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What Hunt Best Suits You

What is the Best Whitetail Hunt to Suit my Needs

Annually, scores of hunters travel to the Midwest in search a big whitetail buck, the best whitetail deer outfitter they can find, and are faced with the difficult decision of what hunt or time period should they book. Many elements factor into this equation. One must consider finances, credibility of whitetail deer outfitters, weapon choice, preferences of companions accompanying you on your whitetail deer hunt, what State to pursue a record book whitetail buck in, travel plans, and decide all in a timely fashion in order to book the hunt you desire before another hunter booked it before you. Let us explore considerations one must face as your selection of a whitetail deer hunt is made.

Time Periods of Hunting

The Midwest offers scores of great whitetail deer hunts at different times, thus many things should be considered when booking the right time period with a whitetail deer outfitter. As a whitetail deer outfitter in five states I can quickly assure you that all Midwestern States simply don’t produce great whitetail deer hunts during each time period throughout the season. There are time periods when whitetail deer don’t move as well as other time periods.

Let’s break down and grade the quality of the 5 best States in the Midwest for deer hunting in regard to time periods. Following each States narrative, a table will be presented to rate the quality of different hunts from a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being superior and 1 being very poor.

Pike County, Illinois Deer Hunting

Pike County, Illinois deer hunting offers some of the greatest early season hunting in the entire Midwest. You see, Illinois whitetail deer have evolved in a State where rifles are restricted and firearms hunters in Illinois are forced to use shotguns or muzzleloaders only. Illinois deer hunting offers their 1st Gun Hunt around Nov 21 for a period of 3 days only. Illinois deer hunting then offers a 2nd Gun Hunt that starts around December 3 and runs for 4 days in an effort to catch the 2nd rut. Then a Muzzleloader Only hunt is run around December 11 to December 13. Because Illinois deer hunting doesn’t allow the use of rifles for Illinois deer hunting the Illinois deer are simply odd. They have not associated danger with the middle of fields and are known for wading right out into food plots and agricultural fields during the early bow season by the dozens. We always sport high success rates throughout the entire first month of bow season in Pike County, Illinois. For further proof if you look on our homepage at you will discover a wonderful article by the Editor of Buckmasters, Tim Martin, who writes a story about a trip he booked with us along with two of his friends in Pike County, Illinois. The article is called a “Fling and a Prayer”. During the article he kills a 160 inch deer, and so does one of his friends, meanwhile his 3rd friend is chasing a 200 inch droptine buck around on our properties in Pike County, Illinois. If you read the article you will think he’s hunting the rut. He’s hunting on October 13th. That’s right. Pike County Illinois deer hunting is simply great at anytime with a bow unless horrid weather conditions exist. Therefore if you wanting to save some money and go on a cheaper hunt but score big, then feel at ease by booking an early season archery hunt in Pike County Illinois with IMB Outfitters. (Missouri also offers awesome nonrut archery hunting.) Some of our biggest whitetail bucks of the year hit the dirt during this time period.

Pike County Illinois deer hunting is at its finest during the rut. The rut falls between November 1st until around November 22. Somewhere in the middle is the peak of the rut in Pike County Illinois. I always liked hunting the peak of the rut on dates like Nov 5 to the 9th or Nov 8 to the 12, however the first 5 days of November can often times be more rewarding. Why?

During the first 5 days of November the rut isn’t in full swing yet in Pike County Illinois. Bucks haven’t collected their harem of does yet and are often slowing cruising the woodlots, ditches, and draws looking for does to grab. This is a time when a more ethical shot may be offered not to mention you can beat the rut hunters to the treestands, that have planned for a later date in Pike County, Illinois.

The 1st Gun season lies during what Illinois whitetail biologists suggests is the peak. This is questionable, however bucks will still be chasing does during the 1st Gun Season in Pike County, Illinois. Remember you must use a shotgun or muzzleloader thus if your bringing a elderly person, child, or woman often times a 12 gauge slug gun can sport one heck of a “kick”. Often times a rifle hunt in one of our other States would be more fun for the elderly, the child, or a small framed woman or novice. Believe me a 12 gauge slug gun can leave a bruise.

Pike County Illinois 2nd Gun hunt offered in the first week of December is designed to run with the 2nd rut. Any doe that isn’t bred during the first rut comes back into heat 30 to 45 days later. Thus while the 2nd Gun hunt in Pike County Illinois is a colder hunt with highs in the 40’s and lows in the 30’s it is not an inferior hunt. In fact 2 out of the past 5 years the 2nd gun season has produced higher success rates than the 1st Gun Season. Therefore for those that don’t get the 1st Gun booked quick enough or can’t afford the 1st Gun hunt don’t believe for a second that the Pike County Illinois 2nd Gun Season is a “poke in the eye” by any means.

