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My guide review (Ross Hammock Ranch FL)

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My guide review (Ross Hammock Ranch FL)

Old 02-26-2019, 11:16 AM
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Default My guide review (Ross Hammock Ranch FL)

Now that I have returned from my Florida Gator and hog Bow hunt, I thought I would provide a review of the guide/outfitter I used since I find value in hearing of the experiences of others that deal with outfitters for out-of-state hunts. There is always a risk involved with signing on with a company/outfitter/guide so hearing first hand experiences helps people make informed choices because the traveling hunter spends thousands of dollars on a guide and drives or flies thousands of miles to hunt species not in their home state.

What follows is my experience with the guide I selected for my Gator and hog bow hunt. This is a “what I learned” and “what I know now that I wish I would have known then” report. Its going to be detailed and lengthy.

The outfitter I used was the Ross Hammock Ranch in Inglis Florida. My goal was a Florida Gator with a bow and while I was in Florida I thought it proper to also include Hog hunting as long as I was there but the primary species to hunt was the gator.

I came upon the Ross Hammock Ranch from a web search while seeking gator outfitters. I used their “contact us” form on Dec. 3, 2018 to reach out and to get pricing and details of a gator hunt. That lead to various emails with Harold Ross (Owner) back and forth to gain info on Gator bowhunting and what he provides and charges. The long email exchange which I retain carried the subject line of “Gator and hog combo hunt”. During the entire exchange of emails and phone conversations, it was abundantly clear, that the primary objective was a Alligator bow hunt with the secondary objective of Hog hunting.

From the Ross Hammock Ranch web site, emails and phone calls, it was made clear that the Ross Hammock ranch is an alligator guide/outfitter. Here is a screen shot from their web page.

At the top of the image I encircled the text that says “Trophy Gator hunting AT Ross Hammock ranch” indicating that I would be hunting at their ranch as well as other words on their page implying that customers would be hunting alligator AT the Ross Hammock Ranch which is located in Inglis Florida. Because of this, The plan was for my wife and I to vacation a week prior to the hunt at some nearby beach side resort and then travel to the Ranch to hunt so I asked via email and phone conversations for recommendations for such a resort near their Inglis Florida operation. I used their recommendations and booked a weeks stay in Clearwater (Florida’s west coast) since the hunting ranch was also on the West coast.

For the hunt I set up, I selected their lodging package that included my wife as a non-hunting observer. I selected their “Gold package” for lodging. Here are the details from their web site.

“Gold Option: (Overnight Hunts - With Lodging) Prices per night / PP. We provide lunch, snacks, soft drinks, Licenses, guide, cook, ranch vehicles, fuel, tree stands, and field care of most game. PLUS an extra 1/2 day of hunting, EXTRA MEALS, and overnight stay in a cypress log lodge. Hunter = $300 PP,Non Hunter = $200 PP We provide meals, snacks, soft drinks, licenses, lodging, guide, cook, maid, ranch vehicles, fuel, tree stands, and field care of most game. “

That means $500 per night stay with all meals and other things listed above included. While I found that a bit steep, I thought it wise to stay where I would be hunting so I agreed to the lodging package so I didn’t have to travel back and forth to the lodge each day and find places to eats breakfast, dinner and supper each day and because the camp life experience is usually enjoyable since you get to interact with guides and other hunters.

Since I had never hunted gators with a bow, I of course had questions about gear. Harold was unable to answer them but he provided me the phone number of his gator guide. We spoke and I secured the correct gear. I also sent the Ross Hammock ranch a $1000 deposit for the gator hunt.

My wife and I enjoyed a week in clearwater FL and then drove to the Ross Hammock ranch for the hunt portion of the trip. We arrived mid-day Thursday at the ranch with the plan of an afternoon hog hunt that day, A nice supper at the lodge and then gator hunting on Friday followed by additional hog hunting Friday Afternoon if possible and certainly Sat. morning before we would depart for home. We met Harold who gave us a tour of the lodge. I brought him a bunch of gifts from WI such as maple syrup, cheese, beer, snack sticks as I like to gift a bit of WI to out of state outfitters.

I met the hog guides, we talked about the hunt, I changed into my gear and the guide drove me to a stand site. The stand site was what I would expect in Florida, Swampy and wet with lots of standing water. The guide pointed out the ladder stand and explained the likely direction the hogs would come from (their travel routes were limited unless they wanted to swim to the feeder). I got his cell number to call should I get a hog and he departed to take two other hog hunters to their stands.

I climbed the ladder stand which was sub-par. The welds on the floor mesh were broken so there was no way to move or shift my weight without cracking metallic sounds coming from the stand. Rather than your typical ladder stand, metal mesh seat, they had placed a fiberglass boat seat that was very deep with a high back. The seat was filled to the top with green water, leaves, sticks and bird droppings so there was no place to sit and I had no way to bail out the water.

After getting tired of standing I sucked it up and used my bare hand to try to scoop out the water and debris so I could sit. I was not successful so I sat in water. The seat made more noise than the floor. The wind direction (the thing bowhunters use to determine which stands to sit) placed my scent directly in the path that was explained as the direction the hogs would arrive. The wind was wrong for the stand and approaching game. 3 hours later, I had seen a small doe and a few turkey and 2 coon that came to the feeder. No hogs were seen. The guide picked me and the other two hog hunters up. The other hog hunters also got nothing but this is hunting, there are no guarantees of a harvest but it would have been encouraging to see a target animal.

