Whether you’re a veteran bowhunter or a beginner entering your first season, hiring a guide can be an excellent option when planning a hunt.
Paying someone with more experience and knowledge of an area and its animals can ease your hunt’s planning process by letting a local expert handle the details and logistics. It also gives you freedom to relax and enjoy yourself once afield. Some states even require hiring a guide, depending on where you hunt and what species you’re hunting. If you want to hunt Dall’s sheep in Alaska, for example, you’ll need to hire a guide.
Choosing a guide you’ll entrust with your hunt can feel like buying a used car. You probably have a good idea what you’re seeking, but you won’t know the quality of the investment until after you’ve committed.
Word-of-mouth recommendations are the most credible referrals you can get when picking a guide or outfitter. Talk with hunters you know who have done the hunt you’re interested in, or contact friends who might know someone who has.
You can also visit an archery shop for referrals or contact information for hunters who can provide a reference. Also work your contacts on social media to find hunters you know and trust with firsthand experience with guides and outfitters.
Know What You’re Seeking
Before contacting a potential guide or outfitter, make notes about what you want from the hunt. That will help you ask more detailed questions, better understand the guide you want, the type of hunt you desire, and the type of hunter you are.
Do you want a hunt where you’ll camp beneath the stars, or do you want more creature comforts? Can you hike several miles daily and live out of a backpack, or do you prefer a vehicle or ATV to cover more ground?
Also consider the type of animal you want to arrow. Do you have personal benchmarks you want to meet, or would you be happy with a good representative of the species you’re hunting?
Once you’ve found a guide or outfitter who gets positive referrals, check out their website and social-media pages. Try to learn a bit about their staff, operation and hunting area, and view photos from past hunts.
If an outfitter has a website that hasn’t been updated in years, don’t panic. Most guides and outfitters I’ve met aren’t tech savvy. To excel at their job they don’t need to be. After learning all you can online, call the outfitter. This first impression matters. Make sure the person answers all your questions and, most of all, makes you feel comfortable. Trust your gut.
When speaking with potential outfitters, get answers to important questions before booking. You must ensure you’re making the most informed decision possible. Consider asking these questions:
- How many years have you been an outfitter?
- How experienced are your guides?
- Is guiding your full-time job?
- Do you cater to archery and rifle hunters? If so, what’s the ratio?
- What are your success rates per species, and how many shot opportunities do your clients average?
- What tags, license or permits are required and available?
- How difficult is it to get drawn and licensed to hunt?
- Will you hunt public or private land?
- What kind of terrain can you expect?
- How large is the hunting area?
- How long have you hunted this area?
- How may hunts do you conduct, on average, in this area annually?
- What’s included in the hunt? Meals? Lodging? Skinning? Hauling? Processing?
- Will other hunters be in camp? If so, how many?
- How do clients travel to and from camp?
- What’s the routine on a typical hunting day at your camp?
Also ask the outfitter for contact information for some recent clients. Contact these individuals to confirm that their experience met their expectations.
Talking with hunters who recently spent time with that outfitter can provide insights into details like the quality of food provided, lodging or camping accommodations, and quality and quantity of animals seen while hunting.
Once you choose an outfitter, book the hunt. Hesitating to reserve your spot could mean hunting a less ideal time or waiting until the next season for an opening. The best guides and outfitters are often booked for the next year or two.
After your hunt, provide feedback for other hunters who are seeking an outfitter. Leave an honest and fair review on the outfitter’s social-media page or search-engine listing. If you had a good hunt, help the outfitter with a positive review. Always pay it forward to bowhunters who are searching for the best outfitter possible.
Choosing an outfitter can seem overwhelming. You’re selecting a stranger who will likely spend several days afield with you. You’ll count on them to keep you safe, and deliver on their promises to provide a quality hunting experience.
By following these tips and searching thoroughly, you’ll confidently choose a quality individual.