Shad Wheeler is a hunting consultant at Outdoors International with a personal specialty in high elevation hunting in the Rocky Mountain West. He has been on the cover of Eastmans Hunting Journal with his World Record P&Y Mountain Goat that he took in BC. He is super connected in the sheep hunting world and has hunted all over North America as well as in Africa.
In this podcast, listen in as Shad and Marc discuss facts you should consider when booking a hunt on most of the species available in N. America. They speak specifically about tags, landowner permits, costs, and trophy quality as they concern elk, mule deer, mountain goat, grizzly bear, brown bear, antelope, caribou, moose, desert sheep, dall sheep, rocky mountain sheep and stone sheep.
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Read the Transcript:
Mark: Alright guys welcome to the Outdoors International podcast. It’s another fun one. And again like I always like to say because it’s my podcast I get to have whoever the hell I want on it. And fun thing for me this time is that we’re having Shad Wheeler on. Shad’s one of our agents and he’s just a stud in the sheep world, known in the high elevation community, has shot the number one goat in the world, Pope & Young, with his bow. I mean you know, he’s a knuckle-dragger – he’s the type of guy who has gone out and done it- triathlon, trainer, hard core physically. I think he weighs about a buck 65 soaking wet because he’s thin as a rail and trains all the time. So he’s that guy that has had a lot of global hunting experience and done a lot of the hard core stuff and is a hard core bow hunter.
I feel blessed to have him not only internally in the company and as a foundational member of Outdoors International, but also one of our lead agents and a super go-to guy with a wealth of global hunting experience as well as just that hard core right guy that Outdoor International attracts. I just feel blessed to have him on today and what our goal is is kind of what the overview of what Outdoors International is and what are the specialties that we have and the elk and the deer and what are the implications of that. And what it’s like to book a hunt in Canada and Alaska and Argentina and Africa. A conversation that two hunting consultants can have with one another that I thought you would probably enjoy listening into because we’re going to be able to give you kid of the 10,000 foot overview of the world of hunting.
And I think that’s valuable information for everybody, so Shad, I’m glad to have you on today. Thanks so much for making the time and glad to have you on here.
Shad: Thanks Mark, I’m happy to be here.
Mark: Good stuff, good stuff. Well let’s, Shad by the way is there anything in my introduction that you think is relevant that I may have left out, that you think is important for the people to know about you or did I do a decent job?
Shad: Oh, I mean great job. Probably the other big thing to me though is just the fact that I’m a blessed man to have an awesome wife and two amazing little girls. And that definitely takes up a lot of my time but I wouldn’t trade it out for anything in the world, so pretty fortunate that way. But on the hunting side I think you pretty well nailed a lot of what I’ve done so.
Mark: Yea, you know it’s funny we get so encapsulated in this whole tunnel vision, hunting industry, live, eat, breathe, you know, put money in the bank from it, you know all those different things. I mean this is a labor of love on our end and as a result none of us lose perspective of what’s really important which is God and family and country and the kind of hunting saddles up there after the kind of stuff we never talk about. So I’m really glad you brought that up because there is no question in my mind and hasn’t been for a long time – I love hunting, but I love my family more. There’s just nothing- no if, ands or buts about it. So and I think you feel the same way, is that correct?
Shad: Well, without a doubt. A great example I can give you, you think about the fact that a lot of guys talk about living the dream, getting to go hunting, getting to go do all these things, but the part the guys don’t stop and think about is all the time you’re away from your family. All the events, the moments you miss and it’s trying to find that balance between them. I spent a bunch of time out guiding in Wyoming and I didn’t get to see my wife and my girls for 3 straight months and you know, I missed some big moments, I missed some school recitals and a first tooth lost and –
Mark: Brutal. Brutal.
Shad: -those kinds of things. You’re living vicariously by way of anytime you can get internet connection or jumping on Skype or whatever you can to try and make things work, you know that’s definitely a price you pay to try and make a career out of this industry.
Mark: No question, which is why I’ve told you guys it’s always been my vision is that the reason we are is because the team, not any one individual. We are no face. And the goal is not to be a face. And the reason is because that face, if you talk to 90% of those guys they don’t super love what they do anymore. And they’re burned out, right?
Shad: Yea, definitely.
Mark: And they’re divorced and they are a lots of things that I’m not even slightly interested in. I’ve been a business owner from cradle to grave and you too is that I always look at other people and what they have done in the industry before I’m there and then don’t do that because I don’t want the results they got. You know so that’s one of our blessings, and I believe one of our strengths.
You know Russ and Cory and you and me and Justin in the past has all been amazing people on camera plus we have a great pro-staff of like-minded guys. You know, so we are really assimilating more of a face rather than assimilating an ideal, you know an attitude, a-
Shad: Well, a brotherhood.
Mark: Yea, a brotherhood of like-minded men and soon to be women who approach hunting in the industry and nature and effort and training and preparation from the same modality. That’s what we are is that modality with wrapping people around it. Is that how you see it?
Shad: Yea, you know I would- just to kind of bring it into terms that I would know and understand is that we’re really about building a lifestyle. And by that I don’t mean just a hunting lifestyle but a lifestyle that we can be proud of, that sets an example for our kids that it’s worth it to chase your dreams but at the same time to remember where you come from and what’s most important to you because at the end of the day trophies, any of that stuff is temporary. It’s the experiences, the moments, the memories, the times with those you love and care about that stick with you.
Mark: Yea, yea, well said. Well said. It’s fun, it’s fun. You know once again for you to get it so quickly, me to get it, Cory to get it, for Russ to get it and to have that just be a natural just lets me know we have the right guys. And I’m a big believer in good to great, I don’t know if you’ve read that book but it’s about getting the right guys on the bus and then steering, not about steering and then getting the right guys on the bus to steer in the direction you think. Right? So it’s’-
Mark: We’ve done a lot of that here at Outdoors International and as a result not only do our clients benefit, being client-centric. I mean you’ve heard it from the get-go as everybody else has- when it all comes down to it when the rubber meets the road are we doing the right thing by the client?
Mark: If we’re not then we need to adjust because that’s-that’s the baseline.
Shad: So you brought up an interesting point there, Mark, let me flip the script on you I’m going to be the interviewer for a second.
