Maybe homework wasn’t your favorite thing when you were a kid, but if you are booking a hunt, good research can make all the difference between the experience of your dreams and an expensive disappointment. Here are a few tips to help you make the best plan for that once-in-a-lifetime hunting experience!

1. Define your focus. Start by deciding on a species and the general geographic location in order to narrow your search. Don’t be afraid to change your mind if you turn up a better option. Assuming you’ve decided on deer, a good resource for information is the Quality Deer Management Association’s annual Whitetail Report. This report gives you a comprehensive and up-to-date summary of nationwide deer harvest information, including both overall deer kills and proportion of yearling and mature bucks taken in each state.

2. Talk to a friend. You probably have friends or acquaintances who share your passion for hunting. Chances are some of them have booked a hunt. Ask them about their experiences, good and bad. Their recommendations can be a great start (or finish) to finding your ideal outfitter.

3. Research outfitters. We can’t emphasize enough, not all advertising is legit! Some places post fake ads—don’t be taken in. Check websites to be certain outfitters have the type of facilities you are looking for. Speak with the outfitter either on the phone, or better yet, in person at a sportsman’s show.

4. Ask lots of questions. Prepare a list. You can’t ask too many questions! Find out how many clients the outfitter runs per year and what percentage are repeat customers. Ask if there’s any equipment (such as safety harness or seat cushion) you are expected to provide. Ask how many hunting days you’ll have, and make sure you’re absolutely clear on exactly what’s included in your package (get details!). And of course, ask about the cost.

5. Get reliable references. This is important: ask for a list of references. Any reliable outfitter will be happy to provide the names of hunters, successful and unsuccessful, that you can contact for information.

— Look for testimonials and personal stories on the website.

— Check reviews on Facebook and Google.

As you read reviews, consider the overall experience the outfitter provided, not just the success of the harvest.

6. Check harvests from previous years. Yes, the most important thing is the hunt experience itself, but you also want the best odds of harvesting a trophy animal. Successful outfitters gladly provide harvest information for several previous seasons. Don’t be afraid to ask, and be sure to check websites for pertinent information.

As you consider your options, remember your friends here at Oak Creek are always available to answer whatever questions you may have. It would be our pleasure to help you plan the memorable hunting experience of your dreams!