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So you have finally saved up enough money for the hunting trip of a life time and you need to choose an outfitter. How do you do it? Looking through a list of hunting guides and outfitters can be an overwhelming experience. Most of them have impressive websites and great pictures of trophy animals and happy hunters.
Here are a few tips to help you choose the right outfitter:
1. Read Reviews: There are a few hunting directories on the net that allow hunters to post reviews of their experiences with guides and hunting preserves. Look for a site that allows not only glowing testimonials but also negative reviews. Foremost Hunting is a new site that is starting to publish reviews for deer, turkey, duck and pheasant hunting guides and I really like Gamebirdhunts.com. They have a lot of good, and bad, reviews of upland hunting clubs on their site.
2. Interview The Outfitter: Your going to be spending a lot of time and money with this person or group so call up and talk to them. If the owner of the club isn't the one who actually does the guiding ask to speak to the guide as well. Make sure your guide services is easy and fun to talk to. After all, your are going hunting with them, you don't want to send a week in the woods with someone you don't really click with.
3. Ask for references: Ask the outfitter or preserve owner for some references. Most outfitters will be happy to provide you with a list of phone numbers and names. If they won't do that at least ask for a few email addresses.
4. Ask Around Online: Hit the message boards and ask about the guide service you are considering using. There are tons of great hunting message boards on the net and most hunters are happy to help if you ask.
5. Understand The Hunting Package: Outfitters prices vary greatly depending on what's included. Some states require you to get a license at your own expense while others allow the outfitter to provide the license or tag for you as a part of the package. Also consider travel costs, lodging etc. Some times the all inclusive hunts can end up being a better deal then the ala cart hunts.
6. Years In Business: When looking for a guide services or hunting preserve I always consider the number of years the services has been around. I'm a little more hesitant to send a large deposit to a brand new guide service for a future hunt. I always try and use a credit card for advanced deposits and never pay more then 6 months in advance so I can dispute the credit card charges if the guide were to fold.
7. Hunter To Guide Ratio: Find out in advance how many hunters will be in your party and how much attention you will be getting from your guide.
8. Who Is Your Guide Going To Be: Many hunting outfitters post bios of their guides with their qualifications right on the site. Find out specifically who your guide will be and ask for some information on that person.
9. Is Your Guide Bonded, Licensed and Insured: Many states require hunting and fishing guides to be bonded, licensed and insured. If your guide is caring insurance and is licensed chances are they are a reputable service.
10. Check With The Local Better Business Bureau: It is not a bad idea to check with the local better business bureau for any complaints about the guide service or outfitter you are interested in hiring.
11. Check On Cancellation Policies: Make sure you check out the outfitter's policy regarding cancellation of the contract and refund of any deposit. Things happen in live and this is something you should consider before booking your trip.
Most guide services and outfitters are very reputable. They know the area and can get you access to private land and the best hunting opportunities. A little research can make your next guided hunt much more enjoyable.