Vicente Gil of Caza Hispanica speaks fairly good English, but my Spanish is poor. Nevertheless, we managed to work as an effective team while he led me on a quest for Beceite ibex in Spain’s Iberian Mountains.
Vicente had hired a translator, but for the most part, I followed his lead, and no words were needed. When Vicente stopped to glass, I did the same, and when he motioned me forward, I stayed close by.
Eventually, Vicente crested a ridge and dropped down quickly, indicating for me to come forward. No words were needed at that point; I understood that there was an ibex on the other side of the hill. Climbing into position, I found the billy in my Swarovski scope and fired a shot that landed on the animal’s shoulder with a thump. After two follow-ups, the ibex was down. Vicente gave me a high-five—the universal gesture for success.
Despite the language barrier, my ibex hunt with Vicente was one of the best of my life. That’s because I’d chosen the right guide.
If you’ve got your sights set on a once-in-a-lifetime hunt, it’s essential to have the right team working with you to achieve those goals—and that begins with your hunting professional.
Before you book a hunt, follow these keys to be sure you’re getting the most bang for your buck.
THE GUIDE’S ROLE
It may seem odd, but the first step toward a successful hunt is understanding the services your guide should provide. Generally, you’re hiring a guide because they have access to good hunting areas, knowledge of the game and can offer you the best opportunity for success. Rarely can they promise game on free-range hunts, and generally, they don’t guarantee an animal of a certain size. This is hunting, after all, and the weather and the animals have to cooperate. Still, a good guide will serve as your best ally in finding your game.
SELECTING A GUIDE
Of all the methods for finding guides, Internet searches are probably the most common … but there are risks involved. Anyone can piece together a fancy Web page with photos of animals they have harvested (or, in the case of some unscrupulous individuals, photos they’ve stolen to entice you to send money). I use the Internet as a jumping-off point. I won’t book strictly on the basis of Internet presence, but websites do offer some idea of what’s available.
An alternative to Web-based guide searches is to attend a convention at which you’ll actually meet the guide, face to face. For my money, this is a far better option, and most of the major shows, such as Safari Club International’s convention in Nevada and the Dallas Safari Club convention in Texas, vet their exhibitors to some degree. That’s why I prefer to attend those shows and meet potential guides. And these conventions also offer you an opportunity to shop around.
Be forewarned, though, that deals seemingly too good to be true often are. Prices vary, but a dirt-cheap hunt is sometimes a really bad investment—because somewhere along the line, corners are being cut. Running a high-quality hunting operation is expensive for the guide, and the best in the business aren’t giving away hunts for free.
Once you’ve met with a guide or outfitter, check references. Failing to do that will cause major headaches later on, so be certain you speak with past clients. Booking through an established outfitter is a good option, because you’ll have a contact that can help you with all the required paperwork and travel arrangements; and generally, outfitters don’t cost more than booking directly with the guide. For my Spanish hunt, I used Tony Caggiano’s World Slam Adventures, one of the most trusted names in the industry. I knew Tony would help me line up everything I needed for Spain and that he could answer any questions I had. Regardless of whether you choose to work with the guide directly or with an outfitter, check with previous clients to be sure the hunting experience is what was promised.
ASK THE RIGHT QUESTIONS
My guide friends tell me there are three questions all prospective hunters ask: How much does the hunt cost? What rifle do they need? How big an animal will they harvest?
Cost is certainly something that needs to be determined early (including incidentals such as charter flights, VAT taxes and trophy transport), and you do want to listen to recommendations regarding proper firearms. However, the question of size is one that generally causes consternation for guides, regardless of how many times they hear it. How big an elk can you shoot on a particular hunt? That obviously depends on your ability as a hunter and shooter, animal movements and luck. Very few legitimate guides who pursue free-range game promise animals of a certain size. If someone guarantees you a 375-inch bull elk, be careful—they’re either hunting behind high fences or lying to you.
Be sure to ask the right questions. Will you be hunting private or public/government land? What is the average shot distance? How physical is the hunt, and can the guide accommodate someone of your physical fitness level? Where will you be sleeping? What methods will you be using to hunt? Are there additional up-charges for extremely large animals?
Do your homework, and don’t rush the decision. I know how exciting it can be to book the hunt you’ve been dreaming about for years, but it’s really devastating to find out that the individual you’ve hired to make your hunting dream come true can’t deliver on their promises.
Ultimately, you and your hunting guide are a team. You don’t have to like each other to be successful, but it makes the experience much more rewarding if you feel that your guide held up their end of the deal.
Not all hunts end in success, but finding the right guide greatly increases the odds you’ll enjoy the experience, regardless of whether you fill your tag or not.
Hunting conventions are a great way to meet guides and book hunts.
|Safari Club International Convention||Las Vegas/Reno, NV||January or February||SafariClub.org|
|Dallas Safari Club Convention||Dallas, TX||January||BigGame.org|
|Wild Sheep Foundation Sheep Show||Reno, NV||January||WildSheepFoundation.org|
|Western Hunting & Conservation Expo||Salt Lake City, UT||February||HuntExpo.com|
|Great American Outdoor Show||Harrisburg, PA||February||GreatAmericanOutdoorShow.org|
Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the March 2018 print issue of Gun World Magazine.