With the sports shows in full swing, the time is right for outdoorsmen to book that hunting or fishing trip of a lifetime. Sports shows give us outdoorsmen a slight edge – we get to “interview” our prospective guides or outfitters. However, making a choice is still a challenge. Making a wrong choice could turn a dream trip into a complete nightmare, and a waste of hard earned money. But, there are several factors that determine the outcome of a trip. Here are a few tips that will help you plan and enjoy that destination trip of your dreams…
CHOOSE THE RIGHT OUTFIT BY DOING YOUR HOMEWORK
Be sure to interview your prospective guide or outfitter thoroughly. You may even want to write down the questions to make sure you remember to ask them. And take notes. The goal should be to find the outfitter that is going to give you the best experience possible. And part of that is making sure that they are good “fit” — try to find out if their ethics and standards are in line with yours. Some of the questions you may want to ask are: “What are the best times to book for your desired species?”, “What are the permit and license fees and are they included?”, or “How long have they been guiding?” These are just a few, but you get the idea. Get as much information as possible so you can make an informed decision.
It also pays to do your homework before booking the trip. The internet is a great way to research that hunting outfit or fishing guide service. Most reputable
outfits have websites where you can get more information about how they operate or the kind of experience that you can expect. But meeting an outfitter at a show and looking at their website isn’t enough. Nothing speaks better about a company than others who have hired them before. I never book a trip without first picking up the phone and calling some references. A lot can be learned about the outfit, like which guides are better than others, do they follow the laws, or if they are worth the money. If the outfit doesn’t provide any references, that should send up some red flags. Another tactic is to search the internet using the outfitter by name and look for reviews from other clients. You may stumble across some reviews that can be very revealing, keeping in mind that it’s usually the unhappy clients that post bad reviews. But nothing beats calling references.
A great way to ruin a trip is lack of preparation. Here is a simple checklist that might help:
• Talk to your outfitter about the weather expectations and pack accordingly. I never go on a trip without rain gear, ever.
• Know the local game regulations. Nothing ruins a trip faster than getting pinched by Johnny Law because you were not following the regulations. Ignorance is no excuse. It’s your responsibility to know what is legal and what is not. If you are unclear, ask your guide or outfitter when you get there or research the state regulation online beforehand.
• Get in shape. If you are planning a big game hunt that demands peak physical condition, it pays to be in good shape. And you owe it to the guide and yourself to be fit enough to meet the demands of the hunt.
• Most importantly, be proficient with your gear. One of the biggest frustrations with guides is the client that can’t shoot or cast. Besides, you want to be able to perform when that moment of truth arrives.
BE UP FRONT WITH YOUR GUIDES
Guides aren’t mind readers. Tell them what kind of game you are after or what kind of fish you prefer to catch. Of course, this should be discussed at the time of booking not the day of the trip. But on a fishing trip, it helps to be clear. It might also be a possibility that the fish specie you are after just isn’t biting, so be prepared to change gears and go after what’s hot. If physical capabilities are an issue, talk to your guide and they may be able to accommodate. And always be clear in your level of experience. Let them know your comfortable shooting range, or whether or not you have used their kind of fishing gear before. Don’t try to be a hero. The guides want to see you score, and by knowing your limitations and capabilities, they can do their job better. Lastly, be sure to tip your guides, they work their asses off. And if you plan to return, they may just go the extra mile for you on the next trip.
BE REALISTIC IN EXPECTATIONS
A huge key to enjoying a destination trip lies in our own expectations. Some of my most memorable adventures have been the ones where I enjoyed the entire experience. When I don’t get hung up on killing the biggest buck or catching the biggest fish, I always seem to have a great time. By establishing realistic expectations, you may be less likely to be disappointed. I’m not saying that the goal is to come home empty-handed, I’m simply saying that we need to be realistic. This is hunting and fishing after all, and nothing is guaranteed.
By following these simple guidelines, I have been fortunate enough to enjoy most of the destination trips I’ve taken. Choosing the right guide or outfitter can make or break the trip of a lifetime.
Here are a few of the best guides and outfitters that I have hunted or fished with over the years:
Boneyard Fishing, Rend Lake, IL
Sportsmans Lodges, Lake of the Woods, MN
Jim Darosas Smallmouth Guide Service, Mille Lacs
Chappy’s Outfitters, FL
Boneyard Outfitters, Franklin County Illinois
Kingfisher Guide Service, Georgetown, SC