Late Muzzleloader only hunts in Pike County, Illinois are normally good whitetail deer hunts. I have seen on rare occasions some difficulty during this hunt but it is usually due to weather conditions. Because it’s the last hunt of the year in Pike County, Illinois it can require some patience but our success rates here at IMB have been nearly 100% shot success at trophy bucks on this hunt.

Now let’s grade the hunts from 1 to 10 in quality in Pike County, Illinois. The number 10 will represent superior hunting while a 1 would be a poor choice or poor quality.

Hunt Score

Pike County, Illinois Nonrut Archery Hunting 8
Pike County, Illinois Rut Archery Hunting 9
Pike County, Illinois 1st Gun Hunting 9
Pike County, Illinois 2nd Gun Hunting 7
Pike County, Illinois Late Muzzleloader Hunting 7

Nebraska Deer Hunting

I chose Nebraska deer hunting to elaborate on next in an effort to show you the honesty of this article. Nebraska is a State wherein you can book the hunt of a lifetime or simply make the wrong choice and end up disappointed.

For years, non residents were not legally allowed to pursue whitetail deer in Nebraska by means of firearms. In the year 2006 non residents were afforded their first chance to legally hunt whitetail deer with guns in Nebraska. Also as a Nebraska Whitetail Outfitter for many years I have not seen residents in the area we outfit hunts do much archery hunting at all. It’s a desolate place where deer have been afforded the opportunity to grow old and carry some huge antler scores. Nebraska deer hunting has been overlooked for too long by too many people for too many years. We take down huge whitetail deer in Nebraska. The catch is that Nebraska deer hunting doesn’t offer great deer hunting throughout the entire year. Much of this is due to the fact this State sports higher temperatures than most other Midwestern States, those temperatures slow deer down during certain times. Less agricultural food is present, and I’m sure a variety of other reasons exist I haven’t even discovered yet. I learned long ago that with whitetail deer sometimes you can’t figure out why, but rather adapt to them in order to be successful.

In a nutshell if you book a whitetail deer hunt in Nebraska book the right dates and you’ll walk away a winner. If you book the wrong dates you will walk away with a frown on your face. I tell you this so you’ll book the right hunt and want to visit IMB Outfitters each year because your having a good hunt each year.

Nebraska deer hunting can be an awful experience if you elect to hunt nonrut archery hunts during the early season. It’s simply very hot and deer movement can be very slow. The Nebraska deer hunting season with bows opens on September 15 with tags available over the internet. This “lull” continues up into about the last week of October and then things get literally crazy.

During the last week of October all the way through the 4th week of November Nebraska deer hunting does a complete 360 degree turnaround. Does begin estrous and those big old bruiser bucks that haven’t been pressured get up and begin to chase. I would say the peak of the rut is in Mid November but you simply cannot lose at any time during this time period. In fact the highest shot success rates during the 2008 season with IMB Outfitters occurred during Nebraska rut dates. That’s right Nebraska out performed all 5 States we outfit during the rut. Odd huh? True.

The Nebraska 1st Gun Season begins around November 14th with rifles and runs for 4 days. The Nebraska 2nd Gun Season follows with its beginning on or about November 19th. While the 1st Gun Season is slightly better it’s all good because it’s during the peak of the rut with a rifle. The Nebraska deer hunting tags are purchased over the internet.

The Late Muzzleloader hunt in Nebraska is simply not worth mentioning. Deer go back underground and seem to disappear from the area. Thus if your deer hunting in Nebraska book a hunt with IMB Outfitters anytime between October 25 and November 25 and I’ll show you some of the biggest deer you’ve ever seen in your life.

Hunt Score

Nebraska Deer hunting Nonrut Archery 3
Nebraska Deer hunting Rut Archery 9
Nebraska Deer hunting 1st Gun 9
Nebraska Deer hunting 2nd Gun 8
Nebraska Deer hunting Late Muzzleloader 3

Iowa Deer Hunting

As in previous articles that I have written about Iowa deer hunting let me just say, “Iowa deer hunting is unbelievable.” IMB Outfitters runs hunts in Zone 5 of Iowa which is “hands down” the best Zone in the State of Iowa for deer hunting. When a hunter inquires about an Iowa deer hunt with us I most often times will not even tell deer stories we have experienced in Iowa. The reason is because the deer hunting is so good in Iowa you simply wouldn’t believe the stories. Bar none, Iowa is your best chance to kill a whitetail buck over 170 inches.

