With more women hunting and sometimes going into “no-man’s land” with a hunting guide, usually male, it’s essential to find an outfitter who will work with you to make your hunt not only successful, but tolerable. We decided to find out what women hunters want and expect from a professional guide.
We asked some of the country’s top female hunters to reveal what they like and what they don’t like, based on their past experiences. Maybe these stories and their advice will help you when you book your next hunt.
Of course, we asked “The First Lady of Hunting,” aka Brenda Valentine, first. As a spokesperson for the National Wild Turkey Federation and a member of Bass Pro Shops’ Redhead National Pro-Hunting team, this woman has proved her mettle afield, and shows us time and time again as she co-hosts Bass Pro Shops’ Real Hunting TV show.
Brenda looks for these qualities in a guide:
- Good judgment in all situations.
- Knowledge and experience on the particular property.
- Respect for me, the environment, wildlife, other hunters and himself.
- Complete knowledge of all local game laws.
- An upbeat attitude that lasts even when things go “south.”
She listed five things that totally turned her off to past guides:
- Constantly dropping the F-bomb to see if I would cringe.
- Trying to impress me with his looks or past experience. I don't care how far you can shoot or how many animals you have on the wall, buddy. This is my hunt.
- Repeatedly comparing me to his wife or putting her down because she doesn't hunt. It is her choice and you are the one that married her. I don't want to hear how much you wish you had a woman like me.
- Walking too fast for me to keep up, then smirking about it has caused me to straighten out more than one guide. I tell them to run right on ahead, but nothing is going to happen until I get there since I'm the one with gun.
- Arriving to a filthy camp with lazy guides watching videos and drinking beer with no offer to help me unload gear, sight-in bows/guns, find a bed or a bite to eat.
One of her favorite guides, Don, exhibits all the “great guide” qualities she listed above. She said, “He is the softest spoken, most patient fella I know,” she said. “He has foregone supper and sleep to help me track a deer in the dark through the worst briar tangles imaginable. We were both exhausted, bleeding with our clothes ripped, yet he celebrated my taking a fine buck as if it were his first.” In fact, Brenda chose the photo of the two of them together to represent herself in this article.
Nightmare in the Canadian Woods
There’s always one bad egg, and Brenda suffered from this rotten one’s lack of attention in Northern Alberta on a whitetail hunt. Brenda reports that a guide dropped her off two hours before daylight, minus zero degrees. With no cell service, and it rapidly approaching midnight, with wolves howling and the stale bologna sandwich gone, Brenda thought, “I will be here all night and frozen stiff by morning.” When her “guide” arrived, he announced that he’d forgotten about her!
As the editor of Turkey Country magazine, the flagship publication for the National Wild Turkey Federation, Karen Lee gets invited to more hunts annually than she can take. You would think that hosting the press would mean she always has a superb experience, but you’ll be surprised when you see what has happened to her.
Here’s what Karen looks for in a good guide:
- A sheer passion for hunting. That they still want to hunt despite that they've been in the field getting game for others all season.
- I love how most of them stick with good ol' standbys when it comes to gear. They know what works for them or the game they're pursuing, not what's new or hot that season.
- Flexible attitude. One that can read a client and almost predict what he or she is feeling and wants to do.
- Guides that aren't afraid to talk about "stuff," you know, life in general. I'm usually on assignment when I'm hunting, so an open book is what I'm looking for.
- Guides who engage me in the hunt, ask my opinions and really make me feel like a "co-hunter" and not a client.
And then, there’s the turn-off list;
- I've been cussed at—not good.
- I've been pressured to take shots I wasn't comfortable with, and shame on me letting them, but that only happened once.
- I've fallen victim to guides who seem more interested in getting me a bird at any cost then checking to see how I feel. It's annoying when it becomes the personal vendetta of someone else, instead of what you want as the client.
To offset #3 above, Karen said, “I'm up front about my experience, my expectations, what I'm there to accomplish, and that sets the tone for a good time.”
“What just happened?”
