Breeding for Big Bucks

When Ricky Munoz, the lead singer and accordionist for the Grammy award winning superstar group Intocable, is not recording or out on tour, you can usually find him at his family's ranch checking on his deer breeding operation. The Buena Suerte Ranch, on the outskirts of Munoz's hometown of Zapata, is home to his extensive deer breeding facility where there are some 200 whitetail deer housed in large pens.

The sun has not been up long before Munoz and his biologist, E.J. Varos, are unlocking the main gate and entering the pens. Varos secures the high gate behind him, and settles into the driver's seat of a quiet four-wheeler for their early morning inspection of the herd.

Munoz is leaving for Mexico City the next day to promote Intocable's latest album, and he wants to check on his deer before departing. His camouflage cap bears the name Buena Suerte Ranch and is pulled low over aqua-blue reflective sunglasses.
Wearing jeans and a polo shirt you probably wouldn't recognize him as being the front man of one of the most popular Tejano/Norteno bands in the United States and Mexico. Today he is not a performer, but a rancher.

"This is my first interview about my deer business," Munoz says as he studies an impressive buck called Ripper whose massive rack almost has too many points to count. "I'm excited, I'm happy," he says with a broad smile.

"I've been into this for three years. It's a big passion of mine growing big deer. I have always loved big deer and hanging out here at the ranch. You know, I got the opportunity, the right people, and it's all about growing big deer, big antlers on those deer."

The deer breeding business in Texas is big business. A recent study supported by the 2,000 member Texas Deer Association reported that deer breeding has a $620 million impact in the state and nationally the total is said to be $2 billion. The breeding industry also accounts for more than 5,188 Texas jobs mostly in rural areas.

The goal of Texas breeders is to improve the genetics of whitetail deer, which to most breeders means growing the biggest antlers possible. There are approximately 1,100 deer ranches or deer breeders in the state with an average number of 87 deer; some have less and others more than 500.

Deer are bought and sold among licensed breeders for huge sums, with one 46 point Texas buck named Stickers that scored 334 Boone and Crockett reportedly going for more than half a million dollars. Straws or semen from monster bucks may sell for $20,000 per unit.

Munoz has not quite reached that elite status, but he is well on his way to becoming one of the top breeders in the state. "I've been working on the road making music and going out on tour, traveling to different cities. I have met different people, not only in the music industry, but also in the deer industry, and that moved me to start becoming a deer breeder."

"I grew up in Zapata, and it's always been hunting country, fishing and all the great outdoors. I used to go out to other ranches and see a big deer and say man, I would like to have that one of these days. If you look at the history of Zapata, back in the day you used to shoot big deer, but now there are not so many big deer out in the country. So I am starting to do my own breeding program, growing big deer on my ranch."

Munoz owns a 7,000 acre ranch up the river from Zapata in San Ignacio where he does most of his hunting. He has begun to release deer from his breeding pens onto the property in an effort to improve antler growth on the ranch. "I really enjoy going out with my friends, my buddies hanging out at the ranch and enjoying the wild outdoors."

Love of the outdoors and music have always been twin passions in Munoz's life. "It really all goes back to the ranch. My grandfather used to take all his grandsons out to the ranch. I was probably the youngest one out there, and I used to love hearing music. I remember he had a cassette of Ramon Ayala, and that is when it all clicked."

His career direction was sealed before he became a teenager. "I remember, I was 12 years old and it was Easter Sunday. My parents took me out to my first dance in Laredo, Texas, and I see Ramon Ayala on stage. I said, I want to do that. I want to grow up to do that, and that is how it all got started, but it all goes back to being out in the country."

It is mid morning and the South Texas sun is beginning to bake the rocky hills around Zapata. As Munoz's inspection tour on the Buena Suerte wraps up, he reminisces about how he got started in the business.

"Gene Gonzales helped me get started, and I invested in a buck called "Dream Buck." At the time that was the biggest buck ever born here in Texas. I also bought some does from a buck called Full House, and that was like the number two buck in Texas. So that's how my program started."

Munoz has only been in the deer breeding business for a few years, but he is doing well. "Without even doing any advertising we have been doing very good, we sold a lot of deer this year. We have sold to ranchers here in Texas and Mexico. It is a big business, and deer breeding is a growing business."

With more than a dozen successful cd's and countless sold out performances from Mexico City to Houston's Reliant Stadium, Ricky Munoz has ascended to the top in the music world. While continuing to pursue his career as a musician, Munoz is also dedicated to becoming just as successful in the arena of deer breeding.

"I don't know where this will all lead. People ask me the same question about music. Might as well just ride the wave and see where it goes."

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Copyright 2007 Richard Moore