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How to Select a Hunt Outfitter


As an Whitetail Deer Outfitter I am not afforded the opportunity to hunt my ground very often. As a result each winter I book a hunt with an outfitter and go pursue game like hogs, or gators, or whitetail deer in Texas. I remember in 2005 I booked with a Texas Outfitter who told me when I was hunting hogs with him that I would see a minimum of 60 wild hogs per day. He went on to tell me I would surely harvest a trophy boar and that hogs were a nuisance to landowners. I believed everything the Outfitter told me and headed to Texas. As a result I saw one hog in 3 days. I had been taken advantage of without a doubt. When I arrived they hadn’t even been baiting the hogs on a regular basis. They were even trapping the hogs due to the fact they were nocturnal which in turn was reducing number of hogs on site drastically. The only consolation offered was for us to come back and pay full price to hunt the hogs after they had them patterned and baited. (Did I mention that was supposed to be done before we got there. Dah!)

Just a year prior to that I swapped a hunt with a Texas Outfitter who promised me he would take me out 5 days in row with a dozen “hog dogs” and promised to bay up a couple dozen hogs for me to shoot. Over the course of my 5 day hunt the outfitter called the hunt off on day two because he didn’t bay up one hog with is dozen supposedly grade A, hog dogs. The hunt was a nightmare.

To this date I have been on about 7 outfitted hunts and only had one good hunt in my travels. WHATS KEY IN THIS IS I AM A FULL TIME OUTFITTER FOR A LIVING. If anybody ought to be able to smell a rat or a fake sales pitch it ought to be me, right, afterall, I’m an outfitter and sell hunts almost everyday of the year. The major problem when booking a hunt is that your buying something you cannot see, smell, taste, etc. Whats worse is most of the time your dealing with someone who knows every question your gonna ask them because they get so many calls a day. Your about to ask for references, success rates, number of acres to access, etc. Therefore if they know every question your gonna be asking then if your dealing with someone that is dishonest they have all the preset dishonest answers ready to give you before you begin to ask them. As a result it doesn’t really do much good to ask any questions, because all your gonna normally get is the run around anyway. Outfitters ought to have to wear a polygraph wire when answering your questions prior to booking. It sure would make it a lot easier. Because of pre planned answers to common questions it really doesn’t do any good to ask any questions to determine if you should hunt with them unless you call up a “numbskull” who is too stupid to outthink you.

I’ve always said there are 3 types of outfitters:
1. “The Redneck” This is the outfitter who is running hunts on the family farm or on farms of friends he or his family may have befriended over the years. This is the outfitter who can’t afford quality equipment or provide quality lodging because he hasn’t had the opportunity to dedicate a substantial amount of money to his or her program. Worse yet, this outfitter is the one that doesn’t really understand how “book deer” move across terrain and doesn’t have the personnel to setup on them if he did. “The Redneck” Outfitter’s hunt is usually cheaper but often times is a “do it yourself hunt” or a hunt that despite his best efforts he or she just doesn’t know where to begin to provide a quality service. I can remember the first few years I was in business I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. Of course now its 12 years later and we have well developed program but for these young “Redneck Outfitters” you must stay away no matter how friendly they may seem. The “Redneck Outfitters” aren’t trying to take advantage of you, they just don’t know what they are doing. Often times you can unveil them by looking at their website. Often times this type of outfitter has a small one or two page website, no sponsors, and certainly have never won any outdoor awards. You can feel through the website its just not top notch. While it may be affordable you might as well save your money for a couple years and book with a credible hunt outfitter like IMB Outfitters as seen on I might mention that this type of outfitter is not one I “hate” as they really aren’t trying to “rip you off”, they just don’t know what they are doing and won’t for several years. This outfitter is the result of Midwestern Whitetail Outfitting being young. If you really think about it Midwestern Whitetail Outfitting has been going on for only a little over 10 years. The companies are still young and have much to accomplish and polish up.
2. The second type of whitetail outfitter is what I call “The Factory”. This is the outfitter who is trying to book as many hunts as he or she can possibly book and they will tell you anything you want to hear to get you to book the hunt. I can’t stand this type of Outfitter as they usually are trained to lie about the hunt and make promises nobody could possibly complete. For example one outfitter in the magazines is located in one state and announces they have 4 brand new lodges in one location. I guess this outfitter is proud of their lodges and believes if he or she can convey they have 4 brand new lodges that the hunter will automatically assume they are successful for a reason and book a hunt with them. The reality is the only reason to have 4 lodges in one location is so you can house 100 hunters in a week. Wow talk about overhunting. “The Factory” Outfitter is one that just doesn’t stop booking. While they may know how to setup on big deer and be able to afford good equipment they prostitute the very sport of whitetail deer hunting and exaggerate if not lie on the phone just to book hunts. At these outfitters you are nothing but a credit card number and they know because of their huge ad campaign that if your not happy they can replace you the next year. I can recall one hunter in my camp this year telling me he went to an Illinois Outfitter who announced to a disgruntled camp that they could all kiss his but that all his hunts for the time period they were in camp were all booked for the next year. Then the outfitter walked out and drove off. I warn you that you will find the “Factory Outfitters” in high profile areas such as Pike County, Illinois, Buffalo County, Wisconsin, Webb County,Texas, Butler County, Kansas, etc. In Illinois alone there are over 400 outfitters licensed to do business.
3. The third type of outfitter is the one you seek, he the “Credible Outfitter” or the outfitter lying somewhere between the two aforementioned. Your looking for someone who has verified documentation of outdoor award accommodations, a list of credible sponsors, tons of references, and testimonials of famous people in the hunt industry. (You’ll find all this at IMB Outfitters with individual webpages introducing them all Go take a look at A Credible Outfitter will spend time with you on the phone without making you feel like its all about getting your deposit. A Credible Outfitter will have some statistical system in play to verify his or her success rates with references. A Credible Outfitter will have a good amount of page on their website and a ton of content. IMB has over 160,000 words on its “Hunter Story Page” alone, which is more content than most outfitters have on their entire website. In fact I bet you can’t add the total content of any 5 whitetail outfitter sites to total the amount of content on the IMB Outfitters website. AS A GENERAL RULE: IF AN OUTFITTER WILL TAKE CARE OF YOU ON THE PHONE AND ON THE WEBSITE THEY WILL TAKE CARE OFYOU IN THE FIELD. IF THEY WON’T TAKE CARE OF YOU ON THE PHONE OR ON THE WEBSITE THEY WON’T TAKE CARE OF YOU IN THE FIELD.

