Big Bucks In Far Places

Big Bucks In Far Places

M.R. James

M.R. James, who now lives in Big Sky Country, has hunted whitetails nationwide since 1963.

Today, prime places to bowhunt big-racked whitetails abound. More and more camps are catering to nonresident deer hunters seeking excellent adventures far from home. Check ’em out for yourself.

IT WAS A TYPICAL early October dawn, cool but promising a meager warmth that would arrive with the rising sun. Golden rays were just touching the topmost oak leaves when my aluminum arrow whispered through the shadows and caught the browsing buck behind his right shoulder. He covered less than 40 yards before going down for keeps. In a matter of seconds I was kneeling beside him, stroking his sleek coat, and admiring his dark rack with its nine long, ivory-tipped points. Savoring this special bowhunting moment was almost enough to make me forget about the wall-hanger I’d missed earlier in the week.

Scenes quite similar to this are played out thousands of times every fall all across North America’s vast whitetail range. There’s nothing at all unusual about taking an October whitetail. However, in a majority of cases the successful bowhunt takes place only a short drive from home, and the reason is obvious – most of us can pursue these ubiquitous, challenging big game animals practically in our own backyards. Thanks to burgeoning whitetail populations, modern deer hunters have never had it so good. Yet, there I was in October of 1998, half a continent from my log home in the mountains of deer-rich Montana, kneeling beside a buck I’d arrowed near the end of a week long, out-of-state bowhunt.

Why would I – or anyone else – spend precious vacation time and hard-earned money to travel long distances to hunt whitetail deer? I can sum it up in five words:

Quality. Privacy. Expanded bowhunting opportunities.

True, little can compare with a do-it-yourself hunt and matching wits with local bucks. A resident license, a .place to hang a stand, and time to spend in the woods, plus some luck, are about all it takes. You keep tabs on the resident white-tails, do your own scouting, plot your own huntin’ strategy, swap reports with hunting buddies. It’s the American bowhunter’s way of life. And absolutely nothing matches the personal satisfaction of attaching your tag to some local white-tail you took, your way.

Unfortunately, not everyone lives in areas known for bruiser bucks wearing the kind of headgear that causes even veteran deer hunters to go weak in the knees. Still others can’t find genial landowners willing to let strangers hunt their properties. And as for public lands, many places these days harbor more hopeful hunters than deer. Time – or rather the lack of it – can be yet another difficulty. It’s strange how many of the work or family-related distractions that abound around home seem downright insignificant when viewed from a distance. And, finally, there’s the innate wanderlust that afflicts most serious bowhunters after several seasons of local successes.

That’s exactly why the promise of quality hunts on private lands in distant places is attracting growing numbers of adventuresome, practical hunters. With each passing season more and more bowhunters are setting aside some vacation time to hunt out-of-state whitetails.

IN RECENT YEARS, as part of my job as an outdoor writer/editor, I’ve sampled the offerings of whitetail camps in a baker’s dozen worth of states: Iowa, Illinois, Ohio, Michigan, Colorado, Texas, Alabama, Arkansas, South Dakota, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, Wisconsin. And that doesn’t even count hunts near home, or the numerous deer hunts I’ve made with friends or on my own in other parts of the country. Along the way, like most any well-traveled deer hunter, I’ve been foiled by fickle winds and soaked by sudden storms. I’ve frozen fingers in northland cold and suffered sunburn and chigger bites in southern heat. Alternately blessed and cursed by the gods of the hunt, I’ve also taken home my share of big racks and tasty venison — along with haunting memories of almosts, what ifs, and muffed chances. Long-distance bowhunting may not be like hunting deer near home. But, believe me, it ain’t half bad!

Should you decide to check out the possibilities, a good place to begin is with the recommendations included within this article. Each suggestion represents a camp I’ve bowhunted, several of them more than one time, or a camp I will be hunting soon. In a couple of instances the deer camp was visited by another Bowhunter staff member who was duly impressed by the hunting opportunities — and the end results.

But don’t take our word for it, and don’t stop with the information printed here. Check out the ads in the back of Bowhunter and other quality outdoor publications. Contact any guides and outfitters whose advertisements pique your interest. Next, do your homework, making calls to listed references (always obtain the names of unsuccessful as well as successful hunters), and never plunk down a deposit for any hunt until you’re satisfied you’re paying for exactly the type of whitetail bowhunt that interests you.

