Monday, May 9, 2011

Scouting for Guides

You have applied to the Minnesota State Black Bear Lottery with the zone of your choice. You are waiting to see if you have been drawn for a tag. You know you want to go with a Guide / Outfitter. How do you go about looking for one? My suggestion is word of mouth. That is your best bet. If you don't know someone who has gone on a guided hunt ask someone if they know of anyone who has and talk to them.

My second suggestion is the Minnesota DNR's website. They compile a list of licensed bear guides (they bought a license no different than you buying your fishing license). The list has contact information for you.
Call them or checkout their websites if they have one.

Another suggestion is to just Google a few variations of "Black Bear Hunting Minnesota" or "Minnesota Black Bear Guide" or "MN Bear Outfitter". You get the jest of it.

My last suggestion is to look on Craigslist in Minnesota or sometimes Again, try to search for "Bear Guide" or "Black Bear" or "Bear Hunt".

So you think you have your search narrowed down to a few guides. Make your list of questions up prior to calling. Talk it over with your buddies. Pickup the phone and start calling. Almost every guide is willing to sit and talk with you at length about all your questions.

Here are a couple of questions to get your started that I would ask.
• How long have you been guiding?
• Licensed?
• Insured?
• CPR & First Aid certified?
• Is the hunt on public or private land?
o If public - is it state / national / reservation lands
 National land has more stringent rules, licensing and regulations than other lands.
• What is your success rate?
o MN’s average success rate for hunters is 25%.
 I would be cautious of a guide that says they are 100%.
 I would feel more comfortable with a guide that is less than 90%.
• What is your definition of success?
o Bears harvested or seen?
o Cubs / Sows / Bores?
 The numbers can be skewed to up their percent success rate.
 I would want to know the success of bears down and back at camp each year.
• How many hunters did you have last year and the year before?
o Eight is a lot for a one man service.
o 15+ is a lot for a guide service with helpers. Make sure they are well established and a have a good reputation.
o 20+ is just not a good idea. Sure they have a lot of bears on their website, but they probably took 8 bears for 60 people if that!
o What did they shoot last year / see?
• Do you help aid in tracking and getting the bear out?
• Do you have any guarantees?
o Pictures of bears in the daylight
o Trip timers
o Second bait sights
• Do you allow hunters to shoot bears with cubs?
o I think this is absolutely horrible!!!
• Could I have at least three references?
o If they can’t even give you this – then why bother.
...and the fun one...
• What is your biggest bear taken?!

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