Given the vast expanse of hunting land in Northwest Colorado, hunters unfamiliar with the area can face a daunting task that stacks the odds against finding a quality animal.
Hiring an outfitter can provide a well-stocked camp and a better chance of finding big game during hunting season. But, more importantly, it assures a safe trip for hunters unfamiliar with the area.
"When nonresidents come to Colorado, they are unaware of the terrain," said Weston Clark, owner of Higher Ground Outfitters Inc. "Hunters should hire someone who knows the wilderness."
Outfitters not only know the terrain, but they also know where the herds are.
Before hiring an outfitter, hunters need to make sure they are working with someone they can trust.
Hunting outfitters are licensed by the state of Colorado, and guides must have a minimum of first aid and CPR training for certification. A few outfitters are licensed, bonded and insured to operate on public lands.
In considering an outfitter, first find out how long the company or individual has been licensed, Clark said. Ask for proof of the outfitter's license and call the Colorado Outfitters Association (www.coloradooutfitters.org) or call 876-0543 to find out whether the outfitter has any violations.
Outfitters should provide hunters with references from past clients.
Knowing how many people are going to be in your hunting group is also important.
Every outfitter is different, so it's worth the time to search for a company that fits your needs.
Hunting packages usually include packing gear in and out of the camp and warm tents, sometimes with mattresses to sleep on.
Higher Ground Outfitters works to keep its hunts accessible to all levels of physical ability, Clark said.
If hunters harvest an animal, getting the meat out of the backcountry is an important element of the service an outfitter can provide.
Higher Ground Outfitters offer hunts for elk, deer, antelope, buffalo, bear, cougar, turkey, quail, pheasant and migratory birds.
The cost of a hunt ranges from $2,450 for a drop camp to $7,500 for premium elk and deer combination hunts. Trips can be tailored to hunters' ability levels, interests and price ranges.