Many hunters have bucket lists of items they would like to harvest. The challenge in checking animals off the list comes in assessing the cost to hunt said animals and having the time to sufficiently scout the area prior to the hunt. Fortunately, for some, hunters can look to a guide or outfitter to do the behind the scenes scouting without using up valuable vacation days.
Price is generally the first, and sometimes only, thing people ask when they are shopping for a guided hunt. Price is important to all of us hard working individuals, but the questions shouldn’t stop there. A hunter should ask the guide many questions.
Also See: Six Ways To Get Started Hunting
Why you need to ask lots of questions:
I’ve heard, and given, good and bad reports about guided hunts over the years. In many instances, a “bad” experience occurred because of false expectations. Our vision of the hunt we are purchasing is often times different than what is actually provided. (You know what "they" say about assume?) It’s best to find this out before you spend thousands on the dream hunt you had in your mind, only to find out, you paid for what is someone else’s dream.
In order to prevent miscommunication, a client needs to call the outfit representative and ask a number of questions. It’s easy to fire off an email requesting a price but better to speak with someone so you can get a good feel. Maybe “touchy-feely” stuff isn’t for you, but the bottom line is sometimes personalities simply don’t mesh.
The following list can be just a start because as you ask these pertinent questions, many more may come to mind.
What questions to ask when you call:
- What is included? Not all hunts include housing, meals or transportation.
- Will I be guided? Find out if you will be in the field alone or with someone.
- Will there be other hunters aside from myself, or the group I’m with? Find out who, and how many people, will be hunting.
- How many guides per hunter? Determine whether you'll be giving your hard earned money to someone who spends the day hunting with you and several other clients... together... at the same time... in the same location.
- Are accommodations provided? Just because the fee is thousands of dollars doesn't mean it includes housing.
- If lodging is provided, will I be staying in a tent, lodge, bunkhouse or other? This question is imperative. Some hunters are looking for a rustic, hard-core hunt. Others are looking for full-service accommodations including indoor plumbing and heat.
- Do I have to bunk with others? If you like your privacy, you may not like to stay, or even share a bed, with a stranger.
- Will this be a co-ed hunt? This may seem as though it's a "women's only" question, but if you're married, you probably shouldn't be sharing a room with another woman.... Just sayin'.
- Does the guide go along on the hunt or drop the hunter off with instruction? Many experienced hunters are okay with hunting solo, but make sure the fee reflects the do it yourself experience.
- What is the average shot distance? Find out if the outfitter/guide expects you to be a sniper or proficient short ranged shooter.
- What is the recommended method of take? If you're looking for a rifle hunt, don't book an archery hunt... Remember the "Ass-u-me" portion above.
- What caliber rifle is recommended? If you'd like to shoot your .243, find out if it is a legal caliber.
- Do you have a recommended gear list? If an outfitter will provide you with a gear list, you can see what they are suggesting you bring, hence showing a few items that are not included in their hunt fee.
- Are meals included? As I mentioned, not all places include meals. If they do, you better make sure they offer foods you like.
- If I bring my own food, where will I store it? If you plan to bring food, you'll want to make sure they have a bear proof location to store said food.
- If I stay in a camp without a guide (aka “drop camp”) how often will you check on me? Make sure you get a guide who will come every day or two to check on you. After all, you are there to harvest and animal, and it shouldn't be in the field for too long. Also, you may need items or have an emergency.
- What do you provide with your camps? Find out which larger items you may need to bring. Do they have cots, dishes, stoves and firewood?
- Is there a trophy fee? Find out if there is an added charge for harvesting an animal.
- Will the guide cape or skin my animal and is there a fee for this service? Many experienced hunters know how to field dress their animals, but do you want to pay thousands of your hard earned dollars to do this yourself, or is it included in the price?
- Will you charge a pack out fee? This is another service that is included on some hunts, but should not be assumed.
- If I harvest my animal before others in my group, where will my animal be stored? Find out if the guide does has a walk-in, or chest, freezer. If not, you may have to pay a local processor to store your animal.
- Is there a fee to store my animal? You may have to pay that processor to store you animal, but if the guide does have a freezer, as him/her if there is a fee to use it.
- How will I get my meat home? Shipping meat can be quite expensive. Make plans for this before the hunt.
- How will I get my trophy home, or do you have a taxidermist you recommend? Some remote areas may not have shipping companies nearby. If you want to mount your bucket list animal, it's important to have a plan for getting it home before the animal is on the ground.
- What if I wound an animal? This is a must ask question and it will truly give you a feel as to the demeanor and ethics of the guide. Listen for the tone, confidence and inflection of the voice when this question is answered. Pay attention to whether or not the guide is arrogant, helpful and law abiding.
This is only the tip of the iceberg on questions you must ask when booking a guided hunt. Check back for Part 2!