What makes or breaks your decision to book a hunt

ger212

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This is a questions I think we as outfitters would like to know the answer to, What makes you the client decide on which and whom to book a hunt with?

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I'm sure its a knee jerk reaction but price is a big reason for me. But not just price, I met our potential PH and the rep and they both had my sense of humor and seemed good to spend a week with. I have a dark/sarcastic sense of humor and "stuffy" people make me uncomfortable to be around. I've been fortunate to hunt with almost all guides/camps with similar personalities and makes a huge difference.

Edit: our first Africa hunt was 2 weeks ago. PH and wife were awesome. Had a family from NC come to camp at end and they wanted to debate politics. My PH avoided it like the plague. I dont care what someones political/religious views are but having fun at a hunt is not time to talk about it and then try to argue with who takes the bait.
 
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I'm sure its a knee jerk reaction but price is a big reason for me. But not just price, I met our potential PH and the rep and they both had my sense of humor and seemed good to spend a week with. I have a dark/sarcastic sense of humor and "stuffy" people make me uncomfortable to be around. I've been fortunate to hunt with almost all guides/camps with similar personalities and makes a huge difference.

Edit: our first Africa hunt was 2 weeks ago. PH and wife were awesome. Had a family from NC come to camp at end and they wanted to debate politics. My PH avoided it like the plague. I dont care what someones political/religious views are but having fun at a hunt is not time to talk about it and then try to argue with who takes the bait.
Thank you for the feed back sit
 
My wife has been my hunting/fishing partner for over 35 years. We have traveled the world having a blast. When we go to DSC or any convention we talk to all kinds of outfits. We look at overall price( we always ask for a package price/hate hidden add ons). Ease of getting to location, when we land where we’re going we don’t want to have to get on another plane. But the biggest deciding factor is talking to the outfitters. When we introduce ourselves we tell outfitters we both hunt and fish. You would be amazed how many outfitters completely ignore my wife/hunting partner. After we leave the booth we quietly go around the corner and throw their brochures into the trash. That’s how we do it. RB
 
Very good question...1) avoiding a scam, 2) Goals for the hunt, 3) Not Price, per se, but value, 4) Time commitment.

1) Avoiding a scam is obvious but everyone is going to have a different set of "scam hurdles" that the successful outfitter will need to clear. The thing I found myself keying on the most was did the outfitter/PH have a significant Youtube presence since videos are the hardest thing to fake or photoshop. Also, you get to hear the outfitter's voice and compare it to the guy I talked to on the phone. Facebook is nice but easy to fake - same with websites.

2) Goals meaning the animals I'm after. Also, for me, the "downtime" stuff was important too, maybe just as important. I'm a birder (bird watcher) so I wanted to make sure I had a camp with the potential for a good cross section of birds during the lunch lull. A waterhole in camp was a big deal for me. A good trade-off would have been hunting a savanah / bush and mountains so I could get mountain and lowland birds. A birding lunch on a lush mountain edge would be great. Also, the number of folks in camp. I like to hunt with a minimal complement of folks but would like to have three or four other hunters around the table in the evening.

3) Value. Certain animals are going to cost more than others - that's a basic. The same animal in a premium setting (native habitat, big 5 area, etc.) is more than one that's introduced to the area. Trophy animals are more than cull animals. I think most of us get that.

4) Value, to me, includes the number of hunting days versus travel days including days travel between sites. Also, does a hunt day include a 2 hour drive or just 15 minutes? I have 25 days of annual vacation, which is good, but I love hunting my home state so I want to minimize the vacation I have to burn to take a safari. I wanted to maximize hunt time divided by total time. This is easy for me since I haven't been yet so I have a pretty low hanging list of animals that I'd like to encounter. I picked Limpopo for my first safari since it minimizes travel time.

In general, try to forge a connection with anyone that might look at your company as a potential outfitter. In my case a single line on the bio for one of their PH's, "he's a keen birder", is what piqued my interest. Of course, not everyone is a birder so try to hit the high spots of potential client's non-hunting interests without being sappy. Think of some of your past clients - was there a common theme with some of them. A lot of hunters like to cook - offer to turn part of the kitchen over to them for an evening. I'd bet a lot of European clients have an interest in the upcoming World Cup. If you have a PH that's a rabid soccer fan, mention it in his bio, etc. Of course, a lot of folks will travel with non-hunting family member but most outfitters are pretty good at taking care of those folks. Can you "throw in" a bit of wingshooting or fishing during some of the down hours - that'd be important to me. Thirty minutes over a waterhole shooting doves would be a great way to digest a mid-day lunch.

Sorry, for being so lengthy.
 
I've hunted Africa 3 times and I am currently working on number 4. My planning has changed over the years, so explain the evolution.

My first hunt was with a PH in Namibia that I met at a show. I liked him we got along good and his pricing was good, and he had all the standard plains game animals. I thought this was perfect for my "once in a lifetime" hunt. I had a 10 day hunt and took 8 animals. I was a happy camper.

