Working with hunting guides or outfitters can make or break your experience. Guides share their knowledge of the land and local game. A hunting guide’s support is advantageous when exploring an unfamiliar state or country.
Fantastic hunting guides add value to your trip and make the experience more enjoyable, whether you walk away with a trophy or not. Should you hire an outfitter or hunting guide when planning your dream hunt? Should you go it alone?
Determine if a guided hunt is best for your next adventure.
- Types of Guided Hunts
- Should You Book a Guided Hunting Trip?
- What to Look for on a Guided Hunt Listing
Types of Guided Hunting Trips
Every outfitter or guided hunt business is different. Some may offer more amenities than others. You can break down most hunting trips into three categories.
1. Fully Guided Hunting Trips
A fully guided hunting trip pulls out all the stops. You don’t have to worry about planning, researching or booking a hotel room. The outfitter provides all the necessary amenities, including lodging, meals, and transportation to and from the field.
From there, a hunting guide will accompany you throughout your trip, showing you the best places to spot game.
2. Semi-Guided Hunts
Semi-guided hunts aren’t fully guided experiences, but they have perks. On a semi-guided hunt, you gain access to a tract of land, and a guide will provide directions for discovering game.
The outfitter or guide may have gear for you and a camp already set up. They may drive you to and from the camp each day, or you may be responsible for getting there. Semi-guided hunting trips may or may not include lodging.
You should expect to receive insight from your hunting guide. They will offer more information about the property, terrain, hunting tactics and game. However, unlike a fully guided hunt, you won’t have a companion helping you while you hunt.
3. DIY Hunting Trips
A DIY hunting trip puts all the planning on the hunter’s shoulders. On a DIY or self-guided trip, the hunter must research the terrain, conditions and game beforehand to be successful on the ground. You’ll also have to plan your lodging, meals and travel.
There’s no wrong answer when it comes to planning your dream hunt. Set your priorities before you research. You should pick an experience that fits your budget, physical condition, desired level of ease and sense of adventure.
The Big Question: To Hire a Hunting Guide or Not?
Should you hire a hunting guide? That’s up to you. The hunt’s difficulty and your hunting experience influence the path you choose. Walk through this checklist to determine whether you need to hire a guide or are comfortable hunting alone.
Legalities: Is a Hunting Guide Required?
Some hunts require you to be accompanied by a certified guide. Many provinces in Canada require non-resident hunters to work with an outfitter or a certified “hunter host.” Similarly, legally hunting brown bears, Dall sheep and mountain goats in Alaska requires a guide.
Check the regulations of the area you’ll be hunting. Be sure to look up your specific hunt. You may only need a guide for particular species or seasons.
Budget: What Works for You Financially?
Your budget plays a large role in the type of hunt you plan. It’s often the deciding factor.
Fully guided hunting trips are the most expensive option since you receive more services and lodging. A self-guided hunt is the least expensive type of trip. You can skimp where you need to on food and accommodations, and you’re not paying someone to join you on your adventure.
One factor to consider is the uniqueness or rarity of the hunting trip. Is this something you plan to do annually? Is it an opportunity you won’t get again? If this is a once-in-a-lifetime chance for you, it’s worth it to splurge on a fully or semi-guided hunt. Support from people who know the area increases your chances of a successful trip.
Hunting Gear: Do You Want to Invest in Gear?
Experienced hunters collect a lot of gear over the years. You may have everything you need, from tents to game calls, or you may rely on guides to provide the necessities. Newer hunters may lean toward guided hunting tours, so they don’t have to purchase new gear.
For avid hunters, investing in gear and going on self-guided hunts will save you money over time. Only invest in equipment if you plan to go on similar hunting trips in the future.
Always ask the outfitter or guide what gear will be provided so you know what to bring.
Knowledge: How Well Do You Know the Area?
An experienced hunter may have a fair amount of knowledge about the area and game. Each hunting trip teaches you more about the land, animals and yourself. With every hunt, you gain confidence as a hunter and familiarity with the region.
If you’ve been hunting for years, you may feel comfortable with your knowledge of the area and not require a hunting guide. After some research, you may be ready to go.
