By Jason Reid
Rochester, New York – -(Ammoland.com)- Providing an great experience as an outfitter is what brings clients back time and time again.
The experience you have as a client will dictate the outfitters reputation and impact whether or not others decide to spend their time and money at a certain lodge.
At the recent 2015 Safari Club International Convention, there are an overwhelming amount of world class lodges, but what goes on in the life of a guide? I spoke with Gary Harpole of the Heartland Lodge ( www.heartlandlodge.com ) based in Pike County, IL. Gary Harpole started his guide service and lodge twenty years ago from scratch and has a reputation for excellent service and knows what providing an “experience” is all about.
Harpole’s lodge is well known through the country and they offer world class deer hunting, turkey hunting and waterfowling and is an Orvis endorsed outfitter. But it is not just the hunting which brings people back and I wanted to know from someone who runs a world class operation, what the keys to providing an experience are?
“Communicating is key to creating a better experience for guests. The experience for each person starts when they decide to book a trip with us, thorough planning and communication leading up to the hunt is the first start. Then we keep that up throughout the entire hunt while they are in camp and even after they leave.”
“The first thing we do is have an orientation with our guests the night they arrive.”
Harpole preps his guests on what to expect depending on what the conditions are, and game movement. But he is clear in making sure communication is open. Harpole wants his guests to know they can approach him at any time with any concern. He says this reassurance is extremely beneficial in getting to know his guests better and providing a better experience. He uses meal times to be able to have open communication with his guests since everyone is relaxed and conversation is casual.
These times also allow him and his guides to build strong personal bonds with their guests. And these small casual conversations lead to strong guest trust, which is a deciding factor in bringing people back time after time.
Harpole acknowledged 100 percent effort from every person working at the lodge is especially key since as a free range operation.
“You cannot control what the animals will do. Sure, hunting is hunting and you will have good days and bad days.”
Harpole says what you can control is key and making sure the elements he can control such as accommodations are done with excellence. This also goes into the preparation for the hunt. From food plots and making sure the deer on his land have the best nutrition and food available, to properly training the dogs for water fowling and upland bird hunting to scouting where the ducks are landing day after day. These efforts can be controlled and are key to customer satisfaction.
Harpole makes sure to have his guides scout and place stands ahead of time and try to make sure they meet hunters needs by placing stands at desired heights or by providing transportation to blinds or stands if mobility is an issue. By being detail oriented Harpol is able to provide a great experience in an out of the field.
Regardless of what type of hunting you do, if it is an on your own hunt or with a guide. Hunting is still deeply relational. From the point of view of an outfitter, being open, honest and trustworthy to customers are essential.
Our goal is to turn that first time client into a friend and to turn that friendship into a family like relationship, where heading back to the lodge become a tradition instead of just a vacation.
About Jason Reid:
Jason Reid is a writer and business professional from upstate New York. After deciding to pursue his dream of becoming an outdoor writer, Jason started a blog from his dorm room at Houghton College, growing it and working hard to earn opportunities. While bowhunting big game is his ultimate passion, Jason welcomes all outdoor challenges which force him to push his limits. Jason’s work can be viewed on his website Pushingthewildlimits.com