How To: Guide Tipping



Hunting and fishing are two pastimes that I’ve really embraced over the years and I enjoy doing both as much as possible. Mainly when fishing, there is plenty of public water or opportunities to go out on my own. There are some public options when hunting, but mostly deer and turkey. Otherwise, these hunts and fishing trips require a guide.

These trips provide a livelihood for the guides, whether managing the buggy and the dogs on a quail hunt or pushing a pole on a skiff. They work hard to ensure that you have a successful hunt and a good time. Of course, there are different levels of guides, but for the most part, they are all good at what they do (otherwise they wash out). These guides have to account for safety, the quality of the hunt, all the equipment, and ensuring that you and your hunting partners have a good time.

A subject that doesn’t get a lot of airtime is tipping. While there is usually a fee for guided hunts, tips are essential to the guides. Not only is it good practice, but it affords them a livelihood.

It’s strange that there aren’t a lot of resources that talk about tips. How much should you tip? What makes a good tip? Why do they deserve a tip? Most readers of this blog get it, but it’s a subject that I’m willing to take on.

In terms of tipping, here are the general rules:

First off: ALL CASH.

For half-day trip, either morning or afternoon, these are the minimums that I’d suggest:

  • Quail: $50 / hunter
  • Pheasant: $60 / hunter
  • Duck / waterfowl: $60 / hunter
  • Fishing boat: $60 / fisherman
  • Fishing skiff (pole): $80 / fisherman
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If you are doing a split-day event, where you hunt an afternoon, stay the night, and hunt again the next morning, always tip out after your first hunt. You may not have the same guide the next morning, and it impacts what I like to call the ‘midnight rule’: you should pay all your debts from that day by midnight. This way, even if you have the same guide the next day, you are ALL CLEAR from the day before.

If you are doing a full-day event, where you are hunting with the same guide in the morning and the afternoon, then add 70-80% to the amounts above. At a minimum.

In addition, it’s extremely important to appropriately compensate for GREAT hunts. If you limit out quickly or absolutely crush it when fishing, then keep an extra $20 or $40 in your wallet and reward the guide for a great day. Your success on a trip is attributed to the guide, and they should see some benefits.

Keep in mind that there are instances where it is important to go above and beyond to show your appreciation.

On a recent hunt down at Rio Piedra, we almost stepped on a rather large canebrake rattlesnake. The dogs were on the ground, and our guide handled everything like a complete professional. Mrs. RCS and I both had loaded shotguns (which we immediately broke open and lay down), and the guide told everyone to grab the dogs ASAP. There were in total three dogs and four humans, and whoever didn’t grab a dog was in charge of killing the snake. Mrs. RCS got the flushing dog, I got a pointer, and a backup guide grabbed the other GSP. That left our main guide to take my .28 gauge and take care of the snake, which he did with the two shells.

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It was our first experience with something like that. Of course, we tipped our guide with all the cash we had. In addition, I sent him down a Buck 110 knife and a thank-you note to show my appreciation for his handling of the situation.

Remember, as much as anything, guides are in the customer service business. Their job is to make sure you have a good time and a successful hunt. It’s also important to be a good customer. While hunting and fishing trips do cost a good bit of money, there are no guarantees. There’s NOTHING worse than hunting with a d!*khead. Don’t be that guy. Take it all in, and try to stay positive, fun, and uplifting to your group and to the guide.

When it’s all said and done, the ultimate goal is for everyone to walk away with a positive experience – including the guide. That way they’ll pick up the phone when you call and treat you right next time you visit.

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>