The Legend began in 1880,
when Charles Schreiner, a Texas Ranger, purchased the Y.O. Ranch, its brand, and its cattle from Taylor and Clements with profits he made by driving more than 300,000 head of Texas longhorns “up the trail” to Dodge City. In the aftermath of the Civil War, "Captain" Charles Schreiner, using rangy Texas Longhorns as a foundation, began amassing an empire that included banks, retail stores and 566,000 acres of ranchland. In 1914, he chose to divide his holdings among his eight children. In the division, his youngest son, Walter received 69,000 acres located 40 miles west of Kerrville. With the ranch came the responsibility of the Schreiner legacy.
Walter embraced his heritage, capably managing the ranch through the tumult of World War I, the Roaring 20s, and the onset of the Great Depression. Upon his death in 1933, his wife Myrtle, with her young son, Charlie III, by her side took up the Schreiner mantle of stewardship. She learned the ranching business quickly, earning a reputation as a savvy businesswoman. It was during Myrtle Schreiner’s stewardship of the Y.O. Ranch that an unusual lease was signed with one of the oil companies, a $3500 lease from Petty Geophysical Engineering. That particular lease was not for hunting for oil. It was for hunting white tail deer and other game. That lease was signed in 1943, and it marked a turning point for the Y.O. Ranch. In fact, she was the first Texas rancher to lease land for hunting, a practice that diversified the income of ranches across the state. Diversification helped the traditional ranch survive the drought that ravaged Texas for seven years in the 1950s. When Charlie III took the reins in the early 1950s, he reached back into history to further diversify the ranch by establishing a registry for Texas Longhorns and bringing the legendary breed back from the brink of extinction. He also introduced exotic wildlife to the Y.O., proving that the animals could thrive outside their native homelands and creating another lucrative enterprise for Texas landowners.
In the early 1950s, the curator of the San Antonio Zoo, Fred Stark, had a surplus of animals and suggested that Charlie Schreiner of the Y.O. Ranch take some of them to see how they would adapt. As soon as 1953, Blackbuck Antelope, Sika Deer, Fallow Deer and Auodad Sheep were introduced to the wilderness of the YO. They successfully acclimated to the terrain and were soon followed by axis deer. The motive for the acquisition was to breed the animals for conservation purposes. The effort was so successful that within a short time, animals were being sold to zoos, while others were sent back to their native lands to replenish dwindling herds. Breeding was so highly successful that eventually management was required to limit size of the herd.
What started as a conservation project soon transformed into a source of cash flow for the ranch. Hunting exotics for profit became one of the primary sources of revenue for the ailing ranch during drought years. As the ranch prospered, other exotics were added to the property, all of which came from zoos. Fallow deer from England, sika deer from Japan, barasingha from India, and Pere David deer from China were brought in. While many species were hunted, numerous others were not. They were there strictly for conservation purposes, and within 10 years, exotic numbers had spread to other Texas ranchland either on purpose or by accident.
The YO accurately calculated new exotic animals would bring additional hunters and a newfound source of cash. Statewide, others in the hunting-ranching business followed the trend, and Texas now has ballooning numbers of blackbuck antelope, Axis, Sika, and Fallow deer along with Aoudad sheep. People began calling the Y.O. Ranch “Africa in Texas” because of Charles Schreiner III's exotic wildlife conservation program and the lands' uncanny resemblance to an African landscape.
In 1964, Mr. Schreiner founded the Texas Longhorn Breeders' Association of America and served as its first president.
Louie Schreiner assumed the helm of the Y.O. in the late 1980s until his passing in 2001, earning it the reputation, world-wide, as "America's Original Game Ranch". He also served as the director of the Texas Wildlife Association and earned The SCI Outstanding North American Professional Hunter of the Year Award (2002). In 2015, The YO Ranch was split amongst the remaining Schreiner family with Chrisie, Louie's widow, and her sons receiving roughly 5,000 acres amongst the Live Oak pastures of the original ranch. Their family ranch will proceed forward as the Y.O. Schreiner Ranch and will sustain stewardship of the land along with wildlife conservation to ensure the legacy of YO and Schreiner family live on for future generations.
The mission to sustain the legacy of the Schreiner family ranch through conservation and management continues to this day.
Luke, Bobby, and Griffin Schreiner now run the Y.O. Schreiner Ranch hunting operation and are eager to continue the generations-long business that has been built around wildlife management. Come hunt with us!