Arizona has many licensed Hunting and Fishing Guides that are highly experienced and offer quality services to the public. Still, each year the Arizona Game and Fish Department receives complaints from the public about substandard service, bad experiences, or breached contracts between hunting and fishing guides and their clients. All prospective guide clients must realize that contractual obligations are a civil matter between the clients and the guides and there is usually little the department can do when there is a breach of contract. The department usually limits its involvements with the guiding industry in Arizona to matters of license administration and law enforcement if a violation is committed. The department does not keep a record of civil complaints levied against guides nor does the department endorse, recommend, or sponsor guides. It is usually left up to the prospective client to seek out and hire a quality licensed hunting or fishing guide in Arizona.
The following is a list of tips, tricks, and recommendations that a prospective client should consider when seeking a prospective guide to hire. The list has been formulated from years of experience of dealing with the hunting and fishing guide industry in Arizona. The list is not an all-inclusive listing of considerations when seeking a licensed guide, but it is a pretty good start. Prospective clients should carefully read through this section and consider the recommendations. The ideas presented have the strong potential to head-off trouble down the road and ensure that the guided excursion is a positive experience.
- When seeking a quality guide talk to trusted family, friends, or associates who have gone on recent guided hunting or fishing trips. Word of mouth advertising from a trusted source is always a good way to begin a search for services.
- Visit a hunting guide specialty website offering various professional guide services. Also be sure to visit the prospective guide’s website for further information about the services offered. But, be wary of selecting a licensed guide solely by looking at flashy pamphlets, advertisements, or websites as they can be misleading. Be sure to be thorough in your research.
- In your quest for a licensed guide, be sure to contact multiple local guides prior to making a final decision on who to hire.
- Be wary about asking a licensed guide to recommend another local guide. Because of severe competition in the industry, the reference may be misleading or untruthful.
- Ask a potential guide for a list of past client references. References can be an invaluable source for gaining an understanding of the guide's demeanor and skills, as well as investigating hunting or fishing successes and results. Be sure to contact a number of references in order to get the “big picture”. Be wary of prospective guides who do not offer a list of references **Note: the Game and Fish Department does not endorse, recommend, or sponsor any Arizona licensed guide or guide service.
- Verify that your guide is fully licensed within the state and in the category of activity you plan on doing. Many guides are licensed in one area specifically, such as fishing, hunting or recreation. Arizona licensed guides can be queried on this website under the “Current Licensed Guide” section. This section is separated by Fishing, Hunting, and combo Fishing and Hunting Guides. Also, be sure to verify that your prospective guide has the proper federal permits and insurance if the guided trip is to be conducted on federal lands (U.S. Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management). If hired, demand to see the actual permit credentials prior to going into the field. Licensed Guides in Arizona are required to carry these credentials when guiding clients.
- Query the local Better Business Bureau website for comments or complaints about a particular guide or guide service (Note: the Game and Fish Department does not keep a listing of complaints levied against guides).
- Have a few conversations with a prospective guide to see whether your personalities mesh. If possible, meet with the prospective guide in person prior to booking the hunting or fishing trip. If you clash with your guide, your hunting trip can go from joyous to sour in short order. Be sure you will enjoy sharing multiple days with the guide you hire.
- Do your homework and be knowledgeable about the area in which you wish to hunt or fish and the types and quality of animals sought. Compare notes with a prospective guide to see if the information they provide is consistent with your knowledge or what you have learned. Some Guides specialize in guiding in specific areas and for specific species. Question the prospective Guide to ensure that he is familiar with your area of interests and animals sought.
- Communicate clearly to your prospective guide what you expect from your hunting or fishing trip and overall experience. Outline in detail what type of experience you wish to have, such as a remote hunts, horse pack trips, or daily lodging with full facilities. Many guides specialize in remote excursions or the use of livestock. If camping, clearly communicate your desires for levels of service in the camp such as food type and quality, cooking, and cleaning. Also communicate what your desires are for an acceptable animal or trophy. It is also advisable to clearly communicate your level of involvement during the excursion. For example, some clients wish to be fully involved with the experience (assisting in cleaning and packing out an animal), whereas other clients wish the guide to provide those services. Outline what is expected before booking a guide.
- Have a thorough understanding of who will actually be guiding you prior to booking a guide service. In many instances the person who you talk to on the phone may not be the person who actually guides you on your trip. Many guide services utilize booking agents who “sell” the guided trip on the phone, internet, or e-mail, then hire sub-contractor guides to actually guide the client. Always inquire if a guided excursion will utilize a sub-guide (Note: Sub-guides also need to be properly licensed as a guide) you should insist on talking to and/or screening the sub-guide prior to booking a guide service.
- Discuss with your prospective guide every aspect that will be included in the package price for his services. Make sure that you are both clear on every included detail and are in firm agreement on the price and services offered and expected. Always, always, always have a signed written contract when booking a trip, which outlines each detail offered, promised, or expected on the excursion. It is recommended that the contract should also include method of payment (cash or check), terms of payment (up front deposits, guaranteed kills, trophy fees, etc.), and tips for good service. Terms for cancelations or refunds should also be outlined in the contract. Be wary of cash-only deals with no paperwork. It is also advisable to demand a written receipt once the trip is completed.
- Be realistic and have obtainable goals. Realize that many factors can affect hunting or fishing trips including things, such as inclement weather, that are beyond the control of the guide. Be sure that you are not asking your prospective guide for something unreasonable or unobtainable.
- If bird hunting, ask a potential guide whether they offer hunting dog services. Hunting guides usually have highly trained, experienced hunting dogs that will assist you during your hunt.