The people who benefit most from guided hunts have never visited the area or pursued the game before.
Stamina: How Physically Fit Are You?
Self-guided hunts can be physically taxing. Depending on your trip arrangements, you may set up camp, haul all your equipment, hike to find ideal spots and harvest game—all by yourself.
Going it alone is a physical challenge, and you must have reasonable expectations for your capabilities. Hunting guides help you with gear and often assist in harvesting the animal.
Your Goals: What Type of Experience Do You Want to Have?
Working with a hunting guide can increase your chances of filling a tag, but some people like the challenge of hunting on their own.
When you hunt solo, you must put in more research and planning before you head into the backcountry. You must rely on your instincts and live with your decisions. Hunting alone teaches you about strategy on the fly.
If you harvest an animal on a solo hunt, you may feel a greater sense of satisfaction. Whether your hunt was successful or miserable, everything about the experience was up to you.
A guided hunting trip eliminates some of the challenges you face when hunting by yourself. Partnering with a guide doesn’t make your harvest any less of an accomplishment. For many hunters, using a guide removes the burden of planning logistics so they can focus on the joy of the hunt itself.
Breakdown: Self-Guided, Semi-Guided & Fully Guided Hunts
|Solo / Self-Guided||Semi-Guided||Fully Guided|
|Experience||Better for Experienced Hunters||In-Between||Better for Inexperienced Hunters or Special Hunts|
|Budget||Less Expensive||More Expensive||Most Expensive|
|Lodging||All You||Possibly, check for service||Provided|
|Food||All You||Possibly, check for service||Provided|
|Gear||All You||Provided, check for service||Provided|
|Transportation to Area||All You||Possibly, check for service||Provided|
|Harvesting/Butchering||All You||Possibly, check for service||Provided|
What to Look for on a Guided Hunt Listing
Before you book a trip, check the listing for its amenities and provided services. You should read all of the listing’s details, so you can avoid surprises and set your expectations for the hunting trip. If what’s offered meets your needs, book it!
As you search for listings, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Public vs. private land. Read the listing’s description for any mention of where you will be hunting. Knowing if you will be on public or private land helps you set expectations. Public lands often experience more hunting pressure than private lands. You may have to work harder to get close to animals in the peak of the season. Yet, plenty of hunters have seen success on public lands.
- Land features. What type of land will you trek through? Wetlands? Desert? Listings will note the type of terrain and if hunters have access to open land, timber or water features.
- Property features. What amenities are on the property or included with the hunt? Outfitters may provide hunting blinds and stands as well as ATVs or other recreational vehicles to access areas. Some may have boats to travel to more remote locations.
- Hunting method. You can only use certain hunting methods within their legal season. Outfitters and landowners may have other limitations on the methods and gear they allow on their guided hunt or property.
- Sleeping arrangements. Many semi-guided and fully guided hunts provide lodging. If you prefer to sleep in a cabin on the property, make sure the listings you find offer that accommodation. Listings that do not provide lodging will say so on our website.
- Wounding terms. Make sure you understand what happens if you draw blood or wound an animal. In most scenarios, all efforts will be made to retrieve the animal. Depending on state game laws, your tag may be considered filled if you wound an animal and are unable to recover it.
- Pet policies. Never assume you can bring your pets with you—even if your pet is a trained bird dog. More often than not, outfitters and landowners do not want hunters to arrive with pets in tow. Check the listing for the outfitter’s or owner’s pet policy.
- Physical expectations. Some hunting trips are more strenuous than others. Using HUUNT, you can organize guided hunting trips by difficulty. Choose between descriptors such as “easy” and “moderate” to find opportunities that suit your capabilities and interests. You can also filter our listings to find disabled-friendly adventures.
Hunting guides cannot guarantee you walk away with a trophy—or even a filled tag. They can help you get closer to harvesting your dream animal and save you the hassle of planning your trip’s logistics.
Whether you decide to hire a guide or go on a self-guided hunting trip, HUUNT can help you find an adventure that excites you. Explore our listings to find land for lease, semi-guided and fully guided hunting trips.
Find a listing you love? Sign up for our free membership to book your adventure today.