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justin_baker
05-21-2011, 07:37 PM
Has anyone been successful in becoming a wilderness or hunting guide? Is it a reasonable thing to aspire to as a profession or is it hard for someone to start something like that?
Are there any credible institutions that would actually mean something to a company that wanted to employ me or my business? I know there are lots of schools out there, but I think I would need some kind of degree if I wanted to find any work. Are there companies out there who need wilderness guides to help their other employees on research expeditions?
I am seriously thinking about what I want to do as a job. Getting myself out there and actually getting people to pay me to lead recreational or professional expeditions sounds tough. And I am nowhere near that kind of skill. Becoming a Hunting guide also sounds interesting, but I imagine it would take huge skill set that is not easy to obtain.
Anyways, does anyone have an experience or advice on this sort of thing? It's either this or working in forestry or wildlife biology.

TheGeoSquirrel
05-21-2011, 08:40 PM
Most of the guides I know either grew up doing it with their father and took over the business or are retired Game and Fish officers.

x39
05-21-2011, 09:27 PM
Here in Maine, the state licenses guides. One has to pass a written exam to qualify. There are study courses to help those who wish to take the test, such as the one given here: www.finsandfursadventures.com
Now in my view, it takes a bit more than just a written test to make a real guide.....
Anyway, I know some guys that make a living at it, and some others that do it part time. There's definitely a market for the skill.

goldman
05-21-2011, 09:33 PM
tomahawk would probably be the guy to talk to but I don't think hes on here all that much these days.

Iz
05-21-2011, 09:34 PM
If I had it to do all over again I'd sing up with the Air Force, get a slot for sere specialist school and do my best to graduate.
If you make it through you can pretty much write your own ticket working as a private contractor when you get out. Lots of job opportunities for that kind of specialty in the world today.
Plus while you're in you get paid to be in the woods. It's a win win.

Malamute
05-21-2011, 09:46 PM
Try asking Dog Paddle, a member here. He's a hunting guide and outfitter in Montana.

I've known a few guides and outfitters. Some don't know a lot, some do. You can get in the business by working for an outfitter, and learning what it's all about, gaining experience and working your way up. I don't think any of the guys I know had formal training or education other than mountain time and on the job training. Most were decent hunters, horsemen and outdoorsmen to start with, learning how to deal with people and what's needed to achieve your goals on your trips is part of wnat you learn. A good guide can probably guide about anywhere, some are just good in their home ground. I knew a guy around here that went to work for a guide service in Alaska for a few seasons and did fine, same for a couple fishing guides from Az. All the outfitters and guides I know of in the Rockies use horses.

You can check with State Guides and Outfitters Associations for work opportunities in the respective states. Everyone has to start somewhere.

Many lodges also outfit anf guide, it can be a good way to get started. You may start out with day rides with tourists, then work up to overnight or longer summer trips, and hunting trips that may be weeks on end out in the mountains in camp with different hunters coming in thru the season. I knew one gal that worked the hunting camps in the Yukon Territory in Canada, the hunt area was 200 miles from the end of the roads. They had to ride the horses in before the season, get camp in order, the hunters and supplires would be flown in by plane. I think she said she stayed out in camp for several months. They then had to ride all the horses back out before the trails were snowed in for the winter. I believe she was cooking and general camp help, but she was able to hunt while she was there also. She sent me a picture of a nice Bighorn she shot one year. She had other work thru the winter and til next mid-late summer when she'd go out again.

jloden
05-21-2011, 10:03 PM
Has anyone been successful in becoming a wilderness or hunting guide? Is it a reasonable thing to aspire to as a profession or is it hard for someone to start something like that?
Are there any credible institutions that would actually mean something to a company that wanted to employ me or my business? I know there are lots of schools out there, but I think I would need some kind of degree if I wanted to find any work.

If you're serious about doing it as a career and/or course of study, NOLS (http://www.nols.edu/) would be a great place to investigate. They offer what is probably the most comprehensive collection or outdoor educational programs designed for exactly the type of opportunities you're asking about.

nothinghead
05-21-2011, 10:09 PM
I second NOLS. The community college in Calais Maine offers a program that included classes to prepare you for the guide tests as well as classes gears towards running a business and other classes useful towards this goal.

