The Panhandle Rancher Speaks……….

From Rourke: Based on my interest in changing my current tactical load carrying system, The Panhandle Rancher offers some words of wisdom…..




Long ago, I learned innovation usually comes from surprising places and seldom from the so called experts.


The answer to your question regarding tactical load out is complex and largely mission dependent; is it for day or night missions, for CQB, for general patrolling, or is for the long haul for cross country exfil? It all depends. I hope to answer a part of your question by describing a typical response to an uninvited guest observed about a mile away from ranch headquarters.


The ranch is realistically located an hour’s time from the nearest first responder and of late we seem to have more and more uninvited transients even out here in the country. I have a small orchard not far from a public dirt road that is a perennial draw for anyone wanting that free apple or peach. We have experienced only a few thefts over the years but nevertheless there is a response to almost all uninvited ‘guests’. I know ranch topography as well the living room and that alone offers an incredible advantage.


Headquarters is situated on top of a mesa overlooking ranch property. We have of course constructed various ‘hides’ at logical locations. We also have a choice of weapons ranging from the venerable .50BMG all the way down to a .22 pistol. No one load out fits all situations. 


Headquarters building has 2000 feet of wrap around covered porch that offers a nice place to watch dusk settle on the prairie. It also sports a large catadioptric telescope useful for counting rabbits a mile away, checking fence, etc. Everything begins with awareness.


Our typical night ‘guest’ is usually spotted from the mesa because they show a light of some kind. It may be car headlamps that pause on the public road and then extinguish or a flashlight, but one intruder was spotted as he lit a cigarette from a mile away. Over the years we have only had a couple of real thieves, most passersby are looking for a drink of water from a windmill or to mooch that free apple. Each one however presents the opportunity to reinforce old skills and perchance to learn anew.


Our response to the evening uninvited guest is generally as follows. First we focus on motive; does he want to stop and rest, does he simply want a drink from the windmill tank and mooch that free apple, or do purposeful movements indicate something more sinister? First action, we watch and observe while carefully counting the intruders. If there are multiple guests headed off in different directions, a call is placed right away to the Sheriff along with a description of the guests and importantly, a description of responding ranch personnel.


So, what do I take with me if I wish to respond alone to that unexpected solitary evening visitor (and yes I know two or more responders are better but there are other eyes watching and I have commo).


From a shelf in the hall closet, I pull out a load bearing vest with plate carrier. The vest contains six 30 round magazines for a M4. Most of the rifle magazines are loaded with hollow point ammunition but one is loaded with AP. Another set of pouches contains six magazines for a SIG P220. Attached to the vest is a radio with interface to MSA hearing protectors, throat mic, and a pouch with a Surefire Kroma. Also attached is a Randall Number One fighting knife. A pistol belt hangs on a hook with a flap holstered P220. The pistol belt has a two magazine carrier, IFAK, and canteen. The closet contains seasonally appropriate camies, lace up boots, a .300WinMag sniper rifle, a Ruger 10/22, two pairs of Leica Geovid binoculars, two sets of NVGs – one mounts on the M4 ahead of the Trijicon and the other clips to a MICH helmet (yes, I know MICH and helmet are redundant), MSA hearing protectors, and goggles (important if the wind is blowing sand). Otherwise I wear prescription WILEYX.  I don the camies, lace the boots, sling on the heavy vest, buckle on the pistol belt, connect the handitalkie to the hearing protectors, situate the throat mic, don the WILEYX and put on the MICH helmet. There is an IR beacon on the MICH but it normally remains inactivated and is turned on only to covertly reveal my location as might be requested from ranch headquarters. I do a radio check, sling on the M4 with NVG and slip out of headquarters en route to a ravine that leads down the mesa. My goal is to slip up on the unwitting trespasser and clandestinely observe and report his actions. The last thing I want is for him to see me or for me to take individual action against him. If he is a thief, well that is what the radio is for, to have someone summon law enforcement.


NVG offers tremendous advantage over night adapted vision. However, on a cloudless night here in the late fall one can almost read by the light of a full moon. The amount of ambient moon light and night adaptedness of the intruder (not much if he is using a flashlight or smoking) along with terrain and cover determine how close I choose to approach.


Slow and deliberate is the rule with careful movement only when the intruder is looking away. Laugh you may but I never stare at my quarry. You see, I believe most people do indeed sense when they’re being observed and stalked and my goal is to be as invisible as possible. I crawl as close as needed to observe the intruder’s actions and then remain frozen in place, watching and waiting.



Panhandle Rancher






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  1. PR – it sounds like you have been there, done that, and got the tee shirt. Other than my choice of personal weapon being an M1A, the sniper caliber being .338 Lapua, and how I load my mags (2 AP, 21 ball, 1 tracer, 1 ball) your set up sounds like it mirrors ours. I carry a Kimber Custom TLE II, use a Camel Back instead of a canteen, and carry a Mercworx Sniper for my blade choice. Also, I don’t wear a hard cover (got out of the habit after Ranger school way back in 1978). I know, bad idea as my youngest tells me regularly, but I just can’t see and hear well while wearing a turtle shell on my head.

    We don’t have much in the way of topography here in south Texas, but the apparently randomly placed brush piles, clumps of mesquite and post oak, and other sight line modifiers allow me to move around while still tracking any intruders. Our place covers 188 acres, so it really doesn’t take that long to transit from one side to the other even at a sneak. I also have a few cameras placed in bottle necks and channels as well as a number of motion and pressure sensors.

    What camo pattern do you prefer – we use the 6 pattern flecktarnmuster. It seems to be the best fit for our plant cover.

    I also have a couple of trained attack llamas, though they mostly seem to attack me by biting and spitting.

  2. I will moving to North East Texas in April somewhere around Dallas – Fort Worth – Arlington areas. What cammo works bets out there for the seasons? Do they have 4 seasons or 2 like where I am coming from in California?

    Currently we issue (Multicam, MARPAT-Desert and OD) any thoughts?

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