In an article published in January 1969, former Telegram-Tribune reporter Elliot Curry wrote about several ranch owners who discovered that “in their hills, valleys and streams, they have a resource that is good for much more than cattle range.”
Rancher Donn Bonnheim turned his land into a business: a hunting ranch. Today, they’d call it agritourism. Back then, however, the key word was “recreation,” and ranchers tried to capture a portion of that market to boost their income.
By 1969, Bonnheim had been selling memberships to the Las Tablas Hunting Club for several years. Thirty members, most of whom were from Los Angeles, had access to a campground at the 6,500-acre ranch located 18 miles east of Paso Robles. They hunted deer, wild boar, wild turkey, quail, doves, pigeons and “varmints.”
“I used to think of developing this ranch in terms of clearing more land,” Bonnheim said at the time. “Now I think of it in terms of providing more cover for game.”
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Shooting game wasn’t the only reason to join. “These people come often just to enjoy the out-of-doors, the quiet of the hills and the great scenery we have here,” Bonnheim said.
Ernest Righetti also opened up his land for recreational activities. He stocked a private lake off Orcutt Road with 30,000 Kamloops trout, and hunters also could stalk Chinese pheasants. Signs were posted that the club was licensed under Fish and Game Commission regulations.
A family club membership cost $200 a year and entitled them to “Five fish a week or 20 a month.” The fee was $1.25 per fish for those who fished by the day.