Do your homework when finding a hog hunting guide
The popularity of hog hunting has exploded right along with the invasive species’ numbers. You’ve seen all the photos on social media. Piles of hogs or a big boar with a happy, smiling hunter posing just behind their trophy. Outfitter booths at outdoor expos are filled with promises of hog hunting with “no limits.”
And online, an overwhelming number of guide choices give the impression that hogs are numerous and as easy as the proverbial fish in a barrel. But is it really that easy, or are these outfitters fudging a bit?
My first venture into guiding was working for a local outfitter. It was an eye-opening experience. We were hunting with four clients on a spot the head guide had prepared. I was amazed at the amount of money the four hunters spent compared to the total lack of information given to them, and to me as the hired help.
We did not know the most active hours of the feeder at this stand. We were just told to stay put, which is absolutely fine, if the trail camera photos backed up that particular strategy.
Let’s look at four keys to picking a great guide or outfitting company.
Trail camera data
Our first key in picking a good guide, is asking for current trail camera photos of the area you’ll be hunting. Such photos are essential to picking which outfitters are on top of their game. Every outfitter runs trail cameras. They are affordable, and invaluable in running a reputable service.
If an outfitter can tell you a lot about the hog sounder that is coming to your set for the evening, you are on the right track in picking the right company. Daylight photos are even more critical if you are only hunting during the day. Ask for those current daylight hog pictures. Outfitters should want to show those off to potential customers.
Confidence in your set is key for an enjoyable experience on a paid hunt. Knowing approximate active times with data that backs up that claim allows you to sit on that stand for longer with confidence. Knowing the hog group helps also. You will know this if they say things like “wait for the last hog; it will be the big boar.”
Before you make a deposit, demand current trail camera photos. Do the same as your hunt approaches. If the outfitter refuses, let that be a signal that your hunt may not turn out as expected. Of course, even with current active trail camera data, sometimes the first plan does not work out. Which brings us to our second key to finding a great outfitter.
The hunt plan
Sometimes, an active feeder simply doesn’t produce, and it is not the outfitter’s fault. That’s hunting, and that happens often. Here is what you can discuss before booking your hunt to lower the chance of going home empty-handed.
Every outfitter has a plan. The best ones also have a backup plan. Be sure to ask beforehand what’s the plan on getting on hogs if your first spot does not produce, even if has some activity that doesn’t lead to a harvest. Good outfitters should have feeders on all their acreage for different times of the night. Very few feeders produce every hour of the night. So ask about additional locations, and the trail camera photos to go along with them.
Also, ask your potential outfitter if they have stalking acreage available. And ask if stalking is an option after peak hours on your feeder. If it is, it would boost my confidence in that outfitter.
Every outfitter posts photos of successful hunters. I have yet to find one that does not have harvest pictures on their site. But knowing the outfitter’s success rate is more useful to potential hunters. Knowing their year-to-date success rate is even better.
When sizing up an outfitter, remember that references and reviews are helpful, but every outfitter has had some unfair reviews and bad luck.
So ask them two questions: 1) how many hog hunters have you had this year; 2) How many hogs have your hunters taken this year? The answers to these two questions will tell you a lot about your choice.
Lastly, the outfitter’s or guide’s attitude means so much in my experience. I have worked with guides that put down an outdoorsman for a miss or a lost fish. And I can guarantee those hunters will never return or recommend that business. But it will lead to bad reviews. And if the review focuses on the hog hunting outfitter’s attitude more than game numbers, I pay more attention to it.
As sportsmen and women, we spend lots of money doing what we love to do. We all want a successful hunt, ending with us posing behind our harvest with a big smile and great memories. Use these tips to increase your chances of success, even when your quarry doesn’t cooperate.