How to choose an outfitter - The Outdoor Community
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post #1 of 24 (permalink) Old 04-14-2006, 02:37 AM
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How to choose an outfitter

Personally, I spend hours talking to the outfitter and references. Depending on where I find the outfitter (shows) I'll watch for several years to see if they keep returning, this is not full proof but at least you know they are able to face the folks who booked with them in the past from that show. Another thing I look at is do they donate hunts to organizations, like Hunt of a Lifetime, SCI, or Earth Angel. Just some thoughts to get this thread started.
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post #2 of 24 (permalink) Old 04-14-2006, 09:37 PM
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Re: How to choose an outfitter

I call the outfitter and ask for the phone numbers of hunters who were unsuccessful when they hunted with them...I seem to get more objective information that way.

Beware of the outfitter that promises you the world....Nobody who does a fair chase hunt can promise you a B & C animal, or any animal...Weather conditions, hunting ability, shooting skills, luck....They all play a role in the outcome of a hunt, but with a good outfitter you will usually get a chance at whatever you came there to hunt for (at least 90% of the time in my experiance).

And now---The #1 Rule of hunting trips....YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR. Any outfitter that can consistantly produce trophy animals for his hunters knows that he will be in demand and he knows what he's worth....It's simple..Don't look for a 130-150 class whitetail hunt for $1000...Very likely you will be dissapointed.

Now I know that some folks are gonna pop up here and tell me about their $500 B & C elk hunts,etc...And no doubt, on occasion, somebody may shoot an animal of this caliber on such a hunt, but it won't happen often, if ever.

What gear to take on a trip??.......lay out everything you think you'll need and cut that amount in half...This is my "rule of thumb" after two decades of doing these trips. ( I decided to throw this in for the heck of it...But it is so true)..................Ken
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post #3 of 24 (permalink) Old 04-15-2006, 01:31 AM
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Re: How to choose an outfitter

A few do's and don'ts when picking a guide.

Check all references and ask for at least four. Don't get involved in the animal hunted rather the experience.

Be prepared. get in shape. practice with weapon. resight in when getting to location.

Go in blind and expect something to happen. -SL
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post #4 of 24 (permalink) Old 04-24-2006, 12:21 AM
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Re: How to choose an outfitter

Someone mentioned looking for hunters that "donate hunts". Well it is nice to be a charitable person, most hunts are donated by outfitters that want the advertising AND have hunts they CANNOT book. Big game seasons are short, and a good outfitter fills up early (often years in advance).
So if someone is donating a hunt for this year, he isn't that heavily booked. Except for Africa most NA hunts are during a 2 week season. If he can't book the short season, he may just be new or using a guide that is new. But he could also be a poor guide. Your risk.

Best indication is ask for some one who has booked more that one trip thru him.

Remember you are hunting with a guide not the outfitter (think of him as a friendly ticket seller).

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post #5 of 24 (permalink) Old 04-24-2006, 01:15 PM
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Re: How to choose an outfitter

Since I have gone on a bunch of guided and outfitted hunts I guess I might have some thoughts on the subject. Here they are, and I apologize for restating some of the stuff posted by others.
1. Decide what animal or animals you want to hunt and where you want to hunt them. Narrow your list of outfitters to those who hunt there.
2. Talk to the outfitter. Most are nice guys and easy to talk to. If you can't get along with the outfitter, there is a good chance you won't get along with his guides.
3. Ask for references and call as many of them as you can. Pay attention to what they say. One time I had the first reference I called tell me, "If you want my advice, don't go." I almost stopped calling references and wrote the hunt off. Instead I asked him what he didn't like about the hunt. It turns out he killed a moose and two bears, but the bed was lumpy.
4. If you bid on an auction hunt at SCI or some other benefit auction, do your homework beforehand. All of these organizations publish a list of the donated hunts that they will be auctioning some time before the auction. I bought a grizzly hunt and the New Zealand hunt I just returned from at auctions.
5. You can go cheap and you can go good, but probably not both very often. You do get what you pay for. There are cheap elk hunts and good elk hunts. Bow hunts are usually cheaper than gun hunts. Whitetail hunts are cheaper than moose hunts. Good whitetail hunts are usually much more expensive than lousy ones. It took my buddy a long time to figure this out.
6. Don't be afraid to try a new outfitter out if his prices are good and you instinctively like him. Of course if you can only afford one hunt every three or four years, stick with established outfitters with great references. Some of the most enjoyable hunts I have gone on have been with new outfits. One, for example, is the bear hunt I am going on in May. This will be our second trip with him since he started his outfit three years ago.

