Don’t Become the Hunted: 5 Keys to Finding the Best Outfitter

In the back of our minds, we all have bucket list items that have cemented themselves into our being. The variety ranges from hunting “Black Death” in Africa or attending one of Clint Smith’s famed courses at Thunder Ranch. Whatever your flavor may be don’t become prey of scams like this one out of the Midwest.

Each year, I attend hunting and fishing expos across the country and have seen a rise in attending outfitters. Some are established with a strong heritage and legacy that are unsurpassed. However, not everyone can afford five-star venues. What if you are looking for a solid experience, but lack the funds? That is okay because there are tons of reputable operations out there practically giving away their services.

Even as a young adult I aspired to hunt game outside my home state. The first hunt I ever booked out of state was $500, which basically I kissed goodbye right over the phone. It is little mistakes that I made that can help you select your next outfitter with confidence. 

TAKE WHAT YOU WANT

In order to get the most out of your experience, you must first know what you are willing to sacrifice. Yes, the hunt was cheap, but it was in prime Texas Hill country. I was more than willing to sleep on the dirt if it meant I saved money and had a shot at a giant. This probably should have been my first clue. If an outfitter is skimping on the necessities perhaps it would be best to look elsewhere.

But I’m cheap and just want to hunt. Well that may be the case, but know what you want and take it. I would much rather delay a hunt for a couple years to take the trip I want. My outfitter experience was a matter of not wanting to wait. I needed my outfitting fix, and I took the first one that appeared. I wish the me now could go back and shake them me I was 15 years ago.

DON’T GET THE BIG EYE       

In my infinite wisdom, I saw a great deal and booked immediately. There was a monumental mistake when it comes to booking. Instead of looking at the entire package I saw a value, which is a little odd since my wife says I have very expensive taste. I was young and didn’t have a bunch of money to spare, but it was such a great deal I had to act.

Don’t get the big eye when it comes to booking your adventure. Understand what you are getting out of it and sit on it. If you are at an event like the Dallas Safari Club convention or a small Ducks Unlimited banquet walk around and look at all the offerings. Most of these events vet their attendees so some of the work has already been done for you, but I urge you to examine anyone that is offering a service that you are willing to consider.

CALL ‘EM OUT

How often do you call past clients that went through the same booking experience? I know I didn’t until after constant unanswered calls. It was at that point that I made a conscious decision to follow up with at least five past clients over several years to get their thoughts. This is an easy step to do, but rarely taken.

If I had taken a smidgen of initiative and asked for some contacts I would have found out that my “outfitter” was a thief that never intended to fulfill his obligation. A reputable guide service or shooting academy will gladly provide a client list that you are able to contact. This is an easy step that shouldn’t be missed.

BECOME A SUPER SLEUTH

Do yourself a favor and do a simple Google search. The interwebs is a treasure trove of information, and you would be surprised to see what type of info folks freely put out there. Had I put on my Sherlock Holmes hat, I would have discovered he hadn’t had a single happy customer in quite some time. I think he did have one good review, but that was from his mom.

After I had made the purchase, something didn’t sit well in my gut. You know the feeling. The, I just lost $500 feeling you sometimes get when you do something dumb. Panicked, I started feverishly typing and low and behold I found my answer. There was no way I was getting my money back.

ENJOY YOURSELF

Booking a bucket-list event should be enjoyable. There is no need to stress when selecting an outfitter. In fact, if you find yourself stressing about the whole thing get a booking agent. I know NRA Outdoors personally vets every client they represent and can get you in the door at reasonable prices if hired.

Don’t get locked in to a scam like I did. Take a bit of time to enjoy the journey, even if it takes a little longer than expected. Turn the tables on these guys and do the hunting yourself.

~ KJ

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