After returning to the lodge I change clothes and we enjoyed a nice supper when talk turned to my gator hunt the next morning. The other two hunters in camp would continue hunting hogs. I asked about what time I should be ready in the morning for the gator hunt. The guide asked me if I was aware that I would have to drive myself to the other side of the state (from Florida’s West coast to the East coast)? I told him I was not aware of this.

Driving from one side of the state to the other in the wee hours of the A.M. through Orlando and other cities is not was communicated to me prior to that moment. I could tell the guide was uneasy about breaking this news to me. I would have to find the gator guide (which happens to be a totally separate company and outfitter) myself and well as pay the $12 in FL turnpike tolls. The round trip was over 5 hours of driving myself with my truck and my gas (I refer you back to the gold lodging package I paid for). I was not pleased with this but I was captive at this point and without options.

My wife was not planning to partake in the actual gator hunt but we were both under the understanding we would at least be on the same property. She too was unhappy that she would be left to entertain herself at the lodge as the lone women in the company of other men/hunters while I was on the other side of the state but there was little we could do to change that.

I rose very early the next day in order to make the long drive so no breakfast that day. They did not pack or offer a lunch. (I refer you back to the gold lodging/meals package I paid for). I will cover the gator portion of the hunt and the completely separate guide/outfitter for that hunt at another time as I don’t want to confuse the two different outfitters. I will say that the gator guide explained (as a sort of an apology) about the long drive and that all the other hunters that bought a gather hunt with Ross Hammock Ranch were equally unhappy about the arrangement and drive across the state.

The duration of the gator hunt and the more than 2 ½ hour drive back to the Ross Hammock ranch meant I would arrive so late that no hog hunting would be possible and that supper at the lodge would be finished so I bought my own fast food at a drive through. (I refer you back to the gold lodging/meals package I paid for). Even if there was a meal, it would be far too late to eat and then hope to sleep with a full gut. The long drive gave me a lot of time to think through the promises made and paid for and as I drove. Since it was so late, only one remaining guide was on the property and just leaving the as I drove in. He exited his truck to talk to me. I was short with him and asked to speak to Harold Ross (Owner) I was told he was not on site so I called and left a message asking that he call me.

I met my wife at the lodge 14 hours after at had last seen her. She was displeased with the entire experience. She told me other hunters arrived in camp during the day and no hogs were killed. The two hunters that were in camp my first evening had already departed for home without hogs. I asked about my wife’s experience. She was not happy. Her lunch was a cold sandwich. She did not eat supper with the group and wanted to wait to eat with me so she didn’t get supper either.

At about 10 pm Harold returned my call and I expressed my displeasure and how I had been mislead and that I was not able to enjoy all that I had paid for. He was mostly silent and offered no solutions. He mentioned my last hog hunt which was to take place the next morning before I departed for home. I told him there was no point as no hogs seemed to be on the property and I could get a jump start on the 17 hour drive home. He offered no compensation, reimbursement or any form of refund for the $500 per night fee I paid that I did not get to utilize. I explained that the total of my usage of his accommodations for $500 that day was 1 flush of a toilet and a bottle of water. He did not seem to care. I would have left right then and there to avoid another nights lodging but that would not have been fair to my wife.

I asked to settle up my bill so that I could depart. He said one of the guides would take care of that in the morning because it could not take place that night as no guides were on hand. I asked him why he never disclosed that he does not offer gator hunts and that I would have to drive myself to the other side of the state. He offered no answers but lots of double talk. I asked him why he recommended a resort for my wife to vacation at on the west coast when the gator hunt was on the east coast. He said that his hog operation is on the West coast. (when in fact it appears he did so because he could get $500 a night if I lodged with him). I told him He should have just recommended that I sign on with the gator guide exclusively and that I didn’t need him for the gator hunt since the gator guide was a full service guide and he told me that I wanted to hunt hogs so he had me stay with him. I expressed my displeasure. He seem uncaring.

The next morning (no breakfast except some Little Debbie packaged snack cakes and bottled water/coffee) so the grand total of meals I got under the gold package was 1. I paid the bill and no refunds or deductions to the bill were made. The person that totaled my bill offered no explanation. I wanted to caution readers about doing business with the Ross Hammock ranch in Inglis Florida and wanted to let you know that despite their web site going to great length about their trophy gator hunts at their lodge, that the Ross Hammock Ranch DOES NOT have alligator hunting at their facility or anywhere near their facility in Inglis Florida. I don’t know if they have any hogs either since I never saw hogs or hog sign.

Let the info I’m providing serve as a warning/caution to anybody wanting to hunt Alligator with the Ross Hammock Ranch. Don’t do it. After I use an outfitter, I always ask myself 2 questions, 1. Would I use this outfitter again? and 2. Would I recommend this outfitter to a close friend? The answer to both questions is a resounding Hell no! I paid him a lot of money and he misrepresented and under-delivered and was not an honest broker. Steer clear of him and his operation.

As far as the gator guide. WOW! What a fantastic operation. I will write about him at a later date. He is top notch and one I would use again and highly recommend.
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Old 02-26-2019, 12:30 PM
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A thorough review, and much better than the typical
"This guy cheated me don't use him!" Post

Hopefully this helps other hunters out

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Old 02-26-2019, 07:55 PM
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Posts: 17,355

Excellent review. Sorry the hog outfitter was not up to par. I moved this topic to the Outfitter review forum where more members and guests should see it. Hopefully it saves somebody else from getting taken.
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