Selecting a Waterfowl Outfitter

What to Know Before You Book

When it comes to booking a great waterfowl hunt, expectations are the biggest difference between a great hunt and a disappointment. It’s all about asking questions and asking the right questions. We recently spoke with Ben Roggie, owner of Black River Valley Outfitters and he had some great tips on communicating with prospective guides. Here’s what he had to say.

Q: Ben, what’s the biggest difference between a great waterfowl hunt and an average hunt?

Ben: Waterfowl hunting takes a lot of time behind the scenes. The hunt is the easiest part. It takes a crew of dedicated individuals. A lot of people try to do it on their own but it really limits what they can do because they don’t have the manpower. We are constantly working with landowners, scouting for birds, watching birds and understanding them.

We have nine individuals that work for us. Some are licensed guides and others are guide assistants. But they all contribute with a lot of hard work. There’s a lot that goes into it, but it’s the preseason planning with landowners and scouting that makes a hunt successful.

Q: Why is the prep work so important?

Ben: In my opinion, when a client pays a waterfowl guide or any hunting guide for that matter, they are not paying for the hunt itself. What you’re paying for is land access, area knowledge, scouting, set up and equipment. If we’ve done that work ahead of time, we can be sure our clients will have the best hunt possible under the conditions we’re dealt on the day of the hunt. From there, Mother Nature determines the rest.

Q: It's a good point that weather is critical to waterfowl success. How should hunters be prepared for that?

Ben: Come with high hopes and realistic expectations. It is hunting. As with any type of hunting, there are good hunts and bad hunts. It’s important to mentally prepare for those bad days.

The bottom line is, you need to come with the mindset that you’re going to have fun! That is so important. If you come in the mindset just to kill, kill, kill, you’re going to be disappointed. You’re going to have some good hunts. But you’re also going to have slow days. Come with the mentality that you’re going to have a great time, no matter what.

Q: What should hunters ask prospective outfitters before booking a hunt?

Ben: The biggest mistake that I see clients make is that they don’t ask enough questions before the hunt. They need to ask what the conditions will be like and what type of terrain to expect.

No, we’re not climbing mountains after elk or hiking tundra after caribou. But there is a physical element to waterfowl hunting and it’s important to communicate those expectations with your guide ahead of time. Most people assume they can wade through a waist deep swamp, but not everyone can.

Expectations can mean everything. Any questions that can mentally prepare you for what you’re about to embark on will greatly influence your enjoyment of the hunt.

Q: In addition to clarifying expectations, what other questions should hunters ask?

Ben: I’d recommend asking your guide about the overall schedule and downtime. In many places, your hunt will be done by midday. That leaves time to kill. Don’t wait until the last minute to figure out what you want to do with your down time. Ask your guide for suggestions well in advance and they can often help you come up with some great things to do to make your trip even more memorable.

Photos courtesy of Black River Valley Outfitters.