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How Much Should I Tip?

August 2023
Author: Josh Harris

Tipping is a common practice and a way to show appreciation for hard work and dedication. It’s a reflection of the quality of service you have received during the entirety of your experience. Gratuities or tips are always optional, very appreciated, and also discretionary. Tips encompass a large amount of income each year for staff members involved in the operation you are hunting or fishing with, and just like any other service, 10%- 20% of the total cost, including trophy fees and/or additional animals, is what’s recommended. One of the most frequently asked questions by our clients and members is, “How much and who should I pay?” This is what I’m going to address in this article.

Unfortunately, in some cases, guides are probably not paid as well as they should be. Most guides rely heavily on tips to make ends meet and to justify the lesser amount on the front end, for the hopeful great outcome(s) on the back end. Deciding how much to tip a guide and/or staff can be a challenging task as it can depend on several factors. Some people tip a lot, some less, and others don’t tip at all, and every destination is different. My first words of advice are, “Don’t let tipping be the major oversight of the trip!” From personal experience, it’s never a good feeling or situation when you didn’t plan for the end of what turned out to be one of the most amazing experiences you’ve ever had, where the guide and outfitter knocked it out of the park on all levels, and of all things, you forgot cash for tips. It quickly turns into a very clunky, “I’ll pay you when I get home,” kind of fix.

In America, we know that when we eat at a restaurant, it’s expected that you will leave a 15% to 20% tip. However, when you go on, say, a guided Colorado mule deer hunt or a guided Costa Rica fishing trip, the assumptions of gratuity can be less clear. Are you always supposed to tip in those cases, and if so, how much? Specifically, how much money should you take to tip your two hard-working guides, the cook who made you delicious meals morning and night, and the cowboy, wrangler, or caretaker who had been up before anyone else each morning catching and saddling horses, starting a fire, and assuring that all of the little things were done to make your trip be what it turned out to be. What about the captain and mates who took care of everything on the boat, including cooking, fishing, etc.?

You have to determine the quality of the experience and/or determine if the trip was either Outstanding, Good, Par, or Not So Good. Determining the quality of the experience on a guided hunt or trip can depend on a variety of factors, including communication, expertise, accommodations, personal attention, safety, ethics, etc. By evaluating these factors and considering personal preferences and expectations, it is possible to determine whether or not the experience was of high quality and enjoyable and was in line with the overall respective value. There are several factors that are important to me, which have helped me evaluate the quality of the experience, how much to pay, and who to pay, and I have included these in this article. While not everything to potentially consider is listed, these are some of the main factors I consider each time I book a trip, both before the trip begins as well as when the time to tip arrives at the end of the trip.


1. Consider the Standard Rate and Duration:
The standard rate for tipping varies depending on the location and duration of the trip. Research the typical tipping rate for the area and type of trip you are going on to ensure you are offering an appropriate amount. Longer trips may warrant a higher tip due to the increased time and effort required from the guide and/or staff.
2. Prepare Ahead: Be a good tipper, and plan in advance. If you can find out how many people will be present on your trip who will be providing service to you, pack that many envelopes, each filled with predetermined amounts of money and labeled for the recipients, such as driver, guide, cook, maid, tracker, or wrangler. Put them with all the important things for your trip. That way, you’re ready! Also, always talk to the outfitter to ensure that his or her preferences for tipping have been considered.
3. Cash is King: Take cash! Cash is king! If you can’t get cash or don’t want to travel with a wad of bills, most American guides are accustomed to receiving online tips via platforms like Venmo. If your guide is Mexican, Canadian, or from any other country, cash is the best form of payment every time. Some people may also consider giving gifts versus cash. Although the thought is a good one, coming from guides across the globe, the overall consensus on gifts versus cash is unanimous, “Gifts don’t buy groceries, pay the bills, or put fuel in the truck!” Stick with cash and you’ll always be placing your best foot forward.
4. Client/Guide Pairing: I suggest conversing with the outfitter to discuss the best “guide/client pairing” possible. If you can have this conversation with the outfitter, the outcome and experience will be significantly more positive all around.


1. Communication: Good communication between the guide and/or outfitter and the participants is essential for a positive experience. Clear and honest communication about expectations, logistics, and any potential challenges can help to ensure a smooth and enjoyable experience.
2. Expertise and Professionalism: The expertise and professionalism of the guide and/or outfitter can greatly impact the quality of the experience. An experienced guide who is knowledgeable about the local environment, wildlife, and hunting/fishing techniques can enhance the experience and help ensure success. Was this the case?
3. Under Promise and Over Deliver: This means intentionally setting modest expectations for their performance or deliverables and then exceeding those expectations by producing better results than anticipated. When expectations are exceeded and positive surprises have occurred, it’s a simple and effective way to build a positive reputation and ensure repeat business. Was this the case?
4. Accommodations and Amenities: The quality of the accommodations and amenities provided on the trip can also be an important factor in determining the quality of the experience. Comfortable and well-maintained lodging, as well as access to modern amenities such as hot showers, can greatly enhance the experience. The accommodations are obviously relative to the type of adventure you’re on, so realistic expectations are a must. Was this the case?
5. Personal Attention and Customization:
The level of personal attention and customization provided by the guide and/ or outfitter can also impact the quality of the experience. A guide who takes the time to understand the goals and preferences of the individual participant and who can tailor the experience accordingly can help to ensure a positive and enjoyable experience. This is huge!


