Children and old-timers, the knowledge they have to share with us all, through innocent insight and lifetimes of experience is something that cannot be overlooked or forgotten. Who would know more about becoming or what it takes to be an Alaska Guide than one of Alaska’s top Professional Guides?
Master Guide Terry Overly, the third generation of family celebrates the blessing of the 90th Anniversary of Pioneer Outfitters in 2014. I asked Terry if he would be willing to share his personal insights, memories and advice about all it is to be Alaska Guides in an interview to share with you here.
How did you become an Alaska Guide, Terry, and when?
~ That is a long story that I put into my book. However, the short version of the story is Pioneer Outfitters is a third generation business that originally started by Lou Anderton and Bud Hickithier. It later passed to Bud and Elizabeth Hickithier, my own stepfather and mother. I have hunted, fished and trapped Alaska from 1958 to the present day, for well over 5 decades.
Guide laws were very liberal when I started guiding hunters in 1959. Caribou and moose were the first animals I guided hunters to. This was when I knew that I wanted to become a real Alaskan Big Game Guide.
Acquiring an Assistant Guide License in those days was very simple. The cost was $10.00 and it looked very much like an old drive-in meal ticket, where a cute young girl would come out to the car and take your order.
All you needed to receive your Assistant Guide license was to have was a driver’s license (picture was not required at that time) and someone of stature that knew you and Bang-0, you were an Assistant Guide. You know what? Some of those Assistant Guides from so long ago, from those liberal years, are Master Guides now and have been loyal to Alaska and their gild for all these years.
What do you think of the Alaska Guides becoming guides today?
~ The Big Game Hunting industry in Alaska right now in 2014 is very much like big politics in the White House and Capitol Buildings throughout the United States. I suppose for very much the same reasons; too much Federal interference in State matters.
However that may be, Alaska is still the #1 choice of real top quality Big Game Hunts in the United States.
Alaska is the real deal and the final frontier left in all America and much of the world. If your passion is to become a Big Game Guide, whether it is a part-time or a full-time goal, Alaska is the premium of all opportunities. I believe the future is very bright for those that will put their time in and their nose to the grindstone. Go for your dream!
What makes you believe that you should be training Professional Alaska Guides?
~ This is a good question. I have been guiding scheduled hunting clients for over 50 years now. I believe that I have dealt with in a professional manner with just about every kind of situation possible concerning guides and clients as well as wildlife protection agencies and officers, air taxis, resident hunters using your personal camps and the National Park Service as well as the State of Alaska and her officers.
The guiding industry is a very unique occupation. It is a life style, very rewarding and challenging at the same time. It has virtually unlimited opportunities that come your way as well as offering a very real chance of realizing your true potential as a human being.
Another point, and I have it on good authority that this is really the answer our own Alaska Chick was waiting for, is that I should be the one training these new Professional Guides because I care. I can’t help but think Amber-Lee may be over stressing this point, but ok. This life we live, that I have lived for so long, that so many people have stood so strongly and rightly for, this industry and last but not least, the clients we lead into the wilderness, deserve to have someone truly care about them. That is our job. That is my life. Who better to train the next group of Professional Guides than one who has done it for so long, through so many changes, so many dangers, than one who cares enough to continue doing it? That’s who I am.
What convinces you that a certain Trainee is ready to become a licensed Alaska Guide?
~ I believe that when a Trainee exhibits confidence in his or her self and fully understands the nature, importance and the ramifications of their own position as a guide; the consequences of any decisions or actions suggested or taken by themselves or a client in reference to a client’s safety, success, comfort level and peace of mind; then they are indeed ready.
What do you say to clients that have issues with a newly licensed guide? (About their “inexperience”.)
~ That is not your position. Your only job here in Chisana or any place else that you hire an Outfitter to guide you on a big game hunt, is to listen to your guide and shoot straight. If there is a problem, please make it known to me or another guide at the soonest moment possible and it will be addressed. Other than that, enjoy yourself. Appreciate all the planning and care that goes into your Big Game Hunt and the years of Training that puts you in the same wilderness field as the animal you seek. Enjoy where you are. Remember even you had a first day, once. Trust the Outfitter you chose. Trust the choices made with you and your success in mind. Make friends with your guide, he (or she) really wants to share this land and all of its glory with you. Remember, if they were not qualified, they would not be a Professional Guide.
