As a North American Hunting Club Lifetime Member since 1997, after reading this post, I felt I had an obligation to convey my multiple experiences with Mr. Douglas Doty, of Illinois Whitetail Services, LLC, (IWS) in southern Illinois.
Let me begin by stating that I first began hunting with Mr. Doty in November of 2007. As a result of the wonderful time I had on my first trip with his outfit, I continued to hunt with him from that time until present. To date, I have spent a total of forty-eight days of actual hunting with this outfitter. That fact alone should clearly communicate to anyone reading these posts, that I have obviously been very pleased with Mr. Doty and the service he provides. For over twenty-five years, I have hunted in states all throughout the country, and I have never had more success than I do when I hunt with Illinois Whitetail Servies, LLC. There are many outfitters who view their clients merely as a "number" or a "statistic". NOT SO with Mr. Doty. The business model that he has chosen to implement is one of less hunters per hunt to ensure more good bucks and a quality hunt for each person in camp. He is aware that he will only be as successful in his business as his hunters are in the field. When you arrive in camp and head out into the field, you know that the deer stand you are getting ready to hunt from hasn't been soiled by multiple hunters before you arrived. The obvious result is that, more often than not, each hunter sees many deer, and often several shooter size bucks on any given sit. As is the case anywhere you go, it is not a reasonable expectation to think that you will be shooting at 140" or better deer EVERY time you head into the woods. If that is your expectation, then any outfitter with free ranging deer isn't for you. The best, obvious alternative for a hunter with that expectation is to hunt on a game ranch or somewhere behind a high fence where they provide all sorts of game in abundance, with zero chance for failure. Mr. Doty offers fair chase hunts, and it is definitely legitimate "hunting", which, as we all know, can sometimes be frustrating, as there are so many variables and circumstances outside of our control. On the other hand, when you have the privilege of harvesting a quality animal in real life hunting conditions, it is so much more rewarding and fulfilling. In forty-eight days of hunting with Mr. Doty, I have harvested multiple quality bucks that have been some of the largest I have ever tagged. Even when I haven't gotten a deer, the hunts have always been exciting and action packed! I have thoroughly enjoyed each and every hunting trip that I have spent with Mr. Doty. In fact, I have so thoroughly appreciated my time spent with this outfitter, that I have now brought my two young boys, ages thirteen and eleven, to the special youth hunt that Mr. Doty offers in early October of each year. It has been on those hunts that each of my boys harvested their first buck, with one of them tagging a Pope & Young quality animal. Needless to say, those were some of the most memorable and touching hunts I have ever experienced. Because the youth hunts take place in early October, it is often very hot, and the deer movement can be slow. Mr. Doty goes to great lengths to do his very best to still give each of the boys an opportunity at a buck while hunting there. In a recent hunt, he pulled out all of the stops, and over half of the young hunters went home with a buck (their first for all of them), with the others choosing to pass on several very respectable deer. His commitment to the generational transfer of the love of hunting to the next generation has been nothing short of remarkable. Let me state this as clearly as I can: Mr. Doty may be a lot of different things, but one of them that he assuredly is NOT is a scam artist or a fraud. Having spent over a month and a half hunting with this outfitter over the past six seasons, I can assure everyone reading this post that the scam artist and fraud claim is absurd and literally laughable. If hunting hard, resulting in multiple good bucks hanging on your wall is a scam, then maybe you have a point. If not, then it's a baseless accusation to besmirch one of the finest men with whom I have ever had the privilege of hunting. Mr. Doty is the real deal in every way. He is as straight of a shooter as there is, and honest to a fault. From his equipment, to his property, he is extremely generous with everything at his disposal. He is literally driven to see each and every hunter who darkens his door find new heights of success