re: Mule Creek Outfitting Hunt Report - By Len Backus
Let me take a stab at answering your question and I'm sure Len, and others, will add additional details or clarification.
I have several friends, here in Wyoming, that own outfitting businesses. As an outfitter, if you lease a specific area from the US Forest Service, you are the only licensed outfitter that is able to set up a permanent camp in that area. In most cases that permanent camp is quite a ways in by horse. Having your hunters stage out of that camp provides them with amenities and the chance to get up early and began hunting as soon as you step out of your tent. No other licensed outfitter can set up a camp in your area, however, he can operate "day hunts" in those areas. Again, an outfitter usually sets up his permanent camp quite a ways into the hills, so unless a rival outfitter wants to start horse packing his day clients in at midnight, he's usually not going to put much pressure on the best areas within the leased territory.
Public access is completely unfettered. As a member of the public, I could walk right through an outfitter's camp, although it would be very rude of me to do so. Several of my favorite mule deer spots are located within an outfitter's leased area. The advantage the outfitter has is that he's living in the middle of this game Mecca and he gets a real up close and personal feel for specific animals and animal movements. I've spent many hunting days within an outfitter's leased area and have never laid eyes on a paying hunter. Although, I've got to start walking at midnight to put myself in the best position for spotting mule deer at daybreak.
Sometimes I come across a gut pile where I expected a big buck to be eating breakfast. Those days I just smile and move on. Advantage goes to the guy who gets to live in the middle of the hunting area. I'm not positive about the specifics but outfitters pay tens of thousands of dollars a year for the privilege of maintaining their leased area. That's on top of a huge initial fee to whoever the previous outfitter was and his initial fee to the USFS. Those fees get into the hundreds of thousands of dollars depending on the quality of the area.
Just a few things that I've picked up from my friends who are in the business. I'm sure there's more to it.
"Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote." -- Benjamin Franklin