Winter is settling in. With snow piled high, waters frozen over and most hunting seasons ended, outdoors folks in Maine are limited to drilling holes in the ice or harassing hares and coyotes. In a typical year we’d be anxiously awaiting trade show season, where we can stroll the aisles browsing all the latest and greatest in hunting and fishing gear, talk face-to-face with outfitters and maybe book that dream hunt.

Alas, that’s not likely to happen this year. With many shows already canceled and most – if not all – likely to follow, it looks like we’re stuck inside with a few virtual shows to fuel our angst. It’s an inconvenience for sportsmen, but represents a real financial hardship for guides and outfitters whose annual income depends on shows and the trips they book there. They need us now more than ever, so if you’re looking for ways to spend your stimulus check, consider booking a guided hunt.

Whether you’re a novice or hardened veteran, there’s no shame in hiring a guide. In fact, there are some distinct advantages to paid hunts. First and foremost, your guide knows the land and the animals that live on it. As any serious hunter will tell you, there’s an inverse correlation between scouting time and hunting time. The more you spend on the former, the less you’ll need for the latter; but it’s hard to scout if you don’t live there.

Game animals sometimes form patterns that your guides have learned. You may only have five or six days to hunt, and you could easily spend half that time just learning the lay of the land on a do-it-yourself hunt. A guide, on the other hand, can put you in a good location right out of the gate. They know which funnels and windrows the deer travel on most often, or where the elk, mule deer or antelope go to water in the afternoon.

The animals may break those patterns and MRI – most-recent information – can be an invaluable time saver. The deer may have shifted from oak ridges to bean fields, or to a recently cut cornfield. A recent cold front may have pushed ducks down into the flooded timber. Bears may have abandoned berry fields in favor of spawning streams.

Cost is certainly a consideration, but need not be prohibitive. You get what you pay for and if you have the means, then by all means go for the best. If funds are limited, consider options like semi-guided hunts or drop camps. Even in the latter case outfitters are usually willing to point you in the right direction.

Logistics must also be taken into consideration. An out-of-state bow hunt usually involves tree stands. You can’t take them on the plane so you’ll have to drive to your destination, then scout and put up your stands. A waterfowl hunt requires dogs, decoys and often boats. You can tow a trailer halfway across the country or simply show up with a shotgun and a duffel bag full of clothes.

If you’re successful, you’ll have game to deal with, which might mean bringing along enough ice and coolers to get it back. An outfitter, on the other hand, might process on site, or have local contacts. Even hunters near home often ask for the name of a reputable processor or taxidermist. Outfitters generally have one or two they work with on a regular basis, that they trust.

It may be a bit more challenging, and less comfortable than a personal meeting, but guides and outfitters are working to make the process easier by building social media pages and websites, and they’re always willing to talk over the phone. In some instances it may be even easier now to get and contact references, which you should do. Increasingly more outfitters are also using referral pages like Trip Advisor for recommendations.

So if you’re looking for something to do on a cold, winter’s day, get online and start searching. Pick a destination or two. Search the state websites for information on licenses, permits and hunting success rates. Then peruse the lists and websites of guides and outfitters. You may even be able to realize some significant discounts by booking early.

Bob Humphrey is a freelance writer, registered Maine guide and certified wildlife biologist who lives in Pownal. He can be reached at:

[email protected]

Related Headlines


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.