So as most of you know I came across this ad on craigslist for a hunting trip to a high fenced ranch with exotics. The details are 350.00 - BOW ONLY - includes Friday afternoon, Saturday morning, Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning. You are allowed to kill: 1 whitetail doe, 1 whitetail spike, 1 blackbuck doe, 1 hog, and 1 turkey (if seen).
Sounded like a great deal, but was a little concerned because it sounded too good. Well it was a good trip but was not as well. I will explain...
I arrived Friday as instructed at 2pm, and we geared up to go out to the blind at 2:30. I was dropped off at a ground blind, and I asked if there was a tree stand or a raised blind at this same feeder to shoot from. I was then informed he doe snot allow raised blinds or tree stands due to insurance reasons of potential falls (which makes a little sense , but makes bow hunting harder at ground level and A LOT EASIER to be spotted when drawing the bow back for a shot at 15 to 20 yards, which is how far the blinds were from his feeders.)
I assumed since we got out at 2:30 pm the feeders went off between 3:30 and 4pm to give time before dark. However, to my surprise, I was informed that they do not go off until 5:15pm; this would only allow about 45 mins of kill time after the feeders go off - seems a like a short window. So I got out to the blind and about an hour later a small whitetail fawn comes out and started searching for left over corn from the morning, then goes off into the brush to hang out I suspect. Then about 30 mins after that a nice blackbuck male (not allowed to shoot) comes out to check things out. This was pretty cool to see, as this was my first time seeing one. Just after that the fawn doe came back out to hang out with the blackbuck, then they both left.
Well the feeder went off at 5:25pm and the fawn came right back out and started eating. A note about the feeder, maybe a hand full or two of corm came out when it went off at the most (expected a little more to come out). The fawn made quick work of the corn that was there and then booked out. Now the fawn was more of a teenager than a young fawn, but not real big, and since this was my first evening I did not want to waste my whitetail tag on a small doe. Before you knew it the 30 min window after the feeder went off was over and nothing else had come in, and right at 6pm on the dot the ranch owner was there to pick us up. One note about this, is he has a big diesel truck which you can hear all over the 120 acre ranch, which I am sure the deer are used to it, but at the same time when they hear that I am sure they associate it with hunters (I would have assumed he had another from of transportation to take hunters around the property).
We then went to pick up the other hunter from his blind, and he informed us that he shot a small doe. He then showed us where his arrow hit, and where he said the doe ran off to. Now... he was using a 2 blade rage broadhead.... Those do some damage, and have a GOOD blood trail... There was NOT ONE drop of blood anywhere within a 20 yard radios of the spot where he said he had hit the doe. We then spent 45 mins in the dark searching the woods around that feeder without a blood trail. Finally the ranch owner asked him, are you 100% sure you hit him? And the guy said YEAH I SMACKED HIM, but could not tell us where on the deer he "smacked him". He then asked him one more time is he was positive that he hit him, and the hunter said yes. So the ranch owner called it as a lost animal and charged him his doe tag haha - Good call on his part. But I don't think he ever hit the doe.
We got back to the small lodge on property (which you cannot stay in, because he occupies it during the hunts, so you have to drive back to town which is a good 30 min drive to a small motel.) And he informed us to be back at the ranch by 5:30am. You would think he would do it the other way around for the paying customers, or at least for an extra charge, but maybe I am expecting too much here.
The next morning I arrived at 5:20am and he was waiting for me there in his kitchen window and came out to greet me. We sat and talked about the evening's hunt while we were waiting on the other hunter. By 6am the hunter still had not shown up, so he took me out to my blind so I would be in good position when the feeders went off at 7:20am (which is a great time for the morning feeder to go off).
I got to the blind and about 30 mins later it was still dark, and I heard some movement and some crunching around the feeder of the left over spots of corn from the night before. I could see a shadow walk in and out of the feeder all the way until shooting light at 7am, and then noticed it was the same fawn as the evening before. Then at 7:20 the feeder went off right on time, but the same small amount of corn. This time 4 good sized whitetail does walked out along with the fawn. YES!!!! However they seemed VERY VERY VERY skiddish, every time the trees crackled from the breeze they jumped a bit. At this time I had regretted wearing my rain jacket (foretasted 60% chance of rain). Once they all got to a spot to where they were semi comfortable and not looking directly at my blind I drew back... My jacket made a small noise, but being at 15 yards this was plenty to get their attention. Here is where being on the ground and bow hunting fails... They all looked directly at me and that gave me about a 2 second window to make the shot, which I could not cleanly line up and they all took off. I was PISSED at myself for making noise, but I was as quiet as I could be. The fawn actually stuck around and did not care, but like I said before I did not want to waste my tag on such a small deer.
