Let’s face it, in times like these the majority of us can’t afford that often dreamed about ranch, loaded with trophy whitetail, quail and turkey. Not to mention all of the hassle that goes along with owning or even leasing a ranch. For those of us who don’t want to feel forever indebted to a friend that lets us take a trophy buck off their hands. That leaves us with one other option, which is to hire a hunting guide or outfitter. Before you pick up the phone and call the first hunting guide that you come across, you should know a few things.

Check References
This is probably the single most important thing that you can do. When checking references, be cautious of the source. If the reference is coming from someone that you know or even a friend of a friend, it is probably a safe bet. If the hunting guide provided you with a list of references, be especially skeptical since you don’t know who these people are. If you are reading online, be sure to read multiple reviews from multiple sources if at all possible before making your decision. 

Consider Location
Take Texas for example. If you’re in the market for Sandhill Crane or duck, certain areas of west Texas are not going to be your best bet. You may come across a hunting guide or outfitter that claims he can put you on some ducks, but you’ll be much better off in an area that thrives with your desired species. In this case north, central or the south eastern Texas would be optimal. These areas would be ideal because they are loaded with ducks, due to the Central Flyway (A bird migration route that generally follows the Great Plains in the United States down into Mexico).

Contacting the Hunting Guide/Outfitter
After you have narrowed your list of hunting guides, you should contact each of them and ask them the following questions. While asking these questions you should consider the answers as well as the personality of the person you are speaking with. Ask yourself, "Is this someone that you could easily befriend and even spend a few days with?" "Is this person arrogant and unwell to give you information to you?" "How knowledgeable does the guide sound about hunting, the area they hunt, and game that you are after?" Keep all of the above in mind when you ask the hunting guide/outfitter the following questions. 

1. How long have they been in business and how long have they been guiding in the specific area?

2. What kind of success have they had in the past? What are the top and average B&C scores from past seasons? Do they usually shoot their limit of birds? The answers to these questions can easily be exaggerated; however, most outfits today have Web sites with photo galleries of successful past hunts. These photo galleries should be used to help make your decision. 

3. What will this hunt cost and what all is included? Is field dressing and processing the animal included? Do they have a large refrigerator where the animal can be aged and picked up at a later date? Is gratuity included in the price given? Are lodging and meals included? You should ask as many questions as possible about the financial aspects of the hunt so that there are no surprises and you feel comfortable with what you are getting for your money. 

4. If you are speaking with an outfitter, will he be your hunting guide? Does the outfitter have a team of guides or a single person that you will be working with? All of your questions should be directed to the person you will be working with, your specific hunting guide.

5. You need to know what to bring with you, so ask; what is the weather like for any particular time of the year? Do you need snake guards for your boots? Is it cold in the mornings and warm in the evenings? What kind of gun or rifle do they recommend for your hunt? If lodging is included, do you need to bring your own bedding, towels, toiletries, and cooking utensils?

6. How physically demanding is the hunt going to be? You might need to consider any physical limitations that you might have. 

7. Do they run other hunts in the same area at the same time? Will there be other hunters in the same camp?

8. Do they offer hunting dog services? 

And finally tell your hunting guide exactly what you expect from this trip. Make sure that you cover every concern that you might have before making a reservation or submitting a deposit. Remember, this is your trip and your money; the guide works for you and should work hard to accommodate your wants.

For help in selecting your next hunting guide or outfitter, visit the Texas Hunt Works Hunting Guide Directory, which lists over 300 qualified and experienced hunting guides and outfitters. Texas is the hunting capital of the United States. With an estimated whitetail population of almost 4 million, 51 different species of exotic animals available to hunt on private land, just over 1 million acres of public hunting land and enough species to hunt year round.