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Trophy Deer Hunts in

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How to Harvest a Trophy Deer with an Outfitter


The choice is clear regarding what outfitter to book a trophy whitetail hunt with in the Midwest. IMB Outfitters, located at But what about after youíve booked the hunt? How do you make sure your one of the clients in camp that actually harvests a mature trophy whitetail buck and goes home a hero. Having been an outfitter for the better part of 12 years, I have told my guides a million times that by the time I get through with doing an orientation with a group of hunters I can almost tell who is going to kill a trophy whitetail buck before the hunt begins. Iíve just seen so many hunter roles or groups of people that attend camp its relatively easy to spot what class a given hunter falls into. I"m a people person and love to be around most anybody but unfortunately different people approach their hunt differently. Some of the strategies are approachs that never work. This is the purpose of our orientation we mandate all hunters attend prior to entering the timber. In the orientation we try to prepare them for success.

Their are many strategies or roles of hunters that simply don't score.

First youíve got the client who has done no research prior to hunt. This is the client that cannot score a deer in the field. The client that despite the thousands of tools on the internet, magazines, and videos to use to improve field judging they have either been too busy or just too lazy to take the time to learn how to score deer. What happens to these clients is that they hit the field for their hunt and without even knowing it, permit 140 inch and better deer walk by without attempting a kill shot because they donít know if the buck is big enough to score minimum camp requirements of 125 inches. For example: Early in 2007 season we had a hunter we picked up and when we picked him up at the end of the evening hunt he stated, ďI saw a good buck within bow range.Ē To which the guide replied how big was he? The client then said the buck was bigger than the one on the wall at the Lewis Lodge, our northern camp in Missouri. Just so happens the one on the wall at Lewis Lodge is 160 inches, therefore this client had permitted a Boone and Crockett or 170 inch animal to cruise by at 20 yards and was too afraid to shoot because he didnít know what he was looking at. While the story may be comical my estimates are that 40% of all clients have no idea what size buck they are looking for nor how to field judge a trophy class whitetail on the hoof and that many hunters pass up trophy animals not knowing what they are looking for. LEARN HOW TO FIELD JUDGE TROPHY WHITETAIL DEER PRIOR TO COMING TO CAMP SO YOUíLL KNOW WHAT TO SHOOT. How else can you be successful.

Another type of client that comes to camp that is almost always done before he or she starts the hunt, is the client that is only looking to shoot a buck over 170 inches to qualify for the Boone and Crockett Record Books. I have always thought this client was the most disrespectful to the sport of whitetail hunting than any. A 170 inch animal is an animal that is an oddity. Sure IMB Outfitters and other whitetail hunt outfitters harvest 170 plus animals each year but the odds of it happening are minimal. My estimates in fair chase conditions are that one hunter in every 200 hunters will ever succeed in doing this over the course of a lifetime, much less on a 5 day hunt. A 170 inch animal is nothing short of the buck of a lifetime and to my knowledge the only person in the world that has harvested more than four, 170 inch plus whitetails is Jimmy Howard of Barry, Illinois. A 170 inch whitetail is not something you sit around and wait on. Its something that if presented you take a shot at, but not something you insist upon killing or sit around and wait on. This year in our Iowa camp we had a client that insisted upon killing a 170 inch buck. In fact each night he would attempt to bribe the guides to put him ďonĒ a Booner. It was an insane request. There is no way to guarantee somebody is gonna kill or see a Boone and Crockett Buck on their hunt. I just donít know how anyone could expect such production from any outfitter. I am on 27 Pro Staffís in the hunt industry, am an accomplished Outdoor Writer, and own the largest whitetail outfitting service in the nation and to this day have never killed a 170 inch or better buck. Someday it might happen but it hasnít happened yet. What ends up happening is this client sits around waiting on the buck of a lifetime and then passes up many other shooter bucks going home without a buck at all. Plus he makes all the other hunters and guides miserable. More importantedly it sours the hunter on deerhunting totally as they have turned a fun hobby into something nearly impossible. Pursuit of near impossibility can ruin a hobby very quickly.

A grave mistake a hunter makes when booking a hunt with a whitetail outfitter is not shooting the first buck over 130 inches he or she sees. What has happened is we have been raised upon Outdoor Television and DVDís. What the viewer doesnít realize is that a lot of these shows are filmed in high fences with domesticated whitetails. I canít count the number of times an outdoor television show has requested we shoot domestic whitetails inside a fence and then pretend or lie on television we were in the wild. Oh yeah, itís totally legal. I HAVE NEVER DONE THIS DESPITE NUMEROUS REQUESTS, however Outdoor Television has led us all to believe that killing trophy whitetails is much easier than it really is. So what happens is hunters come to camp with unrealistic expectations assuming every hunt is gonna be like a video they watched just prior to coming down for the hunt. I tell you to this day with all my outdoor accomplishments aforementioned, any deer over 130 inches that walks by me is getting shot at, if harvested he is getting mounted, and Iím gonna be proud to hang him on my wall. Be realistic when youíre in a whitetail hunt outfitting camp.

