Avoiding A Nightmare Hunt


One of the perks of my job is visiting some great hunting and fishing destinations. Every outdoorsman’s journey begins with high expectations. But more often than you would think, some of these trips are not only a waste of time and money, they are nothing at all as they had been advertised. As a result of being burned one too many times, I tend to be leery of outfitters that sound too good to be true. It took me a while to learn how to minimize the chances of taking a bad trip. Before I share with you how I do it, let me share some tricks that have been played on me, just to get me to make a trip.

As a serious deer hunter, I am constantly on the lookout for the proverbial utopian deer woods. Scanning pages of favorite hunting magazines reveals hunting outfitters advertising with photos of huge deer that really get your attention. The same is true at sports shows. Exhibitors display mounted trophy bucks in hopes of getting your trophy bucks (money). It would shock you to find out that many of the photos are of deer not taken on the particular property they are representing. For example, I found an outfitter that was using a forty-year-old set of mule deer antlers that had been remounted with a new cape. How did I find that out? I saw this spectacular buck in a photograph and read the story of how it was taken in a book I had purchased years ago. The buck was unforgettable and I recognized it right away. Rather than immediately confront the outfitter, I chose to give him an opportunity to tell me about it, which he did.

He put the sell on me as he told me the story. The funny thing was, it wasn’t even close to what I had read about the buck. Big mule deer are hard to come by and any serious mule deer hunter knows it. They are also willing to spend lots of money hunting them. The outfitter was selling hunts for $4,000, which is not overpriced for what he was trying to sell me. But it was all a lie.

Rather than confront him there, I went home and found the old book where I had seen the story of this buck. I carefully looked at the photo and read the story to be sure it was the same deer and then returned to the show with the book to confront the outfitter. It surprised me that he didn’t get defensive in any way. As a matter of fact, he thought it was funny. I did not.

Another time I got duped into going on a bear hunt in North Carolina. The outfitter promised an opportunity at a 500-pound plus black bear. I scheduled a week for the hunt. Upon arriving, it didn’t take long for me to smell a rat. Turns out, he was poaching bears and to make matters worse, I got caught for unknowingly trespassing on private property. It gets better. The landowner who caught me is a professional outdoor writer and regular viewer of my show. We did manage to help put this outfitter in jail.

Hunting outfitters aren’t the only ones that misrepresent their services to outdoorsmen. There are some bad folks on the fishing side too. I remember when a big time Louisiana fishing lodge owner was so tight with his money that he actually refilled empty bottled water bottles his clients had drank.

There was also the time my wife and I went to Mexico offshore fishing. We had caught plenty of fish and planned to bring them home. We paid our outfitter a considerable amount of money to package our catch for the journey home. When we got home we literally had only two small filets. Odds are you have your own horror stories when it comes to hunting and fishing outfitters.