Booking an Outfitted Hunt by Tim Herald
Booking an Outfitted Hunt
By: Tim Herald
My day to day job is working as a hunt consultant for Worldwide Trophy Adventures, and in this capacity, I book hunts around the world, from turkey hunts in Kentucky, to moose in Alaska, to buffalo in Africa, to Marco Polo sheep in Tajikistan. You name it, and if it is a hunting or fishing trip, we can hook you up. We weed out the bad operations, and put our staff on the ground to vet outfitters. Basically, using a professional hunt consultant is an insurance policy to take out the guess work of finding the right outfitter, location and time to go on a trip.
That being said, I could literally write a book on how to book a hunt. To condense this into a Cliff’s Notes type format, there are some key things to consider, ask questions about, and know the answers to before you lay down a deposit.
Once you have determined a species of animal you are interested in hunting, you need to locate the best outfitter, but you need to also have a budget. This will be a major factor. If you want to hunt an elk, and your budget is $7000, you will need to book a much different hunt than someone with a $15,000 budget. You can still have a great trip, but chances are you will hunt an area where average trophy size is much smaller and accommodations, etc. won’t be quite as fancy as the more expensive hunt.
Once you have a budget in mind, you can begin shopping, but remember, when determining a budget, you must include outfitter cost, license and tags, tips, travel, and getting your trophy home.
So, you now know what you want to hunt, and how much you can spend. There is so much information on the internet, it can be totally confusing trying to find the right outfit. This is where a hunt consultant really helps narrow things down, but whether you work with a consultant or try to book direct, you should look into an outfitter’s track record. If you can find someone you know that hunted with an outfitter, that’s always a great start. Finding independent reviews are the best. Outfitters will give references, but they are only going to give positive references. If you can do some online research and find reviews that are unsolicited, both positive and negative, that will be a great help.
Things to consider are trophy size produced, shot opportunity/success rates, years an outfitter has been in business, do they specialize in the weapon you want to use, availability of tags in their area, are license and tags included in hunt price, etc.? When narrowing things down, you also need to know when seasons are in their areas. Back to a possible elk hunt, let’s say you want to hunt with a rifle, and you want to be able to hunt when elk are rutting and bugling. This will narrow things down, as there are only a few areas in the US and Canada where you can actually hunt bugling elk with a rifle, most rifle seasons open after the rut has ended.
Attending a hunting show like Dallas Safari Club’s convention can also help. In a situation like this, you can actually meet face to face with consultants and actual outfitters. It’s much easier to make a judgement on an outfitter when you can talk to them in person, and often in their booth, you can meet some of their former clients.
Again, I am biased, but I highly recommend working with a good hunt consultant. A consultant should be able to offer you a number of different outfits to consider for a given hunt and recommend which outfit they think fits your wants and needs best. They should have the expertise to weed out the many, many choices, and come up with a short list for your consideration. Another added benefit is that once you work with a consultant on a hunt or two, you build a relationship and trust, and this makes booking your next trip that much easier.
Any reputable consultant’s services don’t cost you anything. The hunts booked through a consultant should be the exact same price as if you booked directly with an outfitter. If a consultant is tacking on costs, then you shouldn’t be working with that consultant.
One last thing that I believe is extremely important when choosing an outfitter or a consultant is communication. If an outfitter or consultant doesn’t communicate in a clear and timely manner, that is a huge red flag. With email and phone readily available, communication should be easy. Yes, some outfitters might not immediately answer when they are in the heart of their season, and a consultant may be in the field checking out an operation or leading a group hunt, but you should be able to get replies in a timely manner. Communication problems are very often the root of negative experiences on trips, and good communication goes a long way toward you having an enjoyable and successful trip.
Speaking of communication, don’t be afraid to ask questions, and there are no dumb questions. Ask about any detail you can think of, and if you are communicating via email, keep a file with your questions and the answers you receive.
This is simply a quick guide to choosing an outfitter for a hunt, but if you will consider the points above, and ask plenty of questions, there is an incredible number of high-quality hunts and adventures out there for us hunters to experience and enrich our lives. Be thorough in your inquiries and get out there and make new memories.