Tipping by Matt Guedes

The concept of tipping on a hunt has been a hot topic for some time. For some people just the word "tip" stirs up a cold sweat within them. Then there are those who think about tipping and that thought consumes them to the core. There are others who have a perspective on leaving a tip that leads them to either leave a very small or a very large tip. Some people tip based upon rules or formulas. To be sure, tipping, the how's, why's, and how much is a subject that needs to be tackled.
In the restaurant industry the concept of a tip is one that has often been boiled down to a simple percentage. That percentage however has grown with time. It used to be that a 10% tip was standard and adequate. Now that tip has increased to where 15% seems to be minimum and 20% is often expected. In most restaurants if you are a group of 8 or more the tip is often included and that percentage is often 16% or more.
I think there are some things that we can learn from what has happened in the restaurant industry. I first of all would like to clarify that I believe that percentages are great to use as guidelines, but may be too simplified to make as a rule. If it was as simple as just saying every hunter should tip at 10% it would make it rather easy. It also would not make for much of an article. But I believe although that might be a good place to start, there are many factors that need to be involved in your decision of how much to tip. Ten percent of "what" also would need to be addressed. Is it 10% of the entire cost of your hunt? Is it 10% of the trophy fee? Is it 10% of your hunt minus your lodging? You get the picture. A simple percentage may be too simplified.
So how do we decide what to tip? I believe there are many factors that must come into play in considering your tip. As one who goes on outfitted hunts and as one who guides for an outfitter, I am often on both sides of the tipping controversy. I will use my experience as both to try and help to bring a thought process into place to help us all be more effective in the area of tips.
I start my personal base line for tipping at 10% of my entire hunt cost. I don't include my travel, but my cost for my hunt. That 10% base number is where I begin. I say I begin there because there are factors involved in that decision. One factor is the value of the hunt. If I get a 10K valued hunt and find it on a special or get it on an auction for 5K, I will use the true value for my base number. If I go on a hunt that cost 4K and the value of that hunt is 2K(experience allows you to discern that) then I don't fix myself to a rule because I paid 4K.
So once I have determined the value of the hunt and have an idea of a baseline for a tip around 10% then I evaluate the hunt based upon the service. Many will first evaluate based upon success and success as we have unfortunately now defined it, a harvest. I think this is a dangerous evaluation perspective. A very hard working guide may work like mad to do all he can to get you onto an animal and still not lead you to a harvest. Weather, water, a bad shot, an unusual circumstance, and many other uncontrolled situations may affect the harvest. That does not mean your guide and your outfitter didn't work hard for you and that they aren't deserving of a good tip. I have definitely observed as a guide that a harvest almost always means an increased tip, but I am not suggesting that is correct criteria.
I look at the work and service of the entire operation on a whole. What was the guides work ethic? What was his/her knowledge of the area and the species? What was the outfitter's ability like? What was the food like? How was the lodging? I evaluate all these factors based upon how the hunt was represented compared to what it really is. As I evaluate all the components of the hunt I am also evaluating who is going to receive the amount of money that I decide on giving as a tip. I decide on the amount and then I decide on the split. I think cooks and outfitters(when they aren't guiding you) are often overlooked. I will usually tip my guide the greatest portion of my hunt because they are usually most connected to me and spend the most time with me working toward that harvest. However, if I have an awful guide who doesn't care and doesn't work then I allow myself the freedom to lessen the overall amount or to just give the guide a smaller portion. The cook must be considered in the equation. They work all week to keep you fed and healthy. The outfitter often is over looked because the assumption is that they must be rich anyway since they own the operation. If the outfitter is directly involved in the operation of your hunt, you will want to consider them, too.
If the hunt was run well, administered well, and the attitude of all involved was very good, I usually tip up from the 10%. If on top of all that I harvest a great animal, I am human, I usually bump it up more. If however, the hunt was poorly managed, the workers were lazy or had a bad attitude, I will lower the overall amount without hesitation. A tip is a privilege and not a rule. It is something that is given to those who are excellent at their job and given because I want to reward them for their effort. That means when they don't do what they said they would or what they just should be doing, I am not afraid to lower my tip. If it is just an all out disaster, then I would not tip at all, but I also would be honest with those involved about why.
These are the guidelines that I use to evaluate how I will or won't tip and to determine just how much I will tip. I enjoy blessing people who work hard to the best of my ability. I also will be honest when the operation is not up to par and let them know why I have tipped in a lesser amount. I have left a minimal tip, I have given a 6 month old complete bow set up worth $1500 on $8000 hunt, and I have done everything in between. I will note also that sometimes equipment is an appropriate tip and often even more appreciated than money if it is a quality item. My hope is that this article will help you become more comfortable with the concept of tipping and that you will be able to evaluate more accurately how you will tip in the future. Again remember a tip is your prerogative, but that it is greatly appreciated by those who work hard and are deserving of such a gift.

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