There are thousands of guides and outfitters to choose from, but which ones are the best, which ones can you afford and which ones can you trust. By “trust” I mean trust not only with your money but with your life and your reputation as a hunter. Living in Northern California I have heard many stories of guides who were lacking in experience, flipping drift boats in the Sacramento River and losing their clients and their gear. I have also heard stories of hunters who showed up expecting to hunt animals in a legal environment only to learn after the fact that the guide had been baiting turkeys or pigs. I say “after the fact” because they were approached by a game warden after the hunt. This was a big story in the Redding area a few years ago but fortunately I do not believe this to be common.
Just so we are clear ahead of time. Guides make their living through their guide service. Some do it full time others do it seasonally. For either one, a bad online review could destroy their business and for that reason I will not give any guide a bad review by name. I may allude to the area or service he provides but will not call him out by name. My trip with him may have been a fluke and all his other clients may have been super pleased with his business. And besides that guides have good days and bad days just like me and you. That day there may have been no pigs on the ranch or maybe we just didn’t get any ducks to come in. Well that’s why it's called hunting and not grocery shopping. Sometimes a guide can bust his back all day for a client and when it comes down to the end of the day the only shot on a deer or pig comes along and the client misses, but blames it on the guide.
Fishing trips are notorious for good day bad day trips. A client comes up to fish on a Monday and just can’t go wrong, the fish are biting on everything he throws in the water, he has a wonderful time and goes home happy. The next day the same guy could show up and fish the exact same spots at the same time with the same flies and eat the same sandwich at the same spot and not even get one single fish to bite. It's just the way things go. Guided hunting and fishing trips are a gamble. It's a risk you take but it doesn’t hurt for you to research your hunting choices and look for good honest reviews to stack the odds in your favor.
If I go hunting with a guide whether or not I am paying for it or it was provided I will be honest with you and tell you how the hunting trip or fishing trip went. I will be honest and tell you the cost of the trip, the lodging and food costs and how to save money. I will tell you if the hunt was physically challenging or if anyone could do it. I will be honest about the amount of animals we saw the success ratio and I will tell you how to contact the guide and the best times of the year to go. If by chance the hunting or fishing trip is a disaster I will tell you that too. If the guide overcharged me or took advantage of me I will state that as well. Why because the guide needs to know as well. I will try to provide you with as much information as I can to help you have a good time and please remember it never costs you anything to read by blog so it's free information, what can it hurt.
Research is your friend.
The more you can do the better. I wish I had done some research on a guide before I wasted my time a few years back. It was in January towards a particularly bad waterfowl season during one of the drought years. We decided to attend the Sportsman’s Expo in Sacramento, a friend of mine and his wife started talking to a guide from the Klamath Falls Oregon area. It was actually the guide’s wife behind the booth at the show, they began gabbing and I didn’t think much of it but they were talking about a waterfowl hunt. A few weeks later my friend’s wife approached me and said she had set up a hunt for her husband for his birthday. It was a late season goose hunt, cost was $500.00 bucks a person for a two day goose hunt. Apparently the guide’s wife told her it was the best time of the year to hunt geese. It was the late season with liberal bag limits on Snow Geese and Specks and the geese would be on the return migration and the skies would be filled with geese and to take plenty of shells. We would be doing most of hunt out of a boat so it would be a physically easy hunt for anyone. This was especially enticing to me because I had just spent a full duck season in California standing in the refuges in knee deep to waist deep water and slogging a mile out and back with gun decoy bag and gear so the thought of sitting in a duck boat and being driving to the guides hot spot sat very well with me. So I thought to myself that this would be the perfect hunt to close out a tough year “I’m in!” Well zero research was done on the guide and the guy is actually very well known in the area as it turned out so I could have learned many things just doing some checks online and reading a few reviews, well I didn’t do any research and it came back to bite me.
About two weeks later we loaded up the travel trailer and headed north loaded down with shotgun shells, and several empty ice chests we were in the mood to slay some geese. We arrived at the KOA in Klamath Falls and called the guide and left a message that we had arrived. We waiting on the phone call most the evening we finally went to bed. The guide called late that night and told us some obscure intersection to meet him at east of town at about 4:00 AM. We traveled out there and arrived at the intersection to find another hunter from Washington State just as eager as were but also wondering why we were there. Within a few minutes the guide showed up. He was driving a large pick up and towing a big duck boat loaded with about 6 or 8 bags of goose decoys, “Woohoo” I thought now were going hunting. “Follow me” he says and off we go, and go and go. After about a 20 minute drive we stop and he opens a gate and we drive into what was later learned to be a public area. We followed him through the gate and traveled over this hill the road mostly disappeared into this dry pasture. He tells us to park the vehicles there and walk behind his vehicle to the area we were going to set up. We walked about a quarter mile to the edge of a lake. Then he tells us we need to set up the decoys so he tells us where he wants them and we start setting up.
