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April 19, 2012

On Hunting With a Guide

By Dave Hurteau

I recently got back from a Louisiana turkey hunt with Synergy Outdoors, the umbrella company of Evolved Harvest, Barnett Crossbows, Flextone Game Calls, Wildgame Innovations, and Wildgame Nation TV. It was a very good hunt as these things go, partly because of the generosity of the hosts and the cooperation of the birds, but mostly because the company reps showed me some honest-to-goodness innovative and useful new products that I can pass along to you without feeling like I’m shilling as payback—which they know I won’t do.

Anyway, we’ll save that for another blog.

For now, I’d rather talk about hunting with a guide, which is commonplace on industry hunts. There’s no question that I would much rather kill a critter on my own--especially a turkey; if I don’t call the bird in myself, I don’t feel like I earned it. That’s why if anyone asks me if I killed a bird in Louisiana, I say no, but my guide, "Mike Miller the Turkey Killer," shown here with his camouflage bible and the bird in question, certainly did, even though I fired the shot.

But I will say that Mike embodies the upside of hunting with a guide (or in his case an expert who came to help out at camp). I fancy myself a pretty decent turkey hunter, but this guy is in another league. I learned a lot from hunting with him. For the record, I hunted for years and years before ever going with a guide; guided hunts account for a tiny percentage of the hunting I now do, I still have never paid to hunt with a guide, and I totally get the sentiment that doing so is not as fulfilling or legit. But it must be said that you can almost always learn something by seeing how someone else hunts, especially someone who does it every day and really knows his stuff, like Mike.

Real hunters love to pooh-pooh guided hunts; I’ve done it—and still do in my weaker moments. But having seen both sides, the truth is that while being guided is not the same as doing it yourself, it can absolutely be valuable and worthwhile.

Comments (15)

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from jcarlin wrote 2 years 5 days ago

I'm with you, Dave. I've never had a guided hunt, but I did pay for one day guided fishing on the Delaware for stripers, a species I'd never really targeted before, nor knew anyone who seriously went after them. I think it was well worth it from an instructional standpoint, but I felt sheepish about having a hired hand-holder the entire time.

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from jamesti wrote 2 years 5 days ago

i used to guide hunts in the bob marshall and i can tell you we did not hold anyone's hand. that place was not for the weak and the outfitter i worked for tried very hard to vet clients before they arrived out of shape and never having been in the wilderness before! they were given all of the facts about what they would be doing and how they would be sleeping and eating. when i was there you couldn't even use a chainsaw as anything with a motor was illegal. hiring a guide is not only more convenient as far as knowing where to hunt and get on animals but also a good idea if you want to follow the law and be safe on your hunt. there were a few times that the clients i was guiding did not stay or do as i instructed them and they got lost. i was able to find them and they didn't have to spend the night away from camp. a guide can keep you out of a lot of situations and make a hunt a lot more comfortable. there are a lot of reasons to always keep it in mind for places you aren't familiar with!

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from NHshtr wrote 2 years 5 days ago

DH, You make it sound like anytime someone uses a guide, they're wimping out.

There are many times when it enhances the hunting experience. (No, I'm not a guide or ex-guide!)

How about - I want to go off-shore to fly fish for albacore, but I have no boat. Guide takes me out and heads for where he has heard some schools are traveling.

How about - I want to hunt wild birds and I usually walk 'em up all season, but I'd like to hunt behind a well trained dog for a change. The guide owns one and off we go.

I think I could go on, but as long as the guide doesn't tie one to a tree, shoot it for you, take you to a feeder, or "domesticated" game, I think it's nothing to hang your head about and as you say, can be educational.

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from Brian W. Thair wrote 2 years 5 days ago

I knew nothing at all about turkey hunting except good camo. Did some reading and picked a good region to go to. Asked the Guides & Outfitters Assoc, for leads to guides in that area. Spectacular mountain scenery, turkeys all over the place. Guide put me in front of a good tom. Blat! Now, for someone as ignorant of turkey hunting strategies as I was, this was the very best introduction possible.

