Have a hunting trip booked with an outfitter? Not sure if travel bans, social distancing or other precautions will allow you to go? Worried about the deposit you put down? What should you do now?
Don’t panic, stay safe, communicate and start thinking of alternative date or plans, said Jason Berger of Worldwide Trophy Adventures — a booking and consulting agency for domestic and international hunting and fishing trips.
Berger said they are currently working with clients who have booked hunts — or want to book hunts — on a case-by-case basis, serving as go-between for hunters and outfitters. It’s too early to worry about fall hunts in the U.S., he said, and they are now working with those who have booked or want to book spring turkey hunts. They have already resolved issues with clients who had planned hunting trips to New Zealand and Argentina, where the red stag roar is starting, and other Southern Hemisphere countries now approaching their fall seasons. “We’ve been able to accommodate 99 percent of our customers,” by rescheduling or making other arrangements, he said. They have had “very few” cancelations, he said, and those few were because of current travel restrictions or corporate-sponsored trips where companies didn’t want to risk employees traveling at this time.
“We’re taking a 30-day approach,” Berger said. “That will allow us time to work with the outfitter and it allows our customers time to make travel changes. Don’t panic if your trip is 45 days out. In another week this could look completely different. It’s changing hourly, day by day, week by week.”
Contact your booking agent, or if you’re not using one, contact your outfitter directly to work out a backup plan, he said.
“We are asking all our customers to give and take,” Berger said. “There are no winners in this so we are working in the best interests of everybody.”
Many outfitters have agreed to reschedule hunts later in the year or roll hunts over to next year. “Understand this is give and take,” he said.
Alternate dates might not be exactly what you are thinking or the best for you individually but understand outfitters are doing their best to accommodate everyone. Some may ask for a fee to help cover costs.
“We’re asking customers to work with outfitters. This is their livelihood,” he said.
It may sound like a bid for business, but there’s logic in Berger’s contention that this unprecedented situation is an example of why you should consider using a booking agent. “We’re handling it all,” he said. “We’re working with the outfitters, we’re networking in the best interest of everyone. We’re someone you can get ahold of and we’re working around the clock right now.”
Different hunters are taking different approaches to the pandemic, Berger said. “Obviously, the entire world is ‘What’s next?’” he said. “I think the entire hunting world is on pause right now. We’ve got customers who are concerned and are paused and we’ve got customers who are taking advantage of the situation — not to come across like that, but there are people who are optimistic and they want to go hunting. They’re saying, ‘Relax, the world’s going to keep spinning and I want to go if there are cancellations, call me.’ ”
There may be “opportunity to fill a void,” picking up great hunts that someone has cancelled, he said. And, turkey season is just around the corner. “I’ve got guys who want to go turkey hunting now. They know there’s cancellations.” Berger said they are fully mindful of the virus pandemic, and careful and open with those wanting to book hunts coming up soon. He said they are fully aware of travel restrictions, social distancing and other precautions being advised and they make sure hunters understand the current situation.
“We’re going to deal with these issues as they arise,” he said. One thing people need to understand is that this is no one’s fault and everybody needs to be willing to give a little. If I had one message, it would be, be understanding. Outfitters understand the predicament we’re in and everybody is working together. Now, is it ideal for everyone? No.Everyone’s got to give a little. Where there’s a will there’s a way. The hunting community is strong. It’s a niche of outdoor enthusiasts who have a passion for this industry.”
He said there are “level-headed people out there who really understand the scope of what’s going on, even with all the uncertainties out there.”
What about trip insurance? Is it a good idea? While trip insurance is available, it may not cover coronavirus situations, he said. That’s something to check out before buying the insurance. “It’s a tricky situation,” he said.
It comes down to this. “We are dealing with this case by case,” Berger said. “We are going to work with you once we get in that 30-day period. We’ll formulate a plan, then execute it. If we have to move it, we’ll move it. If we have to cancel, well, we are really trying to avoid cancelling because that puts these outfitters in a predicament, but if for some reason you need to cancel, then what percentage is the customer willing to give up” to be fair to the outfitter?
Let’s go back to New Zealand and Argentina for a minute. It’s their fall season and many want to hunt the red stag roar, the rut. But, international hunting “is at a standstill right now,” Berger said. Currently, if you could get there you would be on a 14-day quarantine, but you’d be quarantined with the outfitter and able to hunt. You just wouldn’t be able to take side trips, visit tourist destinations or partake in other tourist activities many like to add to make the hunting trip a full-blown vacation. But, Berger said, that could change at any moment. “Check the current status of the country you want to travel to,” he advised.
“We all hope it ends soon,” he said. “It’s unfortunate any time but it could be worse."
Now, being the transition time between hunting and fishing in the U.S., is the slowest time for the hunting industry.
"We are looking on the optimistic side and hope it will soon pass. We are working with outfitters and customers in the best interest of everyone. There are so many unknowns. This is uncharted waters. I’ve been doing this for 20-plus years and I’ve never seen anything like this.”
“Right now, common sense has to prevail,” he said.