Finding the right whitetail outfitter these days is absolutely grueling as one must painstakingly sort through dozens of websites- some easier to digest than others all filled with harvest photos and trail cameras pictures with dates not aligning with the seasons pictured, missing dates entirely, or worse yet the scent of Photoshop. All of the sites say no pressure and low number of bookings but you know better. You’ve experienced some outfitters who were wilier than the bucks they were pursuing. Continue reading to pragmatically set things straight from the start and never have any more money or precious time wasted on a far cry of a chance at harvesting a mature whitetail on a booked hunt. Let’s be clear here, this will not be a rant on any particular outfitter nor will this be a self promoting selection.
How many acres does the outfitter have?
First and foremost, size is no guarantee of quality. In doing your homework, your research starts with a quick Google search. As one may expect, larger outfitters dominate the first few pages. Bigger must be better based upon the results OR thousands of dollars are dumped into advertising through an Adwords campaign. For me, this would be a red-flag as a commercialized outfitter must keep reaching out for new potential clients to further drive their machine. On the other hand, some would find comfort in size and knowing that there is a track record of success and the outfitter isn’t here one day to collect your deposit then gone the next.
How large are the parcels and what’s the woods to field ratio?
Outside of genetics, age structure is the largest contributor to a buck’s headgear. On smaller parcels very few bucks reach maturity even when an outfitter has higher minimums in place and does everything possible for their deer herd. In this instance, neighboring hunters are likely capitalizing as full control of the bucks’ homeranges are not obtained. Further complicating things can be if there are far more fields than woods. Having 1000 acres is great- on the surface. If 999 of those acres are fields, stand sites will be extremely limited as will be the bedding area potential on that given parcel.
What are the minimums and what is the harvest/opportunity ratio?
Similarly, a solid harvest log can be misleading even if it’s year after year. It’s easy to quit your search after finding a gallery full of mature whitetails but do yourself a favor and don’t rush the gun here. What’s important is not the number of bucks harvested but the number of hunters booked and the success ratio. This percentage is paramount when assessing a potential outfitter. For instance, an outfitter with 5 harvested bucks with a mere 15 booked hunters had a much better season than an outfitter with 15 harvested bucks and 100 hunters. Be sure to compare apples to apples here, sometimes this ratio can be slightly skewed as many outfitters have differing minimums. Typically, higher success rates have lower minimums and potentially lower overall size based upon an increase in harvests and less age structure.
How many hunters will be in camp during your prospective hunt?
If one-on-one time with your outfitter and guide is of importance, likely look elsewhere from an outfit with 50 others booked during your week. Similarly, how accommodated would you be with those kinds of numbers in camp? Seriously, putting in long hours in the stand for a couple days straight is hard work! What are the bedding arrangements? This may not seem like a big deal however there is always someone who manages to snore and register a 4 on the Richter scale. What are the bathroom arrangements? Sharing one with five or more strangers can be a bit scary and extremely uncomfortable as the days start catching up. There’s the having to wake up an hour earlier to get your pre-hunt shower in or the feeling of being rushed in the evenings so everyone has time to wash up prior to dinner.
What kind of stands are in use?
Having many options for stands is critical in harvesting a mature buck. Unfortunately, at times comfort can be jeopardized for a couple additional sets. Often overlooked, many outfitters purchase the cheapest stands possible. Everyone knows the type. The ones with literally a platform and a seat if you can even call it that. Whether it’s a minimal ladder or bare bones hang on, both can be an absolute bear to sit in for any duration of time. Much more so if you’re loaded down in layers and packing relatively heavy for a late season rifle hunt.
Everyone has different wants and needs when it comes to an outfitter and their ideal hunt. Go in informed and keep the surprises to a minimal. Now that you’re armed with a few key questions, get after the right outfitter- The one that’s after the buck with four legs and not the one in your wallet.