Then you have the client that wants to guide the guide. The client who thinks they understand more about harvesting whitetail deer in your area than the outfitter does. This client tries to pick his own stands when heís in camp, refuses to sit where the outfitter tells him, and attempts to employ whitetail tactics from regions other than where the outfitter is located upon trophy whitetails and simply wonít listen to anyone. This hunter never is successful because deer evolve differently in different states. His tactics donít work here in the Midwest. This is the guy that doesnít listen in orientation and is constantly questioning everything their guide tells them. Heís the know it all. Two years ago during the Missouri Gun Season I placed a hunter in an old abandoned building out in the middle of cornfield with a rifle. I did this because I had been watching several monster bucks within shooting distance of this shack. 30 minutes into the hunt he demanded to move insisting we had messed him over. I moved him alright but over the course of the next 3 days we harvested 3 bucks over 150 inches out of that old shack. Needless to say not one of them was his. Guiding the guide results in ZERO!

The next hunter is the one that is simply unprepared. This year in Iowa I had a hunter show up with a brand new gun. He screwed on the scope and shot at the target which was 4 feet by 4 feet. He misses the whole target. He fired a second round that hit the paper. IMB guides then tried to get him to let them help him site it in. He refused. This client literally missed a 170 inch buck one day into the hunt. The unprepared client doesnít bring enough cold weather gear so he canít sit as long so he can get a shot at a buck. The unprepared client I find most often times is again either lazy or too busy to prepare, however they never can figure out why they donít have a buck at the end of the hunt.

You also have the client that lies about what they are seeing on tree stands. A client can elect to lie for one of many reasons:
1. If they can portray they had a poor hunt then they hope to get a discounted hunt the next year.
2. They are scared to admit they saw big bucks in fear the outfitter will remove them from the spot and put somebody else in the area.
3. They miss a deer from a tree stand setup with a whitetail hunt outfitter and are too ashamed to admit what really happened.

What happens with the dishonest client is the outfitter should be collecting data based upon what the hunters report. Therefore if a hunter lies, then the outfitter strategies a hunt for the client based upon false reports. This always results in the hunter not getting a deer because the outfitter doesnít know how to help the dishonest client.

The client who insists upon shooting carbon arrows and open upon impact broadheads. While there are many success stories to disprove this theory the reality is carbon arrows donít get enough penetration for a pass through shot on Midwestern corn-fed deer so you most often times canít get a good enough blood trail to recover the deer. Open upon impact broadheads simply arenít sturdy enough to break bone and sometimes donít even open up in time to cut what needs to be cut. The archer that attempts to utilize these tools attempts to defy the laws of physics. I know much debate surrounds this issue but I can tell you that most deer we do not recover are carbon arrows and open upon impact broadheads. End of story. This is one we may just have to agree to disagree upon. I advise not to attempt to defy the laws of physics when harvesting the whitetail of a lifetime. Stick with enertia, not speed.

Then even in IMB camps that run success rates in excess of 100% trophy shot success rates their are always 2 or 3 clients that no matter where you place them they don't get a shot. Thats uncontrollable bad luck. Those hunters just need come back the following year noting that success rates were very high and that bad luck usually doesn't happen two years in a row.

So how do you score big on a trophy whitetail with whitetail hunt outfitter? After having watched thousands of clients over my 12 years of outfitting it always seems like the humble guys who are teachable, and willing to put their time in the stand are the ones that are successful. Itís the guys who forget everything they think know about whitetail deer and sit in whatever stand we recommend for whatever period of time we recommend. Lets face it we are not building rockets here. Pretty much all you have to do is book the best dates you can afford with the best outfitter available which undoubtedly is IMB Outfitters, sit in a topo advantage during the rut, be alert, and make the shot. Their arenít any secrets or shortcuts to deer hunting. Itís all about picking the right outfitter and then putting your time in the stand in a topographical advantage.

I say IMB Outfitters is the best simply because we are one of the oldest outfitters from the Midwestern area. We have won multiple outdoor awards to prove our quality. We have 28 sponsors located at, most of which are Fortune 500 companies in the hunt industry that only sponsor one outfitter in the MidwestÖÖÖÖÖÖIMB Outfitters. Get serious and book with the right outfitter and hunt the right way. During most of our camps if you do that it will be harder to fail that succeed. If you donít believe that check out success rates located for IMB Outfitters at

Darrin Bradley

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