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The battle between guides vs. DIY hunters

Guides vs do it yourself hunters

Are all guides jerks? Are all DIY hunters more ethical and courteous?

If you have followed me for any length of time you probably know at one time I was a young man who thought all hunting guides were jerks and people with money ruined hunting. To say I was ignorant would be an understatement, but the reality is that this mentality is a huge issue within the hunting community. A lot of guides are frowned upon and do-it-yourself (DIY) hunters are held up on a high pedestal. But why?

There will always be a few bad apples that give each group a bad name. I realize that I am a professional hunting guide, so how can I be objective on this subject? For starters, I am not afraid to say what I believe to be truthful and I am not afraid to come at this from both sides and really pour out my heart. I have heard too many rumors about myself and outfitters in general and I think much of it comes from jealousy.
 

Craig Steele DIY hunting video
The Dream 2 was a 100% DIY hunting DVD I produced in 2003.

In 2003, I produced and sold a do-it-yourself (DIY) hunting DVD in Sportsman’s Warehouse stores. I produced it because I truly felt all of the other DVDs available were mainly guided hunting videos and I knew 90% of the market did not hunt with a guide. So I wanted to make a change in the hunting DVD world. The DVD did very well by hunting DVD standards, but not enough to quit my day job. Why? The market for hunting DVDs wasn’t big enough and the internet was only on the cusp of starting to change everything. For me, it was back to the drawing board. 

Becoming a guide
 

Arizona Unit 9 antelope guided by Craig Steele
The first hunter I ever guided was Wade for antelope in Arizona’s Unit 9.

The following year I obtained my guide license and guided two hunts for a well-known Arizona outfitter. Both hunts were successful, but one hunt went significantly better than the other. The client was an exceptional person and really trusted me to help him. He helped me open my eyes to the joy in guiding. At the time, I was only 23 years old and a full time firefighter/EMT. I was guiding for extra cash and I wasn’t fully sold on guiding for a living. Fast forward several years later and wasn't guiding anymore. I stopped because my wife and I had our children during that time and I did not have the time to guide hunters, hunt for myself, publish a magazine and work a full-time job. In 2011, I guided a hunter named Steve Hatch who completely changed my outlook on guiding. He experienced a tragic death in his family during that hunt and, unfortunately, we did not get to hunt the entire time. Steve is just a great person and to this day we talk regularly. 

Continued below.

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Trophy envy and jealousy in the hunting community

Everyone wants the biggest buck, bull or ram but that isn't what hunting is all about. Seeing the success of guides creates a lot of jealousy from regular hunters. It then creates a divide that separtes DIY hunters and guides.

 

In the end, which is better: guided or DIY?
 

 Troy with his Arizona archery mule deer with Exclusive Pursuit Outfitters
 Troy with his 2016 Arizona archery mule deer taken with Exclusive Pursuit Outfitters.

I am no longer a firefighter or EMT. I am a professional hunting guide, marketer and entrepreneur. My titles have changed and from the “working man’s eyes” (DIY hunter’s eyes) my titles today are not ones that are as respected as the firefighter or EMT. Yet, I am a better person today than I was when I was a  firefighter/EMT. I also work 10 times harder because what I do for a living is what I am passionate about. As a hunter and guide I never want to lose sight of what makes hunting so great. It's so easy to get caught up with the hype on social media.

If you are good at what you do there will always be someone out there cutting you down. I've heard it many times that the image of a guide is hurt when they portray attitude toward other hunters in "their" hunting area, when it is in fact public land. Hunting is a passion for both guides and DIY hunters. Both desire the same outcomes. DIY hunters scout so many days a year to prepare for their hunt and tip the odds of success in their favor and guides scout so many days a year to ensure their client has a successful trip. You quickly see that each are basically the same.

Creative mule deer harvest photo

I want to make one thing very clear: I am not saying all guides are great people. In fact, there are many whom I do not care for, but the term “DIY hunter” doesn’t automatically mean you are a good person. It also doesn’t mean you are not going to have to bust your butt to get it done. If you hunt on your own you should be proud of it, but also need to be cautious of judging someone by their title as a hunting guide. Often you will find there is more to a person than what society has labeled on their so-called title. I still hunt on my own quite a bit and I look forward to the challenge. There are a ton of great hunting guides and bad ones, the same can be said for DIY hunters. In the end it all comes down to attitude and respect for the varying degree of the preferred hunting style. So let's push aside the differences... and get back to hunting.

