Be a Professional Hunting and Fishing Guide

If you like people, love the outdoors, and respect nature, you can turn those assets into steady income as a hunting and fishing guide.

| September/October 1984

  • hunting and fishing - elk in clearing
    Good hunting and fishing guides learn the game animals in their territory.
    Photo by MOTHER EARTH NEWS Staff

  • hunting and fishing - elk in clearing

Sometimes it takes a bit of energy and a willingness to take chances to achieve the freedom of rural living and self-employment. At least, that was the way it worked out for me a few years back. I was a logger working in the Chequamegon National Forest here in Wisconsin when the pulp market slipped down the hill and took my profession with it. To keep my family in groceries, I decided to try to make a living by doing what I love most: hunting and fishing. In short, I became a professional guide.

And I've never regretted that career change. Furthermore, if you are an avid outdoor sportsperson like me, live in an area that has a better-than-average supply of fish and game, and know (or are willing to work hard at learning) a good bit of woodsmanship, there's no reason why you, too, can't become a professional guide.

Finding The Trail

Generally, the nature of the guide business almost dictates that you enter it on a part-time basis. After all, it takes time to build up a regular clientele of men and women who find your services valuable, who return year after year, and who will spread the word to others.  But if you're good, if you work at your job, and if you're at least a little bit lucky, after a season or two you'll have built up a business that can support you on a full-time basis.

One requirement for this type of work that can easily be overlooked is a genuine enjoyment of your fellow man. After all, guiding is very much a people game. Your clients want to enjoy themselves in the outdoors, and a good part of that enjoyment should come from you — from your pleasant professional personality, positive outlook, and ability to lighten potentially dull or disappointing moments with the right words, actions, and sometimes even a well-chosen yarn.



Aside from an outgoing, pleasant manner and a genuine love of and respect for nature, the guide's most important asset is woodsmanship. No matter where in this big, beautiful land you live, there are angling and hunting techniques that are unique to your part of the country. Make it your business to be well versed in these local strategies.

The best way I've found to pick up a lot of knowledge and experience in not too much time is to hire on with an established, respected outfitter — as a guide, if possible; as a cook or camp swamper, if necessary.



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