For over 20 years of hunting and guiding big game hunters, I have experienced all types of highs and lows that have been encountered by hopeful hunters pursuing their dreams. Although the success stories and exciting events are always fondly remembered, it is the lows and the negative occurrences that really stick in my mind, and most of those ugly memories are the result of hunters not understanding their circumstances or what they paid for.
In full disclosure, although I have acted as a guide in several states, I have also paid for various guided hunts in full. During those hunts, I have had some disappointments, but mostly I did my homework and knew what I was getting into before I went. Unfortunately, some paying hunters don’t do their homework and end up thinking they have been cheated.
The term ‘guided’ can refer to a few different arrangements. The cheapest and most participated guided hunt is what is called the semi-guided hunt. This often means that the guide or outfitter provides a place to hunt, as well as, gear (stands) and directions/instructions to help you be successful. Some semi-guided hunts can also offer some housing or help in travel into and out of the field, and even assistance with your animal once it is harvested. However, what a semi-guided hunt does not provide is a complete service from food, lodging, personal escort, personal companion during the hunt, and all the special services associated with fully guided hunts.
I have seen plenty of hunters sign a contract for a semi-guided hunt, and then act surprised that they had to also use their own vehicle on the hunt for transportation when it specifically stated such in the contract bullet points. I am still puzzled by how many people do not bother to read or research their guide or outfitter before handing over money to them. Just because it says “guided” doesn’t mean you have full amenities.
The fully guided hunt is a rare arrangement in the hunting world mostly because it requires a guide or outfitter to have enough capital and facilities to provide all hunting-related services for discerning clients. For example, a fully guided hunt in the wilds of Alaska is a unique situation where the outfitter provides everything from travel, food and lodging, entertainment and trophy care. Some lodges that offer fully guided hunts can also offer alcoholic beverages, laundry services, and complete processing of your trophy.
When it comes to guided hunts, do your homework and understand exactly what your potential destination includes.