I have been very fortunate to be able to be a client on several mountain hunts in Alaska and Canada over the past few years. As a result I am often asked how I go about planning and preparing for a guided hunt. Guided hunts are not something that one can usually throw together on a few days’ notice. These adventures are months, if not years, in the making. This article will take you through the steps that I have learned over the years as the guide, as well as the client, to prepare for such an adventure.
Planning Your Hunt
- Pick a Species
Pick an Outfitter
- Comb publications such as the Wild Sheep Foundation magazine for a solid list of outfitters, do some research and contact them. Request a reference list of hunters who have hunting with the outfit and pick their brains. Talking with these individuals is a great way to see how the outfitters run their operation. Ask what they liked about the hunt, and what they disliked. Once your list is narrowed, pick what’s best not what’s cheapest. If you need to save for another year, find out their deposit & payment programs and make it happen. You get what you pay for.
- Get a recommendation from the outfitter and book at least four months in advance. If you are traveling north, expect two air-travel days to reach your destination. You can also expect to change commercial airlines at least twice. Try to book your flights with an overnight layover; you’re going to need to be well rested for the adventure to come. After your commercial flights, you’ll take a bush plane flight into your hunting area.
Preparing for the Hunt
- Request a gear list from your outfitter, trust it and start building. From head to toe, quality gear is essential to a safe and comfortable hunt. For clothing, you’ll want something light-weight and breathable as well as the best raingear you can get. Again, do not let cost dictate what you purchase. Checkout the Sitka System Builder to help you build a system around your hunt.
- Capable of hauling heavy loads comfortably. Sitka or Mystery Ranch are great choices.
- Sturdy and supportive. Meindl or Kenetrek are my recommendations. Do not forget quality socks. I use Darn Tough wool mountaineering socks and have never gotten a blister.
- If the outfitter recommends you bring a spotting scope, bring one, otherwise focus on getting the best glass you can for your set of binoculars.
- Fire starting cubes, stormproof matches, and moleskin. Once you’ve arrived, your guide will go through your gear with you and weed out the unnecessary pieces.
Realize that if you are doing a backpack hunt, it will most likely be the most physically demanding and challenging endeavor of your life. Preparing for it can take anywhere from five weeks to four months.
- Full body workouts such as deadlifts, squats, power cleans, pull-ups and dips.
- 12 weeks prior to the hunt, begin hiking a local mountain, stairs, or an inclined treadmill in the boots and pack you’ll be hunting with four times a week. Start light and work up to a 60 to 70lb pack. This is the most important part of training. Alternate your cardio days with strength and be sure to take one full day of rest.
- Your training will pay off twice as fast if you eat clean. Also, consume plenty of water daily, approx. one gallon.
- Strength Training
- Realize that if you are doing a backpack hunt, it will most likely be the most physically demanding and challenging endeavor of your life. Preparing for it can take anywhere from five weeks to four months.
- Your mental toughness will be tested on this hunt as you grind out 10+ miles a day in steep, rocky country in the wet, cold weather. The two most mentally challenging experiences I’ve had were being rained and snowed on for 10 straight days on a Stone hunt and being trapped in a two-man tent for 48 hours on a goat hunt. Be ready for anything and expect the unexpected.
Pick a Weapon
- Choose the weapon of your choice in a recommended caliber from the outfitter and begin practicing. You can never be too confident in yourself and your weapon. Shoot and shoot some more. There’s no such thing as too much practice.
Document It All
- Time will go by quickly as you prepare for your hunt and before you know it, you’ll be on the plane to your dream destination. Start documenting the adventure long before this time comes. Take pictures of everything, you’ll be glad you did!
Take It All In
- You are most likely going to be in a place you’ve never been and may never go back to. Again, the hunt will be very physically and mentally challenging. It’s easy to get caught up in the kill, but don’t forget to think about where you are and what it took to get there. Adrenaline highs will make the hikes easier as you begin to see game. You and your guide will feed off each other. Trust his judgment and don’t hesitate to chat him up as he is an endless resource of knowledge and stories. I have made many long-term friends with my guides and you will too.
- The moment I look forward to most, is when you or your guide spot the trophy you’ve been dreaming of. This is the moment that all of your planning and preparation has come down to. As you make the final steps of your stalk, everything seems to fade away as you concentrate on your target. You cannot feel the sun, wind or rain…you’re immersed in that moment.
Hopefully this has provided some insight for you and your next guided hunt. Good luck to everyone who had an adventure planned this season! Here’s to a safe and successful year of hunting.
Photography by Matt Jurad, Mark Seacat and Steven Drake.