OnTheLambWildman
05-21-2011, 10:09 PM
I checked into it but that was about 12 years ago. It seemed like the only way in was to know someone. I talked to some rude snotty people in Colorado who wouldn't give me the time of day or a straight answer but who knows maybe it's changed.

x39
05-21-2011, 10:17 PM
The community college in Calais Maine offers a program
Good call on that one! The University of Maine at Machias has an outdoor rec program as well. Rick Scribner, the guy who runs it, is a friend of mine. Should have thought of it, your post reminded me. Thanks.

nothinghead
05-21-2011, 10:24 PM
I feel like I know a Rick Scribner. The name at least. Are you downeast then?

x39
05-21-2011, 10:27 PM
Are you downeast then?
Ayuh! ;)

redoleary
05-22-2011, 07:00 AM
I have a friend who took a semester in Alaska last summer/fall. I don't recall the name of the school (lot of help that does) but it wasn't NOLS or Outward Bound. To get to the point I believe it is an accredited school and it teaches all the guide stuff, first aid, team work, problem solving, hiking, rafting, &c. &c. I honestly don't think she'd recommend the school she went to but she got a scholarship to pay for some of it. I would imagine a good first step would be taking a semester at NOLS and maybe some unaccredited bushcraft courses just to beef up the CV. BTW forgive me if its been asked, but what kind of guide do you want to be, hunting, canoeing , hiking?
Good luck on whatever you do.

jmbushcraft
05-22-2011, 10:15 AM
Hi Justin,

I've worked as a guide and outdoor educator since the late 1990's. Like many of the other posters have said, you need to figure out what type of guiding you want to do, as well as where.

Most guides are licensed by the state where they work. And while a degree would be helpful for getting any type of work, it isn't a prerequisite for guiding. A license, acquired by passing one or a series of tests, is.

If you're considering a guide training school, it would be good to consider going to one in the region you plan to work. You'll learn about the industry at any of them, but the contacts you make are just as important for finding work.

In Maine where I'm at they have separate tests for the different categories of licenses: hunting, fishing, recreation, sea kayaking, tidwater (saltwater) fishing, and white water rafting. Some other types of guiding aren't run by states but by organizations, with one that comes to mind being the American Mountain Guides Association. They license people for climbing and mountaineering activities. I'm not sure if there are state licenses that you'd need to obtain as well for this type of work.

There are also other organizations that offer certifications in their specific activities, with an example being the American Canoe Association.

If you go chasing after all of the certifications available it will take a lot of time and money. Once you figure out where and what you're interested in, find out the minimum standards for licensing and go from there.

One certification you should definitely plan on pursueing is becoming a Wilderness First Responder. While you don't need a degree to work outdoors, you do need some medical training and this two week course is considered the industry minimum/standard.

Taking care of other people outdoors is a different animal than taking care of yourself.

Check out Gil Gilpatrick's book, the Outdoor Leaders Handbook (http://www.gilgilpatrick.com/outdoor-leaders.html), for a good text about guiding in the northeast.

redmech
05-22-2011, 10:35 AM
My 2 cents,
My father owns a flyshop on the White River in Northern Arkansas. The flyfishing guides that work for him, do not particularly have a degree. Most of them have followed a passion for trout fishing and especially flyfishing. They have done it for a long time and read and practice their craft alot. To be an expert just takes practice, knowledge, lots of reading, and most important passion. Now some of them are in their mid twenties, but have done it since they were knee hight to a grasshopper, still have 15 years expeirence.
Ross,

justin_baker
05-24-2011, 12:31 AM
Thanks for all the advice guys, and sorry for the slow response.
I would really want to guide recreational hiking or expedition trips. Take city folk who want a real wilderness experience and look after them and show them all the cool places. Hunting guiding sound interesting as well. I also think I would do great with teens, so things like the boy scouts, outward bound, ect sound interesting.
Do you think that there are any hunting guides out there who would take someone on as an "apprentice" or "assistant"? Just haul gear and dress out animals while I am still learning the ropes?
I will check out NOLS, I have already read a little bit on their site. Obviously, I need some pretty heavy duty qualifications for first aid, navigation, rescue, ect. That is the straight forward part, but getting into the market sounds difficult. What are the biggest states or areas for guiding? I do hear a lot about big game hunting guides in the midwest or in Alaska.

The SERE training sounds very interesting, but I just know that I could never function well in a military setting and I doubt you get ultimate choice in that sort of thing.

redmech
05-24-2011, 05:43 AM
I don't know how old you are, but if you are/were in scouts. I think you have to be an eagle scout, you can be a ranger at Philmont scout ranch if a person met all the qualifications. That would look good on a resume and be good training.

saxon
05-24-2011, 07:19 AM
I have never hired a guide, but if I did I would not give a hoot about any "degree" he might have. Id want a guide with plenty of dirt time.
I know two professional guides. Both started at the bottom doing camp chores, wrangling horses, packing in gear and setting camps up, and then undoing it all. They payed their dues, learned, moved on to being guides. That's the best way.

Edited this post to add that the others are right about the "first responder or advanced first aid training" That is very important and should be done right and early. I have my 8 hour first aid and CPR annual rectification course next Tuesday. I'm looking forward to it.

