May 10, 2013
Fish Alaska for a Buck: Trade a Guide for a Whitetail Hunting Trip
By Scott Bestul
No, not “buck” as in a dollar. You can’t do much of anything in Alaska for a dollar. But you might be able to save a whole bunch of money chasing trout, salmon, or halibut if you have access to some good whitetail hunting. I know because I’ve done it, and if you don’t believe me, you can ask my friend Greg Brush, owner of EZ Limit Guide Service in Soldotna, AK. That’s him in the photos.
Greg and I met on a bowhunt a few years back, and that’s when I learned he’s nuts about whitetails, which are damned rare near his home. So every fall he travels somewhere in the Lower 48 to chase deer. And to save money, he tries to swap a guided fishing trip in Alaska for a whitetail hunt.
This situation is hardly unique. I know four Alaskan fishing guides. They all bowhunt, and they would all waive their guide fee for a chance to hunt whitetails for a week. I can tell you first hand that it’s a trade that can work wonderfully. I’ve hosted Greg for bowhunts here in Minnesota, and a few years back, my wife Shari and I visited him for an unforgettable Alaskan adventure.
Of course, setting up a trade like this is not and should not be a casual deal. You need to know the Alaskan you’re hosting isn’t a jerk, and he needs to know that your photo isn’t hanging in the post office. And you both need to have an experience that’s worth swapping: He’d better run a clean ship and know his fishing, and you’d better have more than just 10 acres with a spike buck that wanders through once a month. Remember, you’re both saving some money, but the trip is far from free. Airfares, car rental, lodging, etc. will not be cheap, so do your research.
How do you get started?
“For anyone coming up here, I’d begin with a Chamber of Commerce and ask for a list of guides with the experience you want,” Greg says. “Stick with small operations that offer personal service; you want to develop a relationship with the guy you make the swap with. There has to be mutual trust there. I’d give him a call, and chat for awhile; tell him what you’d like in a trip and let him know what you can offer in return. And then, no matter how good he sounds, call his references. Legitimate guides with good reputations never have a problem with this.”
In return, Greg is going to want to know where your property is, some idea of the caliber of deer, and get a gauge of the hunting pressure. “Some phone time is important to me,” he says. “I just want an assurance that the guy is honest, has integrity, and has similar goals. I like big deer as much as the next guy, but a quality experience is the most important thing to me.”
So if you’ve always dreamed of fishing in Alaska but didn’t know how to pull it off, deer might be a big foot in the door. And who knows? You might make a lifelong friend in the process, like I did.