Hunting Outfitters and Booking the Hunt of a Lifetime
If you crave exciting hunting adventures, outdoor television is full of great examples to live vicariously. From bear hunts in Canada to elk hunting in New Mexico, there is no shortage of amazing experiences out there for those who seek them. Do you ever wish that you too could branch out from your usual hunts and go on an epic hunting adventure? Michael Waddell and Nick Mundt sat down recently on the A Bone to Pick podcast, to talk about booking the hunt of a lifetime and why it’s maybe not as out of reach as you might think. In this post, we’ll share some good tips for anyone out there who wants to venture a little further afield and perhaps check off some of their bucket list hunting trips.
What is Your Hunt of a Lifetime?
There are a lot of great hunters out there who have never explored beyond their own backyard. If you’re one of them, this is no slam on you – our time each fall is fleeting and precious, so it’s tough to pass on the local hunting you love. But every hunter likely has a couple of different animal species or areas they would like to hunt on their bucket list. If you’re used to always hunting the same game animals on your home turf, that probably means heading across the country (or around the world) and pursuing something totally different.
For example, one of Nick’s favorite animals to hunt are mule deer, but he has several bucket list animals or hunts he’s still pursuing (which is really saying something, considering how many hunts he has been on). On the podcast, he mentions he has put in for an Arizona elk tag for 14 years and hasn’t been drawn yet – that’s a lot of build-up and anticipation! Mountain goat (while very expensive to draw a tag) is at the top of his list. Nick would also like to get a brown bear with his bow. These are some of the types of species and hunts we’re talking about when we say booking the hunt of a lifetime: truly special and unforgettable hunting situations. What’s on your list? After you’ve decided on some options, here’s one really good way to pursue your dream.
Using a Hunting Outfitter
There seems to be a lot of pressure on hunters these days to Do It Yourself. DIY hunts on public land get a lot of social media coverage and are explained often as the ultimate adventure. On the flip side, a hunting outfitter exists to help you through the process, put you in the right spots, and hopefully harvest an animal with less work required. There are a lot of misconceptions about hunting outfitters, and we’d like to clear them up a bit here. There’s no reason that booking the hunt of a lifetime has to be exclusively DIY or through an outfitter.
What You Get with an Outfitter
- Planning – outfitters can help you apply for tags and prepare for your hunt. Application processes vary by state and species, so it’s nice to get some expert help with navigating these regulation hurdles. They can also advise you on how best to prepare for their hunt, which might include additional aerobic work to hike long distances in the mountains or shooting with a different setup than you’re used to.
- Accommodations – most outfitters will have packages that provide accommodations while you’re hunting with them. This could include basic wall tents in the field or amazing lodges with resort-like luxury. Some places will just recommend local hotels or campgrounds instead. It all depends on where and what you’re hunting.
- Food – while you’re hunting with them, most outfitters will feed you as well, so there’s no need for you to plan meals out. If you’re staying at a lodge setting each day, there’s a good chance you’ll be eating like royalty and sipping on one of your favorite drinks, which is a lot better than subsisting on freeze-dried meals in the field if it were up to you.
- Strategy – most importantly, using an outfitter means you get to tap into their extensive local experience and knowledge. From the terrain to weather patterns to where to find the animals, they are experts. They may set you up in specific blinds or stands to catch a monster whitetail unaware, or take you on horseback to a specific ridge where they know the big elk will be hiding out. Pay attention to what they say, as you can learn a LOT from hunting outfitters about the species you’re chasing and the area you’re hunting – consider this part of the price of admission when booking the hunt of a lifetime.
What does an outfitter NOT provide? Guaranteed trophy animals or meat in the freezer. Just because you’re using an expensive outfitter with top-of-the-line offerings doesn’t mean you will 100% get an animal by using their services. Many outfitters utilize public land and free-chase animals (people assume outfitters only use high-fence shooting preserves, which isn’t true), so there’s still a level of unpredictability. It’s still called hunting (not harvesting) for a reason. You also still have to put in the preparation work and be ready when the time comes to make a good shot. The outfitter can only get you so far, but you have to cross the finish line.
Another misconception about hunting outfitters is that they are all outrageously expensive. While it’s true you can find hunting packages that cost more than a nice mid-size home, the vast majority are actually much more affordable than people realize, especially when you plan ahead far enough.
Benefits of Hunting Outfitters
Think about outfitters as you would any expert in their field. If you’re not entirely sure about a renovation project in your home or about booking a trip to a foreign country, wouldn’t it make sense to consult someone who does know a lot about it? Booking the hunt of a lifetime is no different. Outfitters spend most of the year getting to know their hunting area intimately so that they know what kind of animals live there, what their habits are, and where they tend to go in different conditions. It’s unusual for an average hunter to be able to dedicate even a couple weekends each year outside of hunting season to get to know a new hunting area. A local outfitter will know far more than you could ever hope to learn.
An outfitter can also help you start planning well ahead of a hunt, which is very important for a few reasons. First, some tags can take several years of building points to even draw a tag and the application process can be confusing. An experienced outfitter can walk you through each step to maximize your chances of drawing a tag as soon as possible. Second, it may take you some time to save up enough money for a true bucket list hunt. An outfitter can tell you exactly what to expect for using their services and may even offer financing to help make it easier. Third, working with an outfitter ahead of time can make sure you’re prepared to hunt in that new area. It may require a lot of physical conditioning to chase elk in the mountains or force you to shoot at much further distances than you’re used to (i.e., hunting animals out west). Both of those take time to practice and develop.
Why Use a Hunting Outfitter
On the podcast, Nick provided a great example of why using a hunting outfitter can make a lot of sense. For example, a DIY Wyoming elk hunt on public land could cost (on average) between $3,000-3,500 for a non-resident, which would include the tag, food, hunting gear, gas, etc. On the other hand, you could use an outfitter for the price of $5,500-7,500, and they would provide all the accommodations, food, take you in on horseback, and take you to the right locations. Ultimately, an outfitter puts you in a possibly more enjoyable situation and can increase your chance of success at the same time. So while you can absolutely be successful hunting on your own, it might take you a few years to really learn the area before you do connect with an animal. And you would spend a lot more money in the long-term pursuing it on your own instead of just getting help from an expert from the get-go.
Make Your Bucket List Hunt Come True
After you consider all the variables, hunting with an outfitter does make a lot of sense. So how do you get started on making your hunting dreams come true? A great option that Nick mentions in the podcast is the N.W. Mundt & Associates Adventure Agency, which is a membership service to help pair you up with the right outfitter. The Gold Plan costs $150/year and includes unlimited hunting tag applications (e.g., moose, elk, caribou, bear, etc.) in unlimited states, plus other benefits like personalized hunt plans, gear discounts, and deals on future adventures. There are some very reasonably priced hunts with outfitters listed on their site, so check it out.
At the end of the day, think about using a hunting outfitter as you would a vacation. You’re still going to a place that is at least a little unfamiliar/exotic, staying in cool accommodations, and being fed – much like any other vacation you might take. But as a bonus, you get to hunt one of your dream animals at the same time. They both cost money, but booking the hunt of a lifetime is very fulfilling and could even result in some meat in the freezer and a trophy hunt to remember for the rest of your life.