Shad: So tell me why is it though what we do is so important to hunters out there? Because I think most guys don’t understand what it is that we do and the benefits that we bring to the table for them.
Mark: Yea, no question. It’s amazing to me the frequency which is extremely high, I put it in the 85%-90% of hunters that are booking hunts every year that have never had an interaction with a hunting consultant. I often tell my clients, if it’s not me make sure it’s somebody else. Right? There are a few good firms. There are a lot of firms, but there are a few good firms out there and you need a good relationship with a hunting consultant that is good at what he does. And just like outfitters that is far and few between. And I feel prideful that we’re that right guy.
So option number one and here’s why. Because a lot of people misunderstand first and foremost that to book a hunt through us is free to them. They don’t pay anymore. They pay the same exact price as if they called the outfitter directly. We actually get paid on the back end as a referral fee from the outfitters that we choose to work with.
Now the super important word there is choose. We’re very choosy who we work with, it’s a multi-year process, we accept less than 2% of the outfitters that enquire to us and we personally hunt the operations with either ourselves our clients or our pro-staff so we’ve done it, did it, been there. We’ve had eyes on the ground. Very transparent in the ability and here is the difference as well, now bear in mind, and I tell clients this and I tell you this Shad, what it is is some of the outfitters out there are my most favorite people that walk the planet. I’m a big fan of the outfitting industry.
What I do know because of the place that they come from they’re fallible in their ability to explain their own operation and here’s why. Because they got one options and that’s themselves, and they need to fill up, right? That’s just where it comes down to so because of that their ability to be objective and non-biased goes right out the window. On the other hand when you call me I have so many options that it’s more about exploring what you’re looking for and matching you in the right place. So now instead of being in the hunt selling business, which outfitters have to be –doesn’t make them bad people, they just are – I’m in the hunt explaining business which is a much less vulnerable place for a client to be able to make a clear and concise decision about the place that they’re looking for.
So that’s a really, really important delineation because I have the ability just to simply explain, rather than sell, now it gives me the opportunity to really be in service of the client to make a good decision for himself. Because the reality is, and again I say this all the time, I been doing this for 20 years, I have bow hunted all over the world, to more in the 25 year range and I have to talk to a single outfitter EVER that tells me they are anything short of the greatest thing since sliced bread. Right? I’ve never had an outfitter tell me they suck.
Mark: Right, yea. And but the reality is there’s a large part of the industry who isn’t good at what they do. And-
Shad: Well, I think there’s another important part there too, Mark with regards to what you were talking about there is one of the benefits about being in the hunt explaining business is we get the chance to build a relationship with our clients. We get to know them, what they’re looking for, what their dreams are as far as bucket list hunts and things like that. We get the opportunity to, based on that knowledge, help them to find the hunts that are going to be most satisfying to them, and throughout their hunting career we can be that one constant versus every time that they go to a different outfitter they have to establish a new level of trust, a new relationship, etc. versus getting to build that long-term relationship with a great consultant who then they can trust that person who knows them and understands them, what they’re looking for and what they’re hoping to accomplish. Can help guide them to those adventures that are going to be most beneficial and rewarding for them.
Mark: Yea, no question and what an advantage it is and what a great point, I’m glad you mentioned it. I remember back in the day when I was a client I had a hunting consultant and I picked up the phone to him and I had a one-stop shop for the world of hunting. And especially when I was dealing with foreign countries I didn’t speak the language, I didn’t know the laws, I didn’t know how to get my critters back any of those things. All of a sudden with one phone call it’s all taken care of. Right? Plus I know I am landing on a place I can trust.
Mark: So, I mean it’s just the hassle factor alone and that it’s free tell me again, no brainer. So I think yea, potentially the guys out there listening are getting it now. You know, why it would be an advantage to have a relationship with a consulting firm and again I would be proud to be that for any of those. Now in that, Shad, what I would also say is that it’s important that the guys listening and the gals, what our specialties are. And there’s no questions asked what we are known for is in our own backyard, but we’re very good at the whole world, but what we’re known for is our backyard and that’s the Rocky Mountain west. And you know we have access on just under 16-1/2 million private acres in the west alone in elk and deer country and 95% of our hunts have all guaranteed tags.
Which also seems to be, don’t you find, to be one of those that a ton of clients just don’t get –they don’t understand the draw situation, it feels intimidating and can I get a tag and does that matter and does it make my hunt cost more. Do you find that to be something that is a disconnect for that guy looking to hunt out west for his first time for sure?
Shad: Oh yes, without a doubt. It’s amazing the number of guys that I talk to that don’t even understand the difference between a land owner tag versus an over-the-counter tag versus having to play the draw. What the pros and cons are in each situation, how to approach it. Colorado is probably the biggest one because they’ve got such a mix of draw and landowner tags. They’re trying to help guys navigate through that and figure out, ‘hey, you know what there is a number of different opportunities, both from the point of being able to get an over-the-counter tag and some units for some types of hunts versus a landowner tag and building your points to draw that premiere tag.
I mean there is strategy that can go into all of that that can allow you pursue your hunts pretty much year-in and year-out, yet still achieve the goal of –if you’re the one that likes to play the draws for an opportunity to hunt some of those premier public land areas, there’s ways you can do that and still be having incredible adventures every year.
Mark: Right. Right. You don’t have to wait for 10 years, and you get access to some incredible ground. Our Utah connection is a prime example – everybody out there wants to kill a big muley, these guys got 900,000 acres between Utah and Wyoming and we got CWMU tags and not hard to draw tags on even the rifle hunts for muleys. These guys killed 13 deer over 200 last year. You know? They killed some stompers. So it’s all possible, and that’s one area.
So let’s talk about that a bit more and kind of how that varies. Landowner tags are readily available in Mexico, they’re readily available for the most part in Colorado, and through the CWMU program they’re quite available in Utah. All being premium states with premium mule deer and elk. Trophy quality. And ones that we have good relationships with on both public and private grounds.
So those are 3 states that we can really get it done. Wyoming’s’ tag draw systems aren’t that difficult so we can plan a hunt there because it’s definitely something I get and it’s very difficult to want to book a hunt where you’re not sure you’re going to draw a tag or not. I personally would stay away from that as well as it always sounded risky to have to roll it over. What I would say is some of these premiere tags we can get two guys as reference points and they pretty much draw first year, right?
