I wrote an article a last year titled “Western Lottery Draw Planning for the Big Game Hunter” on how to set yourself up for the state’s lottery. Now that the draw game is winding down, it’s time to decide which route you’re going to take with your tag in hand! Will you hire an outfitter or take the hard route and plan yourself a D.I.Y. (Do It Yourself) hunt?
While the DIY is much harder, I feel it’s much more rewarding whether I have put my hands on horns or not. If you choose the DIY route you will have to plan everything from once your plan lands at the destination airport, to logistics of getting yourself and your gear into the backcountry, to getting your harvested game back out and to the meat processor, to getting yourself, your gear, your meat and if you’re lucky enough your antlers all back home. Let alone selecting and purchasing all of your gear needed to survive and hunt longer in the backcountry.
If you choose the outfitter route, most of these “unknowns” will be handled for you. But, how do you select that outfitter to take you on that hunt your have been dreaming about? You can use the recommendations of friends, online forums, see your favorite outdoor show using them or you can use a booking agent. The good agents are not much different than your traditional travel agent. They can assist with the logistics and the outfitter that best suits your needs and wants in a hunt. Let’s say, you have selected a few outfitters from all of the above resources, how do you decide which one?
I have a long list of questions that I would ask an outfitter, I have done this in the past but not in the last few years since I picked up the DIY bug. My thoughts are if the outfitter does not have the time to answers my questions, it will not be a good fit for me. You can ask the basic business questions to assist you in feeling warm and fuzzy, then you need to get into the meat! Ask what their success rate is and how they define it as it might be the same or different than your definition of success. What is the style hunting they prefer to do? Do they specialize in bowhunters? If so, how do they guide bowhunters differently? If you are a female hunter, you add another list of questions to ask. Such as, how are the sleeping quarters arranged? How will the shower time and areas be organized? What are their gear recommendations to bring into camp? What are their expectations of you as the hunter?
What does the hunt package include? What does the hunt package not include? The later will fill the gap in an item that you may overlooked. I would also recommend asking for a list of references from the past 2-3 years. Then, have a set of questions to ask each of the references.