13 Comments

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Brady B. - posted 1 year ago on 08-13-2018 08:22:59 pm

Hunter H. - prev. posted

Your article misses the real issue that most people have against hunting guides. Its not about if 'Guides are good or bad guys' or DIY are either one too. My friends in Arizona frown on guides because they effect us (DIY hunters) in a negative way. The issue is about an extremely limited resource (180"+ class bucks) that are being prostituted heavily for money and ego (ego drives the social media phenom). A test case would be to remove the big money and see if hunting guides would fade away.
Here in Arizona, we see the impact of guides greater than most states. Arizona's famous big mule deer bucks are located in a small percentage of the state north of the grand canyon. In comparison to other states, the area is much flatter and easy to hunt. In Utah/Colorado and others you can find big bucks in all parts of the state. Not so in AZ. Guides have saturated our 'much smaller areas' (in strip and a few elk units) with hundreds of paid helpers and trail cams.
The pressure on the monster muleys has become excessive in recent times. Making it harder and less fun for the DIY guys (majority of hunters) to locate a 190+ buck. Simi-local guides with very local helpers live on-top of the deer year round. They are like the paparazzi taking thousands of pics and giving them names. The bigger bucks can't stand this pressure forever and the hunt "Quality" is worse now than ever. Its TRUE. The catalyst has been the online world that can stoked a flame. There's a hire-a-guide frenzy that we see now with internet/social media. If you draw a coveted elk/deer tag in AZ, people will say that you better hire a guide as if your hunt and life depended on it.

We applaud the tag holders who made a decision to earn their buck no-matter the outcome. Not thinking 100% success on a 200" buck was something to be purchased, but rather earned. Res & non-res hunters who woke up on their own without a guide slapping the tent door. Hunters who made their own breakfast. Who jumped into the driver seat of the truck, not the backseat... and who set out to do something significant each day...and left the outcome to GOD. We in AZ applaud you and respect you for your effort. Its 'YOUR' hunting storied we want to hear.

This message is mostly meant for those who pay someone else to do their hunting for them (not counting anyone with physical needs). For the rest of us there is an assumed 'effort' required of earning the title of "hunter". A rarely spoken truth is how friends and associates will examine your 'hunt effort' and decide to respect you as a hunter, or not. A lot of heads on a wall are meaningless if someone else hunted them for you. Its a respect thing that dad, granddad and great granddad understood. On a guided hunt, you're the guy who 'pulled the trigger' at best and that's how people (and guides) will think of you. Go DIY next time. The inner you will thank you.

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Craig S. - posted 1 year ago on 08-07-2018 10:08:51 pm
Kingman, Arizona
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The article wasn't coming from a place of is DIY or Guided better, it was simply was meant to separate out these titles & show the true character of people are not defined by some egotistical title.

Hell yes you should be proud of accomplishing any goal on your own! If you build a house on your own, you should be proud. If you dig a water well on your own you should be proud. If you grow your own grains, fruits & vegetables you should be freaking proud, but I bet you don't do all of those DIY???

Hunter you are talking about Trophy Hunting aka selective hunting. Selective hunting takes time & money, some have more money than time. Usually DIY guys have more time than money (I know because I have been one all my life).

The guiding industry does suck some of the top end up but that is just the nature of a FREE market (capitalism). It does suck sometimes & it does occasionally feel like animals are being pimped out, but that would happen even if you took the money out of it. You would simply have more guides hunting for themselves & probably killing even more big stuff.

I am all for DIY hunters, but I like the one's that have grit. The ones that don't make excuses or point fingers as to why they are successful. The ones that can really grind it out & YES, the ones that are GOOD people too.

Best,
Craig Steele

Brady B. - posted 1 year ago on 08-07-2018 08:33:07 pm

Well said Hunter H.! Its not about guides being good or bad. Its not about us DIYer's being jealous of guides success. He assumes we aren't more successful then he. It IS about the honor of the hunt, the virtues of the hunt, the challenges of the hunt to the individual hunter. To anyone considering hiring Craig to be the hunter of your hunt... read Hunter H. message below and focus on the last two paragraphs. Its ok to hire someone to find your trophy... have fun un-hunting!

Hunter H. - posted 3 years ago on 08-18-2016 04:58:35 pm

Your article misses the real issue that most people have against hunting guides. Its not about if 'Guides are good or bad guys' or DIY are either one too. My friends in Arizona frown on guides because they effect us (DIY hunters) in a negative way. The issue is about an extremely limited resource (180"+ class bucks) that are being prostituted heavily for money and ego (with money being #1). A test case would be to remove the big money and see if hunting guides would fade away.
Here in Arizona, we see the impact of guides greater than most states. Arizona's famous big mule deer bucks are located in a small percentage of the state north of the grand canyon. In comparison to other states, the area is much flatter and easy to hunt. In Colorado you can find big bucks from the very north to the south of the state. Far east to far west. Not so in AZ. Guides have saturated our 'much smaller area' with hundreds of paid helpers and trail cams.
The pressure on the monster muleys has become excessive in recent times. Making it harder and harder for the DIY guys (majority of hunters) to locate a 190+ buck. Simi-local guides with very local helpers live on-top of the deer year round. They are like the paparazzi taking thousands of pics and giving them names. The bigger bucks can't stand this pressure forever and the hunt quality is worse now than ever. Its TRUE. The catalyst has been the online world that can stoke a flame. There's a hire-a-guide frenzy that we see now with internet/social media. If you draw a coveted tag in AZ, people will say that you better hire a guide as if your hunt and life depended on it. Its an eye roller to see this phenomena.