Jack Atcheson Sr. (A very well known and respected taxidermist, World wide Hunting Consultant and author) once said, “Your Assistant Guides will put you out of business.” to all Registered, Master and Outfitters in one of his books. What did he mean by that?
~ I asked him the same thing. He explained that our business depends upon our guides. However your guides may not have an invested interest in your success or your business. Your guides are working for you but their main interests and concerns are not always your main interests or concerns. Most often your guide’s main interests are the tips they will receive as well as recognition from the clients. Now certainly, not all guides fall into this category, but it is still accurate.
Do you agree with his (Jack Atcheson Sr.) assessment?
~ Yes, I certainly do because I have witnessed this exact scenario many times in varied ways throughout the years. Both personally as well as of other Registered and Master Guides contracted Assistant Guides.
How do we protect Pioneer Outfitters from that? (Speaking of destruction by guides.)
~ I believe that training in the psychological aspect of guiding first, is a good start. However the ability of a Trainee to grasp this concept is not a given. Sometimes your guide, no matter how much you may like him or her, may have to be replaced for the sake of the overall Purpose, Mission, productivity and the continuity of the business.
What advice can you offer someone who is thinking about becoming an Alaska Guide?
~ Be sure. Be sure that this, becoming an Alaska Guide, is what you truly want to do. Becoming a Professional Guide is very demanding and that says so little. You have to dedicate and put your whole life and heart into it to become a true success.
What advice can you offer a Trainee who is waiting to become a guide?
~ Just learn everything you can about the outdoors, the Big Game Animals and the legalities of your occupation. Ask a lot of questions from everyone. Be sure this is what you want to do. Then, if it is, just put your head down like a bull and charge right into it ~ don’t give up and don’t quit. Remember, it isn’t as easy as people on the outside believe. It’s damn hard. It’s worth every bit of it.
What advice can you offer someone who is a newly licensed Alaska Guide?
~ Do your research. Find an area that suits your interests of the Game you wish to hunt. Go to the Commercial Services Guide Board meetings and pay attention to all the regulations; Wildlife, Federal and State. Keep up with all the aspects of the ever-changing laws and interact with the system as much as you can.
Remember why you became a guide. Keep your honor, ethics and integrity. Choose your Outfitter, Registered or Master Guide carefully and be loyal, it matters.
What advice can you offer an Outfitter who is hiring a newly licensed guide?
~ There is nothing like a face-to-face meeting with a good handshake and good eye-to-eye contact to start off a good conversation.
Ask your prospective guide how long he has had his license, who and where he has guided and for what. Or with a brand new guide, ask what critters he has accompanied a licensed guide with, and what he has hunted himself (or her). Ask what his (or her) other interests are and about himself. Listen closely. Make a real connection with this new guide.
What can you say to clients who may be paired in the future with a newly licensed guide?
~ Don’t worry about the fact that this guide has just received his (or her) license. He (or she) has proven already that he (or she) is competent.
The rigors and paces that Alaska Guide Trainees go through to be recommended for their license are valued all over the country for the results they have been proven to bring to the Big Game Hunting industry.
In our own case, our Trainees train with us for two years in most cases. We only accept the most astute and capable men and women into Training and then we only accept the best results to give recommendations to. I have every confidence in this Alaska Guide’s ability to do the job well. Don’t worry. That isn’t why you are here.
A pretty good interview with the Boss himself. There are a few like him in Alaska today, but less than a year ago, every year. When we have the opportunity to come together with the others, Master and Registered Guides of Alaska, it is an amazing honor and I endure their teasing with good humor at my incessant note-taking and the questions I never seem to run out of. Their experience, memories and knowledge are part of a precious still-living heritage that should be recorded word for word.
You may enjoy knowing more about Alaska’s Top Guides. These posts will help, giving you an insider’s eye as well as a few more interviews done with The Man in Black.
- Master Guide Terry Overly