Hickory Creek OutfittersKansas
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I’ve been considering the best outlet for a lengthy review about my hunt with Hickory Creek Outfitters and decided that based on the other reviews on BowSite.com that this would be a good outlet.
The short story, I had a good trip, even though I was not successful. I hunted from sun up to sun down every day except for one where I came out to have a quick lunch due to the 30 + mph winds. I saw deer every day, and could have shot a deer that would have scored in the 120’s, but that’s not why I went to KS. Plenty of small bucks, I just never had one in front of me that would have met the minimum score.
Now the long story. I’ll start by saying that when my father, brother and myself decided that we were going to do a guided hunt in KS, I did my due diligence. I narrowed the choices down to a few outfitters, and called each one, asking the same questions each time. When I contacted Jeff, he had all the right answers and I was happy enough with our talks that we decided to go with HCO. When talking with him, I was sure to mention the only negative reviews I could find, one specifically from this site about 6 hunters per camp, and Jeff assured me that the only time he placed more than 6 guys per camp was that if it was a group which was OK with that arrangement, see the following link to a previous HCO review where Jeff even replies; “First off my website clearly states 6 hunters PER camp. And there is always room for more as long as the group booking that lodge is alright with it.”
This becomes important later.
We booked our hunt in late November, 11 months in advance of our hunt date. It says on the website that you can request a lodge, but we left it up to Jeff to put us in the right spot based on our needs. The only one being that my father needed access to some form of wifi, either at the camp, or through cell service. Certainly shouldn’t be an issue in this day and age, and it wasn’t.
Communication was good leading up to the hunt as HCO sent out the instructions for applications and licensing, and posted tons of trail cam pics on their Facebook page. The anticipation was great and the expectations were high, though none of us were sure what to expect since none of us had ever done a guided hunt before. We were instructed to check with Jeff 10 days before our hunt date to get our camp location.
Three weeks before our trip I talked to Jeff just to check in to see how things were looking, and to see if there were any other camps that he was running that weren’t on the website. He told me that the Fall River lodge wouldn’t be available due to it being for sale, but that they had secured another lodge and he had guys taking pictures of it that day that would be added to the site soon, though it has been two months and this still isn’t done. Jeff told me at this point that he was working on the schedule for the following week and that he had some issues with a group of hunters showing up on the wrong dates, and that finalizing the lodging was sometimes tricky. Red flag #1.
Two weeks before our trip I noticed that the HCO website was down for maintenance. I expected that this was to update the lodging page with the new camp, or maybe to post some new pictures. After three days the site was back up, with no noticeable changes that I could see, or that I expected to see.
I talked to Jeff again ten days out and he told us that we would be in the Duck Lodge. Red flag #2. The website says that this lodge is used for the duck hunting operations. I talked to him about this and he said that there were a lot of deer spots in and around that area so it wouldn’t be a problem. To be honest, at this point in time I was so amped about our trip that I just wanted to get there. Never mind the fact that the website says 4 bedrooms and 1 bath. Note that all the other lodges have at least 2 bathrooms.
We showed up to the lodge the day before our first hunt, unpacked our stuff and got our first look at the lodging. Nothing spectacular, a bit dirty and run down, but hey, it’s hunting camp and believe me I’ve stayed in worse.
A couple guys from Michigan showed up a short time later, and then we met our guide Trevor that afternoon. Trevor informed us he didn’t think that any other hunters would be showing up, and that he thought it would be just the five of us. He also mentioned that this is a good thing because for the week it was just him and a local guy that Jeff had hired to help him out. Red flag #3. Trevor said not to ask the local help too many questions as the guy wasn’t a big hunter and didn’t know the properties too well, only how to get there, so pretty much a taxi driver for the week. Most of the reviews I had read in my initial search sounded like each lodge had 2 guides. But since it was only to be 5 hunters, not much to worry about.
Dinner isn’t provided the first night, so we ate at a burger shack in town and it was great. No complaints there. Trevor left us for the evening and said he’d be back at 4:45 AM to get us ready, everybody was very excited.
The five of us got back to the lodge and were relaxing and sharing stories, and then at about 8:30 PM, three more guys drive into camp. Red flag #4? I shot a message off to Trevor, who came back out to the camp to give the new guys the welcome talk. A little later my father got on the phone to Jeff to let him know that everybody was a bit surprised about the arrangements. Mostly because I wasn’t the only one who was under the impression that the limit was 6 guys per camp. Also because as it would prove later that 8 guys and one bathroom is a challenge in the morning when getting ready to go in the deer woods. Probably not as big a deal with a group of duck hunters, but when you’re trying to be scent free, with everybody showering and doing their business, it’s a bit of a cluster. On top of that, the local help would prove not to be the most reliable, and the first morning the guy didn’t even show up, so Trevor had to scramble to get the last two guys to their stands.
