By Harry Pozniak / Owner of River Valley Farms in Cadiz, Kentucky
The Outfitter Service
When considering an outfitter, the most effective way to learn information is to pick up the phone and call. While a website can contain lots of information, it’s almost impossible to get a feel for the person without a one on one conversation. And because your outfitter can either make or break your trip, it’s wise to find one that you have rapport with.
When you make contact with your outfitter, what is your first impression? Was he friendly and forthcoming? Did he delay when returning your call? Did he hesitate to provide you with information? First impressions are usually spot-on in the outfitting business. You’ll be able to tell quickly if a person is running hunts out of a passion of the outdoors or if he is doing it simply to make a quick dollar.
Ask the outfitter about his experience? How long has he been hunting? Does he do this as a career or as a hobby? How long has he owned a lodge? Does he own more than one across the country? You might find some outfitters manage properties all over the place and specialize in different types of game. You might want to consider going with a smaller outfit that focuses primarily on the game you’re after. If you feel like a number when you call for information, odds are you won’t have the hunt you want with that outfitter.
Regardless of the size of the operation, a quality outfitter will do what it takes to make your trip memorable and exciting. After all, he wants you to come back year after year. Will your outfitter provide personal service during your time with him? Will he show you maps and talk it through with you? Does he have new equipment (stands, shooting houses, etc.)? Will he provide client references? Can he provide trail cam pictures? If you aren’t “sold” on that outfitter, call another one until you find one that is a good fit for you.
Policies and Hidden Costs
One of the most disappointing things for a hunter is to show up ready to bag that trophy and learn that he/she will be hit with additional fees. Prior to booking your hunt, ask the outfitter for a list of all fees that may be charged. Know that some outfitters assess fees for young bucks, some charge for large bucks, some charge for retrieval and field dressing and some charge extra for pole dressing. With fees like these, a hunt can become expensive in a hurry. Most quality outfitters do not charge extra fees for your kills and their rates include retrieval and dressing services.
Learn how many people your outfitter will be working with during your hunt dates. How many hunters does one guide service? Will you share a guide with another hunt group or two? Will the outfitter provide transportation services or are you required to drive yourself to your hunting spot? Don’t assume anything – the devil is in the details.
A key part of your experience is the accommodations and your surroundings. Some outfitters will put their hunters up in hotels. That might be an indication you want to look for another outfitter. A career outfitter usually has a hunting lodge that can accommodate the special needs of his clients. Large living areas and recreational opportunities like pool tables can make your trip more comfortable and more memorable. Outdoor space is always nice, too. Ask to see pictures of the lodge and find out how close it is to the nearest gas station or supply store.
Find out about the food that will be provided during your stay. Are all meals included and what can be expected for breakfast, lunch and dinner? What times are the meals usually served? Are snacks available throughout the day? Are you obligated to provide your own beverages or soda?
If it’s important to you, make sure the lodge has wireless internet access or cable television. Ask about the number of guest rooms and bathrooms are in the location. Is there access to a washer and dryer? Are there extra freezers and refrigerators to hold your yield?
The more you know will help you determine which outfitter is best for you. Most of the things you want to know can be learned through a phone call with the outfitter. His willingness to share information and respond to your requests can indicate the type of experience you can expect to have when you arrive. Your hunt trip should be enjoyable and memorable. The outfitter you select is the difference between a so-so experience and an amazing one.