My second hunt was with the same PH and I went there again with a friend who asked me to take him. This hunt was more about my friend's experience and I was familiar with everything so it worked out well. I took 3 animals and was a happy camper.

However, after 2 hunts, the itch to go again was bugging me but because after 11 animals I now had some interest in specific animals. I had taken a Kudu on the first hunt, and after years of looking at different animals, I had the urge for a spiral horn slam. However, I always thought that the Cape Eland was boring and had to overcome that feeling before moving in that direction. This website provided me with information that made hunting the Eland a worthwhile pursuit. So, now armed with the spiral horn slam as my goal, I started looking.

The first thing I looked at was a price list posted on the various websites. Not so much for pricing, but because it contains the list of available species. The Namibian PH could not provide a Nyala so I needed to find one that could. After searching several websites, I came to the conclusion that there wasn't much difference between them. Some had high daily rates and low animal prices, while others had low daily rates and high animal prices. I plotted out four of them on a spreadsheet and the final prices were so close the whole endeavor was a waste of time. In the end, I met 2 PHs at a show and decided on one of them after talking with both. I took 5 animals, satisfied my spiral horn slam, and was a happy camper.

Now that hunt number 4 came to a planning stage, things for me changed again. Here is what I wanted and what I researched. I wanted a Springbuck Slam of, Common, White, Copper, and Black. I also wanted a Common and a Black Impala. All six hides would be mounted on my wall. I wanted a Cape Kudu (I have a Southern Kudu) and a Sable. Those 8 animals are on my shopping list, now I needed to find a PH who had them available.

One PH had what I needed but curiously didn't show any pictures of the lodge on the website. When I asked about the lodge, I did not receive a response. John X Safaris was high on my list but when viewing videos posted on YouTube they all showed hunting in the mountains. Too bad too, because at 74 years old, I'm no longer up to mountain hunting. I can walk a long way on flat ground but not so much up a mountainside.

I also found hunts for a Springbuck Slam, with pricing running from almost $6,000 for 4 animals and about $2,000 for the same 4 animals. I'm not cheap, nor am I wealthy, and I believed that the actual reasonable figure probably was somewhere in between.

After weeks of looking at websites, YouTube videos, prices, lodges, PHs and staff, terrain, air transport beyond Johannesburg (if necessary), I believe that I have made a decision. After, all of that it came down to a phone call.

KMG Safaris was high on my finalist list. Marius was in the U.S. at a show and called me. We talked at length and I asked him if I booked for about 2 weeks if that would be enough time to take all the animals. He advised that if I wanted a safaris that long, we would take our time and only hunt above average animals. No one had ever told me that before, and now with a little experience behind me, I was elated that this could be done. I was hooked.

I told Marius that my wife wanted a cruise first (it was her turn to pick a vacation) and we would talk afterward.

So, over time, I went from booking with a guy I liked and met, to being selective about a multitude of details. However, in the end, it all came down to being able to view a price list or at least a species list on a website that allowed me to determine if the PH had the animals that I wanted available to him. Outfitters that did not have that information available, were excluded from my consideration.
 
In two weeks I'm headed back to the Eastern Cape and I'll be hunting with Russel Field once again. Next year it's back to Namibia with Agarob Safari's for the fourth time.

For myself and my friends who accompany me it's not the cost, we all know that everything cost's money. It's the unknown. We always hunt a package, or we lock down the cost as close as possible. It's the uncertainty of the true cost that most prospective hunters are wary of.
Ask any hunter who's never been to Africa, what does a Safari cost? The big numbers might surprise you.
 
Sometimes it's an issue that is out of the outfitters control like fees/tax imposed by their gov't. to fleece the visiting hunter. There's a very good offer for a Mozambique buffalo hunt offered in the AH "Deals" forum right now. What really sticks in my craw is the 450 euros fee for the privilege of bringing a rifle into Moz. That's per gun so if I bring my usual two rifles, I'll be charged approx. $1,000 just for the privilege of hunting with my own guns.

That to me is just extortion and causes me to write off Mozambique as a hunting destination.
 
First, I decide on an area or specie(s) I want. Then I look for an outfitter with a solid reputation. Not just someone with a big internet presence, but years of experience in the field. Better yet, someone who got great reviews from people I trust, like my friends here on AH. Then I like to meet them in person at one of the shows. Having established that they are competent and hunt in good areas, I want to determine if they are someone I want to spend time with. Price is not a consideration but value is. I’d rather spend more money for a fantastic safari than go cheap and have a mediocre experience. Trips to Africa are too rare to gamble on a “maybe.”
 
I think this will be a very beneficial thread, both for those posting and those that are reading.

Cheers, Lon
 
Sometimes it's an issue that is out of the outfitters control like fees/tax imposed by their gov't. to fleece the visiting hunter. There's a very good offer for a Mozambique buffalo hunt offered in the AH "Deals" forum right now. What really sticks in my craw is the 450 euros fee for the privilege of bringing a rifle into Moz. That's per gun so if I bring my usual two rifles, I'll be charged approx. $1,000 just for the privilege of hunting with my own guns.