Mark: If they don’t draw the first year, the second year they’re guaranteed. That’s not such a risky scenario-
Shad: Well and you’ve got a lot of them too there Mark, in Wyoming where you buy a preference point where you want this summer you’re guaranteed to draw next year.
Mark: No question, yea.
Shad: I mean there are just, again it’s talking through what you want to accomplish with one of us and putting a game plan together.
Mark: Right, multi-year strategy.
Mark: I mean if the goal is to achieve this, let’s talk multi-year. Shad, let’s talk market prices as that’s kind of our areas of expertise and that’s another thing that I think is really misunderstood. Bear in mind guys that are listening its $1500 is generally the market average price difference between a rifle hunt and an archery hunt.
Shad: Right, right.
Mark: For elk and deer. You know it’s a pretty good one just to base it on. Then if you can consider if we’re talking rifle hunt prices than everything else is going to line up %1500 cheaper for the same hunt for an archery unit. And your choices are going to be more and we’re going to be able to take advantage of things easier – like ruts- with archery. So I always advise anybody that’s going to go into a lifelong hunting career to be a proficient archer because it gives you a distinctive advantages in both price point and availability of tags and uniqueness of times that you can hunt where you can’t necessarily with a rifle. So I think it’s good to be both or have a dominance towards archery. Because you can get into neater hunting experiences – obviously success rates drop. But price points – I always tell guys when they’re looking to book a mule deer hunt know the bottom end of the market on upper end 160+ mule deer hunts are really to start out in that high 4 range-
Mark: 4500 to 5000- a 4500 is kind of scraping the bottom of the upper end outfitters, you’re safer at 5000. And if you’re looking for that 170+ hunt up into the 180s it’s not uncommon to be up in that $7500 range so that’s kind of the range.
Now do we have 12 and $15,000 deer hunts? You bet. Yea, they exist. Those are good 190+ deer hunts, that sort of thing and they ain’t cheap. It’s going to be the way it is. And that’s kind of the range to consider on mule deer. Now what would you consider to be the range on elk that you’ve experienced?
Shad: You know I mean I would say that your standard range for good, average trophies and stuff basically in that, you know 280-320 class you’re going to be looking for anywhere from, similar to mule deer, from the standpoint of $4500-$6000. It’s kind of that range for those. Now when you start wanting to push into hunting opportunities where you hire in trophy potential, you know you’re talking about a pretty substantial jump. You’re starting to get into that 8, 9, even $10.000 range.
Mark: Right, right, and I often tell guys don’t forget there’s a huge difference between a place on market value that averages 280 and 300.
Mark: What I also caution them and, that price difference is 3-5,000 dollars difference in price, right? It just is. If we’re going to put you on a tag in New Mexico that has that possibility don’t forget that just the tag is going to run you $3500-$4500. And the hunts in New Mexico, market average, are cheap compared to the rest of the industry. They’re $4500-$5000 for the hunt. The problem is you got to buy the tag too.
Mark: Right, so that’s what accelerates costs in New Mexico. Now I love putting clients in New Mexico because the lay of the land – that country doesn’t require extreme physical condition, there’s a ton of landowner tags available and there are some really good ranches on the edges of exclusive units where we can get you guaranteed tags and get you into upper end bulls. I mean, it’s just a state that really works well, especially for rifle clients. I just like those hunts out there.
At the same token love Utah because you’ve got the CWMU tags that let guys rifle hunt in the rut, which is one of the rarities out there and then the wilderness in Idaho which is our own backyard and we know really well, we’ve got some great connections to put guys on bulls out here too. So-
Shad: And one point I’d like to make on Idaho is we definitely had issues with wolves and it is going to be an ongoing issue but I want to make sure that guys understand that between the outfitters and the hunters and even fish and game out there they’ve done a really good job of stabilizing those elk numbers in a lot of the units so just because there’s wolves there, doesn’t mean there’s not elk there, and I want to make sure the guys understand that because I get that question a lot.
Mark: Yea, and not only that – it’s a better price in Idaho- that’s the reputation, right? So there’s a hell of a bang for the buck going on kin Idaho in my opinion right now, which is why I love placing clients there, especially archery clients in some of our premiere units which we have great outfitters in two of the three units there for an archery hunter.
Shad: Yea, well and here’s the added perk though, you see a wolf, you got a wolf tag in your pocket for $50, you know I mean there you go- you get a chance to take one of the most elusive trophies on the planet.
Mark: Yea, no question, no question. Well I think the elk conversation is really an interesting one, I believe listeners need to consider this and here’s one thing that I think gets passed over. The difference between a 280 and a 310 bull with 12 tines is an inch and a half per tine.
Mark: You lay those two bulls side by side you’re going to notice a difference but on the wall, man that’s a big amount of money to pay for those inches.
Mark: It just is. So if you’re on a budget consider the implications of the choices you’re going to tell us. I mean if you’re going to be that devout, ‘I want to kill a 300+ inch bull,’ which puts you in the large category, that a large part of that category and then can’t back it up with a realistic budget and then go on a crap hunt? That’s what I would tell you – be very, very aware and I tell you this Shad, and I tell every one of my guys. If an outfitter is below market average there’s always, and I mean always, a reason why.
Mark: And that reason why 90% of the time is not good.
Shad: Well and I mean here’s another point that I make with a lot of my clients, especially those that are coming out for their first, second or even their third elk hunt is I try to focus more on the experience, especially for archery guys coming out to hunt the rut and the bugle, to me it’s all about that experience. It’s being in the woods with those animals when they’re cranking off. I mean you got a bull elk with slobber going everywhere, pissing all over himself screaming his head off – it doesn’t really matter if that bull is a 260 or a 320, you know what? It’s every bit of the same experience – that bull is right there at 25 yards.
So, as you’ve mentioned, unless you’re one of those guys, a die hard, you’re all about that trophy size the experience is the thing you take away. It’s worth it to be realistic on what it is you’re trying to accomplish with that adventure and that trip because I – well great example, I had a guy last year out in Wyoming- first time ever elk hunting and he ends up in the middle of three herds with three herd bulls just screaming their heads off, right? And I mean I’ve got this guy in there for three hours and he is shaking like a leaf. He ends up missing 4 shots at those herd bulls. Two days later he shoots a little rag horn and could not have been happier with the adventure, right? Because it was the experience of what he had happen that made the hunt, not just the animal. And so for guys that haven’t experienced that part of what I believe is important, putting them in a place where they get to have not just those experiences focused on ‘is that bull going to break 300.’