Now I don’t mind setting up decoys. I actually kind of enjoy it. But the guy wouldn’t explain anything to us and was extremely short with his answers. After the guide and the three of us set up the decoys along the edge of the lake and out into the water the guide says okay go get your gear. I was confused about the set up and asked him, how we were hunting it. And he said we would be standing in the tules off the edge of the shore. I began to get irritated and I asked “how deep is it out there”. My friend he is only about 5’5” on a good day and I just don’t like standing all day in tules. He said “about waist deep”. Mind you this guy is well over 6 foot tall. So now we walk all the way back to the vehicle, I’m getting somewhat irritated and my friend he is steamed by now. The guy from Washington State he is also getting a little upset because he thought he paid for a two day 1 on 1 guided goose hunt in a boat and we thought we had paid for a 2 day 2 on 1 guided goose hunt out of a boat without any other hunters with us. I usually try to make the best of a bad situation and so we all just hung in there. As shoot time approached we all waded out into the tules about 20 minutes before shooting light. No marsh seats or as we call them out west tule seats or tule stools. You just had to stand there in water belt buckle high my friend had to stop about three quarters of the way there and squeeze himself into a small patch of tules because it was just getting too deep for him.
We all spread out, all four hunters. I say four hunters because the guide was actually hunting too. Well come daylight the shooting started, at least that’s what I would like to say. Altogether 3 birds were shot, the only three that came over all morning. One by the guide, one by the guy from Washington and one by me, even though the guide said the guy from Washington shot the bird but he said he didn’t shoot. Come about 9:30 or so the sun was out the birds were flying and the guide was ready to leave, yes the guide was ready to leave even though the birds were up and moving and after only about maybe 2.5 to 3 hours of hunting. We all figured we were loading up to go set up in a different place. We all left following him and he ended up pulling into a small gas station restaurant type place and parking out front. We were all ready for him to give us the game plan for the rest of the morning or when to meet up for the evening hunt. Instead he told us to meet him at the same intersection in the morning. I even asked him why we weren’t going out that afternoon and he wouldn’t say anything about it just said it would be better the next day. Depressed we went back into town.
While in Klamath Falls we went to a couple of sporting good type places, gun shops and Wal-Mart. We asked around about our guide and learned that we should have researched him before hand. We could not find any positive reports on him. Even the lady working the sporting good counter told us about several people who had bad experiences with him.
The next day we met the guide at the same intersection. We drove to an agricultural area and had to walk about a half mile behind his truck and boat trailer. We noticed that the decoy bags were rearranged from the day before. As we began to set up next to this river along the edge of the field in the dark you could hear the geese in the river flying out. I have been hunting waterfowl for years and I know you don’t run birds off when you’re setting up because they won’t come back till dark. Then the guy from Washington State tells me that the guide admitted that he had another group hunting this same spot the evening before (same day we hunted the lake and on the day we had paid for) and they had done real well. This really began to irritate me, the guide double dipping on clients is somewhat common like when he double dipped by adding our hunt with Mr. Washington State without our knowledge but now he was taking hunters out on the evening we had thought we paid for but he told us it wouldn't be any good so not only was he double-double dipping he lied to us the day before.
Well we ended up having to not only set up all the decoys we also ended up having to pull grass from the edge of the river bank to camouflage the four layout blinds while he drove the truck and boat back to the parking area. Come day break a few geese came over high, then later some came in low. Every time the geese came in low he would start blowing on his speck call and the geese would flair off. It was just terrible then Washington State guy starts shooting some high birds, high but still in range. Guide starts yelling at him to stop shooting they’re too high. We finally all got fed up with his calling and told him to stop. Then it really gets bad. Somebody dropped a speck that sailed about 150 yards across the river. I clear fall and easy retrieve for any seasoned bird dog. The guide sends his dog and he crosses the creek and picks up the bird. Turns around and looks at the guide. The dog then begins to rip and tear this bird apart and eats the breast off the bird before the guide can get to him. The dog eventually comes back with the bird and this is the part that just did it for me. If you have ever had hunting dogs this occasionally happens. Sometimes it's an untrained dog or a young dog. But this was a frustrated dog that was not only frustrated but untrained. He had not made a clean retrieve all day now he was acting up. The guide instead of calming down apologizing for the dog and then reinforcing his training he made a bad thing worse and beat the dog and actually held the dog down and bit him on the ear. That’s when the hunt ended for me. As a person who just loves dogs and knows what to do when a dog messes up it just made me furious. The hunt was basically over for the morning and apparently for the day after about 3 maybe 4 hours. A total of about 5 and half birds (minus one breast) after we loaded up we tried to talk to the guide and find out what was going on and where we would hunt that afternoon but before we could he actually loaded up his truck and just drove off leaving us and Mr. Washington State on the private property scratching our heads. No afternoon hunt no “thank you for the business,” nothing at all just gone.
