|Now is a great time for hunters to start pre-planning for the 2016-2017 season. If this is the year that you’d like to hunt an unfamiliar area or learn more about an outdoor pursuit you’ve never tried, you may want to consider hiring a professional guide.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is responsible for licensing hunting and inland/freshwater fishing guides in the state.
As defined by the Fish and Game Code, a “guide” means any person who is engaged in the business of packing or guiding, or who, for compensation, assists another person in taking or attempting to take any bird, mammal, fish, amphibian or reptile. “Guide” also includes any person who, for profit, transports other persons, their equipment, or both to or from hunting or fishing areas.
A good guide can greatly increase the chances of success for a hunter who is stalking a new species or unfamiliar with an area. Your guide isn’t just a mentor, but also a navigator, driver, shooting coach, tracker, and maybe even butcher and cook.
“Hiring a guide can be a worthwhile investment of both time and money,” said Lt. Alan Gregory, CDFW’s Advanced Hunter Education director. “You have to approach it as though you’re hiring a contractor to work on your house. Do your due diligence well before the season starts. Research the options that are available to you and get three bids before any money changes hands.”
Spending time in the woods during the preseason is a trait of consistently successful hunters. Licensed guides spend their time scouting during the preseason so they can provide information on recent game sightings, travel patterns and feeding routines. That knowledge can be worth its weight in gold.
A California guide license is “one size fits all,” in that it covers both hunting and freshwater fishing, so it might seem a little daunting to find a true expert in the hunt you want. However, it’s definitely possible if you do a little homework in the months before your hunt.
Tipping is also the standard for good service, and positive feedback in the form of a good review, in writing, is always appreciated.
Experienced hunters who enjoy mentoring others in the field may find that becoming a professional guide is the perfect way to turn a hobby into a career.
In order to become a licensed hunting guide in California, you have to submit an application and pay a fee. The cost of a resident guide license is $215.73 annually (Feb. 1 through Jan. 31 of the following year). A nonresident guide license is $495.75. Employees of a guide who assist in the service and who meet certain criteria are charged $47.38 for a license.
Guides must not have any CDFW violations in the two years preceding their application. A prospective guide with CDFW-related violations may have his or her application denied and licensed guides with violations may have their licenses revoked.
A guide must also purchase and maintain a “performance bond.” The bond is to protect the clients and assure that any deposit a guide receives from a client to reserve a future trip will be returned to the client if the guide cancels and tries to keep the deposit.
For more information on acquiring a guide license, please go to www.wildlife.ca.gov/licensing and see Fish and Game Code, sections 2535-2546 and California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 745.
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