In a word – “Absolutely.” Unfortunately, too many outfitted hunts and fishing trips are booked based on a handshake and a deposit paid at a sport show, or worse yet, via an anonymous connection on the internet or telephone.
Booking an outfitted adventure is truly a combination of business and pleasure, but many times the business component gets overlooked because of focus on the pleasure both on the part of the customer and outfitter. Booking an outfitted adventure must be looked at FIRST as a business transaction. Once the price is set, the i’s are dotted and the t’s are crossed – then you can begin to anticipate the pleasure that you’re paying for. Honest, successful outfitters will look at it in the same way and understand your insistence on a mutually-agreeable contract.
A well-written contract can clear up so many questions and misunderstandings and provide a first-check source when issues arise. By getting an agreement in writing, you can make certain you and the outfitter are on the same page about the simple things like:
1) dates of the trip, 2) number of people in your party, 3) species you’ll be hunting, 4) licenses required, 5) who’s responsible for license applications, 6) price of the trip (in full) and 7) payment schedule.
An experienced, highly-rated, trustworthy outfitter is likely to have a standard contract he or she regularly provides clients. If an outfitter doesn’t provide a basic contract should be a warning signal to you.
Review the outfitter’s contract carefully and don’t be afraid to ask questions or make changes you believe are necessary. A great way to analyze an outfitter’s contract is to compare it to the 10 questions in the OutfittersRating.com survey. If all 10 evaluation points aren’t covered in the contract, you can recommend additions based on them. Make sure the contracts spells out both the responsibilities of the outfitter and what he/she will provide as well as what’s expected of you (and your group). And be certain it is signed by the outfitter as well as yourself and your group.
By the time you reach the point where you are considering signing a contract with an outfitter, your research should mostly be done and what you uncovered should be leading you to trust the outfitter. But like the OutfittersRating.com motto says, “Trust but verify.” Verify means asking questions. The time to get this understood by everyone is BEFORE you pay any deposit on the hunt. Take care of business first – then enjoy the pleasure of the trip. Get it in writing!
A good contract is simply an important element of pre-trip communication between the outfitter and the client. It’s really the most important element, because it’s the only thing that you and the outfitter have to refer to when questions arise.