In addition to providing species-specific tips for the big game they pursue, several of our survey respondents also offered the following nuggets of general hunting advice.
1. Be patient
The inference here is that many hunters get impatient if they aren’t seeing game—or at least the animals they hope to find—early in the hunt.
Instead, it’s important to remain positive and focused so you’re prepared when an opportunity does arise. As several guides pointed out, hunters must learn to enjoy, first and foremost, the overall experience and camaraderie of the hunt.
2. Practise your shooting
Many of the outfitters didn’t at all hesitate to imply most of us would benefit from a little extra work on the range. Evidently, they see plenty of missed shots that shouldn’t have happened. And don’t just sight-in your rifle: practise shooting at a variety of distances you could find yourself facing in the field.
3. Make the first shot count
Among all the recommendations for best calibres and bullets was a constant reference to the importance of shot placement. The guides were clear: be highly selective about the shots you take.
4. Scout your hunting territory
These experts say pre-season scouting is among the most productive activities you can undertake as a hunter. Knowing exactly where to focus your time afield contributes greatly to hunting success.
5. Be quiet and mind the wind
These are two fundamentals of hunting, but according to the guides, many of us seem to have forgotten them. Hunting is tough enough, they suggest, without unnecessarily betraying your presence.
6. Stay fit
Your physical ability to get to where the game is shouldn’t be a barrier to your hunting enjoyment or success. But for many, it is. Enough said.
7. Be a better field judge
I was surprised by the number of guides who mentioned the importance of becoming better judges of animal size, as well as sex. I gather many clients are reluctant to pass on younger or smaller animals, simply because they really don’t know how to judge the quality of the game they’re seeing.
8. Manage your scent
Several guides talked about the importance of scent control, including the use of cover or masking scents, especially when hunting whitetails, moose and black bears. One guide cautioned, however, that overdoing the cover scent, much like splashing on too much cologne, will frighten off more game than not.
9. Use the services of an outfitter and guide
While such advice may sound self-serving, I really got the impression these outfitters are very passionate about hunting, and they want few things more than to share that passion. Having enjoyed several guided hunts, I can only reinforce the suggestion.
In many cases, it’s not as expensive as you might think, especially when you factor in all the costs otherwise associated with hunting. But be forewarned: a related message that came through loud and clear is that if you’re going to engage the services of a guide, listen to his or her advice. It seems many hunters hire these professionals, then proceed to tell them how and where to hunt.
“Rest assured, outfitters want to keep you as a client for many years, which means they need you to have an enjoyable, successful hunt. Besides, as long as you’ve paid for their expertise, be sure to use it.”
—Jim Shockey of Jim Shockey’s Hunting Adventures in Victoria, B.C., on the key to having a good hunt.
“You need to let your binoculars do your walking.”
—Bart Lancaster of Lancaster Fraser Canyon Outfitters in Smithers, B.C. on the value of optics while scouting for mule deer.
“Bring something that you can hit a beer box at 100 yards with. All the rest is for the catalogues.”
—Fred Webb of Webb Outfitting based in Pritchard, B.C., on shooting a calibre that you can handle.
“Apply every bit of skill and knowledge, each and every minute while hunting.”
—Barry Brown of Barry Brown’s Game Hunts in Atikokan, ON, on being the best you can be when you’re in the field.
“Your rifle in the field should be as comfortable as your hat.”
—Al Wardale of Moose Country Outfitting based in Hotchkiss, AB, on the importance of using a rifle with a proper fit.
“You need to be able to call effectively, as well as cover a lot of country.”
—Rene Semple of South Paw Outfitters in Sangudo, AB, on what it takes for a successful elk hunt.
“Stay put when calling, and keep the noise to zero.”
—Ron Dare of Bear Track Outfitters in Winnipeg, MB.
From our 2009 survey of guides across the country, asking them to share their insights on the best cartridges, bullets, optics and more for hunting Canada’s big-game animals.