A Guide to Guided Hunting
Don't go it alone this hunting season
photo courtesy of northern nh guide services
Hunters can prepare for their outing by breaking in new boots and getting in shape weeks before the season begins.
It’s that time of year. With moose, deer, black bear, birds and more in their crosshairs, sportsmen are headed into New Hampshire’s deep woods in search of game.
Some are hunters who do their homework, passionately spending hours in the woods prior to hunting season to observe wildlife behaviors and get the proverbial lay of the land. But there are also hunters who prefer to let others scout the forest.
That’s where a knowledgeable, licensed guide comes in. Guides can provide a bounty of local information, experience and other necessities like first-aid training and navigation skills. So how do you find the right guide or outfitter for you?
Dave Noyes and brother-in-law Keith Roberge started Northern New Hampshire Guide Services. Noyes recommends that hunters look for licensed guides and outfitters from the local area where they’re hunting. Check references. Talk to area hunting and fishing store representatives too — they can also provide often-candid opinions.
“Talk to the people that have been there,” says Noyes, a police chief.
Guides and outfitters share the same passions as avid outdoorsmen, according to Noyes. What separates a guide from the average hunter is resources and preparation. Guides spend time in the woods observing game, seeing their patterns, and devising plans for the hunt. “Many avid sportsmen do this, but few do it to the level of a guide or an outfitter,” he says.
Plus, guides know local laws and regulations and have insights into various landowners and agencies, often gaining permission to hunt in places not accessible to the public.
While out in the woods, hunters often stay in hunting lodges or camps. There’s everything from grizzled accommodations heated with a woodstove to sweet lodges complete with flat-screen TVs, hot showers, and access to charge and check mobile devices.
Northern New Hampshire Guide Services likes to put hunters in camps near their hunting locations.
“Oftentimes, these remote camps with [few] resources are in the most productive of hunting territories,” says Roberge, a deputy sheriff. “If hunters have the chance to give up some amenities for proximity, most are happy to do so.”
“We guide because we love the experience,” adds Roberge. “The opportunity to meet people from all over the country, and we can hunt every year with a renewed purpose.”
Lifelong hunters and brothers-in-law Keith Roberge and Dave Noyes started a guide service in 2001 that has grown into Northern New Hampshire Guide Services. The two North Country natives are licensed New Hampshire guides with a wealth of experience leading hunts for game such as moose, deer, bear and turkey.
How should I prepare for the hunt?
DN: Be active. The most telling question we ask is if the hunter can walk a mile over varied terrain with moderate breaks. In our pre-hunt questionnaire, hunters should always answer questions like this honestly. Hunters should be walking several times a week. We recommend a walk in the woods with the type of gear they will be wearing at least four weeks prior to their hunt.
What should I bring with me?
DN: Any good guide or outfitter will provide clients with a recommended list of equipment they should bring with them on their hunt. We often warn hunting clients to allow for a “break-in” period for their gear. A good day of hunting can quickly be ruined by painful blisters, ill-fitting clothing, and new and unfamiliar gear.
What if I’m signed up for a multi-day hunt and am successful on the first day?
KR: Being successful on the first day of your hunt means that your guide has done the homework and everything has gone right. Many guided hunters often feel a little remorse for taking a harvest so soon in their hunt. From our perspective, we measure our success on whether you take a successful harvest. We offer other opportunities for clients to take advantage of for the other days following a successful hunt, such as ATV riding, bird or rabbit hunting and sightseeing.
What happens if we’re not successful?
DN: Obviously, a guide or outfitter never wants to see that happen and neither does a paying client. The conversation needs to take place before the hunt as to what to expect from their hunt and what the clients’ expectations are. We often explain that we are all fair-chase hunting in New Hampshire, which means the hunter has no advantage over the free-range wild game they are pursuing. There are no guarantees when you are hunting.
What’s an average day of hunting like?
KR: An average day of hunting typically starts the night before. Getting to know your guide and allowing your guide to get to know you is one of the most important aspects of your hunt. This builds trust and confidence. After all the license, permits and equipment checks are complete, it always starts with an early morning. A good breakfast is key, and a pre-departure from camp check is always a must. Your guide will be taking you to the best place for opportunity. Being flexible as a guide and client is key.