Mark: Right. Yea, no super well said. I’m so glad you brought it up because here’s the statistics. Of licensed archery elk hunters in the US the success rate is less than 2%. Right?
Mark: So when you get a bull with your bow it’s a big fricking deal whether it’s a spike or whether it’s a rag horn or whether it’s a toad, right? It’s a big deal either way so having a realistic perspective, being early in the game, chasing bulls. If you don’t have multiple bulls under your belt and know what it takes to truly kill that herd bull, which is almost always sneaky-sneaky, almost never run in and stand in front of you. Then you just – the illusional world of how easy it is to kill a large dominant herd bull- what almost always happens is these guys that are going in on these first hunts and their on premiere ranches that maintain 330-350 quality and every herd bull is going to be up in that range – the satellites are the 320 bulls, which are still a stud-
Mark: And that bull will come running in. But that 350 is going to hang with his cows and let you bugle your head off and cow call your head off until you get in his kitchen. And it takes a proficient, knowing-what-he’s-doing, elk hunter to get there. So that’s what I try to remind guys of, and some of the best archery elk outfitters out there? Their opportunity rates will be up in that 80%-90% or 100% range and the success rates for a real good archery elk outfitter will be 40%-60%. And the reason is nobody can shoot your bow for you.
Shad: This is right. Yep.
Mark: This is what it comes down to. They don’t suck, but look at the odds. Look at that success rate comparatively to the 2%. Do I think some guy coming out west to hunt, going to his first elk hunt and he can scratch the money to go with a guide is worth it? Hell, yes. And statistics would agree with me, right? So, great discussion on elk and deer. I think that’s good.
Now the one thing real quick I wanted to mention on deer that I constantly get is people don’t realize the most in demand trophy in North America, bar none, no questions asked, is the big muley. Everybody wants to kill a big muley right now. It seems to be kind of the hot critter and I get it. I’m a muley fanatic. That being said supply and demand is going to drive up that price. They’re expensive. They used to be cheaper than elk, they aren’t anymore. If anything they’re the same price or more especially higher trophy quality. So guys just got to be ready. I mean mule deer you got to book it a year and a half in advance of you want to get on the best places.
If you’re listening to this right now, and you want to hunt in 2015 on some of our premiere properties, you need to call one of us right now. Right, I mean this is the time when we can get you in. By the time this next hunting season is over premiere mule deer properties are going to be either 90% booked or already booked. It’s a minimum year to year and a half in advance. A year and a half is better, we can help you then. Would you agree with that Shad?
Shad: Oh without a doubt, and then I mean of you start stepping up to do some of those ultra-premiere hunts for those 190 pluses you are a lot of times looking at even 2 years 2-1/2 years out. So it’s a very- like you said, for whatever reason it is the thing right now. I mean crud, our Alberta guy you can’t even get somebody on the waiting list right now, you know? I mean, it’s just bang, bang, bang –I mean anytime something just opens you’ll have 5-6 guys fighting for that spot.
Mark: Right, right and that guy that we do have availability a year and a half out right now is $10,000-$12,000 in Peace River country.
Shad: Yep, right. Yep.
Mark: So I know once again guys just need to be prepared, book in advance and if you want to kill a big deer, get ready to write a good check. Guys just got to be prepared for it again. It’s a supply and demand industry. So there’s kind of a Rocky Mountain west if we just wanted to mention as a side note, we got a lot of good antelope hunts as well, archery has a lot of guaranteed tag possibilities, tremendous trophy quality is going to be found in New Mexico kind of year in year out and that’s near the upper end on that market in that 35 and even 40-45 and we even have a $5500 Boone & Crockett, you know antelope hunting in New Mexico.
The majority of the rest of them are going to be in that $1500-$2500 range, not too terribly hard to draw tags and you’re going to be in that Pope & Young arena – upper end in those kind of hunts. You’re potentially Booner potential, but most of it’s going to be Pope & Young style quality on antelope. That’s a critter that most guys are one and done with, they do it once and get her done, so and – go ahead, go ahead.
Shad: I wanted to say one thing I would add to that is it’s important. Guys don’t just go bargain basement shopping on those antelope hunts though because one of the things is when you really start digging in on those hunts that are at that $1500 price point you start to find out thought that those guys are in low antelope density points. Yes, they’ve got tags, yes there are antelope there but if you start looking at success rates those guys are running 30%-40%, some of them maybe 50% success on those and antelope’s one of those that if you’re in a good area there’s no reason the outfitter shouldn’t be running up in that 80%-90% success rate.
Mark: Very true, and I guess what I was including in that were some of our Nebraska options we’ve had in the past and they’re dwindling a little bit because some of the ground is getting gobbled up. Those are archery options. Right-
Shad: Right. Yep.
Mark: Right, so options are going to run more in that price range now that we’re seeing the dwindling opportunities at the 17-2500 dollar range. Right, the rifle hunts are more up in that $2500 as a general rule, wouldn’t you say?
Shad: Yea, yea I would say you’re looking at $2500-$2750.
Mark: Yea, yea so a rifle hunt below $2000 I would just be very, very cautious. That’s just below market average.
So, let’s move on. Let’s talk about some other areas too that I think a lot of hunters- Canada is one of those areas that I always tell guys don’t forget. I love Canada, I’ve hunted there a ton but you are always going to pay for Socialism to hunt there. The other big question I always get is ‘gosh can I get guns and critters across the border?’ and my answer to that is yes, very simply. Not only do they travel down here, we travel up there with meat and guns all the time.
The main thing you have to be cautious of when you’re booking in Canada in terms of border crossing is number one: if you’ve had a DUI anytime within the last 10 years give it up going, right. They’re just not-
Shad: Well, actually you can.
Mark: Well, yea, but it’s a dispute process right? Long and drawn out.