while afield. He is constantly reviewing the weather patterns and deer movement, and adjusting the plan accordingly for each hunter present. To read a fellow NAHC life member calling a man like Mr. Doty, and his outfitting business, a scam and a fraud is beyond alarming to me! I can't state strongly enough that the aforementioned claim is baseless and untrue. In all of my dealings with Mr. Doty, I have never known him to be anything other than honest and committed to integrity in every way. As we all know, any outfitting business is only as good as the outfitter. Any business is always based on the person spearheading and leading it, and Illinois Whitetail Services, LLC, is no exception. That being stated, after forty-eight days spent hunting with this outfitter, and as a North American Hunting Club Life Member of fifteen years, I can assure you that I am not personally aware of anything fraudulent or unscrupulous about Mr. Doty or any of the services he provides through Illinois Whitetail Services, LLC. I obviously can only speak on my own behalf, but that has been my experience in any and all dealings with Mr. Doty. I think the report of a man who has forty-eight days of experience with an outfitter should overshadow the report of a client who has only spent three days with this particular establishment. But as is always the case, I'll let each person decide for themselves. I will say that to give a public denouncement of an outfitter after only three days of hunting is like writing off a new president after only a month, a new boss after only a week, or a new teacher after only a day. It isn't fair, right or prudent. Because of the many things that can potentially go awry on any short hunt, you can't give a fair analysis of an outfitter based on only three days. I think we can all agree on that fact.
Because of that, I was literally stunned to read the initial post that started this discussion, as well as the quick responses from other members. The Bible has an interesting little proverb that simply states, "The first to present his case seems right, until another comes along and questions it." The man who started this discussion stated that he is sixty-eight years old and the quick responses from other members all appeared to come from people who have likewise been around the block a few times. Due to that fact, I was shocked to see the responses based on one side of the story, with no due diligence done in the background before posting off-the-cuff comments that clearly attack a man that I personally know to be as solid of a man as I have ever met. One quick response jumped off the cliff of logical reason and into the juvenile pond of personal attacks, stating that ex-lax should be shoved down Mr. Doty's throat! Whoever posted that...shame on you! I am embarrassed to be called a fellow member of any club with a person like you. I make no apologies for my strong sentiments, and I won't engage into further discussion with you if you respond to this post. You, and people like you, aren't the kind of people with whom I choose to interact. If you are truly a reasonable, experienced person, the only response you should have is an apology for reacting irresponsibly. Enough said.
Moving on from that very disappointing discussion, for any sincere folks wanting to know the truth, I personally contacted Mr. Doty to inquire as to what had transpired on this hunt. I asked him if any of my fellow NAHC members had contacted him to substantiate any of this disgruntled hunter's claims. He assured me that they hadn't, and also informed me that the angry client had likewise not even attempted to handle this in a professional and mature fashion. It was unbelievable to me that no one who responded to this man's claims had contacted Mr. Doty before adding fuel to the fire. Anyone who has fanned the flames of this man's anger, without personally investigating this situation for yourself, should likewise be totally and utterly ashamed of your conduct! Professional outfitters take their profession very seriously, work year round to cultivate a productive hunting experience, and depend on the income generated from their efforts to provide for their families. They rely almost solely on referrals and repeat business, and to undermine any given outfitter, on a very public forum, that potential future clients will almost assuredly read, without contacting the outfitter and searching out the matter for one's self, is baseless conduct as far as I'm concerned. I guarantee you that none of us would want to be treated in such a fashion.
