An outfitter is sometimes defined as a person who makes your dream come true. But what exactly comes into it? Today we’re talking with Raymond Majerus, a Guide-Outfitter and owner of Wolverine Range Outfitters, British Columbia, Canada, who knows a bit more than most people about making dreams come true.
Could you tell me about your operation, Wolverine Range – there ought to be quite a few wolverines there, or is it just a name?
No, there are actually many wolverines there, hence the name. Our North Central area in BC is 1850 square miles which I believe is on the order of some 4500 square kilometers, and recently I acquired a new territory in Central West BC. We have moose and bear, goat, elk, and deer, as well as mountain lion, wolf and lynx. When I got into this business I wanted a big enough territory so that if hunting was slow in one area I would have an option to move to another. We’re very much committed to quality, to providing our guests and clients with high-quality hunts with a really good success rate.
I usually take no more than six clients at a time. Some people like a full amenities lodge, which we have, and with very good hunting. We can access good areas from the lodge, because it’s on a major waterway. The lake it’s on is about thirty kilometers long, and it’s connected to a chain of rivers and lakes, so I probably have about eighty kilometers of waterway to hunt. Also within an hour’s drive there’s a good area that we could access by truck on a daily basis and come back to the lodge at night. Our success rates are the same as for the hunters who use our remote spike camps.
It’s really about personal choice. Some hunters are in good shape and they don’t mind being in the backcountry a little bit, which sometimes gives you access to perhaps a slightly better chance of a bigger trophy. When I get a client that wants to go backcountry, I got good spots we can walk into, and if they have physical limitations, we also have a few spots that don’t involve much walking. We always try and customize the package to the client’s preferences.
What would you say makes your business special?
As a person, I’m committed to continued improvement. Every year we try to improve our infrastructure to make it more comfortable for clients. During the summer we do a lot of scouting in the new areas, and we rarely hunt the same place frequently. I personally have a passion for this business, and I’m both the owner and the guide-outfitter. The way it works in British Columbia is anybody could own a guide territory, but you have to hire a BC resident to be the manager, which they call a guide-outfitter. Not to say you can’t have a good hunt from an operation in which the guide-outfitter is not the owner, but I believe you’re a bit more vested in the business if you’re both own and manage it.
There are also lots of little things that can make a big difference. For example, when we do goat hunts, in the summertime we go up and we make caches of supplies, things like dried fruit, tents, sleeping pads, sleeping bags, we bring them up on the mountain ahead of time. Some outfitters may just tell you: “Make sure you have that in your pack”, you go up the mountain and you just hunt out of your pack. I have those little extra comforts that really make the hunt more enjoyable. Mountain hunts are pretty tough, and it helps people who maybe struggle to have a 50-pound pack on their backs, I can tell them “You know, if you can make it up with 25 – 35 pounds, we can do it”.
I presume you’re a hunter yourself and that’s how it started?
Yes, my dad had my brother and I very much involved in hunting and fishing from a very young age. I started with bow and arrow, and that’s where my passion stems from. Throughout the years I just kept enjoying the outdoors, extending my knowledge and kept challenging myself to learn new techniques in hunting, and when the opportunities arose, I tried to hunt different species as well. Moose and bear are what I have most experience with, I consider myself a professional guide at the highest level for those two species, and goat hunting is something I learned a little later in life, so mountain hunting was something very exciting, because it was new. I started mountain hunting when I was forty years old, I’m now fifty so I have about ten years of experience. I’ve learned a lot, and I have some guides that have been doing it for way longer than me.
Fortunately, now I’m able to do it as part of my employment – I’m very active as a guide, too, I don’t just manage the business, I’m out in the field. You know, you never feel like you’re working when you’re doing something you love.
Have you had any other jobs except outfitting and guiding?
I have a master’s degree in Chemistry, and also Maintenance and Management. I worked for many years in the big industry and guided part-time, so to speak, I owned a guide-outfitting business in Ontario, but I would do that in my spare time. I worked in mining, pulp and paper, and I had a construction business for a while. I worked myself up from the floor to a management position, I’ve always been a pretty ambitious person, with a drive to improve myself in my profession. I had good training on how to be a good leader for my team, and also you have to be very organized, and be able to plan things in order for it to go smoothly. I’d say a lot of those skills are transferable to the outfitting industry.
So, it looks like you’ve done what lots of people are only dreaming of doing – lots of people say “I wish I could go and do the thing that I love, but I can’t let go of that salary and the bonuses, insurances, and everything”. How did you do it? Was it always your ambition?
Yeah, I guess so, I’ve always wanted it. I had two big dreams in my life. One of them was to be a professional at mixed martial arts, but the runway was a little too short for me there. And the other was, be a sizable outfitter in some pristine wilderness. For about ten years I was working on it, and I came close a few times to pull the trigger, but it was just out of reach. It’s hard to leave a steady job, and you’ve got all the life pressures, pressures of supporting the family. Only five or six years ago, when my kids were independent, I saved up enough money to put a down payment on a big outfit and found this outfit in an area that I knew fairly well, because I hunted there myself. It took nearly a lifetime of planning and setting myself up so that I can make the move. I was fortunate enough that it’s working out fairly well for me. BookYourHunt’s been a part of my success, I sold a lot of hunts at the marketplace, and I really appreciate the support, especially during COVID, where it was difficult to travel and book hunts.
What kind of hunters do you usually have in your camp?
I’d say my age group, Generation X, or baby boomers, would make the majority of my clients, maybe 20% younger guys. Usually they would come along with their father for a hunt. We’ve done quite a few father-son hunts, which is kind of nice to see, but I don’t have many clients that are, say, in their twenties.