Generally hunt outfitters who run “do it yourself” hunts only are simply landowners trying to profit off their ground. A “do it yourself” hunt normally isn’t worth the drive. By the time the hunter figures out where the deer are on the property its time to go home. Also as a general rule if they allow you to walk all over the property looking for a place to “setup an ambush site” they have let many other hunters do the same thing. Stay away from “do it yourself” hunts unless you can’t afford anything else. Here at IMB we have upgraded the do it yourself hunt. On our semi guided hunts we already have stands hung for the hunter, shooting lanes are cut, deer are patterned, etc. In fact IMB offers the only “semi guided” hunt that has these amenities, however I still recommend the fully guided hunt highly over the semi guided outing.

So what do we know thus far. Credibility is the #1 factor to consider regarding the booking of a successful hunt with an outfitter. While its true I own IMB Outfitters its still also true that no other whitetail outfitter I know of has the following:
1. Over two dozen sponsors from hunt industry companies that only sponsor one whitetail outfitter in the Midwest. Some of the sponsors include Mathews Bows, LL Bean, Thompson Center, Goodyear, Husqvarna, Hunter Specialties, Mossy Oak, Nikon, Mile Marker Winches, Oakley Sunglasses, LaCrosse Footwear, and 18 more other sponsors in the hunt industry that are simply household names.
2. Multiple listings of references and testimonials of both the ordinary hunter as well as famous outdoor celebrities in the hunt industry.
3. More content on the website than any other whitetail outfitter on the internet.
4. Accommodations and outdoor industry awards proving hunt industry recognition from outside entities. For example in 2005 Petersons Bowhunting ranked IMB Outfitters in the top 40 hunts in the world. Not the top 40 whitetail hunts in the world but all hunts inclusive of safaris, billfishing in Costa Rica, Canada, Alaska, etc

I have a two fold purpose for submittance of this article. #1. As the owner of IMB Outfitters I want to book hunters. #2. As a hunter I am a part of a group of people who love the outdoors and I hate to see anyone get taken advantage of waiting all year long only to be subjected to a poor hunt.

Don’t get me wrong, not every hunt turns out with a happy ending even here at IMB. Weather conditions can foil any outing. Also difficult clients can foil a hunt quickly. I will say here at IMB we are credible, possess the ground needed to take a monster buck, refuse to overhunt, and always tell the truth surrounding what to expect.

