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I have been reading some interesting things about what's required to hunt as a sportsman in foreign countries. I also looked into how working as a Guide or professional hunter is obtained in several countries. Wow, we in the USA should count our blessings that we can buy a gun over the counter, hunt with minimal or no testing to get a license.

Add to that the nearly complete lack of a requirement to work as a Guide in the American hunting industry in all but a few select locations. I was a guide in AK so,... at least when I was working there every year the requirement was to buy an over the counter "assistant guides" license and you could be taking a brown bear hunter the next day. All that was required was the master, or Licensed guide hire you and approve you as an Assistant guide. I had a hunting client in RSA a few years ago who was from Philly, he had been to Alaska black bear hunting with a guide twice. He became good friends with the guide and they spoke on the phone and email during the year. Then the next year he was asked to guide a few Brown bear hunters for the licensed guide. This fella from Philly had never seen a brown bear in his life, and had spent minimal time in the state prior to becoming a licensed brown bear guide. He told me this story although I knew this to be the process, and expressed his stunned disbelief that it could happen this way. After that first season, and two bears killed he said he would never EVER go back and hunt those big bears again. He was visibly shook up over the hunts.

In Wyoming which is another state that has tried to make a guides license a respectable and worthwhile way to make a living they have clearly been in a tug of war over what to do. Here is a cut and paste from their website which seems rather irrelevant where landowners can actually authorize hunting without a guide?

23-2-401. Guides required; exceptions; issuance of resident guide license.

(a) No nonresident shall hunt big or trophy game animals on any designated wilderness area, as defined by federal or state law, in this state unless accompanied by a licensed professional guide or a resident guide. There shall be at least one (1) licensed professional guide or resident guide accompanying each two (2) nonresident hunters. The commission may also specify other areas of the state, or specific big or trophy game species, for which a licensed professional or resident guide is required for nonresidents, for purposes of proper game management, protection of hunter welfare and safety, or better enforcement of game and fish laws. The commission may allow licensed guides to accompany more than two (2) hunters but no more than six (6) hunters in specific areas.



(b) Any resident possessing a valid resident big or trophy game animal license may apply for and receive a resident guide license. The resident guide license shall be issued without charge or bond by the commission, any district supervisor or resident game warden upon receipt of an affidavit from the resident stating the names and addresses of the nonresident hunters to be guided, the game to be hunted, the area to be hunted, and that the resident has not received nor will accept directly or indirectly any compensation for his services as a guide. A resident guide shall not guide more than two (2) nonresident hunters in any calendar year on any national forest, wilderness area, national game refuge, or national park, except as provided in W.S. 23-2-401, nor shall he accept any compensation or gratuity for his services. The name and license number of the nonresident hunter shall be placed on the back of the resident guide license and stamped or signed by the issuer.



(c) A resident landowner may guide hunters on land owned by or deeded land leased to him without a guide license, or he may authorize nonresidents hunting without a guide on those lands. The license must bear the signature of the landowner, lessee, or agent of the owner on whose private property he is hunting as evidence that permission to hunt has been granted.

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If you read the paragraphs I put in bold you can see that being a guide in Wyoming on much of the land takes nothing more then saying you are, and there is not a formal training or exam process across the board. I was able to find a 60 question test on game laws, but the portion above makes the test irrelevant when you can ask for permission and have it granted by the landowner! Since when is an average landowner without any experience, knowledge or measured skill set capable of deciding who should be a licensed "guide"?

Bottom line here is that the standards are so flexible, scattered, and with random levels of requirements issued by landowners not enforcement that it reduces the credibility of the whole process. No different then Alaska. Assistant guides get a license from a licensed guide, no measured skill set, not tested, no background checks, nothing more then saying you're a guide and then you are, for the simple cost of paying for the license!

In Germany by comparison just to get a hunting license requires a significant level of hunting knowledge. Here is an email from a friend which he told me of the requirements to just get to hunt, much less actually work as a guide!

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There are two courses that I'm aware of. One is for German residents and the other is for American military stationed in Germany. When we gave up most of our rights after WWII to allow the Germans to self govern, we still retained the right to be licensed to hunt in Germany.

I took the American course in english. It is shorter and easier than the German course. We met 3 nights a week, 3 hours a night, for 10 weeks. We had to learn about all the conservation laws (water, soil, animal,etc...), German hunting laws and traditions, detailed info on all huntable animals as well as many non-game species to include a lot of non-game birds. We had to learn about every breed of hunting dog. Diseases of all game species and dogs. There was a lot of detailed info on rifles, shotguns, handguns, ballistics, optics, and about any thing else that is used in hunting. We had several field trips to identify animal sign as well as most native plant species that related to game animals. A shooting exam was required for shotguns and rifles. We were given an oral exam as well as a written exam. Most of the exams were in english, but we still had to learn all the German words for the different firearms, animals, and all the traditional words that would be used on most hunts.

