The HuntingPA.com Outdoor Community banner

1 - 20 of 26 Posts

·
Super Moderator
Joined
·
7,757 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
I have never done this before, but I think it's warranted in this case.

I have gone south for an October deer hunt every year since 2008, with the one exception of 2015 when I went mulie hunting in Nebraska.

2008-2012 I went with Roanoke Tar Guide Service in North Carolina. In 5 years, I killed 8 bucks and 2 does. Great service, great experiences. They are in business, can be found at the show in Harrisburg, and I cannot recommend them highly enough.

My father usually goes with me, and he wanted to see more deer, so in 2013 and 2014 we went to White Creek Outfitters in South Carolina. In 2 years, I shot 3 bucks and 1 doe. Unfortunately, the land White Creek leased was sold and they are no longer in business.

Last year (2015), as I mentioned, I went mulie hunting in Nebraska.

A hunting buddy talked to South Carolina Trophy Hunters at the show in Harrisburg and decided to book with them. He asked if I wanted to go, and I agreed. I had some other commitments to keep, so I didn't book till the summer. And that's where I'll start. I'll try to stick to factual events and keep my interpretations and opinions minimized, but I'm sure some will creep in. Here's my experience:

July- call the number my friend was told to have me call to make my booking and add it to his group (which was only 2 people at the time, but still a "group"). No answer, no option to leave voice mail. Ok. Wait a couple days, try again, repeat often, no change. No answer, no option to leave voicemail. Jump on their website and use the "contact us" form and also the email listed. No answer.

August- Call another number for the actual owner. He answers, is very polite and helpful, and takes my booking.

October- we go on the hunt. Arrive at the main lodge. Looks like the website's pics, so that's good. Go inside, tell them who we are. They get Gino, the guy in charge of the hunters. He can't find our booking.

Eventually he does, but I'm not listed. They don't know I'm supposed to be there. Whoops.

Finally he finds me, listed by my last name as my first name, and with another group who I don't know. Seriously?

We're informed we won't be staying at the main lodge, we'll be at "The Plantation." OK, sounds fancy.

We're guided over there, and pull up in front of a gated drive back into tall pines. Cool.

Pull up, get out, smacked in the face by the smell of excrement. Um, what?

The smell comes and goes as we unload into the lodge that looks nothing at all like the website pics. Not terrible, but not even close to what's shown on the website. The smell comes and goes. Then I go into the bathroom and it's horrible. Smells like the toilet seals are gone and the septic gas is backing up into the bathroom. Yuck.

Go outside, and I see a pool of sewage. Someone flushes. I see water coming up into the pool, full of paper and.... stuff. Wow.

Ok....so we're getting pretty unsettled.

That afternoon we are given a sheet with the lodge rules. 6pt bucks or better on all properties, but some are 8pts or better. Must be as wide as the ears. No does. Pigs are fair game. Not following the rules means you're sent home and fined $250 per violation. OK, got it.

Go hunting that evening. Stand has a snake in it...interesting.

Saw a basket racked 6pt in a field where I had no shot, and he wasn't big enough anyway. Good start, though, I guess.

That was the only racked buck I saw.

In 7 days of hunting, I saw 15 deer, 3 were bucks. One being that basket 6, the other two being spike bucks that probably were legally antlerless deer if they'd been here in PA.

When I was given a greenlight to shoot a doe, none were to be seen. No one saw a deer after Wed of that week of hunting.

The entire operation was 3 lodges. Hunters joined us from the third lodge that we didn't see. They told us parts were burned out, walls were moldy, and bugs were everywhere. They loved the lodge we were at, even with the septic stench.

Chris, our cook, was awesome. He did everything he could to feed us well and help us as much as he could. Very good guy.

The guides often were late to pick us up in the morning/afternoon to leave for the stands. Three separate times, we were left in the field and our pickup forgot us. Once was just me, and at night, and I could have walked back in 15 minutes, but followed the rules and stayed put. Got eaten alive by skeeters, even with a thermacell cooking. Was picked up over an hour after shooting light was gone, only because I texted a "what the ____?" text to the main guide.

We bailed before our last sit and hit the road for home.

