Mar 10, 2015

Choosing The Right Outfitter                            

By: Marc Drewek 

Now that you have saved enough money to take that hunting trip of a lifetime, it’s time to choose an outfitter. The question is where do I start? Choosing an outfitter can be an overwhelming experience.  There are plenty of publications out there as well as the internet with information on guides. Most of the outfitting websites are filled with pictures of trophy animals and satisfied hunters. This may not always be a true reflection of the experience you’re looking for. Make sure you do your homework to assure you’re choosing an outfitter that matches your expectations. I have been fortunate enough to travel and hunt here in the states and in Canada. Most of my adventures were excellent experiences but a few were not. I would like to share with you some ideas that may help you in choosing the right outfitter.

Once you choose a species to hunt, find the areas or states where you have the best opportunities. I like to start with the state’s Department of Natural resources or Fish and Game. Most of their websites have a page with outfitter information relative to the species you wish to pursue. I like to attend local hunting trade shows, almost all of them have outfitters that you can speak with. There are also online hunting directories where people can post their hunting experiences, both positive and negative. You can start with www.ihuntamerica.com. They have options of what species, how much you want to spend and which state you want to hunt in. This is just one of many options. Type hunting directories into your web browser and click away.

Once you have decided where you want to hunt, start gathering information on outfitters in that area. I pick three to four outfitters and start making phone calls. Remember, you will be spending your hard earned money with them; don’t be afraid to ask the tough questions. I like to speak with the owner to get to know them and how much passion they have for hunting and the outdoors. I also like to talk with my guide; you will be spending all your time hunting with this person. You want to make sure you click with them, it makes the hunt that much more enjoyable. I have developed some great relationships with guides over the years and still keep in contact with some of them.

Here are some of the questions you may want to ask your prospective outfitter. How many years have you been outfitting? An established guide service is my number one priority. What is the guide to hunter ratio, one to one, two to one? It’s important to know how much time and effort you will receive.  Is your guide bonded and insured? If they are licensed, chances are they have a reputable service. We always ask about their success ratio, also ask them about some of their unsuccessful trips. Remember there are no guarantees. I like to know how they approach these situations. Most reputable outfitters are going to give you the best opportunity for a harvest; their business depends on it. However, Mother Nature rules all. One of my best hunts was an elk hunt in Colorado. The weather was not conducive to hunting elk at all, very hot and dry. My guide did everything possible to get me on an animal. It wasn’t meant to be on that trip and you need to be prepared for that reality.

When you make the decision to book your hunt, understand what your hunt package includes. Some hunts require that you purchase your license on your own and some have them available on site. Some states require you to be in a draw for your tags. Make sure you know when those deadline dates are. Also consider all your travel expenses as part of the hunt. You may discover that an all-inclusive hunt may be a better deal than you think.  Make sure you fully understand their cancellation policy and deposit requirements. I try to use a credit card for deposit just in case there is an issue. As we all know things can happen, and trips may have to be postponed. Please read the contract and understand what it says.

The majority of outfitters are reputable, and have access to some of the best hunting properties available. Take the time to do your homework, talk with the outfitters and ask for references. Make sure that you’re comfortable spending your hard earned dollars on an experience of a lifetime.