Booking an Outfitted Hunt as a Bowhunter
By: Leigh Hauck September 15,2022
Booking a hunt with an outfitter for any species can be a stressful task. Whether you are booking a pronghorn hunt in Wyoming, or a Desert Bighorn hunt in the Sonora, you are putting a lot of your hard-earned money into someone else’s hands to help you get the trophy of your dreams.
You hear the same story time and time again… 100% opportunity rates, big animals everywhere… but surely this can’t be true for every outfitter.
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Another big thing to consider is the fact that you are doing this hunt with your bow, and immediately lowering your probability of success in doing so. You need to be hunting with an outfitter who understands and values this challenge as much as you do.
In my pursuit of the North American Archery Super Slam (which is the successful taking of all 29 North American big game animals with a bow), I have hunted with a lot of outfitters, and I have had a greatly varying degree of success and disappointment on my journeys.
I have learned that there are a lot of factors to account for, and questions to ask an outfitter before signing the papers and picking dates.
I am going to break down some tips for booking an outfitted hunt as a bowhunter, so that you can chase the hunt of your dreams with zero worry or regrets.
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How does a guided hunt work?
Make sure you ask the right questions
When you are talking to a prospective outfitter, there are several questions you need to ask to ensure that this outfitter is a right match for you, especially as a bowhunter.
First and foremost, I like to book hunts with outfitters who either specialize in bowhunting, or bow hunt themselves. There are many times when I will ask an outfitter, “do you guys bow hunt this species”? If their response is anything along the lines of “uhm, we can bow hunt them”, or “we can try!”, then this is not the outfitter for you.
Choosing an outfitter who understands bowhunting will be crucial on those days that teach us exactly what it is about bowhunting that is so challenging.
On day 10 of a sheep hunt, you haven’t been inside 100 yards of a ram yet, and your boots are soaking wet. There are a lot of hunters and guides who would have had enough.
If you had a rifle, you could have shot a sheep days ago and this would be over. But having a guide who also bow hunts will ensure that you are on the same page, your goals are aligned, and you can make smarter hunting decisions in the field together.
After hearing that the outfitter caters to bowhunters, you need to get into the details. What is the weather usually like at this time of year? What is a typical shot range I should prepare for? Do you normally have an opportunity for follow up shots? How hard is the animal to get close to in this area?
Don’t feel like you are asking too many questions, the outfitter expects it, and it proves to them that you are a hunter who cares a lot about their experience.
Good outfitters are selective when it comes to choosing who they sell hunts to and asking a lot of questions to them just proves that you care a lot about your hunt and that you expect them to as well.
You also need to ask about what happens if you are not ever given a shot opportunity on your hunt.
Generally, if you are within a certain range and a reasonable shot presents itself, the outfitter feels as though they have done their job. There comes a point on any hunt where you must make a good shot, and that is the only next step that can happen.
It’s in your hands entirely. You have to make a good shot to go home with an animal now, there is nothing more the outfitter can do. If you end up going home without ever being presented a reasonable opportunity to take a shot, most outfitters will have some arrangement in place for you to come back at a much lesser cost. This is another crucial thing to ask about before you book.
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Is a guided hunt worth it?
Tip, Don’t price shop too much
One of the tough things about booking a hunt is justifying the costs. Outfitter A may be offering the same species in a similar area as outfitter B, but outfitter B costs thousands of dollars more… how can that be.
In general – but certainly not always – you get what you pay for on an outfitted hunt. Higher prices generally mean there will be more experienced guides, possibly better accommodations, an area with better terrain or higher success rates, or generally better trophy quality.
Of course, you can’t just make these assumptions based on the cost alone. You need to ask the right questions and figure out what your money is buying you. When it comes to signing papers and making that final decision to book, you need to remember that if you come home empty handed or have a bad experience on a ‘bargain’ hunt, you might be wishing you spend that extra bit of money to go hunting with a proven outfitter. Of course, all this advice comes with a word of caution because every hunt is booked on a case-by-case basis.
But in general, I do believe that you get what you pay for in the world of outfitted hunting, and few hunters have ever regretted spending a bit extra and coming home with an amazing animal and story to share for life.
Ask for references
If you are hiring someone for a job, surely you are going to ask to talk to some references. Booking a hunt should be no different. Essentially, you are hiring this outfitter to put you in a position to take a shot an amazing animal.
This is very expensive and shouldn’t be taken lightly. Talking to references will allow you to hear a story and ask questions to someone who was in your shoes, deciding which outfitter to spend their money with and go hunting.
Bear in mind that you will likely be given the contacts of hunters who had amazing hunts, so the references will probably be outstanding. It is still worth talking to them and asking if they were to go back would they have done anything differently.
Calling references to talk about hunting is fun, and I haven’t met a hunter who isn’t happy to give you 30 minutes on the phone to tell a hunting story. I have made a couple of friends like this!
Booking a hunt is a very exciting experience and should be way more fun than it is stressful. If you take your time, do your research, and ask the right questions ahead of time you are sure to be given the best hunting opportunity that exists for you.
Keep in mind, that hunting is called hunting for a reason. There is no outfitter who can absolutely guarantee you success, and there is always a chance that you come home empty handed.
As disappointing as it can be, I have been on many hunts where I come home with nothing and still have nothing but good things to say about the outfitter and my trip.
This is a keynote of a good outfitter, as well as a good hunter. The successes and failures must all be met with a positive attitude and a desire to get back out there next year and try again!
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