Malamute
05-24-2011, 09:16 AM
Saxon is correct, as far as I know. Most hunting guides and dude wranglers started at the bottom. Some may have come up thru family businesses, but everyone starts out with the basics. Getting some wilderness first aid certifications will be a good start, reading, maybe doing some summer work for an outfitter or lodge would be another good start and foot in the door. Working with a couple different outfits gives you a little different perspective, but if you got with one, and worked with them for a season or two, you'd be well on your way. NOLS would be good background as well.

Montana, Wyoming and Idaho should be good places to look for work in the Rockies. all the country surounding Yellowstone is good country, as is central Idaho, and the Bob Marshal area of Montana. Looking for outfitters abd lodges, as if you were a client or customer, would be a good way to start, then you could contact a few and see if they are hiring. Some have flaky people running them, some are good outfits. You may indeed get hooked up with a flaky outfit, but just being there will give you some perspective, experience, and likely contacts. I worked at a lodge that did hunting and outfitting, I met a lot of people from surrounding lodges and outfitters while there. Those with restaurants and bars (not that I'm a big fan of bars, but I hung out and drank sodas and heard a lot and met a lot of people) get a lot of people coming and going. I still keep up with some of the folks I met there 25 years later.

XJ650Rider
05-24-2011, 10:30 AM
I can't really offer any advice as to the practical matter of how to get started, other than to say that you should probably start with the grunt work and expect to work your way up. I will say though, that at your age now is the perfect time to follow your passion and shoot for your dream job. If I had a do-over, I'd have continued into forestry studies instead of office work! Seize the day, that's my advice.

x39
05-24-2011, 05:52 PM
Seize the day, that's my advice.
Worth repeating!

Torakka
07-20-2011, 07:57 PM
Here we have so called "wild" guides, the "learned thru life experience" guides and licenced official guides.

Wild ones are their own breed. Many of them are just after easy money in the woods or rivers. They take customers to easy fishing trips,or offer bed & breakfast and some entertainment made up for tourists. Pretty much nothing to do with wilderness guide stuff. Many wild ones put up their own company quickly and most of them end as fast.

Then are the group of usually older people,that have been doing their thing for most or whole life time. They are usually specialized in one of two things. One might be making living by teaching wild edibles,other might take people to hunt,and the third might be awsome fishing guide. They usually have so much knowledge that nobody can question their credibility almost at all. These are people i admire and respect,they are usually masters of outdoors to me.

The third main group are the officials. They have passed several tests and exams, and such. Loads of lessons and exams,that you must do and pass, from knowing 120 birds from pic and / or voice,to 60 types of stones and such. 2 months work training in summer and 2 at winter, or more. Long distance trips all over the year, in lapland,eastern wilderness. You must pass the tests to qualify as a kayak/canoe instructor, pass the rappelling instructors test 1 & 2,pass first aid 1 & 2,pass hunting course and hunting licence test, ski for 120 kilometers in below 20 minus temps,in deep snow with no trails marked with only compass & map as your guide,paddle in class 1 to 4 rapids,pass the game handling course,get a hygiene pass,forge a knife and a flintstriker,make a longbow,pass a snowmobile safari guide tes,and similar dog sled guide /driver test,learn several knots,pass making self sustaining fire from wet log in 20 minutes,etc etc etc.

Theres also an event that you must prepare. You have to plan your gear, write up official security plans for possible need of first aid and evacuation of your customers and explanation of the precations mde for their smooth trip. Then youll be taken to forest,where random group of real customers are given to your custody. You have to be able to tell em who you are and what youre about to do with em,in finnish and english,and theres always a good chance that theres also people that speak other languages too but you have to show em somehow these things too. Then youll be given a map with some 10 marked spots and then youll be taking the group safely from spot to spot. There will be unexpected things,from seriously acted first aid scenarios to people getting lost and such,but in the spots theres the official tests that are supervised by officials. These guys are tight i tell you :51:

At maps spots,if you have found your and your groups way to em,there will be cooking hygienically for customers,from whatever the officials give to you. On some other spot you usually have to aid people safely over a stream,with canoe,or walking thru the water. In some spot theres some vegetation and animals that you must tell all about,to customers.From the use of fox´s fur to certain poisonous plants,or what ever. If rain happens,you must realise to build a tarp shelter (if you had the brains to pack one) for them,etc...


pretty much all sorts of stuff to qualify. Im in this group too. Theres now like....maybe 70 officials working in our country if i remember right.

Many have military,scout and hunting background but theres also loads of medical professionals,hunters,athletes,people from rich upper class to lower,working class people.

