Even though many of us have a similar goal when we book a hunt, not every guide fits well with every hunter. Most people have access to online research, and if you’re reading this then my point is proven. How, then, do we sift through the information overload when we are looking to find the right guide for our next hunt or fishing trip? What are the unwritten rules for those of us who know what we want, but don’t want to seem paranoid about booking the wrong person to guide us? I’ve put together a list of guidelines for people who want to book a trip in the most effective way possible.
List your priorities
While some of us may think of the perfect trip in a sense of ‘accommodations and food’, others may have ‘animal quality and time restrictions’ on their mind first and foremost. By making a list of what is important to you, and what isn’t, you can narrow your search down quickly. Many guides have their websites set up to highlight the specific areas that they specialize in, and if you don’t see anything on their site immediately that mentions accommodations or food, then it’s likely that these aren’t high on their priority list. When you’ve decided what your top priorities are, then you can use a search engine to narrow your search down. By adding the word or phrase (i.e. restaurant, world-class animals, or multiple guides available) to your search, you can quickly narrow your search results to only include guide services that will be of interest to you.
Compare and contrast
When you have finally narrowed your results down to just a few by looking at their websites, then you can begin the actual research. By this I mean that it’s not always easy to find what you’re looking for online, and picking up the phone and speaking to the guide service or outfitter personally is highly recommended. There will always be people who just don’t click right away, and if you don’t feel completely comfortable with the person you speak with, then it’s your decision on if you should try speaking with someone else at their company (if there actually is someone else), or if you should just move on to the next one. Booking a guide service is a big commitment, and if you aren’t feeling completely comfortable in the beginning, then it’s not likely that you will begin to feel comfortable later either.
Know where you want to go
Many guides and outfitters are able to offer multiple locations for hunting or fishing depending on what type of adventure you’re looking for. The only way to find out is to ask, and not asking could mean leaving some great opportunities on the table untouched. Online photos, chat forums, and references from the actual guide service can be valuable when we are considering which area will best suit our needs. An example of this is a recent hunt I booked in Colorado where the guide had multiple properties. Once he assessed my needs and wants, he gave me an idea of which parts of the state have the types (and numbers) of animals that I was looking for. This was an advantage for both the outfitter, and myself, as I was a happy hunter and he made my decision on which guide service to use going forward easy.
Personality does matter
When booking your guide you may want to consider that you will ultimately be spending a lot of time with this person. This time spent together will likely be in a remote setting, for long periods of time, and all under slightly stressful and time sensitive conditions. Liking your guide as a person is not simply a comfort, but a necessity. If you are looking for a guide who has a nice personality, then speaking with them on the phone will be a good way to tell if they may want to get rid of you within a day of your arrival. Simply put, some people just don’t mesh well. When we put the time and location factors into this equation, it’s easier to know ahead of time how well you will like the person who guides you.
Stay in touch
After you book your hunt with your match-made-in-heaven guide, then you should keep in mind that life goes on and some things change. If your hunt is a year away then I suggest not calling your guide every week to plan your ultimate adventure. If you do, then the guide cannot be blamed for mysteriously cancelling your trip ahead of time due to aggravation. Sending an email every month or two is acceptable, and advisable, for guarding against miscommunications. If your guide has a life event that changes their business, the property availability, or their employment in general, then it’s important for you to know this information as quickly as possible. In the case that this does happen, then I suggest starting back over at the top of this guide.
We all throw names around when discussing our future trips, and by naming names you may come across others who have either heard of, or who have used your future guide. If you are open to having multiple people on your trip with you, then it’s worth asking for a group discount. Many of us also feel more comfortable if we have spoken with some previous clients of the guide service. Be aware of companies that refuse to give referrals upon request. Just like any other business, guide services should be striving to make their future client comfortable. Typically 50% deposit is required prior to arrival, and sometimes more, and references can put everyone at ease before the big trip is upon you.
Many of us have stories of trips gone wrong and people we would prefer not to book a hunt with again. Making the most of a bad situation is becoming a lost art, but a little forgiveness can go a long way. If you arrive for your long-awaited hunting or fishing trip and there has been an obvious case of misleading a client (for example: your ‘quaint cottage’ is actually a one room shed with no running water) then you can make a quick decision on staying it out or going home. Depending on your personality, patience, and how much you want to bag the game, every person will differ on how they handle that situation.
The Better Business Bureau is a great place to start if you either have a terrible experience, or if you would like to prevent one. Just like any other business, guide services and outfitters are able to commit to making a good faith effort to resolving issues with clients if there is a complaint. The BBB is there to make sure they stand by that promise if there is any issue.
During the early stages of planning your trip I highly recommend checking the BBB website for the guide services you have in mind. If you find an outfitter that you like, and they aren’t listed on the BBB website, you may consider asking them why they choose not to participate.
Just like any other over-planned vacation, the scrutiny can backfire. Try to relax and enjoy the process of planning your trip. There is no need to take the fun out of the beginning stages of something that you should be looking forward to. Do your research, take your time, find your comfort level, and, finally, book the trip.