How do I find a guided waterfowl hunt that meets all my needs and wants?
If this question has entered your mind while making a calculated effort to take the plunge and book a guided waterfowl hunt, just know that you are not alone (and keep reading).
Anyone that has researched or booked a guided waterfowl hunt has most likely faced a mental battle with indecision, doubt, and emotion. Was I blind to a convincing sales pitch? Did I get caught up in the “highlight reels” of swarming duck videos? Did I really listen to important details that the outfitter was telling me? Are my expectations unrealistic?
We get it…this situation happens to the best of us. But there are solutions to this common scenario.
Let’s Be Real with Needs and Wants
This one is on you. Needs and wants should always be aligned with an acceptable approach. If it’s acceptable, it’s usually manageable (mentally). This thought process brings truth to why finding a guided waterfowl hunt that meets all our needs and wants isn’t always 100% attainable. Why? Because every hunter creates their own expectations, regardless of an outcome or proven hunt reputation. Also, to be brutally honest, shit happens.
Here’s a great example. You’ve just finished a three-day hunt at what was supposed to be the best duck hunting lodge in Canada. The weather pattern was 75 degrees and no wind for the entirety of your trip. Birds were lazy, a water-to-water pattern was frustrating to watch, limited flights spooked at the first sight of a perfect funnel spread, your guide was ready to pull his hair out from a “zero” hunt that a solid scout revealed as mind blowing potential, and you’re thoroughly disappointed. Sound familiar?
Reality check…no one has control over Mother Nature, not even your guide or outfitter.
So now that we have spilled the beans on being real, let us guide you to creating a checklist on what matters to you most, finding a guided waterfowl hunt that meets your needs and wants.
Create Your Ideal Checklist for a Guided Waterfowl Hunt
Your needs and wants should always be listed as a priority – with a realistic approach.
My Guided Waterfowl Hunt Needs
From the perspective of a guided waterfowl hunt, needs are the foundation of making an acceptable choice. Needs are also what the outfitter or guide can ultimately control or offer you as a tangible item within your hunt package. Here are a few examples of tangible needs.
a) Budget (price range): Most hunters have a cap on what they will or can pay for a hunt. Inclusions, exclusions, and value set the benchmark for competitive hunt prices. Find a price that meets your budget, and then consider what is included and excluded.
Compare hunt prices, inclusions, exclusions, and value offers with other guided waterfowl hunts. But do yourself a favor, always leave room for a bit of flexibility. Hunt prices don’t tell the whole story, and every outfitter has their own cost and overhead situation. You often get what you pay for.
b) Hunt Amenities and Services: Seasoned waterfowl hunters know that hunting can be hunting, but overachieving staff and guides, comfortable and clean accommodations, exceptional meals and lodge amenities, bird processing, quality hunt transportation and gear, reliable shotgun rentals, arranged shell and license purchase, pre-trip logistics, and airport pick-up are all examples of what completes a value rich and hassle-free guided waterfowl hunt package.
Any outfitter that has succeeded in this business will ultimately seek to offer you the best amenities, services, and options. This is what’s call a “want not” package. You bring your recommended hunting gear and clothing, and we take care of the rest. It’s really that simple. Don’t settle.
c) Date Availability & Group Size: It all comes down to availability and the number of hunters in your group. One of the first indicators for a quality, in-demand guided waterfowl hunt is availability. If an outfitter has limited spots during prime times, or has a waiting list for a year, you are in the right lane.
Groups of four/five are commonly the best configuration for an exclusive hunt (5 seats in a truck). Groups of two are usually mixed with another group of two for efficiency, so be prepared for this possibility. Don’t expect to be a solo hunt as a single or pair. Outfitters will only be losing money in this situation.
d) References: There is nothing like a collection of references to justify your choices. Ask for references whenever possible. Talking to another hunter that has experienced the good and bad of a guided waterfowl hunt is simply a smart move. Online reviews can also be a helpful and a quick reference for narrowing down your picks.
Also, don’t be afraid to ask an outfitter for another outfitter reference. Meaning… if your choice outfitter is booked up or maybe out of your immediate price range, ask them if they have any recommendations for another guided waterfowl hunt. Outfitters have friends, too!
