Do you love the great outdoors? Camping, hunting, fishing, and everything that goes with it?
More importantly, do you enjoy sharing your wisdom and teaching others how to do what you do? Guiding them to hunting success?
If so, then a career as a hunting guide might be perfect for you!
Unfortunately, being a successful hunting guide requires more than just knowing how to camp and having basic hunting skills. It’s a highly specialized profession that can take years to master.
There’s good news, though! There are a number of high-quality hunting guide schools scattered all across the country that can give you the proper training and background, putting all the tools you need to maximize your chances of success at your fingertips.
Below, you’ll find a list of the best hunting guide schools in the US in 2023, and what makes each one special. Bear in mind that these aren’t typical schools. While there is some classwork involved, the best experience you can get in this field is practical and hands-on.
That’s important to note because before you sign on, the following need to be true, at a minimum:
You’ve got to have a passion for and love of the outdoors
Possess all the necessary skills (hunting, tracking, camping)
Be in excellent physical condition
There’s a lot more you’ll need than just those things, but the rest, you’ll be learning in school and the field. That said, let’s get to the schools themselves!
Alaskan Mountain Safaris
The Alaskan wilderness is the harshest in all of the United States, and as such, it presents a set of unique challenges just not found in other parts of the country. Because of that, Alaskan Hunting Guide Schools are a breed apart.
Not that the others aren’t excellent, each in their way, but in the Great North, you’ll learn skills you just can’t pick up anywhere else. Alaskan Mountain is an excellent school that offers a mix of 40% classroom, 60% practical that merges knowledge of conservation and public policy with hard-hitting survival and hunting skills.
During the fieldwork, you’ll serve in the role of an Assistant Guide, where you’ll gain hands-on experience. This covers every facet of what you’ll be doing on your own once you formally start your career.
Located in the wilds of Wyoming, Bliss Creek has been training world-class archery elk guides, camp cooks, and wranglers since 1992.
Note the specialization on big game hunting, which, let’s face it, is what many hobbyist-level hunters are looking to bag with help from a professional guide.
The focus on elk in particular means that here, in addition to the standard guide training, you’ll also learn how to track, attract, and call elk.
One of the things that makes the company unique is the fact that they offer either a four-week group training session or can offer the same four-week training course on an individual basis if you learn more efficiently one-on-one.
Part of their training also includes a module on buying your own outfitting business if you’d rather not start from the ground floor.
This module provides invaluable information about the nuts and bolts of the business side (booking clients, maintaining a harmonious camp atmosphere and the like) that you don’t often get at other schools.
A genuinely excellent choice and Bliss Creek has an incredible success rate, with 90% of their graduates guiding in their first year.
ELM Outfitters is the primary Guide Training school, started by Erv Malnarich in 1959. Erv saw what nobody else did - that the day was coming when a school like his would be necessary. He was a true visionary, and his Guide Training School was ahead of its time.
To this day, ELM carries on the tradition that Erv Malnarich began, and has a reputation for producing the most well-trained guides in the business.
One of the things that makes ELM unique is that they have a preparatory course, “The Outfitters & Guides Bible”. You can study this at home in anticipation of going to the school itself for the hands-on portion of the training, which is extensive.
Once you’re on-site, you’ll be paired with a veteran guide who will personally guide you through every aspect of becoming a professional guide and standing fully on your own.
As they say on their company website, “Some Guide Training School Programs may attempt to copy our proven methods, but none will ever come close. ELM has the established, fundamental base."
That’s certainly true, and if you’re the kind of person who accepts no substitutes, then you want to attend the oldest and most respected Guide Training School in the country. ELM is that Guide School, no question about it.
Successfully hunting different animals requires different skills, and not every successful professional Hunting Guide lives in a part of the country where the truly big game are (elk, bear, and the like).
That’s why GSW was created. It focuses on one thing. Tracking and hunting Whitetail deer, which have a much more extensive range than other types of big game, and are found in number in more areas of the country.
If you live in a region where there aren’t elk, bear, and moose, you can still be a successful Hunting Guide, and a class like this can help get you to that point. The authors of their extensive program cover absolutely everything you need to know, and the material was developed by a cross-section of:
Professional Horn Rattlers
Full-Time Hunting Guides
And biologists who specialize in wildlife and Whitetails in particular
In other words, you’re getting access to a width and breadth of expertise that would be virtually impossible to find anywhere else. One thing to note, however, and this is a potential limitation: It’s an online-only course. There is no practical, hands-on experience to be had here.
