Many of us have taken or will soon go on an expedition with a guide either hunting. I frequently take trips like these as adventures in the great outdoors are many times cheaper and more bountiful being professionally guided and outfitted than if you set out to do them self-guided, on your own.
As an avid outdoorsman, I have seen first-hand many horror stories of what can happen with hiring guides and outfitters if you don’t follow good solid common sense. The main point to take away from this article is to ask lots of good questions, be careful where you send your money and do your research early on before you commit to an outdoor excursion with your hard-earned dollars.
First, it is vitally important to find a reputable outdoor adventure broker or source the trip on your own directly through the guide or outfitter. You can find destination trips or even local hunting or fishing adventures on social media (especially through places like Facebook groups), outdoor forums (such as Texas Hunting Forum and Texas Fishing Forum) and outdoor consumer shows such as local boat shows and fishing shows. Add to that some hunting shows such as the TTHA Hunters Extravaganzas and the Dallas Safari Club show, which are also all right here in Texas, and you should be able to find just about anything you can imagine.
With the modern age of smart phones, tablets and computers with internet access, there is no excuse for you not to do your research. If you find a little bad news with a lot of good news, it might still be worth a shot. If it all seems like a lost cause and potential disaster from what you find, readjust your heading. When you contact your prospective outfitter or guide, ask about their history, success rates, hidden fees, etc. You don’t want to badger a guide service or brokering company with a barrage of inquiries but you do want to do your homework. Some key things to look for are: How long has the guide been in business? What fees or final expenses should you expect? What physical demands will this trip require? How’s the lodging there or accommodations in the closest city should you need them?
In any adventure, especially abroad in places like Africa, Alaska and even right here in Texas, asking what kill fees or trophy fees to expect is crucial. Also find out about any add-on packages. In other words, ask what the total price for the trip is upfront and be aware of any add-ons, hidden fees or other extra costs. After all, no one likes those kinds of “gotcha” surprises at the end of a successful outdoor adventure. Also, be careful where you send your money online. Always use a secured website and, where possible, send payment directly to an outfitter to ensure it gets to the right place.
Ranches like DB Hunting Ranch or Circle F Adventures and outfitters like King of Eights Outfitters specialize in hunting and have many years of experience in various hunting niches and group sizes. On the fishing side, guide services like Palmetto Guide Service on Lake Livingston and Striper Express on Lake Texoma and even GARQUEST Bowfishing Adventures are good examples of reputable businesses where you can ask good questions and get good answers from guides that do what they do best for the clients they serve. These are just a few I personally trust here in the Lone Star State.
Always have extra cash on hand and be sure to figure in a good tip for your guide for after a successful adventure is over. Cash is still king and gratuities will always be appreciated. I recommend 15%-20% for a good guide tip after a great adventure in the field or on the water. For more information about this subject, please be sure to check out my full article and podcast on the top 10 things to look for when choosing your next guide or outfitter at www.FishGame.com. Just search for keywords “Top 10 Guides” on our TF&G website. Stay wild, be blessed and have an awesome day in the outdoors!
Dustin Vaughan Warncke