John's Journal...

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

Day 4: Guides and Lodge Managers Want Quality Bucks to Hunt Rather Than Numbers of Bucks

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 ViewI next questioned a manager who once managed and guided at a south Alabama hunting lodge and had hunted all his life about what he’d look for in a quality hunting lodge. He told me, “I believe that the brochures and printed matter lodges put out will give you a good indication of the type of place you’ll be staying, and what you can expect at any lodge you choose. One of the things I particularly will look for in the printed matter is whether the deer herd I’ll be hunting is a quantity herd or a quality herd. By that I mean, are the chances really good that I’ll take some kind of deer at this lodge, or are the odds favorable that if I do take a buck, it may be a trophy?

“Given the choice of spending my money on a 5-day hunt and having the opportunity to see many deer – maybe several spikes and two or three 4 pointers – or spending my money on a 5-day hunt where I don’t see deer or the only deer I see is a big buck, I’ll go with the latter. Seeing a lot of deer isn’t as important to me as having the opportunity to take a trophy. I personally feel that besides the chance to take a big deer that I want good accommodations and good food. I’ll place a lot of importance on my phone conversation with the lodge manager. Most of these lodge managers know they’re talking to a one-time customer, however if they can deliver all they promise, then that same hunter may return year after year. So, I don’t believe a lodge manager who has been in business for very long will promise his hunters something he can’t produce in the form of a quality hunting experience, food, lodging and/or guides. My interview with the lodge owner will carry a lot of weight in my final decision as to where I will hunt.”

For more than a decade, my friend, David Morris, managed deer and hunters at a plantation in Georgia. A wildlife biologist and longtime white-tailed deer hunter, Morris tried to incorporate the best management practices he had observed first hand around the nation with the type of accommodations he enjoyed the most at his place.

Click for Larger ViewAccording to Morris, “My interest in deer hunting is in quality deer hunting. I’m not really concerned with bagging a deer as much as I am interested in bagging a big deer. For that reason, I’ll study the areas of the country that historically have produced some of the biggest whitetails to decide where I’ll hunt. I think the average sportsman has to ask one question first, ‘Am I searching for a place where I have the best chance of taking a deer, or am I looking for a place where I have the best opportunity to take a big deer?’ In that region, I’ll find outdoorsmen who have hunted that area before and maybe have worked out of hunting lodges there. If I can’t locate that information, then I’ll check-out the Where to Go sections in outdoor magazines and find lodges located in the places I’ve determined provide the best opportunity for me to take a trophy deer.

“In looking at lodges, my number-one determining factor as to whether I may or may not want to hunt there is how much land is available for hunters to hunt? A good hunting operation can be on as little as 3,000 acres. But more than likely, the best hunting will probably be on lands of 8,000 acres or more. Next, I want to determine the amount of hunting pressure on that land. To find this out, I’ll ask.
* “What size area do you have?
* “How many hunter days do you have available during the hunting season on your land?
* “What is the length of your season?
* “What is the average number of people you have in your lodge on any given day?
* “How many deer do you take each year?

“From that data I can pretty well tell how-much hunting pressure is on that land, and what kind of competition they have for their deer. What I’ll be looking for is a hunting operation that’s taking off no more than five or six bucks per square mile of property. If the lodge has a good deer population, say 35 to 45 deer per square mile, then I know that that hunting operation is carrying-over a good number of their bucks each season that aren’t being harvested.”

Other Critical Factors to Check Out:

Click for Larger ViewMorris also explains that, “Another critical factor to learn is the buck/doe ratio. If there are considerably more does than bucks on the region, and hunters are taking off five bucks per square mile, then the hunting operation may just about be taking all the bucks in that square mile, if the does far outnumber the bucks. By understanding how-much competition there is for the available bucks and roughly knowing what the age-class structure of the deer are, then I can better determine my chances of bagging a trophy deer. The more bucks that a hunting operation can carry-over each year, the older the bucks will be, and the better chance I’ll have of taking a trophy. The ideal situation is to have a place to hunt where 50 percent of the bucks in that region are more than 1-1/2-years old.

Click for Larger View“One false indicator that hunters may use to determine an area’s trophy capability is the number of 1-1/2-year-old bucks bagged each season on that hunting operation. The 1-1/2-year-old bucks are so easy to take in comparison to the deer that are 2-1/2-years old and older, that your harvest always will be skewed heavily toward your 1-1/2-year-old animals. Yet another critical factor is to find out what type of bucks have been taken in the past. Usually you can get this information from the brochure or from the lodge manager. This information will give you a fairly-good idea of the genetic potential of the herd. By that I mean if a deer lives long enough and has the genes to grow large enough, then the area has the capability of producing a trophy buck.”

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: Game Managers and Guides Explain How the Deer Rut Impacts Your Hunting

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 4