Dear Writing Huntress,
I’m really excited to be going on my first guided hunt this year in Illinois. I’ve been hunting for a few years, but have yet to kill a buck, so I’m preparing for what I’m hoping will be the hunt of a lifetime. We’ll be staying at the lodge for 4 days. Now that we’re a few months from the hunt, I wanted to look into guided hunt etiquette. Do you have any tips for me from before the hunt to after? How much do I tip?
Guided in Greenwich
It seems like only yesterday I was crawling over sticker bushes and doing my best to avoid sitting on prickly pear cactus while enjoying my first guided hunt, a turkey adventure with Double B Outfitters and Benelli USA. I learned many things while on that trip that may help you during your Wyoming outing.
Before the hunt
Go over licenses, and firearm or bow regulations with the outfitter, or by consulting the state’s wildlife agency’s website. Make a list of questions or concerns to review with your guide prior to your departure, including transportation to and from the airport if you’re flying, essential gear and the best camo pattern for the time of year and area you’re hunting.
If you have a questionnaire to fill out pre-hunt, be sure to fill it out completely and truthfully. Addressing any medical conditions or necessary medications before the hunt could be the difference between life and death in the event of an emergency.
Let the guide guide
While you’re hunting, keep in mind that your guide knows the country and layout of the land. Most guides have been hunting for their entire lives. Feel free to make suggestions during the hunt, but avoid attempts to teach the guide how to do his or her job.
Realize your limitations
Before the hunt, consult the outfitter about the terrain you’ll be hunting so you can condition yourself accordingly, especially if a higher altitude is involved. When you arrive, be sure to talk to your guide about any limitations you may have including reoccurring injuries or medical conditions that may limit you from scaling canyons. Don’t try to be tough and end up overexerting yourself during the hunt; you may become further injured in the process and ruin your experience.
Keep your expectations reasonable
Don’t expect to get a certain animal because you saw a trail camera picture or photograph taken a week before. Enjoy the entire hunt for what it is, not for the trophy you may be able to bring home. Also, don’t allow failing to put a buck in the crosshairs ruin your hunt or your experience with the outfitter — guides can’t control the animals, no matter how much they wish they could.
Show gratitude to the hosts
Generally, those behind the scenes like the hosts and cooks work as hard as the guides to make your hunt an all-encompassing enjoyable time. Nothing makes a hard day of hunting better than a warm, home-cooked meal in a comfortable lodge, so remember to say thank you to everyone at the facility.
Know your firearm or bow
Depending on the hunt, you may be utilizing different firearms or a bow to take down your target. From turkeys to deer, elk to boar, you should know your ballistics and how far you can shoot with your firearm or bow of choice. Be sure to share this information with your guide so he or she knows the best shooting distance for you to connect with the animal.
Once the hunt is said and done, it’s time to think about tips. Just like in any service industry, tipping isn’t required, but always a nice gesture. Tipping can vary depending on how much the overall hunt costs, or if you are in or out of country. You may want to tip more or less than “average,” or around 10% to 20%, according to the guides I have asked, depending on how long you hunted and other factors including lodging, food, etc., but never tip less because you didn’t get an animal – the guide can only do so much. It would be best to ask the outfitter what they suggest.
Guided, I hope you have an amazing time on your first hunt with an outfitter. Absorb the guide’s hunting knowledge like a sponge and even if you don’t get a trophy, I assure you’ll have memories that will last a lifetime.