Hunting has gotten expensive, but BookYourHunt.com promises relief — literally thousands of dollars of relief…
What Is BookYourHunt.com?
BookYourHunt.com is an online shopping site (think Orbitz or Trivago) for guided and outfitted hunts around the word at discount prices. Literally hundreds of outfitters are on the site offering thousands of hunts for everything from upland birds to the world’s biggest game. Prices are discounted because some middlemen have been removed from the equation.
What middlemen? Traditionally an outfitter has to spend a lot of money trolling for clients. He either has to rent exhibitor booth space at hunting shows and conventions (like NRA, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Dallas Safari Club, SCI, Deer & Turkey Expos, etc.) or he has to arrange a meet-and-greet with potential clients, usually at a rented hotel meeting room or a former client’s house. Travel and lodging expenses alone add significant overhead. Outfitters can also buy ad space in hunting magazines, on-line magazines or even TV shows. It all increases the cost of doing business, and that adds to the cost of hunts.
With BookYourHunt.com, an outfitter’s information is available 24/7 to anyone with a computer or smart phone. Ah, you might ask, but how does he stand out from all the other hundreds of outfitters on the site?
How BookYourHunt.com Works to Your Advantage
Outfitters compete for your business on BookYourHunt.com by offering better deals! Lower prices, more services, more game… Here’s where it gets interesting — and easy for you. The website includes advanced search engines to help you find your ideal hunt. You enter, for instance, what species you want to pursue. Let’s say it’s Capercaillie, the world’s biggest grouse. (I picked this because that’s what I hunted through BookYourHunt.com last May.) Next you can specify where you’d like to hunt. Sweden, Germany, Finland, Russia. I picked Russia because the poor economy there had prices really low and who knows how much longer it will be open to U.S. hunters, eh?
As you enter these search words, the site flashes up lists of potential hunts with prices clearly listed. As you continue adding search parameters, the number of hunts narrows. Start perusing the list. Or filter your search even more by specifying dates you’d like to hunt, the number of hunters in your party, any guests you’d like to bring along, or whether you’d like to hunt more than one species at a time. I added blackcock and woodcock to my list — and up popped several outfitters with prices running from $506 to $4,469.
You can guess the next two things I did: I focused on that $984 hunt — which included a Russia brown bear instead of woodcock — and questioned why it was so inexpensive. And that’s when I discovered the next cool feature about this BookYourHunt.com service. When I clicked on the outfitter’s little ad, a more in-depth review loaded on another page. Here were all kinds of details. The outfitter’s name and photo. Photos of his hunting country, lodge, blinds, and previous clients with their bears. The page clearly stated the hunting would be with rifles, mornings and evenings, from elevated stands over bait.
Hold Your Horses
That’s the kind of information that often inspires an eager hunter to reach for his credit card, but not so fast. Just $984 for 5-days of hunting for birds and a bear? What’s the catch? Here’s where the “fine print” saved my bacon, and the print wasn’t “fine,” but quite large and obvious. The Terms of the agreement were front and center, spelling out everything that was included for the price. Prices for ala carte add-ons were also listed. These included trophy fees of $1,008 for a small bear climbing to $2,371 for a huge bear. Blackcock were $71 each and Capercaillie $154 each.
Some hunters dislike the idea of paying “trophy fees” by the inch, feeling they are sort of a penalty or disincentive. Others like the idea that they pay for what they get and no more. Your initial hunt fee covers food, lodging, and guide service. If the weather is bad, no birds or bears show up, or you miss your shot, you don’t lose big money for an animal you didn’t get.
How BookYourHunt.com Keeps It Legal and Above Board
Paying for hunts on BookYourHunt.com is done directly to your chosen outfitter. Most ask for half up front, the remainder when you are in camp. This prevents some of the shady dealings you might have heard about such as the booking agent taking the money, then telling the outfitter the client never sent it. Such shenanigans can ruin a hunt, even if they are cleared up satisfactorily later. Nevertheless, I’m a bit nervous about sending money to a stranger in a strange land. What’s to prevent the outfitter in Kirov, Russia, from pocketing your deposit and disappearing into the wilds of Siberia?
Well, his investment in BookYourHunt.com for one thing. You, as the hunter, pay nothing to use this service, but outfitters must pay to be listed here. This is their marketing campaign. If they are serious about maintaining and building a business, they play by the rules. And if they don’t, BookYourHunt.com goes to bat for you. First, they verify all outfitters before even accepting them on the site. They also guarantee the same price as the outfitter offers anywhere else. Better yet, if an outfitter tries to lay extra charges on you that weren’t listed on the website, BookYourHunt.com will pay you back for those. They manage a 24/7 access support team that will assist you with any glitches and intercede on your behalf with outfitters. They’ll even provide an interpreter if you’re having trouble communicating with your outfitter.
Finally, BYH has a loyalty program that awards you bonus points each time you book a hunt. These points count toward discounts on future hunts.
Is BookYourHunt.com Too Good to Be True?
I can’t promise you every outfitter you deal with and every hunt you take through BookYourHunt.com will be perfect. That’s just not the way the world works. But I can tell you this: my wife and I met one of the owners, the brains behind the operation, Aleksie Agafonov, at the SCI convention in 2016. I’ll be honest: my bias made me suspicious of any Russian offering a “sweetheart deal.” After all, I lived through the heart of the cold war. But this Agafonov character seemed genuine. The more Elizabeth and I visited with him, the more we liked and trusted him. He’s either an honest, sincere, helpful guy or the best Russian actor in history.
Subsequent meetings with the man have solidified our “honest, sincere, helpful” perception. We booked that Russian spring bird hunt. It came off without a hitch and ended up being one of the most enjoyable international trips Elizabeth and I have ever taken. Our assessment: Agafonov is a straight shooter running an honest business that promises to reduce guided hunting costs for anyone using BookYourHunt.com.
WARNING! Not For the Faint of Heart
The do-it-yourself aspects of BookYourHunt.com may not be ideal for novice travelers or cautious people uncomfortable with travel, foreign cultures, or foreign languages. Be honest with yourself here. Some of us are more comfortable hiring an experienced middleman to handle the details. That’s what traditional booking agents like Jack Atcheson & Sons or WorldSlamAdventures.com do. They assess you, match you with an outfitter, assist with most aspects of your trip and support you should problems arise. This comes at a cost, but that cost is often worth it. On the other hand, if you’ve traveled a lot and are confident with your ability to handle things, BookYourHunt.com could save you thousands of dollars in hunting costs.
I’m not guaranteeing BookYourHunt.com is the perfect way to find and arrange hunts at the lowest prices. I am going to use the service again and probably again after that to get a clearer picture of its consistency. But so far, so good. If you’d like to reduce the costs of your hunting adventure, you might want to investigate for yourself. If reduced-cost guided hunts are still too rich for your blood, check back at RonSpomerOutdoors.com to read future reports on even less expensive, do-it-yourself hunts.
World travel unnerved country-bumpkin Ron Spomer at first, but he plunged in with the help of a traditional hunters’ booking agent, learned as he went, and today — with invaluable assistance from his wife, the real traveler in the family — feels reasonably comfortable traveling to such exotic locales as Russia, Zambia, Argentina. But not Timbuktu. No sir, Timbuktu is a bridge too far…