by Daniel E. Schmidt
If you’re looking to hunt trophy whitetails, it’s really tough to beat the outfitting and leasing options in Buffalo County, Wisconsin.
And, if you give me the option, I will go with an outfitter every time. The price comparisons are negligible, and the the comfort of an outfitted hunt can’t be beat. That was the case this weekend as Deer and Deer Hunting videographer Nate Winters and I headed our truck west for the three-hour drive to the extreme western edge of our home state. It was the archery season opener, and our expectations were high.
We would be hunting with Mark Schuh, one of Buffalo County’s up-and-coming superstar outfitters. Mark owns and operates Schuhter’s Outpost just outside of Alma. This picturesque bluff country is the original “Land of Legends” when it comes to trophy whitetails. The unique slant of Schuh’s operation, however, is that he’s right on the Minnesota border, and he holds large land leases in both states. This allows the unique opportunity of taking an outfitted hunt and being able to kill two trophy bucks. Schuh makes this possible via his 2,500 acres of hunting grounds, plus the fact that he refuses to run a McDonald’s style business. He take very few hunters each year, which has paid off in a success rate of 68 percent and a kill opportunity rate of 82 percent for his hardcore customer base of trophy whitetail hunters.
“To me, it’s about quality, not quantity,” Schuh said as we unpacked at midday of opening day. “Plus, you have to hunt these deer only when the conditions are right.”
What that means here is that early season hunts are strictly limited to afternoon sits in tree stands located in transition zones from bedding to feeding areas.
Schuh is a diehard hunter himself, but (like any good outfitter) he does not hunt his properties when other hunters are in camp. “That’s not fair to my clients,” he said. “My No. 1 goal is to make sure every hunter gets a crack at a good buck.”
I found out how serious Schuh was about delivering on that promise when we walked to our stand for the first evening. The farm was breathtaking, but the setup was even more beautiful. It was an oak and hickory draw surrounded by lush alfalfa and cornfields. The draw was tucked about a half-mile off the road, and these deer had not been pressured for 10 months. Schuh did maintain a line of trail cameras in the area, but he positioned them in a way that would not alter natural deer movement.
The temperature was pushing 80 as we climbed to the stand. A stiff breeze helped ease the heat a bit, but what comforted me more is that Schuh had the tree stand placed in an ideal spot — the wind was pulling up the draw and hitting us in the face. Any deer coming toward the crop fields this evening would walk past us none the wiser that two camo blobs were perched 20-plus feet high in a white oak.
Yes, it certainly is a luxury to hunt from a stand that someone else has hung on prime land where deer are allowed to grow big. But the more I think about that, the more I think it is a much more cost-efficient way for many hunters to get a chance at harvesting a good buck. With today’s skyrocketing land and lease prices, it almost makes more sense to hunt through an outfitter. These types of hunts are ideal for the guy who simply doesn’t have the time needed to plant food plots, maintain a property, hang stands, etc. What’s more, a guy can enjoy a true deer camp atmosphere — an experience that fewer and fewer of today’s younger hunters even know exists.
Up next: Part 2: Getting Everything Dialed In