The deer we did see were SUPER jittery. Probably 60-70% of them looked STRAIGHT at the stand the whole time they were in sight of it. The hunting pressure they put on their properties must be staggering. We counted up what how many hunters we were told were in each lodge, and discovered they were running over 50 hunters that entire week. They claim 12,000 acres of land, we saw about 1000 acres, if that. Every stand I was in had trash in/around it.

In 7 full days of hunting, I saw two legitimate bucks come in from hunters in our lodge. I saw two more brought in by a hunter who killed them for spite. One was a small 6pt and one was doe, neither was permitted by the rules. A serious argument followed that episode, and I stayed far away from that blow-up.

When we left, we stopped at the main lodge to get ice. We saw about a dozen capes/racks from the week. Big racks, beautiful deer. We never saw the hunters from the main lodge. No idea where they hunted, but it wasn't where we hunted.

So....

That's my experience. I talked to every hunter I met, and none were repeat customers. And none planned to be, either. One guy was so mad, he was calling his credit card company to stop the charge.

These folks have two booths at the Harrisburg show. I cannot in good conscience recommend them in any way, shape, or form. If anyone wants more "candid" info, feel free to PM me.

There are much better places to hunt. Of the three of us, none of us ever saw a deer we were permitted to shoot. Looking back to my other southern hunting experiences, this was far outside the trend. VERY far.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,049 Posts
Man, I sure hope you left them some type of feedback. This sounds like the typical half-behind run southern outfitters I see here in NC popping up left and right.
 

·
Super Moderator
Joined
·
7,757 Posts
Discussion Starter #3
I didn't even bother talking to them. The owner was present a few times when others weren't available to run hunters to stands. He saw and smelled the septic. He didn't care.

The guides couldn't have cared less about whether or not we were successful. We were something they had to take care of and say they did it, and that was about that. We didn't tip the guides, nor even let them know we were leaving. I got back after being picked up 1.5 hrs late on Saturday morning and we left.

We tipped our cook well. He was a hard working guy, very friendly and very helpful. He earned a good tip.

It's my opinion that this outfitter is wholly unconcerned with earning repeat business. The other outfitters I went with, they WANTED repeat business. They both were clear that they felt the ideal was to have a full season of bookings that come every year, and they wouldn't have to look for new clients. They could get to know their clients and provide better service, plus have a more reliable income stream.

This outfitter seemed clearly to have two booths at Harrisburg for the purpose of "catching more fish with two nets". Whether or not anyone comes back doesn't seem to matter to them, they'll just go find more butts to fill the seats.

That, at least, was the impression the three of us in my group had. We talked with others in camp and I believe they all felt likewise. No one I talked to was pleased with what the outfitter provided.
 

·
Super Moderator
Joined
·
7,757 Posts
Discussion Starter #5
You know, a few of us (some of the other hunters were from PA) discussed doing just that.

In the end, I don't feel like spending time or money on them. I figured I'd put reviews out there on various forums I visit so that google searches will find my comments, and leave it at that.

I didn't do my homework. I'm mad at the outfitter for the "service" they provided, but more mad at myself for not doing my due diligence in vetting a potential outfitter like I should have. This could have been avoided if I'd done so.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
90 Posts
Just a thought, and maybe I'm wrong because I've never used a guide like this... is this "outfitter" and his buddies hunting the honey holes and using out-of-towners to fund their lifestyle and pay the bills?
 

·
Super Moderator
Joined
·
7,757 Posts
Discussion Starter #7
That is my distinct impression, yes.

They had us in stands near a Georgia-Pacific plant's property. They said there was no hunting on that property and they got as close to it as they could because there were really big deer in there.

My HUNCH is the people they know and/or who know who and how much to pay, they go hunt IN the Georgia-Pacific property very quietly and carefully and take some nice deer.

