I may be opening a can of worms of worms with this one!
When I read this title, I thought this article is not for me. I am a very straight shooter with my clients. When the hunting is tough, I tell them. When I know the chances for success are slim, I say so.
My clients and I are a team. How are they suppose to make good quality decisions, when the other half of their team isn't being totally honest about the situation at hand? That's my take on it anyhow.
But, the more I got to thinking about the title, more and more things started to come to mind. There are things you shouldn't tell your clients.
If you guide long enough, you will run into people, whom you believe, shouldn't be hunting. When they walk, they sound like a herd of elephants running through the woods. For some others, it seems they couldn't hit water if they were standing in it.
It's very frustrating when you've guided for weeks and you're tired. No matter what you do, the client you have is just not capable of getting it done. It may cross your mind to ask; “Have you ever thought about giving up hunting and maybe, taking up golf?” You may think these things but I wouldn't recommend saying them.
Being positive and helping your clients become better hunters, I believe, is part of the job. Telling guys how bad they “suck” really does nothing but make you look like a jackass and will probably make your client not like you. If you find that you and your hunter just down right clash, you need to read guide/hunter clash: how to still be successful. Keep in mind, the reason that most people are going on a guided hunt is to hunt with someone who has an expertise in hunting. If they were that person, they probably wouldn't be paying you for your services.
Well, thank you! Just kidding.
Being a hunting guide means a couple things. You will be tired. You should know how to hunt. You need to be a people pleaser. “People pleaser,” does not mean “ass kisser.”
I fully expect you to have a good relationship with your clients. In fact, if you do this gig long enough, a majority of your best friends will be past clients. That is at least a solid goal to strive for. However, don't be the guide who distances himself from the rest of camp just to give special attention to the hunter you think will tip the most. The big belly laughs that don't fit the situation. The little whisper conversations around camp while everyone else is carrying on a normal conversation. The list of abnormal butt kissing gestures goes on and on. Your hunter can tell and so can everyone else. Don't be that guy.
If you have a sour relationship with the outfitter, keep it between you and the outfitter. Tainting the client's view of the guy who booked him is not going to turn out well. No matter how good of friends you think you are with the client, when crap hits the fan the outfitter will know about it. When you give off this pissy aurora toward the outfitter around the client, trouble is on the horizon. Say for example, you bad mouthed the outfitter and his business to the client. The hunt doesn't go so well and he is heading home empty handed. As he packs his bags to leave, he starts feeling the same way you do toward the outfitter. Before you know it, he is feeling like he just got screwed over. You know what happens next? Yep, he wants his money back or at least part of it. Keep your pie hole shut!
The conflict between guides and outfitters is a pretty common occurrence. After all, both parties are very head strong. The stubbornness that gets us in trouble, is also what makes us good at our jobs. The drive to succeed is good. The bull headedness to think we are always right is not. It's a give and take that needs to be managed on both ends but it should not spill over to the ears of the clients.
While on the subject of outfitter/guide debacles, let's not leave out the financial end of the business. Clients always seem to think that an outfitter is a rich man. Who wouldn't? (ha,ha). Think about it though. A $7,000 elk hunt multiplied by 60 hunters and you have a pile of money. Too bad most of that goes to operating expenses. Anyhow, it's not the job of the guide to discuss such things with the clients. It seems to me that the more you talk to clients about the money side of outfitting, the more troubles will arise. Shy away from the money talk altogether, I don't see much good coming from it in most cases.
I just said to stay away from money talk. Well, here we are talking about it again! Only this time it's a little different circumstance.
The good majority of clients, especially first timers, ask about tipping. I hate it every time I hear those words. “So, how much do guys normally tip?” I generally say, “a couple thousand if you're happy with the hunt, another grand or so if you killed something,” keeping a straight face the whole time. The expressions are either priceless or they call b.s right away.
Even though I hate the conversation, it's something that does need addressed if the hunter doesn't know. My true response is that most hunters tip between 10-15% the cost of the hunt. Then I try to change the subject. Whatever your response may be is obviously up to you but don't tell them what to give! That, in my opinion, is very unprofessional. Do a good job and let the cash fall till it stops!
I stated before that I am very straight forward with my clients. Most things should be that way.
When the conversations turn toward anyone else but the hunting party that's sitting in the truck, it's probably best to keep the lips zipped. You don't need to be walking on egg shells or anything, just respectful to everyone else that's in camp. Sure, you may say something that is only meant for the listening ears at a given time but sure enough, things will leak out.
Best bet? Keep it simple, respectful and honest. There's enough crap that goes on during the course of the season, you don't need to bring on anymore hunting drama all by yourself.