How to Hire A Guide
this is a helpful item we send out to everyone and anyone. Follow it and you should weed out 90% of the fly-by night types.
ask questions. Guides are not mind readers, and they often talk to half a dozen people a day who are asking about trips, it is easy to think you already said something to Person #6 that you said to the 4 people earlier, and skip over it without knowing it. here it is 1:30 am EST and I am only now getting off the phone with people.
1. What is included? Food? what kind? Many so called outfitters only offer freeze dried foods, you can live on it but you are not going to hunt hard on styrofoam beef and ice cream versus real rib sticking foods. If no food is offered are there places to cook your own? Food nearby and what kind? How late are the restaurants open and how far from your lodging or camp?
this is YOUR trip, you need to be sure it is going to happen the way YOU want it to. Many guides have cookie cutter set ups, everyone sleeps here, eat this get dropped off here, bag lunch A,B, or C, and then picked up at Time Z and sleep here, ..repeat.
this is fine if that's what you are expecting, but not so fine if you pictured a log cabin and custom tailored meals and guides at your shoulder all day.
you need to ask if the information is not offered. You are responsible for the success or failure of the trip to an extent too.
You need to ASK QUESTIONS, such as;
2. How long have you been guiding? Is this your only job? Too personal? Not at all. Again this is YOUR vacation, you have the right to know if the guide is a prison guard by day and takes vacation to guide big game, or if he got a settlement for falling down as janitor of a local hospital, or if he is a contractor or school teacher. If he has other things to do during the day on a regular job then chances are your trip and happiness is not all that occupies his mind.
Many excellent guides are not full time year round. But if your trip is not their only concern and duty then you should know that going in. ASK.
3. what is the equipment like? how old, name brand? Does it stay out all year, or do they collect it and maintain it in off seasons? Is it homemade?
4. What is a day of hunting or fishing like? If they have a formula and routine how likely are they to change it because you only like to hunt mornings, or evening, or dont like to be in a stand?
5. What happens to the game meat?? Is the guide set up to process the meat and freeze it for you? can he professionally cape an animal so it is ready for a taxidermist?
IF the answers are no, you want to know that before you get there and find out you need dry ice and a grinder and wrap and ice chests, etc to handle it on your own, or is there a processor nearby? how much are they? how long does that take? If you bag game on your last day what then?
6. Can you extend your hunt? most guides, the good ones anyway, are going to be one client after another after another after another and perhaps you can not stay on, OR maybe you can if you take care of yourself and he doesnt care if you use that stand you've been "just missing" the big ol Smokey ghost in each night.
expect to be on a waiting list. Any really good guide is going to be booked years in advance, for one week of the year we are booked 10 years in advance, this is why I can take the time to tell you how to hire a guide, I know you're not going with me, not this month or next. Ask if you can be on a standby list in case someone goes home tagged out early, or cancels, or something comes up. Often times this is a great way to see what the guide is like and their set up with little invested on your part.
7. do they bait, food plot, or otherwise attract the game or fish? Many fishing shows film after bait blocks are dropped 3 days earlier, and many hunters see the game and fish on tv and expect that to be the case even in the big woods of the north country. Some guides to keep up with expectations will bat even if its illegal, and will plant food plots so clients see game. You should know exactly the setup before you get there, maybe you like bait stations and food plots and maybe you dont. Iron that out on the phone before spending money and time.
Ask if you can come see them off season, keeping in mind decent guides dont have down time, one season after another, but ask if you can come simply to see the set up. If they hem and haw or talk of blindfolds, move right on down your list of guides. I KNOW you will take mroe game and fish with me than without me, and I am perfectly fine with telling you right where we are going. Any guide that thinks there are 'secret spots' is a fly by night fool and you want to avoid them at all costs.
8. What happens if I tag out the first day of a 5 day hunt? do I get money back if I dont stay? What if I choose to leave early? things happen, life comes up, what becomes of your paid for trip if an emergency comes up? Do they sell trip insurance or ?? Most guides are goign to operate not unlike a motel chain, if they can fill your room you can get a refund, but they already told 5 people that week was booked and now you dont come, that wont fill his week or pay his bills, if he can fill in a replacement than a good guide is happy to refund money, possibly minus any fees he will be charged by banks or credit card companies, but you cant expect him to work at a loss and be in business long.
9. Are they from the area they are guiding you in? specifically that place, not the 'region'?
Many guides live in florida for instance in winter and guide north in summer, this is not the same as hiring a local, some are summer residents only and have the same time in that place as the vacationers do, not to say they cant show you a spot you dont know, but what are you paying for that you cant find out online or at a local store?
10. Ask point blank are they Locals...remember "Deliverence"? If not go rent it. Know how that horror of a trip would have been a great time? Instead of simply paying the local boys to ferry their cars down river the city fellas should have hired one or two to guide them on the river. You hire a local as your guide the other yokels wont make your squeel like a pig.
Maybe your guide will though, and that's where 11 comes in.
11. ASK FOR REFERENCES. A decent guide who has been doing it any amount of time will have at least 10 references on hand to share with you, even if its only email addresses.
Keep in mind that many young men and women starting out wont have a list of references, it takes at least 10 references for each activity, and not every client wants to be answering emails and phone calls about his trip all year long at all hours of the day and night.
we average 20 calls or emails each day and that many calls to a reference will wear them out and fast, so a guide will need at least 100 references in rotation, a new fella at guiding simply wont have that many clients willing to help him like that and dont hold that against them.
Everyone was new once.
But you should also know how new and inexperienced they are before your trip.
another source these days is www.outfittersratings.com where guides are rated by clients and their ratings are there for you to view by state or species.
Important questions to ask the references is how was the food? the gear? were there any problems and how were they handled? If game was taken or fish how was it? If not why not and would they go back even if game or fish were not taken? Clients that get skunked and are returning is sign that the guide was excellent but the game simply didn't happen. Obviously if everyone filled tags and set records and would never go back EVER, that tells you something too.
Following this list of things to ask added to your personal questions should help you narrow down what guide is best FOR YOU. Good Luck and have a great trip.