The rest hunt the beaten properties over and over and pay the bills. The access roads to the places we hunted were badly wallowed and rutted. They clearly drive those roads A LOT.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
340 Posts
We had a bad experience like yours with an outfitter in Montana. I purchased two of his T shirts before we left, my uncle thought I was crazy after already losing thousands of dollars with this outfitter. He didn't think that after I painted a big red X on them and we wore them to Harrisburg ! Got lots of responses from total strangers even got a few pats on the back and a lot of "way to go" responses. Other guys stopped us and told us they had basically the same experience with the same outfitter.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1 Posts
Wow, I wish I would've read your review before we booked. But after reading your story it was like I lived it. We were there from November 15 - 20, 2017. Everything that you said in your review was exactly the way it was or us. Friend of mine booked the hunt at the Harrisburg Outdoor Show. He was told if they got 8 - 12 guys that we could have the whole "lodge". Lodge being a very funny description for the run down, smelly building that we were put in. When we arrived, we were escorted to the lodge and one of the guys went to the bathroom to splash some water on his face after a 12 hour drive. Yep you guessed it, no hot water in the sink. Ok, I can live with that. But the shower looked as if it wasn't cleaned since the start of hunting season.
When they booked they were told that we could shoot 3 buck, 1 doe and 3 hogs. Sounds good right? When we got there Gino informed us that some of the farms had an 8 point minimum plus they had to be out past their ears, only one hog per day and they were out of doe tags. Funny how the rules change. We thought that wouldn't be a problem beings the rut was just starting per Gino.
To make a long , frustrating story short.....we had 9 guys and we seen 2 doe and 2 small spike buck and no hogs in three days. After the third day of not seeing a deer, I'd had enough, so two of us packed our ---- and got out of there as quick as we could. I can't say enough good things about the cook. He went out of his way to make sure we had enough food.
I would definitely NOT recommend this outfitter and I find it hard to believe (if you read their reviews on their website) that they EVER have any repeat customers. I ended up putting the last half of my payment in dispute, and the owner had the balls to say that I didn't finish my hunt. These properties are definitely over hunted and I do think that they were coasting, and collecting money just to close out the year. Bottom line is that the next time I book a hunt I will be doing my homework.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
4,120 Posts
I just checked out their website. Looks pretty nice there. We've been fooled by online pictures with hotel or rental house accomotations and it stinks. Luckily, never had a horrible hunt. Sorry to hear but thanks for letting others know.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
9,669 Posts
Just curious, did any of you think to contact the SC fish and game people? I would think they have to be permitted by the F&G, and they should certainly be made aware of this. I did a hunt in Idaho with a "guide" only to find out he wasn't licensed, and he even admitted he had to keep an eye out for the authorities. I called Idaho F&G, but told them I wished to remain anonymous. I did , however give them a confidential way to contact me. Told them I'd gladly fly out to be a witness. Never heard from the F&G, but did hear from a very confidential source that the guy was thrown in the pokey for a period of time.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
7,781 Posts
Not to hijack your thread, but I was on a similar hunt to the fabled Anticosti Island which closely mimicked your hunt: Guide wouldn't get out of bed until an hour after shooting light, stands that had more human footprints around them than deer tracks, I shot a small eight point which was the only buck taken in camp the entire week....All of my other hunts have been great!
 

·
Super Moderator
Joined
·
7,757 Posts
Discussion Starter #13
Just curious, did any of you think to contact the SC fish and game people? I would think they have to be permitted by the F&G, and they should certainly be made aware of this. I did a hunt in Idaho with a "guide" only to find out he wasn't licensed, and he even admitted he had to keep an eye out for the authorities. I called Idaho F&G, but told them I wished to remain anonymous. I did , however give them a confidential way to contact me. Told them I'd gladly fly out to be a witness. Never heard from the F&G, but did hear from a very confidential source that the guy was thrown in the pokey for a period of time.
You know, I never thought of doing something like that.

Honestly, I'm as mad at myself as them. When my buddy asked me to go, he'd booked already. I didn't want to say it, but I'd seen these folks before and had a bad feeling about them. He has been on a fair number of outfitted/guided hunts, and I figured he's seen more than I and I trusted his decision.

In my head, though, I had warning signs blaring left and right. I should have listened to myself, because unfortunately, I was right. THAT is where the biggest mistake of my whole debacle occurred.....I was going to go solo back to Roanoke Tar Guide Service in NC, because no one else wanted to go there in my group. Jeff and Neil don't show you piles and piles of deer in a week, but I killed 8 bucks and 2 does in 5 trips there, and a couple of the bucks were extremely nice ones. My dad killed a super 11pt there, too. You just don't see 50 deer in a week, you see about 20. But I always got at least one buck, sometimes, two, and always turned down some small bucks, too.

