The 5 Common Mistakes Made by Hunting Guides and Fishing Guides

Everybody makes a mistake, and there should not be any shame from making an honest error.  HOWEVER, failing to learn from a mistake is where the real problem lies.  Listed below are the common errors made by fishing and hunting guides in their day-to-day business.  Correct these errors and you are well on your way to improving your profits.

Failing to Keep a List

Most of the people involved in the hunting and fishing business rely too heavily on word of mouth.  That is one reason why so many of these guides find themselves trying to work at another job while also offering their guide services.  One of the best things a guide can do is capture contact information from their clients.  Get their email, home address and phone numbers and store them in one spot.   This makes it a snap to send out an email blast announcing news and more services.  This leads us to the next mistake . . .

Failing to Stay in Touch

Guides are like old high school friends.  Everyone promises to keep in touch and stay connected, but it rarely happens.  If you operate a hunting lodge or a fishing guide service you owe it to yourself to plan out a strategy to stay in touch with past clients.  Send them a postcard about the upcoming season.  Drop them an email to ask if they have any recent trophy pics they want to share.  Send them a letter once a quarter about things they can do to prepare for next season.  Stay in touch so they will get in touch with you for their next outing.

Failing to have a Strong Set of Policies

What will you do if there is a tornado that destroys your lodge?  What if the temperatures go out of whack at your location and leave your clients empty handed?  What if your client ignores your requests and takes the wrong trophy?  You cannot possibly compensate a client for every conceivable catastrophe but you need to be prepared.  Have your policies laid out in writing and ask the client to sign a waiver form covering items out of your control.  The power of a handshake and a verbal agreement is not what it used to be.

Failing to Branch Out

Do you offer only type of service at your lodge?  Maybe you are a quail guide and all you do is offer quail hunts.  There is nothing wrong with having a laser-beam focus on doing one thing and doing it better than the competition. But that does not mean you can’t branch out in other ways.  Have you considered chatting with another guide that offers a different type of service and selling it to your list (see first point above)?  If you are a quail guide, I would imagine you could sell quite a few guided turkey hunts for your turkey expert down the road and he would cut you a commission on each sale.

Failing to Pay Attention to the Small Details

When a hunter or angler comes to you for your services they expect you to take care of everything.  They literally want to show up, put in a little effort and leave with a trophy.   It is important that you pay attention to the little details to make the trip enjoyable.  Clean sheets on the bed, recently cleaned restrooms, clean vehicle for transporting guests and a clean, fresh smell in the lodge are just a few examples.  Keep everything tidy and presentable and you will reap the reward of repeat bookings.


Have you fallen victim to any of these mistakes?  If so, what steps are you taking to correct them?  Leave me a comment, or question, below and I will be happy to help you out.




Finding New Customers is a Lot like Fishing

The average angler or hunter is a person that likely works a full time job doing something other than hunting or fishing.  They look at outdoor guides as an enviable position.  I mean, how could it get any better than to make a living working in the outdoors?  However, most outdoor fans don’t realize that running a hunting lodge or a fishing guide service takes dedicated effort and year round work. When it comes to finding new clients, there are some strong similarities to fishing.

Tried & True Methods

Most anglers, as well as fishing guides, have a handful of techniques or strategies that work well for them.  It could be something as simple as using a Texas rigged worm 90% of the time, or it could be a system of working through a handful of lures until something bites.  Anglers know that past experience says “I have used this lure/technique before to catch fish, it should work again.”   However, sometimes doing the same old thing just does not work

The same can be said for marketing.  The old fashioned method of “give customers great service and they will tell all their friends about you” is a strategy based on hope.  More often than not, outfitters and guides need to be proactive in trying out marketing methods like email, social media, and web leads to go along with their traditional forms of advertising.

Familiar Spots

Anglers are notorious for fishing a “special spot” that they think nobody else has ever found.  They caught a few fish there once, maybe twice, and now they are convinced that fish live there.  However, seasoned tournament anglers will tell you that finding a pattern in a lake, stream or river is a better strategy.  If bass are hitting a blue and black jig around a particular drop-off chances are good they will hit the same lure at a similar type of drop-off elsewhere in the body of water.

When it comes to marketing outfitters need to branch out from their familiar zone.  Video might work great for them once, and then fizzle.  In the meantime, their competition could be using a blog and social media to drive in new leads and find customers.

Stay Current with Gear and Changes in Technology

Anglers love to get new toys.  New rods, reels and lures are just the tip of the iceberg.  There are digital scales, waders, ventilated shoes, hats, gloves, hook removers etc., etc., etc.  They have no problem talking to their fishing buddies to find out if anybody has tried the latest gadget to find out if it is worth its salt.

Marketing changes as technology changes.  The techniques and strategies that were in use 10 or 15 years ago are antiquated relics now.  An outfitter that does not have a strong web presence with significant amounts of updated information will lose to the competition quickly.


