Hopefully, every hunter will someday be able to enjoy the services of a big game hunting guide. Guided hunts are becoming more and more expensive, and due to a sputtering economy, more and more people are trying to become guides. Choosing the right guide is not as easy as it used to be. As early as the early 1990’s, the standard practice was to figure out what area and species you wanted to hunt, and then get the name of all the guides in that area. After you contacted the guides and asked for reference lists, and after you checked their references, the choice was somewhat easy.
However, in the age of the internet, it is just as easy to deceive potential clients as it is to run a legitimate business. Here are some tips on how to make the right choice and avoid being tricked into picking a subpar guide.
This search engine is a valuable tool which will help you narrow down your search for a good guide. Not only can you find a guide, but you can find out information about the guide. When I am curious about an outfitter, I will usually go to his hometown newspaper and search the newspaper website. This will let you view articles with his name in them. Hopefully it won’t be court reports or police blotter entries, but you never know.
I also go to outdoor forums and try to see what normal people are saying about the guide or his services. I also use a bit of caution and never believe one person who gives a terrible review that seems out of place. The internet is a good place to hold a grudge, so don’t let a petty or vindictive person sway you early in your search. We have all had run-ins with people who just don’t have good communication skills, have ‘people problems,’ or are eager to find fault. I just ignore these reports when I see them.
I know of several Midwestern deer guides who display photos on their websites of monster bucks, but these bucks were not killed with those guides or even on the guide’s hunting areas. They borrowed the photos or simply stole them to use on their website. If you see a huge buck that piques your interest, ask for the phone number of the hunter who killed the deer. Verify it yourself. If they are proud enough to display the photo, they should be proud enough to provide you with the lucky hunter’s name and number. That is nothing but good advertising.
Another trick used by dishonest guides is to show videos of giant bucks in velvet on their website. These videos could have been taken anywhere, so ask specific questions about the locations and ask to see any trail cam photos of that specific buck taken in years past. A giant buck does not get that way overnight, so there should be some documentation of him somewhere by a thorough outfit.
Find out exactly how long a guide or outfitter has been guiding in his exact location. If someone is a newcomer, then politely ask them point blank why you should choose them as your guide and ask for out of state references. In state references could easily be his family and friends, so cover your bases and ask for whatever you desire. A good guide will understand.
Finally, when you are lucky enough to speak with a person listed as a reference, ask them one question at the end of your mini interview; “Can you promise me that you are being up front with me and you are not just helping out the guide by posing as a reference?” You will know.