Plan ahead and ask a few questions to locate the right hunting lodge for this season.
All across the state, many hunting lodges or reserves are available for different types of hunts. These lodges can, for a certain fee, provide quality hunts to accommodate any hunter. Deer and turkey hunts are probably the most common types. But quail, duck and goose hunts are also available in different regions of the state.
Even though summer lingers and hunting season seems far away, now is the time to plan your hunt. Some lodges book up early, so getting a jump-start on the season is not a bad idea.
Most lodges require a small deposit payment to reserve a spot. Booking early ensures you have the prime hunting date you desire.
Scouting for a Lodge
Hunters seeking a lodge should first decide what type of game they plan to hunt. Some lodges and outfitters specialize in one or two types of game. Their prices can vary. It depends on whether an archery or gun hunt is planned. And certain dates around the rut for that particular lodge can be higher.
Next, look at the accommodations and the amenities offered by the lodge. Some may provide for a hunting location only. Others furnish meals, sleeping quarters, and guides along with the hunt. Not having to worry about preparing meals is a plus. Hunters can focus on the hunt and enjoy their time at the lodge.
Check what type of schedule the lodge operates on. Most offer a morning and afternoon hunt with a break around lunch time. Others may provide all-day hunts with only a sack lunch to carry afield. Choose a lodge that allows you to arrive the day or night before your hunt begins. This will give you time to get settled in and prepare for the hunt the following day.
“We provide a three-day hunt that includes mornings and afternoons,” says Susan Hammond, events coordinator with Master Rack Lodge near Union Springs, Ala. “Hunters can take a buck (with antler restrictions) and a doe. But you can also hunt coyote and wild hogs.”
Hammond recommends booking your hunt early to get the best dates possible. Some hunters book six months in advance and even earlier. According to Hammond, opening weekend and the beginning of the rut are some of the most popular dates for her lodge.
Hunters should verify the rules of the lodge and hunting restrictions. Some lodges will consider the hunt complete if you draw blood from a shot animal and it is not recovered. Also, some hunts are guided with a guide or tracker alongside. The more common hunts are semi-guided. This is where a hunt master or guide takes you to your stand or shooting house and returns at a predetermined time to bring you back to the lodge.
“All of our hunts are semi-guided,” says John Lanier of Bent Creek Lodge in Jachin, Ala. “We will direct the hunters to their stand and help them get their deer out.”
Lanier explains they will go over the hunting rules and the antler size restrictions before hunters head to the stand sites. They will also review hunting and shooting safety before the hunts.
Ask Questions in Advance
One way to locate reputable lodges and guides is to ask other hunters who have been there. Even if you don’t know their clients, many lodges will provide references to call or offer to e-mail your questions. Hunting blogs and specialty Web sites can also provide other contacts and comments about the lodge.
“Make sure you understand all the rules of the lodge and the hunting requirements,” advises Wesley Fielder of Talladega, Ala. “The lodge guide will usually go over the rules before the hunt.”
Your hunting buddies who have visited a lodge or hunted out of state can give you some vital tips and information. They can tell you what to expect on the hunt and about their experience. Also, check with the local Chamber of Commerce office or the area convention and visitor bureau in the region you plan to hunt or fish. These folks will not steer you wrong because they want you and your friends to come back.
Ask about how many persons are allowed on each hunt. Some lodges load up their stands and cover every square foot of the property. Others, however, may only allow a few hunters at a time and rotate stand sites throughout the hunt. Some properties may have overhunted the area on earlier hunts.
“We do not overhunt our property,” Hammond says. “We want everyone to have a great time. Our saying is, you only have to eat, sleep and hunt.”
Question whether or not trophy fees apply to any game taken. Some outfitters charge an extra fee for large bucks or turkeys. Also, check with the conservation department about the lodge / outfitter if they have had any violations in recent years. Some may try to skirt the law to help you fill your tag.
Some Costs Not Included
You want the surprise to be a trophy buck or giant long-bearded turkey, not another case for cash. Check about game processing fees. Also, if you don’t want the meat, can it be donated without an extra charge? Generally, most lodges will assist in getting your game prepared to take home for a nominal fee. Too, don’t forget about tips for your guide, driver and cook.
Some lodges allow for extra tags and hunting days, if available. Check ahead of time to see if the lodge or outfitter can provide additional game tags or hunts for other types of game. Some hunting lodges in south Alabama want hunters to shoot wild hogs, coyotes and other predators and don’t charge an extra fee. Other lodges may do an add-on hunt for hogs, coyote or other game for a nominal fee.
Going Out of State
Crossing the state line for a hunt requires a little more planning. The first thing to do is submit for a license. Some states operate on a draw basis and others use a point system for non-resident hunters. Many western states begin their hunting license registration during the spring for the following fall.
Hunters headed out of state should check with the conservation/game and fish division in the state you plan to hunt. Much of the information can be gathered online. Outfitters and guides can also help fill in any gaps and answer any questions about regulations, hunting conditions and other requirements.
If traveling by air, check with your airline and obtain their requirements for firearms and/or archery gear for transport. Most require firearms be in a hard shell, lockable gun case. When driving to your lodge in another state, check with conservation officials to see if firearms are required to be cased. In some states, firearms must be inside a case when traveling.
While hunting lodges may not be for everyone, they can and do offer a different aspect of hunting and various game animals. Hunting lodges are a great getaway from your normal hunting routine. Hunters can enjoy a special hunt and fellowship with family and friends.