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from Mark Orlicky wrote 2 years 5 days ago

This topic is an old one. Of what value is a guide to a really experienced, skilled hunter/fisherman? I think, working with a local expert when I don't know that area, that's a good reason. When I go to hunt or fish for something I've never gone after before... When the guide has a big boat to take me out to sea for a big fish. And, last, but most important... when a state requires I use a guide for a certain reason. Such as, Alaska requires non-residents to have guides when hunting certain species.
A guide who has the local knowledge of the terrain and local knowledge of the fish I'm chasing / animal I'm hunting, that saves me so much time. For example, going out on Flaming Gorge Reservoir for big Lakers. I've never fished there for lakers and could easily waste four or five days, looking alll over the reservoir for this fish and I might not know the right tactics or bait when I do find the lakers. Whereas a competent guide would have me catching good fish right off the bat. Same same if I wanted to fish for those big blue catfish in the James River tidal water. A good guide could save me so much time and teach me so much.

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from Dave Hurteau wrote 2 years 5 days ago

Not "wimping out," NHshtr. I hope I didn't give that impression. (In fact, I thought I said something positive about guided hunts.) But I do think it's often less satisfying than doing it yourself. How much less depends of the particulars. In this case, when someone else strikes the bird, decides where to set up, calls the bird in, and all that's left for me to do is hit the thing in the head from 10 steps--well, there isn't a big swell of personal pride. My point is that there can be, nonetheless, something valuable gained.

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from RES1956 wrote 2 years 4 days ago

When venturing onto foreign turf to do battle with turkeys, a guide is a ready made source of MRI (most recent information), full of knowledge about the lay of the land and the turkey's habits in general, all very critical in the success of a turkey hunt. These are things that on our home turf, whether it is 100 or 10,000 acres we must become knowledgeable of on our own.
Other than the obvious goal of killing a turkey, a guided hunt that works out can be a tutorial for a seasoned or novice turkey hunter if you will pay attention. View it as such. Congrats on a fine bird, sometimes even guided hunts don't come to a happy ending.

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from RipperIII wrote 2 years 4 days ago

Dave, I've got to agree with you on this, I killed my first turkey by having a friend do the calling, I did the scouting and set up, but he did the calling and although it was exciting(took over an hour to get that bird in)I felt like just a "shooter".
I would however like to take a guided hunt for elk, moose, antelope or any of another big game species, primarily because I don't have a clue as to how to hunt them, and I would like to think that a good guide would also be a good teacher...and I might learn some new skills

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from NHshtr wrote 2 years 4 days ago

Dave,

I guess I picked up on your comment that you use a guide in your "weaker moments".

I agree with many of the comments above; that a guided experience depends on the circumstances. And a lot depends on how you use the guide.

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from Dave Hurteau wrote 2 years 4 days ago

NH,
My bad; I should have gone with a semicolon instead of a period. What I meant was that I occasionally pooh-pooh guided in my weaker moments. Point being that I really shouldn't.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Bernie wrote 2 years 4 days ago

There are many places in North America, particularly western and central Canada, where a non-resident hunter CANNOT legally hunt without a registered guide. Same with Alaska for several species of big game, and the wilderness areas of Wyoming. Ninety-five percent of my hunting over the decades has been without a guide, but those ten or so trips where I hired an outfitter were still a great experience. Many times a guide is more of a hunting partner than someone "holding your hand."

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from jhjimbo wrote 2 years 4 days ago

The overall experience with a guide in the Adirodacks of New York was very good. Good camp, good food and hunting success was better than anyone expected. Comfortable, safe hunting experience that one could hardly do on their own.
I like solo hunting as well but a good guide can be a memorable experience.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Happy Myles wrote 2 years 3 days ago

I would like to reemphasize Jamesti's comments. Using guides to set up a turkey hunting situation for better success is one thing, hunting in the Rockies without a guide when one does not know the territory is quite another. Disregarding chances for better hunting success, when the weather closes down or night falls, things can go wrong in a hurry in that vast country. For example, have a relative, an experienced hunter and outdoorsman, but who did not know the territory, after one night and two days in a blizzard a copter found him. He lost several toes, and is a wiser and more cautious hunter today.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Happy Myles wrote 2 years 3 days ago

