Is an Outfitted Big-Game Hunt Right for You?

A top-notch outfitted big-game hunt isn’t cheap, but in the author’s opinion it’s often well worth the price.

Is an Outfitted Big-Game Hunt Right for You?

I know that DIY hunting on public land is all the rage these days. Which I get, big time. I cut my teeth doing just that. And with hundreds of millions of acres of public hunting land available across the nation, opportunity abounds for the hunter willing to put in the time planning, scouting and giving himself enough time to make it happen.

Public land hunting isn’t what it used to be, though. Back in the day, licenses and tags were available over-the-counter in most states for deer, elk, pronghorn, bears and other species. Today, out West but also some of the “glamour” whitetail states, while there are a few no-draw, archery-only hunts available, a high percentage of tags are on a draw, with bonus or preference points (sometimes a decade or more’s worth) required to draw. Which means, at least to me, that when I do draw a tag, I may not draw again for many years (if ever), so I want to maximize my chances. That’s when I seriously consider employing the services of an outfitter.

I’ve been on a gaggle of guided hunts over the years, all over the world. Some have been fabulous, some have been absolute horror stories, most have been what I would call average. I’ve been a hunting guide, too, so I know the drill from a guide’s and client’s perspective. The key is choosing the right outfitter for the hunt you want to make, and your own physical and financial limitations.

Last September I drew two Wyoming archery tags, one for pronghorn (easy to draw) and one for elk (I had four preference points). I booked both hunts with old friends, Scott and Angie Denny, who have owned Table Mountain Outfitters since 1996. You may have seen them on their long-running Sportsman’s Channel TV show, The Life. They both quit good jobs to follow their dream, taking a fledgling outfitting business and building it up to where today they successfully annually guide about 100 archery — and a lot more rifle — hunters for pronghorn, mule deer and elk, as well as hound hunters for black bears (Idaho) and cougars (Idaho and Wyoming).

Outfitters Scott and Angie Denny of Table Mountain Outfitters celebrate with another successful client.
Outfitters Scott and Angie Denny of Table Mountain Outfitters celebrate with another successful client.

Scott and Angie – and yes, both are outstanding hunting guides — primarily hunt the 200,000 private acres they have leased in Wyoming, although they also hunt over a million acres of public land in Idaho. On both my hunts, we were on leased land, which means lots of game and no other competition from other hunters. This lends itself to hunting animals that are not “scarified” of their own shadow, and also ensuring there are lots of mature animals to hunt. I’ve done the pronghorn hunt several times, and this year it was as it always is — they had 67 bowhunters, and 66 took home a buck. While I was there, one hunter shot at six different bucks over three days! That’s a pretty amazing success rate, and not unusual for their clients on this late-summer adventure.

My elk hunt was awesome. I killed a respectable 5x5 bull the second morning of a six-day hunt, all caught on camera for their TV show. Scott cow-called the bull away from a cruising herd, across a small creek, and up the hillside we were set up on. Angie and cameraman Kelly Lee Jr. were also there, and I shot the bull at 28 yards. It was super exciting! There were two hunters in camp the week before me; one killed a nice 6x6, and his dad missed twice with a crossbow. During my week, another nice 5x5 was killed, one guy hit a bull in the leg and never recovered it, and the other two hunters each missed, at 39 and 45 yards. In my short time afield, I saw well over 150 elk and approximately four dozen different bulls — a couple of them real dandies. For the season, every bowhunter, save one, in camp had a high-quality shot opportunity at a mature bull — which in fair chase elk bowhunting is off-the-charts good.

The Dennys also have the one characteristic essential for any top-end outfitter — they are as honest as the day is long. For example, they’ll tell you that while their hunting areas are loaded with game, they are not the place to come if you are looking for huge trophy bucks, bulls, or bears.

“If someone wants a 16-inch pronghorn, a 190-plus muley, or a 350 bull, we’re not the outfit for them,” Scott Denny said. “But if you want a great experience where you’ll see a ton of game and have a super-high chance at a quality shot at a mature animal, that’s us.”

Their trucks work, the accommodations are comfy, the terrain is relatively easy to hike, there’s more good food than you can eat, and their guides are all good folks that are, well, killers. They’ll also help you with the license and tag application process.

As for me, I’m building my Wyoming elk points again, as well as a few deer points so I can bowhunt Wyoming muleys with Scott and Angie. They have great hunting for top-notch bucks. You’ll probably see me in the pronghorn camp again, too.

Does that mean I’ve given up on DIY public land hunting? Absolutely not! But there are times when going outfitted just makes sense. For example, currently I have between 17-23 sheep points in five different states. If and when I do draw, going outfitted just makes sense. In my mind, that’s money well spent.

What about you? Do you have any stories, good or bad, on your experiences on outfitted hunts? I’d love to hear about them. Email me at editor@grandviewoutdoors.com and let me know.

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