“If I really think about what place makes my heart happy, nothing compares to the ranch.” Jackson Engel recounts back on his innumerable visits to a place owned by a friend he affectionately calls Uncle Rick’s property. This is the place that captures Jackson’s heart. It is here, a 20-minute drive from his home in Waco, where he escapes the ‘every day’ and roams on the hunt. “I step into another world when I’m out there. I can escape the stress of school, the chaos of our busy society, and get re-oriented.”
In the green of the bush and trees, the peek of milky blue sky over a dusky horizon found a place in Jackson’s heart years ago, when he moved to Namibia, in southwest Africa, with his family. “For the past 11 years, my family has called Namibia our home,” Engel says of their move to the African country. “Growing up there has given me countless unique experiences and memories that make me who I am today.” Many of those experiences include hunting African game animals like the hippo, the ram, and Jackson’s favorite, the dik-dik, all indigenous to the area.
He continues his passion for hunting both in Namibia and here in Texas, where the landscapes can look and feel surprisingly similar. Engel relishes each moment he gets to spend both preparing for and hunting the white-tail deer of the Texas plains and hill country.
“During the season, I spend every spare minute I have either hunting or preparing for the next hunt,” says Jackson.“In between trips, I’m always moving trail cameras around to try and figure out where the deer are moving, or hanging treestands in new locations.” Outside of the hunting season, his preparation is intense. “When it’s not hunting season, you can still often find me in the woods scouting new hunting spots for the next year. My friends and I will often spend hours studying maps and discussing hunting tactics. If it sounds like I’m obsessed, it’s because I am!”
Jackson says his love for hunting is rooted in tradition and passion. The first, a deeper love for nature and all its beautiful intricacies.“The best part of hunting is simply being in nature,” Jackson mentions.“Of course, you can also just go for a stroll through the woods and enjoy being in nature, but hunting forces you to immerse yourself in it. You become aware of every tiny detail—you learn every sound and every sight, and get to witness the daily flow of nature in its resting, undisturbed state.”
For Engel, hunting reveals a new, critical layer of his relationship with the natural world. “There’s a huge difference between observing nature and playing an actual role in it. I enjoy more casual ‘observing’ times in nature too, like hiking and camping, but I’m always itching for that deeper experience.”
Jackson’s love for hunting is also rooted in his childhood, where it played an integral part in his family relationships and in his kinship with the great state of Texas.
“My experience of life as a Texan has always been centered around the outdoors and family. Weekends were spent exploring the woods or going to the shooting range with my dad and practicing with his old .22, and family vacations mostly took the form of hunting trips across Texas and Africa.”
No matter what type of adventure he finds himself on, Jackson keeps the sun at bay with the Texas Standard Patch Cap. Both in and out of the Texas forest or the Namibian plains, he stays warm and comfortable after the day in the Texas Standard Throwback Sweatshirt. And back in civilization he is nearly always sporting the woodsy, bourbon scent of the Texas Standard Signature Cologne.
Engel has a fondness for Texas all too familiar for anyone who has lived in or visited the state. “Texas is one of the most diverse states, from climate to culture, yet no matter where a person is from in the state, everyone is united together through a common pride of being Texan.” It’s here, in Texas, where Jackson nurtures his passion for sport, furthers his formal education, and spends quality time with friends and family. Texas is where he thrives.“I’ve traveled the world, and there’s no place that’s quite like Texas and its culture,” says Jackson. It is where he finds peace in memories, great adventures, and the strength of friends and family weaved within them all.
Story: Lauren Smith
Photos: Corey O'Connell