The point I am trying to make by telling this long story is this a little Research would have saved me a lot of money and a lot of anger and disappointment. We spent just the two of us $1000.00 to hunt geese for two days and with the addition of Mr. Washington State adding his $500 for two days it was $1500.00 for 3 people for 3 days, that’s $250.00 a day for one person. That is a good deal, if the birds are flying, the guide is doing his job and setting up and calling properly and he is providing a service above and beyond you just walking out, setting up your own birds on public land. The kicker to me was the promise of hunting out of a boat and then the hunt changing from one guided and two hunters (2 on 1) being changed to 3 X 1 with the third hunter being a stranger to the other 2 hunters. There were other small things that also happened on this hunt that are too trivial to list but it did add to the dissatisfaction. Again my point being, all I had to do was read a review on yelp or ask him a few questions before committing to the hunt.
On the other hand my wife and daughter bought me a pig hunt for my birthday with a guide out of Willows California. We didn’t get a pig and as a matter of fact we didn’t even see a pig but I have written a very nice review on him because although we didn’t even see a hog he went above and beyond when it came to effort, affordability, appreciation of the client and professionalism.
Questions to ask your guide before committing to your hunt
The questions I have may differ from yours, everyone is different. But make a list of questions before you even call a guide to help you determine who you want to hunt with and where. Most of these questions are generalized and deal with a waterfowl hunt or deer hunt but they can also pertain to a fishing trip as well. If you start asking your guide questions and he sounds anything but happy to answer it would be a big red flag, just go down your list to some other guide who is willing to answer your questions and appreciates your business.
What are your rates? Is that based on a day 8 to 10 hours or just a morning hunt?
How long is the hunt? Is it a morning only or morning and afternoon/evening?
How much work are you and your fellow hunters expected to do prior to the hunt and when the hunt is over? Setting up decoys in a field is somewhat expected. Brushing up blinds and carrying bags of decoys to the field and doing the manual labor for the guide is not expected.
If you reserve a hunt and you are unable to attend is the deposit refundable or are you allowed to reschedule?
If you have a disabled hunter with you how accommodating are they? For example if you’re hunting with an elder and it's a duck hunt, can the elder make the walk to and from the blind? Is the elder able to get out of the blind when it's over? Is there a port a potty nearby or at the least a large bush?
I'm not a smoker but if you smoke you better ask if you can smoke in the blind? Most guides don’t allow smoking in their blinds because the blind material soaks up all the smoke and it stinks like a wet ashtray.
Can you bring your own food? Always bring you own food and sneak it to the blind anyway. Some guides consider saltine crackers and sardines lunch.
Can you bring your own dog? Most guides will not allow you to bring your own dog. Even if it's a proven hunter. They usually have their own dog and two strange dogs around a duck blind is a recipe for a dog fight.
Always ask what their success rate is. Especially if it's a pig hunt. Many guides will state that they have a 100% success rate. Find out what their meaning of success is. It often changes from 100% success to 100% opportunity. Meaning the client could have shot an animal but either chose not to, because it was too small, too far or was not a safe or ethical shot or the client just plain missed. If the guide says that it's a 100% for sure that you will actually shoot a pig find out if he gives refunds if you don’t. I am always skeptical of guides who say they have a 100% success rate on any animal, hunting usually just isn’t that good anywhere unless there is an over abundance of animals or there is food or bait somewhere close by.
Find out what your job is or what you do while in the blind? This goes for waterfowl and turkeys or any kind of blind hunting. I know of waterfowl guide who takes clients out to his blinds, they walk out in the dark. They get in the blinds and cover up. Close the blind flaps. In other words they are inside the blind sitting mostly in the dark. They can’t look around or spot birds. They sit down in there until the guide tells them to stand up and shoot. As soon at the birds are collected they sit back down in the blind and wait. I would not like that kind of a hunt. I like to be more involved and do my own calling and look for birds.
