August 02, 2021
By Colton Heward
When you spend thousands of your hard-earned dollars on an outfitted hunt, you expect to have a quality experience. The sad reality, many hunters return home after guided hunts each fall with a sour taste in their mouth for a multitude of different reasons.
One of the biggest factors, outside the quality of game, that plays into the success of an outfitted hunt is the relationship between hunter and guide. Putting two strangers together from varying backgrounds and differing personalities can often be tricky water to navigate. Regardless of the hunt or situation, always keep in mind that both the hunter and guide are working together toward a common goal: success
Having spent the last 10 years as a hunting guide, I have seen hundreds of hunters come through camp. I have also had the opportunity to hunt with many different outfitters from Alaska to Africa. Some were exceptional, while a few others not so much. Good, bad, or indifferent, I have learned from each hunt and I strive to provide the best experience possible for my hunters. I have also learned that there are many factors we can control on a guided hunt, and many that we cannot.
Below are 10 tips on variables within our control that, when implemented, will make for a better experience for everyone involved on your next outfitted adventure.
1. Set Expectations Early
Not every hunter has the same expectations or goals. Have an honest conversation with your guide about what your expectations are for the hunt. Knowing these early on allows your guide to tailor the hunt to your wants and needs.
2. Don’t Chase a Number
Hunters often begin a hunt with a number in mind regarding the size of trophy they hope to take home. This mindset foreshadows failure and may ruin what could be an incredible hunting experience. I suggest hunting for the oldest, most mature animals that you can find, and enjoy the entire process. Once you pull the trigger, your hunt is over. The memories made along the way will far outweigh the set of antlers you hang on your wall.
3. Honest with Your Limitations
Be honest about your limitations, especially your physical ones. Chances are your guide will be full of vigor, anxious to dive into the nastiest of canyons to put you on bugling bulls. If you are still adjusting to the elevation or don’t think you can physically make the hike, let your guide know before you ever leave the truck. You will save the guide and yourself a lot of heartache and avoid a potentially dangerous situation by being upfront and honest about your physical limitations.
Second, know the limitations of your weapon and stick to your guns when an opportunity presents itself. If your max range is 300 yards, but the buck is hanging in the shadows of the aspen grove 340 yards away, wait for a better opportunity or close the distance. There is nothing worse for the guide or the hunter than wounding an animal.
4. Proficient with Your Weapon
After days of grueling hunting, you might have one good opportunity to fill your tag. If you miss, that is on you. Misses happen for a variety of reasons, but don’t let one of those variables be a lack of preparation or proficiency with your weapon.
5. Don’t Guide the Guide
You are paying your guide for their expertise in hunting a specific area or species. Trust them. Offer suggestions when applicable, but keep in mind that no one will know the animal’s patterns or lay of the land better than your guide. Their local knowledge and experience often make the difference between a punched tag and going home empty-handed.
6. Be on Time
Time operates a little differently in the mountains, but your guide will still give you a rough time they want to leave camp in the mornings and afternoons. Be prompt with those times. Oversleeping or being late tells your guide you are not serious about the task at hand, and unfortunately, that mentality can carry over to your guide.
7. Open Communication
90% of mishaps or disagreements between guide and hunter could be eliminated by an open line of communication. If there is something that you disagree with or want to be done differently, let your guide know. They will do everything in their power to accommodate your wants and wishes.
8. Mutual Respect
This sounds simple, but a mutual respect between you and your guide will carry over into every aspect of the hunt. Recognize that you both have a job to do and work together towards a common goal.
9. It is Still Hunting
No matter how much money you paid for your hunt, it is still just that—a hunt. Regardless of how hard you push, there are factors outside of everyone’s control that play into the success of your hunt. I promise you, no one wants you to notch your tag more than your guide, but sometimes that is just not in the cards.
10. Help When Possible
Your guide will do everything they can to make your hunt as easygoing as possible, but that does not mean help is not greatly appreciated. This is especially true when it comes time to break down an animal and pack it out. I have had every scenario from clients not wanting me to do any of the butchering, opting to do it themselves, to the other extreme of clients not willing to even hold a leg as I skin the underside of a quarter. Your guide should be fully equipped to do everything on their own, but help is greatly appreciated.
There are few settings that forge a stronger bond than time spent on the mountain. Incorporating a few, or all, of these tips on your next outfitted hunt will set a solid foundation for success and a good relationship with your guide. Most importantly, keep a positive attitude, enjoy every aspect of the hunting experience, and thank God for the time we get to spend pursuing our passion of hunting and the great outdoors.