Your first guided trip doesn’t have to be stressful, and it won’t be with these tips.
Operators across this great continent offer a fantastic opportunity to the world’s sportsmen. Those who take advantage of the expertise of a seasoned and skilled hunting or fishing guide know it’s always a smart move to employ the help of someone more experienced.
But for somebody who’s always done it themselves, connecting with an outdoor operator can be a little awkward, a little frustrating, and a little humbling.
There’s a natural tendency to be afraid of appearing inexperienced, or incapable of doing any particular activity related to hunting or fishing. A salmon guide tells you to aim your cast 10 feet farther upstream, but maybe you can’t quite pull that off. An elk hunting guide asks you to help look for sign, and you panic wondering what you should be seeing.
One thing should be made clear up front: you shouldn’t worry that much about embarrassing yourself on a guided hunt in unfamiliar territory. The key is using an operator who takes every opportunity to show you a good time. This includes information shared before you ever book a trip with them. Use the online resources shared by a few possibilities, and reach out to them on the phone or through email with questions and specifics. Good guides and outfitters will respond wholeheartedly, and help you make a smart decision about who you go with.
Finding operators to choose from doesn’t have to be a chore, either. Sites like Fin & Field, which have large communities of operators and sportsmen, are a great way to streamline this process. Their search functions rule out the marketing dollar-influence of a Google search or Yellow Pages scan, and they’ll typically include thorough, meaningful reviews from real customers.
And bottom line, operators know you are out of your element during an out-of-state hunting or fishing trip, and are usually eager to pass on advice and lead a good example.
Beyond affixing yourself with a good operator, here are some ways you can help set yourself up for a fun experience.
This is pretty obvious, but you should do all you can to find out about the game or fish you intend on targeting on a guided trip, and familiarize yourself with common behaviors, typical habitat, and seasonal actions that could affect your experience. Learn what baits work well for the fish species you’ll catch, and what calls the gobblers respond to in the place you’ll set up.
Ask about the plots of land you’ll be hunting or stretches of river you’ll fish, and study online maps of the area. As the trip approaches, you can zero in on weather predictions and plan accordingly. The more logistical research you do up front, the more mentally prepared you’ll be.
Most operators will tell you explicitly what you need to bring, and what you don’t. Follow these instructions carefully, and be aware of them before you even start packing.
Though it’s tempting, buying a brand new camo parka or 12 gauge shotgun for a trip isn’t all that bright. Bring items you have experience with and are comfortable in. Don’t be the guy who clangs his bow on the treestand because he couldn’t figure out his new sling.
Again, find out what’s needed, and don’t bother bringing what’s not.
Follow the leader
A guided hunting trip isn’t the wisest time to let an ego take over. Try to bury yours, and watch, listen, and study the operator. Follow verbal and physical cues, and if you’re given instructions, follow them to a “T.”
Be a student, and let the teacher teach. There are exceptions, and you can certainly step up when the post-shot duties come up (like tracking and field dressing), but if you play it smart you will learn a thing or two.
Remember the point
Keep in mind this objective: you’re supposed to have fun on a hunting or fishing trip, and experience things past your front yard.
Try not to overstep boundaries, especially when it comes to the heat of the moment. If you don’t feel confident taking what could be your only shot at a pronghorn, don’t take it.
Remember that you’ll learn more from a passed opportunity than a horrible shot. You’ll pick up the secret to live bait while on that fishing charter if you just pay attention. An outfitted hunt or fishing trip from a reputable operator is the kind of outdoor adventure that makes being a sportsman great.
Don’t be “that guy,” and you’ll appreciate it when you return from your travels.