Posted on Mar 02, 2020 by The Exodus Team
By: Exodus Black Hat Team Member Geoff Guzinski 02/26/2020
Each year thousands of hunters book with an outfitter. So why do they do it? Simply put, there is no one reason. I have booked hunts in Missouri, Kansas, Illinois, Wyoming, Wisconsin, and Canada. In all, I have logged a lot of miles, hunted in many different areas, and spent quite a bit of money. Let my experiences help you decide if booking with an outfitter is right for you.
Sometimes it’s just nice to get away
The first time I booked with an outfitter, I wanted to get away, have no distractions, and concentrate only on hunting. Schedules can be hectic and making the time to hunt can be difficult. Booking with an outfitter usually occurs well in advance, sometimes up to two years. A 50% down payment, that is usually due up front, is a very motivating factor in making the time to hunt. When you travel to different hunting destinations, you are going on an adventure and you are making new friends. If you do your homework, your opportunity odds just skyrocketed in harvesting a trophy animal.
Where to begin
The first question you need to ask yourself is do you want to go solo, with someone else, or bring along a significant other. If you go alone, you have the freedom to choose the who, what, where, when, and how. Going with someone else means some negotiation, but you both get to share the experience. Bringing a significant other on a hunting trip has become quite popular. In fact, many outfitters cater to couples on a hunting trip where only one person is the hunter.
Now comes the second part: How much are you willing to spend. The outfitter is a stand-alone cost that may or may not include food and lodging. A budget needs to be set because there is travel involved, a license to purchase, a tip for your guide, and the taxidermy cost. A whitetail hunt can typically breakdown like this:
- Outfitter with food and lodging: $1,700 to $3,500
- Out-of-state license: $160 to $500
- Guide tip (generally 10% of the outfitter cost): $220 to $350
- Travel (gas, food, etc.): $200 to $300
- Taxidermy work: $350 to $700
That is anywhere between $2,630 to $5,350 to invest. On any investment you make, the most critical part is research. Online resources will probably be your most used asset. Hunting sport shows, podcasts, YouTube channels, and hunting agents are all resources you need to consider. Figure out which state you are going to travel to and find out if your license is available over the counter, if you need to draw your license, or if preference points are necessary.
You’re halfway home
Once you have narrowed your search down to a few possibilities, it is time to start asking questions. Here are some of the bread and butter ones I ask:
- How many hunters do you take a year?
- What was your hunter success rate last year?
- What was your hunter shot opportunity rate?
- Is there an antler restriction?
- Can I move to a different piece of property?
- How many stand locations are set-up on the property I will hunt?
- How much time in-between new hunters?
- How many hunters will hunt one piece of property?
- Do you allow a hunter to stay longer than the agreed upon timeframe?
- Do you offer only fully guided hunts or are hunters allowed to hang stands themselves?
- Do you take care of the animal in the field?
- Can I stay longer if I harvest my animal early in the week?
- Are there other hunting opportunities?
- Is there a meat processor nearby?
- Please send me references of successful and non-successful hunters.
- Most deposits are non-refundable. Hunting insurance protects you if something catastrophic causes you to miss your hunt.
- Booking well in advance guarantees you are getting the time of the year you desire.
- If you are going in a group or brining a young hunter, will the outfitter offer a discount.
- If needed, can the outfitter accommodate someone that has an eating consideration or a physical limitation.
- You are not going to speak with your chosen outfitter every day. You might get pictures of bucks from the area you are hunting, but that is about it.
- It is better to bring too much than to bring too little. Double check your most important items.
- Driving makes getting the animal back easier, but is more time consuming. Flying is faster, but makes bringing the animal home much more difficult.
- Remember, when you leave the country, you need a passport. A passport takes at least two months to process.
- Most importantly, know the DNR laws of the area you are planning to hunt.
As a rule, you get what you pay for and outfitters are no exception as they are not all created equal. When you are on a guided hunt, there are certain expectations you have. Contrary to popular believe, even the best hunting areas do not have trophy animals behind every tree, you still must put in your time and hunt. You might be nervous spending money on an outfitter, but spending money on something you love rewards you with memories, pictures, and hopefully a trophy on the wall.
Author: Geoff Guzinski Exodus Black Hat