It's absolutely essential for hunting guides and outfitters to know their territory. Your best tools are topographic maps that show — by symbol — terrain features down to tiny details. "Topos" are available at almost any sporting goods store these days, or you can send for a free, state-by-state index of these maps by contacting the Geological Survey National Cartographic Center.
Study the rules governing gun safety. See to it that they're followed at all times. (It's a good idea to have proper storage racks for weapons in the cab of your truck, too.)
Become proficient in field-dressing game, which is part of a hunting guide's fob.
When hunting ducks, geese, grouse, quail, or pheasant, you'll find a good bird dog to be a definite plus.
Know your clients' physical limitations. If they have bad legs, don't take them climbing in steep hill country. Always ask about physical problems before the hunt, and plan accordingly.
Establish a working relationship with the folks at your state fish and game department, since they can provide you with a wealth of up-to-date information on game movement and habitat.
Make arrangements for hunting privileges with the owners of private land in your locale. You may have to pay, but it can be worth it: When public lands are under a lot of hunting pressure at the height of a season, having access to private real estate can mean success when others fail.
Don't overlook bow hunters and nature photographers as potential customers. Contact bow-hunting clubs, and advertise in archery and photography publications to catch the attention of these enthusiasts. You'll more than likely find members of these groups to be true sportspersons.
Take along the makings of a hot lunch. A midday rendezvous and a meal back at camp or the truck is always a welcome break.
Set up blinds ahead of time for deer, bear, and bird hunters if that fits the style of hunting in your locality.
Never agree to anything illegal or unsporting, even if it means losing a customer or two. You don't want that kind of clientele anyway, and you sure don't want a reputation as that sort of guide. As an outdoor professional, you take on a special responsibility as a guardian of nature.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Here's what one successful and respected big-game outfitter we know in Wyoming's Jackson Hole area says in his advertising brochure: "If not getting a shot, or missing a shot, means that your whole hunting trip is spoiled, then don't bother coming here. If you can't draw enjoyment from being in one of the most beautiful places in the world, without making a kill, then go warm a bar stool somewhere and leave it to those who know its true meaning and value!"
Of course, you don't have to word your sermon quite so harshly, but the sentiment's a darned good one to preach.