Just last week, I heard a terrible story about a group of guys set to come to Western KY for opening weekend. They had booked with an outfitter and had sent their deposits months prior. At the last minute, the outfitter’s wife called the group and informed them that the outfitter with whom they had booked had fallen out of a tree, was in critical condition and therefore the hunt would have to be cancelled. After expressing concern for their outfitter, they asked about receiving a refund of their deposit. The wife told them that she wouldn’t send refunds and she ended the call. The group tried to contact the outfitter numerous times but there was no answer.
Out of desperation, the guys started contacting other outfitters in the area. They learned very quickly from the locals that the outfitter in question had closed up shop in western Kentucky and moved to central Kentucky to start a new outfitting service. When they called the number for the outfitting service in central Kentucky, the outfitter answered the phone. Apparently, he wasn’t injured at all. He had knowingly taken their money for hunts he never intended to facilitate.
Outfitting is a competitive business and there are some pretty unsavory characters out there trying to make an easy buck off of hunters like you who are looking to book a hunt. To make sure you receive the hunt you expect, it’s important for you to do your homework when selecting an outfitter.
Don’t Rely Solely on the Internet
With so many outfitters competing for your business and so many websites to see, the job of narrowing your choice can be tough. Keep in mind that many of the best outfitters don’t rely on flashy websites and heavy advertising to secure business. A huge web presence might indicate an outfitter who focuses more on the quantity of hunters he runs rather than the quality of the hunt he provides to them.
The internet is a helpful tool when shopping for an outfitter but it can be used by unethical people to mislead you, too. Recently, one of my repeat customers alerted me to a blog in which I was mentioned. The content was not factual at all. In fact, it was out and out slanderous. I quickly figured out it was placed online by a competing outfitter. The same outfitter also started a Facebook page with a name similar to my business name. His goal, I suppose, is to hurt my business by driving potential customers away. Luckily, my business has been built on my personal reputation and by word-of-mouth recommendations so his efforts haven’t affected me much.
In addition to viewing the outfitter’s website, call the outfitter and get a feel for him. Ask for outfitter to provide you with references. A quality outfitter should have repeat customers who will happily share an honest account of their experiences. Guys that make annual hunting trips are diehards and probably have tried several outfitters in an area before they found the one that worked the best for them. Ask them about their experiences with other outfitters in the area. Network with other hunters to hear real, unbiased feedback on a variety of outfitters and make your decision based on what you hear.
A License is Required
A guide license is required by anyone who provides guide or outfitting services. I strongly recommend you ask your outfitter if he has an active license. If you are concerned about the validity of the license, contact the state in which the outfitter is providing services and confirm whether or not a license is on file. I cannot stress this fact enough.
What kind of outfitter wouldn’t have a valid guide license? Most likely one who is more concerned with making a quick buck, one who cannot attain the license, or some other reason that might be a red flag to you – the customer.
A Quality Outfitter
There are many reputable outfitters out there. Unfortunately, there are a few who aren’t. With a little investigation, you can be confident with your outfitter choice.