I will say that I never personally spoke to Jeff since any of this occurred. I let my father be the point of contact for all of this. Jeff stopped by camp the next day while I was in the woods, so unfortunately I never got the chance to meet him face to face.
On Tuesday I believe Jeff had secured additional lodging for three guys in town at a nice looking house, and for our troubles he said he would back off on the immature buck fine if we saw a deer that we would be proud of. While I think everybody appreciated the gesture, I didn’t go to Kansas to shoot a marginal deer, so I kept my sights on the minimum score so I wouldn’t be tempted to shoot a young deer.
The second day of our hunt, 4 guys tagged out, and three of the deer met the minimum, the biggest going 140”. My brother shot a nice 135” 9 pointer, his biggest deer to date. As I mentioned in the beginning, I sat all day, every day except one. The second day I saw 19 deer, half of them small bucks, and about a 120” 8pt. On Thursday I had about a 125” 9 point at full draw, 25 yards broadside, but I knew there were bigger deer around and since my brother had already killed, I let him walk. On day 5 I saw a nice buck chasing a doe hard, but never got a good look and couldn’t even tell how big the rack was. It’s hard to tell at forty yards running through brush. Finally I had a great encounter with a nice 8 on the last day of my hunt, but again probably only about a 120” deer. So ultimately, I saw plenty of deer, a few 3 year old bucks and a lot of younger ones.
The accommodations were OK. As I mentioned before, a little dirty and with some mice running around your feet and leaving their offerings on the counter and whatnot. I can get over that.
The hunting properties were all pretty nice and our guide Trevor knew them very good, as well as the deer that were or had been there. The stands were mostly in good shape. Some creaked a little but it didn’t seem to bother the deer any. All the stands I sat in were over bait (corn) and were set up great for bow shots from 15-35 yards, some with places to shoot further.
Continental breakfast style offerings were available for mornings, and then like other reviews there was stuff to make sandwiches with chips and soda for lunch. I only had lunch one day while I was there, but everybody else seemed happy. Dinner was prepared each night and dropped off and ready for us when we came out of the woods. Every meal was delicious and nobody went hungry.
Trevor recommended a local butcher that took good care of the deer and did an excellent job. They were also very accommodating, allowing my brother to pick up his meat the day before we left.
Our guide Trevor did an excellent job, especially with the hurdles he had to deal with. He had his work cut out for him, especially on Tuesday with one deer killed in the morning and three more killed on the afternoon sit. After that night though, he only had to worry about getting 4 guys in and out, so it was probably more manageable. I’ll say with certainty though that Trevor is one of the only reasons I would come back to HCO. I was very impressed with his knowledge of the area, the properties he manages, and his hunting abilities. He worked his ass off and did all he could to help us be successful.
I would have liked to have seen more mature deer, but that’s hunting. There really isn’t much more I could have done to put myself in a better position to be successful. Between sitting all day and the timing of our hunt, second week of November, excellent weather conditions and the prime time of the rut, I was a little disappointed to not have released an arrow. BUT, I saw a ton of deer, I got to take some meat home, and we made some new friends.
So, having just set a record for longest review ever, I would recommend HCO for the deer hunting, I think that made up for the other short comings.
I did my due diligence. I feel like I vetted this outfitter to the best of my ability before booking. But I don’t understand why, with tag draw results coming out 5 months before the first archery hunters probably even show up, would they not have clients lodging squared away?
If you have clients that show up for the wrong week, either they are the dumbest SOB’s on earth, or the process for hunt confirmations needs improvement. That should never happen IMO.
As I stated above, the website said, at one point in time, max 6 hunters per lodge. Coincidentally, I think after the website was down, that this statement was removed. When 8 guys showed up when I was there, we checked the site again and this statement couldn't be found. I actually doubted my memory of this until I read the above mentioned review where Jeff said it in his own words. Based on the series of events, one could suspect that when it was realized that they were overbooked, HCO removed the “6 hunters max” from the website. Maybe they figured that in the end, either people wouldn’t complain, or the good hunting would make them forget about it. Whether intentional or not, it’s unfortunate, and I’m glad I didn’t let it ruin my hunt.
None to date. If you are the outfitter please email us.
Weather was great. The temperature dropped from the 80s to the 30-40s the day we showed up and it stayed cool all week.