I hope I didn't ramble too much and that some of the above is of help. If anyone has specific questions, feel free to PM me.
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post #6 of 24 (permalink) Old 05-26-2006, 02:52 AM
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Re: How to choose an outfitter

This is from Lark Ritchie but very well written . mainly towards choosing a bear outfitters but most the rules apply for anything.

How does one choose a good guide or outfitter?
Over the years, I have had the opportunity to discuss this selection problem with many clients. Many have been on good and bad hunts over the years. The most common conclusion that the major cause for disappointment was caused by expectations which were not met.

Another was that, before they had been on several trips, they did not know what to look for when selecting an outfitter or guide. They felt that they had been swayed by the brochures, or the super-confident attitude of the representative of the lodge or guiding service. Some had talked to another hunter who had been successful and received an overly positive recommendation based entirely on that hunter's "glory stories".

Glory stories always make things rosy, because they enhance the prowess of the story teller. They sound terrific, but was it really that way? Others had selected a service based on low cost. One even admitted that he had chosen his outfitter strictly because the name of the service "sounded good.

These criteria did not usually produce a good selection which met the expectations of the guy who paid the shot. Many said that after their experiences, they would have asked more direct questions before making the final selection.

Here are some of the best questions to get answers for, and the reasons they should be asked.

Start your interview with some very general questions, but with an objective in mind. Make a list of what you want to discover. You may not have an opportunity to ask them in sequence, but having a list will keep you on track. Remember, it's your phone call, and you can terminate it or extend it as you see fit. The outfitter, on the other hand, wants to stay on the line until he closes a deal. In such a situation, you have an advantage if you are seeking specific information.

How Long Has the Outfitter's Business Operated?
This will give you an indication of experience and success as a business over the years. A business with a history of operating with the same owners and personnel suggests that someone must be doing something right. The key is what is the business? Fishing? Motelling? Cottage Rental? If your going fishing, choose a fishing business. If your going hunting, select a hunting business.

Motel operations, cabin rentals, resorts, and fishing lodges make their living catering to people with varied interests. Are you really addressing the same interests? Once you've narrowed your selections to hunting businesses, You're in business!

How Large is the Hunting Area?
The answer to this question may let you know the relative hunting pressure on the outfitter's hunting area. Beginning 1989, all Ontario bear hunters were allocated fixed boundary territories called bear management areas (BMA's). These areas are exclusive to each organization, and the non- Ontario-resident clients of that organization are permitted to hunt that area only.

Ontario's MNR Biologists estimate that to maintain a healthy bear population, no more than two bear per year should be taken per hundred square kilometers(MNR, June 1998). For example, if an outfitter or guide maintains a BMA of 500 square kilometers, then hunt scores over 10 bear he is over-hunting, and will deplete bear populations in his BMA. and surrounding territory.

Ask your outfitter to give you his BMA area(s) in square kilometers
(Outfitters are billed by the Ministry of Natural Resources in square kilometers, and he will know exactly how many square kilometers he has. Consider these figures when making your final selection.

Maximum Hunters Per Year?
An idea of the outfitter's client volume also allows you to infer the amount of hunting pressure applied to his area.

You need to know how many clients per week, how many different plans he offers, and how many weeks he books on a regular basis. Knowing these maximum number per year, and his BMA size, allows you to compute the potential success rate based on MNR recommended harvest rates.

Does He Offer Custom Hunts?
Some offer custom tailored hunts. When they do, the cost varies because of the expenses incurred in providing those special services you want. Those who are "processing" people will attempt to discourage such a hunt because of the special planning and additional expenses in the business. For fees that seem outrageous, have your outfitter explain how he arrives at his fee.