If your fly fishing ask if they furnish the gear. If they do that is a big bonus. You can leave your gear at home and enjoy using a top quality rod and other gear.
Trophy Fees will bite you in the rear. Some guides offer some low prices to get you there. With a Trophy Fee attached should you kill a big hog or big buck. Find out what a trophy hog is first. Some guides consider a trophy hog anything with 2 inch long tusks (teeth) or longer a trophy and that is commonly considered a trophy but shooting a pig with 2 ½ inch long teeth is very common. Sows and boars both can sport 2 inch teeth very easy so I would say 3 inches would be an actual trophy pig. Most guides in California consider a 4 point buck (4 x 4 western count) a trophy blacktail or mule deer. This is a big misconception. I have shot 4 pt bucks both mule and blacktail that don’t come close to being a big buck so when they add trophy fees ask what a trophy is in their opinion not yours.
Cleaning and Pack-out fees are also common. The guide may have a cheap hunt but an extra charge for cleaning the animal. Some guides include pack-out in the price but if the terrain is rough they may have to call in a couple of teenage boys to pack out your kill sometimes its included sometimes its extra in either case remember them when you tip.
If you’re staying overnight and hunting the next day check into lodging before asking the guide what it costs to stay there or stay on site. Usually you can grab a motel room and eat a sensible meal in town a lot cheaper than staying at his “lodge” or having his wife make you dinner.
Tips, would you Tip a waitress if the food was bad but the service was excellent? Sure you would. Same for a guide if they bust their butts for you remember it when Tip Time comes. Even if you don't get an animal if the guide did his job you should Tip. Except when the guide tells you its a 100% success rate for sure your gonna get a pig or deer or whatever and you don't see one or get a shot! Why? Well would you tip a waitress if she never brought you the food you paid for? The exception to this is Fishing Trips, the fish are there you just didn't catch any, that's not the guides fault
NOTE: As of June 2018 I decided to remove several guide reviews of guides that were either no longer in business or whose business practices I disagreed with. If you are a guide and would like an honest review from an unbiased person click on the contact me link of the main page and shoot me a note. Warning, I will be honest about your business and promise not to reveal your trade secrets or secret spots.
PLEASE REMEMBER TO TELL YOUR GUIDE THAT YOU HEARD ABOUT THEM OR THEIR REVIEW THROUGH MY SITE, NORCALHUNTER.COM
FLY FISHING GUIDE
Kyncy Guide Service
I really can’t say enough positive things about this crew. It's a somewhat complicated story about how we met. But the next thing I knew we were fishing on the Sacramento River as it winds its way through Redding California. Brian provided the rods reels and flies as well as the years of knowledge and experience that you would expect a guide to have. I have lived in the Redding area for 25 years or so. I have fished the Sacramento River countless times. I have caught a lot of trout out of this river but all small or midsized trout, nothing worth writing home about. 20 minutes with Brian and I had already caught a trophy rainbow and throughout the trip it was nothing but fly fishing happiness.
My wife who has never even fly fished went with us that day to give it a try. She caught her first trophy trout on a fly and has now become a fly fishing addict. He explained many of the things I had been doing wrong and gave me some tips that made the trip easier and more successful. I have been out with him a couple more times since then even went on a trip with his son on the Sacramento River and they never fail to impress me. They use a drift boat, they operate the boat safely, they are pleasant to be around and they appreciate their clients. They are professional in all ways and provide an excellent service. I will not quote their rates because they have several different types of trips to offer so there are too many to mention but there is a link below to access their webpage to get current rates. The trip was not physically challenging at all. Any person of any age can do it and if you have a physical disability I am sure they could work with you. We did catch several trophy fish. Not a lot of small fish which was preferable to me.
There are multiple motels in the area but Redding has some good areas and some not so good areas. Any motel on Hilltop Drive will work, La Quinta, Best Western or Holiday Inn, this area I mentioned has several restaurants within walking distance or your motel room and your only 10 minutes from most launch ramps in the Redding area. There are some camping areas but I would not suggest it. They are just a little too far from town and in Redding when the fly fishing is good it’s usually just too hot to camp. It will be 112 degrees in the shade in the daytime and at night it’s still 95 degrees and that is just too hot to sleep and camp out. In the winter it gets bone chilling cold and it just doesn’t make sense to camp out. Unless you have an RV and there are several RV parks in the area. But if it’s you and your wife why not just make a weekend of it and stay in a nice room, eat good food, take a hot shower and enjoy few drinks at the motel bar. She will appreciate it more and will want to come back again.
