How to Choose a Hunting Guide or Outfitter
A Few Things You Should Know About Guided Hunts
Do you dream about going on a guided hunt? Do you attend sport shows and collect all the brochures but not sure where to go from there? You’re not alone. Hunting around home is unlike the experience you will gain when going on a guided hunt or even a guided fishing excursion. But the planning and the cost of it can be overwhelming, and it’s definitely a process; many don’t know where to begin. Let me walk you through it, it’s worth all the effort!
Before you begin, realize one thing…it doesn’t matter what type of guided hunt you take, hunting is still hunting; there are no guarantees to an actual success and the experience should be your main priority. If you regard it as an entire adventure, you are bound to be pleased with the results.
Outfitters all over the world work hard to offer you the quality you are looking for. Their careful planning, investment and knowledge provides you with an experience of a lifetime. They spend countless hours and money to ensure an environment exists to optimize your chances at fulfilling your dreams. You can help by learning as much about the hunt as you are able. The more you know, the more you can be prepared; and while the outfitter already knows their responsibilities, it’s only to your benefit that you know yours. Gaining knowledge about the area you will be hunting, the game you are seeking can lay great foundation to your overall experience. Remember, though, that your guide is the expert and always be honest about your abilities.
To begin, you need to decide what you want to hunt. When do you want to hunt? If you are interested in peak times, plan well in advance. Many outfitters are booked a year ahead of time for peak ruts or fish runs. Be prepared to be flexible and work with the outfitter, they can give you alternate time frames that may be just as suitable. You also need to decide what kind of hunt you would like to go on. There are several types of hunts from the bare bones hunt (least expensive) to the trophy hunt (most expensive). We shall assume a standard hunt, which is what most hunters go with.
The final deciding factor before choosing your guide is what kind of weapon is allowed. Many outfitters are becoming archery only due to the low impact and longer seasons. Make sure that the outfits you are considering allow the weapon of your choice and they place you in the appropriate season. If you are a firearm hunter, ask if they will allow you to shoot a group of bullets when you arrive to check for accuracy. Depending on the distance or means of travel, this is very important. Most guides will encourage you to zero in before you hunt.
Once you have chosen these important factors, start seeking a guide service. If you don’t know of one, you can find a guide matching service online such as HuntAndFishGuides.com, which will match you with a reputable outfitter. You can also try to call the game warden in the county that you have interest hunting in. They should be able to direct you to a reputable outfitter in their area. Once you have made contact, ask for references from previous hunts that are willing to talk to you. Make sure you don’t receive references from the same hunting party; you will want to talk to several different clients that have experienced different adventures. Ask them anything you would like to know about their time from the guide themselves to accommodations if they are willing to share. Select several guides and compare. Discuss with the guide your expectations, make sure they can accommodate you; trophies in one part of the country may be different than a trophy in another part of the country. After all, it’s your money and you have the right to know the details.
Be aware of all costs involved. Surprises of the financial kind are not usually welcomed in any stance in life and this is no exception. Find out what is included in your package so you can plan accordingly; license and tags, transportation, trophy fees, tipping, processing, shipping, etc. Ask the guide if they have available extra hunting supplies if something breaks or you forget something. Bottom line? Do your homework. Leave no stone unturned, leave nothing to chance.
Once you have chosen your guide, keep an open dialogue. If questions come up, write them down and then sit down and make that phone call. Clear communication with your guide will only enhance your trip. Allow your guide to know your limitations both physically and with your shooting abilities. Armed with this information, the guide can create an outing that will play to your strengths instead of your weaknesses. Most of these hunts can by very trying on the human body and making yourself out to be in better shape than you are will only serve misery and a low chance of success. This is important information to share when you finally book your hunt, not when you get there.
Your guide will send you a confirmation, a list of recommended gear to bring and your itinerary. Don’t assume you know more than your guide and pack what they suggest. You shouldn’t need anything new for your trip, make sure everything you have is comfortable and appropriate for your chosen game and in good condition. Unless you have something you can’t live without, pay attention to what they will provide so that you don’t unnecessarily over pack.
Once you arrive do your part to be a good guest. Your enthusiasm is expected and welcomed but your time there is also spent well listening and learning. Whether this is for a trophy or a new species to add to your showcase, you can always learn something new and your guide will be a wealth of information. When it comes time to zero in on your target, keep your eyes and ears open and your guide will direct you to the best possible shot.
Develop relationships, enjoy the time and hunt safe. This is your dream; help it become a reality!