An Outdoor Guy Driven to Help Conservation Efforts

By Ralph Winningham
Photography By Lauren Crawford

Pardon the play on words, but Lee Hoffpauir, owner of the largest Polaris dealership in the state, admits to being driven to assist numerous conservation efforts that help make Texas a prime-time outdoor wonderland.

“I’ve always been an outdoor guy with an interest in hunting, so it is just natural that I developed a relationship with the conservation groups. Conservation is a big part of hunting,’’ Hoffpauir said.

“This is also my way of paying back and helping insure that the members of our younger generation are able to be introduced to the outdoors,’’ he added.

Hoffpauir has a huge commercial interest in outdoor activities as owner of the Hoffpauir Auto Group; Hoffpauir Ranch & Supply; Hoffpauir Polaris; Hoffpauir Outdoor Super Store; Hoffy’s Pawn and Gun; and Hoffy’s Archery in Lampasas, Goldthwaite and Burnet.

With the outdoor community providing a large percentage of his customer base, he has paid back their support by providing substantial contributions and support to a host of conservation groups in Texas.

“The first group I became involved with was the Texas Wildlife Association. As a ranch owner (both in Texas and New Mexico), I am very interested in landowner rights, water rights and other issues that TWA has been a leader in promoting and monitoring,’’ he said.

Groups such as the Texas Deer Association; the Coastal Conservation Association; and many others have also benefited from Hoffpauir’s donations and support.

“I just recently hooked up with the Texas Dove Hunters Association at a trade show and I am really interested in their Banded Bird program for Eurasian Collared Doves.

“We have a bunch of Collared Doves at our ranch in New Mexico and I have always been curious about where they came from. I am hoping this program by TDHA will provide information that has never been available before,’’ he said.

The 49-year-old Hoffpauir said helping conservation groups grow their memberships and fund efforts to support and improve the abundant wildlife resources in Texas is a natural part of his life-long outdoor experience that started when he was just six years old.

“My Dad was not a big hunter, but I had a brother-in-law who was a big hunter and taught me about deer hunting, coon hunting, bird hunting and everything outdoors,’’ he said.

“I still go out hunting with my family and buddies whenever I can. All three of my sons (two who have graduated or will graduate from Texas Tech and one attending Texas A&M University) love to hunt.

“I have two groups of buddies I hunt with every December on several ranches when we can find some quail. I love to watch the dogs work.

“There are good deer on my Texas ranch and some really good elk on my ranch in New Mexico.

“My schedule is pretty hectic, but I try to get out of the office as often as I can,’’ he said.

Hoffpauir has a special project that is particularly dear to his heart and has blossomed into the largest free outdoor exposition of its kind held each spring.

Conducted in the outbuildings and grounds of his own home near Lampasas, the Hoffpauir Expo kicked off two years ago and features more than 200 vendors spread out over more than 100 acres.

This year’s event will be held April 13 at the Hoffpauir Ranch at 10296 West FM 580, about 10 miles outside of Lampasas.

“We have outgrown the two big barns and pavilions where we have displays – it has become a very popular event that I anticipate will continue to grow,’’ he said.

The latest outdoor gear, feeders, vehicles, archery, firearms, clothing and outdoor equipment; plus outdoor association representatives and vendors are open to the public from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

There is no admission charge and parking is free, but pre-registration for the event is recommended. Further information is available at the website www.HoffpauirExpo.com/vip-preregistration.

“We’ve had zero problems so far, other than working through some bad weather last year,’’ Hoffpauir said, pointing out that the expo is a really good way to get a lot of like-minded people together to look at, talk about and maybe purchase the outdoor equipment they need to enjoy their favorite pass-time.

Several areas of the expo are designed specifically for hands-on examination of outdoor gear, such as a shotgun range where visitors can break a few clays with about any type of scattergun that meets their fancy.

“There are not a lot of places where someone can go out and shoot a Beneilli or Browning or another shotgun that they are looking at before buying it,’’ he said.

In addition, there will be a track for driving Polaris vehicles, an archery range, and other hands-on displays.

As an added attraction, a drawing is conducted at the end of the day where items donated by sponsors and vendors are given away to attendees. Among the door prizes with everything from boots, coolers and feeders to firearms and a Polaris UTV.

“All of the vendors are asked to provide a substantial donation to be given away at the drawing,’’ he said, explaining that door-prize ticket buckets are maintained at nearly every booth – an added incentive for attendees to visit every display at the expo.

Hoffpauir said he encourages all outdoor enthusiasts to support conservation efforts as a way of making sure the plentiful hunting and fishing activities of Texas are available to future generations.

“I am worried about the future of hunting and outdoor recreation in general. It seems like not a lot of what we do is getting passed on — we have to get the younger generation involved.

“That is a big reason I support groups like TWA and TDHA because of their efforts to put together programs for young hunters so they will want to be involved in what is a lifelong ambition.”

If becoming a part of fund-raising efforts and supporting conservation groups can help with the effort, that makes everything he is doing worthwhile, he said.


Finding Bisquit

As told by Lee Hoffpauir

One day I was elk hunting about 10 miles North of our ranch house here in NM near the northern part of our place, but miles from any public roads. I had been watching a group of elk and working on my iPad in my Polaris General for a couple of hours. It was cold, so occasionally I’d start the engine and warm up. When I was about to leave the area, I caught movement out of the corner of my eye close to the buggy. 

This cold, starving and thirsty guy came wandering up to the driver’s side of my Polaris. He was wagging his tail, so I slowly opened the door and hoped he was friendly. He timidly eased up to the door and placed his sad face on my knee…with his eyes pleading…Help me!  Over the next 45 minutes, I fed him every snack I had with me (ham sandwich, summer sausage, Vienna sausage, crackers, Pringles, and 3 bottles of water).  He wanted in the buggy with me, but he had found something smelly to roll in, so that wasn’t an option. 

After much deliberation, I decided to see if he could ride in the small bed in the back the 10 rough miles back to the house.  Apparently, it wasn’t his first rodeo, he rode like a champ! At each gate, I’d say stay….and he would look at me like…. you’re silly, I’m not getting out?  On the ride home, I texted our ranch foreman and asked him to reach out to the neighbors to the north to see if they lost him (secretly hoping not). I also texted my wife back home and told her the story…she said I was a “good egg” for rescuing him, and if no one claimed him…. maybe he should come home with me to Texas?  Yaay!!! 

When I got back to camp, my hunting buddies all took a shine to him.  We checked him over good and realized he had been fixed and had a freeze brand on his ear. Well dang, now I figure someone is likely hunting for him. We offered him more snacks; we had leftover biscuit and a pork chop handy. He sniffed both and immediately swallowed the biscuit. At that moment the whole hunting crew dubbed him “Biscuit!” 

About that time the ranch foreman texted and had found his owner (my heart sank).  As he told the story, apparently, they had been hunting on the neighboring ranch TWO WEEKS ago when Biscuit got lost (poor guy)!  They claimed they hunted for him, but then said….he really wasn’t working out as a hunter, so if I wanted him….just keep him. Wow, I bet they looked hard!??  Your damn right I’ll keep him!

Biscuit took over the house last night and slept like he hadn’t in weeks. No accidents and he woke me up this morning when he needed to go out. I think he and I bonded over a few snacks on that mountain top…and he is bound to be a Texas dog soon. I don’t know if this weekend is gonna be a good elk hunt, but it’s always gonna be special because it’s when I found a Biscuit!!!