In order to avoid nasty surprises, you’re always wise to get a hunt contract or at least a letter that spells out the exact terms, details the conditions, and defines the responsibilities of both hunter and guide. As you might expect, prices for guided, private-land whitetail hunts vary greatly. Regardless, always keep in mind that in bowhunting there’s no money-back guarantee that you’ll get your deer, or get the chance for a shot, even in the very best of camps. In that sense it’s exactly like hunting backyard bucks.

Bowhunting whitetails in distant places is a challenging, enjoyable, and viable option for an increasing number of people itching to discover some big buck honey hole just beyond the next hill. Try it for yourself. You’ll see what I mean.

Enon Plantation — Alabama

Situated in southeastern Alabama’s scenic Bullock County, Enon Plantation consists of 12,000 private acres of rolling hills, woods, fields, and strategically located food plots. Effective with the ’99 season, Enon is switching to a bowhunting-only whitetail operation and will no longer book any rifle hunters. The archery season lasts from mid-October until late January, and bowhunts run Sunday afternoon through Wednesday morning, and Wednesday afternoon through Saturday morning. Included in the cost of each three-day hunt are comfy lodging, tasty meals, reliable transportation to and from well-situated stands, knowledgeable guide services, and a generous hag limit: one buck (with six or more points) and three does. Nonresident hunting licenses are sold at the Enon lodge, a dressing facility is available for meat care, and 3-D targets are provided for daily warmup sessions between morning and afternoon hunts. Nine hunters are booked for each three-day bowhunt. Prices for the 1999-2000 season are $1,300 — exc ept during the January rut when the cost rises to $1,600. For full information, contact: Cam Lanier or Fred Law at Enon Plantation, Rt. 2, Box 274, Dept. WTBH, Midway, AL 36053; (334) 529-3325. And you can check out the Enon homepage at www.enon.com.

Primitive Outfitting — Alberta

Known for its massive whitetail bucks, Alberta is the home base for a guiding business run by outfitter and bowhunter Jeff Lander. Now in its third full year of operation, Primitive Outfitting offers a personal touch to a limited number of clients, booking only 15 whitetail hunters and 8 muley hunters annually. With 6,000 to 8,000 acres of hunting lands, clients have plenty of elbow room. Early hunts start in September when the weather is generally nice, the days long. Stands are situated between feed and bedding areas, and hunters are afield mornings and evenings. Prerut hunts take place the second and third weeks of October when the bucks become more visible and rattling/grunting can pay dividends. Combo mule deer/whitetail bowhunts can be arranged. September one-week hunts cost $2,200 and October hunts are $2,500, US funds (plus tag and license).

November prime-time rut hunts in the famous Edmonton Bow Zone — when cold and snow are commonplace — carry a $3,200 price tag. Hunting is done exclusively from treestands hung in transition zones near food sources. Long hours are spent on stand, so top-quality cold weather clothing and boots are a must. Costs for all deer hunts include home cooked meals and cozy ranch quarters, plus transportation to and from the hunting areas (plus Edmonton airport pick up and delivery). Expect to pay another $250 for a whitetail license/tag and about $400 for licenses/tags for the combo deer hunt (ask the outfitter about obtaining all necessary licenses). For full details, contact: Jeff Lander, Primitive Outfitting Company, 4139 122nd St., Dept. WTBH, Edmonton, Alberta T6J IZI; (403) 436-7726. Send your e-mail inquiries to Primitve@telusplanet.net, and check out the website at www.huntinfo.com.primitive. Ask Jeff about his mule deer and black hear hunts, too.

Rutt-N-Bucks West — Colorado

Bowhunting for whitetails in strips of eastern Colorado timber near the snaky Arkansas River is a far cry from pursuing mountain mule deer in other parts of this scenic, hunter friendly state. But any bowhunters interested in pursuing a familiar quarry in distant riverbottom terrain should not overlook this sleeper big-buck hotspot. Bowhunter/outfitter Jess Moats books a limited number of clients each fall and conducts his guided hunts on thousands of leased acres. Hunters are housed at a comfy LaMar, Colorado, motel, and the hunt’s $2,500 price tag includes everything but meals and a nonresident license (costing $153.25 and available by drawing only, after an early April application deadline). The archery season for Colorado plains deer opens in early October and runs through December (except for short breaks for rifle-only hunting seasons). To check future whitetail hunting opportunities offered by Jess Moats, contact: Rutt-N-Bucks West, P.O. Box 995, Dept. WTBH, Riverton, IL 62561; (217) 629-7610. And whi le you’re at it, inquire about the whitetail possibilities less arranges for bowhunters in other states.

