The ultimate outdoor experience for the discerning hunter and naturalist. Join us — and go Deeper into the Heart of Texas.
Situated near Bay City, Texas, the ranch comprises 5,500 acres of actively managed agricultural lands and wildlife habitat interlaced with mottes of ancient live oaks and coastal prairie wetlands.
A harmonious system for both birds and agriculture
In addition to its prized Brangus cattle operation, the ranch employs a unique agricultural/waterfowl habitat system, in which organic corn, soybean, and rice fields are flooded after harvest to create managed wetlands for migratory shorebirds and waterfowl throughout the fall and winter. After the birds migrate back north, the fields are drained and planted again with organic crops in the spring—thus augmenting and enhancing the native waterfowl foods so crucial to birds as they overwinter and prepare for their northward migration. This management practice is augmented by planting other native food crops specifically for ducks, geese, dove, and deer.
En route for migrating waterfowl
Spread Oaks Ranch sits in the apex of the Texas mid-coast funnel of the Central Flyway, where hundreds of thousands of wintering ducks, geese, and sandhill crane concentrate in its flooded crop fields, managed wetlands, and expansive reservoirs.
Developing the ideal habitat
Ranch Manager Tim Soderquist, former Senior Regional Director for Ducks Unlimited, handles habitat management for Spread Oaks Ranch—not only for waterfowl, but for whitetail deer, dove, and throngs of other game and nongame wildlife, “setting the table” for them, so to speak, to provide the ample wild foodstuffs, quality habitat, and sufficient resting areas these wild creatures need to thrive. Other wildlife, including two nesting pairs of bald eagles, alligators, wild hogs, coyotes, myriad species of songbirds, shorebirds, nongame species, and even occasionally, cougars, roam the property.
Fishing and skeet shooting
Fishing opportunities abound, not only in the managed bass lake behind the lodge, but also along the five-mile Colorado River frontage and in Blue Creek. In addition, Spread Oaks Ranch has an in-house coastal guide service operating on the highly productive Matagorda Bay system. A skeet field adjacent to the bass lake allows guest to hone their shooting skills, and an oversized firepit overlooking the lake provides the ultimate setting for an evening’s wind-down.
Why we do it
Our mission is to provide the discerning adventure seeker with the ultimate outdoor experience. Come join us—and go “Deeper into the Heart of Texas.”
Meet Our Team
Get to know what is special about Spread Oaks Ranch by learning about the team members that keep it running.
Spread Oaks Ranch Manager Tim Soderquist grew up in Wharton, Texas, 20 miles north of Spread Oaks Ranch. He caught the waterfowling bug as an 8-year-old, chasing wood ducks through the sloughs of his grandfather’s property. His hero in life is his father, who was always kind enough to find places to take him hunting. The second duck hunt of his young life was on the famed Jennings Lake—now a part of Spread Oaks Ranch—with Porter Johnson, who would become his duck-hunting mentor.
Soderquist’s 22-year waterfowl guiding career started at the age of 16 at the fabled Jimmy Reel Hunting Club in Eagle Lake. He spent the next 20 years guiding on the Garwood Prairie, and around Wharton, El Campo, Katy, and Winnie, acquiring an in-the-field education on hunting, scouting, habitat management, business, and hospitality.
After graduating from Texas State with a degree in Agricultural Business, he joined Ducks Unlimited as a surveyor to help build levees and install water control structures that would establish crucial waterfowl habitat for multitudes of waterfowl and wildlife. He moved up the ladder during his 19-year career at Ducks Unlimited to become DU’s Senior Regional Director for Southeast Texas, working with volunteers to raise valuable dollars for conservation. Because of his true passion for building habitat, he became one of DU’s most successful fundraisers as he worked with the amazing and dedicated DU staff and volunteers.
When Spread Oaks ranch acquired the Jennings Lake property, Soderquist contacted the new owner, Forrest Wylie, who eventually brought him onboard as ranch manager. “Forrest has a very unique skillset as a landowner, striving to implement ways that wildlife management, ranching, and farming can all coexist hand-in-hand on a working ranch,” he says. And with Soderquist’s unique three-pronged background in hospitality and guiding, habitat creation, and wildlife management, he is ideally suited to oversee Spread Oaks Ranch’s day-to-day operations.
“I am so very blessed to have made lifelong friends from my guiding career and as part of the amazing DU Team. Now, I am on to the next chapter in life living this dream— managing the property where I got my start with my duck-hunting mentor and ensuring that the guests of Spread Oaks Ranch experience the ultimate in both hunting and hospitality during their stay.”