Karen recalled an experience that she never would have dreamed would happen while hunting. She said, “I got spanked. Seriously. But it was kind of funny how it happened. I finally killed a difficult turkey after a long, exhausting hunt. My guide (who is old enough to be my dad) was so excited, he just couldn't stand it. I fell to the ground in pure relief, and when I turned over to get back up, I felt a whack on my hindside. I don't believe the guide even realized he did it. I was in shock, then had to just laugh. I didn't want to kill the moment by making it awkward.”
She added, “I have to go on record (half joking/half serious), this does not give any of my future guides license to hit me on the butt.”
As co-host of The Crush, one of the Outdoor Channel’s most popular TV shows, Tiffany Lakosky hunts the world with her husband, Lee.
Here’s what she looks for in a guide:
- An upbeat personality, confidence, cleanliness.
“We don't do on a ton of guided hunts, but the ones we do go on are usually for elk, mule deer, bear and most recently sheep and goats. Some of these hunts can be terribly grueling and downright hard. You may be socked-in due to weather for days, so personality can make a huge difference,” said Tiffany.
It’s rare that the Lakoskys get paired with a poor guide, as you can imagine. One does come to mind, though, and Tiffany reported, “One I can remember was a gentleman that was a drinker, stayed out late, overslept in the mornings and obviously had no idea what was going on in his camp. He was also the owner.”
When Tiffany and Lee show up, so does their camera crew. Good behavior is expected and recorded for posterity. Tiffany appreciates the bonding that occurs after spending time together on hunts. She said, “It really is a team effort and success when we are out there.”
When asked to relate a bad experience, Tiffany said, “I wish I had a story for you in regard to this, but I really don't. Everyone has always been awesome; however, I'm always there with my husband and two to four cameramen that would have no tolerance for behavior like that with me or any other female in camp. I do remember years ago at a bear camp where another male hunter had a fit because I was wearing pink sweatpants, and said it wasn't appropriate in camp. … About six other guys jumped on his comment and he just avoided me the rest of the hunt.”
Realtree’s blogger Stephanie Mallory keeps tabs on the wild and weird news of the outdoors for the popular camo company’s publication online. She also writes for a variety of outdoor magazines and runs a communications company. So, she’s been on many guided hunts.
Here’s what she hopes for in a new guide when she arrives at her hunting destination:
- Sense of humor
- Strong familiarity with the property we're hunting
- Considerate, but not patronizing
Here’s the bad and the ugly that has happened to her.
- Bad attitude about women hunters
- Cellphone's ringtone was sound of a woman's orgasm
- Guide wanted to do more riding around than actual hunting
- Guide insisted we stay out in a lightning storm when it was clearly not safe
One of her favorite times occurred when a guide took her arrowhead hunting after she’d tagged a turkey. She said, “He knew I loved to do that sort of thing. He went above and beyond the call of duty.”
Stephanie detailed an experience that she calls “funny,” but some women might call insulting in a Realtree article. She wrote, “Let me qualify this by saying, it takes a lot to offend, embarrass or anger me, but Billy Bob manages to do all of the above in one day. We’re walking down the dirt road to our hunting local when all the sudden Billy Bob stops. Has he heard a gobbler? I stop to listen as well. But it’s not a gobbler I hear. No, instead I hear the zipper on Billy Bob’s pants. He’s actually peeing right in front of me. I turn briskly and walk ahead, assuming he’s simply a little rough around the edges…nothing I can’t handle.”
Out hunting at least 140 days last year, producer and co-host of television shows for North American Hunter, including Winchester Deadly Passion, Melissa Bachman interacts with guides in front of and behind the camera.
She admires these qualities in a guide:
- A sense of humor
Unfortunately, not all her guides have measured up. Here’s what she’s experienced afield that ranks not-so-good:
- Lack of Knowledge. I had a guide show up on an elk hunt who said he had just been hired to come over to this camp but had never stepped foot on the property. My first thoughts were, I could have just as well been self-guided as this guy had no knowledge of the property or area and this proved true very quickly.
- Condescending or Arrogant. I don’t care for people who are condescending and if a guide associates being a woman with a complete lack of hunting knowledge, it’s probably going to be a long hunt for us both. I’ve had this happen at times, but usually they back off once the hunt gets underway.
