Education and Training: Extensive field experience; hunting and/or fishing license; first aid and safety skills
Salary: $75 to $150 per day
Employment Outlook: Fair
Definition and Nature of the Work
Outdoor guides lead groups on recreational outing activities. They often specialize in their own areas of interest, organizing hunting and fishing expeditions or photographic and nature-study trips. Most guides work freelance and set their own prices. They attract customers by establishing a good reputation. The best guides are familiar with the territory in which they work and know the habits of the wildlife in that area. Most outdoor guides are expert hunters and fishers as well.
Hunting, fishing, and other outdoor trips may last from one day to several weeks. Outdoor guides suggest what kind of camping gear and hunting equipment the party should purchase from the outfitter (the store that sells equipment and supplies). They also decide what kind of transportation—canoes, boats, trucks, jeeps, horses, or mules—the party will use; locate good campsites; help set up camp; and sometimes prepare meals for the party. When game is killed, guides show the party how to clean, skin, or preserve it. Guides are also responsible for the safety of the party—they must know how to administer first aid and be prepared to handle emergencies.
Outdoor guides must follow good conservation practices. All states have laws about hunting and fishing that guides must know. It is up to the guides to explain these laws to the people in their hunting or fishing party and make sure that they are obeyed.
Guide work is available in all states, but the majority of guides are employed in states that have sparsely populated areas, large forests, and clean lakes and rivers. Hunting and fishing guides work in natural environments and enjoy experiencing life in the wilderness.
Education and Training Requirements
Prospective outdoor guides need no formal education, but they must be completely familiar with the terrain of the countryside, forests, or waterways where they will be working. Skill in administering first aid is also essential. An abiding interest in nature and extensive field experience generally provide new guides with the skills they need to succeed in this position.
State Departments of Conservation offer courses in hunter safety and good conservation practices. Candidates may need a permit or a license to work as a hunting or fishing guide. Fishing guides who act as charter boat captains, for example, must pass an examination and obtain a license from the Coast Guard. Annual renewal fees are charged for some licenses. Interested individuals should check with the fish and game commissions in their state.
Getting the Job
Most guides are self-employed and start out by advertising their services in newspapers and posting business cards at stores that sell camping equipment. Some guides work for outfitters. New guides can apply directly to outfitters in their area.
Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook
Guides advance by building a good reputation so that clients will return for future hunting and fishing trips. Experienced guides with good business sense sometimes become outfitters.
The job prospects for outdoor guides vary from region to region but were projected to be fair through 2014. More and more people are turning to unspoiled environments for their leisure activities and many will need guides to lead them. However, hunting and fishing are seasonal activities, so a guide's services are not needed year-round.
Guides work outdoors in all kinds of weather. They have no regular hours. Physical strength is required for hiking, backpacking, and carrying canoes and heavy game. Outdoor guides must be patient in dealing with clients. They also need to be able to deal with any emergency that occurs in the wilderness.
Where to Go for More Information
Association for Experiential Education
3775 Iris Ave., Ste. 4
Boulder, CO 80301-2043
The Environmental Careers Organization
30 Winter St., 6th Fl.
Boston, MA 02108
National Recreation and Park Association
22377 Belmont Ridge Rd.
Ashburn, VA 20148-4150
Earnings and Benefits
Guides set their own fee schedules, which are usually negotiable rather than set. Fees typically vary with the kind of service provided, the number of people in the group, and the guide's reputation. Annual earnings depend on the number of expeditions conducted in a given year. According to EnviroEducation.com, outdoor guides earn an average of $75 to $150 per day. Guides who run overnight trips may earn more. The daily salary of an outdoor guide rarely exceeds $250. Outdoor guide work may not be available at certain times of the year, so many guides supplement their income with other jobs.