Quality of Rams on Guided Hunts

HornPorn

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I have been doing research for Dall and Stone sheep hunts up in Canada, and have also talked to several people who have gone, some just once and others many times. In looking at their photos and seeing the quality of rams harvested, I am wondering....

Do outfitters save the best rams for repeat clients? Meaning, if they know a particular 40 inch ram is in a certain drainage, will they not take a new client to that drainage? The concessions they have are thousands of square miles large, and if they only take 6 sheep hunters per year they can easily do this and still have plenty of other areas to put new clients.

Or is it just that the repeat clients who have more experience are passing on rams that first timers would shoot and be happy with?

Mix of both?
 

Sourdough

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Or is it just that the repeat clients who have more experience are passing on rams that first timers would shoot and be happy with?

Mostly "THIS". Based on my 39 years of guiding hunters in Alaska. "Yes" there can be other factors, but they are far-far-far less factors. It is largely "EGO". If the hunters pays a lot of money, and spends months "Jabbering" about his pending hunt, with anyone who will listen at work. He positions himself to "maybe" having to face the shame of failure, or show himself as a great hunter, having been successful. The people at work don't know the difference between a 35" Ram and a 40" Ram. Hell......they don't understand why you would go shoot someone's farm animal, because to them a "sheep" is a "sheep". I have had hunters shoot very-very-very small Alaska Brown Bears, on the last day. Just barely legal small bears. Because to go home without a bear is "Failure". Sadly hunting is no longer about the pure bliss of being in the wilderness, it is about "Success". No one ever say's did you enjoy you "field experience".......it is "Did you get one, and how big".
 
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WesCAtoll

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Mostly "THIS". Based on my 39 years of guiding hunters in Alaska. "Yes" there can be other factors, but they are far-far-far less factors. It is largely "EGO". If the hunters pays a lot of money, and spends months "Jabbering" about his pending hunt, with anyone who will listen at work. He positions himself to "maybe" having to face the shame of failure, or show himself as a great hunter, having been successful. The people at work don't know the difference between a 35" Ram and a 40" Ram. Hell......they don't understand why you would go shoot someone's farm animal, because to them a "sheep" is a "sheep". I have had hunters shoot very-very-very small Alaska Brown Bears, on the last day. Just barely legal small bears. Because to go home without a bear is "Failure". Sadly hunting is no longer about the pure bliss of being in the wilderness, it is about "Success". No one ever say's did you enjoy you "field experience".......it is "Did you get one, and how big".
Not that I'm in the camp of going after the little guys just to say I did it..spending $30,000 ish on a hunt that you saved for possibly years, to go home empty handed has got to hurt a little and I could understand the reasoning of just getting "something" .
That said, mountaineers spend equal amounts and literally come back with nothing but the experience so guess there's both sides.
 

alaska_bou

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From my experience the answer is mixed. Some outfitters give every hunter an equal opportunity regardless of money, status, clout, repeat bookings, etc. There are, without question, many outfitters who do prioritize clients they see as high value. I was once told by a NWT outfitter (without naming who) that they put repeat clients on the best animals because this outfitter feels a client must "earn" top-end trophies by rebooking multiple hunts. This practice isn't limited to any specific specie or area either. It happens all the time and for a number of reasons. For example, if you are a midwestern whitetail outfitter who has dozens, if not hundreds of game cameras on thousands of acres, how do you choose which clients will be sitting the the best stands for a chance at one of the very few exceptional bucks? Odds are it will be a client that can benifit the outfitter in more ways than just the cost of a single hunt (tv exposure, annual bookings, coorporate bookings etc).

Sadly, this practice IS part of the industry and it makes it all the more difficult for working-class people to realize their hunting dreams when the best resources are diverted to "influencers," rich foreign oligarchs, entitled hunting personalities, clients wealthy enough to rebook every year, and so forth.

There are outfitters who will post a photo of every ram or animal taken during the season and these tend to be the most honest and transparent outfitters. Others will selectivly leave out what they don't want advertised and heavily promote the best trophies. Before covid I talked with a guy who hunted in the Yukon in an area where he was told to expect over 60" and 70"+ potential so long as he paid the price of admission. He described being pushed into shooting a small bull by the guides relatively early in the hunt against his own better judgement having never previously hunted moose. The bull ended up measuring only 46" and when he voiced his displeasure he was criticized for being "too worried about numbers." He said the camp was overbooked and the trophy quality was in the toilet but you would never know that by taking to them at the sports shows and looking at last season's best trophies. Moral of the story; he felt the hunt was way oversold while piggy-backing this outfitters' worldwide notariety.

References are nice to talk to, especially unsuccessful references, but we all know references are often cherry picked. Whomever you go with, ask what is a realistic expectation and not what the area may have produced 20+ years ago. Beware of any outfitter if they are sharing photos with an orange time stamp dated 1996. Unless you are hunting in a premium limited entry unit just about every outfitter will consider a ram that meets legal criteria over 8+ years of age to be a shooter. A ram that is 8-10 years old will be in the 35-38" range with 13-14" bases. I would not book a sheep hunt if your not going to be happy with a ram in this size range.
 

