I recently booked a hunting trip to South Africa, that prompted several of our hunting friends to express desire to travel to hunt, but they do not know where to start. Here is a list of things I do when booking a hunt with an Outfitter.
When you decide to book a hunt, research everything you can! Start with deciding what species you want to go for, and what you would be happy to take home as a trophy. There are outfitters that specialize in every species of animal that is legal to hunt. If you want to shoot a record book buck, go where you have the best chance to do so; don’t go where a record buck has never even been seen. By taking into account whether this outfitter has produced record book quality animals, you can up your chances of bagging the trophy of your dreams. This is one time you do not want to bargain shop. Book the best hunt you can afford. But remember, nothing is a sure thing.
The bigger the hunt, the further in advance you need to start planning.
My South Africa trip is being planned 15 months in advance. This is not to say that you could not pull it together much quicker, but a lot of things would have to fall into place for that to happen. Some outfitters may be booked two or even three years in advance, and the tags for some animals in certain situations are on a draw system, and it may take you years to win your tag.
Set a budget for your trip and try to stick to it. There will always be unforeseen expenses, but do your best to not break the bank.
Next you need to decide where you want this hunt to take place. I like to travel and see new things, so sometimes I pick an outfitter that is in a location I have always wanted to go to. Keep in mind your travel costs, and even the extra time needed to get to your destination. If you are traveling to a foreign country, you will need a passport, possibly a visa, and very likely vaccinations. None of these need to be a deal breaker, just be aware of the time and cost factor of applying for the proper documents or visits needed at the Doctor’s to be up to date with the vaccinations.
Take notice of your limitations when planning. Do you want to be sitting in a blind freezing during a Saskatchewan deer hunt? Or are you’re the type that doesn’t like to sit still at all, maybe a spot and stalk would be the right choice then. If you get winded walking up a flight of stairs, maybe a Colorado Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep hunt isn’t for you. If you take your time, and look at many hunts and outfitters, you will find the right fit for you.
Once you have narrowed down you selections, there are a few questions you should ask or at least consider;
1. Have your outfitter specify what does the cost of the hunt include? Such as lodging, food, guides, transportation, some include the field dressing and caping of your animal, and packing of your meat/hides for the trip home
2. What does the cost of the hunt NOT include? Such as licenses, tips, caping fee, trophy fees, fuel surcharge and possibly a fine for shooting an undersized animal.
3. What type of lodging will be included? Wall tents with no showers, or a lodge with all the
amenities of home, and will you be sharing a room with a stranger. Also, will you need to bring a sleeping bag and your own towels?
4. If you have dietary restrictions, can the outfitter accommodate that?
5. What type of transportation to the hunting areas is provided? This could be ATV’s, trucks, horses or even boats.
6. How many hunters are assigned to a guide?
7. How much land does the outfitter have to hunt, and if it is public or private lands?
8. How frequently do they place hunters in a stand? And will you have to option to change stands if you are not seeing anything?
9. If you tag out early, can you purchase an extra tag, go fishing or leave early? I have been on hunts that are for 1 buck, but the state allows 3. You may be able to pay an additional amount to the outfitter to go after that second buck.
10. How physical is the hunt? If you are out of shape a spot and stalk hunt on a mountain may not be for you. Can they accommodate disabilities?
11. How do you purchase your license and tags? Most state licenses are now online, but the tags may be limited or on the draw system. Can they help you get the proper tags?
12. How early should you book? The outfitter will know how quickly hunts fill up, but do not feel pressured to book earlier then you are ready. If you miss out on the hunt this year, book for next.
13. How many hunters can they accommodate at a time? This is more important than you
would think. If a camp tells you they take only 6 hunters a week, but state they could fit you in with a group of 10, how stressed will their system be? Both the lodging and the guides will be stretched over a greater number than usual. You may be sacrificing a quality hunt to fit in those extra hunters.
14. What types of hunts are offered at what times of year? Bow hunting, rifle hunting, muzzle loader, youth. Are they equipped with the proper stands for each style of hunting?
15. What type of stands do they offer? If you are afraid of heights, then the 20’ high clamp on with climbing sticks will be out of the question.
16. What are the camps bag limits? These often are less in quantity than the state may allow you to take, it is important to clarify this with your outfitter.
17. Is there a minimum size restriction? This could be an 8 point minimum or a 130” class antler restriction. If you are unsure of what a 130” class buck looks like, ask!
18. Ask for references, ask your friends, look for reviews on the internet.
19. Is the outfitter licensed and insured?
20. Lastly, do they have a range where you can sight in your weapon? Especially if you are flying, your gun/bow case is going to take a lot of abuse. Make sure it is sighted in before you take it out hunting.
OK, you have made the deal, now you need to arrange transportation. If you are traveling a great distance from your home, you probably want to contact a travel agent or AAA. They can schedule your flights, rent a car for you, and arrange overnight accommodations for the nights before or after your hunt. You can do all this for yourself, but if you are traveling out of the country, a professional will also be able to help you with the laws for the temporary import of a firearm or other weapon into the country, and assist you with any visas you may need. They will also offer trip insurance and travel medical insurance/medical evacuation insurance. All of these, while a good idea, are entirely up to you.
Once I have booked a hunt, I tend to find out everything I can about the area. This helps in the packing, but also gives you an idea of the local weather, culture and attractions. It would be a shame to go to South Africa, in my case, and not experience some of the wonderful natural attractions that the country has to offer. Start packing! You are going to have a great time!