The person we will spend our hard earned money and dedicate our even more precious time available to? The planning, preparation and practicing show out dedication to our passion…our way of life. If we demand excellence from ourselves, then shouldn’t we expect it from those professionals we choose to employ? A guided hunt will, in one way or another, be an experience you will never forget.
I still remember like it was yesterday, a Mountain Goat hunt that went south the minute we booked. As inexperienced as I was at the time, I think the outfitter was even more so (He was a great guy, just not a great outfitter). All I can say is I’m glad my brother and I were prepared with our own equipment, knew how to saddle and load pack horses, had a satellite phone, had a spotting scope, and knew how to full body cape a mountain goat, and in general how to hunt and not give up when impending disaster seemed to be waiting for us at almost every turn.
We killed a goat, an average nanny, and made it home alive 20# lighter and in fighting shape. I didn’t think I could survive on goat meat and dry Mountain House. This is a hunt Aaron and I use all the time as a standard of an outfitter not to book with. It also serves as a control in this experiment we have been conducting over the years, and has allowed us to form a hypothesis on what makes a great outfitter. I have a theory that there are good outfitters and bad outfitters. As an alternative to what makes a bad outfitter, I’ll list out a few things I look for when choosing an outfitter to hunt with.
When a customer orders a rifle from us, they have certain expectations about the finished product. They expect perfection. The fit and finish must be impeccable, and the accuracy must be unmatched. From a manufacturing perspective, this can only be accomplished by strict quality control. It comes from using the best components, the latest technology, and properly trained employees and a desire to exceed every customer‘s expectation. It comes from the “buy-in” from everyone involved in the whole process from start to finish.
We need to look for the same performance in the outfitters we choose to go with. Honesty is essential, not as a matter of convenience but because his/her character demands it. If I find I have been misled or lied to I immediately start looking for someone else to go with. Reputation is key, so make sure to get references. Have your list of questions to ask the reference ready before you contact them. Keep in mind the old but true proverb, “by their fruits ye shall know them.” An outfitter who produces big animals and happy satisfied customers hunt after hunt is an outfitter you want to hunt with, as opposed to one who has negative after negative review plastered everywhere you look.
When I go on a hunt I realize there is no guarantee, but I expect forethought and planning. Scouting beforehand shows me some sense of diligence on the outfitter’s part. I like it when the outfitter shares the desire to harvest the biggest and most mature animal out there.
I want knowledgeable guides and staff. I wan personnel who know the area, know and are capable of handling the meat and capes if needed, and guides who have optics and know how to use them. Can they call your shot for you? Can they judge and make the call on the trophy you are after? I always get an uneasy feeling when the guide says, “I don’t know …what do you think?” I prefer to hear the words, “that’s the one we are after!”
To be at the top of my game, I need hot and fresh food, well prepared in a clean environment. I need quality rest, and lots of it. Nothing drives me more crazy than the nightly party at hunting camp. I feel there is a time and place for the celebration, but it’s not while we are trying to get the job done. I’ll be even more irritated if it keeps me from sleeping, or if I catch my guide napping while I’m glassing the next day.
It is also important to find out if the outfitter is long range friendly. If you are set up and have practiced for shots at longer ranges, is your outfitter open to the idea of shooting that ram across the mountain, or will he risk hiking you over there only to find the ram has disappeared and left you worn out and wondering. The 200” mule deer is standing on the edge of the brush, seconds from vanishing and leaving you with the haunting memory of his giant horns and what could have been tasty back straps. Will he/she let you put your skills to use?
Some of the weariest, most unapproachable trophy pronghorn are now being harvested with consistency. Those huge bulls who once were safe across that wooded canyon are now hanging on the wall and getting served up for Sunday dinner. That Grand Slam ram is now yours because of your dedication to practicing for perfection. It paid off when you were given the opportunity at the ram of a lifetime and were able to overcome the distance of that almost unnavigable terrain with a piece of flesh seeking hot lead fired with precise intentions and aptitude.
With what is now available in terms of firearms, optics and range finding, we have windows of opportunities that were once unimaginable. To be capable of taking an 800 or even 900 yard shot with confidence is still a fairly new concept, but has become more accepted over the last few years. The scenario of the one that got away because, “he was too far away,” or “we got too close and spooked him,” has happened less often as shooting proficiency increases.
These are just a few thoughts from a hick from Wyoming who loves the hunt. I have been on some pretty awesome hunts outfitted by some of the coolest people on the planet. I have also been on a few terrible hunts. Hunts which, unfortunately, cost me more than time or money. It’s true that without experiencing the good it would be impossible to know what is not good. However, I would recommend avoiding one of these not so positive experiences by doing your research. It is not impossible to find the right outfitter. Feel free to call anytime for recommendations on a few good outfitters to book hunts with. We have been around the world and have hunted with some of the best. Check out our YouTube channel to see some of the amazing hunts we have had the opportunity to experience.