Molon Labe

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Not that I'm in the camp of going after the little guys just to say I did it..spending $30,000 ish on a hunt that you saved for possibly years, to go home empty handed has got to hurt a little and I could understand the reasoning of just getting "something" .
That said, mountaineers spend equal amounts and literally come back with nothing but the experience so guess there's both sides.
My favorite sheep hunt of all time was one where I brought my tag home un punched.
But I "brought home" so much experience and mental toughness that it was more than worth all the time and effort put forth. That experience makes me a better hunter.

But i also didnt put $30K on the table for it...just a couple weeks of time.

A dead ram and the meat attached fills up a cooler....the experience of a sheep hunt fills up a much larger void.
The value is in the hunt not the dead animal.
 

Laramie

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Many outfitters do prioritize clients. One person I guided for took it too far imo. On one occasion, while I was guiding archery elk, he pulled me and the hunter I was guiding off an area that had great rutting action so one of his top clients that he was guiding could have an opportunity. Meanwhile we struggled to find elk for the next two days. My guy ended up shooting a rag horn on day 5 but I was pissed- never guided for the guy again.
 

wind gypsy

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The ones who don’t scout rams prior to season probably have a harder time cherry picking the top end animals for the key clients. While it may suck for us average “once in a lifetime” clients, I don’t know why an outfitter wouldn’t put a high profile client (publicity) or loyal repeat customer into opportunities they are most confident about.
 

MtnW

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I found you really need to do your homework on outfitted hunts. You need to ask very specific questions . Some outfitters try to keep their best camps and areas as much of a secret as possible. Many outfitters keep the best areas in their guide territories under wraps and it is the hunters who have hunted with the outfitter in the past who become aware of these camps within the outfitters territory . Also the top hunting dates are not always offered to the new clients. This is also true about the outfitters top experienced guides. many times the top experienced guides will have arrangements with the outfitter to only hunt their preferred camps within the territory. I have hunted with several outfitters 3-5 times. Each experience tends to get better as you build relationships with the outfitter.
 

Falcon

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I remember asking my outfitter how big the average ram was in my area which was 20a. He would only say they were all nice Rams. The more research I did, the more I decided to take the first legal ram that I saw knowing this was probably going to be the only guided sheep hunt I would ever do. At 38 “ with his lamb tips, I thought I had won the lottery. Of the greatest events in my life.
 

wildwilderness

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Look at success rates.

In Canada look at numbers of tags issued (outfitters are on a quota) and how many hunters are really booked- often if you do the math they are planning for a few (up to half for stone) to go home with a tag….

Thin horn Sheep have had a few bad seasons the past couple years. Numbers are low in most places
 

WCB

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No doubt this happens not at all outfits but it happens. Hell look at hunting shows. Somehow the T.V. hunter kills one of the biggest bucks year after year and many times you see the story line of "we hunted this deer for the last 3 years and hadn't got him yet" Your telling me that Guide/ Outfitter couldn't get any of the other of dozens of clients on that buck? But the repeat or TV guy comes in hunts the same blind 3 years in a row and sees the same giant year after year?

One thing I would say though is the Guides and Outfitter wants to kill the big ones as bad as any client and if there is a new client that can put in the effort and get it done over some deep pocket out of shape slob that has been going there for years my bet is the new guy gets a crack at it. Or at least would in my camp.

Many outfitters do prioritize clients. One person I guided for took it too far imo. On one occasion, while I was guiding archery elk, he pulled me and the hunter I was guiding off an area that had great rutting action so one of his top clients that he was guiding could have an opportunity. Meanwhile we struggled to find elk for the next two days. My guy ended up shooting a rag horn on day 5 but I was pissed- never guided for the guy again.
I wouldn't guide for any Outfitter or work with any "guide" that leeched in on someone's spot like that either. When I guided we all sat down and discussed certain aspects of the hunt and the spot we hunted that day was by default ours unless we wanted to move. I also just in general did not lie but I also did not puke out information on the days hunt. If we were having a great hunt I would tell the hunter to watch what they say around the other clients. Don't lie but don't blow it up as it can cause strain in a camp.
 

Doc Holliday

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In Canada look at numbers of tags issued (outfitters are on a quota) and how many hunters are really booked- often if you do the math they are planning for a few (up to half for stone) to go home with a tag….
Wow, you think Big 9, Gundahoo, and the other prominent stone outfitters are planning on sending up to half of their stone sheep clients home empty handed? I highly doubt that.....maybe some of the lower end/cheaper outfitters though, which is why they are cheaper.

