Hunting Guide Donald Mathes discovered his love for deer hunting at 11 years-old when he was drawn for the first weekend of the guided hunting program at Fort Hood.
“My father bought me a permit because we were bird hunters. We liked to hunt quail and dove and stuff like that, but we never thought about deer hunting. He borrowed a rifle from a friend … and we went on the guided hunt program and we actually got a deer,” he said thinking back. “And so, after that, that was it – we were deer hunters.”
Decades later he has come full circle having been a hunting guide at the Great Place since the 1970s.
“I got involved with those guys and it was just so much fun being out there working on the deer stands and doing all this stuff and … taking people hunting. It was just so much fun that I’ve been doing it ever since.”
He believes seeing the camaraderie of the hunters that he takes out during the season is the best part of his job.
“It sounds really mushy but it’s so much fun. That’s what hunting’s supposed to be. The people that didn’t get a deer, I guarantee it that they had almost as much fun seeing those other people get a deer and telling their story and listening to their story,” he said. “That’s what the joy of hunting is really. It’s the hunt not just actually harvesting the deer.”
Mathes said to be a great hunting guide you need to love the outdoors and also be ready to work hard.
“First, you have to know that it’s not just going to be you go out there and find a place to hunt. There’s going to be a lot of work … and you’ve got to have some knowledge of deer hunting and what to look for and how to find the right spot and stuff like that,” Mathes stated. “You want to try to find good spots where people could actually get something … and you work at that.”
As far as the Fort Hood guided hunting program goes, he is most proud that the largest youth deer for the last three years has come out of Fort Hood. The youth hunt happens the week before the season opens for everyone else.
“I like that because that just shows that we’re trying to get the kids where they can shoot these big deer … and I’m proud of that.”
Mathes believes Fort Hood is the best place to hunt and that the quality of the white tail deer on the installation is some of the best you can find – thanks to the large amount of land and the efforts of the Natural Resources Branch.
“That’s why it’s so attractive because you can buy a $100, $120 permit and hunt deer, that have the quality of deer that would cost you $10,000 to shoot at a private ranch,” he said. “There are some drawbacks because of training. But that being said there’s always someplace you can go, know that the whole post may not be available, but there’ll be little bits and pieces and so it’s still the best.”
He highly recommends checking out the guiding program, whether one wants to hunt or want to be a guide themselves.
“If you hunt … you should get involved in it,” he said. “They’re always looking for guides too. The guiding part starts right now. As soon as the season’s over, we’re already fixing other stands and moving other stands around for the next season, and you do it all during the year.”