Should I tip and how much do I tip my guide?
Planning a guided hunt today is easier than ever before. With the tools the internet offers, a hunter can sit in the comfort of his own home and search through a seemingly endless supply of outfitter websites. The one thing you will not find is how much gratuity you should leave when your hunt is over. Most guides and outfitters step lightly around this topic when asked. Giving a specific dollar amount or percentage of the hunt cost can seem presumptuous, and because each hunt can be so different, coming up with an average tip can be tough. This gray area can be very confusing to hunters, especially those who have never been on a guided hunt before.
To start with, it should be understood that a tip is not required. Most guides are there because they truly love what they do. If you choose not to tip, nobody is going to call the authorities and have you hauled off to jail. That being said, it is important to realize that what a guide provides you is a quality service that would be missing if you did the hunt on your own. A tip is a good way of saying thank you for this service.
Your tip for your guide should be based on the job he did for you. A good guide is not just someone who tells you when to pull the trigger. For the duration of the hunt, he should be your partner. He should be willing to work as hard as he can to help you find the quality of game you want to fill your tag and to make sure you have a safe hunt.
For some businesses, the outfitter/owner is also your guide. At The Berry Ranch, the owner seldom guides. Here, the person guiding you is a ranch foreman and is also responsible for all of the details and accommodations involved in setting up your hunt as well as the hunt itself. This is most likely the person you talked to on the phone and who told you what to expect during your stay. He is responsible for following through with his promises of what the hunt will be like as well as the state of the accommodations. It is his job to take care of all the details to make your hunt enjoyable. I believe it is fair to take into account all of these factors when determining how much gratuity to leave. If you are guided by the owner, I do not believe you should tip him. In my mind if the hunt is as promised, and the guide busts his tail for me, I will leave a tip.
So how much should you tip? When you eat at a restaurant it is widely known that a 15% tip is the going rate for a waiter, but there is no standard for a hunting guide. Different people have different expectations, and this can make it hard to know what a fair tip is. In my mind, though, I would say that a good tip for a guide would start in the neighborhood of 10% of the cost of the hunt. For most dove hunts, that would be around $25 per day, and for a 5-day big game hunt somewhere in the $250-$350 ballpark. For camp cooks and other hands, something like $10-$15 per day would be a good starting point. Consider the difficulty in retrieving, hauling, cleaning, and butchering of the animal. In addition, it is obviously okay to tip more. If your guide and camp help show you the best week of your life, by all means give them a little extra if you are comfortable with it.
One last thing to keep in mind is that in most cases the amount you tip should not reflect whether or not you filled your tags or downed your limits. If you were unsuccessful because your guide spent most of the day sleeping on the hillside, or stuck you in a tree so he could head out and fill his own tags, by all means take it out of your tip. However, most guides are not like that and will usually do all they can to make your hunt a success. Bad shooting on your behalf, uncooperative animals or weather should not affect the amount you tip. Remember that we are hunting wild game in their environment, and there are certain things that are out of our control. If your guide does everything he can to put you in a position to be successful a good tip is a great way to say thank you