Here at IMB we take things a step farther. We keep stringent records on hunt sites and have for many years. We have ledger books that clients can access when they come to camp. For example in Missouri we have over 500 treestands. Each stand has its own number in an aerial book you may view upon coming to camp. Each stand has its own win loss record. A win is recorded from a stand site when you sit in a stand and see deer. A loss is recorded from a stand site when you sit in a stand and do NOT see deer. Then we also record when a certain stand has a shot opportunity at a trophy buck. Therefore when hunters come to camp you can see the history of a given stand before you hunt it. With other outfitters I would assume most stands are hunted over 25 times each year. With IMB it is an oddity if a stand is hunted more than times in a year. Its so neat to come to camp and be able to be a part of the program and know just how much traffic a stand has seen obtain knowledge about hunting by being a part of your program. When stands are hunted minimally your odds of success are increased drastically. Recently after a 2007 Iowa hunt I had a hunter call me to rebook. He stated, “It was great to hunt stands that were not overhunted. The deer had no idea we were there at all. We were impressed with the stat program and although we got shots we didn’t get deer and can still say IMB Outfitters is the best hunt we’ve ever been on with any outfitter.”

Don’t get lost in all the excitement writes, Steve Peters, “It’s easy to overlook important details during the early stages of planning a hunting adventure. In order to select an outfitter that will best suit your needs, you must first take a few things into consideration. Here are a few questions and suggestions to ponder before deciding to spend your hard-earned money on an outfitted hunt.

What type of hunting adventure are you interested in?
The ease or severity of a hunting trip varies from location to location. The type of terrain encountered during a hunt generally depends on the animal of interest. For example, waiting patiently in a tree stand for a black bear to show up at a bait station in Alberta is quite different than chasing a bull elk across the mountains of Colorado or New Mexico.

One’s physical condition can greatly affect the outcome of a hunt. Be certain to choose a hunting trip that is compatible with your personal capabilities. If you insist on hunting an animal that inhabits physically demanding terrain, start working out at a local gym well before your scheduled date of departure. Couple your workout regimen with an aerobic activity, such as running or climbing a Stairmaster to build up your stamina.

Terrain is just one consideration. Another factor that plays a significant role in the outcome of a hunt is the weather. Outfitters cannot guarantee favorable weather conditions during your hunt. The weather can be unpredictable and an unforeseen deterrent to your success if not taken into account. Temperatures in November can easily reach -20 degrees Fahrenheit on a whitetail hunt in Saskatchewan. Or, a deluge of rain can swamp an Ontario moose hunt. Ask about the region’s normal weather pattern and what to expect during the course of your stay. Be sure you are mentally and physically capable of enduring any weather condition that may arise. If you simply cannot tolerate a harsh environment, it would be in your best interest to search for an outfitter stationed in an area that has a mild to moderate weather climate.
Note: Consult with your physician before beginning any exercise program.

Is the outfitter qualified to locate the game animal of interest?
Here is where a lot of sportsmen fail to do the necessary homework to ensure a quality outdoor adventure. One way to determine if an outfitter is qualified is to ask questions. You have to ask a lot of questions. It’s better to ask too many questions than not enough.

Will the outfitter use horses? How much riding will you be doing? Will you hunt on public or private land? Will the outfitter take care of the meat and hide of your animal? How experienced are the guides? How long has the outfitter been in business? What is his state or provincial license number? Has the outfitter ever lost his license due to a game violation conviction? Is the outfitter properly insured?

These are just a few of the questions that you should ask when inquiring with an outfitter. Seeking a reputable outfitter is similar to playing private detective. You have to investigate every conceivable angle to be sure you are getting your money’s worth.
To further assist your inquiry, ask for a reference list of successful clients. Also, ask for a list of unsuccessful clients. Call as many of them as you can afford. They should be able to answer any question about the outfitter that may be of concern because they have actually “been there and done that,” so to speak. Another source of valuable information are Game and Fish Departments. These state and provincial agencies provide information on outfitters regarding license status, grievances, questionable business practices and convictions of game violations.

What about kill percentages and success rates?
Don’t be fooled by all of the statistical mumbo jumbo some outfitters like to throw at you. All of this fast-talking rhetoric is a ploy they use to divert your attention away from the more important details. In my opinion, kill percentages and success rates mean absolutely nothing, especially if you are seeking a trophy animal. As an example, let’s examine the work history of two hypothetical outfitting operations to get a better understanding of why I feel this way.
Outfitter A has been in business for only a couple of years. He owns a first-class operation and has the optimum amount of quality acreage to produce huge bears. Through some bad luck and a few unfortunate blunders -- mainly due to client error and inclement weather conditions -- several of his hunters failed to take home a bear. As a result, his kill percentage has suffered.
Outfitter B has been in business for 15 years and boasts a 100% success rate. He routinely shies away from mentioning that his operation has less than desirable accommodations and only a small parcel of land to hunt. On the other hand, he openly declares that he offers less expensive hunts than the majority of his competition and his clients take home bears on a regular basis. What he fails to mention is that less than one percent of the bears taken from his property have the potential to reach trophy size.

