For many, experiencing an elk hunt is a once in a lifetime opportunity. How can you rest assured that you have chosen the right outfitter for the hunt you desire? If you’re new to a Guided Elk Hunt, remember there really aren’t any dumb questions; just the ones you forgot to ask. Deciding where and which outfitter can be overwhelming; start your homework early--possibly even a year in advance.
First and foremost, you need to know the questions to ask to your potential outfitter/guide. I would recommend calling them up, talking to them over the phone vs solely emailing them with a list of questions to answer. You can get a better sense of the answers when you actually speak to the actual outfitter and get to know their personality a bit as well and be able to determine if they are the right fit for you.
Next, you need to ask yourself what type of hunt is it that you are looking for? Do you want to hunt horseback, do you like to pack in to a remote area with essentials and stay for the duration of your hunt or do you like the convenience of a lodge, home cooked meal, a warm clean bed and possibly wifi.
When you are starting to feel like you might have the right outfitter for you, you definitely will want to call some of their previous clients to make sure the outfitter is reputable and that you will get the hunt you are looking for. I would recommend calling both hunters that are successful and non-successful. Remember, this is your money and possibly a once-in-a-lifetime experience so you want make sure your money and your time is not wasted!
Not many people know that they can get quite a bit of information from the Game & Fish as well. Always check with Game & Fish to see what the elk herd looks like that year. Unfortunately, some years are bad and some are good for the herd depending on weather and environment. Game & Fish can answer your questions specifically to certain units.
Next, you definitely want to know what exactly will be included in the hunt. Will the price include my hunting license and food? Ask the outfitter about any hidden fees or other charges. Examples: Trophy fees, transportation fees, license fees and caping fees, etc. An honest outfitter will not be afraid to discuss this information. With most outfitters, you are responsible for your transportation there.
Since you will be spending roughly 5-7 days with a guide, it never hurts to ask about the guides each outfitter uses. How experienced are the guides? How long have they worked for you? How much experience do they have in the area that you will be hunting? How does the outfitter decide which guide to put with which hunter? Will you be hunting with the outfitter himself?
As with most things in life, you will get what you put into your hunt. Do your homework, don't wait until two weeks before to get in shape and be up front with your outfitter on what you expect out of a hunt. That way he/she can have a chance to be upfront and honest with you as whether they can accommodate you. This is your hunt, your money…so prepare and invest wisely.