A seasoned outfitter and guide tells you how to get along with your guide and have your best elk hunt ever
It’s not easy being a client. After all, many clients are completely out of their element, and machismo can easily overshadow common sense. There’s always a lot of input on choosing good outfitters. But then what makes a good client? If you booked your hunt after a few beers at a sports show because you liked some guy’s hat, your mouth may have written a check your body can’t cash. Be certain you feel confident that the hunt you booked is one where you’ll have a great time regardless of the end result. You should have no reservations and realistic expectations. There are never any guarantees on a fair-chase hunt.
Good clients prepare for their hunt. There’s no special gadgetry that will help you become a better hunter. Save your money and put it into yourself. Be in the best shape you possibly can and put your time in at the range. Few shots in elk country will offer a shooting bench and no two will be alike. Once you’ve sighted in your rifle, think in terms of shooting in the field. Develop a smooth routine. Find a rest. Know your distance, breathe and squeeze. Challenge yourself daily using the above routine. If you plan to use a range finder, you must implement this into your practice until all comes naturally in seven seconds or less. Aim for perfection.
If you don’t plan to get in shape, be honest with the outfitter and he may be able to accommodate. If you can’t walk briskly for at least a few miles at 8,000 feet, you might not be ready for a true fair-chase elk hunt.
During your hunt you’ll want to focus on the means and not the end. Expect a few surprises and prepare to deal with the unknown as it happens. Fair-chase elk hunting is seldom either easy or predictable.
If you show up thinking you booked a cruise and realize an elk hunt involves more active participation, don’t bring up your disappointment to other hunters. All it takes is one negative attitude to ruin the week for everyone else. It’s okay to admit that elk hunting isn’t for you. Just make sure you take that responsibility and don’t push it on someone else. Be a gentleman. Don’t whine. Some outfitters will go to great lengths to make your hunt as “easy” as possible, many will not. In choosing an easy hunt, you might be robbing yourself of a great adventure. An in-tune guide will read you, not push you too hard. Deep down, he wants you to have a good time. While there are some things an outfit can’t control, a good client will at least give them the opportunity to fulfill the things they can.
Keep safety in mind at all times. You’d be surprised how many guides have had a loaded gun waved in their face, or heard the hiss and wallop of 200-grain bullets and been on the wrong end of the wallop. Any personal displays or lack of safety and respect for the hunt will have your guide on edge and you feeling like a loner most of the week. Ask yourself: when was the last time you sat around the dinner table with eight strangers with guns? It’s a humbling notion to guides as well.
When it comes to the business of elk hunting, the customer isn’t always right. Let the guide do the thinking. That’s what you’re paying him for. You worry about the hunting and pay attention. A good guide will find a way to get in rhythm with your abilities and use them to your advantage. The only wrong way to hunt elk is not being out there. A good rule of thumb is to mirror the actions of your guide in the field and maintain a willing and positive attitude throughout the hunt. Give the guide a chance; his mind works differently than yours. It’s always a good idea to make sure you two get to know one another as soon as possible—long before you step foot in elk country. Keep the faith. While there may be a moment when getting to the ridge before first light seems fruitless, rest assured, the elk won’t mind if you’re not there.
And remember to relax and have fun. There should be no pressure. Plan to go home with nothing more than memories and never give up. As the hunt progresses, your glass should begin to overflow. Hopefully you’ll find yourself living in the means and not even thinking about the end. The experience of your hunt will far outweigh the kill. But rest assured. Somewhere out there in elk country a bull will step out of the dark timber. And when that opportunity finally presents itself, you’ll be ready!
JB Klyap is the chief bottle washer and outfitter for Dome Mountain Ranch just north of Yellowstone National Park. He serves as the chairman for the RMEF’s Outfitter Council.