What is the Guide/Hunter Ratio?
Bear hunting does not require a one for-one guide to hunter ratio, but the less hunters per guide means you will get a more personal hunt and service. The cost of a hunt should vary with the ratio, because of the increased expenses. A low cost hunt usually means lower expenses, and maybe lower quality.

What is The Success Ratio?
Each outfitter's plan may have different success ratios. How does he calculate success?

Some may quote sightings rather than kills, others may consider success as having a shot at the game. Others may even classify some of their guests as non-hunters if the guest only rented baiting services, and thereby exclude that client from the calculation.

These factors can greatly modify success ratios. Know what you and he are talking about. FOR EXAMPLE: I have just viewed a website featuring an Alberta Hunt, 155 miles down the Athabasca River from the town of Athabasca (date when I write this:June 16, 1998) Here is a direct copy/paste from that site...'Wounded bear will be counted as a kill."

Expected success ratios can vary. A custom hunt may approach or exceed 100 percent, and may be very expensive depending on your needs. A high volume operation may fall at 30 to 60 percent success just due to the number of hunters. Bait rental services may run a success of 10 to 100 percent, depending on the operator and his commitment to the hunter. As a note for comparison, game report statistics gathered prior to Ontario's bear management program set non-guided hunts at a success rate of just over 30 percent.

What Type of Guest Does the Outfitter Service?
Some lodges cater primarily to the vacationer or fisherman, with bear hunting offered as an extra. If the operator makes his living through resort operation or fishing, he may not always focus on results for the occasional bear hunter. If he is serious, his price will reflect the cost necessary to provide you a good hunt.

What is the Preferred Method Of Hunting?
In Ontario, baiting is usually the method of hunting. Sometimes dogs are used if the terrain permits. (Note that dog hunting is only allowed in the earliest part of the season - Check with local officials, or obtain a current Ontario Hunting Summary which stipulates the season in the area you plan to hunt.) Baiting costs in money, time, and effort. Effective outfitters and guides purchase the bait they use in large quantities, pay vehicle expenses to transport bait, and prepare stands, and he must pay himself, or an employee. Your hunt cost should reflect these expenses. If not, what are you actually paying for? A few reads through this information will allow you to roughly compute expenses on your hunt. And your result should be close to the fee your outfitter asks. Much lower, and he is either Santa Claus, or going out of business. A lot higher, and he is charging what the market will bear.

Ensure that your outfitter or guide baits properly. Ask him questions, and get answers. Talk to his former guests. How frequently does he bait, and how many stands does he maintain? In this case, less is better than many, because it indicates care has been taken in locating and servicing stands. Estimate 1.3 sites per client per week as being a reasonable number of stands.

Accommodations can be tricky. Luxury accommodations mean a high capital investment in real estate, indicating that the operator is running a resort style lodge. His bread and butter will be from high volume, resort and vacation guests rather than seasonal bear hunters. Keep in mind that this does not necessarily exclude him as a choice. If he maintains a good hunt service, it will be reflected in his fees. Rustic accommodations do not mean that one is a serious outfitter. It may only mean the operation is low cost, and low effort. Never make a decision based on accommodations unless this is your prime concern. To be blunt, Ritchie accommodations are considered "tent-outpost". Safe, clean, and comfortable, but all in all, still on the rustic side. We are neither resort nor motel class, but a hunting camp.

Other Activities?
The amount of extra activities offered to you by your outfitter can be a help in making your decision. The more facilities and distractions there are, the more you and he will be able to justify why you didn't end up with results. This is not necessarily wrong. Consider the Ski Lodge does the guest really have to ski to have a good time? You have to decide on what your priorities are.

For the Ritchie's, each hunt area has possibilities for fishing, although we place no emphasis on it, you can reserve a boat or canoe for a little play during the week. Should you want to hunt rabbits or wolf, you may purchase a small game license. Usually side trips can be made to local centres for souvenir shopping and evening entertainment.

How Does One Get A Record Class Trophy?
Number one... Don't take the first thing that appears. Realize that first is not necessarily best, that record class trophies are not everyday occurrences. You may have to pass several opportunities to make that big one. You may even go home skunked. The Ritchie's have recorded several official Pope and Young kills. Many rifle kills are well with in this category. Each year we have several bears that approach or meet record scores. Unfortunately, these are not all bow kills.

