Author: Lauren Cole
If you have never been on a hunt with an outfitter, you are truly missing out on what could be a wonderful experience. My husband and I love traveling, especially to hunt. We go on as many hunting trips a year as time and finances will allow. Just like many hunters, I have a lot of different animals on my bucket list. I think using an outfitter is a great way to learn how to hunt a new species that you have never hunted before. Last year, I was blessed enough to harvest an awesome animal that was at the top of my list – antelope. Neither of us had ever hunted this particular animal before, nor the type of terrain in which they live. We went with an outfitter and had a guide. I am so glad we chose this route for this hunt. We both learned so much and had a wonderful experience. For this particular trip, we chose to stay at a hotel and it worked out as a great option for us.
We have had some bad experiences with outfitters, but we have also had some really great ones. Sometimes people fall for the fancy lodging with the big name and even bigger price tag. It would be easy to get caught up in these details. Who doesn’t want luxurious accommodations with a chef cooking every meal?! Especially us girls! However, we have to remember what we are there for- the hunt. Larger outfitters may often focus more of their time and efforts on their flashy accommodations than on ensuring a good hunting experience for their clients. A bad experience can ruin any trip. I compiled a checklist with basic tips to keep in mind when looking for the perfect outfitter for you. This guideline is based on my own personal experiences and opinions.
1. Guided or Semi-guided
It is important to know what type of hunt you are looking for. I know this may sound obvious, but there is a big difference between the two. Some outfitters may only offer guided hunts. Otherwise, which type of hunt you choose depends on your experience and comfort level. There is also a pretty significant difference in pricing. On a Semi-guided hunt, you will be on your own for the most part. However, the outfitter should know their land and animals there very well. They should give you a wealth of information, such as movement and patterns of the animals, a lay out of the land, and property lines.
Just like all relationships in our lives, communication is also key in the outfitter/client relationship. It is important to not only find out how they operate, but to also let them know what you are expecting. You should find out exactly how you will be hunting the particular game you are after. Will you be in a tree stand, a blind, spot and stalk, or leaned up on a log? What, if any, preparations will you need to make? We learned this the hard way this past turkey season in Texas. To make a long story short, there was a lengthy list of unmet expectations. I think many of the situations we had problems with could have been resolved with a little better communication on both ends.
Most outfitters prefer cash to ensure that the balance is paid, so it is important to double check with them before arrival. We are usually in small little towns in the middle of no where when we are on a hunt. Many of those towns do not even have banks, and if they do, chances are slim that it would be a bank that you use. So, it is not easy to aquire the amount of cash you may need. Regardless of their method of payment for the actual hunt, always bring cash for tips. I also like to have extra in case they offer something else I want to do, especially if I harvest my animal early in the trip or have extra time. Just for example, you could possibly get in on an afternoon goose hunt while on a duck hunt.
4. Be Prepared for ANY Weather
It does not matter what the forecast says, bring hunting gear for any kind of weather- warm, cold, wind, rain, or snow. We have been in Nebraska in May on a turkey hunt. Not only did it snow, but it rained with about 25 MPH winds. The forecast had called for beautiful weather for that week, but we always tend to bring the wrong kind of weather with us wherever we go. You never know what mother nature may hand you!
The difference just a few hours can make….
5. Be Prepared at Camp
I like to bring plenty of snacks from home. We are from south MS and love a lot of seasonings. People prepare food differently all over the country and world, so of course we will not all like the same things. I also bring my own pillow and blanket. Simple comforts from home can make a trip a little more enjoyable.
6. Do Your Research
Read, read, read! Do your research on not only the outfitter, but the area you will be in as well. Find out what other people have to say about their experiences there. I am a huge fan of reviews. It says a lot about an organization if they get repeat customers year after year.
7. License, Tags, and Fees
Before booking any hunt, it is very important to check on the license and/or tags required for that animal. In some states you can purchase all of those things online or over the counter at certain stores. However, in other states, you have to apply and be drawn for a tag. There are even some animals that you have to build up points over the years to even get the opportunity to be drawn. Those are truly once in a lifetime hunts
There are so many things that can go wrong on a hunt, as all of us hunters know. However, a bad outfitter experience should not be one of them. We do have to remember that these are wild animals we are hunting and our outfitter can not make them be in a certain spot at a certain time. They also can not control the weather. A good outfitter, though, will do everything possible to help you harvest your game. A great outfitter will go above and beyond. We personally have an outfitter that we go back to every year. That is one trip that we just don’t miss and look forward to all year. Once you have found a good outfitter, you will know that you have found a part of your family that has been missing!
“A hunt based only on trophies taken falls far short of what the ultimate goal should be.” -Fred Bear