Try Something Different 

Wonder if THIS will catch me some fish???

Anglers get stuck going after the same old fish.  A trout guy will spend HOURS fishing for the rainbow beauties while ignoring the crappie, bass, carp and steelhead located all around him.  Same can be said for anglers that like the other species.  Anglers need to try their hand at catching a new type of fish and even a new technique.  They could discover some fun that they were neglecting.

Outfitters also need to try some new techniques.  Whether it is a full scale social media blitz or simply getting their toes wet in one place like Facebook or Twitter, they should try out something new.  They may find some new friends and discover a new side to their business that they previously had never considered.

What type of gear checklist do you have?

When the average angler or hunter considers paying for a guided trip they usually think of a few things.  They picture a hands-off approach where the guide will effortlessly lead them to game and the customer simply has to pick out a trophy.  What customers don’t realize is that the guide has spent literally hours scouring the best places to find where the big trophies hang out and how to best approach them.  What customers also don’t realize is that they have a responsibility to be prepared when they arrive.  As the guide you can offer some assistance to make sure your customer is ready to have a good time.

Checklist for New Bookings

One of the easiest ways to help customers is to offer a simple checklist.  Everybody gets excited and can easily forget something in the rush to get out the door and headed to their destination.  Offering a checklist of everything the client will need can set the expectations for the client and make your job easier.  It will also make the trip more enjoyable for the customer.

When you are putting down the items it is a good idea to mentally walk through a typical day and see what you would use for the trip.  Think about your clothes, your bathroom items like deodorant and toothpaste, your prescription medications, and similar items.  Consider recommending that the customer bring some backup items like an extra set of sunglasses or extra pair of shoes.  Accidents happen and nobody wants a trip ruined by a simple everyday occurrence like breaking a pair of sunglasses.

It goes without saying that you should offer an extensive list of the gear that the client needs to bring.  Again, go through a typical day in your mind and consider the types of reels, rods, line, hooks and lures you use in your operation.  Any special tools that are unique and handy for your type of fishing should also be mentioned.

Inspect the Gear

When the client arrives, take 10 minutes to look over their gear.  Make sure the rods are in good shape with no broken or missing eyes.  Check the reel to see if it was recently oiled.  Inspect the line for nicks, abrasions or weak spots.  Taking these few moments to look over all the equipment could spare you and the client heartache on the water when that elusive 10 pounder breaks a line or jumps off the hook because of some issue that could have been resolved back at the lodge.

Remember this one thing.  Even if a client leaves with a wall hanging trophy, it does not mean they will come back to you for another trip.  Make the outing as enjoyable and hassle free as possible so that they tell all their friends “Man, you HAVE to go see these guys!  They really take care of the angler!”

It’s All About the Experience

Operating as a fishing or hunting guide is a business.  The main goal is to attract enough customers to provide a profit while at the same time enjoying what you love.  That means you should relish the experience of meeting with new people, assisting them bag a trophy and manage the whole process from start to finish.

Universal Struggles

Unfortunately, outdoor guides face the same struggles as other businesses.  Ask any owner in the retail or services industry about their number one concern and many of them will tell you the same thing; getting new customers.  Getting people to spend money with you is the lifeblood of the company and without it nothing happens.

Floundering Around Like a Bass in a Boat

So, what do many of these outfitters do?  They attend the local hunting and fishing expos, put up a booth and tell everyone within earshot “hey, we have the best prices and the best game.  Come spend money with us.”  Then they go back to their operations and wonder what happened to all the people they met at the expo.

Or, they put together a decent website, list their site with relevant directories and wait for the phone to ring.  They wait and wait and scratch their head when nothing happens.  They end up floundering around like a bass in the bottom of the boat, looking for relief.

Relief is closer than You Think

Consider the work that is involved to create a good deer habitat.  Most outfitters will scout their property right after the end of the season to find scrapes, sheds and look for signs of bedding areas.  When the right areas are identified the real work begins. Off-season feeding can mean putting out food or minerals to help the deer survive the winter. Putting up stands and shooting houses, monitoring the natural vegetation to make sure it is on track for next season and planting food plots takes up considerable time.  Outfitters will occasionally try out a new crop or fertilizer and watch for results.  Good products become part of the operation while duds get thrown to the wayside.

The same kind of work and attention to detail should be applied to a marketing strategy.  There are multiple ways to find new customers.  Some people like the digital methods such as email, text messaging and social sites.  Other people prefer the old fashioned postal mail and phone calls.  Forming a comprehensive strategy for reaching out to new anglers and hunters, while keeping in touch with previous clients, will yield much better results.  Over time, you will see your bookings increase and your referrals will be easier to gain.

This website is dedicated to providing services to outdoor guides to make attracting and retaining clients easier and more profitable.

Have a question or want to know more?  Contact us and let us know how we can help.

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