Shad: Actually, no on the DUIs themselves where you run into issues is on other types of felonies. The DUIs they have a process called petitioning the crown-
Mark: I agree and I’ve had multiple clients go through that process and actually be denied and/or not be able to do it and it’s been a multi-year process. So I would really caution you what we’re advising clients on that it’s easy to get across with a DUI because it isn’t. And you may have had an experience with a particular client who did it easily and hired a good lawyer to get it done, but I’ve walked multiple clients through that opportunity. I have one client right now still trying to get on a hunt because he didn’t tell me he had a DUI because it was like 7 years ago and he thought it was no big deal. I ask every client before I book them in Canada. He’s now on his third year of disputing it, trying to get into the country and asking for forgiveness. It’s basically a forgiveness process.
Shad: Right, yea and you end up paying a fee to the crown-
Shad: And they issue you a pardon.
Mark: Correct. Yea so there is a process you can go through, It’s just no guarantees, you’re dealing with the bureaucracy and the powers that be that like to be able to swing their gavel and make decisions for you. So I would caution guys. So DUI, crossing Canada, by the way it’s both ways – we did it to them first. America made it difficult for Canadians to come here and they did it as an FU back.
Mark: Tit for tat thing and we actually did it first so it’s not the Canadians being boneheads on that, it’s probably us setting the trend. But in the other side, in terms of meat and guns, super easy. But you cannot bring a handgun into Canada, they will shut you down. And the other thing is when you cross the border you just need to be very transparent. The only thing you need to be careful of is things like alcohol and tobacco. You can bring those, you just can’t bring them in large amounts. So, that’s what I tell guys in the very simple online forms to get across. It’s not a big deal. Now as far as Canada goes definitely no questions asked the further west you go, the better the outfitting, right?
And really the high quality outfitting starts in Alberta and goes west. I’m super, super cautious of any business I do anywhere else in Canada and again it’s just the quality of outfitters in the eastern portion of the country have a tendency to be lower. And if there’s an eastern Canadian listening to that right now and it pisses you off I apologize but I don’t know a consultant out there that won’t tell you the same thing. Are there good guys in the business, abso-frickin-lutely we have a few. But much more few than we have in the western part of the state or the country. So the majority of business that we do and suggest clients look at is in Alberta and BC. We believe those are the best two outfitter countries and we can get you on basically anything Canada has to offer there. So what’s your kind of general feel for that as well, Shad? I know you’ve spent some time hunting in Canada.
Shad: Yea. I mean I, for me hands down it’s got to be British Columbia is probably my favorite place. Just the diversity, the opportunities and then the overall price points, I mean it’s definitely gotten more expensive but at the same time there is a reason they call it the Serengeti of the North.
Shad: I mean it’s an experience. It’s something that – to me BC, Yukon, Alaska you need those places. It’s like you go there and something gets like in your blood.
Mark: Yea, no question.
Shad: And it just lives with you. I mean there is just something about being in those truly wild places and knowing that you’re walking somewhere very few people will ever have or ever will step foot.
Mark: Yea, yea not only due to difficulty, but remoteness. Right?
Mark: You know so I tell often guys up in BC about that. Difficulty and remoteness, because the local population wants to put a moose in their freezer too, right?
Mark: And they don’t have but very few exclusive units where the general public can’t just go buy their moose tag and whack a moose under a particular trophy quality standard, right?
Mark: And so the stuff that’s accessible via road, and I’m sure this has been your experience as well, even the guides talk very openly about it, is the general public don’t really want to get off the roads and don’t really want to bust their tail so the outfitters overcome that by going remote and busting their tail. Right, so-
Mark: And that’s where you’re going to end up being. You trophy quality is going to go up the more you get remote and also go in further northern proximity because you’re away from the population base. Has that also been your experience?
Shad: Yea, you know about the only place I’d say that it hasn’t been my experience would be in regard to black bear.
Mark: Agreed, agreed.
Shad: There is just tremendous black bear, especially anywhere along the coast and out there off Vancouver Island and the population, there’s just – they just have awesome genetics and it’s one of those places that if a guy is looking to have a fun spot and stalk hunt for a big black bear, it’s a hard place to beat.
Mark: Right, right. Wouldn’t disagree. And I don’t think we should focus in or hone in on black bears but it’s important to know those coastal vessel based hunts can be tremendous. You’re going to pay in that $5,000 range but that’s where some of the biggest bears are walking. If you want to go inland though the spot and stalk hunts archery and/or rifle with color phase, because on the coast you’re going to find just blacks.
Mark: But inland and going after color phase you’re going to be paying that high 3’s range. The 36 kind at the lower end, the 42 at the upper end but don’t forget everything that I’m telling you about Canada is you’re paying for the price of Socialism so you’re going to have some VAT taxes and have some tag rates and you’re going to have generally some additional costs that you wouldn’t have in the lower 48 because you’re hunting in a Socialist country.
Shad: Yea, and you got like your royalty to the crown or actually to the province, I guess.
Mark: Correct. Yea.
Shad: There’s definitely those costs. It’s one of those places so where from experience it’s just tough to beat though, as far as-
Shad: Even just the grab bag, I mean think about it from a combo standpoint on some of those northern BC hunts, the fact that you can go in there and on one single hunt you could be hunting everything from stone sheep to mountain goat to mountain caribou to moose to wolf to grizzly, you know it’s just an unreal place from that standpoint. And the cool thing is though- yes it can be cost-wise more but the cool thing is they got a pretty wide array of hunt opportunities based on your budget.
I mean going from the far north and going for the Boone & Crockett type of animals to coming down into central eastern BC and still having tremendous hunting but then you’re introducing mule deer into the mix
Mark: And elk, yea.
Shad: -and so it’s kind of one of those cool places where you just, depending on what you want to accomplish there’s ways that you can put stuff together and give somebody an incredible experience. I mean shoot just one of the best ones is something like their moose hunts. I mean depending on where you’re at you can be hunting Canadian moose all in for $8900 for a 9 day trip and that’s all your costs.
Mark: Right, yea. That’s [indiscernible] [37:56]
Shad: Or you can be up on the northern border and technically you’re hunting Canadian but reality you’re hunting Alaskan Yukon moose for a fraction of the price of a guided hunt up in the Yukon.
Mark: Yea, legit 60+ inch potential. In the 12 -14 range.
Shad: Right. Yep.
