You’ve just plopped down some serious cash for a hunting trip. Perhaps it’s a 10-day elk hunt in the wilderness, a two-week African safari or a sheep hunt in Nowheritstan. You’re about to spend some time with a person you’ve likely never met before — and he may not speak your language to boot. Those few days on that hunt can be a memorable experience — or a total nightmare. It’s mostly up to you.
Hopefully you and your guide will get along just fine. Think about spending two weeks with someone you don’t enjoy being around. How do you make the best of the situation? While some things are out of your control, you can still make a concerted effort to have an enjoyable — and successful — adventure.
Every year I visit with a lot of guides and outfitters. From what they generally say, I guess it would be easier to explain how not to get along with your guide — insuring your hunt to be a total train wreck — than to try to explain the opposite.
Language barriers can often be a challenge. Mark’s 11-day hunt in
Sudan was successful thanks to guides and hunter working together.
The “Do Nots”
To be instantly disliked, you can start out by not helping with camp chores. Don’t lend a hand setting up the tent, gathering firewood, help prepare meals or any number of daily tasks. And never help change a flat tire, and don’t forget to complain about everything. By all means get drunk every night — and start the morning off with a hangover. Tell the guide how to do his job, like where you think game is located, or how we should hunt. Of course you’ve never been there before, so it should be easy for you to know more than he does.
Then, miss a couple of easy shots and blame the gun, wind, sun in your eyes or your horoscope for that day. Better yet, wound an animal and don’t help look for it, or try to recover the gut-shot game. When you arrive back in camp be sure to hit on his wife or girlfriend, too. This always helps a lot. Oh, and don’t forget to brag about your new gun you haven’t shot 20 times, the expensive pair of boots looking as if they just came out of the box (because they have) and all those monster animals you killed from 1,000 yards on your last hunt — and add you had a better guide then too. When it’s all over and after the guide has worked his butt off, whatever you do — don’t leave a tip!
The two most common complaints I hear from guides are hunters being out of shape and simply not being able to shoot accurately. They’re not implying hunters arrive in Olympic athlete condition. We’re talking about reasonable physical ability to walk and hike for the chosen hunt. Pre-hunt preparation goes a long way. If it’s a sheep hunt, be in sheep-shape.
By the same token, hunters should not be expected to possess the marksmanship of a Navy Seal sniper. However, being able to down an elk at a reasonable distance with a good rest will please everyone involved, including you. Quality trigger time and being intimately familiar with your firearm — prior to the hunt — is essential. A good guide will not expect you to make a running shot on an animal in the next time zone. But game standing broadside from less than 200 yards, in the wide open, should be heading to the skinning shed. Many times success hinges on our physical condition and shooting ability.
During two weeks of trekking in the Himalayan Mountains
of Nepal, the hunting party worked together as a team. This is
one of the most physically demanding hunts you’ll ever encounter.
Mark (that’s him in the middle) is grinning because the hunt was finally over.
Keep It Smiley
Most hunters enjoy the overall experience of a hunting adventure, not just pulling the trigger. Become part of the hunt and don’t just sit on the sidelines. Helping the guide whenever possible is part of the experience. Some guides may not want your help saddling horses and such, but it never hurts to offer. Do other chores then. Helping field dress and pack your game off the mountain will definitely be appreciated.
Personality clashes, language barriers, unrealistic expectations from both parties, are all possible challenges. Just because we are paying for a hunt doesn’t guarantee utopia. Sometimes you just have go with the flow — lemonade out of lemons sort of a deal. Clear communication can steer you away from potential problems.
I once had a 26-year-old guide want to race up a very steep mountain on a sheep hunt. I was in good shape for a mid-50’s guy but not up for iron-man competition. After a discussion on the side of the mountain, we got along fine and eventually took a dandy sheep. Hunters with limiting physical abilities or special needs, dietary restrictions, or other pertinent health-related matters should advise the outfitter ahead of time. This enables the guide to plan accordingly and eliminates any surprises. If an issue comes up, chat about it with your outfitter that very moment. Don’t just complain later.
Keeping a positive attitude goes a long way. Guides are human and they’re not getting rich. Teamwork will certainly enhance your adventure. After all, spending quality time in the outdoors with other folks who share your passion — should be fun.
By Mark Hampton