Most of you know that MDL Outfitters is not your normal operation. Whether it be the extended time to hunt (7-21+/- days) or the semi-guided nature, whether it be the farms being scattered out across southern Iowa or the ability to get intel on the a farm prior to arriving, we are different. With 10-15 bowhunting clients each season, we are small-scaled and personal. With that in mind, we expect our clients to be involved in the discussion on the farms, the deer, and the strategy. I think that is our most unique and best attribute as an operation in southern Iowa.
Obviously, I reserve the right to "overrule" any decision on the farms, and somewhat jokingly, that is the "guided" aspect of the semi-guided classification of the outfit. I will direct guys to go to specific stands if and when I feel it is necessary. Otherwise, I leave the selection responsibility on the client. The deer, the farm, the neighborhood, history, experience, and the conditions all dictate my choices as I hope it does for my clients. Yet, I am not trying to be a dictator but rather a coach. I am trying to coach my clients as best I can.
Actually, I am an Asst. Varsity Baseball Coach here in Iowa at the same school & program that I played 5 years of varsity ball for. Going from player to coach opens your eyes to a lot of details that I missed completely as a player. There are a lot of similarities between running MDL and being a baseball coach.
A good coach is the one truly responsible for the team's performance and success at the end of the day. Teamwork still isn't that simple. The players have some responsibility yet. It take both a good coach and good player(s) to be consistent and win. That's how I look at this operation. I am the coach on the bench. The players are my hunters. There are moments of freedom and flexibility, and there are moments of structure and control. It is very gut-oriented for me. It's a fluid evolution throughout the hunting season and the hunts.
Throughout that stretch of time, communication is the most important aspect between me and my clients. We both have to be receptive, and we both need to be honest and outspoken. We need to respect one another, and put aside our differences for the greater good. I think that communication can absolutely make or break a hunt. It can either work against you or for you. Communication is definitely one of the constants in the equation, which is something that we can control 100% (except when cell service sucks).
I ask my clients to communicate openly and frequently with me throughout the off-season. Why? First, I want them to know that I am working. I want them to know I am doing something, whether it be physically on the farm, digitally/online on the computer, studying, learning, assessing, etc. I am being proactive toward the common goal, a successful hunt. I also ask that my clients do what they can... study, learn, ask questions, practice, prepare, and eventually, execute the plan designed for them.
I can think back to almost every buck that we have killed and see how the stars had to align properly for us to get that deer, how a rather impulsive decision positively influenced the outcome, how my gut instinct had me move a guy to a stand just before killing a deer, how one text or phone call caused us to change a stand location that later produced a shot, and so on. It's not just as simple as I put a stand up. Get in. Hunt it. Get out. Repeat. At least, in my head it is much more complex. I am a very logical thinker, but I am also being receptive to what my gut is telling me... sometimes being spontaneous or sometimes being a 2nd guess. I can thoroughly explain all of the logic involved in the decisions I make, but the gut stuff is hard to relay effectively. That's where trust has be given by my clients onto me.
So, as we have entered the archery season here in Iowa in 2020, as work continues to be done on the farms in preparation for the upcoming pre-rut and rut hunts, communication is still the most important part of the relationship between the clients and I. Arrival dates and times, outlook, scouting reports, expectations, background, crop harvest, weather systems, thoughts and ideas needing discussed/clarified, etc., it all needs discussed. For whatever reason, my clients have been very effective communicators, and my job has become much easier because of it. Yet, there is much more relevant communication ahead.
This is also when my clients need to be communicating with me about any questions, concerns, unknown's that they have. Maybe it's a gear question, or maybe it is a question on rut timing. There's no such thing as a dumb question, so I am all in favor of questions coming my way. I always do my best to answer them in the most thorough manner possible.
Once my clients start hunting, their reports coming to me are the most valuable insight that I get each year. Those tidbits are the most current last remaining pieces of the puzzle. Now, my hunters never have the ability to see the whole puzzle like I can since they aren't up here year-round seeing what I see, learning what I know, experiencing what I have. I can't put the puzzle together without them since they're my eyes and ears where I can't be, where my cameras can't be. This is why I ask for periodic updates, good or bad, so that I can see if my gut tells me to make any adjustments or if we just need to stay put.
The best and most rewarding distant communication comes usually just before or right after the shot... It's often the text message that throws gasoline on the fire of excitement for me. Then, I get to go have in-person communication with my hunters, shake hands, pat on the back, high fives, fist bumps, you name it. Next comes to cues to adjust, turn, raise, lower, left, right, tilt, for the camera. The last communication is usually a single wave as my hunter heads for home. Obviously, that communication is much better when there is a big buck in the back of his truck, tines sticking out over the tailgate as the gravel dust flies and eventually turns him invisible on the horizon.
Thanks for reading!