Mark: I mean with the chance the combo on that hunt on a goat cheaper than you’ll ever be able to pay for it anywhere else. I agree with you, BC is a killer awesome place. Now, what the majority of it is, and I would say outside of the bear hunt, the majority of those hunts you either need to be able to ride a horse or you got to be in shape. Most of them you need to be both. So don’t be unrealistic about the physical condition level it takes. Now I don’t want to say they don’t take old men on goat hunts or guys who are out of shape, because they do. But there’s not a lot of easy country in BC. There just isn’t. It’s mountain country and it’s the real deal. So guys do need to be prepared that way.
As far as Alberta goes, I did want to quickly mention some of the best mule deer hunting out there, moose is always going to be lower end trophy quality, white tail can be tremendous trophy quality. I think the big thing to consider about Alberta is a lot of time they’re very susceptible to winter kills and because of that you’re trying to crucible how the winter is going to go or you’re going to try some hunting there multiple years in a row. That said I killed two deer over 200 in Alberta, I’m a fan.
The Peace River country some of the most amazing country out there, it’s not uncommon to roll in, and you’re hunting an ag in their big 500 acre dry land canola fields and green fields and hay fields and they grow a lot of grass seed out there and then there’s crown lined on the border and it’s not uncommon to literally go in and glass a field and have a moose, a white tail, a mule deer, an elk and-
Shad: And a black bear.
Mark -and a black bear in the same fricking field, which is cool! And it’s a lot of fun. And it’s a place where you could also go for truly a North American safari. And we got some great connections up there. So I like Alberta a lot as well.
Shad: You know one of the other things too that Alberta and BC also bring to the table is for those guys that are the sheep die hards it is full of opportunity for Rocky Mountain bighorns. You know, without having to be stuck playing the draws. So,
Mark: Right, right. Yea, that’s true and the guys need to know out there that that’s your specialty. You’re the guy that is our in-house sheep guy. And for any of you- and bear in mind that the one species we haven’t talked about. Other than drawing a premiere tag, the most expensive hunts in the world are for premiere sheep species. Whether it’s mid-Asia, whether it’s here. Guys need to be prepared for desert bighorns in that $40,000-$60,000 range and even way more than that type price. I mean give them an idea of the price ranges so they can know how to be realistic about it.
Shad: Yea, you start off Dall sheep is going to be your least expensive as far as price point on a hunt, you’re going to be starting around 15 and going all the way up from there to 21-22. Stone sheep these days you’re going to be running mid 30’s to low 40’s. Bighorns are going to be right there in that upper 30’s to mid 40’s.
Mark: Right, and that purchasable tag on a bighorn success rate of what 30? 50%?
Shad: Yea, depending on the area you’re running anywhere from 25%-50% success opportunity. There are some though like the California bighorn areas there in BC that have real good density and numbers where success rates are going to be a little bit higher but on those Rocky Mountain bighorns they’re not real dense populations, you’re going to be putting in time and effort. Expect it. It’s going to be a 10 day to 14 day tough physical hunt to make it happen and the better shape you’re in the more options that gives your guide to be able to get you to a successful outcome.
Shad: You know the other one is I like to mention the desert sheep. I mean guys have to go into that knowing that is an expensive hunt. It doesn’t matter if you’re looking at buying one of the Texas guaranteed tags or going into Mexico, you’ve got to-
Mark: Or Utah.
Shad: Well, yea, there you’re talking about doing the conservation tags, right?
Shad: At auction you’re $60,000+ on most of those desert sheep tags.
Mark You’re right, you’re right. It is so-
Shad: Plus more hunts on top of that.
Mark: Right, right.
Shad: It’s just getting guys to realize that desert sheep is one that you either have to develop a plan and go pursue it or you’ve got to have the type of income that you can afford to go do it. Otherwise, I would say you’ll play the draw and play the raffles like crazy because that’s going to be the only way that it happens-
Mark: Yea, and then call us for the right guy to go with.
Shad: Yea, yea without a doubt.
Mark: Yea. Well yea and that sheep world is just insane and again we could get into mid-Asia and all kinds of stuff and then it gets crazy. I mean I just don’t think there are a lot of people who’d realize that, what’s a marcore now 120?
Mark: 135 OK, so –
Shad: They give out a grand total of 16 permits a year for 4 different subspecies so.
Mark: Right, right. So insanity stuff but that’s some guys’ passion and they’ll do whatever it takes to go after it. And I get it. I can get how they get the bug. Well, let’s jump up to Alaska and let’s talk about that because that’s another one that’s on a lot of guys’ brain and when I very first start talking to somebody about Alaska that hasn’t been there before I remind them, don’t forget the price of milk there. A gallon of milk will run you 10-12 dollars depending on – and if you’re remote it costs $20.
Mark: So when you’re paying those kind of prices for the price milk everything else lines up behind it. Gas, fuel, wages, everything else. Alaska is an expensive place to hunt. You need to be prepared. So let’s talk some averages so guys know. For example our least expensive moose hunt and one of my favorites, and once again we’re dealing with the top 10%. We’re dealing with the guys that you want to hunt with. And here’s another thing I forgot to mention, Shad, and it’s critical. I see guys all the time coming to us with a budget that’s about $1500 under market average and oh, my God do I just want to tell them, man you are going to lose so much quality the majority of the time with that $1500 it’s just not worth it.
It would be better to wait another year, have the extra $1500 and do it right.
Mark: It’s incredible how many clients are just under where they need to be in terms of budgetarily. So moose though in Alaska, guys just don’t realize how many plane flights there are to get you, your guide, your packer and your moose back out. So half the cost of that is flying, right?
Mark: So these guys, you’re going to spend that $18,000 to $16500 at the absolute lowest end and I would suggest you’re in the 18-22 range for moose in Alaska to be safe, to be with a high quality guy. The least expensive really good guy is $18,500. Right? And he’s awesome. He went 100% on 60+ inch bulls last year, right? But that’s what it takes to get the right guy. Go ahead, you were going to say something?
Shad: I was just going to say again coming back to your point about the difference of $1500 is – I mean there aren’t a lot of us who can afford to go on an Alaska guided moose hunt every couple of years, let alone every other year, you know, whatever, so the importance of when you’re doing this and it’s one of your bucket list type hunts, don’t scrimp. Don’t try and do it as cheap as you possibly can because the idea of it is that you want to be able to have the best possible memories of that grand adventure to take back with you because for a lot of guys they’re only going to do it once.