Wilderness Outfitters — Illinois

No serious deer hunter has to be told that Illinois is home to some of the country’s biggest whitetails. And while lots of media attention has been paid to bow camps in the central and west-central portions of the state, there’s at least one new northern Illinois hunting operation that deserves the notice of anyone wanting to hunt big-buck country. Illinois Wilderness Outfitters, owned and operated by veteran bowhunter and whitetail expert John “Ted” Lawson, along with sons Larry and Ed, now offers exclusive private-land treestand hunts on hardwood acreage that’s home to a resident deer herd of some 300 unpressured whitetails. Home-cooked meals and lodging are provided and hunts take place Monday-Friday only. No more than five bowhunters are booked during any weekly hunt. For full details including license information and prices, call Ted at (815) 732-7069 or Larry at 732-7314. The mailing address is 3237 W. Wilderness Road, Dept. WTBH, Oregon, IL 61061.

Iowa Trophy Whitetail Outfitters

Long hailed as the home of mind-boggling whitetalls, Iowa attracts considerable trophy hunting attention each fall. And for any hopeful bow and arrow hunter dreaming of drawing down on a monster buck standing under his or her tree, the state’s northwestern corner is an ideal place to hang a stand. It’s in this special corner of Hawkeyeland that Iowa Trophy Whitetail Outfitters (ITWO), now entering its fifth successful season, conducts its guiding business on tens of thousands of leased acres located smack dab in the middle of prime big-buck habitat. From mid-October through late November, weekly ITWO clients enjoy six challenging days of matching wits with whopper whitetails. The $2,750 price tag for each guided hunt includes great grub, comfy lodging, and reliable transportation to and from hunting areas (plus Omaha airport passenger pickup and delivery), as well as professional trophy care. Nonresident licenses cost $150 (plus another $5 for the application fee and a required $5 Iowa Habitat Stamp). Licens es are limited and are available only through an annual drawing; however, ITWO handles all license-drawing procedures for its clients, provided they meet the June deadline. To secure complete information or book a hunt, contact veteran bowhunter/guide/photographer Judd Cooney, P.O. Box 808, Dept. WTBH, Pagosa Springs, CO 81147; (970) 264-5612; or e-mail juddcooney@compuserve.com.

Ruby Custer’s Strut ‘n’ Rut Guided Hunts — Iowa

Northwestern Iowa is also the base of operations for outfitter Ruby Custer, who personally guides a maximum of two hunters each week on private or leased farms comprising several thousand total acres. All meals, lodging, guide services, transportation (including Omaha airport pickup and delivery) and nonresident license are included in the $3,000 price tag for each 5 1/2-day bowhunt. For more information or to book your whitetail hunt, contact: Ruby Custer, 40012 270th St., Dept. WTBH, Soldier, IA 51572; (712) 884-2282.

Willow Point/Tara Hunt Club — Mississippi

A guided, bowhunting-only operation based in the fertile Mississippi River bottoms near Vicksburg, the Willow Point/Tara Hunt Club facilities feature both premier whitetail hunts and Deep South hospitality. Willow Point consists of two Mississippi River islands; a 3,800acre north island that hosts no more than eight hunters at a time, and a 6,500-acre south island that can accommodate a dozen bowhunters per hunt. Tara Hunt Club totals 5,500 acres and handles up to 15 bowhunters.

Mississippi’s deer season, with its deer-a-day limit, opens in early October and winds down in mid-January. Six-day hunts start on Sunday afternoon and end Saturday morning; three-day hunts start on Sundays and Wednesdays. Bowhunters are allowed one buck per three-day hunt and two bucks per six-day hunt (plus two or four does, respectively). Mississippi or Louisiana hunting licenses are required, depending on the hunting site, and they are available at the lodge upon arrival. Sleeping/eating facilities are commodious and comfortable; a continental break-fast, robust brunch, and belt-busting Southern-style dinner are provided daily; transportation to and from hunting areas is standard and game processing facilities are available. Targets for honing shooting skills are conveniently located at each hunting location. Costs for three-day bowhunts run between $1,000 and $1,500, depending on the time of the year; six-day hunts vary between $1,900 and $2,800. For particulars, contact: Tara Wildlife, Inc., 6791 Eagle Lake Shores Rd., Dept. WTBH, Vicksburg, MS 39180; (601) 279-4261; e-mail tara@tarawildlife.com. And check out the Tara website at www.tarawildlife.com.

