By Jeff Warren, August 2013
The 2013 hunts are almost here, and the anticipation is almost as exciting as the actual hunt. My job here at The Huntin’ Fool is to find and endorse the best outfitters in the business for most North American species. I talk to guys on a regular basis who have had a bad experience with an outfitter somewhere along the way, and the bad taste doesn’t seem to go away, even after many years. This is the reason that we work so hard to cut through the nonsense, so you don’t have to. I also get horror stories from outfitters every year about less than stellar clients that they have dealt with. That leaves an equally bitter taste in the outfitter’s mouth.
With that being said, this article is going to focus on what you as a client can do to make an outfitter’s endorsed client list, if there was such a thing, officially. Outfitters and guides are expected to be prepared so that their clients have the best odds for a successful hunt and experience. You, as a client, have responsibilities of your own. Looking back I remember a client on one of the first archery elk hunts that I guided. This guy was 6'7" with a thick southern drawl and a recent bad outfitter experience boiling in his gut. The chip on his shoulder was hard to miss. I knew he could be trouble, so I saved my guides from dealing with him and guided him myself. I figured that we would lock horns at some point, and it happened fast! On the first morning of the hunt we were working a very vocal bull and inching uphill toward his location. This client kept stopping me by grabbing the back of my shirt sleeve, offering his perspective on how to get a crack at the bull. At first I was patient, but by the fourth tug on my sleeve I snapped. Whirling around I snarled that if he would shut his mouth and do what I told him then he might get a chance at the bull! To make a long story short he complied with my “suggestion,” and within 30 minutes of working the bull he promptly missed a 30 yard broadside shot, sailing the arrow over the shoulder of a great 7x6. As a side note this client is now one of my best friends, but it started off rough!
Here are a few ideas that I believe would help make you a better client. During the booking process, let your guide know your expectations on the quality of animal that you want to harvest, but be realistic. Once you book your hunt, pay your bills by the agreed upon dates. Outfitters have payment deadlines of their own that must be met. Be precise with your travel plans; delays that threaten the start of a hunt are not good. Be in the best physical condition possible for your situation. Don’t miss an opportunity for a great trophy because you couldn’t get there. It happens a lot! Good outfitters and guides put in a great deal of time in scouting before the season so that their clients have the best chance for success. Your failure to physically get to a trophy animal is disappointing to all involved, and it can damage future booking efforts for the outfitter. If you are not in great shape, at least be willing to try. Trust me, guides notice your willingness and you will get their best effort.
Help with the glassing, and be patient while glassing. If your guide is intently scouring the area for long periods of time, don’t get nervous. Leave him alone and let him do his job; he knows what he is doing. Show up with equipment that you are familiar with, clothing and footwear that are ready to be used in all weather conditions, and packs that you know how to adjust and use quickly and properly. Rifle familiarity goes without saying. Know what type of shots you are capable of making, and let your guide know what these are. Go ahead and make suggestions to your guide during the course of your hunt that you think may help the situation, but one of the main things you will want to avoid is guiding the guide. It doesn’t work; don’t do it. Trust him! Try not to put undo pressure on your guide; I promise you that a good outfitter or guide is creating enough all on his own.
After the shot is made and the animal is harvested be willing to help your guide get the animal broken down and ready for transport. Even if you don’t know what needs to be done, let the guide know that you are willing to help. Sometimes he won’t want help, but he will be glad that you offered. I have had experiences where I needed help with big animals, like elk and moose, even if it is just holding a leg, but my hunter was in the shade resting and watching. Pride wouldn’t let me ask for help, and most guides think the same way. In my opinion good men don’t sit in the shade while another good man works!
Finally if you have had a good experience on your hunt and feel that the guide deserves a tip, be as generous as you can. Keep in mind that even if you didn’t harvest an animal your guide worked just as hard, maybe even harder than if you did kill. Generally speaking, leaving gear as a tip is looked at with furrowed eyebrows by most guides. Cash is king. A tip of 10% of the cost of the hunt, minimum, is a general rule in the industry. Please understand that most guides use their own personal equipment and get paid a very minimal wage by the outfitter. Tips are depended on and are a huge part of your guide’s yearly income. Plan ahead so that you can throw some greenbacks his way. Have fun this fall, and take a lot of photos. When hunting season is over it is gone for good and you don’t get a redo!