After thoroughly discussing this particular hunt with Mr. Doty, I quickly came to the conclusion that Illinois Whitetails Services, LLC. was not a good fit for the disappointed hunter who started this whole discussion. He was clearly anticipating something very different than what he found when he arrived, and the whole hunt seemed to unravel from there. As several IWS clients have already mentioned, the vast majority of the disparity between this hunter's expectations, and the reality of what he experienced, lies almost solely on this hunter's shoulders. Again, this is a sixty-eight year old man that we're talking about here, and as he stated in his initial post, this definitely isn't his first rodeo. For him to not thoroughly investigate everything regarding a $3,000+ hunt, from the accommodations, to the food, to the beds, to the guides, to the land, to the food plots, to the blinds (and as we all know the outfitter vetting checklist goes on and on and on...), etc, is no one's responsibility but his own. If every one of those details is vitally crucial for him to have a successful hunting experience, and he failed to do a thorough analysis of all of these details, thus leaving all of it to random chance, I don't see how he can fault anyone but himself. I would personally think that after the many years of hunting with various outfitters around the country, all of this would be automatic for him. After talking to Mr. Doty, it appears to me as if this client failed to do the proper investigation required for him to confirm that IWS was indeed the experience he was anticipating. Furthermore, after hearing Mr. Doty's side of the story, he probably should have been more concerned with the placement of his stand than the packaging of his sandwich, as Mr. Doty had received a complaint from another client on that hunt, whose hunt was ruined one morning because this man couldn't find his stand that was clearly marked and then came out with plenty of shooting light left that evening and scared away a deer from the other client, essentially ruining one whole day of only a three day hunt. As I have already stated, anyone with any life experience at all knows that there are always two sides to every story!
Now, let me state very clearly that IWS isn't a good fit for everyone.
If you are the kind of hunter who wants to be assured of 100% success, then IWS is not for you.
If you are the kind of hunter who wants to harvest your game within the first day or so of your hunt, each and every time you are there, then IWS is not for you.
If you are the kind of hunter who wants to spend more time in a grand lodge organizing your equipment, rather than in the field pursuing fair chase game, then IWS is not for you.
If you are the kind of hunter who wants to stay in a lodge where you can pitter patter around in your camouflage slippers on a hickory floor, resting your feet on a bear rug in front of a two story, stone fireplace, listening to the crackle of the fire as you read hunting magazines, then IWS is not for you.
If you are the kind of hunter who wants hot lunches and catered dinners, then IWS is not for you.
If you are the kind of hunter who wants your own bedroom and bathroom, with little to no interaction with other hunters, then IWS is not for you.
If you are the kind of hunter who wants to wake up to a person taking your breakfast order, then IWS is not for you.
I say all of this in sincerity, because there are in fact many hunters who view much of what I just stated to be a very big part of any given hunt, and therefore have much of the aforementioned checklist as a very real expectation.
On the other hand, if you are a hunter who enjoys a fair chase hunting experience aimed at shooting good bucks in some of the best land in the whole Midwest, then IWS is for you.
If you are a hunter who is primarily concerned with the actual hunting experience spent afield, then IWS is for you.
If you are a hunter who enjoys interacting with the rest of the hunters in camp in a very "homey", family style setting, then IWS is for you.
The focus of IWS is aimed primarily at the field hunting experience with everything else playing a supporting role rather then taking center stage.
There are obviously hundreds upon hundreds of different outfitters to choose from throughout the country, with each one providing many different levels of service, and it is each hunter's personal responsibility to research all of these crucial details before signing on for an expensive hunt. If they fail to do so, and then are disappointed, that is really their own fault. To try to assuage their disappointment by seeking to attack and discredit an honest, hard working outfitter and his legitimate business is reckless, unjust and irresponsible. It won't reconcile their dashed expectations and will only continue to remind them of their deep frustration. Regardless of the situation, I stand against this kind of behavior, and I will do everything in my power to combat this foolishness with the truth. What each person does with the truth is their own prerogative, and outside of my control.
In conclusion, I would ask any potential hunters considering hunting with Mr. Doty and Illinois Whitetail Services, LLC, to do diligence before signing on and to establish what exactly you are seeking in any given hunt before you even begin the process of selecting an outfitter. If any of us fail to do our homework in a thorough manner, we have no one to blame but ourselves.
Hopefully my many experiences with Mr. Doty and Illinois Whitetail Services, LLC, over the past six years will be helpful in bringing balance to what I perceive to be a very unfair and unfortunate post that started this whole firestorm.
That's the view from one very satisfied hunter's perspective...