What Proof Indicates The Outfitter/Guide Knows The Game?
Number one.. Results. A knowledgeable outfitter can tell you a lot about bear habits because he knows. Those that are confident in their ability to produce are not secretive with their knowledge. They are proud of it and willing to relay it in detail.

The Ritchie's do this as a matter of practice. Also, over the years we have had opportunities to raise both black and polar bear cubs on a temporary and long term basis of several years. They were both pets and objects of study. We can demonstrate our knowledge by giving you the shot of your choice, be it a right or left broadside, front or rear quartering, at 20 feet or 100 yards. We've done it and our hunters can verify our abilities.

How Much Experience Resides in the Camp?
Experience counts. Ensure that your outfitter has the experience. He may have recently purchased the operation from another. He may have gained experience working for someone else, or he may be totally green. Remember that operations pass from person to person and you should know who you're dealing with. There is one question that almost always is a good indicator of the experience level within a hunt camp. Rather than give away this clincher, talk with me (sorry! no e-mail requests for this one), then put the question to the other guy!

Percentage of Returns?
Hunters return to the same camp or guide service for many reasons. We feel we can satisfy our clients time after time. Some have made the trip more than four or five times. Obviously their objective is more than just taking a bear. Others have a successful hunt and move on to other game. Rough calculation puts our returns at about 60 - 70 % for those returning twice or more. If you're looking for a hunting atmosphere and good company both styles of hunt offer this.

Does The Guide Expect Help?
Some paying hunters like to get involved in the chores and camp activities. Others would rather use the time in camp to relax and enjoy. The outfitter should tell you up front whether or not he expects your help. Your help may mean he can operate with a lower over head, and pass the savings to you. Others may not want the help due to risk factors and possibilities for accident. You should know, so that you're not disappointed either way. If he returns with a question on your personal experience and abilities, don't be insulted. He may want to assess you prior to allowing you to help. Always heed his instructions, he most likely is seriously concerned for your safety.

And last but not least, don't help if you or your relatives are likely to bring a legal suit for some action that is a result of your own inexperience or foolhardiness. No outfitter or guide needs that kind of help. At our camp, if you like to pitch in and learn, then we have no objections to you doing so. If you would rather let us do the work, no problem; that's why you're paying. Many hunters like to learn how we hunt and we're quite willing to explain the thinking and reasoning behind what we do.

What About Transportation?
Some outfitters provide transportation during your hunt, others do not. Transportation can be a major cost due to the investment in vehicles and personnel to operate them.

When an outfitter provides transportation, it will be reflected in his fee. If the fee does not show some variation with others in his area of the country, then you can expect that distances are probable relatively short. Cross-checked with the number of hunters per week will indicate you may all be hunting the same area, or worse, the same bear.

What's the Bait?
Whoa! This is where we draw the line... but whatever it is, it seems to do the trick... You'll have to talk to one of our clients to know the answer to this question....

Some Final Notes.
The best way to ensure you have a good camp, is to ask people who have hunted with them. Ask for references. Use a service such as the North American Hunting Club, or Safari Club to obtain non-biased evaluations. If you talk to them, ask what was good and what was bad.

On those who give a bad report, give the outfitter the benefit of the doubt until you've heard more from the person giving the reference. Did s/he have realistic expectations? Was it a disappointment because that person was basically miserable in his own character?

Ask others about the concerns expressed by a what you might call a bad reference? Were things really they way they were described, or was it a bad attitude? Remember that not all people can be pleased all of the time. If a majority of replies to your questions are favourable, your chances for a memorable hunt will be good.