Most do specialize on few things. The most common activities are climbing and canoe / kayak services. But on other areas theres more wider scale of offerings. In lapland we have more snowmobile and dog sled guides,and in coastal areas theres more fishing oriented folk.

jloden
07-20-2011, 08:05 PM
Here we have so called "wild" guides, the "learned thru life experience" guides and licenced official guides.

[...]

The third main group are the officials. They have passed several tests and exams, and such. Loads of lessons and exams,that you must do and pass, from knowing 120 birds from pic and / or voice,to 60 types of stones and such. 2 months work training in summer and 2 at winter, or more. Long distance trips all over the year, in lapland,eastern wilderness. You must pass the tests to qualify as a kayak/canoe instructor, pass the rappelling instructors test 1 & 2,pass first aid 1 & 2,pass hunting course and hunting licence test, ski for 120 kilometers in below 20 minus temps,in deep snow with no trails marked with only compass & map as your guide,paddle in class 1 to 4 rapids,pass the game handling course,get a hygiene pass,forge a knife and a flintstriker,make a longbow,learn several knots,pass making self sustaining fire from wet log in 20 minutes,etc etc etc


Wow, I'm impressed at the skills they require to qualify. That's pretty neat that there are still places that value those skills enough to make them part of a curriculum. I can't imagine the US requiring someone to forge a knife to serve as an official guide :D That's pretty neat stuff.

Torakka
07-20-2011, 08:16 PM
Wow, I'm impressed at the skills they require to qualify. That's pretty neat that there are still places that value those skills enough to make them part of a curriculum. I can't imagine the US requiring someone to forge a knife to serve as an official guide :D That's pretty neat stuff.

Its part of appreciation and honouring the history and traditon, of our nation,you know.

Even today you hear now and then that man who havent done one puukko with his hands, at forge,aint man at all.:4:

JHartwell
07-20-2011, 08:36 PM
Justin,

Have you thought about the National Park Service? Great career, great benefits. If you can get beyond the "Seasonal" Ranger status, it pays decent money.

You can go the Law Enforcement route... pretty much Frontcountry cop work, do the Interpretive Ranger thing, or get into rock/mountain climbing/fast water rescue/SAR field... lots of varied opportunities.

I volunteered as a Backcountry Ranger in Rocky Mountain NP (Wild Basin) for two summers a while back, one of the best experiences of my life. Always regretted not starting years earlier and making a career of it.

Any NPS folks on the forum?

In any event, I second the suggestion to get a Wilderness First Responder cert... like First Aid on steroids, or even go for Wilderness EMT. I took a great WFR course at Cornell about ten years ago and have been recertified several times.


All the best, Justin. Keep us posted.

Torakka
07-20-2011, 08:42 PM
I sure would love to be a wilderness cop. They get good money for being out in the bush,stalking for illegal hunters and lost tourists :).

But they all have to go to police school,as theyre cops after all. Same rights,and responsibilities.

If my plans go thru, next year i might be mix of snowmobile & hunting guide and everymans righ cabin service worker,living permanently in lapland. Have to keep my fingers crossed.

JHartwell
07-20-2011, 08:48 PM
Good luck, Torakka. Sounds like you've got some terrific plans!

Torakka
07-20-2011, 08:50 PM
Good luck, Torakka. Sounds like you've got some terrific plans!


Well the most interesting jobs are located in far north,and its the best place for my soul to be too,there wouldnt be any better solution you know :51:

Bad Hand
07-20-2011, 09:45 PM
For the kind of guiding you want to do NOLS would be a good choice. Another one is BOSS they have an apprentice ship program. I worked for BOSS as a winter survival instructor, besides winter survival I taught dog sled driving and trapping. NOLS wanted to hire me as instructor but they wanted me to go through their winter survival course first (pay them) I declined the offer.

I was a guide and outfitter in Colorado for awhile and degrees didn't mean anything. It was all outdoor experience in hunting and fishing.

Torakka
07-20-2011, 10:41 PM
BAD HAND,

i encountered a bit similar thing. I was asked to join this highly respected survival instructing team,that i was all flattered to hear,.... BUT i would have to participate one of their survival camp/course first...which costs like a fortune. Weird huh.

Bad Hand
07-20-2011, 11:00 PM
Yes it is weird I had more winter survival experience then their instructors did. I even had some of their instructors in my survival classes. NOLS is just down the road from where I live. BOSS (when it was owned by David Wescot) hired me after he saw a video channel 9 News out of Denver did of me.

One other strange thing is every year at Rabbit Stick we have Tom Brown Jr. instructors as students.

JHartwell
07-25-2011, 09:27 AM
Check it out, highly recommended:

http://www.elmguideschool.com/

All the best!

John Henry