Now the western hunting bug has bitten me, and I find myself looking at the Plains, sage prairies, and Rockies for my hunts, but no one in my group has similar interests, lol.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
374 Posts
Sorry to read your well-written description of the SC experience. I was laughing with your description of the bubbling sewage, but then also getting ticked off as my head would have exploded being in that same situation! You mentioned about your gut feeling and you should have followed it - I learned a long time ago to follow my gut feeling as it's been right. Having said that, I did get sucked into a bad hunting experience in Wyoming 2 years ago on an elk hunt. My friend booked the outfitter as this outfitter had great reviews from everyone he called. I called the outfitter and spoke with him, something just wasn't right as he wouldn't commit to the number of animals taken each year. He knew the number of hunters, but would only say - 80% kill rate. He promised since we were a group of 4 booking together, we would have the one camp to ourselves as he wouldn't mix groups. Long story short, ended up being 12 people in our camp, and that 80% success rate was shattered by a 1 elk for 12 hunters - that's about EIGHT percent! We left with a big hole in our pockets and extremely mad. I've posted the review on other sites, maybe I'll do like you did here - need to get the word out on these bad places - sorry about your experience, grateful for you posting about it.

Jay
 

·
Super Moderator
Joined
·
7,757 Posts
Discussion Starter #15
Not sure what the WY state success rate is, but CO's is, I think around 20-25%.

After seeing what I saw while out there, I can see why, and not all of it has to do with the elk. We met some great folks, and I felt really bad for the guys in the cabin next to us. Somehow they thought they'd roll ATV's to within a couple hundred yards, or less, of their spots and sit most of the day in one place. They were deer hunters from Louisiana and Mississippi, and that's how they hunted deer at home. They thought elk would be similar.

Except....

The public land where we (and they) were hunting did not permit motor vehicle access, nor were any trails suitable for it. The trail head where I went in and got my elk was at 9500. I shot my elk at 10,500. My buddy shot his at 11,100 or 11,200.

Others we saw were literally sitting on the shoulder of the road with their rifles on bench rests on portable picnic tables, with a field of view of maybe 200 yards.

A lot of the 75% who don't get elk were doing stuff like that.

The guys who walked in and hunted saw and killed elk.

The reason I mention this is that an elk outfitter telling me he had an 80% kill rate would be a HUGE red flag for me. That's a tall order when you've got all manner of clients who may or may not be able to pursue elk where elk are.
 

·
Super Moderator
Joined
·
4,879 Posts
It’s hard to get an exact kill number from some outfitters. Many have a funny way of defining what a kill is. Some call every miss, wound, or sighting where they thought a hunter should or could have shot as a kill. There are others who throw out the same 80% or 90% number every year at the Sport Show. Trouble is, you knew hunters that were there on two different weeks and the camps went 0-10 both weeks. The camp would have had to been 120% the other weeks in order to get to 80%.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
9,840 Posts
I have worked for a couple outfitters and been on many hunts where I later was a reference for them. I would say that most of the hunts I've been on have been great places to hunt. Otherwise I wouldn't have referenced for them. But at some point, I have caught almost all of them in lies to people. Some worse than others. Why? I can't figure it out. I have stopped associating altogether with several of them. Two of them, I let them know exactly why.

Bottom line for me anymore: I do not book a hunt with any outfitter, no matter what, unless they give me names and phone numbers of unsuccessful hunters who have been with them. Call those people. You will get the truth of what will go on for your hunt. If they won't even give me those names and numbers, I've got to ask myself why...
 

·
Super Moderator
Joined
·
7,757 Posts
Discussion Starter #18
Yep. I've also learned how to talk/question an outfitter to give myself a good feeling for the likely outcome. Far from scientific, but all you really need to do is walk the outfitters hall at the sport show and talk to or look at about 10-20 different outfitters. Realize at least half are overstating their services, if not more, and that it's your job to know which half is most likely to worry about your money and not your hunt.

Honestly, I look at the booths at the show anymore and marvel at how some of these jokers get business. Of course, I fell for it, against my better judgment. I guess if you put enough eyes on your product, you'll get what you need in volume if you're a shady outfitter.

Personally, I've found one really good outfitter at Harrisburg. I mentioned to a friend in CO (who is a native out there, and has hunted elk a lot) about looking for elk outfitters there. He pulled up the show list of outfitters, looked for CO based outfitters, and told me he'd run far and fast from all or nearly all of them (this was a few years ago).