Could it be that they just can’t afford those expensive and time-consuming backcountry hunts yet?
Yes, I think that’s the main factor. These hunts are rather expensive, and the boomers might have a little more of disposable income, after their retirements, some have been saving up for those trips for years. Especially moose hunters, a lot of them are between sixty and seventy-five years old. And goat hunters, I have a lot of guys between 40 and 55, they’re getting close to retirement and it’s an adventure they want to do before they get too old to climb the mountain.
A lot of my clients come from the North-West of the United States, many of them are blue-collar workers. They don’t have access to moose in their states, so they’re really keen on moose hunting. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a giant one, but they would like to get a respectable moose, representative for the area they hunt. And they put a lot of value on taking the meat home, too. For a lot of them it’s a one-time thing, that they’ve saved up for before they could come and experience it. And the other half are usually professionals like dentists, lawyers, they have a bit more of the disposable income, they’ve had more experience hunting abroad. These guys I find to be a little more trophy hunters, a little more selective.
Have you had any of those clients who are chasing the trophy slams and want their trophies to be as high up in the trophy books as possible?
Yes, I’ve had some guys who were trying to get their slams and whatnot. Most of them want a good moose, they won’t shoot anything under 50” from my area. A really good bull from my area would top 60”, on a fly-in hunt usually, you have to get a little further north to get those monsters along the BC/Yukon border. Guys that are looking for a new record in Canadian books, they will probably book with an outfitter further North, because the genetics are better there, but they’re still considered Canadian ones.
Are most clients well prepared for the hunts you do?
I have to say it’s a bit of a mix. Every client is a little different, it really depends on where they’re from, and what they’ve hunted in the past. What I find, more on the goat hunts, is that the hunters sometimes overestimate their physical capability. For example, there was a German guy last year who was in real good physical condition, he was a marathon runner, but he just made sure he had good cardio. I told him: “You have to wear your hiking boots, find at least a hill, put so much weight in your pack, and build it up, get accustomed to uneven ground”, but he didn’t do any of that. He had good boots that were broken in, but he still ended up getting blisters, because his skin wasn’t used to the actual weight pushing inside the shoe, and it ended terribly for this guy, he had to go down and finish the hunt.
I really try to give my clients all the information that I can beforehand, and when they arrive, we do a small orientation session with them, about what to expect, our basic rules in camp (for example, no alcohol – there’s zero tolerance in BC regarding drinks during the hunt), the gun safety, which I take very seriously, and where I think we have a slightly different approach here in Canada. In short, I try to cover everything.
Do you have any tips regarding guns and ammo for your hunts?
I’ve noticed that many hunters are amazing shooters off the bench, at a gun range, under perfect conditions, but aren’t ready for things that can happen in the field. It is often a matter of seconds between getting a good shot and no shot. Here there are sometimes missed opportunities because the guy takes a minute to load his gun, or he’s fiddling around with his stuff, and it drives him crazy, especially guys with fixed scopes, where they have to dial their turrets and everything, you know, by the time they’re ready to shoot the animal’s gone, and you’re like “I could’ve shot it ten times”. Especially with moose hunting, where you mostly get a hundred-yard shots, so you shouldn’t come here with a 50x scope.
I tell my clients to make sure they practice shooting offhand. My favorite drill at the gun range is get the guy to sprint, you know, do some jumping jacks, get your heart rate up, grab that gun and shoot offhand, just to see how you do, because a lot of time when we walk faster, or even running, to get to that spot, and once you’re there the animal’s there, but you have to shoot right then, and if you’re not used to shooting with your heart pumping you might get a bad shot.
Suppose your child comes to you and says: “Dad, I want to follow your steps and be an outfitter, too”. How would you respond to that?
I wish my son were more interested, but he isn’t! I would definitely encourage it. My advice to him would be, you have to be passionate about it, and if you are, you can make it work, it’s a lifestyle as much as a livelihood. But I’d let them know there are challenges with it as well, It’s tough making money out of it. A lot of people look at this industry and it seems very romantic to them, being out in the bush all the time, but a huge component is paperwork, and computer work, and marketing, and you can’t expect running this business like it will be all fun and games. There’s a lot and a lot of hard work. You have to be a jack of all trades, know carpentry, a bit of mechanics, not necessarily an expert in all of those areas, but you have to be a good troubleshooter. If you have to send your equipment to a mechanic every time, you’re not going to make any money. You’ve got to take up all the maintenance of your stuff, the cabins are going to need work, you have to know how to build, how to set up a good spike camp, and all those skills you need to be successful.
Is there a particular hunt that you just can’t forget?
Well, there’s one that’s pretty dear to my heart. A gentleman I guided last year, it was this guy’s dream since he was a kid, to shoot a Canadian moose. He saw a show on television, about hunting in the Yukon, and he thought it was the greatest thing. He’s been dreaming about this his whole life, and he recently retired, and he booked a hunt with me. He worked really hard, and with a lot of passion to be in a good shape, because he said he wanted to do a backcountry hunt. He was pretty much a beginner at moose hunting. We spent a lot of time together, bushwhacking so to speak. It was early in the rut and was very warm outside, so the bulls were very reluctant to come all the way in and present a shot. But we worked really hard and called in a few bulls. Then we ended up, about midway into the hunt, harvesting a really nice 50-inch bull. This guy was so happy. It’s it pretty etched up in my mind, because, you know, to be able to fulfill someone’s dream is one of the most rewarding things.
Raymond Majerus is a Registered Guide-Outfitter in British Columbia and owner of Wolverine Range Outfitters. Click here to book a hunt with him.
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