Asking the right questions when searching for your next hunting or fishing trip with an outfitter can be the difference between a fantastic experience that you can’t wait to do again, or a trip where the end can’t come soon enough. Here is a list of the Top 10 Questions that everyone needs to ask before potentially booking with an outfitter.
1. What Is The Primary Game That You Hunt?
While many outfitters hunt multiple species of game throughout the year, there is usually one that they focus on as their featured hunt. When talking to the outfitter, going through this information will give you a good idea if it is going to be the right fit for you. If you are planning on going on a waterfowl hunt with an outfitter who only wants to talk about their big game hunts, then this may not be the right fit for what you are looking for. However, there are many outfitters who do a great job with all of their hunts and are extremely knowledgeable and successful no matter what game they are pursing. Knowing exactly what you are looking for before you start will help out in making sure you find the right outfitter for your next adventure!
2. How Long Have You Been A Professional Outfitter?
Looking into how much experience your outfitter has will more than likely correlate into how successful and enjoyable your adventure will be. Many outfitters have either been hunting or fishing in an area since they were kids, thus giving them a great amount of knowledge about their specific area. Some outfitters also have previous guiding experience working for another outfitter, while they were learning the industry and are now operating their own guiding business. This can be a positive or a negative point though as with any business, it may take a few years to work out the kinks. An outfitter who has been in business for at least 5 years is always a plus. In addition, when talking with an outfitter be truthful about the things about the hunt that are important to you as well as what kind of shots you are comfortable with taking, this will help the outfitter have a better idea of how to give you a successful hunt.
3. What Is Your Success Rate?
A great place to start taking a look at how the outfitter has done over the past season and before is to take a look at their photo gallery on their website (if available). Be sure to look for the animals that you plan on harvesting. If you are going deer hunting, make sure that there are pictures of deer! Many outfitters consistently update their photos from successful hunts during and after each season. This will give you reassurance that the outfitter you are planning to book with actually specializes in the game you want to harvest. However, pictures can be deceiving and not show the whole story. Make sure to talk to the outfitter about their most recent season as the area game population may be up or down for various reasons. Also, many outfitters only count success as harvested game, while others consider a shot opportunity, or even seeing game as a success and essentially what you are going to be paying them for. Getting the specifics and details of how previous hunters have fared, is extremely important.
4. What Is Your Hunting Philosophy?
Finding out what method of hunting you will be using with a specific outfitter will help you find the right hunt for you. Rather than spending the time and money getting to the outfitter’s location, if you do not agree with the methods that they use to harvest the game, it’s better to find that out before the hunt begins. For example, if the most successful way that the outfitter is able to get his clients in front of wildlife is to drive around until the desired animal is spotted. Then try to stalk the prey and this is not what you are looking for, that is important to know. Another scenario may be the type of blind you are more comfortable hunting out of. If you prefer a specific style of hunting find the outfitter who offers what you are looking for. It will also be very important to ask up from what a typical day in the field consists of beforehand to make sure that you are getting the kind of experience that you want.
5. What Is The Average Size / Amount Or Type Of Animals That You Harvest?
While no outfitter can ever guarantee that you will harvest the next world record. Some outfitters will offer a guarantee as to what caliber of game and the amount of game that you are expected to see on your hunt and having a high chance of getting a shot opportunity. With this in mind you need to know what the typical sizes of animals in the area are. In some areas seeing a whitetail buck in the 150” range is a big deer, while in others a big deer is closer to the 190” range. This is the same when hunting birds and fishing. Knowing what you can expect to see on days with good conditions and how previous trips have done in the past is again extremely important. Make sure to ask what you can expect during the dates that you are going to be with the outfitter. If you are not going to be hunting or fishing during the “peak” times, you need to know what that means, and be sure to have a realistic expectation of the game you will see.
6. What If I Harvest My Game Early Or Have To Leave Early?
What will your trip consist of if you are on a multiple day hunt, and within the first hour of hunting you filled your tag and are essentially “done” with your hunt? Knowing this ahead of time will help you plan to get the most out of your trip. Some outfitters offer the chance to buy additional tags in these cases, or you may be able to harvest another species. With others you simply get to enjoy the lodge and relax for the rest of your trip or enjoy some of the local attractions. There is also the chance that an emergency could occur and you need to leave early. Many outfitters have dealt with unexpected events before, and have a policy that they follow.
7. What Is The Payment Process?
While it may be an uncomfortable situation at times, this is a subject that needs to be made clear. Many outfitters require a down payment to lock-in the dates for your trip, with the remaining balance due upon arrival. Some outfitters don’t require payment in full until after the hunt, to focus on the experience. Feeling that they may not have yet “earned” the money till the trip is over. Keep in mind however, that if you are going with an experienced guide who has been in the business for a long time, they have definitely “earned” it before the hunt even began. With the time that they have spent scouting, getting permission to hunt, leasing hunting land, and having their equipment ready for your hunt. They have done a large amount of work preparing for you to arrive. There also are those outfitters that will ask for the deposit up front and only the remainder when you take your first shot. Knowing the process right away will make your trip much more enjoyable and avoid a potentially uneasy situation.
8. Are You Offering Any Specials?
Many outfitters do offer some great specials when hunting or fishing with them, especially if you book early so they can plan ahead for the upcoming season. These specials may include anything from taking money off the price of a trip if booked by a certain date, to a free night of lodging when you meet certain criteria such as an ideal group size. These specials are available to not only give you more opportunities to have a great trip, and hopefully return again the next year, but also to help the outfitter plan for their upcoming season more effectively. In-turn they are willing to provide you with an incentive program.
9. What Is Your Cancellation Procedure?
Health, family, work, and weather conditions, all could potentially force you to unexpectedly cancel your expedition. Finding out the policy that the outfitter follows will eliminate any concerns that you may have about any unexpected events. Depending on what is required from the outfitter when you scheduled your trip, they may keep your deposit. This is in order to offset some of their costs and lost income from not receiving the full amount from your hunt. Many outfitters only allow a limited number of hunts during each season and if they are unable to find someone to take your place there is no way for them to make that money back and keep their business running. Some outfitters will however offer you the opportunity to put your current deposit towards a future hunt. Purchasing trip cancellation insurance when available is another resource to consider.
10. Are Most Of Your Clients Repeat Or New Clients, And Do You Offer References?
Quality outfitters that have been in business for a long time will usually have a large number of repeat clients. This is valuable information to know when booking for a couple of reasons: The first is with repeat clients, the outfitter has proved to them that they will have a good hunt or fishing trip and want to come back. The second is that repeat clients usually schedule the same trip at the same time each year. The outfitter will know this and will typically save the dates for those customers.
When asking for references be sure to get the contact information for someone who did the same trip that you are going on. Be respectful of the reference’s time and don’t be afraid to ask them about their experience associated with the information that the outfitter shared with you.
Remember to keep in mind that the outfitter is interviewing you as much as you are interviewing them. Many times they are inviting you into their home, and introducing you to their families. By being honest with them in your experiences and knowledge will increase the chances of a successful, safe and enjoyable experience!
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