Flip through hunting forum threads like this one and it’s no matter to see the nostalgia associated with the original operation and its people, with memories as thick as the mosquitos that plague the place during teal season. Old-timers who hunted there in its “glory days” – back when “they had the 100 point system and lead shot was legal” – say you could hear the “deafening sound of the ducks and geese coming in by the thousands.”
Ask anyone around coastal Texas and they’ll be quick to draw with a story about a friend, a dad, or an uncle that grew up pursuing the vast species wintering in the habitat. Like this one from turbodad1, first posted back in 2008:
“I first went there in the 70's. I lived on the west side of Houston but after going to Barrow's I never looked back. Found my way there with my girlfriend, at the time, (she is my wife now). It was a warmer, soupy late November day with fog and a low ceiling. We stumbled around in the darkness, found a little pothole, and came out with 5 ducks. At the front gate I am not sure that I have ever seen the piles of birds brought out that day. World class hunting for 10 dollars per day or you could buy a season pass for 200 dollars. WOW. Mr Joe was a great man, he really loved the birds and the hunters. Great memories!!!”
If you’re not from southeast Texas, you may be wondering what’s the history behind what made this particular place so special and who’s the “Joe” referenced by Turbo’s dad – here’s a quick and dirty:
Though Barrow’s Ranch has been referred to by more than a few as a waterfowl mecca, it wasn’t always revered for its hunting lands. In the early 1900s, Ralph J. Barrow ran the ranch by raising cattle and selling produce. But when money became tight and the ranch was at risk, Barrow decided to open the land up to day hunters to bring in extra income.
With a permit of just two dollars, hunters amassed from all around the area to pursue waterfowl at Barrow’s Ranch. The land quickly became known as a place where anyone could afford to hunt, regardless of their background. Finding ducks on the land took little work– wherever there was water, they were sure to fill the sky. With the low entry price and abundance of birds, word spread about the ranch and business started booming.
Of all the frequent visitors to the ranch, one stood out to Barrow: future local legend Joe Lagow. Barrow couldn’t seem to shake him, and eventually, Joe married Barrow’s daughter Elizabeth before taking over ranch operations.
Barrow’s Ranch thrived under Joe’s direction. Every morning except for Christmas Day, you could find him greeting and welcoming hunters at the gates. As time went on, the number of visiting hunters grew– each year, opening day brought more and more cars stretching at least half a mile down the road. In 1979, the ranch’s last year of operation, over 20,000 hunters set foot on the hallowed grounds in pursuit of waterfowl.
“Tealtamer” over on the Duck Hunting Chat remembers the experience well:
Anyone remember the old Barrow Ranch in Anahuac? Is it still in operation and does anyone know if Joe Lagow is still around? I remember hunting there as a teenager in the early 70's with my Dad. We would get there EARLY and park behind the line of vehicles and go inside to get our permit from Mr. Lagow. He was very pleasant and happy to tell you where the birds should be. We always did well out there. That was back when they had the 100 point system and lead shot was legal. Great memories from that place! I joined the Navy soon after and never returned.
Joe Lagow was nothing short of a visionary. Not only did he establish the first Chambers County Ducks Unlimited chapter, but he was also responsible for popularizing shooting hours across the region. When the time came to let go of the ranch in the early ‘80s, his dedication to conservation led him to sell around 15,000 acres to the government to be preserved as the Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge, retaining portions of the property to be leased to professional guides.
Jason McKey, Senior Regional Director for Ducks Unlimited in Houston / Southeast Texas, says this:
I grew up hunting in and around the Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge. I have so many great memories there and in fact harvested my first duck, a blue-wing teal on the refuge. There is no better bird to highlight for this area. The blue-wing teal is the most predominant species here along the Texas Gulf Coast and still one of my most favorite birds to harvest.
The Lagow family keeps the legacy going with Lagow Ranch, now a 5th generation working cattle ranch.
Generations later, it’s clear the legacy of Joe Lagow is still evident throughout Anahuac, with hunters new and old making countless memories – and his far-reaching impact ensures that the same opportunities will be available for generations to come.
Learn more about Joe Lagow and the legend of Barrow Ranch here.
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