10 Questions To Ask Your Outfitter... Before You Book!
It drives me crazy. Outfitted hunts cost money, so the people who book them must have achieved some success at something. Yet, time and again, I see people making snap decisions regarding hunting that they would never make in business! It’s okay to ask the hard questions, but before you do make sure you know what you want! Game to be hunted is a critical decision, but are you looking for a wilderness experience, or a ranch situation that’s a little easier? How important is a nice camp? How critical, honestly, is success? There can be no guarantees, but some hunts offer higher percentages than others. Give all this some thought, then fire away. There are no right or wrong answers; these are all things to be weighed before making a sound decision.
How long have you hunted your area?
A new area isn’t a bad thing, and there is much to be said for an energetic youngster as opposed to an experience but worn-out veteran…but experience and local knowledge counts.
How big is the area, and who owns it?
There is no perfect number size; it depends on the game, the country, and game density…but you should know what to expect. Ownership: Is the area owned or leased, public or private? There is no good or bad…but in the case of leased ground or government concessions, there’s nothing wrong with asking to see the agreement. In general, avoid outfitters who first find clients and then try to find places to hunt!
Is it fenced or unfenced?
Maybe you care, maybe you don’t…but you should know rather than be surprised.
Are you fully licensed to guide/outfit in that jurisdiction?
What are your camps like?
Again, maybe you care and maybe you don’t. However, no outfitter can control weather or game movement. Camp conditions can be controlled!
How many other hunters will be in camp?
Maybe you’re a loner, maybe you like large groups around a campfire…but if expect a camp to yourself, get it in writing!
Who will guide me?
With larger operations the outfitter may do little or no guiding, and that’s okay because somebody has to run the show. Ask who will be assigned to guide you. If it isn’t the person you’re talking to, then ask for references for the guide. You want the best outfitter, of course…but you also want a great hunting guide!
Do you belong to ___________?
I am very strong on operators who support their professional associations: Montana Outfitters and Guides Association (MOGA), Guides and Outfitters of British Columbia (GOABC), Professional Hunters Association of South Africa (PHASA) and so forth. If there isn’t a local association, then do they belong to the International Professional Hunters Association (IPHA) or the African Professional Hunters Association (APHA)? Or Safari Club International, Dallas Safari Club, Wild Sheep Foundations, etc.? There may be good reasons why a given operator does not support such groups…but it’s worth asking.
Do you have recent references?
Note: Very few outfitters will give unsuccessful hunters as references. If you find one that does, you’ve found a gem! Get phone numbers and call references. Find out if they had a good time, ask how many other people were in camp, how they did, and if any guides stood out.
What are my chances for success?
An honest outfitter will give a straight answer. Beware of guarantees…but if the percentages are low, consider your willingness to accept going home empty.
Again, there are no right or wrong answers; these are things to weigh. Meeting outfitters personally at trade shows is wonderful…but beware of the “convention sales hype…and impulse-buying hysteria. Personal recommendations are great…but make sure the buddy making the recommendation has the experience to know what he’s talking about…and his requirements match yours. Hey, I know a good outfitter…but your dream hunt and mine may not be the same, so always get your own expectations in order!