Every serious deer hunter should join at least one hunting club. There are several unique advantages in doing so, only one of which is the ability to converse and network with other like-minded hunters. While there's nothing wrong with a solo hunt, it's more enjoyable and rewarding to have other people around to share your experiences with. This alone is well worth the price of membership. Because all deer hunting clubs are different, though, you'll need to carefully choose the one that's best suited for your specific needs.
First and foremost, it's important to note that just about anyone can label a piece of their property as a "deer hunting club" and place ad online or in the paper seeking members. Just because the land owner has given it a label doesn't mean it's a suitable area. If you value your time as much as I value mine, you'll want to use caution when searching for a club and do your research beforehand. Check below for some of the criteria we recommend basing your decision on.
Distance Away From Home
Unless you want to spend days to and from your hunting club, you'll need to chose one that's in reasonable drive time. The ideal distance will vary from hunter to hunter, as some people have more time to drive than others. Also, you probably don't want to drive a long ways unless you plan on spending the night. Trust me, there's nothing worse than driving 3-4 hours to your club just to go hunting for a bit and then turn around and do the drive again.
Personally, I only join deer hunting clubs that are no longer than 4 hours away. This might seem a long drive to some, but I enjoy the scenic drive, as it gives me a chance to think and make mental preparations for my upcoming hunts. Just be sure not to join a deer hunting club that's so far away that you won't me the drive; otherwise, you'll be wasting your time and money.
Common sense should tell you that a good deer hunting club needs to have signs of active deer in the area. If there's no deer around, your chances of success will be slim to none. Once you find a deer hunting club with lots of activity, though, you'll have a gold mine that's worth hanging on to for years to come.
There are a couple different ways to determine how active deer are around the club, but nothing is better than going out and checking the land for yourself. Even if the land owner says "oh yeah, there are deer on the property," he or she could just be trying to lure you into joining to get your money. The bottom line is that you need to go out and check for yourself.
When you are out scouting property around potential deer clubs, look for the following signs of deer activity:
- Rubs on trees where the bark has been removed (see image to the right).
- Scrapes on the ground.
- Shed Antlers.
- Deer hoof prints.
Of course, another factor you should consider when selecting a hunting club is the type of lodging and sleeping accommodations it offers. While everyone has their own personal preferences when it comes to sleeping on a deer hunting trip, I prefer a soft bed over a sleeping bag on the ground. It doesn't need to be some 5-star luxury hotel, but it should have a roof with a nice and comfortable bed to sleep in.
Check to see what type of lodging and sleeping accommodations the club offers before joining. Some clubs will designate a bed to each of their members, while others may force you to pitch a tent around a campsite.
You can't choose a deer hunting club to join without taking its overall land size into consideration. Generally speaking, the more land size a deer hunting club offer the better. Even if you don't intend on hunting all of it, the increased size will offer more options. I look for properties with varied hunting options, such as ridges, dense forests, streams, creeks, swamps and open field.
Always ask the property owner or manager how large the land is and where the boundaries are. Accidentally venturing off onto someone's property can be both dangerous and illegal. If you decide to join the deer hunting club, go ahead and program the boundaries into a GPS device.
There are both pros and cons to a large deer hunting club. The primary advantage is having extra people around to help you clean and dress any game you've killed. In addition, you'll always have someone there to talk to, which makes hunting trips just a little bit more enjoyable.
The downside to large deer hunting clubs is that it may create certain problems with hunting territories. If there's a "hot spot" where deer are constantly seen, you can bet there everyone in the club will want to set their stand or blind up there. As long as there's plenty of land for everyone to spread out, though, you shouldn't have a problem. Just make sure to talk with the members and owners if you feel the club is becoming overcrowded.
What kind of rules does the deer hunting club have? Nearly every club I've looked into has had some set of rules for their members to follow. For the most part, these rules are helpful in keeping the club and property safe for everyone to enjoy. You may see rules like no alcohol while hunting, always wear a safety vest, etc. However, other clubs may have rules regarding guests. If you plan on bringing a friend or family member along on one or more hunts, check the rules to make sure it's allowed.
No matter what the rules are for a deer hunting club, it's important to always obey and follow them; otherwise, you could risk being thrown out without a refund. Not only will this set you back financially, but you also have to spend additional time searching for a new one.