Mark: Yea, no question. No questions.
Shad: And when guys are that close, just like you said, I’m inclined to tell them ‘hey you know what? Let’s book you out another year further and we’ll get you tied up, we’ll get you in there but that way that gives you a little more time to get extra money together so that you can go on a truly great hunt.
Mark: Yea, great point, I mean I can’t tell you how many guys I get that call me, ‘yea, I’m on my third elk hunt, I’ve had nothing but nightmares, I haven’t got my bull yet, I haven’t even seen an elk on two of the hunts.’ And then my next question is, ‘just out of curiosity what did you pay for those hunts?’ ‘$3500, that was kind of the upper end of my budget.’ Then I do the math in my head and I think they spent $10,500 on crap and bad experiences and had they spent 5 the first time then it would have been awesome and probably gone home with a critter. It happens all the time.
Shad: Well, shoot though f they had saved up that money for three years I mean you’re talking about an opportunity to go hunt the San Carlos Reservation.
Mark: Right. No question, and guys need to know we can get them on that stuff. So yea, it’s so important in how you approach this and it’s not like anybody takes you to booking a hunt school. Right? We’ve just been doing it a long time and we’re here to help to get our help is free. So, Alaska we’ve spoken about moose, I think it’s important the guys know- I find there are still a lot of guys who still don’t know the difference between a brown bear and a grizzly bear. They’re the same genetic species it’s just where they live and their food source and where the powers that be have just drawn a line on a map and said this is brown bear and this is grizzly bear and it’s based mostly on coastal proximity and proximity to salmon streams. An inland grizzly going rate right now is 13-15 thousand for inland grizzlies. In most places that 7 footer is really a shooter but we have some guys, we have the guy who has killed, what 7 out of the top 8 now. In the book and the new number one in the world. So we have some top grizzle guys. And he is $15,500. Pretty darn affordable, doesn’t require a ton of physical condition and a super neat hunt.
And grizzlies are that way and brown bears the bottom of the line for us- we have $16,500. We have a tremendous what we call bargain brown bear outfitter. He’s really good. Good at what he does and decently kills 9+ foot brown bears. And that’s what the majority of our brown bear hunts are and we have some coastal based ones, vessel based ones, we have access to 3 a year but we love putting clients on it in advance and keeping that thing full- that’s $18,500 one of my favorite ways,
And then we got some great peninsula stuff and those are all in that 17-18 range as well and we do have the upper end stuff in the 22-24’s if you want to go to Kodiak. Which in my opinion, I don’t know, I just think there’s better bangs for the buck somewhere else, I just do. I’m not running down Kodiak, though.
Shad: Well I think if you’re going to spend that- yea, if you’re going to spend that kind of money I’d be taking a hard look at the Alaska Peninsula as well.
Shad: I mean they’re kicking tremendous bears out there though and a lot of times you’re still going to be in that 18-22.
Shad: But Kodiak you’re paying for its’ reputation-
Shad: Not necessarily the actual trophy size coming out of there right now.
Mark: Right, right. Agreed 100% and that’s what I tell guys the same thing. Yea, I mean don’t forget Joe up there on the peninsula, he killed some of the biggest bears out there, he has access to some of the parks where the public can’t hunt and he said $17,500 so he’s got some really good prices for really good bears. Now that being said, don’t forget guys, peninsula hunts and paying that kind of money, writing the big a check doesn’t mean you’re going to get one.
Shad: These are wild animals.
Mark: Yea, you’re not writing a check – last year was one of the most problematic years on the peninsula. All those guys out there, all those guys that normally go the 80%-90%, a lot of them went 20%-30% and they’re the best in the business. Did anybody not do their job? No way, they got weathered out, they got hammered last year on the peninsula. Will it happen to you sometime in your hunting career? Abso-fricking-lutely it just will. So you guys got to be realistic about that.
So, black bears, Alaska. I think a neat place to go hunt black bears I would probably if I wasn’t vessel-based, would look in Canada to see a better bang for the buck. But vessel-based black bear hunts in Alaska can be some of the most tremendous experiences of your life and it’s not just going to be about the bear hunting, it’s about the amazing beauty. Those vessel-based hunts can literally be life changing for clients. I’ve put multiple clients that have said ‘hey Mark I’m probably going on my last hunt,’ or, ‘my last hunt with my dad, we’re not going to have him much longer where should I go?’ – I’ve put three clients on that that were terminal and had tremendous opportunities and just a blast.
So that’s how much I believe in that hunt. It’s not about the bear hunt, it’s about the experience and that would be in that 6 range, you know, $5900. It’s not cheap but it will be that experience that you talked about earlier that they take along with them.
Mark: And you talked about dalls- sorry go ahead.
Shad: Another one I would add to that Mark, don’t forget though off of that same vessel-based hunt is the opportunity to go chase just phenomenal mountain goats.
Mark: At a great price too.
Shad: Yea. And you know there are good solid billies but the amazing thing is going to be the hair quality and just the experience getting to hunt them from the ocean.
Shad: And climbing up from those bays and stuff. I mean it’s just one of those really unique experiences that if a guy is looking for a mountain goat it is definitely a hunt that they need to take a good, hard look at.
Mark: No question, because for a hunt for less than 10- and I put a ton of clients on that goat hunt every year and my success rate is just tremendous and the average hunt is a pack up that evening, get into the area, get up the next morning, shoot your goat and go back down and then go have fun. Right? So the amount of time these guys are spending at elevation is nominal. The other thing to consider about it is that they’re starting at zero in elevation and the guys that are really getting up to the top, top, top in that area are 3,000 feet.
Mark: So they’re not dealing with elevation- it’s one climb, pull up multiple billies in the drainage and you’re likely going to get yours that next morning. It’s really high success rate, not really super physical. They do send a guide in and a packer so all you got to do is pack your clothes and your weapon, they get all the rest. You’re not eating mountain house day on day out, and don’t forget to mention that we got fly in hunts up there where you are literally landing at elevation and you’re day hunting either down or across ridge out of camp so that is what we like to call the old man hunt. It literally is capable for somebody that can’t climb to go on that hunt and still get their goat. And they’re a little bit more expensive, they’re just a shade over 10 again, but I have some really fun father-son combos going this year on that hunt and that’s another one they need to look at as well.