Spread Oaks Ranch Chef Ric Rosser is a gleeful master of what he terms “micro-local” cuisine: Whenever possible, he sources ingredients right on Spread Oaks Ranch. Chef Rosser works with foraged ingredients such as dewberries, wild grapes, elderberries, and pecans; organically grown fruits, vegetables, and herbs from our greenhouse, shade house, and citrus trees; ranch-raised grass-fed beef, lamb, and poultry; heritage hogs from Twisted Oak Farm, and wild game and fish from our lakes, rivers, streams, fields, and forests.
Host a culinary adventure weekend for your group of fellow epicures, and we’ll curate your chef-led experiences to your desires. Daytime opportunities include foraging, egg-gathering and chicken-keeping, butchering, canning and preserving, charcuterie, mixology and craft cocktails, whole animal cookery, and live-fire cookery. In the evening, experience fabulous cuisine and wines amid settings that include the wine cellar, the terrace and the vintage chuck wagon venue.
Paul Berner grew up in Houston’s West University Place with a passion for hunting and fishing—pursuits he often shared with fellow Spread Oaks Ranch Guide Thomas Flowers, as the two attended both high school and college together. He currently resides in LaPorte, a mile from the Houston Yacht Club and close to the bay.
One of his fondest memories from this past year was 2017’s spectacular teal season. “It was amazing,” he says, “We had birds everywhere. Some mornings, we limited out by 7 a.m. The variety of ducks on Spread Oaks Ranch make every hunt an adventure. We always have strong numbers of teal, but numerous flocks of pintail, some gadwall, wigeon, shovelers, and even the occasional cinnamon teal. We also get a good bit of greenheads trading along the Colorado River.”
Dogs are the No. 1 reason I hunt,” says Thomas Flowers, who has been hunting since his youth and guiding for the past 10 years, primarily for Eagle Lake-area outfitters. “I’m passionate about dog training; it’s like watching your kids as they learn and grow. When I bring my dogs into the blind, it creates an experience that everyone can enjoy, as they reap the rewards of the dogs’ teamwork.”
His first dog, Belle, a yellow Labrador he acquired as a freshman at Texas A&M, is now 11. “She’s still fantastic,” says Flowers, “but I don’t hunt her as often as she’s slowing down a bit.” Stepping into the breach is his 6-year-old, hard-charging black Lab, Hattie, a Master Hunter blue-ribbon winner. “She’s an exceptional retriever,” says Flowers, “and had puppies in May. I’ll keep one, and one will go to Paul (fellow Spread Oaks Ranch Guide Paul Berner); it will be so exciting to see these dogs grow up and develop.”
A Wharton, Texas, native, Erin Jansky has been guiding for more than 10 years. As a youth, he primarily hunted deer—that is, until his uncle Tim Soderquist coaxed him into joining him on a duck hunt. “Tim introduced me to duck hunting and when I dropped my first duck, a bluewing, I was hooked,” he says. “Waterfowling has been an addiction of mine ever since.”
“It’s been astounding to witness the amount of habitat that has been built on the ranch over the past few years, and the amount of habitat that’s been restored and put back into working order,” says Jansky. “It’s been pretty cool to watch it all form and come together, and to see the numbers of ducks increase season over season.”
One of Jansky’s favorite memories from the past year’s season is from the last weekend of duck season. “We set up in layout blinds in a thick bank of fog,” he recalls. “We could hear the ducks on the roosting pond and gradually, we were able to coax them in—teal, pintail, and gadwall. With full straps, we headed back to the lodge for an ample breakfast, then set out our goose spreads, and were rewarded with both specklebellies and snows.”
Rob Sawyer, a semi-retired petroleum geologist, spent his youth on Maryland’s Eastern Shore where he pursued ducks and geese at every opportunity. Having been steeped in the written lore of that region’s rich waterfowl history, he was dismayed when he came to Texas to learn how little of Texas’ fabled waterfowling history had not been recorded. He determined to remedy that.
Rob and his Chesapeake Bay retriever, Nellie, spent countless hours traversing the Texas Coast, and recorded more than 300 interviews with the old-timers who shared their personal experiences of Texas’ duck days of yore. The result was his first book, A Hundred Years of Texas Waterfowl Hunting: The Decoys, Guides, Clubs, and Places, 1870s to 1970s, (Texas A&M University Press, 2012).
Sawyer followed this with Texas Market Hunting: Stories of Waterfowl, Game Laws, and Outlaws in 2013, and is currently working on his third book, tentatively titled Images of Texas Waterfowl Hunting, to be released in 2020.
Sawyer, who currently hunts over his black Lab, Mattie, brings a wealth of knowledge on the region, waterfowl, hunting, and retriever handling to the Spread Oaks Ranch team.
Go deeper into the heart of Texas
Just 90 minutes southwest of Houston. Connect with us to learn how you can share in the experience.