The course was not easy, but we learned far less than the Germans do and our pass rate is higher.
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So I guess the point of the post here is would you feel better if America had a strict requirement or something similar to Southern Africa where the Professional hunter has what would be much like an Associate degree in this profession with another 2 years and an apprenticeship? Would you feel better that the guy taking you out and organizing the trip met a minimum level of training experience, and education in this field? Just as an example the term "hunting guide" referenced as what you do for a living in the USA does not really compare to a title like Plumber, Electrician, carpenter, mechanic, etc. There is no journeyman status or credibility involved with a position that can be obtained by having business cards printed and then you are one.

I for one would not want to add a single penny to a guided trip, However if a 5000 dollar trip was going to be 5300 and the fella taking me was a licensed or Certified Professional Hunting guide, and the 5000 dollar trip was with a guy who says he's a guide but has zero credentials, well I'm thinking that for that much extra money I'm gonna reduce the risk of failure and use the better, or more secure skill set of somebody with the drive to get the license.

Why is it that in America there is such a lack of financial respect for this job? If you're a journeyman welder, plumber, or framer and need a home or car loan from a bank, it's a whole lot easier then trying the same thing as a Hunting guide. I know! I was in that position when I worked in Alaska, most bankers looked at me like I was dreaming! Yet in Southern Africa the status of Professional Hunter is the same as any other skilled tradesmen.

Anyhow, just some thoughts on this and I wondered what your thoughts were on this comparing the USA to the rest of the world for this business.
 

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Well, JJ, I have so many thoughts about this that I hardly know where to start.

First of all, I'm glad I live in the USA. Germany, for instance, has all sorts of stupid rules about almost everything. You have to have a special license to reload. Driving a car isn't a given. You have to take a driving course which costs several thousand dollars. If Germany is like Norway, and it probably is, you can't just open a photography studio but have to go through special training and licensing. If you want to fly as a commercial pilot, you have to pass a bunch of JARS stuff which doesn't really make more competent pilots. All this testing on competency doesn't, in my opinion, make the Germans more innovative or really accomplish anything other than add a huge layer of bureaucracy.

There should be licensing where the need to protect the public outweighs the need to protect personal freedom and innovation. I'm not sure you're recommending that the USA have some sort of formal system for licensing guides. In my opinion, walking around out doors, use a gun and hunt should not be a freedom encumbered by a lot of useless regulations but there should be some basic standards to protect the public from guides that take money from the public and hold themselves out as being competent. The requirements should be very basic like having a knowledge of the area so they don't get lost, a knowledge of legal game and seasons, the knowledge of how to cape a trophy and preserve the hide properly, etc. Knowledge about when meadowlarks nest and what they feed their babies would be useless information.

I asked a PH in South Africa how hard it was to be come licensed. He said it was fairly easy and that I would have no trouble passing the test with a little study. I don't know whether or not that is true. If that is true, at least in South Africa, in some instances the guiding must not be of any better quality than it is in the USA. I believe other African countries probably have more rigorous examinations.

I guess that both in the USA and Africa, it's best to get references and do personal research on guide competency and trustworthiness of the outfitter.

As for making guides have a degree; I don't think so. The competence needed doesn't require this formality. It is the trend among many groups to make various regulations that lets them in and keeps others out. It is done by the few in the hope that they will make more business come to them so they can raise prices, etc.
 

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I hope this was not misunderstood too badly!

It was not directed towards a mandatory use of guides but rather that if you chose to, would you rather use a certified person or one who just decided to be.

The same could be said for remodeling your bathroom. You can do it all yourself, or you could hire out a Journeyman professional, or just some guy who claims to know what he's doing. Hope that makes my view on this a bit clearer.

As far as the PH academy, Well the PH you spoke with was probably licensed prior to the PHASA revamp of the Program in 1990. Since 1990 there has been a 50% failure and drop out rate. There is a 2 year apprenticeship for Dangerous game, and a 10 day bush exam which is quite complicated which includes a timed 300 question written exam, and some rather difficult marksmanship testing, also a timed event. It's not at all easy when you just look at the 50% failure rate for locals who have grown up as hunters since childhood.

The schcool is so well respected that the neighboring countries accept an RSA graduation certificate. When I was in school there was a 15 year veteren from Jeff Rand Safaris in Botswana. His final score was an 86% the highest grade in the graduating class. 75% was the fail point. So imagine the difficulty here when a 15 year veteren PH working for Jeff Rand gets an 86%! There was another guy with an 84% and then Pete Millan and I both had the same score at 83%. Several did not make it to the minimum of 75% to finish.
 

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IF there was a reputable organization to train/certify guides and IF the use of said guides was voluntary then yes, I would prefer a certified guide if I were paying for an expensive hunting trip in a geographic area I wasn't familiar with.
 

