Written by Fred Eichler:
Every bowhunter I know that has been on a few guided hunts has at least one horror story about the experience. Sometimes it is the outfitters fault and sometimes it is the clients fault. Most of my bad experiences have come from outfitters that I did not communicate with very much. The upside is I have also had some great experiences with outfitters that will provide me with fond memories for the rest of my life. Some of these awesome experiences involved harvesting animals and others were great even though I never had an opportunity.
As a full-time outfitter that guides ten months a year for antelope, bear, elk, mule deer, whitetail deer, turkey and mountain lion, I have guided clients on successful trips for all of these species. I have also guided hunters on unsuccessful trips for all of these. Sometimes I screwed up. Other times, the weather prevented us from being successful. Sometimes my client’s mistakes caused them to go home empty handed. And sometimes the animals just didn’t cooperate.
Below I have listed some tips from an outfitter/guides point of view that will help you have a more successful and enjoyable experience.
Be honest about your condition.
If you say you're in great shape and can go all day, you may very well be sent into an area that requires that. If you are overweight or have any disabilities or handicaps explain this to the outfitter. Many outfitters can accommodate people with disabilities or handicaps. Even food allergies or preferences of food or drinks are huge things to mention. I once took a guy to a remote camp and I didn’t bring coffee. He was one unhappy camper. My bad for forgetting it but it would have helped me if he mentioned that without coffee he gets major headaches and feels crappy all day.
Be aware of your range limitations.
The effective range for each bow hunter varies. Try to be accurate in your assessment of how far you are comfortable shooting. If you say you can shoot 30 yards don’t be surprised if you’re asked to shoot at that distance. I have unintentionally handicapped my own clients when I thought they were comfortable shooting at twenty five yards and put them in blinds or treestands that were set-up for shots at those distances, when in reality that was just farther than they were comfortable with. It is always better to underestimate your effective range than to stretch it out. All of my guides including myself like to see our clients shoot before we take them out. It gives us an idea of what range they’re comfortable with. Other outfitters I have hunted with usually do the same thing. So don’t be offended if you’re asked to prove your prowess.
Show up ready.
Bow hunting is a physical endeavor. Try to be in the best shape possible for any hunt. Just a little work on your part before your hunt will pay huge dividends once you are out in the woods. I advise guys to work on cardiovascular and leg strength when conditioning. Also, be sure to practice with and know the equipment you will be bringing. You're better off bringing the old bow you are comfortable with rather than buying a brand new one just before a trip. ( It happens.)
Trust your guide. (Very Important)
You have already made your decision and paid your money. Don't question the guide. If you're not prepared to be guided, don't go on a guided hunt. A lot of animals have taken the trail back to their beds because of hunters not following their guides instructions. Are guides always right? Of course not. But if you did your research, odd sare he knows more about the animal and the terrain you are hunting in than you do.
To shoot or pass?
This is a tough one. I advise hunters that are trophy hunting to have a clear idea of the animal they will be happy with. I also usually suggest that hunters harvest an animal on the first day of the hunt that they would be happy with on the last day of the hunt. Many hunters, including myself, have passed on animals early in a hunt that we later wished we had harvested.
The accepted and often published rate is ten to fifteen percent of the cost of your hunt. Most guides, like waitresses, survive on the tips they make. If a guide doesn't do a good job, don't tip him. If you think he did an exceptional job tip him more. If multiple guides took you, either split up the tip accordingly or ask the outfitter to divvy it up. If you have a cook preparing your meals, I suggest a tip of ten to twenty dollars a day.
The old adage about one bad apple holds true in hunting camps. No one, including the other hunters and guides, wants to spend time with someone that has a bad attitude. Most true bow hunters I know are optimists. You have to be one to be a bow hunter. So bring your best attitude to camp because another adage about your success being in the hands of your guide is also true.
In closing, I would like to mention that when you purchase a fair chase hunt from any outfitter you are buying an opportunity to hunt. You are in no way purchasing an animal. When you choose to hunt five to fourteen days for a wild animal with any weapon you must always be aware that you may come home empty handed. Even outfitters that claim to be 99% successful sent at least one person home without an animal.
So be sure to enjoy every sunrise and sunset, as well as the people and the terrain because that is really why we are all out there anyway. If you don't lose sight of that, you will never have an unsuccessful trip. As always…..Have fun! Fred