On the brighter side. Twenty some years ago I drew an elk tag in one of the best areas in Utah, but an extremely short season, just a few days. With some help from some ranching friends I found an old cowboy who had run cattle in that unit. He had no hunting experience but had good horses and truck and horse trailer. A few days later we came out with a one of the best bull elk taken in the state up to that time. He knew the territory and had the livestock, I had the elk hunting experience and the hunting gear. Luck? A bit, but I did not spend the whole season figuring out the lay of the land. We spend our time in the back country, not prowling along rough jeep trails glassing for likely spots.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from ishawooa wrote 2 years 1 day ago

Well Happy beat me to what I was going to add about guided hunts in the Rockies so never mind...

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from jcarlin wrote 2 years 5 days ago

I'm with you, Dave. I've never had a guided hunt, but I did pay for one day guided fishing on the Delaware for stripers, a species I'd never really targeted before, nor knew anyone who seriously went after them. I think it was well worth it from an instructional standpoint, but I felt sheepish about having a hired hand-holder the entire time.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from jamesti wrote 2 years 5 days ago

i used to guide hunts in the bob marshall and i can tell you we did not hold anyone's hand. that place was not for the weak and the outfitter i worked for tried very hard to vet clients before they arrived out of shape and never having been in the wilderness before! they were given all of the facts about what they would be doing and how they would be sleeping and eating. when i was there you couldn't even use a chainsaw as anything with a motor was illegal. hiring a guide is not only more convenient as far as knowing where to hunt and get on animals but also a good idea if you want to follow the law and be safe on your hunt. there were a few times that the clients i was guiding did not stay or do as i instructed them and they got lost. i was able to find them and they didn't have to spend the night away from camp. a guide can keep you out of a lot of situations and make a hunt a lot more comfortable. there are a lot of reasons to always keep it in mind for places you aren't familiar with!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from NHshtr wrote 2 years 5 days ago

DH, You make it sound like anytime someone uses a guide, they're wimping out.

There are many times when it enhances the hunting experience. (No, I'm not a guide or ex-guide!)

How about - I want to go off-shore to fly fish for albacore, but I have no boat. Guide takes me out and heads for where he has heard some schools are traveling.

How about - I want to hunt wild birds and I usually walk 'em up all season, but I'd like to hunt behind a well trained dog for a change. The guide owns one and off we go.

I think I could go on, but as long as the guide doesn't tie one to a tree, shoot it for you, take you to a feeder, or "domesticated" game, I think it's nothing to hang your head about and as you say, can be educational.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Brian W. Thair wrote 2 years 5 days ago

I knew nothing at all about turkey hunting except good camo. Did some reading and picked a good region to go to. Asked the Guides & Outfitters Assoc, for leads to guides in that area. Spectacular mountain scenery, turkeys all over the place. Guide put me in front of a good tom. Blat! Now, for someone as ignorant of turkey hunting strategies as I was, this was the very best introduction possible.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Mark Orlicky wrote 2 years 5 days ago

This topic is an old one. Of what value is a guide to a really experienced, skilled hunter/fisherman? I think, working with a local expert when I don't know that area, that's a good reason. When I go to hunt or fish for something I've never gone after before... When the guide has a big boat to take me out to sea for a big fish. And, last, but most important... when a state requires I use a guide for a certain reason. Such as, Alaska requires non-residents to have guides when hunting certain species.
A guide who has the local knowledge of the terrain and local knowledge of the fish I'm chasing / animal I'm hunting, that saves me so much time. For example, going out on Flaming Gorge Reservoir for big Lakers. I've never fished there for lakers and could easily waste four or five days, looking alll over the reservoir for this fish and I might not know the right tactics or bait when I do find the lakers. Whereas a competent guide would have me catching good fish right off the bat. Same same if I wanted to fish for those big blue catfish in the James River tidal water. A good guide could save me so much time and teach me so much.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dave Hurteau wrote 2 years 5 days ago

