This is it. You’ve finally decided on that out-of-state guided hunt. You’ve picked an outfitter, booked the hunt and now face months of anticipation. Fortunately, there’s much you can do in the interim and on the hunt to improve your experience by avoiding some of the more common mistakes. I speak with authority because I’ve certainly made my share, but managed to learn from at least some of them.
Use good equipment. This could be the trip of a lifetime. Buy good stuff and practice until you are proficient with it.
Spend as much on your scope as you do on your gun. Off the shelf, most modern firearms should shoot stock ammo in groups tighter than most hunters are capable of accomplishing under average field conditions. But most opportunities come under sub-optimal conditions, like low light, which is where good optics really make a difference. You may be able to shoot lights-out off a bench rest, but in the waning minutes of daylight, you can’t hit what you can’t see.
Sight in your gun/bow upon arrival. Much can happen in transit, particularly when traveling by air. I once arrived late on a Saskatchewan hunt due to plane delays. My guide told us to grab our gear and get ready to go. “Not until I’ve had a chance to shoot my gun on the range,” I replied. He became more insistent until I finally told him I’d skip the afternoon hunt if need be, but I wasn’t hunting until I shot my gun on the range. It was a good thing I did too because the scope had been knocked off zero in transit.
That brings up another point. Make sure you bring enough ammo. It may only be a one-deer hunt, which should only take one shot, right? Not necessarily, especially if you’re conscientious about re-sighting. I experienced more air travel woes on a Texas hunt several years ago. It took nearly 20 rounds to get my rifle back on target. Don’t count on being able to find extra rounds at your destination, especially if you’re particular about matching specific loads.
This goes double for arrows and broadheads. I once did a multi-species Texas hunt and would have been out of luck if I hadn’t brought replacement blades. If you have space, bring an extra gun or bow.
Hope for the best but plan for the worst, particularly with regard to clothing. I didn’t on my first Alabama turkey hunt. Figuring the Deep South would be warm, I packed only a lightweight base layer and breathable Trek-lite outerwear. Temps were in the low 40s and I froze my … I got very cold. I’ve since hunted spring turkeys in Wyoming and Texas in the snow. Fortunately I was better prepared.
It can rain or snow almost anywhere in any season, and moisture saps body heat. Bring along some Gore-Tex rain wear just in case. If weight or space are an issue, at the very least, bring a set of lightweight, packable rain wear.
Don’t guide the guide. Remember why you spent the extra money on a guided hunt rather than a do-it-yourself one. You’re not just paying for transportation, access and amenities. You’re paying for local knowledge. If you did your homework and picked a reputable outfitter, he should do you right.
Keep a positive attitude. Remember, it is the journey more than the conclusion that often defines a successful hunt. In any fair-chase hunt, the odds are firmly stacked against you. Enjoy the experience, and if you should be lucky enough to fill your tag, consider it icing on the cake.
Bob Humphrey is a freelance writer and registered Maine guide who lives in Pownal. He can be contacted at: