I do agree with BW that the hunting was poor last year, but the points he brings up to question my moral character/ethics are addressed in this detailed response and the reason for my “disagree” response to his review.
BW and his partner both hunted hard and were very pleasant guys to guide. BW did all of the research before purchasing the hunt, talked to me directly several times, checked references, etc. To his point on what I "hyped": I disclosed to BW that 2011 was our first year on this ranch and they would be the second group of hunters in there (2 hunters the week before, they would be the only two their week). I also disclosed that we'd be hunting 14,000 acres of private land in one of New Mexico's high demand units (unit 12), where the history on the ranch and unit is undisputed (hunters have killed many large bulls, usually see good numbers, experience high success/opportunity rates). I also informed BW that “killing a 300 inch bull has not been a problem in the past for a large majority of the rifle hunters (90% or so of recent hunters were killing/passing these types of bulls), and that there was no reason I wouldn’t expect that trend to continue.” I was/am very confident in the property as I know what has taken place on there in years past. We have a policy of “selling” our hunts by basically informing potential clients of the ranch/hunt history, our experiences guiding on it (if applicable), and our expectations for the hunt. It is then up to the client to decide if that is what he/she is looking for.
To the trail camera pictures point: We ran 7-8 cams on the ranch starting in June. I disclosed to BW that there will probably not be too many bulls living on the ranch during the summer (mostly cows), the bulls are off in their summer spots and normally start showing up in August/September as this property is typically a rutting grounds, and therefore trail cam pictures will probably be boring until then. When we check all 20 or so of our cams throughout our different leases, we post the pictures on our website and let all our clients know that the latest trail cameras are up, I do not break up the posted pictures by ranch on the website. I sent BW ranch specific pictures on September 25th. The email contained several pictures of the best bulls I had so far on the specific ranch, which by no means where a bunch of monster bulls, but not just "small raghorns" as suggested. Included in that group of pictures was a 280 type 6x6, a 290 type 6x6, and a 320 type 6x6. We have not guided on public land in the past, and do not have any cameras set up on public, so I am not sure where BW's statement of "found out that the photos he sent were from other "Public Land" properties that they guide on..." comes from, but is undoubtedly a false claim.
There is no dispute that the hunt for BW and his partner was disappointing from an elk activity standpoint. Elk bugling was almost non-existent and sighting of elk were few and far between that week. I had guided hunters the week prior on the ranch and even though there was some decent bugling with one guy killing a 335 bull and the other missing a 340 class bull, the hunting in 2011 certainly seemed "off". We later confirmed "very tough" elk hunting conditions with many other outfitters and hunters in New Mexico in 2011, so we feel this was not ranch specific. As stated by BW, he did have a chance at a 6x6 bull, which by no means suggests that the hunt was great, I just want to clear up the details about his encounter. BW was hunting from an elevated shooting house that evening and told me where the bull came out, where he went, how far, etc. when I picked him up that evening. The bull was not on the neighbor’s ranch and in an exact area we hunted and walked in the previous two mornings. BW told me the bull and cows were filtering in and out of the 250-300 yard range for the last 30 minutes or so of shooting light, and he described the bull as a 280-300 inch 6x6, decent fronts and thirds, weak back end. I believe I have a trail cam picture of the bull and I had him around 290, BW was right on with his estimate. It was his call/right to pass the bull (it was the second evening), but in my opinion a very reasonable opportunity at a decent bull and NOT on another property. I am not saying he should have killed that bull as our policy is hunters can shoot or not shoot at whatever they want, but not quite the paltry opportunity eluded to in the review. The statement that his partner “never saw an animal during the hunt,” is false, I was standing next to his partner when we saw several elk on four different occasions.
BW and his partner did express their disappointment in the hunt before taking off the afternoon of their last day, I expressed my disappointment as well. BW’s partner asked if we’d consider discounting a future hunt if they wanted to hunt with us again. I replied to the inquiry with, “we would make it right with them,” thinking a future discount was certainly reasonable/appropriate to continue the business relationship. When I received their letter a month later, they left me two distinct options: (A.) A free hunt for both on the same property (they would have to be assured the earliest/more expensive time frame slots), or (B.) A full refund for both of them. I did respond by stating that a refund or free hunt was not possible, but I did state in that document that our consideration of a discount on a future hunt still stands, in which I believed would help “make it right.” Obviously, our counteroffer was not a full refund or free hunt, but certainly not the “NOTHING” that BW chose to highlight in his review. I did not receive a reply.
We take pride in the services we provide so I apologize for the long response. Again, I understand BW’s disappointment in the hunt and the desire to let others know of their experience with us by writing this review. My detailed response is to share our side as to let the reader try to form an unbiased opinion of us and the matter. The “poor lack of business ethics” statement is personally tough to swallow. Unfortunately, the review contains false/unclear statements as to support the “lack of ethics” claim which I have hoped to address. Thanks for taking the time to read this.
Jeff Urban SureWest Custom Hunts