Not "wimping out," NHshtr. I hope I didn't give that impression. (In fact, I thought I said something positive about guided hunts.) But I do think it's often less satisfying than doing it yourself. How much less depends of the particulars. In this case, when someone else strikes the bird, decides where to set up, calls the bird in, and all that's left for me to do is hit the thing in the head from 10 steps--well, there isn't a big swell of personal pride. My point is that there can be, nonetheless, something valuable gained.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from RES1956 wrote 2 years 4 days ago

When venturing onto foreign turf to do battle with turkeys, a guide is a ready made source of MRI (most recent information), full of knowledge about the lay of the land and the turkey's habits in general, all very critical in the success of a turkey hunt. These are things that on our home turf, whether it is 100 or 10,000 acres we must become knowledgeable of on our own.
Other than the obvious goal of killing a turkey, a guided hunt that works out can be a tutorial for a seasoned or novice turkey hunter if you will pay attention. View it as such. Congrats on a fine bird, sometimes even guided hunts don't come to a happy ending.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from RipperIII wrote 2 years 4 days ago

Dave, I've got to agree with you on this, I killed my first turkey by having a friend do the calling, I did the scouting and set up, but he did the calling and although it was exciting(took over an hour to get that bird in)I felt like just a "shooter".
I would however like to take a guided hunt for elk, moose, antelope or any of another big game species, primarily because I don't have a clue as to how to hunt them, and I would like to think that a good guide would also be a good teacher...and I might learn some new skills

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from NHshtr wrote 2 years 4 days ago

Dave,

I guess I picked up on your comment that you use a guide in your "weaker moments".

I agree with many of the comments above; that a guided experience depends on the circumstances. And a lot depends on how you use the guide.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dave Hurteau wrote 2 years 4 days ago

NH,
My bad; I should have gone with a semicolon instead of a period. What I meant was that I occasionally pooh-pooh guided in my weaker moments. Point being that I really shouldn't.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Bernie wrote 2 years 4 days ago

There are many places in North America, particularly western and central Canada, where a non-resident hunter CANNOT legally hunt without a registered guide. Same with Alaska for several species of big game, and the wilderness areas of Wyoming. Ninety-five percent of my hunting over the decades has been without a guide, but those ten or so trips where I hired an outfitter were still a great experience. Many times a guide is more of a hunting partner than someone "holding your hand."

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from jhjimbo wrote 2 years 4 days ago

The overall experience with a guide in the Adirodacks of New York was very good. Good camp, good food and hunting success was better than anyone expected. Comfortable, safe hunting experience that one could hardly do on their own.
I like solo hunting as well but a good guide can be a memorable experience.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Happy Myles wrote 2 years 3 days ago

I would like to reemphasize Jamesti's comments. Using guides to set up a turkey hunting situation for better success is one thing, hunting in the Rockies without a guide when one does not know the territory is quite another. Disregarding chances for better hunting success, when the weather closes down or night falls, things can go wrong in a hurry in that vast country. For example, have a relative, an experienced hunter and outdoorsman, but who did not know the territory, after one night and two days in a blizzard a copter found him. He lost several toes, and is a wiser and more cautious hunter today.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Happy Myles wrote 2 years 3 days ago

On the brighter side. Twenty some years ago I drew an elk tag in one of the best areas in Utah, but an extremely short season, just a few days. With some help from some ranching friends I found an old cowboy who had run cattle in that unit. He had no hunting experience but had good horses and truck and horse trailer. A few days later we came out with a one of the best bull elk taken in the state up to that time. He knew the territory and had the livestock, I had the elk hunting experience and the hunting gear. Luck? A bit, but I did not spend the whole season figuring out the lay of the land. We spend our time in the back country, not prowling along rough jeep trails glassing for likely spots.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from ishawooa wrote 2 years 1 day ago

Well Happy beat me to what I was going to add about guided hunts in the Rockies so never mind...

+1 Good Comment? | | Report

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