Hunting guides are known for their ability to hunt. The job also entails being one or more of the following: woodsman, mechanic, butcher, babysitter, comedian, therapist, photographer and cook. There's one more, salesperson.

A hunting guide is always selling his/her “product” and themselves. When they’re hunting, they are always selling the reasons and ideas behind what they are doing and why.

The biggest thing hunting guides sell is something they are not even trying to push. Gear.

It does or it doesn't

TV hunters, magazine writers and bloggers have jobs because gear brands pay for their endorsement and/or advertising dollars to support their show, magazine, website, etc. It's pretty hard for me to buy into that “something is the best" when the guy/gal that is saying so is getting paid to do it. I'm not saying everyone out there would steer you wrong, I'm just saying a lot of people will say a lot of different things if the price is right. Funny thing is, half of these products are taken afield only a handful of times and suddenly, they are deemed wonderful! The only thing you can know for sure after using a product for half a dozen times is if it's junk. To find out if it's truly a superior product you have to put it through the paces. A full hunting season of abuse will get you the answer you're looking for, good or bad.

Enter the hunting guide factor. Day in and day out use. Wind, rain, snow, sleet and sun. Hunting guides are out in it all. If a product is gonna hold up, a guide will be loyal to that brand. If a product fails, chances are, he/she will never buy from them again. Hunting guides, for the most part, are not “ship jumpers". When you find something that works, you stick with it. Half the battle in this game is figuring out what's worth the money and what's not. When you do find something that fits expectations or exceeds them, you pass on the information. The same is true for stuff that is junk. You don't want your buddies or your clients getting screwed. And just like that, a hunting guide becomes a salesperson.

No agenda

While guiding hunters, I will often spot some sort of game animal. Seconds tick by, then minutes. The client can not see what I'm seeing. I will hand over my Zeiss binos, give directions again and they will see it. Was it all because of the binos? No. But when you go from a couple hundred dollar pair of binos to a couple thousand dollar pair, there is a big difference. Next thing you know, the hunter is talking about how he has to have a pair. More than likely, that same guy has said time and time again, that he doesn't need a pair of “fancy” binoculars to go hunting. A Zeiss rep could have spent hours explaining to him why they are the greatest thing on earth and he would have shrugged his shoulders and walked off. But, out in the field in a real hunting situation, the difference became clear. I didn't try to sell anything. I just provided the proper tool for the job when it mattered.

I have no agenda when recommending gear. I have nothing to gain from it. I just want my hunters to have the best opportunity possible at being successful. True salesmen are trying to make a living selling product, I'm trying to make my livelihood come a little easier. Good gear does that. It's pretty interesting to see what a day in the life of a guide looks like and how much we really do put our gear to the test.

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Power in numbers

There are over 10,000 outfitters in the U.S., Canada and Africa combined. Using conservative numbers, I will say each outfitter employs four guides. That's roughly 50,000 people recommending products, or if you will, selling them. Can you imagine having a sales force of 50,000 people? And at the same time, you’re not having to write a check or worry about health insurance! That's what pro guides do for the hunting industry.

Speaking of numbers, let's hit on the amount of clients each outfitter takes during the course of a year. I know outfitters who hunt or fish with 300 plus guys/gals per year and others who only take a dozen or so. So for arguments sake, I'm gonna say that each of the 10,000 outfitters average 35 clients per year. Simple math tells us that equals 350,000 clients. Clients that are willing to spend money at that. Given this info, Who would you want selling product? A pushy salesman or a guide who uses and abuses gear for a 100 plus days a year? The answer is pretty simple. If you've got a solid reputable product, you'll take the guides' word. If you're selling a product that sucks, you'll take the dude that can sell ice to an Eskimo.

The final sales receipt

No hunting guide sets out to be a salesperson. Sure, we expect to sell trips at trade shows and so forth but not gear. Turns out, it just comes with the territory. Take my word on it, when a professional guide tells ya that something works, it probably does. Now, if a guide tries to sell you his truck or his horse, I'd probably be a little skeptical of that!

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  • Lance Bernal

    Lance Bernal

    I agree with you 100%. For the last 3 seasons, I have sold my fair share of gear just by using it. It came to the point that I had to carry a catalog in my vehicle because some clients just had to know what I was using. It would be nice to get something nice in return from the companies we use and trust for send more customers their way, but I guess the best they can do is provide their products at the rate we get them.