How to Become a Hunting Guide

Becoming a Hunting Guide

Those passionate about hunting can turn their devotion to the outdoors into a rewarding lifelong career. Hunting is deeply rooted in our global history, and remains one of the most popular pastimes in North America. Hunters provide numerous benefits to the ecosystem, ranging from conservation efforts to wildlife population control; the money brought in from licensing alone helps the United States government fund important Fish and Wildlife programs.

You truly can make a living through hunting. Learn how to become a hunting guide and transform your passion for one of the world’s oldest sports into a lucrative career. Whether you want to land a job as a hunting guide or you’re looking to start your own guide service business, these steps will set you up for profitability.

Hunting Guides Play an Important Role

Hunting remains a popular pastime, for both experienced and inexperienced hunters. Avid hunters often travel to discover new hunting environments and new game opportunities.

This has created the need for guide programs, in which hunting guides help maintain the integrity of the hunt, promote safety, and protect the environment.

What is the difference between hunting guides and outfitters? Outfitters are licensed, bonded, and insured businesses that provide services and products to hunting and fishing clients. They employ hunting guides to lead clients on guided trips. Hunting guides are involved in scouting efforts and actual leadership on hunting excursions. Most hunting guides are contracted by established outfitters, although some individuals choose to go into business on their own.

Check State and Local Regulations

Rules and regulations for hunting guides and outfitters vary by state and locality. The first step towards becoming a hunting guide is checking in with your state’s wildlife agency.

Every state has its own set of rules that govern how outfitters and hunting guides are allowed to conduct their businesses. In some states, licenses are required. In others, you may also need to become a member of certain associations. It’s important to understand the requirements of hunting guides in your area.

Whether you’re looking to learn how to become a hunting guide in Alaska or want to find a position in a New Mexico Outfitter’s guide roster, be sure to consult with your state’s wildlife agency first.

*To learn more about the requirements in your area, get in contact with your state’s wildlife agency. Consider the directory of wildlife and fishing agencies by state at the bottom of this post, and click to access their hunting guide and seasonal regulations.

What Does a Hunting Guide Do?

Hunting guides are avid outdoorsmen and women that guide clients on hunting trips. Tasks and responsibilities vary by day, hunt, and customer. However, most guides must be prepared to handle the following:

  • Scouting for wildlife
  • Plan, organize, and conduct hunting trips for clients.
  • Plans hunting trip itinerary based on firsthand knowledge of the area
  • Arranges transportation, supplies, and equipment for clients to use during trip
  • Instructs clients on use of hunting gear
  • Prepares meals for the hunting party
  • Preparing harvested game

Become an Expert

In order to excel as a hunting guide, you must become an expert in the area you hope to work in. If you’re not well-versed in big game hunting, you won’t be a valuable guide for clients. Consider your hunting strengths and play to them, or develop new strengths to better serve customers.

Don’t forget soft skills, as you’ll need more than scouting prowess and a keen eye to make a favorable impression on your clients. Hunting guides should possess the following skills to land the best outfitter jobs:

  • Great communication skills: You’ll work with a variety of clients from different walks of life on your hunting excursions. It’s important that you understand how to alter your communication styles to keep everyone in your group happy and safe throughout the journey.

  • Organization skills: As a hunting guide, you’ll be tasked with organizing a variety of aspects of the excursion. From setting up lodging to preparing meals, navigating rough terrain to harvesting game for successful hunts, you’ll play a role in every facet of the hunting trip.

  • Teaching Skills: As a hunting guide, you’ll work with both experienced and inexperienced hunters. To ensure safety and provide better chances of success, you’ll need to be a good teacher. Whether you’re guiding a client’s shooting style or helping a customer clean a kill, wisdom, skill, and patience are essential.

  • Good physical fitness: Serving as a hunting guide can be physically demanding. You may often find yourself working 16 hour days in the outdoors, traversing trails and countryside that demand strength and stamina.
  • Outdoor survivalist skills: You’ll be responsible for the safety and comfort of clients, and may deal with inclement weather on your excursions. You must be well-versed in outdoor survivalist skills to handle whatever weather comes your way. Are you adept at building shelter in the event of a flash flood? Are you well-versed on the effects heat can have on a client’s health and well-being? Understanding the effects of the Heat Index is just one of many outdoor survivalist skills you’ll need to master.

  • First aid skills: Hunting guides face an element of danger on every excursion, as do their clients. First aid skills are a vital piece of the safety puzzle, and it’s important you know how to treat a variety of maladies and injuries, from snake bites to poison ivy.

Take Necessary Courses

Certain areas and states require hunting guides to complete specific training courses in order to secure a hunting guide license. These classes cover a host of topics, ranging from legal issues and safety precautions to hunting best practices and state regulations.

Not all states require hunting guides to take specific classes or training courses. However, there are numerous qualified guide schools found across the United States that can help dedicated outdoorsmen and women learn the techniques and regulations required for the modern hunting guide.

Available courses run the gamut and teach everything from outdoor survival to game tracking, navigation skills to horse care. The most common types of guide schools found across the country include:

  • Waterfowl guide school
  • Deer hunting guide school
  • Bear guide school
  • Fishing guide school
  • Big game guide school

The skills you learn in an accredited guide school can help you land a better position at a renowned outfitter, so be sure to do your research and attend a course that will further your hunting guide career aspirations.

Firearm and Equipment Expertise

The amount of information a hunting guide must cover is vast, and it’s important that you dedicate your time to becoming an expert in your chosen hunting specialty. As a hunting guide, you’re tasked with ensuring your clients are equipped to properly take down their chosen game. Are you planning on leading long-rifle hunts? Perhaps you’re going to specialize in handgun hunting. Will you be able to guide clients toward appropriate cartridges and calibers required? Choosing the right caliber can make or break a hunt—do you have the expertise needed to guide your client’s choices? Understanding the ins and outs of firearm and equipment safety is crucial, and expertise about the variety of tools used on a hunt will benefit your entire hunting party.

How Much You Can Expect to Earn as a Hunting Guide

Generally, hunting guides that are just starting out don’t make very much money. You’ll need to align yourself with a high-quality outfitter and prove your worth as a trusted, valuable guide before you start seeing money come in.

According to JobMonkey, the average guide makes around $1,000 to $1,500 per month during the first season, but room and board, along with food, is often included. After a few successful seasons under your belt, you may find yourself pulling in $2,500 a month.

Hunting guides play an integral role in the hunting industry. These dedicated professionals provide important insight, guide newcomers, and make hunting more efficient for their clients. If you’re looking to start a career that combines your passion for hunting and the outdoors with customer service, a position as a hunting guide may serve you well.

*Directory of State Wildlife and Fishing Agencies


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