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Home / Zach Knowles / So you wanna be an Outfitter?

So you wanna be an Outfitter?

March 22, 2016
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I wish I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard some one say, “man, I would give anything to have your job!” If that was the case, I wouldn’t need a job. I feel extremely lucky and blessed to have the job that I do, and get to “hunt for a living” but its not always what its cracked up to be. Im going to tell you a few of the common myths that I commonly hear, and then if your still interested, some tips for pursuing a career in the hunting business. This is a great lifestyle, but its not for everyone.

Im going to lay this article out with common myths or misconceptions that most people have about outfitters/guides, and then explain what the realities are.

Myth #1 : You get to hunt all the time.

This couldn’t be farther from the truth, especially if you are an outfitter. As soon as I get home at the end of the season, I literally start the next day preparing for the upcoming season. There’s gear to be gone through, cleaned, and put up. There’s ranchers and property owners to work with for the next years contracts, there’s hunters to talk to and booking sheets to be sent. There’s trade shows to attend, countless hours on to be spent on the phone. Then, depending on your hunting areas and scouting strategies, you’ve probably got shed hunting to do, cameras to hang, feed/minerals to pack in and put out, and lots of hiking and glassing to do. I have guys say all the time, “you must be glad seasons over so you can just hang out at the lake all summer.” I literally laugh in their faces. If you were to add up the hours I spend preparing, scouting, booking, traveling, etc, and compare them to the hours spent in the field actively pursuing an animal, I think you would be very surprised. Its not all bad though, I thoroughly enjoy, going to shows, scouting, and talking with people from all over the world. I really enjoy all of the logistics and “footwork” that goes into preparing for a season. If your just a guide working for an outfitter, some of this wouldn’t apply, but your still more than likely going to be expected to help with some logistics, scouting, and getting camps ready.

Myth # 2 : Your a hunting guide, you must kill so many animals.

False. If your going to guide full time, you can forget about getting to actually pull the trigger yourself more than once or twice a year. Thats if your lucky. If your good and honest, you can work everyday that you physically can, from the first day of season to the last. I personally guided 48 big game harvests this season and didn’t take a single animal myself. I personally have gotten to the point now where I get almost (notice I said “almost”) as much satisfaction out of watching someone else take an animal, as if I were to kill it myself. I believe that if I can put some one within shooting distance of an animal and they take it, its only reasonable to think I could’ve gotten my self there and harvested it. So there is a sense of pride and satisfaction in every animal a client takes with me even though I’m not pulling the trigger.

Now that I’ve cleared up the two biggest misconceptions I know of, if I haven’t scared you away and you still wanna be an outfitter/guide, I’ll give you a few tips on making it a reality.

A lot of guys think that guides are part of some exclusive secret society and you have to be invited in or initiated into the group. This is also a myth. There is a huge shortage of talented, able bodied, HONEST, hard working guys who want to climb mountains and carry a heavy pack all day long. I think I speak for most outfitters when I say that one of the hardest parts of our job is finding good quality guys to depend on. If your seriously interested and willing to work at it, you can find a job. Below is a list of things that you can do to not only improve your skills, but also make you more desirable to people looking to hire.

Get in shape.

Nobody wants a guide that can’t hike or pack meat out. Im not saying you have to be a marathon runner, but you never want a hunter to be able to out walk you. You don’t ever want a hunter feel like your holding them back.

Get the best gear you can afford. Especially optics.

I can’t stress this enough. Save, save, save, then sell whatever you have to and buy the absolute best gear you can get your hands on. You will be taken more seriously, look more professional, and get more work if you show up with quality gear and the best optics. **DISCLAIMER** Im sure there are people out there reading my previous statement and they’re jumping up and down having a conniption fit, saying “well I’ve got a friend whose cousins uncles brother only uses $50 dollar binos and he killed a giant buck last year” or “the biggest deer I ever killed, I was wearing a flannel shirt and blue jeans.” I’m aware of all this. I guided a desert bighorn sheep hunt in Mexico two weeks ago and hunted with a local Mexican guy that had nothing except an 8 power pair of CHEAP binoculars that he would prop up on a sotal stalk, and he found just as many sheep as I did with my 15x Swarovski’s mounted on a tripod. He was also wearing jeans, a wal-mart t shirt, and tennis shoes. He was one of the best sheep hunters I’ve seen, but you would never know. So, I know that you don’t have to have top of the line equipment to be successful, but this business is all about first impressions, and if you show up with junk, you may not ever get a chance to show someone how good you can use it. Right, wrong, or indifferent, its just the way it is.

Spend as much time out glassing and “hunting” as you can.

Get out and practice glassing and trying to find animals. Make practice stalks. See how close you can get to an animal. All these things will help you when you get in a hunting situation.

You may have to offer to go on some hunts for free to prove yourself. Most people will gladly accept the offer of an extra guy glassing and extra legs to pack meat out. Get on as many hunts as you can and take good pictures with the animals you harvest, so you can build yourself a portfolio. Ask the people who you hunt with to write a testimonial for you. All of these will tremendously help your resume.

I didn’t write this article to scare anyone away or try to talk you out of pursuing a dream, I just want people to see the other side of things and make an informed decision before you run out and decide to turn something you love into a job.

If you have anymore questions or would like to talk about possible employment opportunities feel free to email me at zach@xtremeoutfitters.com

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About Zach

Zach Knowles

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My Bio

Zach Knowles is a professional outfitter and guide as well as doing contract camera work for an outdoor television show in some of the most extreme destinations anywhere in the world. He thrives in the harsh places and isn't afraid to take on any challenge in any terrain. Zach’s family has been in the hunting and outfitting business since he was a small child and he spent a lot of his young years in Saskatchewan where his father outfitted 70+ deer and bear hunts a year. At 12 years old Zach harvested an elk, mule deer, and antelope on a trip to Wyoming and it was then that his love of the mountains and western hunting was born. Since then he has gone on to guide and harvest many more animals from Alaska to Mexico, to the Middle East. He owns and operates Xtreme Outfitters, running 60+ whitetail, mule deer, mountain lion, and sheep hunts a year. When he’s not guiding or hunting for himself, you'll find him in the team roping arena or at the ranch taking care of his commercial cow herd.