When to use a hunting guide

Hunter in the field

There is a pretty clear distinction between hunters who are willing to pay for guiding services and those who refuse to.

Now, it is a pretty honourable feat to enter large swathes of territory alone and come out with an animal worthy of your effort. Especially so, considering you have no control over the land or who enters it.

My family and I have spent the last 7 years hunting fallow deer and wallaby on public land in Tasmania.

Dad also travels to Victoria regularly to hunt sambar and red deer in the Victorian highlands.

Hunting in our own backyard, so to speak, we don’t need the services of a guide. We’re pretty confident with what we’re doing and regularly fill our freezer with prime venison. But we’re also prepared that sometimes we come away empty-handed. After all, it’s hunting, not shopping.

But there are times when a hunting guide has proven invaluable: when travelling into brand new areas; hunting unfamiliar animals; hunting multiple animals; or even when switching to a new style of hunting.

Hunting with a guide

When I first started bowhunting, I learned so much more about stalking in close by working with a guide who knew the area like the back of his hand.

It has also helped us immensely when hunting overseas, where we are not familiar with local laws and regulations around wildlife management, hunting tags, and property boundaries, and have limited time available.

Some areas also legally require non-locals to hunt under the supervision of a registered guide or professional hunter.

The guide is the expert in their particular area. They put up cameras, as well as hike, scout and camp in the area they explore. A guide knows everything about the location they hunt. They often have an in-depth knowledge of the type of animals in the area, and how to track them.

Tash wearing the Paladin in Africa

They can tell you what kind of trophy you can expect to take from the local area, and help put you onto a great animal. While your blood is rushing and the adrenaline is flowing, they are there to help make sure you get the best animal.

Guides can work on public land or private – but don’t fool yourself into thinking hunting private land is any easier. The animals are still wild and unpredictable, and the landscape can be just as treacherous.

That’s where a guide can quite literally be an ace up your sleeve.

You could spend countless months and years chasing the animal of your dreams, spending money on tents, and sleep systems, and packs.

Or, you could save that money to pay for a hunt of a lifetime, get your animal and do it all again in a year or two.

Professional hunters

So how do you decide when to use a guide, and when to go it alone?

Determine your priorities and abilities

  • What type of hunt are you planning? Do you just want a meat animal, or to enjoy the hunting experience, or are you after a specific trophy animal for your wall? If you are looking for a trophy, how disappointed will you be if you don’t get it?
  • How much time do you have to put into planning and preparation? If you’re hunting out of state or overseas, you will need to spend time studying local areas, hunting regulations, licensing requirements, import and export rules, animal behaviours and what to do if everything goes pear shaped. If you’re travelling, you may need to take your own camping gear along – as well as organise food and supplies once you land. If you enjoy doing all the background work, then a DIY hunt might be right up your alley. But if you’d rather someone else take care of the finer details, you might be better off paying a guide or outfit.
  • Do you enjoy camping out under the stars and preparing all your own food after a long day of hunting, or would you prefer to come back to camp and have all that done for you?
  • If you are travelling away from home, and only have a short window of opportunity to get your dream animal, you may waste most of your time scouting and trying to locate where the animals frequent. A guide, on the other hand, can generally put you onto a decent animal within a day or two as they know the local area like the back of their hand.
  • Guides and professional hunters are also registered, and are generally covered with public liability insurance, which gives you peace of mind if anything were to go wrong.

Most guides will also help with field preparation of your trophy, and can recommend a good local taxidermist to use. Alternatively, they can help you with the requirements necessary to ship your animals home.

After our first hunting trip to South Africa, our guide, Willem, was the key difference between us getting our trophies home. The export agent we’d chosen went broke and all of our trophies ‘disappeared’. Willem went above and beyond, getting the local police involved to track down our trophies, and arranging another agent to ship them to us. Had we been trying to handle that alone, it would have been a very different experience!

At the end of the day, you don’t have to choose. Hunt your local land and become the resident expert, and hunt with a guide when travelling away from home. Making use of their knowledge and expertise can mean all the difference between a great hunting trip and a terrible experience.

Have you ever hunted with a guide? What was your experience?

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