by Charles Walthour

You took her out to dinner on your first date. You wanted to impress her. You asked the maitre d' for the best table. You order for her from the menu that is entirely in French. Your waiter stays alert and attentive but not intrusive. He suggest the perfect wine to go with the meal. He surprises you and her with dessert. He then informs you that he has prepared a table in the back where he has a single lit candle and an after dinner liqueur for each of you and acts as though you thought of it. He becomes part of your team and you win her heart. It was a perfect evening. Your bill for the two of you is $100.00. How much would you tip the waiter?

A customary tip for a bellhop at a nice hotel is $5.00 for carrying your two bags to the room or $2.50 per bag. If he gets a cart for 5 or more bags, the tip is usually a flat $10.00. These guys work for minimum wage which is $7.00 and they work an 8-hour shift so they make $56 per day. The tip money is above and beyond they wages but they generally alternate customers to be fair so if there are four bellhops the tip money is shared. On a 40-hour week they expect to make $280 plus tips or about $325 per week on an average week. Could your family live on that? How hard would you work for that?

A waiter or waitress usually expects a 15% gratuity; a wine steward usually gets 15% of the cost of the bottle of wine; a bartender gets 15% of the tab; a taxi driver gets 15% of the fare; a hairdresser or barber gets 15%; and a manicurist gets 15%. Do you get my drift? All of the people just mentioned spend less than an hour with you to provide their service, yet I constantly see hunters tip their guides anywhere from $20 to $100 for spending days and even weeks by their side doing everything from carrying their gear to field judging antlers to make sure they shoot the right animal. What most hunters don't know is that weeks before they even arrived at the camp or lodge, these guys were out spending countless hours scouting, hanging stands, cameras, blinds and feeders to ensure the success of their hunters. They work hard and they know their stuff or they wouldn't be there.

Your hunting guide is the first ones up and the last one to bed. Guides are the ones doing the physical work while the job of the outfitter is to ensure that your expectations are met and then passing that information on to the guide. The outfitter has enough to do with the scheduling and the administration of the season. During a hunt the outfitter socializes, fraternizes and generally makes sure his hunters needs are met to make them feel welcome and comfortable while they are not actually out hunting.

One of the reasons that I never wanted to be a taxidermist is that I wanted to be the one hunting and not the one stuck mounting the trophy of someone else. It's almost the same for your guide. He is away from home for long periods of time during the season; he locates the animal and gets you on it, but you are the one who pulls the trigger. Your guide tracks your animal, shares your success and tells you what a great shot you made, takes the pictures and gives excitement and dignity to the whole process. Then he field dresses the animal and gets it out and processed for your freezer and taxidermist.

In most instances, the outfitter hires guides to work for him for a nominal. Past that, a guide depends on your tips. If you didn't shoot an animal, you still need to tip your guide a minimum of 10% for his efforts (if it is a fair chase hunt). After all, he still did more than your cabby. If you shot an animal, you need to tip your guide 15% of the hunt cost. If you shot a great animal, you need to tip your guide a tip to show him that you had a great time and appreciate his help in putting it all together for you.

Talk to your guide. Ask his advice and get his opinion. He will be glad to share his knowledge. Your outfitter wouldn't have hired him if he didn't know his way around the woods and the industry. Your tip after the hunt is over will make him part of your team next year when you come back. I promise...he'll remember you and your tip.

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