By author of The Realblog with Stephanie Mallory

The defendants claim they sold the ranch “as is,” but the new landowners say they misrepresented the size and abundance of deer on the property

The ranch owners say they were told the land they were buying had an abundance of trophy whitetails, but it didn’t. (Image © Russell Graves)Rosita Creek Ranch in Eagle Pass, Texas, was advertised as a “true sportsman’s paradise.” The 7,000-acre property, with an asking price of approximately $14.5 million, features four large lakes for waterfowl hunting and fishing and is home to blackbuck antelope and other South Texas critters, but the buyers say it was the promise of an abundance of trophy whitetail deer that hooked them. After the purchase, however, they discovered the trophy deer herd was nowhere to be found.

According to the San Antonio Express-News, Lufkin-based 2350 Senator Partners LLC and Gillespie Partners Ltd. are now suing the seller, Corpus Christi’s Winn Exploration Co., and San Antonio real estate broker Stephen Stransky for fraud, violations of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act, and breach of contract over the sale.

In short, the new owners are claiming the ranch is not the deer hunting mecca they were promised.

According to a lawsuit, the “deer did not exist on this ranch but on another piece of property, and the deer herd has been mismanaged and overharvested.”

The owners are seeking unspecified damages, including triple damages under Texas’ Deceptive Trade Practices Act.

One of those new owners is Richard “Rick” Levens, a former Atlanta Braves prospect.

Of course, Van Huseman, the lawyer representing Winn Exploration, disputes the allegations, claiming the owners simply don’t want to pay the lofty price agreed upon now that the money is due.

“They got what they paid for. … And now that the note comes due, (the buyers are) starting to try to figure out a way of getting out of it,” Huseman said Friday. “So, these claims, like Dracula, rise from the tomb.”

Chad Upham, the lawyer representing Stranksy, said, “These people got a great ranch. It’s a shame they’re not enjoying it. As far as we’re concerned, we sold them a great ranch.”

The ranch features a 9,100-square-foot main lodge that overlooks a 250-acre lake. It also has a 6,200-foot paved runway and a hangar.

Marketing materials claimed the ranch had been part of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Managed Lands Deer Program (MLDP) for years and has “great whitetail deer.”

Texas launched the program in 1996 to encourage landowners to practice healthy management and stewardship of wildlife habitat on private lands. As a reward, landowners can take advantage of an extended deer hunting season and more liberal harvesting opportunities. But the buyers say they discovered its MLDP permit had lapsed after they closed on the ranch sale in August 2018.

“They bought this ranch, under the contract documents, as I recall, as is,” which means the property was being bought in its current condition, Huseman said. “The idea that … if we show them a picture of a game survey of deer that’s some place on the ranch, that somehow when they buy the ranch that deer’s still going to be alive after hunting season is just … not credible.”

The complaint alleges the owners “also discovered the lack of trophy deer and that there had been multiple misrepresentations by … (Winn Exploration and Stransky) about the size of the deer and the overall management of the property.”

The ranch had been benefiting from a hunting lease that generated $140,000 a year due to the MLDP, the suit adds. But after the MLDP lapsed, “the hunters immediately canceled the lease.”

The new owners claim it will cost them $10 million to “recreate a deer herd” on the ranch.

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