First, happy memories; then, the anticipation
by Ron Kolodziej

As I’ve mentioned before in early-year columns, right up until Dec. 31 I’m in a reflective mood, spending a lot of time reviewing my hunting and fishing experiences of the previous year, looking over scores of digital photos I’ve taken and in general just basking in whatever positive experiences I might have had. However, on Jan. 1 I go into a completely different mode, thinking less about where I’ve been and what I’ve done and more about what I’d like to do during the coming year.

The previous year becomes a cancelled check and the coming year becomes a promissory note. That’s the best way I can describe it.

Soon I’ll go into high gear making at least some plans for 2012. I doubt I’ll hit the SHOT Show again next year but perhaps I’ll go to Texas again later in the year. Everything else is in the “maybe” stages. Until I make up my mind I’ll just do what we all do: put a lot of things on the list, check them all out as well as I can and then see which ones I can afford. If things come together I’ll do whatever works out best.


An easy and effective way to check out some trips is at an outdoor-oriented show, and there are several coming up during the next few months. One advantage of at least starting your trip exploration activities at a show is you’ll often find several or more outfitters offering similar trips, whether it is for walleye fishing or deer, bear, caribou or moose hunting. You can pick up descriptive brochures and discuss prices, distance to be traveled and the myriad other considerations and details you have to explore.

Decide which of two meal plans you prefer, and compare prices. American plan normally includes all meals while European plan does not. If you’re flying there, the American plan, while more expensive, may be the best choice. If you’re driving and will have extra room for food, then perhaps the European plan would be a viable option.


Ask the outfitters what you’ll be expected to bring in the way of accoutrements; bedding, etc. That’s all-important too. Most outfitters offer “show specials” and often they actually are good values, since no lodge or outfitter wants to go home without at least a few booked trips. Having a display at one of these shows, paying for lodging, travel and meals can be relatively expensive for some vendors and having at least a few confirmed guests can take the edge off that expense.

An added advantage is that you can often haggle over prices, especially if another lodge at the show is offering a similar trip. Playing one outfitter against another is not only legitimate but expected, especially at larger shows where competition for customers may be greater.


It all boils down to knowing exactly what kind of trip you want and then comparing notes to see which offer is best. Also, don’t hesitate to ask for references, especially if any of them reside in your area. Of course, outfitters and guides will normally list only those references they know will give glowing reports, but by speaking directly with those references you’ll often have an opportunity to ask pointed questions you can’t ask the outfitter.

If the reference says it was the best trip of that type he ever took, don’t hesitate to ask where else he’s been and why this trip was better than any of the others. I’m sure you get the drift; the more questions you ask, the more you’ll learn. Having that kind of knowledge will be of immense help in later making your final decision.

Keep in mind a trip may cost a great deal of money and you deserve to have that money provide you with the type of experience you’re seeking.

The less you leave to guesswork, the better. Start now by writing out a list of questions you’d like answered and then bring that list with you when you’re speaking with the outfitter. You’ll appreciate the advance “homework” you did.

My sincerest wishes to all of you for a very safe and happy New Year weekend. Thanks too for your support and assistance during 2011.