I was walking home and a guy hammering on a roof called me a paranoid little weirdo. In morse code
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post #7 of 24 (permalink) Old 08-09-2006, 08:05 PM
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Re: How to choose an outfitter

Lots of good advice. I've been on a number of great hunts, and a couple bummers. The most recent "bummer" hunt was in Alaska for caribou. The outfitter flat out lied to me on every question. Here are some examples and his answers: Any problems flying through the mountains to camp? NEVER. What type of food should we expect? YOU"LL EAT LIKE A KING. THE COOK WILL MAKE FRESH BREAD, PIES, ETC. YOU'LL LEAVE HERE GAINING WEIGHT. How are trophy's prepared to go home with us? ALL MEAT IS CUT AND STORED IN WAX BOXES AND SUBMERGED IN WATER FOR YOUR RETURN. I DO TAXIDERMY AT HOME, SO THE TROPHIES ARE CARED FOR PROPERLY. I'd like a list of clients that have hunted with you the past 3 years. HERE ARE 5 GUYS THAT HAVE HUNTED WITH US AND ARE REPEAT CLIENTS. How many other people will be in camp hunting when we are there? ONLY YOUR GROUP OF 4 WILL BE THERE, WE LIKE TO KEEP IT PERSONAL.

Here is the truth to the above. Our flight into camp was scary as ----, wrecked planes littered the floor of the pass. One guide told me that they had two planes of clients go down on flights into camp in the time he had been guiding for the outfitter. Food consisted of canned food and sandwiches. No cook was ever there, we in fact prepared the majority of the meals. We were successfull on caribou, however, we were not able to eat any of the meat as he never took care of it - maggot infested, yet he insisted it was ok for us to eat after it was hanging in 70° heat for 4 days prior to us going home. He cut my hide short on my caribou, so I needed to get another hide to mount. His 5 references - all of them were guides that currently worked for him as I recognized the names when I was in camp. There was a total of 11 hunters in camp, even though it was supposed to be only 4 of us. AND, to top it off, he split our group of 4 up into two separate groups going to spike camps and teamed us up with other people, so we never got to interract with our buddies until we returned to base camp 5 days later.

I think if you can find a friend that hunted with someone and was happy about the whole experience, that's a great start. If not, then there are some booking agents that are out there that claim they will not represent an outfitter if they get one negative comment about them. I booked a sheep hunt through Cliff Graham at Associated Hunting Consultants and the hunt was exactly as he described - absolutely perfect in every way. I personally will not hesitate to use him in the future. If I get "burned" like the one person described earlier, I would really pressure the booking agent as to why he would continue to book hunts with an outfit that supplied sub-par services.
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post #8 of 24 (permalink) Old 07-24-2007, 01:09 PM
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Re: How to choose an outfitter

Here is a list of guestions I asked when booking and archery hunt.

1. What are your prime dates, are there any extra charges to hunt this time of year, what to you have available for?
2. What is the average temp and weather conditions that time of year?
3. What was your % rate on bucks taken last year, do you all count wounded or bucks what were not found in your rate, what about dose and buck passed over are they factored in as killed animals in your rates?
4. How many hunters do you take at one time, how many guides are working then, how many stand location will be available, and how many of these location to have been hunted by other hunters this season?
5. Any hidden kill, skinning, processing or trophy fees, if so what are they?
6. Can we pre-scout these locations prior to hunting them, do we need our own stands, or do we use yours and are they already up?
7. How many people will have hunted out of these stands prior to our arrival?
8. What did your average buck score that was taken from your property over the last three seasons?
9. How has the rain, food plots, and natural food sources gone this year?
10. What season creates the best opportunity for taking trophies rifle, bow, or muzzleloader season what will be the best hunting time of year?
11. Is the surrounding area pressured by other guides/hunters and how close are they?
12. Do you have any scouting pictures or video on bucks that are still around or pictures of killed deer from recent past hunts?
13. How many years have you had this service?
14. Has this service always been on the same plot(s) of land?
15. Do you have a reference list?
16. How high up are your tree stands off of the ground 20 to 25 feet, are they homemade stands or ones that have been purchased from a company, are the majority of your stand ground blinds or?
17. The majority of your stands located in wooded areas, fields, or?
18. What is the kill rate on big bucks in your area of the state v/s other areas of the state?
19. How many opening do you have left for?
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post #9 of 24 (permalink) Old 02-29-2008, 01:23 AM
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Re: beware of o.k. outfitters ironton



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post #10 of 24 (permalink) Old 05-16-2008, 11:58 PM
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Re: beware of o.k. outfitters ironton

Always ask for references of people who were successful and people who weren't. That's a shame. I started dealing with Bullseye outfitters they are a hunting consultant. They are great people and they can point you in the right direction. It's another route to go. They take all the guess work out of it.
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