No matter where you, the Outfitter, are located, what state, Provence or country, your guides are your most valuable asset. An Outfitter’s guides can make or break your business.
“Guiding has little to nothing to do with hunting.” Alaska’s first female Registered Guide, Elizabeth Hickethier, Master Guide Terry Overly’s mother, told me this when I first expressed to her my desire to learn all I could to prepare to take the Alaska Big Game Assistant Guide Test in 1994.
A guest and client contacts an Outfitter, chooses an Outfitter and becomes the Outfitter’s client. Rarely does the Outfitter, him- (or her)self, do the actual guiding. The guide is the contact point and representative of the Outfitter. The guide is the one with the experience and knowledge present in the field that the client looks to for that experience, with the animals and area, and that knowledge, of the animals habits and legalities of the animals and area.
There is so much to being an outstanding and professional guide. A Professional Guide studies and learns, observes and explores the area, animals and regulations that will be part of his profession. Does it end there? It shouldn’t. The most important aspects of the job at hand is the Outfitter and the client.
We are hunters by the way of nature. We are hunters right down to our DNA, back to the time we were still huddling in caves. It is in our nature to hunt – search and kill – conquer. Hunting has been part of our makeup since the beginning. It isn’t that difficult to become very good at it. It is our nature. But, hunting is not guiding.
Guiding is not about hunting. Guiding is about the client or guest. Guiding for an Outfitter is about representing that Outfitter. Guides can make or destroy an Outfitter. A poor guide can take all the dreams of the Outfitter and the client and crush them. There is such a gift to be had, being a guide.
There is so much to know and experience about people and the world. Not only does a good guide have the skills and experience to keep a client or guest safe from any dangers inherent to the wilderness, but to share the amazing, endlessly enormous and inspiring land and critters that call it home, with someone who wants to experience it as well. That doesn’t even begin to touch on what each separate individual (client or guest) brings to the guide and can share and teach the guide as well.
We, as Outfitters and Guides, spend a lot of time going over the memories and experiences good and bad, re-hashing, evaluating. Loving this hunter, hoping to never see that one again (Oh, don’t act like you don’t know what I mean!), discussing the whys and listening to all the different input from cooks, wranglers, camp help, guides and the hunters themselves. Is this another opportunity to improve?
Absolutely. Whether it is improving how we (guides) deal with difficult clients (yes.), how to adjust a technique in approaching a certain area we like, how to improve our time lines to departures… there is always improvement to be learned and implemented.
The resounding summery of the years I’ve been sitting in guide meetings (and life, period) is that we cause most of our own problems. The ability to deal with yourself and your “stuff” is one of the best attributes a guide can possess. When the lack of that starts leaking out, shit starts going wrong. It’s just that simple. Clients and guests come to us to “get away” (among other reasons, but it is usually one of them!), not to take part in your (guide’s) drama.
So, basically, the point is find a good Outfitter with Guides that Outfitter trusts to do the job. The job? To go further, to work harder, to make the client or guest very pleased with his or her choice in Outfitters. To not be the problem. Not to be a terrible guide.