Choosing the right outfitter can help make your hunt more successful. But how do you find the right one? Here are some tips to help you choose an outfitter for your next hunt.
Know What You Want (And What You Can Handle)
Before you even research outfitters, you need to know what you’re looking for in a hunt. It isn’t as simple as deciding you want to try for a big elk or monster mule deer, though having an idea of desired species is an important basic step.
You also need to think about if you want to camp in a tent or stay in a comfortable lodge, hunt with 4x4s, on horseback, or if you prefer backpacking. Think about what you’re looking for in terms of trophy quality as well. Do you simply want the experience of hunting elk and would be as happy to kill a cow as you would be with a trophy bull? Or do you have an inch-counting obsession that won’t be satisfied by something that doesn’t reach a specific minimum score?
You need to do a bit of self-analysis as well. Are you in shape for an intensely physical hunt? Be honest with yourself as well as your outfitter, and only consider hunts within your capabilities. You’re not going to want to be sitting out your hunt because you’re struggling. If you decide you want to do a physically difficult hunt without being ready, you’re setting yourself up for at best, a bad experience. At worst, serious trouble.
Define Your Timeframe and Budget
Next, you need to define your timeframe and budget. Without knowing these, you won’t be able to find the right outfitter.
For your timeframe, are you looking to go on an elk hunt this year? Or would you be willing to wait a few years, depending on availability or need for preference points? You could also skip the wait (and some costs) by hunting in an area that offers over-the-counter tags, though you may sacrifice trophy quality.
Don’t forget your budget. Are you willing to spend $5,000 or more? Are you willing to pay a steep price to hunt a premier ranch? Whatever your budget entails, make sure you choose quality. As with many services and products, you often get what you pay for. So be wary of any guided hunts that sound too good to be true. When you consider an outfitter pays for license dues, permits, leases, insurance, equipment, vehicles, horses, guides, lodging, food, and other overhead, it becomes clear why guided hunts aren’t cheap. When it comes to guided hunts, quality really matters.
Know What a Reputable Guide Looks Like
A reputable outfitter will present what services they offer upfront. That can come in the form of a website, PDF flyer, or marketing packet. When you’re dealing with someone you can trust, they’re not going to hide any information from you. They want to make sure you’re just as good of a fit for them as they are for you.
At the minimum, outfitters should provide a phone number so you can discuss directly with the guide. But they should also be willing to share references and if they belong to any professional organizations.
Ask the Right Questions
In your research, you will likely find a few options. To narrow down the list, you need to call each one up and ask questions. Make sure you make a list so you don’t forget to ask anything important. If you need help coming up with questions, here are some to guide you:
- How long have you been in business?
- How much land do you actually hunt? Not how much land you’re permitted to hunt, but how much of that do you actually use for hunting?
- Will other people be coming along/what is the guide-to-hunter ratio?
- What is your lodging like?
- What kind of meals do you serve?
- What should I expect each day?
- Is the land public or private?
Try to ask questions that are more focused on quality and experience. Questions about kill percentage are highly dependent on a hunter’s ability. Ask questions that are specific to the expectations you outlined. If you’re only asking how big the bulls are and the success percentage, you’re doing yourself a disservice.
Don’t Cave to Pressure
Guides are in the business to sell hunts. Do not allow a guide – good or bad – to pressure you into signing a hunt contract before you’re comfortable to do so. They may try to hook you up with specials or sales, but don’t prioritize saving a few hundred dollars over booking with the right outfitter. You don’t want to be a pushover and allow a second-rate guide to coax you into wasting your money.
Let’s Get Hunting
Choosing the right outfitter for you is important to make sure you get the most out of your guided hunt. If you’re looking to hunt elk or mule deer with professional guides in the mountains of Southwest Colorado, we’d love to be an option you consider. At Soap Mesa Outfitters, we are dedicated to giving you the experience of a lifetime.