So, kind of the last species to talk about and I feel semi-proficient on it, I wish we had Russ on the line right now too because that’s kind of his bucket of tea, and you know I’ve killed caribou but let’s talk about caribou and tell me what your opinion on the caribou in Alaska is.
Shad: Oh, you know there’s some great hunts up there. I mean to me that’s just one of those fun hunts, right? Especially if you go with a good guy, they’re in a good area, they understand what they’ve got going on as far as the migrations and stuff. I mean you got the opportunity to literally see thousands upon thousands of animals a day. So for a high action, high success opportunity type of hunt and not to mention in a lot of these areas where you’re hunting is very remote and has world-class fishing opportunities to match up with it.
I mean it’s just – they are just fun hunts and it’s a fairly inexpensive way to hunt Alaska. Because I mean you’ve got the option with caribou, which is kind of nice, is to go with the fully guided operation or we’ve got some great drop camp opportunities too. You know, for those guys who are a little more gung-ho and capable of doing it on their own. I mean caribou to me they’re just one of those fun animals. Another part I like about caribou is you can hunt them all day long. It’s not like with elk where you’ve got you window in the morning, window in the evening and most of the day they’re bedded up in the thick stuff.
Caribou are kind of like antelope from the standpoint that they’re up and about and moving around all day long. So for guys like us that are die hard bow hunters who love to spot and stalk it doesn’t get much better because, I mean you could be making multiple stalks a day. And just having a blast so-
Mark: And they’re not a super, massively wary critter. Right? I mean they’re kind of like sneaking in on a hog in that way. I mean they’re busy. It’s not that they’re dumb, just busy, you know what I mean?
Shad: Well, they’re busy and they have come to rely so much on their ability to run across the tundra and escape most predators, that they’re not as leery about somebody closing that distance in on them. Until you kind of push that comfort zone, right? And so it gives you a lot of flexibility to try different things with them so-
Mark: Yea. No question. And I think it’s important you mentioned something that we should also mention in Alaska. The two predominant species we like to put guys on, and bear in mind for those of you listening that haven’t walked tundra before, I always describe it to clients and you need to be really clear you’re going to be walking in two feet of wet marshmallows, OK? For multiple days on end. It’s the difference between walking on a sandy beach and walking on a sidewalk. You can cover about 25% of the terrain. So, you can go hard core ten miles. I personally would rather be at 9,000 feet in a shale slide slope trying to side hill across that as opposed to walking in tundra. Tundra humbles me every time I’m there. It always kicks my butt and it’s just tough to walk in. It’s unbelievably difficult, so if you’re on hunt and it’s a tundra hunt where you’re going to have to cover country you need to be in decent shape. Even if it’s fully guided.
If it’s unguided, which the two main species we put clients on unguided in Alaska are caribou and moose, you have to be not in kind of good shape, you need to be 8 out of 10, right? 8 out of 10, super physically fit, ready to go, train before you go, use heavy packs, walk mountains, do all that stuff. Even if you’re in the flat, rolly, hilly terrain being in tundra is tough and you’re going to end up packing meat. Right? You’re going to have to pack it so they are one of the most serious wanton waste states in the nation and they will likely fly your carcass and make sure that you got everything. And you cannot bone out hind quarters, right? So you’re packing full hind and front quarters. You can now bone out the rib cage, which is a blessing, which you used to not be able to do.
But you are packing a ton of meat so be prepared. Caribou for most guys is a couple of trips. A moose – 10 to 12. So if you’re not prepared to do that with an 80-120 pound pack then don’t go because it’s going to kill you. And we got great, great, great, great unguided moose hunts in that $5500-$6500 range. Unbelievably high success rates, huge trophy quality, super, super excited about it and we have caribou hunts that will be in that $3000-$3500 range unguided, some of them with multiple bulls. It’s mainly a drop camp and the other thing that needs to be said on both of those is that the camp and food can be included or not included so you can bring it along or not so gives you some variance. Most guys elect to rent their camp equipment and let them supply the food because as opposed to trying to shop for it once you get there and all the implications of that, so-
Shad: Right. Well especially if you think about the fact that you’re going to go do a drop camp hunt up by like Dead Horse. I mean can you imagine trying to buy groceries in Dead Horse?
Mark: Right, right. For sure.
Shad: You know so – one other thing I would point out though too in the caribou hunts which is kind of cool, we’ve got the option of fly-in drop camps. We’ve also got the option, it’s really cool, of what they call an Alaskan airboat drop camp where they’re actually running you up these river drainages running these airboats that look a lot like the airboats they use in the Everglades but they’re especially designed for running the rivers up in Alaska. So again some neat experience opportunities-
Shad: And different ways to get in there and have a really great hunt.
Mark: Right, right. Wow. Well, Shad I’m looking at the clock and I’m looking at our agenda and what I wanted to do was to go over North America and then pop over to Africa and Argentina and New Zealand – I can tell right now that we could spend the same amount of time on those three countries all in one. And so I honestly think we ought to call it good and call this our North American. And I think we really filled everybody in, I don’t feel like we left a lot hanging. Feel free guys to, by the way, ask questions in the comments after you listen to the podcast because we will, and I will, and Shad will directly respond to those so it’s a chance to kind of ask us directly after you get off.
But I think out of time sensitivity and all that good stuff I think we ought to pick that one up on the next one and go into those other countries and break those down for these guys too. And I tip my hat to you Shad, for saying ‘hey, Mark we need to do this, people need to be more clear about what Outdoor International does, who we are and how we can be helpful and specifically delineate and tease out the misconceptions that you and I deal with on the phone every day.
Shad: Right. Right. Yep.
Mark: So good stuff. Well, Shad thanks so much for being on. We’re going to call it good there fellas and you know remember you can always find us at gothunts.com. You can also find the gear that we use every day at gothuntsgear.com so we’re pretty easy to find. You can find us at Outdoors International by googling that. Simple, simple to find us because we are so large online.
Make sure you follow us on Facebook, watch our YouTube videos, we’ve got some tremendous short films, and the bow hunting film tour this year and all kinds of good stuff so look – you know what we got, lets us know we can help. Feel free to call us directly all our numbers are there, and just really enjoy this whole thing. Shad, thanks so much for your time today as well and fellas thanks for tuning in and Outdoors International and Mark Warnke signing out.