Combined with indicators of limited availability and high demand, positive references can be the final affirmation to booking the right waterfowl hunt.
e) Communication: Have you ever heard the saying “not knowing is knowing”? Any champion outfitter will work extremely hard to communicate effectively with their customers. This is a need that should never be compromised. If you don’t hear back from an outfitter in an acceptable amount of time, trust your gut and move on. If someone wants to earn your business and trust, they will respond promptly. This is where it all starts.
There are a lot of moving parts to booking a guided waterfowl hunt, and this is one topic we understand better than most. But at the same time, make sure you read, process, and respond to any information that the outfitter sends you.
File all correspondence and hunt details like a business plan and respond to requests on group size, deposit and payments, and travel arrangements in short order. Also, don’t expect the outfitter to continually communicate on repetitive requests or supplied details. When in doubt, review your correspondence and their website for the obvious. Communication is a two-way street. Your outfitter will appreciate it.
My Guided Waterfowl Hunt Wants
Realistic wants are something that should be welcomed with open arms. From a guide’s point of view, a customer’s wants create an instant challenge. Guides thrive on challenges, especially when there is an opportunity to exceed a customer’s expectations.
From the outfitters point of view, wants are often an expected business transaction. Like a guide, the outfitter has an opportunity to go above and beyond for the customer (if they are legal and moral wants, of course). Make sense?
One thing to keep in mind about wants, they can often be a huge variable. Here are a few examples of wants that might be considered or expected on a guided waterfowl hunt.
a) I want to limit out on every hunt: Survey says…it’s not impossible. We would all like to win the lottery too, but sometimes the waterfowl fairies ignore our wants.
Listen, outfitters and guides would be all for setting the highest standards and accomplishments, but we also must be responsible in setting attainable wants for sustainable management of waterfowl and egos alike. But there are outfitters that will claim this on a consistent basis. So…apply common sense and caution to this situation.
Full daily limits can be achieved, but please remember that it comes down to a couple extremely important variables. All the stars have to align in the waterfowl world, and your shooting percentage has to be on point. Hunter ability will be the common failure to this equation in any prime situation. Plain and simple.
b. I want to experience multi-species bird hunts: Now we’re talking! An exceptional guided waterfowl hunt should offer multi-species waterfowl hunting This is a realistic want that should be on the top of your list.
Duck, goose, and Sandhill crane hunts all offer their own unique hunting experience. A combination of water and field hunts for a variety of ducks should also be on your radar. And don’t forget about the fabulous table fare that all these species have to offer!
There would be very few guided waterfowl hunts that wouldn’t offer a multi-species opportunity, but keep in mind that success will often come down to an outfitter having the right equipment and experienced guides to seek out specific species or scenarios. Ask lots of questions on these topics.
c) I want to hunt all day and get my money’s worth: More is not better. We know that’s a broad statement, but the “all day” hunt scenario doesn’t actually align with the majority of waterfowl flight patterns.
Guided waterfowl hunts predominately happen during the early morning and late afternoon (with an approx. 3-hour break in between hunts). Besides, wouldn’t you rather sit in a comfortable cabin or lodge, eat a phenomenal lunch, kick your feet up for an hour or two, and then be fully refreshed to crush an epic afternoon hunt?
To be serious, the only “all day” hunt scenario that may exist would be in a remote marsh setting, or maybe very late in the season when flight patterns are finite, and weather is cold and nasty. So, if that type of hunt floats your boat, then that’s what you may want to seek or request.
d) I want to hunt close to the lodge: Well, we all would, but the birds will always dictate were and when you hunt. Keep an open mind to travel. No, you shouldn’t have to take multiple hour-long trips to get to consistent or common hunts, but hunting waterfowl based on your travel time preference would also be short sited.
A successful and sustainable outfitter will have efficient access to productive waterfowl land. Be accepting of 30-to-40-minute average travel times, this is just reality when it comes to a guided waterfowl hunt. Guides are going to choose field or water hunts based on the best opportunity. Remember, you are on the bird’s terms!
And there you have it. A simple process to follow when looking for a guided waterfowl hunt, that will ultimately help you meet your needs and wants.
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