July 20, 2023
Searching for an outfitter that boasts “can’t-miss” success rates and huge trophies is a slippery slope. One that can lead you to being fooled by con artists that results in horror stories you definitely want to avoid. The bottom line is finding an outfitter who does business with honesty and integrity. So how do you pick a great outfitter? Here’s what I suggest.
An outfitter might claim 20 years of experience, but if the guide assigned to you is new or inexperienced, you may not be getting the cream of the crop. Experienced guides have tricks up their sleeves that less experienced guys haven’t figured out yet.
TALK TO THE OUTFITTER’S CLIENTS
Don’t accept a few cherry-picked references that say the right thing at the right time. Insist on a list of all of his clients from last year. There’s only one reason he wouldn’t readily share that list—and it’s not a good one. Ask every customer: “What one thing about the hunt could have been better?”
REPEAT CLIENTS EQUAL A QUALITY EXPERIENCE
Great outfitters have customers who are extremely loyal. Even for expensive hunts like Alaska brown bear, I have several clients who’ve returned multiple times because they love the thrill and the special way I do business. Find an outfitter that attracts that type of clientele and you’ll reap big rewards.
MANAGE YOUR EXPECTATIONS
Ask your outfitter, “What are reasonable expectations?” Effort required, fun, discomfort, and room and board are all part of the experience. Listen for reasonable answers. Keep your ears open for over-promising. One trick outfitters use is to make big promises about what you’ll get to do after you tag out. It leads you into the mindset that tagging out is inevitable.
Some outfitters hunt only their county or drainage or out of the same cabin year after year. Rain, blizzards, heat, and animal movements all fluctuate no matter what the salesman says. What’s his plan to deal with it? Having a solid Plan B—and maybe even a Plan C—can mean you’ll get a fantastic experience with one outfitter while his competitor will only give you excuses. I call it “excuses but no mooses.”