He made a good point--- "If these guys had a quality hunt experience, they wouldn't be driving across the country to look for business in most cases....they'd be booking full and turning away potential clients because they were full up."

The good deer outfitters I know are similar...they book most of their business on return clients and referrals from those clients.

For me, I fully realize DIY has a lot of ways to come home empty-handed, but wow was it an experience to go on my own with a buddy and hunt the Rockies. I knew full well that there was a 3 in 4 chance I'd come home skunked based on the sheer odds, but I'd come home skunked on my efforts, not on someone giving me a line of baloney.

A buddy went to CO last fall for 2nd Rifle. He asked me to go with him, but I decided to go DIY and not with the outfitter like he did. He spent around $6k. They sat him in tent blinds for 10 hrs a day for 3 of his 6 hunting days. I'd have been fit for a padded cell at that point. He got back and his exact words were "no more outfitters."
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
374 Posts
The outfitter I was referring to from Wyoming packed in 31 miles from the trail head. My friend had called the different references and spoke with the guy that was the head of RMEF at one time, and that guy said that everyone had taken elk when he was in camp. The problem after looking back at things, was that the references Gary spoke with were from 3 years prior, NOT from the previous year. When we were there, two major issues - TONS of grizzlies in the area (I saw 6 the first day). Second issue was him hunting 12 people from one camp - 6 maximum and there may have been a different outcome. But, he lied to us by telling us we would be the only ones in camp, later claimed he never said it. Burned once, won't ever go back, and I got the word out on other sites,

To date, I've only ever hunted with 2 people from the Harrisburg show, one in Quebec (I'd never go back), the other a drop camp outfitter in CO (I liked them). The one from Quebec had the fancy booth with all of the great videos, etc. The CO person does only drop camps, has everything set up and all you bring is food and your supplies. They pack out the elk when you down it. We went 3 for 4 with them, but the elk were by no means easy. We left before light and were back in the dark, big country. They told us where to look, but it was up to us to find them. I've done DIY and prefer them, HOWEVER, getting an elk out on my back is getting more difficult as the years tick along! For those considering DIY hunts, I've done DIY's with at least one other person along, but like it better when there's at least 2 other people as I'd rather do one trip to get the elk out than 3! Make sure you pick the right buddies on a DIY, not ones that will complain. I go into it expecting to have a great time in the outdoors and do not expect to bring something home with me other than memories. That way, I'm happy if I've downed an animal, or if I haven't.

Below is my friend's elk from our DIY 2015 ML CO hunt. I came home with tag soup, but some great memories.

The deer is from last year in CO - public land, but I went guided by someone who does NOT go to the shows due to repeat business.

Jay
 

Attachments

·
Super Moderator
Joined
·
7,757 Posts
Discussion Starter #20
You also have to temper the reference by WHO it is. Muckity muck in RMEF is going to get a different hunt at many places than Joe Schmoe off the street, because a good ref from the RMEF guy means more than Joe Schmoe's.

What I've learned about elk so far is anyone who makes an elk hunt sound easy is either doing something questionable or is lying. Elk and easy really don't go together very often.

Really gotta watch the cow hunts for elk, too. I went looking for those, and it seems outfitters have found it's a good market to tap for guys who won't pay $6k for a bull hunt. So they run cow hunts at $2k, give or take. Many of these are late winter....why? Because the elk are herded up and low, often in crop fields. They'll drive you out to the herd or put you in a bale blind and you shoot an elk. If that's what you want, no judgement, go for it. But make sure they're honest about what you're gonna get.

I made two 7.5-mile/+1000ft climb trips to get my elk out...well, one was back from when I killed her, one was a round trip to get the rest. The place I rented the cabin where I stayed had a pack service...you get the elk to a point where they could take a mule, and they'd take it from there. I just packed mine out...the hardest part of my packout was going to happen whether I hired the mule service or not, because the mules couldn't go into the deadfalls where my elk was. I'd have had to do that part of the pack out regardless, and that was the worst by far, so I just saved the cash and did it myself. The service was $350. My buddy's bull would have been mule-accessible, but he packed out part on the first walk out, then he and I went back to get the rest the next day.
 
1 - 20 of 26 Posts
Top