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I know I was really surprised at how relatively easy the German hunting license test was. I took it last year. Yes they gave us a BIG thick book to learn and it looked really daunting at first but essentially they taught us the test. The gun handling test was easy. The shooting tests were not bad just nerve racking. Our best shooter was an 18 year old, female HS senior. She beat out some SF guys, a two star, some LTC's and me your faithful AF MSgt. We met two-three times per week for 2-4 hours per night and shot at the range about once every other week for about 12-14 weeks before our test. No one failed. After talking to some older members of the American hunting community here, it turns out that the consensus is the American test is easier than the one for Germans for two reasons, one the old SOFA (Status of Forces Agreement) sets it up that way AND they German hunting administration knows and recognizes at least under their breath, that any American who comes here and wants to put up with the trouble to get a license has about a 99.9% chance of being an experienced hunter and shooter already. Most German hunters start off from scratch. They are learning how to shoot for the first time. It takes them a year to get ready for the test. We just had to learn to gut a deer the way THEY want us to, the Germans are for the most part doing it the first time. The really scary part is learning about all the diseases that are out there. If I shoot a fox here, I'll be wearing plastic gloves and a mask and it will go in two plastic bags and then buried at least one meter deep. They have a parasite that will eat your liver about 10 years from now... After all the work, study and money (about $350 for everything) I have to say it is worth it to be able to say that I have hunted in Europe. Drive hunts are really cool and the traditions are fun... Not better than the US, just different...


ngh
 

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We just had to learn to gut a deer the way THEY want us to, the Germans are for the most part doing it the first time. The really scary part is learning about all the diseases that are out there. If I shoot a fox here, I'll be wearing plastic gloves and a mask and it will go in two plastic bags and then buried at least one meter deep. They have a parasite that will eat your liver about 10 years from now...
I'm curious; just how do the German's want you to gut a deer? Is it something special?

If the parasite you're talking about is a tape worm (sometimes called a bladder worm), well, they have it in the U.S.A. as well in various animals including fox and raccoons. Wear glove while skinning them, wash your hands and don't put your fingers in your mouth and you'll be fine.
 

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They are really big on opening the animal from the point of the jaw all the way down. Gotta have string to tie every thing off. Just a difference. I think opening it up that far is a good idea. Works pretty well. They cool off faster too. Plus then the liver, kidney, heart, lungs all go to the guy who guts it if he wants them. Sort of like paying him for his work. That's only on drive hunts or on a guided hunt. Where we hunt we do it all ourselves as usual. The parasite is the "small fox bandworm". Not sure if its the same as a tapeworm or not. It lives in your liver for about 10-15 years and eats it's way out. By the time you figure out you have it... it's too late to stop it.

It's not the "American" way to have the classes and tests for licenses and I'm NOT advocating a mandatory change to our way. I think that a VOLUNTARY testing and proofing might be a good thing. If you can show a landowner proof that you have spent the time to learn about the animals, the land, the laws and shooting proficiency then we might be able to get access to some private lands that are closed to most hunters.


NGH
 

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From JJ Hack:
and I wondered what your thoughts were on this comparing the USA to the rest of the world for this business
I've got no problem with our lax requirements in the USA. Yeah, there's going to be variability in the quality of guides out there, and some of the time some people will get screwed by paying for a hunt with a poor guide. Stricter licensing won't change that. Poor guides aren't poor just because they don't know the country or the animals they're hunting. Plenty of other ways someone can ruin a hunt: ill tempered, fails to recognize the needs of his client, bad attitude, etc. Let the buyer beware. Check references, go with a friend's recommendation, etc.

I guess I'm just reluctant to increase government's role where it heretofore hasn't played much of a part. I guess there's a place for added bureaucracy somewhere. I don't think this is it.
 

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I Look at this from a different point of view. I am a Licensed Fishing Guide in Louisiana. In fact, that is how I make my living. The Licensing requires me to have a valid Coast Guard Licensees. The same, in theory, is required of any hunting guide as well, as a state guide licensees can not be granted without a CG licensees. To obtain a coast guard Licensees, one must pass an increasingly difficult test, amass what I believe to be a fair amount of sea hours as a mate (ie: apprentice) and take several First Aid classes. These requirements teach you nothing about fishing or hunting but most certainly teach a fair amount about safety. In the end, that is what licensing is all about. If you can't fish or hunt as a guide, you will have a hard time making it as a guide but if you are dangerous, you certainly will not make it. We are fortunate that we really do not have any dangerous game to deal with down here to speak of (alligators, the rare black bear, Mako sharks and angry Swordfish) but saftey is still job one. We run boats in Zero viz fog on a daily baisis and I can't remember the last accident that involved a Licensed Guide. On the other hand, I can remember a few that involved people that were not Licensed but were guiding none the less. I am a firm believer in licensing for Guides and think that every State should adopt a strong policy on the subject. I certanly believe that all should be allowed to fish or hunt on their own with out a guide but if they choose to hire a guide, they should be in the hands of a professional who not only can deliver the game that they wish to hunt or fish for, but bring them home saftley as well.
 

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The Licensing requires me to have a valid Coast Guard Licensees. The same, in theory, is required of any hunting guide as well, as a state guide licensees can not be granted without a CG licensees.
A typical example of laws running amok. Exactly what does a Coast Guard license have to do with hunting?
 

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A great deal of hunting in our state requires transport across water. Both Duck and Deer hunting as we hunt deer in the swamps quite a bit. To transport a paying client over water, a guide must be coast guard licensed.
 
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