While Iowa is breathtaking there is also some bad news. It normally takes a hunter 2 years to draw an archery tag. The other bad news is non rut archery hunting can be a rough experience. Mostly because of massive amounts of standing corn in Iowa that give whitetail deer a virtual maze of places to hide during shooting hours. As a side note, when you wait 2 years on a Iowa deer tag you simply want to book the greatest time period to hunt in, as it may be years before you are awarded another Iowa archery deer tag again. Don’t waste an Iowa bow tag on an early season hunt.

Iowa deer hunting during the rut is nothing short of phenomenal. In fact IMB Outfitters success rates at getting a shot at a record book buck during the rut with bow in 2008 were 229%.

Iowa deer hunting 1st Gun hunt begins on or about December 5 to December 8 or 4 days. This hunt is the most powerful hunt offered by IMB Outfitters. It is relatively easy to get a tag for this hunt with IMB hunters having above an 80% chance at getting a tag. If more than one hunter is coming in your group you can put in as a group therefore you all are drawn for a tag or all denied. If you don’t get a tag year one by some slight chance you will get the tag the following year, and you can postpone or hunt one of our other states the year you were denied. Simply put, Iowa 1st Gun hunt is a hunt we will be shooting at trophy deer.

The Iowa 2nd Gun hunt begins on or about December 11 to December 14 or 4 days. This hunt is almost as powerful as the 1st Gun and sports incredible success rates. Remember though on any of the two gun hunts of Iowa you are forced to use a shotgun or muzzleloader.

The Iowa Late Muzzleloader hunt begins on or about December 27 and runs through January 10th. This is one of the few muzzleloader hunts that is awesome. In fact in 2008 we took 6 muzzleloader hunters in Iowa for deerhunting and everybody had a shot at a 150 inch buck or better except for one person. Two of the bucks killed were Boone and Crockett.

In conclusion about the only selection of Iowa that can be weak is non rut archery.

Hunt Score

Iowa Deer hunting Nonrut Archery 5
Iowa Deer hunting Rut Archery Hunting 10
Iowa Deer hunting 1st Gun Hunting 10
Iowa Deer hunting 2nd Gun Hunting 9
Iowa Deer hunting Muzzleloader Only 8

Missouri Deer Hunting

The State of Missouri may be the greatest “sleeper State” in the entire Midwest. Missouri enacted regulations 4 years ago that if you kill a buck it has to have 4 points on one side. After 4 years of regulated management Northern Missouri is producing some of the Midwest’s biggest whitetail deer anywhere. Missouri Deer Hunting resembles the qualities of Pike County, Illinois in that just about any hunt one chooses to book is normally of high quality. Missouri also affords its hunters to use rifles during the firearms season.

Missouri deer hunting during nonrut archery or early season are a wonderful experience. Much agricultural nutrition is readily available to the Missouri Deer Herd however the trick to hunting in Missouri is making sure you have booked a hunt in one of three counties. Macon, Shelby, or Knox. Counties lying South of Highway 36 simply are not near the quality of those aforementioned. IMB Outfitters runs hunts in Missouri in Macon, Shelby, and Knox. Missouri’s archery season begins on September 15th and ends on January 15 but is interrupted by firearms season.

Missouri deer hunting presents rut periods between November 1 and November 25 with the peak of the rut somewhere in the middle. Rut hunting in Missouri has become so good that its success rates are normally higher than Pike County, Illinois at getting a shot at a record book whitetail buck.

The 1st Missouri Rifle season begins on or about November 14th and ends November 17 or 4 days. It’s nothing short of amazing. Let’s face it, its peak of the rut and its with a rifle. Only bad weather or high temperatures can foil this outing.

The 2nd Missouri Rifle season just about as good as the 1st hunt. Again, it’s the rut with rifle. In fact in 2008 IMB Outfitters ran higher success rates during the 2nd gun hunt than the first gun hunt. The 2nd season is easier on the pocket book, however the 1st Gun hunt is still the most popular.

Missouri Muzzleloader hunting begins on or about December 19 and end on or about December 29. This hunt can be great as cold temperatures and a lack of standing crops in the field force high numbers of deer to our food plots making deer sighting plentiful and shot opportunities abundant.

In conclusion, Missouri is just a State that is hard to make a bad choice to hunt at any time. Missouri deer hunting may be second only to Iowa.

