Do you ever catch yourself sitting at your desk and day dreaming about the upcoming deer season? During my last bout with day dreaming, I found myself thinking about some of the great states I’ve been blessed to hunt as well as some of the top-notch outfitters in those states. These are outfitters like Jimtown Outfitters in Ohio, Hang’Em Outfitters in Kansas, or my most recently booked hunt with All Around Outfitters in Illinois. I realized all had several key traits in common. Those traits are what has not only provided solid experiences, but also a checklist by which to measure future outfitters. I’ve heard stories from others who’ve had experiences that weren’t great either. Outfitters may have access to land with fantastic animals, but that does not make them or their facilities and staff qualified as a quality-hunting outfitter. So what are those traits and what should you be looking for in your next out of state hunting experience?
1. Is the outfitter open, honest, and willing to talk with you on the phone? Now I’m not suggesting that an outfitter should make the time to talk to you on a weekly or even monthly basis. However, I am suggesting that you should look for those outfitters that are passionate about their service and love to walk you through not only the details of what you can expect, but also the little things. For example, how and why they got started in the business, or the success that some of their annual clients have had during the past season. You don’t have to be best friends by the time you show up, but being comfortable and confident that you can ask questions is a must.
2.Do you know what kind of genetics and quality of deer are running the outfitters grounds before arriving? There is nothing worse than showing up and hitting the stand not knowing what to look for when it comes to the size of bucks you may encounter. Each of the outfitters I mentioned above have all been willing to periodically send me trail camera pictures of bucks they are seeing throughout the summer months. Yes, it lends to the growing excitement for the hunt, but also provides a solid base of knowledge as to what I should focus on and hold out for during my hunt.
3.How many hunters do they book and how much land do they guide on? There is not one ratio that I’ve found to be fool proof, but I have seen some interesting trends based on those I’ve hunted with. Terrain, food, and cover is the biggest factor when it comes to how many mature bucks can be harvested without impacting the next year’s quality of hunts. For example, when hunting in the Midwest, like Illinois or Ohio, where there is plenty of agriculture and cover, I’ve seen outfitters book 1-2 hunters for every 200 to 300 acres of ground. That may not sound like much, but when you look at Kansas where you hunt over a lot of CRP, tree rows, and farm fields, I’ve experienced ratios of 1-2 hunters per every 600 to 800 acres. This is one area that you’re going to have to trust your outfitter with, that he or she is open and honest and not just after your hunt fee.
4.What kind of scent control requirements does your outfitter have? When I hunt at home, I will not compromise on anything. I always shower with ScentBlocker soaps and shampoos, make sure my ScentBlocker gear is always scent free and sealed in storage bags, and spray down from head to toe with Trinity Blast. I ensure my trip to, on, and from the stand is as scent free as possible. If I do that at home, where I’m the only one pressuring my property, then why shouldn’t I expect that from the outfitter? Those outfitters I mentioned have the showers constantly stocked with ScentBlocker body care items as well as plenty of Trinity Blast spray in case I run out. I know that I’m not heading to a stand where the last hunter washed with Irish Spring and was wearing clothes that still smelled of that morning’s bacon and eggs.
5.How does the outfitter manage the deer herd? From doe management to size and age restrictions, it’s important to understand before booking your hunt. For example, if you’re more than happy with a 130” class deer it probably doesn’t make sense to book where there is a 150” requirement. Not all outfitters have restrictions and it’s not always needed if they ensure they are not over hunting their ground. However, if they do, make sure you not only understand what the requirements are, but also have the outfitter show you what would be acceptable. Some are better than others at field judging a deer’s age or size, but do your homework beforehand and be prepared to pass on a deer if there is any doubt.
6.Remember that outfitters want you to be successful. They make their living on each of their clients returning following seasons and the references and word of mouth that happy clients provide to continue to grow operations and gain access to additional properties.
I would be remiss to not add just one more thing: remember your outfitter is the expert and should know the ins and outs of their property. Where they tell you to sit may seem like an odd place to you, but do it anyway. As a hunter, you don’t want to be labeled as that guy who tries to guide the guide. You want to make sure that after a successful hunt you are always welcome back the next year. I hope these tips have helped ensure your next outfitted hunt is a fun and successful one. Happy hunting and God bless!