Hunting is a sport of constant dreaming. No matter where you hunt or how long you have been hunting, all of us live with those fantasies of magnificent trophies and exotic locations. For many of us, transforming those hunting dreams into reality can take years of planning, saving money, and putting in for tags. It can be a long and tiresome process, so when it suddenly all comes together and you’re about to go on the ultimate hunting adventure, most of us want to give ourselves the best chance of success. So we hire a guide. While this does not guarantee a successful hunt, it definitely increases the odds in a hunter’s favor. A good hunting guide is an experienced and capable hunter who flat out lives to see other hunters’ dreams come true and will bend over backward to help you be successful.
However, it is not all on them. When it really comes down to it, a guide can only take you so far and the hunter is ultimately responsible for their own success. On a guided hunt, the difference between fulfilling your hunting dreams and going home empty-handed comes down to some very common and easily avoided mistakes. Here are the top reasons guided hunters fail to be successful.
Not doing your research
There are numerous hunting guides out there and most of them are capable, talented, and very good at their jobs—and some aren’t. When you first plan out a guided hunt, checking on your guide’s references is an essential first step to ensuring your success. Don’t just rely on internet reviews, either, because you can never be certain who has written them. A bad review can be from a spurned hunter who had a bad trip, and a good review can be from the guide’s mother. So instead, contact your guide and ask for references. Almost all guides are more than happy to provide references from successful hunters from past seasons, and if they aren’t willing to provide those, they probably aren’t a good guide. Most legitimate references you contact will be happy to provide information about the guide or outfitter that they hunted with and will be able to answer any questions you have. Get as many individual references as possible to ensure that you are not just talking to a bad guide’s buddies who are solely interested in helping their friend get business.
Not packing the right equipment
While you’re on the phone with your guide getting a list of references, ask them about what equipment they want you to bring. Ask them about terrain, weather, and the hunting situations you may encounter, then prepare accordingly. Having the right clothing, weapon, footwear, and even backpack can make or break a guided hunt. Find out which items are preferable, which are essential, and which you can do without. If you’re hunting in the desert but run into an unsuspected cold front, for instance, you want to be prepared. The same goes if you’re hunting from a lodge but have to backcountry camp for a night. Readiness is everything. You must have the equipment necessary to be adaptable.
Not being in shape
The trophies that we dream about and are willing to spend the money on a guide to hunt are usually trophies that have to be earned. Whether you’re wandering the desert in search an elusive bighorn, pushing yourself up avalanche slides trying to get ahead of a herd of elk, or determinedly following the tracks of a monster whitetail buck through thick brush, most guided hunts are going to be physically demanding. Although your guide will obviously try to make it as easy as possible for you, sometimes there won’t be any other option than having to go hard. Again, it’s the hunter’s responsibility to be physically prepared for whatever may be thrown at them by hitting the gym as hard and often as possible, ensuring that they are able to meet whatever physical challenges they encounter. Do not overestimate yourself; instead, go into the workouts thinking you will never be prepared enough. Then, when it comes down to the hunt, you may end up surprising yourself with what you are physically capable of doing.
Not being able to make the shot
On a guided hunt, your guide will do their utmost to ensure your success. They’ll heft your gear, make your lunch, find the easy routes for you to take, spot your animals, and set you in the best spots, but when it all comes together, taking the shot comes down to you. No guide is going to take it for you, and so practice is essential. Shoot your rifle or bow as often as you can and in situations that will be similar to those you may face on the hunt. Do your research about the hunt beforehand, contact your guide and ask about the terrain and the shots you might have to take, and start practicing accordingly. Shoot targets at long range, in heavy cover, from stands, off-hand and on foot. Be prepared and capable so that when the opportunity comes along, you can make the shot count.
Not trusting your guide
It doesn’t matter how much hunting experience you have. It doesn’t matter how many books you’ve read. It doesn’t matter what your other hunting friends or even your incredibly wise grandfather has told you. If you’re hiring a guide, you have to trust that they know what they’re doing. You’re paying for their experience and their time, and it’s almost certain they know better than you do when it comes to that hunting trip in particular. You’re the client, so act the part. Wake up when your guide says to wake up, sleep when they say to sleep, eat when they say to eat, go where they say to go, and do what they say to do. Don’t argue, don’t challenge, and don’t give them advice. Listen to your guide and trust their judgment, knowing that they are doing their absolute best to help you get your animal.
Having a bad attitude
When you’re paying for a guided hunt, you’re paying for the assistance and experience of a guide, not for a guaranteed trophy. While there are some cases where the fault of a failed hunt does lie with the guide, most of the time it’s bad weather, unseasonable temperatures, or simply bad luck that results in an unsuccessful hunt. Sometimes your trophy just gets away, and that’s part of hunting. Don’t go into the hunt feeling entitled, expecting a guaranteed animal. Instead, go into it mentally prepared to hunt hard and have a rewarding experience. Be positive and enjoy the moments as they come. Appreciate the art and thrill of the hunt, and learn what you can as you do, so that if you are unsuccessful, you’ll have a better chance next time around. Remember that, although a guided hunt is about fulfilling a dream, it’s also about going on an adventure to a place you don’t always go, being led by someone who shares your passion for the sport we all love.