That to me is just extortion and causes me to write off Mozambique as a hunting destination.
I get your point about gouging on fees. A grand to hunt with your own guns is hard to defend. However, I’m not as concerned with the cost components as I am with the all-in cost. From what I’ve been able to gather, MOZ Buffalo hunts are cost competitive with similar hunts in Zimbabwe, Zambia and Namibia (Caprivi.)
 
Because of how your title is worded, I'm seeing this as before the actual hunt happens. I have only been to Africa once (side note: it feels so freaking good to say I've been to Africa). What guided my decision, as with some other folks, were an amalgam of reasons that included the original offer from the outfitter (cost and species offered), conversations with past clients, research into visual evidence of what the outfitter offered (photos of accommodations for example), size of properties, and, at the end of it all, just plain gut feeling. There were also other things that factored in, such as my belief in what they told me about their ability to work with my daughter, who was coming off major surgery, and the fact they are a second generation outfit.

Frankly, despite the occasional story on this site about unscrupulous outfitters, I choose to believe the vast majority of you on here are honest, hard-working folk who provide a very good service to your clients. I likely could have had just as good of a first time experience, or close to it, with a lot of outfitters on here.

It's a little different for all of us, I am sure. But the above reasons are what lead me to book with who I did, and the experience was better than anything I could have imagined... so something amongst my list of reasons went right.
 
For me there are a number of factors. Not in any particular order: Availability of the animals I want. The property size. I like having personal conversations with the outfitter / PH to get an idea how we mesh on ideas of the hunt. I ask for references and contact as many as possible, not only to hear of their experience, but to collaborate what the outfitter told me. Price is very important, but not the driving force.
As a side note… When I was looking for my first and what I thought was going to be my only safari, I contacted a booking agent. He gave me three outfitters, in different areas. I contacted all of them, talked to references and then went to SCI and spoke with the top two. I also talked to a few others there, one of which was a highly regarded PH. Nice guy and obviously successful, but I just didn’t feel that he was the choice. I booked with one of the first two. My second hunt with with my second choice. Both were great hunts.
 
Speaking to the outfitter in person is important to see if he is doing it for a long enough time and had a good review.

Price: in same country, same area one outfitter charge 450 dollars per day/daily rate. X animal cost 2500 dollars
Second outfitter same country, same are charge 250 dollars per day/daily rate. X animal cost 1100 dollars. Why on earth I will choose the more expensive one, even if Donald Trump was my father I will not go with the more expensive one. They will say we are different but no they are not different. We live in internet age ,it is easy to check the other prices. I will bring my friend to that reasonable outfitter again.

I have a special dietary needs and my outfitter did it right. He knew I drink tea and every morning I found about 10 different tea on the table.
He said to me "even if you shoot only one animal, I am happy"
They treat me as a family member, they even offered shooting more animals and pay later. Trust worthy, humble, very knowledgeable, not using the client to take more money.
Provide the experience I was looking for.

Great subject by the way.
 
I have to like the people I am hunting with, I don't care how good of an outfit or how good the concessions are, if I don't like the outfitter and/or the PH, I'm not going to spend my hunting time with them.

Or more simply, I like to hunt with my friends.
 
First thing i looked for was the availability on the animals i wanted and may want. Then it went all about size of property i would be hunting.
After all that i read reviews of a bunch of outfitters and made a list. Then it came down to price. I am not a penny pincher but i don't want to overspend for a nice animal either. I dont need luxury accommodations nor a 60 inch kudu.
I ended up booking through a agent whom i consider honest and he set me with JKO outfitters for 2023.
 
-- Recommendations and reviews from others.
-- Interview with the outfitter.
-- Cost and cost breakdown. For example, at SCI this year, I interviewed an outfitter for a big tusker hunt in Botswana, a 14 day hunt was offered for 80K+. I was fine with the overall cost. However, if the hunt was unsuccessful, trophy fee credit was $10K which made it a daily fee of $5K+ for the hunt. I passed.
 
Meeting face to face is a big stepping stone for us but this only happens if references check out, posted fees seem reasonable and if the property size/location is acceptable for us.
I prefer to be hunting with an owner/outfitter, no middleman if at all possible.
 
Call a reliable booking agent like Jack Atcheson and Sons, in Butte, Montana. They only book with the best. My brother and I have booked 3 hunts with them and they are 3 of the best hunt’s we’ve been on. Call their references who hunted the previous season. It’s pretty much full proof. With Atecheson they hold all the money until you contact them and say “Great Hunt”, which you will. Then they release funds to outfitters. This is what they use to do. Maybe things have changed. As sure a successful hunt as you can get on this planet!! Other option is to do all the research on an outfitter yourself. Calling the prior year’s references is the most important thing you can do ( at least 5) for the animals you want!! Done it both ways all good to great hunts. Just more hunter’s luck on the great hunts!!!!!
 

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Do you still have this rifle? I'm in the KC area on business and I'm very interested.
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