Whitetail outfitters are in the business of making hunters’ dreams come true. However, some folks fail to realize how much time and effort goes into making that happen. To learn more about what it’s like to make your money through a deer hunting operation, I spoke with Tim Clark of Red Dog Outfitters. His insight might make you more grateful for whitetail guides and what they go through to deliver top-notch service to their clients. Or, it might make you want to embark on a hunting career of your own.

Off Season Doesn’t Exist

According to Clark, an outfitter’s season never really ends. Clark said, “In the wintertime we’re usually re-doing our mineral sites, scouting, trying to see [which bucks are] left over, checking trail cameras, generally just kind of recouping and getting ready for show season. Our show season starts in January. We start our expos from coast to coast from about January until April.”

Clark went on to say that last year he spent over 60 days on the road during show season, a number he hopes to drop to 40 days this year based on the number of pre-bookings for the 2017 season. Clark said, during show season “you wake up to voice mails that were left overnight from different time zones and you go to bed talking to people, whether on the phone or in person at trade shows. It’s all day, every day.”

Many Species Means More Work

Like many whitetail guides, Clark leads hunters to other species of game as well. For him, that means coordinating snow goose hunts in Nebraska, while, at the same time, scouting and preparing for turkey season in Kansas. His hard work pays dividends for his turkey hunting clients. Clark said, “Last year, we went seven for seven on opening day by eleven o’clock.”

On the whitetail front, Clark spends his spring putting out minerals, looking for sheds (while taking care not to bump turkeys), and looking for big-bodied animals. Clark said, “We focus on deer all year long.”

Summertime and the Living Ain’t Easy

Clark said that summertime is one of his busiest times of year. Throughout the course of the summer he spends time “chasing deer, putting up trail cameras in new spots, looking for new leases, putting up new treestands, working deals to get new treestands, putting new straps on old stands, and assessing a lot of damage (trees that have fallen over, stands that have gotten crushed.) We run close to 80 cameras and checking those is a full time job in itself and we check them weekly. We try to hone in on those deer that are going to be showing promise for the fall and do a lot of social media work on Instagram.”

When asked about the type of hours required to complete all this summertime work, Clark said, “When you figure in phone calls, it’s a 12-14 hour a day job.” He was also quick to point out that “a lot of it doesn’t feel like work. When you’re out checking a trail cam and you’re sitting in the shade checking out huge bucks that are popping up on your camera, it doesn’t feel like you’re waiting for the clock to ring for lunch. There’s a sense of satisfaction to it like with no other job I’ve ever had. It’s probably one of the busier times of year, but it’s one of my favorites.”

Here Comes Hunting Season

Once hunting season hits, Clark describes his days as “organized chaos.” The day starts with preparation of a “grab and go breakfast” that consists of muffins, fruit, and other healthy foods that will keep hunters in their stands until at least 11 a.m. After his hunters are dropped off, Clark heads to the café to check cards pulled from trail cameras near the hunters’ stands and waits for the phone to ring. He said, “Usually if the phone rings before 9:30, it’s a good thing. So, that will cut off all of the other things I was doing and I’ll have to go in and help retrieve.” Clark will usually start picking up hunters around 11:00, then it’s back to camp for lunch. Around this time Clark said he’s fielding a lot of phone calls from other camps. He said, “It’s non-stop all day -- and that’s without deer dropping. When deer start dropping, then it’s gets busier, but the next day is less stressful.” Clark’s hunters are back in their stands by 2:00, when he resumes his waiting for the phone to ring routine. Dinner consists of “a bunch of hunting stories and camaraderie. Then it’s off to bed at ten or eleven and back up at four or five.”

How’s the Hunting?

Some folks think that whitetail guides have it easy when it comes to killing a buck of their own, but Clark said that’s not the case. Speaking of his long days spent with clients, Clark said, “When it’s over, the last I want to do is hunt. I try to get my hunting done early. I still love hunting, but between muzzleloader, archery, and rifle in two states, I don’t know many guys who still want to go out and sit in a treestand, especially when it’s the middle of the December, it’s negative 12, and it’s blowing 20 mile-per-hour winds.”

Besides hunting early season whitetails, Clark scratches the hunting itch by hunting hogs with his son prior to spring turkey season. He said, “I tend to find a time to slip in the hunting for me and still enjoy the outdoors before I get burnt out.”

Finding Time for Family

Clark’s operation is a family affair. His son often accompanies him while he’s out on his daily rounds while his wife stays at camp and prepares lunch and dinner for the hunters. Clark said of his arrangement, “If anything, it brings us together, because we do everything together.”

Ride the Rollercoaster of Emotions

Clark said the hardest part about guiding whitetail hunters is the wounds and the misses. “We have a strict bloody arrow policy. If you stick one, you’re done. As a deer manager, I have to manage the herd for [the hunter] coming next week.” Clark was also quick to admit that misses and wounded animals can happen to anyone stating that, “I wounded a deer this year on my first day in Colorado. I never found him and I burnt my tag on him.”

Outside of what happens in hunting camp, Clark said that social media backlash is a seriously negative part of being a hunting guide. Negative comments posted by anti-hunters, and hunters alike, are annoying fact of life. Clark said, “I try to avoid that. That’s kind of one of those things that you can opt out of, but I have hard time opting out.”

Success is Sweet

Clark said the best part about being a whitetail outfitter was “helping people get their best animal and helping dreams come to life on realistic animals. Getting a guy coming in who’s never seen a 120” [buck] in his life from New Jersey and he shoots a 140” [buck] and he’s just almost in tears. That excitement is so contagious. That’s why I do it. That’s by far the most rewarding part of the actual job itself.”

To book a hunt with Red Dog Outfitters visit www.guidefitter.com/reddogoutfitters

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