John's Journal...

"How to Book a Super White-tailed Deer Hunt” by John E. Phillips

Day 2: Information You Need to Book a Dream Deer Hunt

Editor’s Note: How does a sportsman know how to pick the best hunting operation where his chances of bagging that deer of a lifetime reasonably can come true this year or next? Some top-notch lodges still may have some hunts open that you can book for this year, or you can start now to plan your trophy deer hunt for next hunting season. To find the answer, I went to the men who should know best. Each of these men either owns, manages or guides at a successful hunt-for-pay operation where I either have taken or seen trophy deer. Some of them asked to remain anonymous.

Click for Larger ViewNathan Connell from Northport, Alabama, has been hunting deer for many years and was a wildlife biologist. Connell guided hunters at one of the oldest and most-prestigious lodges in America – Gulf State’s Westervelt Lodge in Aliceville, Alabama – where annually 300 to 350 deer hunters hunt. The property around the lodge produced outstanding trophies each year.

According to Connell, “To pick the area I’d want to hunt, I first would contact state departments of conservation and ask to speak to the deer biologists in those states. I’d talk to them because they should know about deer and deer hunting in that state. I’d try and pick their brains about how-many deer there were in the state, where the highest population concentration of deer was in the state, and where the biologist thought I had the best chance of taking a deer within that state. I’d inquire about any hunt-for-pay lodges in the region where the most deer were concentrated and also get his personal opinion of those lodges. I’d also ask the game biologist where in his state the deer density was the highest.

Click for Larger View“Next I would call the departments of tourism in those states and request brochures on hunting lodges in the areas with the highest deer densities. I’d compare the brochures from several states and narrow my choices to about five lodges in places where the deer density was extremely high. The first thing I’m looking for is how much land the hunting operation has for sportsmen to hunt. If a hunting operation has 1500 acres to hunt but has 10 hunters per day hunting that same 1500 acres, then a hunter’s chances of killing a nice deer are extremely slim. I also will want to know how many acres I exclusively can hunt while I’m there. Another factor in my decision about where I’ll pay to hunt is how good the lodge, food, beds, showers and other facilities are. If I’m taking a vacation, I don’t want to rough it, and I want a comfortable place to stay and delicious food to eat. Even if you have a poor hunt, if you have a good place to lay your head and plenty of tasty, hot food, then the hunt won’t be a total disaster.”

More Key Questions to Ask:

Click for Larger View“To get a good picture of the facilities, always try and find a person who has hunted at this lodge before you go,” Conner emphasizes. “I ask for references of people who have hunted at that lodge from my own state or a neighboring state. If a lodge is reluctant to give me that info, then I’ll hesitate to hunt there. Ask, ‘What is your hunter-success ratio for this season and the last two seasons?’ If a lodge manager tells you that they are running 90% hunter-success ratio, then be leery of that hunting operation. If he says 15% to 30% or 40%, then I’ll come closer to believing him. I also will want to know how they hunt at each of the top-five hunting lodges I’m investigating. Do they put on man drives? Do they leave you on a tree stand all day long, or can you hunt the way you want to hunt? I prefer to put up my own tree stand and do my own scouting. So the method of hunting will help narrow-down my decision.

Click for Larger View“When I decide on the lodge I plan to hunt, as soon as I arrive, I’ll start talking to the guides and other hunters and attempt to determine what the hunting conditions have been for the last day or two. One thing I’ll be extremely cautious about is not to give a lot of credibility to negative comments from other hunters as the lodge. There are two reasons for this. First negative comments will dampen my enthusiasm for the hunt, and secondly many people don’t see deer due to their lack of hunting skills. And, whether I take a deer or not won’t determine whether or not I return to that same facility. If I’ve had a good place to hunt and good food, and the lodge and hunting have been as promised, then I’ve had a good outdoor experience. If I feel that I’ve had a chance to take a nice deer too, then I’ll go back.”

For more deer-hunting tips, get John E. Phillips’ Kindle eBooks "How to Hunt Deer Like a Pro,”
How to Hunt Deer Up Close: With Bows, Rifles, Muzzleloaders and Crossbows,” and “PhD Whitetails: How to Hunt and Take the Smartest Deer on Any Property,” or to prepare venison, get “Deer & Fixings.” Click here on each, or go to, type in the name of the book, and download it to your Kindle, and/or download a Kindle app for your iPad, SmartPhone or computer.


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About the Author

John Phillips, winner of the 2012 Homer Circle Fishing Award for outstanding fishing writer by the American Sportfishing Association (ASA) and the Professional Outdoor Media Association (POMA), the 2008 Crossbow Communicator of the year and the 2007 Legendary Communicator chosen for induction into the National Fresh Water Hall of Fame, is a freelance writer (over 6,000 magazine articles for about 100 magazines and several thousand newspaper columns published), magazine editor, photographer for print media as well as industry catalogues (over 25,000 photos published), lecturer, outdoor consultant, marketing consultant, book author and daily internet content provider with an overview of the outdoors. Click here for more information and a list of all the books available from John E. Phillips.

Tomorrow: What Deer Guides Look for in a Deer Hunt at Another Lodge

Check back each day this week for more about "How to Book a Super White-tailed Deer Hunt” by John E. Phillips"

Day 1: How to Begin the Quest to Book a Super White-tailed Deer Hunt
Day 2: Information You Need to Book a Dream Deer Hunt
Day 3: What Deer Guides Look for in a Deer Hunt at Another Lodge
Day 4: Guides and Lodge Managers Want Quality Bucks to Hunt Rather Than Numbers of Bucks
Day 5: Game Managers and Guides Explain How the Deer Rut Impacts Your Hunting

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Entry 744, Day 2