The trip was long, but our anticipation was high. After all, we’d gotten a smoking deal on a DIY Texas hog hunt. No outfitters. No big lease. Just a flat day rate for full use of a 5,000-acre ranch. All do-it-yourselfers at heart, we were thrilled to be heading to the Lone Star State with four wheelers, corn, bows, rifles and a litany of other DIY hog gear.

Our anticipation and hopes were dashed upon our arrival. Not only were we given bad directions, but the owner of the ranch had forgotten how much money he had told us he was going to charge per day and thought we were coming to hunt turkeys. In addition, after collecting the remaining amount of money we owed him, he quickly pointed out that we needed to stay out of all but about 1,000 acres of the ranch. He didn’t say why, he just pressed the fact hard that we weren’t welcome on the remaining 4,000 acres – acres with food plots and ideal pig habitat. We later discovered, after he’d gotten slobbering drunk and his lips began to flap, that he’d leased the other 4,000 acres to a firm out of Texas. In his drunkenness, he also told us, “I don’t care. Go ahead and hunt it. Those guys won’t be here anyway.” We were all ready to pack up and leave.

Needless to say our trip was a bust. Not only did we waste a lot of money on gas, food and preparation, but we also lost our deposit and the money the man demanded up front upon our arrival. In truth, it was our fault. Looking back at the Craigslist ad, we should have known better. There were multiple red flags – red flags you need to keep a keen eye peeled for before committing to a Craigslist hunt.

Note: I have experienced great “Craigslist” hunting, so don’t let the above totally turn you off to the idea. These are just a few notes to keep in mind when exploring a Craigslist hunting ad.

Payment? 

1. Always take a second to look at the seller’s preferred method of payment. If the ad notes that personal checks and cash are preferred, that’s a good thing. What’s even better is if the ad instructs you to send a personal check deposit and then pay the remaining amount upon arrival or after the hunt is completed. Stay away from ads that note preferred methods of payment as Western Union or MoneyGram. Also, avoid those that request a cash deposit. These ads are likely bogus.

Scope It Out!

2.  Take a step back from your excitement and planning to really scope out the ad. This is one area where we really dropped the ball. Ask yourself the     following questions: Is it written intelligently? Does it flow? Does Google Maps recognize the address provided? Does someone answer the phone number provided? And when they do answer, are they willing to answer your questions about the hunt? If you get a lot of “ums” and “oh, you knows” from them, alarms should start ringing in your head.

References Are A Must! 

3. A legit Craigslist hunt ad will list references for you to contact or provide the ad placer’s number so that you can contact him/her for references. If there are no references listed or the ad placer is reluctant to provide you with any, walk away. We didn’t, and you already know how that worked out for us. In addition, it’s also a good idea to run the ad placer’s name or business name through popular archery forums like Archery Talk and Bowsite. Often, you will find threads started by other hunters who’ve hunted with the ad placer.

If It Seems Too Good To Be True…

4. Finally, and this is where we really fell short, use good old common sense. There’s something to that “If it seems too good to be true, then it probably is” saying. If the price of the hunt seems outrageously cheap, that’s an immediate red flag. If you get a bad feeling when you talk to the ad placer, don’t let your “want” outweigh your intuition. If something just doesn’t feel right, it’s probably because it isn’t right.

Booking a hunt on Craigslist isn’t a bad thing, and I’m not trying to discourage you from using this tool. There are numerous land owners, land managers and outfitters out there who use this tool to market to a number of hunters, and those hunters have a pleasant experience. However, just as in all faucets of life, there are bad apples out there just trying to make a fast buck. Don’t become their prey. Heed the tips above to avoid these sketchy characters.