Assuming you’ve got a solid hunting background, that need not be a deal breaker, and some people tend to learn better in this type of environment.
Bear in mind, however, that there’s no substitute for practical experience, so while the information provided by the course material is exceptional, it does have certain hard-coded limits. Having said that, it’s still well worth a mention here.
Northwest Montana Outfitters
Montana is Big Country, and there are few places better suited to learning how to become a Professional Hunting Guide. Northwest Montana Outfitters has a good program that is somewhat forgiving, so even if you’re a complete novice, you’ll feel right at home here.
They tend to focus mostly on the basics, like:
Camp Cooking (including cooking in a Dutch Oven)
Basic First Aid
Game Spotting & Trail Sign
Camp setting and striking
Horse Shoeing and Basic Animal First Aid
These are skills that many experienced hunters already possess, which points back to the fact that this school is geared more toward the complete novice. As such, it’s an excellent way to introduce even someone with a limited skill set to the world of Professional Guiding.
Classes are offered on-site in June, July, and August, and run for a total of 30-days. The program is modestly priced and will give you an excellent grounding in many of the skills that will be essential to your professional success.
This is a hardcore school, with real world training in one of Alaska’s harshest environments. They’ve been conducting survival training since 1924, and over the decades, have also added hunting guide components to their curriculum.
The emphasis is on survival skills and will teach you how to help those who aren’t accustomed to the Great Outdoors stay alive.
This is not to say they don’t also teach big game hunting and guide skills. They do, and that part of their curriculum is excellent as well.
However, one of the main focuses here is on ensuring that when you take a crew of amateur hunters into the wilds, you’ve got the skills to bring them home safely.
That’s huge, and sadly, too few professional guides have been presented with serious challenges that will push their abilities to the limit.
You’ll get pushed at this school. It’s not for the faint of heart, but your professional career will benefit from the punishing, extremely challenging training.
If you’re looking for a Guide Training School that pulls no punches and forces you to adapt, Pioneer Outfitters is the school you want. It’s an unforgettable, life-changing experience.
Note that there’s no classroom element here. You’re in the wilds every day, working side by side with seasoned Guides and being observed. You get a 100% practical, hands-on education.
This is another hardcore Alaskan school, and as with most of the ones in this part of the country, you learn by doing. In this case, you take an (unpaid) apprenticeship with an experienced guide. That kind of hands-on training and ‘round the clock supervision will teach you more in a week than you’ll learn in a month or more sitting in a classroom.
This school quickly separates the men from the boys. If you don’t already know the basics, if you’re not in great shape, and if you don’t have a huge passion for the wilderness, you’re probably going to hate this environment. It’s not for everyone, but if you are one of the rare few who can cut it, this unforgiving course will change your life.
In the Bible, the Book of Revelation talks about the end of the world. Revelation Mountain Outfitters will take you to the end of the world, systematically tear you down, and rebuild you again as a world-class Hunting Guide.
Located in Colorado, this school is for experienced hunters who are looking to take their skills to the next level and incorporate all the additional critical skills needed to turn you from a hunter and into a successful Hunting Guide.
The course has no classwork component. It’s only two weeks in duration, but every moment of that is in the field, hands-on, practical experience. It includes the care and maintenance of the pack animals critical to the success of any guided hunting expedition.
Your instructors are not part-timers, but people who spend every day of their lives hunting, scouting and guiding, so you’re in excellent hands and will get world-class, one of a kind education.
Again, if you want to get the most out of this experience, then you need to be experienced and already know the basics cold. Consider this to be a kind of “Graduate School” for experienced hunters.
Among other things, you’ll learn:
Hunting techniques (including both stalking and stand hunting)
Tracking (including tracking wounded prey)
Wilderness survival and wilderness first aid
Ungulate and predatory behavior
Understanding hunting gear (including the effects of extended outings on your gear, and the potential problems that may arise)
Wilderness navigation and map reading
Diet and fitness preparation for guiding
Planning your hunts
Wild game skinning, processing, and cooking
Royal Tine has more than two decades of experience teaching all aspects of transforming an excellent hunter into an exceptional Hunting Guide.
Located in the Montana Rockies, you get the best of all worlds. A beautiful setting, an experienced staff to help take your skills to the next level, and a brilliant mix of classroom and hands-on experience.