Nebraska Trophy Whitetails

Prime southeastern Nebraska farm properties totaling about 15,000 acres — lands leased and limited to bowhunting only — are hunted from mid-September through December. Six-day, semiguided bowhunts, which cost $1,650, entitle clients to one buck. Hunters can take a second buck for an additional $400 and a doe at no extra charge. Stands are placed at strategic locations in patches of timber surrounded by croplands that attract hungry deer and game birds. Twelve to 16 weekly guests are housed in a large and comfortable lodge where tasty homemade meals are served three times daily. Individual hunters are responsible for meat care/processing, although butchering services are available for a nominal fee. To obtain a nonresident deer license, call Nebraska Game & Parks at (402) 471-0641 or go on-line to www.ngpc.state.ne.us/ for more details. Interested bowbunters should contact: Nebraska Trophy Whitetails, RR 1, Box 47, Dept. WTBH, Virginia, NE 58458; Kent Hippen (888) 470-5615 or Paul Payton (610) 292-8376; or send e-mail to bowshot@erols.com.

King Ranch — Texas

The sprawling King Ranch, a modern cattle operation encompassing 1,300 square miles of Texas’ Gulf Coast real estate southward from Corpus Christi, is fast becoming world famous for producing giant whitetails in addition to prime beef. And since 1993 veteran bowbunters Wayne and Jarred Peeples have offered their clients at Four Arrows Outfitters exceptional, memorable deer hunting on tens of thousands of private acres behind the ranch’s locked gates. From early October through late December, Saturdays through Wednesdays, bowhunters can book whitetail adventures designed to fit their personal preferences and hunt budgets.

Five-day, fully guided bowhunts cost $1,000 per day (with the opportunity to spot and stalk javelina, wild boars, Nilgai antelope, and Rio Grande turkeys in addition to trophy class whitetail bucks). Besides these quality, top-dollar bowhunts, five-day treestand hunts cost $300 per day, with a $1,000 trophy fee for trophy bucks taken. These stand hunts include the chance to bowhunt Nilgai, javelina, boars and turkeys along with whitetails. Also, two-day guided bowhunts for management bucks (averaging between 100 and 110 Pope and Young gross points) can be scheduled for $500, plus $500 when a buck is taken. Food, lodging, and transportation on the ranch are included in the price of each hunt; however, treestand hunters and management buck hunters furnish their own bath and bed linens. A practice range is conveniently situated just outside the lodging facilities. Nonresident licenses are not sold at the ranch but may be purchased over the telephone with a credit card by calling the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department at these toll free numbers: 1-800-895-4248 or 1-800-792-1112. For complete details, contact: Jarred Peeples, 1506 Crescent Place, Dept. WTBH, San Antonio, TX 78258; (210) 497-5848. To reach the Four Arrows/King Ranch websites, go on-line to www.huntinfo.com/fourarrows.htm and www.kingranch.com. Ask about other King Ranch hunting opportunities, too.

Bluff Country Outfitters – Wisconsin

Buffalo County, Wisconsin, is home to a disproportionate number of huge whitetails. The Monarch Valley’s mix of mineral-rich farmland and timbered hills and ridges is ideal big buck habitat, and it’s here along the upper Mississippi River that bowhunter/outfitter Tom Indrebo runs his successful hunting operation. The area’s Quality Deer Management program, where younger bucks are voluntarily passed up by hunters, has resulted in a healthy deer herd with lots of trophy bucks. Whitetails here are bowhunted on private lands from mid-September through late December (except for a week during rifle season in late November). Clients are offered an experienced guide, tasty meals, a dry and warm farm camp, and well-placed treestands and blinds. Three to five-day bowhunts in September and early October run $1,150 to $1,450, and later-season hunts are priced from $1,850 to $2,150. A Wisconsin nonresident license costs $130, and applications are provided by the outfitter. To check on guided hunts for trophy whitetails, contact: Tom Indrebo, Bluff Country Outfitters, S1751 State Highway 88, Dept. WTBH, Alma, WI 54610; (608) 6853755. Ask Tom about deer hunting opportunities in Minnesota, too.

COPYRIGHT 1999 PRIMEDIA Special Interest Publications

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