Please do not misunderstand me - I'm not anti-guide. That disclaimer in place... I thought this a good place to ask, as I know there are guides/outfitters who post here, and I know there are hunters here who use those services. Past my 50th birthday, I thought to treat myself to my first guided big game trip in 2007. For a variety of reasons beyond the control of me or my intended outfitter, that planned guided hunt fell through.
Now as I contemplate the results of 2007 & past years, and look forward to 2008 and beyond I have to ask myself... Why a guide?
Doing my research for hunts I learned that (this year at least) around $2800 for a mule deer hunt and $4500+ for an elk hunt is about normal. This is of course in addition to what is a fairly expensive non-resident tag, and other associated costs such as transportation, taxidermy and possibly meat processing... All inclusive it's pretty easy to end up spending $4000 to hunt mule deer or $6000+ to hunt elk in our western states.
What is a hunter paying for? What does he get for his several thousand dollars? How then is disaster best avoided and success best assured? I already have some of my own answers in mind, but thought this could spark an interesting, and hopefully valuable discussion.
In my boat theres no way I could afford a North American guide. I understand non-residents have to use a guide in Alaska, Understandable climate can be unpredictable and dangerous in that wilderness.
But for 6000 dollars for one elk? Get real, I think you could go to Africa and shoot several species for that price, am I wrong?
I really think the D.I.Y hunting is the way to go if your on a budget like me. It gives you the satisfaction, and feeling of accomplishment, that wouldn't be there if you had a guide. When you do get that trophy.
On the plus side for guides. Guides can get you on private land where there is lower pressure on the animals.
But for 6000 dollars for one elk? Get real, I think you could go to Africa and shoot several species for that price, am I wrong? .
I don't know about that Flybuster. You may be lucky to get to Africa and home with all your stuff for nearly 6,000. I have a friend who goes most every year and this year travel expenses were between 5500 and 6,000 per each traveler including himself, his wife, his son and his daughter(under 2 yrs old). Just travel he spent over $22,000.
The use of a guide may depend on your hunt and the area. Where do you want to hunt and is there significant public land available. In many cases using a guide will gain you access to property otherwise unavailable as well as local knowledge of the herd or animals that otherwise would take most of your time patterning. How much is it worth to hunt 5 full days vs. watching for 3-4 and actually hunting 1 or 2 days?
Certainly if you are planning a pairirie dog hunt in South Dakota, the need/use of a guide is not the issue it would be if you are hunting elk or deer in Colorado or Wyoming.
In some areas and states, you must have a guide by law. For some areas, if you do not have the time to research the area yourself, you would be crazy not to hire a guide. But in the end, a guided hunt just doesn't give the same satisfaction an un-guided hunt does in my opinion.
I have treated my self to guided hunts only a few times and
this is what I found out.
First , not all guides are bad but some are so try to get references
from some of the hunters that have hunted with them and pin them
down as to the location of the hunt (private or public)
Make a list of questions to ask the outfiter and write down the response
to the question so you can quote him later if need be.
Remember it's your money and you should get what you paid for.some
times you may have to take charge of your destiny and let the guide
know that you will not except anything less than promised.
Some guides think that you are stupid and cant hunt because you
booked a guided hunt. But there are others who think of nothing
but providing you with a successfull and enjoyable trip.
After getting as much information as you can, go prepared for anything
and assume nothing. Study the terrain to be hunted and that will
help prepare you.
I was involved in one hunt from hell and after two very bad days I had
to resort to extreme measures to turn it around.( talked my guide into
showing me his ability to drink white lightning).and the next day he could
not get out of bed so I went on a very succesfull hunt in the same area
we had hunted the last two days.
Needless to say he did not receive a tip. I only tip when they try hard to
make it a succcessful hunt even if you dont get the game you were looking
for the hunt is what counts.
Allways take a trusted friend with you and you will enjoy it more.
Dont let one bad experience turn you against all guided hunts there are
some very good guides out there but you just have to find them.
Just like having a custom rifle built you must make the smith understand
exactly what you want and he understands what you expect so that
the outcome will be a good one.
Having been on both sides of the coin. I have to agree with most of the comments above. Just like any other profession there are bad, good and great. Check references, be sure the style of outfitting agrees with your style of hunting. If you are a long range guy and your guide / outfitter doesn't allow shots beyond 300 yards you could end up being very disappointed with your hunt.
Down sides to guided hunts as I see them are of course the cost, being totally unfamiliar with area sometimes causes experienced hunters to second guess the guide when things do not go as planned. When you scout, locate, hunt and stalk your quarry yourself, there is only you to blame. On a guided hunt there are all sorts of people around to blame I have seen this happen many times. The worst case scenerio is that you pay a substiantial amount of money for a guided hunt and factors out of anyones control hamstring the hunt, weather is a big one here. Even if it is no ones fault and your guide does their best it can still leave you disappointed in you guided hunt. Two things can be counted on from a good outfitter, something will get screwed up from guns to weather and the second is they will do everything in their power to square them away.
The up sides of the guided hunt are that you get for your money an experienced guide intimately familiar with the area and quarry, detailed scouting, good stand locations, a hunt that is some what taylored to your style and abilities (not just shooting), a good guide will treat you more like a hunting buddy that he is trying his best to help hookup with a particular animal. If you just don't have time or location to scout and plan this is a huge advantage to the guided hunt.
In the end if you get a good guide / outfitter you will probably come away from your hunt happy and satisified, if you get someone who is lasy has attitude etc it will suck. Personel recommendations from people you know is probably the best way to help prevent this. Bottom line I feel like if you get a good guide / outfitter you a getting what you pay for.