1. Assess the Level of Service: The amount of your tip should be based on the level of service provided by your guide and the staff. If they went above and beyond to ensure your success and satisfaction, consider a more generous tip. Consider the level of service provided, including their experience, knowledge of the area, and ability to help you successfully attain your desired outcome(s). If they went above and beyond in providing excellent service, consider tipping more than the standard rate. You can also lean on what I’ve outlined below as a default, if needed.
2. Consider the Team: If you had multiple guides or other staff members who contributed to your experience, consider tipping each of them individually based on their level of service. Talk to the outfitter and get his/her advice. In the end, it’s entirely up to you.
3. Consider the Control-ables: While it is ultimately up to the individual to decide whether or not to tip their guide and staff, it is generally considered good etiquette to offer a tip even if things happened that were out of the service provider’s control. For example, if you did not have a successful trip due to factors such as weather conditions or animal behavior, this may not be the fault of your guide or outfitter. It is important to remember that hunting and fishing can be challenging and unpredictable activities and success cannot always be guaranteed. In such cases, it may be appropriate to offer a smaller tip than you would have if you had a successful trip. However, it is still important to recognize and appreciate the hard work and dedication of your guide, the staff, and the outfitter as a whole. They likely put in considerable effort to help you have a positive experience despite the uncontrollable challenges. Ultimately, the decision to tip should be based on the level of service, professionalism, and dedication to ensuring your satisfaction, regardless of the outcome. I call these types of controllable variables “control-ables.”. The outfitter and staff have complete control of certain things, “control- ables,” and how well they manage these control-ables always tells a lot about how the operation is run.
4.Tip at the End of Your Trip: Tipping is a way of showing gratitude that should always be given at the end of the trip. Typically, there’s a parting moment when you and the staff are saying goodbye. That’s the best time to pass over the envelopes and personally thank them for the experience(s).
As I mentioned before, I always converse with the outfitter beforehand to address tipping. This is very important no matter where or with whom you are hunting or fishing. If the outfitter leaves the ball in your court to decide, below is my “Unwritten Rule for Tipping” that has worked the best for me.

This is an example of a hunt priced at $7,000. The percentage is at 15%, and the total is $1,050 to be paid in tips:
(1) Recipient (100%):
1. Total Tip: $1,050
2. Guide/Outfitter (100% of Tip): $1,050
(2) Recipients (60/40 Split):
1. Total Tip: $1,050
2. Guide (60% of Tip): $630
3. Spotter, Sub-Guide (40% of Tip): $420
(3) Recipients (50/30/20 Split):
1. Total Tip: $1,050
2. Guide (50% of Tip): $525
3. Spotter or Sub-Guide (30% of Tip): $315
4. Cook or Lodge/Camp Manager (20% of Tip): $210

When it comes to premium hunts/trips, as well as hunts/trips that involve a lot of individuals and dynamics, I break down my method a little differently to make sure everyone is covered. Again, the purpose of tips is to reward and encourage good service for all involved. The examples that I’m referencing are for trips such as high-quality trophy elk hunts or Canada and Alaska backcountry hunts for species such as moose, sheep, goat, or bear. These hunts are usually in the $20,000 and up price range as a general rule.

This is an example of a premium hunt priced at $40,000. The percentage is at 15%, and the total is $6,000 to be paid in tips:
Premium Hunts/Trips:
1. Total Tip: $6,000
2. Main Guide (5%-7%): $2,800
3. Packer (2%-3%): $1,200
4. Cook(s) (2%-3%): $800
5. Skinner or Wrangler (2%): $800 6. Pilot (1%): $400

When it comes to hunting places such as Africa on safaris that provide a chef, maids, trackers, and a professional hunter or guide, this structure has been a proven way to pay tips that works for all involved in the safari:
Africa Hunts/Safaris (Per Hunter):
1. Trackers: $20-$30/day (plains game)
2. Trackers: $40/day (dangerous game)
3. Maids: $5/day
4. Chef: $25/day
5. Professional Hunter (PH): 10%-20% of total trophy fees, depending on the quality of the safari

For self-guided/drop-off trips, the following is what I do. Usually on these trips, there’s a pilot/transporter and/or additional helpers.
Self-Guided/Drop-Off Trips:
1. Pilot: I typically tip the pilot $100 each way. I only tip the pilot if he or she is accommodating and improves my experience enough for me to acknowledge it.
2. Additional Help: I tip any additional assistance I receive during my trip, and the amount is usually somewhere between $10-$100, depending on if it’s the same person for repetitive things or if multiple people determine the amount. I’m referring to things like additional rides to your hotel, the airport, the butcher, the taxidermist, etc.

When it comes to the delivery of your tip(s), I strongly suggest that you hand deliver them directly to each individual. It doesn’t need to be a big moment with everyone involved to watch or witness. I actually prefer to do it privately with each person. To me, it comes down to respect when it’s all said and done. My experience is that the recipient prefers it this way as well.

I hope this helps you get some direction on tipping for your own adventures. I have been in a lot of hunting camps all around the world, as well as booked countless clients, and what I’ve disclosed in this article is what has worked best. Take that for what it’s worth!