How well do you know our beautiful state? Or if you live out-of-state, how can you find out more about Maine and explore the fabulous travel and leisure opportunities it offers?
To find the answer, let’s start with a name quiz. Without looking them up online, can you say who are the following people and what they have in common: Bonnie Holding, Lance Wheaton, Donald E. Helstrom, Richard Scribner and Danny Leger?
If you know one, you probably know them all. Because these are the recipients from the past five years of the Legendary Maine Guide Award.
Bonnie was this year’s winner and the first woman to win the award in its 10 year history – although Registered Maine Guides have been around for more than 120 years.
Interestingly, for trivia buffs, the state’s first ever Registered Guide was also a woman – Cornilia Thurza Crosby – and another pioneering women was Suzie Hockmeyer, the first female whitewater rafting Guide, who earned the nickname Queen of the Kennebec.
What is a Maine Guide?
So, what exactly is a Maine Guide?
Registered with and licensed by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, they are:
“outdoor professionals who are licensed and permitted to accept any form of remuneration for their services in accompanying or assisting any person in the fields, forests or on the water or ice within the jurisdiction of the State while hunting, fishing, trapping, boating, snowmobiling, using all-terrain vehicles or camping at a primitive camping area.”
Phew! That was a bit of a mouthful, but you get the picture. They’re professional guides for hire for your adventures in the great outdoors. Currently, we have an estimated 6,300 of them in the state.
Many other states have hunting outfitters but few, if any, have the comprehensive range of licensed outdoor professionals you’ll find here.
Maine’s Guides are usually licensed in one or more specific areas of outdoor expertise. These fall into five categories:
- Specialized hunting and trapping Guides, with additional skills to support camping trips.
- Specialized fishing Guides for inland waters, again with camping support skills and experience.
- Specialized recreational Guides, who are qualified to guide watercraft, ATVs and snowmobiles.
- Specialized sea-kayaking professionals to guide users of these crafts, including paddle sports, on Maine’s territorial seas and tributaries.
- Specialized Guides who support tide-water fishers in our territorial seas and tributaries up to the head of the tide and the three mile offshore limit.
What’s critically important and perhaps little known, is that since 1975 licensed Maine Guides have had to undergo rigorous testing of their knowledge and skills.
Some, whose experience exceeds the minimum licensing requirements, are designated Master Guides after providing evidence of their skills and experience.
Bonnie Holding, this year’s Award winner, mentioned earlier, is one such Master Guide and has been a Registered Guide for more than 30 years.
How To Find and Hire a Maine Guide
Maine Guides have their own professional organization (Maine Professional Guides Association – MPGA) (www.maineguides.org), although not all Guides are necessarily members.
The site has a searchable page covering the state’s 29 wildlife management districts and the fields of fishing, tidewater fishing, hunting, recreation, sea kayaking and whitewater rafting.
You simply key in the district number or other location, to return a list of qualified Guides who meet your criteria.
The site also has a useful list of questions you can ask one or more of your selected Guides to test their knowledge and understanding of your needs.
For example, you can ask about anticipated difficulties, how much experience you and your party need, and a rating of your chances of success. A guarantee of success should be viewed with caution says the Association.
Another useful source of information and names is www.maineguides.com, which claims to have the largest index of recreational Guides.
The site has a contact form and links to various Maine outdoor locations and activities.
How Much Does it Cost to Hire a Maine Guide?
Of course, you’ll want to know about availability and price, what you’ll get for your money (and what you’ll have to pay extra for), whether you have to pay a deposit and what the Guide’s policy is for refunds.
Fees obviously vary depending on the type and duration of the trip, whether there are significant risks, and the qualification level of the Guide.
According to Sporting Journal, average costs run between $200 and $300 a day. It’s also normal to tip, typically 15%.
There can be numerous other costs, such as vehicle or vessel hire and even a food allowance for the Guide. So, make sure you understand every item that will cost you.
Selecting Your Maine Guide
You may want to speak to two or three potential Guides to check that they’re licensed for your specific needs and that your personalities seem to work well together.
MPGA also recommends that you obtain written confirmation of your booking covering every detail of your planned trip, payment terms, refunds and so on.
Be wary of anyone asking for a cash-only deal, with no paperwork. However you pay, get a receipt.
Do I Need Insurance For My Hunting or Fishing Trip?
Many of our clients are outdoors men and women, and asking about insurance for their activities is a frequent question.
You can get hunting and fishing, or camping insurance as a separate policy or elements of your risks, such as cancellation, might be covered by travel insurance. Personal property might be protected through homeowners insurance.
It’s a good idea to talk to your insurance professional. Explain your plans and check that you have the coverage you need. By the way, your Guide should also be insured. Check this with them.
Get Out and Get Happy
In surveys and studies, Maine usually features in the Top 10 of the most “outdoorsy” states in the country. But there’s no doubt in our minds that we have the Number One organization of qualified professional Guides in the nation.
That means that, with their help, you should be able to gain the most success out of any sporting trip, and return home with happy memories!