We applaud the tag holders who made a decision to earn their buck no matter the outcome. Not thinking 100% success on a 200" buck was something to be purchased, but rather earned. Res & non-res hunters who woke up on their own without someone slapping the tent door. Who made their own breakfast. Who jumped into the driver seat of the truck, not the backseat... and who set out to do something significant each day...and left the outcome to GOD. We in AZ applaud you and respect you for your effort. Its 'YOUR' hunting storied we want to hear.

This message is mostly meant for those who pay someone else to do their hunting for them (not counting anyone with physical needs). For the rest of us there is an assumed 'effort' required of earning the title of "hunter". An unspoken truth is how friends and associates will examine your 'effort' to gauge the respect you may deserve. Its a respect thing that dad, granddad and great granddad understood. If you can't do any of what it took to earn that 190" buck you and your guide a posing behind... then wait til you can. On a hunt like that, you're the guy who pulled trigger at best and that's how people (and guides) will think of you. Go DIY next time. The inner you will thank you.

Ben_4
Bendrix B. - posted 3 years ago on 03-01-2016 07:03:19 am
Rochester, MA
goHUNT INSIDER

To clarify, my position has nothing to do with the work guides do, if they are honest, or anything to do with the guides at all. What I am objecting to is allocating tags to guides so the guides can sell the tags. Sure, they don't "sell" the tags, they sell the hunt. But, you can't get that tag unless you buy their hunt.

Tags allocated by the Gov't does not mean that guides don't get the business. In Maine we have very limited Moose tag allocation. All of it is direct to the public. What do you think a hunter from out of state does? Mostly, hire a guide to help ensure that once in a lifetime tag gets punched.

Allocated tags to guides simply means that they can charge a premium for that tag/hunt, making the hunt inaccessible to all but the rich. That's not the North American Model, that's the European feudal landed elite model.

Tell me why a sheep hunt in the same mountains as a goat hunt is three times the price, from a guide, if not for the market value of the sheep tag?

Let everyone apply, let the tags go to regular folk, then let guides compete on the quality of their service, not on the quantity of their government allocated tags.

scott.lewis60
Scott L. - posted 3 years ago on 02-16-2016 08:08:38 pm
Mohave Co., Arizona
goHUNT INSIDER

Excellent article. Your candor is greatly appreciated. As with any profession, there are always going to be those who give the industry a black-eye. We can only hope, it's those who hold the standards that are the ones the majority remember.

Brandon Guitierez_189591448064914
Brandon G. - posted 3 years ago on 02-07-2016 05:36:18 pm
Susanville, CA

Guides are putting in the glass time so their clients can have successful trips. I imagine they work their asses off. It's still hard earned. I will never be able to afford a guided hunt, honestly I think it would be cool. Still, I work my ass off too, and when I find success it's completely gratifying. And hey, I didn't have to pay another guy to put all of the work in for me. That's dollar value right? Ha-ha. Both can be honest approaches. There are assholes on both sides. I see a guy with a great kill, feelings of envy don't enter my mind, and I never ask if it was a guided hunt, cause I don't care. I'm happy for the person and want to do it too!
Semper Fi

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Craig S. - posted 3 years ago on 01-28-2016 07:23:01 am
Kingman, Arizona
goHUNT INSIDER

Seth H. the golden rule applies with everything in life.

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Craig S. - posted 3 years ago on 01-28-2016 07:22:10 am
Kingman, Arizona
goHUNT INSIDER

Davod G & David L thanks guys

Ben_4
Bendrix B. - posted 3 years ago on 01-28-2016 06:20:35 am
Rochester, MA
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I am a registered guide in Maine, and have gone on guided hunts in Maine, Nunivut and AK. The only issue I have with guide vs. diy is when guides are allocated tags that they can sell (by booking hunts), ahead of the general draw. I think guides should not get tags, but should rely on hunters to get their own tags and then contract with the guide.

pistolero.man
Seth H. - posted 3 years ago on 01-26-2016 08:34:52 pm

The thing that really matters is treat others as you would be treated and don;t assume you know someone until you've met them. The more I hunt the more I am starting to understand all sides. My family is from Alaska but I live in N.M. now. My Grandfather homesteaded in Alaska and I would love the opportunity to hunt Moose in the same area he did. I am also not foolish enough to think I can fly up there, scout for a couple days and make it happen. I would need a good guide. For everything has it's place.

drlstripeing74
david l. - posted 3 years ago on 01-26-2016 05:11:34 pm
cortez colorado
goHUNT INSIDER

great article craig.

canyoubaitahook
David G. - posted 3 years ago on 01-26-2016 04:59:24 pm
Reno, NV
goHUNT INSIDER

Great article. There's good people, and not so good people, in all walks of life.