Hunt Score

Missouri Deer hunting Nonrut Archery Hunting 7
Missouri Deer hunting Rut Archery Hunting 9
Missouri Deer hunting 1st Gun Hunting 10
Missouri Deer hunting 2nd Gun Hunting 9
Missouri Deer Muzzleloader Hunting 7

Other Considerations When Booking a Hunt in the Midwest

Travel Plans

Most credible whitetail deer outfitters will offer a service wherein they will pick you up at the airport closest to you hunt destination. While we offer this service it is a “catch 22” situation. IMB Outfitters has been in business for 13 years in 5 States in the Midwest however I have never picked a hunter up at the airport that liked it once he arrived in camp. The reason is because while it might seem like your saving $30 a day on a rental car the reality is your most often times stuck in camp without any personal mode of transportation. If you tag out early, or want to run to a local city, or just wanna go for a ride your inconvenienced. The wise hunter always rents a car if flying into their whitetail outfitter’s location.


Sometimes a hunter will call the office who is totally fixated on the price of the hunt. While price is important it is NOT the most important aspect to consider. Just weeks ago a hunter called me and when I answered the phone and said, “Hello, IMB Outfitters” the hunter simply said, “We are ready to book with you now.” This brought my attention to the fact by the tone in which he made the statement that I had talked to him before and that he had decided to hunt with some other whitetail outfitter the previous year rather than here at IMB Outfitters. I ask him, “What happened last year.” He then replied, “Last year we choose to go with a different whitetail outfitter to save some $300. The hunt we went on was terrible. We didn’t save any money with the other whitetail outfitter. Because we had a bad hunt we lost all our money.” A wise statement indeed. While money is important remember if you choose an outfitter simply because he’s cheaper and pick the wrong outfitter you will in fact save no money but rather lose all your money. IMB Outfitters may be the most credible whitetail outfitter in the Midwest for whitetail deer. Want evidence? IMB has been inducted into the hall of fame. IMB is ranked in the top 44 hunts in the entire world by Petersen’s Hunting. IMB has been in business full time for 13 years. IMB sports 29 major hunt company sponsors like Mathews Bows, Nikon, Mossy Oak, etc, etc. Simply put, you can’t have these type credentials and be selling bad hunts. IMB Outfitters is not expensive and in the same general financial ballpark as most other credible whitetail outfitters.

If one cannot afford one of our most expensive hunt like rut archery or a 1st Gun hunt then you’d be better off booking a nonrut hunt or a 2nd gun hunt with IMB than booking vice versa with an inferior whitetail outfitter. A outfitted hunt is never something you want to try and cut corners on.

IMB Outfitters also offers group discounts to decrease the amount of money one spends on a hunt. Power is in numbers. Some hunts are even negotiable if cancellations or postponements have occurred here at IMB Outfitters.

Weapon Choice on Outfitted Whitetail Deer Hunt

Here are some tips when considering what type weapon to use on your hunt of whitetail deer.
1. If you’re bringing a child, novice, or woman it is sometimes unwise to book a hunt in a shotgun only state as a 12 gauge slug shotgun kicks like a mule. A rifle hunt may be the best option for these types of scenarios.
2. If you archery hunting always go back and read through this article or ask your outfitter what archery hunts are the best. There are time periods in some states wherein deer just don’t move well. For example: Nebraska Nonrut Archery.
3. Remember when booking Iowa or Illinois you cannot use a rifle.
4. I have seen hunters with the mentality that if they are going to book a hunt then they are gonna go gun hunting. While gun hunting may seem to be the most productive don’t underestimate the power of an archery rut hunt. In most Midwestern States the “peak of the rut” occurs during archery season.
5. Always remember in most Midwestern States you can kill a buck with a bow and a gun, thus IMB Outfitters offers combo hunts wherein you can bow hunt for whitetail deer, and then move right into a gun hunt in an effort to kill 2 record book whitetails. Combo hunts are offered at a discount here at IMB.
6. Be familiar with your weapon. Shoot and practice often. Also shoot the weapon when you get to camp to make sure your still sighted in. I can’t count the number of hunters that upon arrival refused to shoot their weapon only to realize during transport their weapon was “knocked around” and wasn’t accurately sighted in as it was when they left the house.

Consider Who is Accompanying you on your Whitetail Deer Hunt

Before selecting your hunt if your coming in a group with several hunters be sure and determine if each hunter is comfortable with whatever hunt you pick whether its bow or gun. I have seen many scenarios where proper consideration wasn’t given to the group in regard to what hunt to book. For example 2 years ago I watched a young 30 year old archery hunter bring his 65 year old dad on a bow hunt. While dad attended he wasn’t suited for a bowhunt in his senior years. Dad missed several deer and was dismayed. While his son killed a monster buck. Always consider other feelings and needs within your group.

Darrin Bradley

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