Think of it this way when planning a vacation for the family you would most likely call a travel agent to insure you get the best trip for your family. Well, the same is true when you plan to book a hunt. Hiring the right hunting guide makes a great deal of sense when you want to increase your odds of having a successful hunt. This is a good way to think of a hunting guide, your travel agent to a great hunt. Now if you have never booked a hunt with a guide before you need to know what to look for in a hunting guide. Do your homework don’t just call up a name in the back of a magazine, and make a reservation. That’s like playing Russian roulette with your trip. Talk to the guide you are thinking of working with, and ask the important questions. If you are looking for the elk hunt of a lifetime, or just wanting a well-populated area to fill the freezer the right hunting guide can make all the difference in the world. This is why knowing what questions to ask a hunting guide can help you make the right decision when it comes time to hire a guide. Let’s face it the number of hunting guides is increasing, some are not worth the price they ask. In fact many are not worth a plug nickel.
O.K. I can see it now your sitting there asking the computer screen. “ Well where the he** do I start looking for this information?” Well the first thing I would recommend is to go online to find the Fish and Game Department website in the state you plan to hunt. Most states list the requirements that the state imposes on those that wish to hang out a shingle saying they are a hunting guide. With some state sites they actually provide tips on how to pick a guide. It will also give you a chance to review for yourself the requirements that the state imposes on non-resident hunters. It never hurts to do as much research as possible; information is always a plus. Two things you and the hunting guide cannot have enough of are experience and information. After checking out the fish and game websites go online and search for hunting guides online to see what services each one offers; this gives you the chance to weed through the guides, and eliminate those that can not accommodate some of your needs such as hunting party size. This will help you narrow your search for the right hunting guide. Take a peek through the customer photos as well for recent photos this will give you valuable information as to the hunting guides consistency of putting clients on the animal. Next start calling the hunting guides that are to ask them questions about some of the things we have already covered. Try to talk to the actual guide that will be working with you on the hunt. I would start with questions about what the state requires, and see if they meet the qualifications. An example of what a state might require is a license. In some states to be legit you would have to be licensed through the state to be a hunting guide. Like I said earlier much of what is required by the state will be on their web site. If the guide meets these requirements then keep talking to them. You will also want to touch on the subject of equipment; what will they provide and what will you have to provide such as proper clothing, ammo, the services of a gunsmith, emergency equipment, and check the extra charges on these as well. A hunting guide that is insured is also a plus now this may not be required in some areas, but it is a good thing to have in a hunting guide. Check to see just exactly what the guides insurance will cover. You may want to ask if any claims have been filed against their services. Another thing that you will want to make sure of is that the guide is certified in certain life saving techniques now this is required in some areas, and a real plus no matter how remote the hunting. One type of survival training that many states require is the Red Cross Wilderness Training and even if the state doesn’t require it a hunting guide that has taken the course is a guide that has thought about making sure the client is safe. In fact when it comes to this training it is something anyone who travels off the beaten path should have especially hunters. The courses are offered through the Red Cross, and you can go to their web site for classes in your area that covers these lifesaving techniques. They train you in such things as ways to keep you alive until someone can get you out of the woods to a hospital for treatment. Like I said everyone should take the course. Think, what if your guide was down, and you had to help to keep them alive? These are courses every outdoorsmen should take.
Now this is a question I like to ask when thinking of going hunting with anybody not just a hunting guide, but with a guide this is even more important. What gun do you carry in the field? A hunting guide should know the right weapon for the job, and should have an intimate understanding of the weapons that will be used to harvest the animal. A .30-30 in Bear country wouldn’t be the smartest thing to use, as would a .416 Rigby being used to hunt Prong Horn would be stupid. Some may think this is not important, but I think it is very important especially with someone who might be hunting in areas that have predators able to eat the hunter. I mean if you go bow hunting in Canada for say Black Bear do you want your guide packing an old rifle in say .243. Yes he can hit with it, but let’s face it there are bigger animals in them woods than a .243 can handle. Remember in a situation like this he is your back up if you get into trouble. Me I would prefer a guide packing something like a .338 Magnum. I would also point out that when you meet the guide you have decided on hiring you might want to check out the guides shooting skills. Can the person hit the broad side of a barn?
After you have covered the issues we have already touched on in this article you should be down to a shorter list of hunting guides so now let’s talk about the meat and bones of what makes a good hunting guide. The hunting guides knowledge of hunting. I mean let’s face it you are hiring this person his experience with the area, and his experience hunting the type of animal you want to hunt. He needs to know the patterns of the species, and the biology of not only the species you are hunting, but of the biology, and patterns of other animals that you may encounter in the area you will be hunting. Some examples of what he needs to know? The areas density numbers, general health of the herd, location of water and food sources, path patterns for every species of animal; he needs to know what requirements the animal must have to live. This information will tell you where to find the animals. Let’s face it you don’t want to go into the wilds of Grizzly country to hunt Moose with a hunting guide that doesn’t know the first thing about Grizzlies because this kind of situation could result in you becoming the personal guest in a Bears one course meal. He should know the area like the back of his hand. Ask to see if he has maps of the area he can scan, and email you so you can get an idea of the lay of the land. See if he will email some pictures of the area. Make sure of the guides knowledge of the area, and it’s inhabitants because you also want a guide that will be sure not to step on to land that isn’t to be hunted. All this information will insure you make a safe, legal, and ethical kill. You don’t want to wind up like a guy in my neck of the woods. This guy listened to his buddy as they were drinking on the back porch, his buddy said, ” that’s the biggest deer I ever saw.” Well the guy took his rifle, and shot the huge deer only to find out that he actually killed a protected elk that was part of a restoration project. I affirm that is a true story by the way. You have to watch who you listen to about certain decisions not every person walking through the woods is going to make a good hunting guide, and the law doesn’t except he told me to do it defense in these cases. You need to know the person you are handing over your money to do the job with some competence.
To wrap it up in a nice neat package- I cannot mention it enough – QUESTIONS!! Ask every question you can. Get the guide to go into detail on his hunting experience, and ask for references. A good hunting guide is going to have references, and that is going to be one of the biggest deciding factors in making your final choice on a hunting guide. What kind of job has he done for former clients? This can be very beneficial in the last part of your process, and remember you don’t have to make your decision after just one phone call. A hunting guide is a person that is not only there to help you with the planning of your hunt, but someone to guide you through every aspect of a successful trip into the field. Listening on both sides of the table should be a primary goal for both the customer, and the hunting guide. The right hunting guide should listen to the needs of the hunter, and if at all possible accommodate the hunter as best possible. As I said before I am not saying he should kiss you’re a**, but he should work to make the experience as enjoyable as he can for the hunter. A good Hunting guide will provide the customer with a safe, productive hunting experience. Do your homework; get to know your hunting guide, and make sure you have a hunt of a lifetime, and not the worst hunt of a lifetime. You really don’t want this to be the last hunt of your lifetime.