This is a frontrunner as the most frequently asked of all FAQs related to outfitted hunting and fishing trips. It’s also a difficult one to answer because, at least in part, a tip should be commensurate with the quality of service provided. Additionally, there are so many factors of success that are entirely out of the control of your guide; so just because you aren’t successful in taking an animal it doesn’t necessarily mean your guide didn’t work his/her behind off doing everything possible to help you take a buck or catch a fish.
The old standby guideline for tipping guides has long been 10 percent of the price of the hunt. It’s still a good rule of thumb if, in your judgment, the guide worked hard for you. However, in these days when prices of hunts reaching well into five figures are common, that’s potentially a lot of money for 5-7 days of work. Some of us would have to swallow hard to hand over $2500 to an individual guide.
A modernized guideline is that the minimum 10 percent rule applies to everyone you’ll be tipping at camp. In that case, the same $2500 tip, would be split between the camp cook, wrangler, skinner and guide – say $1250 to the guide, $450 to the cook/housekeeper, $400 skinner, $400 wrangler as an example.
For hunts were its 2-on-1 or 4-on-1 with a guide, it’s perfectly acceptable to pool the tip between the hunters assigned to that guide. In camp, if you came as a group, then consider tipping the staff as a group as well.
If you feel your guide went above and beyond the call to serve you, then he/she certainly deserves a larger tip. If there were problems with the guide, then you should be speaking directly with the outfitter to address those problems as early as they become evident. And you are certainly within your rights to reduce or eliminate your tip based on the poor service. Just be certain you’re not basing your decision on factors that were truly out of the guide’s control or a personality conflict of some kind.
Always tip with money. Cash directly to the guide and camp staff is best, but if you believe you can trust the outfitter, adding tips to the final payment or putting them on a credit card at the lodge office is fine. However, always be sure to tell the recipient that you left the tip with the outfitter so they can follow up and so they know you appreciated what they did for you. Also always try to tip with currency of the country where you are hunting. If you tip with foreign currency, make the tip larger to make up for what will be lost in the conversion and for the hassle of having to go to town to make the conversion.
Do not tip guides or professional hunters with knives, binoculars, and other hunting gear unless the guide has expressed specific interest in a particular item. He/she has more than enough skinning knives, optics and such. Chances are very high these items will be listed on ebay or Craig’s list as soon as the hunting season is over. Everyone in the service industry can use and needs cash money. That is the most universally appreciated tip by guides and camp staff.
Finally, if in doubt always error on the side of generosity. If you can afford to make an outfitted hunting trip, then chances are an extra $100 here or there isn’t going to break you. And should you decide to return to the same camp, you’re service their the next time is sure to be as good or better!