Kyncy Guide Service offers more than just guided fishing trips on the Sac. They also guide on the Trinity River and offer guided turkey hunts, guided deer hunts, and guided bear hunting. They also have a guide service in Alaska so give them a call and have a quality outdoor experience.
PIG HUNTING GUIDE
ACORN RIDGE OUTFITTERS
A few years ago my wife and daughter bought me a guided pig hunt for my birthday. Now I have hunted a lot of pigs but recently I had been in a slump. Some things had happened in my life that had brought me down and I was in one of those moods where you start questioning whether or not you should continue hunting or just slip into the retired hunter mode. Well I think they had noticed that so when February rolled around I was surprised to open a card with a note stating that I was going on a guided pig hunt. Now as a very manly hunter who always does his share while hunting with others and never shows up low on cash, lacking enthusiasm or fails to pack in or out their own gear, this kind of set bad with me. It made me feel like I wasn’t a young tough guy anymore, to tell the truth it made me feel old. But I also knew a good opportunity when I see one. By the end of my birthday, I was all in and happy to give it a chance.
My wife she can be a real pain in the butt sometimes and sometimes she does things that make me just shake my head in disbelief, then there are those other times when I realize I have been the pain in the butt and she is looking at me like I have a unicorn horn growing out of my forehead because I have said or done something completely stupid or had a “man moment” or an over explanation commonly referred to as “mansplaining”. But where she can’t be beat is getting a good deal on something. She has no problem at all asking for discounts using coupons or sitting in line for hours to get a good deal. Me on the other hand not so much. So she had called this guide and he gave her the price of 500.00 a day to hunt a pig. She explained to him that I was a veteran and before you know it I guess she had this guy down to $400.00 a day for a guided pig hunt, including breakfast and lunch with no trophy fees or any additional costs. That my friend is a good price for a wild pig hunt in California. It’s actually about the lowest I haveheard of in recent years. Sure I have heard of trespass fees around $150.00 or a hunt for $300.00 but then if you shoot a pig with tusks larger than 2 inches it’s an additional trophy fee of $200.00 or $300.00 bucks. But not with this guy he was totally strait with me and said it’s a $400.00 flat fee for the day. If we get a hog we get a hog if we don’t we don’t no refunds if we don’t and no trophy fees if we do.
The following week I met him at a local airport in Willows California at about 5:00 am where we had breakfast and went over the paperwork and rules of the hunt. Then I followed him to his hunting lease west of Willows. When we got there we unloaded his side by side ATV loaded up and began the hunt. This was actually my first experience hunting out of an ATV for an entire hunt and to tell the truth I liked it. Just tootling along enjoying the ride wearing warm clothing and waiting for Mr. Pork to show his ugly face so we could blast him to kingdom come. Unfortunately it just didn’t work out for us. We hunted that place from sun up to dark and didn’t see a single pig. We did see rooting and tracks and you could tell that the pigs had been there within about the last three days with the exception of one set of tracks that were very fresh from the night before but you could tell this pig was on a mission and was going straight across the property to some smorgasbord of worms and fungi or to some heavenly pig place but wherever it was it wasn’t on this ranch. At the end of the day we didn’t score on even one single pig. I was discouraged because the guide had said that he had seen pigs regularly and we didn’t see even one little piglet so this didn’t sit very well with me.
Although we didn’t get anything or even see a pig I have to recommend this guy as an excellent guide. You may disagree with me but let me explain why. All guides talk up there services if they didn’t they wouldn’t be in business very long. So even though we didn’t see anything this guy really tried hard. He showed up on time, he provided breakfast and lunch and he really busted his butt to try and get me a pig. He would walk through and push almost every canyon for me and search every brush patch trying to kick a pig out. He walked and walked and really beat the brush for me while I sat in whatever designated spot waiting for my shot. Now that being said its still called “Hunting” not “Grocery Shopping” and some days you get a shot and some days you just don’t it’s that simple. He also gave me a “Full Day” of hunting and not just a half day and half effort.
The only thing I would ding this guy on is that if and I say “if” he had not been seeing any pigs in the area maybe he should have rescheduled the hunt for a later date. If you want a nice relaxed hunt where you can just ride around in an ATV and shoot a pig this might be a hunt you would like. Especially if you are a disabled person who can’t hike and need to shoot from a vehicle or stay near a vehicle. When you schedule make sure he is currently seeing pigs in the area and ask him if he will reschedule you if they start to thin out before you arrive.
If your looking for someone to do an honest review of your guide service drop me a note by clicking on the "Contact Me" tab on the front page or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org