An early cool misty morning awakens you as you make you way out to the edge of a willow-rimmed remote moose swamp, your experienced guide skillfully moans out a “cow in love” call. Ten minuets crawl by and finally “wooooanh” a bull announces his intentions. Your guide knows the spot the bull will emerge and quickly locates a solid rest and reassures you that you are ready for what is about to transpire. At two hundred yards the bull steps out ready to take on all contenders, your cross hairs line up perfectly and with certain confidence, you squeeze.
That was your dream hunt; now hold on for your nightmare. You awake to a snoring guide that just shared a fart in his sleep, and you’re sharing a one man tent. The horses ran back to the main camp in the middle of the night, and it is 10:00 am before the guide puts coffee on. During the heat of the day, your guide falls asleep as he pretends to glass a valley bottom. Just before dusk you spot a cow weaving in and out of the timber calling for a lover. Your “overly competent” guide reveals that there is really no sense in looking any closer because “that swamp donkey carried no horn”. This continues for ten of the longest days of your life.
"You awake to a snoring guide that just shared a fart in his sleep, and you’re sharing a one man tent."
Although the second scenario is a bit extreme, for those of you who may be considering booking your first big game guided adventure, these horrors could become a reality. Here are a few ways to ensure you book with a reputable outfitter.
Websites are a good way to get an introduction and a feel for what a client can expect. Photo galleries can give you a peak into what the outfit has accomplished in the past. Typically there are additional pages that can be reviewed to answer an array of questions and contact information will be made available, allowing for one on one interaction. Testimonials and references from past clients are normally a good way to talk with folks that have been there done that. While viewing a website look for detailed information, the info should be updated and current, and of course the info should be reliable. If the website is not current, what else is not what it could be?
Magazine articles are another good source of information and many times articles are written by trusted and reputable authors. Most articles offer first hand accounts of the hunt, guides, accommodations, and location. For the most part this is an excellent source of information to consider while pre-trip planning.
Within the hunting industry, which is relatively small, word of mouth and reputation is gold. Listen to what experienced hunters are saying about the top outfits, and listen to what they have to say about a lesser outfit.
If at all possible, I suggest a client come and enjoy a “less stress” enjoyable hunt like a spring bear hunt. This will give a first hand account of what is to be expected while on a guided hunt. After that, you will feel a bit better about sending that $10,000 deposit. Do your research, make a decision, and simply do it. Many folks talk about it, few actual make that phone call. With clients I have personally guided, many have been surprised at the amount of knowledge and experience they gained during their trip. Most reveal that even if they had not tagged out, they would have gone home feeling good about the entire situation. Book that hunt of a lifetime; it will enrich your hunting life.
Mike Hawkridge is the guide outfitter for Tatlow Mountain Outfitters and chief guide for TF Outfitters. Learn more about Mike Hawkridge
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