I think much of what you outlined applies to Alaskan dall outfitters, and I see you are located there as well
 
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ColeyG

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In Alaska, most guides (and all sheep hunters for that matter) are having to work very hard just to find legal rams, so I doubt many are setting any big rams aside for their favorite clients.
 

wildwilderness

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Wow, you think Big 9, Gundahoo, and the other prominent stone outfitters are planning on sending up to half of their stone sheep clients home empty handed? I highly doubt that.....maybe some of the lower end/cheaper outfitters though, which is why they are cheaper.

I think much of what you outlined applies to Alaskan dall outfitters, and I see you are located there as well
Big 9 is the exception- they go to 100% for a reason, money back guarantee. But that is also the reason they cost the most.

Why don’t you call the outfitters and report their average success rates over the past 5 years?


Just look at the easy business model- the outfitters get together and agree to keep success around 50%- they all make twice as much money!!

Here is the real proof- they all somehow manage to fill all their govt issued quota of tags (based on a 5 year allotment) but somehow “need” to run twice as many hunters to do it.

So it’s easy to blame tough Hunt conditions, look at other outfitters they are only 50% as well etc etc.

* this is about BC stones.
AK is a different, without limits to rams, though on areas with Federal land does have limit on outfitters with the concession system and "use days". But once again there is a wide disparity of quality of hunts, and available legal rams.
 
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Arctic_Beaver

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I remember asking my outfitter how big the average ram was in my area which was 20a. He would only say they were all nice Rams. The more research I did, the more I decided to take the first legal ram that I saw knowing this was probably going to be the only guided sheep hunt I would ever do. At 38 “ with his lamb tips, I thought I had won the lottery. Of the greatest events in my life.
For a 38" ram in a harvest ticket area of 20A, you sure as heck did!
 

Arctic_Beaver

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I can certainly envision situations where this would occur with outfitters/guides. Let me offer a counter thought though, based off some of my experiences talking with sheep hunting guides in areas I've hunted.

Some outfitters/guides might offer a discounted rate the following year to a hunter who was unsuccessful. One who does this, obviously has more than just their bottom line in mind. They would take a small or decent hit financially to do this (depending on how generous the offer). I have also personally witnessed a guide offer an unsuccessful client an opportunity to come back the following year for a big discount, or to even stay later past his initial end of hunt date. The client wasn't in the best physical condition to sheep hunt, and that caused really limited opportunities for him but this guide was going out of his way to try and help him out. I'm not implying this is the standard, or that all of them do this but it does happen.
 

cbeard64

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I have been on 3 guided sheep hunts and one guided goat hunt. A ton of research went into the decisions on my outfitter. I believe that finding an honest, reputable outfitter is the key to eliminating not just the issue asked about in the OP, but a ton of other issues. Because once the decision is made, you are basically 100% at their mercy.

With enough digging, you can find out who’s on the up and up and who is sketchy. Do. Your. Research.
 

QuackAttack

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While I can’t speak directly to the topic of sheep, I have 100% seen outfitters put clients in sub par areas while putting other clients (that paid more, we’re repeats, representing a big bank with 20+ guys hunting, ect) on game.

Example- I hunted as a party of two, me and a family member, at the best known and most expensive waterfowl outfit in MO. It was a mess…we watched big groups get limits by 9am as the two of us never came close. You could see the owner/outfitter socialising with his preferred clients while small groups stood around with their hands in their pockets. It became clear that the ducks were concentrated on a handful of blinds and if you weren’t going to that blind, you weren’t going to kill birds.

We never got a good blind. Last day, the owner acted all surprised like he didn’t know…but handed me the bill like it was no big deal.

This is super common in waterfowl world as outfitters will have more blinds than good spots and will take more clients than they should, rotating them around on good and bad days…or not.

I saw it in the Yukon on a moose hunt…I lucked out and killed the only moose I saw that happened to be great, but a bunch of clients were clearly congregated at a big camp simply because the outfitter was short on guides and wranglers. My guide had never guided before and had no maps, no GPS, no compass, and a busted set of wal mart binos. In the end, the horses ran away for 3 days…injured themselves…and we had to have a pointed conversation with him via sat phone.

The group behind us likely got it worse as they were older and had two very fat guys who could not ride a horse. They were promised a boat hunt…there were no moose around the tiny lake next to camp as we had hunted it for 10 days and the boat was a leaky tiny jon boat. I have no idea how the outfitter could deliver a boat hunt there, on a tiny puddle with a 20 year old jon boat.

Later, it came out that he had a couple of areas with cabins that he reserved for special clients…after we rode into one of those areas and asked why we werent glassing that valley.


Outfitting is a business and not always one where they care if you come back the next year.
 

2five7

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Not a sheep guide, but here is my experience with Deer/Elk clients. One of the first questions I ask a client is this: How important is trophy size vs. going home with "something". Generally speaking, if I get a guy whos first priority is trophy size, I'm going to explain to him that we may be hunting areas that have fewer animals, but have a higher chance of producing a large trophy. For the guy who definitely prioritizes success over size, we might hunt another areas with more animals, but possibly smaller bucks/bulls.

Let your outfitter know before hand which is more important to you, that will allow them to match you up with right guide, and the right area.
 
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