Guiding is great, but it’s seasonal. How do you keep guiding and not have to do something outside of the industry during the off-season? It’s the million-dollar question. Miles Fedenic might not have the answer for everyone, but he did figure it out for himself.
“I got tired of having to go back to freezing my butt off plumbing or hauling water to oil fields after the season,” said Fedinec, who wears a classic Stormy Kromer when he is afield and has a ruddy beard. “I’d make a bunch of money in fall, then pay off debts in the spring and was broke again in the summer. I thought, there’s got to be a way to do this.”
For this Coloradan, the answer was saying “yes” to any new opportunity. It’s served him well to this day. The attitude has taken him hunting in Africa, New Zealand, Europe, Mexico, South America, and all over Canada and the Lower 48. He’s been on TV shows, guided some of the best hunters in the world and all the while works in the industry he loves. Even in the first COVID year when travel came to a grinding halt, Fedinec (pronounced fed- EE-nus) had been to Argentina, Africa, Mexico, and a bunch of states.
It all started in what could be called the elk capital of the world: Craig, Colorado. That’s where Fedinec grew up. When he was in high school, he needed a job so he went to a local outfitter and asked for a job cooking or helping out in any way he could. “Nope,” said the outfitter.
“So, I went hunting,” said Fedinec. He spent the fall in the mountains and kept coming down with all sorts of game and fine antlers. The outfitter took notice and hired the 18-year-old as a guide. He worked for Elk Horn Outfitters for seven years, gained guiding experience and piled up the bone. At one point, he met the legendary Lennis Janzen, and Fedinec asked if he needed help at the offseason trade shows.
“Yes,” said Janzen of Crooked Horn Outfitters. “Meet me in Salt Lake.” That was the first Western Hunting and Conservation Expo, and it was Fedinec’s entry into a whole new world much removed from his hometown and full of opportunity.
Year after year, he met people from all over the globe. In fact, he struck up a conversation with an outfitter from South Africa across the aisle from Crooked Horn’s booth.
“I didn’t watch cartoons when I was a little kid,” said Fedinec. “I watched the Discovery Channel.”
Fedinec was fascinated with Africa and asked the guy if there was anything he could do for him there, like guide or cook or be a skinner.
“You should come to Africa and see what it’s like,” said the outfitter.
Within two weeks, Fedinec got a loan to pay expenses, bought a ticket to Johannesburg, and was on his way. It was the first time he’d ever flown with a rifle. He spent six weeks in South Africa and loved it. As with most people who visit Africa for the first time, he vowed to return. And he has just about every year since. Fedinec is 36. It’s hard to peg Fedinec as a guide, outfitter, travel consultant, videographer, or entrepreneur. It’s probably accurate to say he’s all of the above. He does a lot of consulting for Jack Brittingham’s World of Hunting Adventures, which books wherever there’s big game. Yet he’s a partner with Travis Reed who owns Western Sky Outfitters in southwest Colorado. Fedinec is also integral to the operation Double H Outfitters, which does a lot of northwestern Colorado elk, mule deer, and antelope hunts. He’s pretty much known as the antelope guy in Colorado if you want a true Booner.
And, yes, he’s made all these associations by never saying no to an opportunity and seeking out the next big thing.
“I know a lot of guides who are like ski bums,” said Fedinec. “They are extremely talented at what they do, but they’re broke, using old gear, and they can barely afford to keep working at it. If they can get past guiding for that one guy each fall, and instead figure out what might get them ahead and doing some traveling, they could get out of that rut. It’s all about traveling: The West in the fall. Mexico in the winter. Southern hemisphere in the spring. Alaska in the late summer and then back to the West. That’s the life!” But he’s found that the real challenge is turning it all into a somewhat normal life without being gone 365 days a year. “I am still working on that,” he said.
Travis Reed started out guiding with Fedinec back in Craig, where an average season had them guiding more than 50 hunters each in a season — a real mass-production operation. He said Fedinec has been fortunate, but he’s also a hard worker and an excellent guide.
“Miles has probably guided more hunters to bulls than anyone else his age,” said Reed of Western Sky Outfitters. “Cutting your teeth on private land like that gives you a little advantage over the guys getting started out on national forest land.”
He’s a natural, he said.
“First, he somehow gets along with everyone,” said Reed. “He knows how to guide, how to lead. He comes across as an expert and that makes the hunter want to follow him. He controls the hunt, gives the hunter his best shot at success, and in the end, they’re still friends. There are few people like Miles out there. He’s excellent at what he does.”
Regarding his woodsmanship, Reed said he remembered a time they were heli-hunting New Zealand’s western mountains and got stuck in the backcountry. As the hunt ended, the weather turned bad, and the copter couldn’t come in and get them. They hiked down the 7,500 feet off the mountain, which took 22 hours, and they had to hole up in a shack for two days with scant few supplies.
When the copter could finally get them, the pilot could not believe they survived. He had never heard of anyone coming down off the mountains on foot.
Throughout his years guiding, Fedinec is the first to say he is grateful to many people who have helped him and opened up doors for him along the way: Janzen, Reed, Will Brantley, Jim Zumbo, Kevin Howard of Howard Communications, Mark Kayser, Larry Weishuhn, Craig Boddington, filmmakers Tom and Olivia Opre of World of Hunting Adventures, to name a few.
But you have to give Fedinec a lot of credit for taking chances, building relationships, and being audacious. After all, he was just a kid growing up in a rural town like many other farm towns.
“You grow up a product of your surroundings,” said Fedinec. “As an ag kid, you see stuff on TV, and you think that’s not real life. I can’t do that. But once I met a few of the TV hunters and leaders in the industry, I realized many of them came from humble beginnings, too. I saw how they traveled and the way they worked with people and made relationships, I thought, ‘It might as well be me doing that, too.’”
John Geiger is the former editor of Guidefitter Journal. Currently, he’s managing editor at Safari Club International.
From the Fall 2020 Issue of Guidefitter Journal.