Today we have a special guest post from one of the most successful whitetail hunters in the Midwest, Don Higgins. Don has been tagging mature whitetails for years, as evidenced by the photo above (and below) and has been published widely across various hunting magazines. Now he’s sharing some of his whitetail wisdom with the Wired To Hunt Nation! – MK
By Don Higgins
The trend of whitetail hunters owning properties for the primary purpose of hunting has been with us for a while now. I think every whitetail hunter either owns a tract of land on which he hunts or wishes that he did. Land ownership seems to be the ultimate dream for many of us. It is a dream that has become reality for a growing legion of whitetail enthusiasts as each year more and more hunters “sign on the line” and take ownership of a tract of real estate that they hope will lead them to the kind of bucks that have thus far eluded them.
As is often the case, sometimes there is a sobering moment when dreams and reality come together like oil and water. Often times that new tract of land doesn’t produce the kind of hunting results that its new owner expected. This commonly leads them to think they must be doing something wrong and sometimes leads them to seek out “professional” help to get the most from their property and time spent in the woods. In recent years “whitetail consultants” have popped up to help those whose whitetail hunting results do not match their goals or those hunters looking to take their hunting success and the habitat on their properties to a higher level.
A few years ago, due to my magazine articles detailing my hunting success and the habitat work I was involved with, I started getting requests from hunting property owners to advise them on their properties. I decided to seize the opportunity and began offering my services as a whitetail consultant. I believe that my experiences have made me uniquely qualified to offer a bit of advice to anyone looking to hire a whitetail consultant to either improve their hunting success or improve the quality of the whitetail habitat on their property. The fact that I only offer this service on a limited basis coupled with my brutal honesty, which has been well documented, should ease your concerns if you suspect that this article is nothing more than a cleverly concealed sales pitch. The fact of the matter is, my goal here is to help landowners have a pleasant and satisfying experience should they decide to hire a whitetail consultant, whoever it is they hire. Every property and property owner is unique and ultimately it is you that will have to be the one to decide which consultant best suits your particular situation.
Let’s start by putting every whitetail consultant on an even playing field. Appearing on TV shows, writing magazine articles or having “Dr.” or some other letters before or after their name really doesn’t mean squat when it comes to helping you achieve better results on your land. You can fall for the hype or glamour of hiring a “big name” but that doesn’t necessarily mean you will end up with any better results. It also does not mean that those who fit any part of the above description should be eliminated from your list of possible consultants. Just don’t use these factors to give someone undue credibility.
The first thing that I suggest a landowner consider when hiring a consultant is the geographic region their property is located and the region the consultant is from. It makes no sense to me for a landowner in say Georgia to hire someone from the Midwest to come in and advise them. I don’t care how much traveling a consultant has done; they will be best suited to advise others in their own region. Why would you expect someone from a different part of the country to show up and advise you on killing mature bucks in your area when he has likely never done it himself? And if he has, it was likely with an outfitter or something other than a “real world” situation. Stick with someone who has decades of real world experience and success in your region of the country and avoid those “go anywhere” types. By eliminating all consultants who do not reside in your region of the country you can quickly whittle down the list of potential candidates by 75% or more. This quickly gets your number of potential candidates down to a manageable level where you can closely evaluate each one.
The next step requires you to determine what your primary goal is and reason for hiring a consultant. If your goal is to tag more mature bucks, you should look at the hunting success of consultants who are from your region. Again, how can you expect someone to advise you on killing mature bucks on your land if he has rarely done it himself on his? As a landowner you are able to manage your land and the habitat on it in ways that a non-landowner never can. Thus, why would you hire a consultant who does not even own his own hunting land? Skills, including hunting land management skills, are developed over many years. Look closely at potential consultants as simply looking at ones hunting success can be misleading. Did they do it on their own and on their own property? If that is what you are trying to do, you should find a consultant who has done exactly that.
If your goal is to improve the quality of the habitat on your property, look for a consultant with a lot of experience in that area. There is a lot more to creating quality whitetail habitat than simply hinge-cutting trees to create bedding cover. Maybe you want someone to design a plan for your property and then do the work to implement the plan. If that is the case you need to be looking at a consultant with the knowledge, experience, equipment and manpower to get it done in a way that is satisfactory to you.
My experiences have revealed what I consider questionable practices by some consultants that I would advise landowners to be aware of. A consultant can only do his best work at specific times of the year. Winter and early spring are the ideal times for consulting visits. The woods are devoid of foliage and it is much easier to get an accurate “picture” of a property and the whitetail movement patterns on it. I strongly caution anyone to avoid those consultants who would visit their property at a time of year when the trees are leafed out and thick vegetation makes it impossible to see all that is there.
In a nutshell, pick a consultant from your region of the country whose experience and success closely mirrors what you are trying to accomplish. It goes without saying that you should check references before hiring anyone. Beware of anyone who claims to be “the best” or have “secrets” to be revealed only after you pay them. The truth of the matter is that there is no one “best” consultant for all situations. There are several quality consultants who will give you your money’s worth and then some, but the best consultant for a landowner in Georgia will be different than the best consultant for a landowner in Michigan. It is up to you to ask a few important questions and decide which one is right for you.
Don Higgins is a freelance outdoor writer whose articles have appeared in all of the major whitetail and bowhunting magazines. He has also authored 2 popular books on whitetail hunting. Information on his books or his whitetail consulting services can be found on his website – www.higginsoutdoors.com