© 2019 Copyright by P. K. H. Groth, Denver, Colorado, USA All rights reserved - See contact page for for permission to republish article excerpts.
Outfitter Concerns and Preparations
Outfitter Vetting is Necessary: Check out potential outfitter’s references well before booking them. The Colorado Office of Outfitter Registration listing is the best place to start. The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation listing is incomplete, because it lists only donors to its foundation who pay for a listing. However, on the upside, some of these organizations may have a longer history of good outfitting. Ask personal hunting friends for references. I advise not relying solely on Internet listings and blogs. They are becoming increasingly misleading and erroneous. Poor or illegal outfitters may use paid schills to post good reviews. Legal Colorado outfitter registration can be checked online at www.dora.state.co.us/outfitters, or call 303-894-7778 UPDATE WEBLINK AND PHONE NUMBER Rogue DeFacto Outfitters: Do not use or contract with rogue independent outfitters for your own good. Nightmarish anecdotes expose swindlers who ran away with hard earned cash intended for a lifetime hunt. Many a hunter/hunt group has been swindled out of their contract prepayment, been “stood up” when no one appeared, or been subjected to a miserable, poor hunt. One “host” even asked a hunter to tag an animal he shot without a license. That would be consorting with a poacher. We remember a rogue bunch offering to pack out elk if they could get some elk tips from us. When I asked for their license, their license hunt area was for another area thirty miles away. Unregistered outfitters conviction can be severe. Colorado w ildlife law equates operating an unregistered outfit with illegal sale of wildlife or game meat – one of the worst wildlife felonies. Colorado outfitters must be bonded, insured, registered, pass first aid qualifications and age requirements. They must provide safety equipment, such as emergency camp-to-base satellite communication devices when operating in wilderness or remote areas. There are no hunting, scouting or competency exams or qualifications. Again, get a personal reference from someone who (independent person, not an outfitter shill) previously booked with the outfitter. A Scoundrel Outfitter: I was a volunteer Board Member for a major Credit Union for twenty years. I heard a lot of stories. One involved a western Colorado outfitter who took a loan for a new truck immediately before hunting season. By December, he had never made a payment. Finally located and contacted, he suggested we repossess the vehicle. What was left of it was in a snow-filled gorge in the mountains, where it had crashed off the road. This presented multiple problems, because we still held the title and were responsible for removing the truck remains form remote BLM land. I had to wonder what kind of hunts his clients had. Which brings me to a potential hunt camp problem. Alcohol and Outfitting: Alcohol is a constant potential threat to a fine hunting experience. We observed a number of wranglers “under the weather” in the earlier years. Their clients suffered being left on stands, losing untracked game, and not having a capable camp cook they paid for. Forest Service rule enforcement and potential litigation from clients fortunately have improved the situation. Legitimate outfitters do not let any employees drink before sundown/guns down when clients are in camp. They also do not allow clients to mount a horse if intoxicated, requiring them to walk for legal and safety concerns. The Forest Service revoked one lodge owner’s Wilderness Area permit when they heard a client had given alcoholic drink (“snort”) unknowingly to an underage wrangler. Many outfitters ask that they receive tips for later distribution to their wrangles. The reason is to avoid the employee from having enticing extra pay in their pockets. Wranglers can drive to town for supplies or client pickup. There they may become homesick, girl-struck, or bar- tempted, and be negligent, tardy or forget completing duties or even quit without notice. Intoxicated or missing wranglers can give outfit ters and hunters a bad experience. Borrowed Pack Horses: Never borrow your neighbor’s horse unless you KNOW it is a good meat-packing steed. Horses not conditioned to the sight and smell of game will likely become unruly, cantankerous and maybe dangerous before, when, or after you load game meat. You may be kicked, shoved, stepped on or bitten. A poorly packed horse may become unruly along the trail as the weight shifts and heavy pack saddle chafes. On one elk hunt we rented a horse that obviously had over-perfected the roll, causing the saddle to rotate with the horse flailing the air with all fours. It was most inconvenient, dangerous and dang embarrassing after the third reloading episode. Another disappointing surprise is when your homesick borrowed horse begins to bray and stomp the ground (stomping sounds are a danger signal for game). That ruckus is not amenable to prime hunting. And what do you do with a brat horse that is ruining our hunt, waste time walking it out to base camp to get rid of the cauterwauling wonder? Do Not Lose or Abandon Your Horse: County Sheriffs are responsible for finding owners of lost, abandoned, starved, or mistreated horses. Keep your private or rental horse properly fettered. This may include wrapping a piece of bailing wire around the halter rope knot so that bored steeds will not use their teeth to unravel the knot; horses may have picked up this talent at the outfitter’s ranch. Getting up in the morning to find your horse(s) gone and probably trekked five miles back to home can be very disconcerting. An example occurred on November 1, 2011. Forest Service inspectors found and seized two underfed, possible sick horses at The Budges Flat Tops Wilderness Lodge. Garfield and Eagle County Sheriffs’ Offices of Animal Welfare confirmed the animal mistreatment, removed all the remaining Lodge horses on November 10, and arrested the Lodge owner for animal cruelty. Seizure of all the Lodge’s horses during elk hunting season would have been a disaster for Lodge clients. (New, conscientious licensees subsequently are operating the Lodge.)
© 2016 -2017 Copyright by P. K. H. Groth, Denver, Colorado, USA All rights reserved - See contact page for for permission to republish article excerpts.