The great thing about the school is that you can learn everything in an all-inclusive 4-week class. Or, if you want to focus on a particular skill (animal packing, camp setting and striking, camp cook school, etc.), then they have compartmentalized courses that focus just on those skills.
This allows you to pick and choose just the skills you feel areas of weakness, or, if you’re just starting out, take the deep dive and learn it all.
There are older Hunting Guide schools, but few can match Royal Tine’s commitment to excellence. You can tell they’re passionate about what they do. It’s not a business; it’s a way of life.
In many ways, this school feels reminiscent of the hard-core Alaskan guide schools, with some of the rough edges smoothed away. It is well worth your consideration!
This is the only nonprofit organization on our list, and it’s unique for a few different reasons. As the name implies, the skills you learn here apply to any expedition you mount, anywhere in the world.
Where most other guide schools focus on the hunting aspects and mechanics, this one takes a different approach.
It focuses on leadership skills and risk management, both of which are essential if you hope to find long-term success as a professional Hunting Guide.
This school is not recommended for beginners. If you don’t already possess all the necessary hunting and survival skills required to excel, then you’re going to struggle here.
It’s a very different take on the traditional guide school, and while not for everyone, can help you polish the soft-but-critical skills you need to be an excellent Hunting Guide.
Located in the Swan Valley (Glacier Country) in Montana, this area has it all. A lot of Hunting Guide schools tend to locate itself in the mountains. Because of that, the prevailing terrain unduly influences the curriculum – in other words, you learn a lot about mountain survival in particular.
That’s fine, but Big Game can be found in a lot of places besides the mountains, and from a terrain perspective, Swan Mountain Guide School offers the best of all worlds, with its diverse geography.
They also offer a fantastically diverse collection of courses that include:
A comprehensive hunting guide course, five weeks in duration (longest of any school we’ve listed here!)
Waterfowl Hunting Guide Course (5 days)
Upland Game Bird Course (5 days)
Houndsmen Course (5 days)
River Guide Course (10 days)
Hunting, Fishing, and Packing (10 days)
Trail Ride Wrangler Course (7 days)
Packing Course (to teach you to pack and unpack saddlebags properly) (7 days)
Hunters and Adventurers Tracking and Scouting Course (10 days)
Camp Cook Course (2 weeks)
While the underlying themes here may look similar to what you’ve seen in programs offered by other schools, one of the first things you’ll notice is how much more in-depth the Swan Mountain programs are.
Taught by real experts in every field, whatever course of study you engage in, you’ll get a mix of classroom and hands-on experience.
It will leave you with a well-rounded education on that topic, with the goal to make you a better Hunting Guide overall.
Regarding the comprehensiveness of their offering, the guys at Swan Mountain are hard to beat. You won’t get a more complete, well-rounded outdoorsman’s education anywhere!
Clay Pope started the Texas Guide School more than fifteen years ago, giving the Great State of Texas an excellent entry in our list. Clay has been a professional guide for decades, and all his students benefit from his years of practical, hands-on experience.
Like most of the schools we’ve covered to this point, you get a comprehensive Hunting Guide education that is a mix of classroom and practical application.
In Clay’s case, the Texas Guide School focuses on the nuts and bolts aspects of the operation, interacting with and teaching clients how to hunt, maintaining a harmonious camp, skinning, camp cooking and the like.
Assuming when you get to the camp that you already have the basic hunting and survival skills, although if you don’t, Clay is certainly experienced enough to help you out there too.
The great thing about the Texas Guide School is its location. Clay fills an important niche, because most of the Hunting Guide Schools in the country are in the north, and some people struggle to get there. While the Texas Guide School isn’t as relentless and hardcore as some of the Alaskan schools, it’s a fine institution, and you’ll learn a lot about your desired trade.
Best Hunting Guide Schools in the US in 2023 - Conclusion
As you can see, there are perhaps more Hunting Guide schools scattered about the country than you first realized. While it’s true that you can find many of them in the north (Wyoming, Montana, and Alaska), there are a few scattered in other parts of the nation as well. We’ve tried to filter our list down to the best of the best while giving you a broad cross section.
Each school has their own particular “take” on the Hunting Guide profession, and each one offers a unique focus on one or more aspects of the trade. Your best bet then, before you settle on one school, in particular, is to take an honest inventory of your current skills as it related to the Hunting Guide profession. Figure out where you are weakest, and pick the school that focuses on those areas. What are you waiting for? Your future career awaits!