Now, if you were looking for a hunt based on the aforementioned information that provides the best odds of producing a trophy bear, which outfitter would better suit your needs? My advice would be Outfitter A.
Failing to do any research, many sportsmen booking a trophy hunt for the first time would choose Outfitter B due to his less expensive rate and an advertised kill percentage of 100%. Kill percentages and success rates can be extremely misleading. Do your homework or you’ll wind up coming home empty-handed, or worse yet, disappointed with an animal that you didn’t want in the first place.

Are you looking for a trophy or will any animal suffice?

If harvesting any animal will suffice and you rival the likes of Magnum P.I., finding a quality outfitter shouldn’t be all that difficult. On the other hand, you will have to dig a little deeper if you are interested solely in a trophy. Good outfitters are like 200-inch whitetails. They are hard to find. You have to do a fair amount of research in order to find a quality outfit that consistently kills trophy animals.
A good source of information for locating trophy areas is the official record books of the Pope & Young and the Boone and Crockett Clubs. These publications list record book animals taken in North America by bow and rifle, respectively. Each trophy animal has a separate listing with revealing details. The location of the kill, how the animal was taken, i.e., a bow or gun and the name of the hunter are all logged. You can narrow down a “hot spot” by checking the areas that produce the most top-end animals. Combine an area that produces a disproportionate number of trophy animals with a reputable outfitter that can lead you to them, and you’ll be in business.

Don’t forget to consult with a good taxidermist prior to your trip. He or she can provide some important recommendations for keeping your animal intact during the journey home.

How much can I reasonably spend on a hunt?
Determining how much to spend on a hunt can be hard to gauge. In this situation, as in many others, my motto is: “You usually get what you pay for.” Dollar figures alone should not measure the value and appeal of a particular hunting excursion. The attitude of always striving to get the “best deal” can lead to disaster in most circumstances. For many hunters cost becomes the overriding concern, and quality takes a backseat. It goes back to the old saying, “If something looks too good to be true, it probably is.” Of course I don’t necessarily advocate booking hunts with only the most expensive outfitters either. Great deals are out there, but finding them takes time, effort and a healthy amount of legwork.

Searching for outfitters who are in the early stages of establishing their clientele can be very appealing. Some offer super “first time” deals. And, many of these “newbie” outfitters produce amazing results. However, this is a risky proposition. These outfitters have no client base and are willing to do just about anything to book a hunt, so proceed cautiously.

This all sounds pretty confusing doesn’t it? It can be if you fail to do the necessary research. As a personal safeguard, accept the fact that there simply are no guarantees to pursuing wild, free-ranging animals with an outfitter and act accordingly. No matter how much you spend on a hunt or how long an outfitter has been in business, you still need to be careful. It’s a “buyer beware” type of market. For every reputable outfitter there are at least four dishonest ones who are willing to con you out of your money. Before you book any hunt in the future, make sure you do your homework.

Keep this in mind and remember to: Determine what type of hunt is best suited to your physical abilities. Ask a bunch of questions, and then ask some more questions. Call as many references as possible, both successful and unsuccessful. Decide whether you desire a trophy animal or if any animal will suffice. And lastly, seriously consider how much you can reasonably spend on a hunting trip without winding up on the street at the end of it all, and realize there are no absolutes when it comes to hunting big game animals. By following these guidelines, you will be better prepared to experience a quality outfitted hunt and quite possibly harvest the trophy of a lifetime.”
Source 1 Steven Peters
Of course, Mr Peters is writing generally in regard to the booking of any trip conceivable from Grizzly Bear to Mountain Goat to Deer, but Mr. Peters definitely has some great points regarding the booking of a trip.
There are a couple huge adventure company entity that consumers have learned to trust. Due to liability issues I cannot name these entities however you can probably guess who these huge hunt adventure entities are as they are household names. One of these entities contacted IMB Outfitters several years ago. Not only did they want a 20% commission but this entity wanted to book my camps to an unlimited or no maximum number of hunters in camps in exchange for their name. Needless to say we declined and to think I still buy boots from them and other outdoor items once in a while. Remember booking agents and big outdoor adventure entities don’t always mean your in for a credible hunt. In fact most often times it may suggest the opposite.
Irregardless of where today’s whitetail hunter is thinking of booking no other company in the Midwest measures up to IMB Outfitters. We have the credentials, awards, sponsors, testimonials, references, website assistance, live via telephone assistance 7 days a week, the best equipment in the industry, and 13 solid years of business under our belts. Cmon kill a whitetail with IMB.
Good hunting, Darrin Bradley

Darrin Bradley

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