BALLINGER – Working on a deer-breeding ranch is a job that is 24/7 and one that the owners of Slow Coach Ranch located in Ballinger, know all too well.

BALLINGER – Working on a deer-breeding ranch is a job that is 24/7 and one that the owners of Slow Coach Ranch located in Ballinger, know all too well.

Tammie Mueller, her daughters Angela Mueller and Amanda King and her husband Kelly, take deer breeding very seriously.

As of this year, the ranch is offering guided hunts and will be selling breeding stock to other breeders like themselves.

The Slow Coach Ranch is a 750-acre high fenced “managed game facility.” Steve Mueller, who died in 2012, was an avid hunter and outdoors man who wanted to introduce youth, particularly his kids and grandkids to the outdoors.

Steve’s passion for hunting was known far and wide by friends and family. He traveled abroad for hunting expeditions – to New Mexico for elk, to Mexico for birds to Alaska where he snagged a prize brown bear and to Canada where he hunted caribou.

His passion for breeding the whitetail deer was life-long and in 2009, he decided to get into the breeding business, not necessarily for profit, but for his family, particularly his grandkids. In fact, some called it his hobby.

The idea was to breed Whitetail deer with good genetics on the ranch that is officially registered with Texas Parks and Wildlife.  Seven years ago, the Muellers started with two bucks and 12 doe for their breeding stock.

“His (Steve’s) goal was to buy deer to breed and turn loose on the property so they could breed better native deer,” Tammie Mueller said.

When Steve died, Kelly King, his son-in-law and Amanda’s husband, became the manager of the ranch and was determined to carry on his legacy and dream.

“He could not fathom throwing away the work my dad began,” Amanda said.

Kelly worked many long hours after Steve’s death to carry on the breeding business, coming home from his job at the family owned Sweetwater Steel and working to the wee hours of the morning making sure the deer were fed, watered and cared for.

“Steve was not jut my father in law, he was my best friend,” Kelly said. “So I wanted to make sure to keep things going,” Kelly said. “Steve started it for the grandkids.”

Right after Steve’s death, Kelly and Amanda let some of the deer go back out in to the wild. Then they decided to keep the project going.

Today Kelly said, “The girls are taking care of most things.”

The days start early for Tammie, Angela and Amanda. They go out early to feed the breeding stock which inside a 20-acre fenced area.

“It takes three tons of feed a week to keep them fed,” Angela said, adding that that ads up to about 12 tons a month.

Throughout the day, Tammie, Amanda and Angela tend to the stock, hopping in to the utility vehicle and touring the 20-acre fence line and hand feeding the deer both in the pens and those that are technically in the wild.

“I love them,” Angela said as she tossed bread crumbs into the pens and along the pathway for the wild deer.

And they are all about good nutrition too and they buy all of the feed locally from vendors like AC Nutrition in Winters and Ballinger Feed and Seed.

Currently the Tammie and the girls are working to move the pens for the breeding stock so that the deer can enjoy better forage. Plus, during rutting season they have to make sure the breeding bucks antlers are trimmed as a safety precaution.

“Antlers also have to be removed for sale or transport,” Amanda explained.

The bottom line is that the deer at the Slow Coach Ranch have excellent genetics and that comes from good nutrition, having a safe place to live and thrive, good medical care and no artificial growth hormones.

“There is not a time of year that they don’t require good care,” Tammie said.

Plus, they have to adhere to state law, as prescribed by Texas Parks and Wildlife.  Runnels County Game Warden Lane Pinckney comes unannounced to make sure their stock are properly tagged and have all of their deer tagged and tattooed.

“I have to make sure that they're inventory records match what is actually in the pens the number of bucks does and fawns and that all the deer are tagged with the state assigned number,” Pinckney said. “Everything is always in good order.”

Plus now, they have to test the deer for chronic waste disease, which is now a state requirement. And, they have a game biologist takes DNA tests which are sent to Texas A & M to maintain the pedigree of the 200 bucks, does and fawns that are inside the 20 acres of breeding pens.

“I want to know that I am doing what the law requires me to do,” Tammie said.

This year, they are booking hunts on the ranch for the first time. They have lodging for hunters who are allowed to hunt on the 700 acres of the ranch.  They are offering a variety of 2-day hunting packages this season.

They are also selling some breeding stock.

“This year we are allowed to harvest 20 bucks and 25 doe this season,” Amanda said.

The hunting this year and the sale of some breeding stock will allow the family to continue the operation.

“It is expensive,” Kelly said.

But overall, as was Steve’s wish, the Slow Coach Ranch is running smoothly and offers a hunting and outdoor experience for family, friends and hunters and breeders.