The group actually came back about 30 mins later and every step they took they lifted their head and looked at me to see if I was moving. I did try to draw again, but before I even finished raising my bow slowly they booked out again (not returning a 3rd time). It was at this point where I decided if the fawn came back I would go ahead and take it and then try for one of the other species I could shoot. Then about 8:55am the fawn did come back but was not clearly out in the open. At 9am on the dot I heard the big diesel coming through the gate and the gate creak open from about 600 yards away, it was then I knew I would not have a shot at the fawn. I did not realize the "morning hunt ended at 9am."
He picked me up and asked how I did, and I told him what had happened, and he said they must have winded you and that's why they were so skiddish - I agree to an extent, but my clothes were fresh, and heavily scent guarded (even my equipment is). Then he suggested I move blinds for the afternoon since they made me at that blind which I agreed. So I asked what time we go back out, and he said 3pm.... I said so what am I supposed to do for 5 to 6 hours? He said to drive into town and get lunch and take a nap.... I said I did not just drive 4 hours to eat lunch and nap in a motel room, I came to hunt. He said they bed down during the day and there is no point in being out there (as he is saying this I am seeing his deer roam around as we are driving back to the front gate). And then I said since I am the only one here can we do a spot and stalk, or instead of sitting at a feeder, since they do not go off in the middle of the day, can I sit on a trail they use and see if I can catch them moving to their beds? He then gave me some excuses and pretty much said no. At this point we saw a downed blackbuck male and stopped to check it out.. It looked like it had gotten in a fight because its neck was broken, and it was fresh. We the put it in the truck.
So I went in town and got lunch and came back (as I was not really tired enough for a "nap") He was cleaning the blackbuck when I got back to mount the head in his lodge. He then asked me if I wanted a picture with it because it was an exotic, and of course I said yes. After he took the picture he said he was going to send it to some people saying "killed this weekend." - It was killed yes, but not by a hunter...
So I watched him finish up and by this time it was 2pm so he took me out to the other (pop up) blind a little early. This blind was a little better (25 yards away) from the feeder and a little more secluded. Which I was happy with. Nothing came through at all until the feeder went off at 5:15pm which gave 45 mins of shooting opportunity. The only thing that came through were axis deer, black buck males, and NICE red deer, and a nice axis male (all not allowed to shoot for this trip.) So at 6pm he arrived to pick me up and asked what I had shot, and I told him what had come in, and he said at least you saw some cool stuff.
The next morning (Sunday - today)- he took me out to the blind I was at the first evening and Saturday morning. Same thing, about 5:30 I heard crunching then it stopped (I am assuming the left over corn was gone). At this point it was sleeting pretty heavily. 8:30am came and not one sighting of anything besides a bird. So I called it (as I was having ice gather on my gear and clothes. and had him come get me. (all the corn still there). His response was that they must have winded me again in the background and never came into the feeders. Maybe they did, but I did not even see any in the distance trying to work theri way in, maybe they sleet held them off.
So all in all, I could not even shoot anything in a high fenced pen hunt.. . makes me feel like a terrible hunter haha
Overall, I think the idea is great, and he has some NICE very shootable exotics if you want to pay the exotic prices. But I just think he has some major kinks to work out of his operation. He really needs to ad some raised blinds for the bows, and I think his deer are hunted so much they are super skiddish. He also needs to find another way to transport his clients to the blinds besides his BIG diesel truck, something a little less noticeable. He also needs to allow more time at the blinds, more feed when the feeder goes off and 2 extra times the feeders go off.
I would say get there at 1pm Friday afternoon, in the blind by 1:30, then the feeder goes off at 3pm with more corn, OR same amount and then it goes off again at 5pm - this way the sound of the feeder works as a call as well; double opportunities if the first group takes off or leaves the area and a new group migrates in.
Then in the mornings, the feeder goes off at 7:20am and then again 9:30am and then you stay out there until 11am.. This will give you a 2 hour window to have lunch - which should be prepared in the lodge: sandwiches , chips and small drinks would be perfect as you don't need anything fancy.
At the end of the night you should be able to stay int he lodge itself, which should be offered as an addition to the price for 50 a night would be acceptable.
With these small adjustments and changes I think he could have a really good operation on his hands. Videos of my two days below... SORRY FOR THE BOOK!!!
Am I right or am I just a grouch?DAY 1 DAY 2