- Being late, especially when every minute counts on an early morning hunt. The last thing any hunter wants to do is sit around waiting for a guide to show up. Luckily, I’ve only had it happen a few times, but it can be pretty frustrating when you’re tired as well and the guide is consistently late.
- Faulty equipment or transportation. When you’re in the backcountry you really rely on the fact that the guide or outfitters equipment has been maintained, but that’s not always the case. I’ve been stranded a few times due to faulty equipment and it makes it tough on the hunt and tough on the morale.
- Bad Attitude. I’m not a big fan of people who are constantly negative, but there are guides out there who think this way and it can get contagious. I like to be realistic, but you can usually find something positive in every situation. There is no sense in dwelling on the negative as I’ve found this usually gets you nowhere.
Melissa almost gave up what would become a dream hunt in Illinois, when the airlines busted her bow case, mangled her bow and lost her warm clothing. She said, “I was ready to just call it quits, but my guide convinced me to go to the local bow shop, fix up my bow and gave me some warm clothes to get through the cold first evening sit.”
She recalled the scene: “After a couple hours into the sit, the field starting filling with deer and to my amazement a giant buck stepped out. After watching this deer for over 40 minutes, I saw a pack of coyotes chase him within bow range. The guide was filming the hunt for me and I was lucky enough to take my biggest buck to date—a 202-inch whitetail with my bow.”
Melissa noted that was her 46th day hunting Illinois. She said, “If it weren’t for my guide that day, I would have stayed in. But, a few words of encouragement got me out on stand and the buck of a lifetime!”
Melissa’s experience proves that we need to be vigilant about our electronics and what we leave behind while we’re out—especially password unprotected. She said, “On a trip a few years back, I came to find out that while I was out hunting, there was someone in camp going through my personal items in my bag and also on my laptop. When I found out, I was very upset and felt violated. This was something that turned a good hunting trip into a bad experience very quickly.”
As the CEO of Próis Hunting & Field Apparel for Women, Kirstie Pike lives to hunt and try out her latest designs of athletic and functional clothing for women who hunt.
Here’s what she likes:
- Comfort level with women. Some guides are not and it’s awkward.
- I hope they will talk to me as soon as they meet me, and explain what our plan will be for the hunt.
- Presentation. I appreciate a guide who looks professional, not like the one who showed up in cut-offs and hiking boots.
And here’s what Kirstie doesn’t like:
- Rude comments from other hunters in camp. On one hunt, one of the hunters made a comment like, “Oh, there are girls here? Will you be dancing on the tables?” and a guide saying, “Hey, if you can’t get up that tree stand by yourself, I’ll give you a little goose!”
- Unprofessional appearance, such as a guide named Bob who always had a big old plug of chewing tobacco in his mouth.
- Unclear about boundaries, such as the time our male guide kept visiting our quarters unannounced.
- One time, I had a guide who was completely uncomfortable talking to me. He didn’t know how to talk to me and was hesitant to give me instruction. It was awkward, because I like to learn from my guides.
- Unclear explanation about the plan for the hunt. I like to know what gear to take, how to dress, etc. See No. 4 above.
Cooler Packing 101
Kirstie recently returned from a dream turkey hunt. But, she has had her nightmares, too. After leaving Kirstie in a box blind, alone and sans communication until 9:30 p.m., her guide packed all her hog and turkey meat into the same cooler—unwrapped, no ice. She said, “It was just a bunch of combined, bloody meat.”
What to Ask When Booking a Hunt
If you want to find out about the outfitters, ask these questions, according to Mia Anstine, owner and guide at Wolf Creek Outfitters. Mia and her husband, Hank Anstine, offer private land hunting in southwest Colorado and northern New Mexico.
- Cell or radio service?
- Distance to nearest town?
- Will there be men in camp?
- What kind of accommodations? Showers? Heat? Meals?
- Will there be male and/or female guides?
- How many guides per hunter?
- Does the guide go on hunts or drop you off?
- What is their license number?
- What is included?
- Transportation to camp?
- What will the average shot distance be?
- Hunting from trees? Stands? Blinds? Spot and stalk?
- Recommended gear list?
- Recommended method of take?
- Caliber of rifle recommended?
- Always ask for a contract.
What do you look for in a guide? Share your best and worst hunting guide stories with us in the comments section below!