April 27, 2016 Texas Outfitters

Interview with Hunting Guide George Sakai

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My name is George Sakai, and I am the owner and operator of South Texas Trophy Outfitters. Im 28 years old and have had my business since 2007. I got into this business because I have a passion for hunting and the outdoors. I was working in finance and I saw an opportunity to do what I love, and have a chance at making a living. So being younger I gave it a shot. The biggest reason I chose to start STTO, is because I started finding more enjoyment in taking people hunting, being part of a lifelong memory, and providing a successful hunting experience.

Those things gave me far more enjoyment than hunting for myself. Also, I believe that Texas offers some of the best hunting in the world, and wanted to share that with everyone. Currently, I run hunts for exotics, whitetail, dove, hogs, javelin, and predators. STTO is made up of me and a pair of guides.

– Are you an Outfitter, Guide or both? What’s the difference?

I am both. The biggest difference between the two is the role that they facilitate. A lot of times the names are used interchangeably. The biggest difference is an outfitter functions in a broker capacity, while a guide is the front man of the actual hunt. Many times guides can serve as brokers/outfitters, and
vice versa. In smaller operations like myself, I play both roles. I do have other guides in my company, but I often guide because of my business approach.

I really adhere to the idea that in order to mitigate every aspect of the hunt and provide the client with the best possible experience and outcome, I need to serve in both capacities. Another difference is the skill sets of each. For example, a guide may not be a people person, but have an enormous wealth of knowledge. While an outfitter may not be as knowledgeable on things such as scoring, age, range finding, etc, but is a great marketer. Also, there can be in a difference in whose interests are being protected.

A guide, if he is solely affiliated with the ranch, may only keep the ranch’s interest in mind. Meanwhile, an outfitter may only keep his client’s interest in mind. This is another major reason why I choose to serve as both. I personally feel it safe guards both parties, and offers a very personalized experience.

– How long have you been OF/guide and how did you get started?

I have been guiding and outfitting since 2007. I got started by doing hunts on family land, and through that I was able to establish myself and make contacts with other ranches. Initially, I wanted to find a way to make money in college and become more self-sufficient and not rely on my parents for money. From
there it grew into a desire to create a legitimate business, and offer the excellent hunting opportunities available in Texas.

– What do you like best about your job?

The people and the time spent with them. I have learned so much about people, business, marketing. Simply, by conversations had while hunting together. Also, being blessed to be able to help in creating lasting memories for parents and kids, husbands and wives, best friends, etc. What I enjoy most is meeting some many diverse people and backgrounds, while sharing the mutual interest or passion for the outdoors and hunting. I cannot tell you how much sound knowledge about life, career, family, marriage, etc I have received while at camp, or in a blind. Also, being able to deliver on your word is a great feeling especially when you see the high fives, and smiles, when the hunt is over.

Those things are really rewarding and it’s why I continue to have my business. I really feel that each hunt no matter the outcome, the amount good advice and knowledge received is worth the time and effort alone. Regardless of the profit, tip, or money lost I have been blessed to meet everyone that has used my business.

– What do you like the least about your job?

I can honestly say there is almost nothing I dislike about my job. What can be disheartening is when the hunter does not make a successful harvest. It really gets me down. I guess one thing that I feel all outfitters face as well as guides is the few clients/hunters that nitpick and are impossible to please. It’s
not an easy job and depending on conditions it can be a very stressful time, especially when a guide/outfitter really has the mentality of delivering on his promises.

– From a customer standpoint, what should I look for to find a good outfitter?

HONESTY, this is by far the most important facet when looking for a good outfitter. Second, is knowledge, usually one of the two will allude to the extent of the other. Also, their track record a good outfitter will have no problem providing pictures of successful hunts, and references.

– What should I look for to avoid having a bad experience? Red Flags?

A guy who makes unrealistic promises is a huge red flag. Another is when a guy says its exactly 158 1/8, 127 6/8, 135 7/8. A good guide will give you a range within 2”-4” depending on typical vs non typical horns. Also, avoid outfitters that have the money going to multiple people. Usually, the exchange of
money is no more than 3 people, hunter>outfitter/guide>land owner. Having checks cut to multiple people is not very common.

– Are there extra costs for the customer. Guide fee, guide tip in addition to fee? What’s considered the proper way to handle tip?

This area is wide open. Some places are all inclusive some have a day fee, guide fee, lodging/meals fee. It really just varies from ranch to ranch. Tips are generally not included in fees, much like a restaurant. I once read a thread online about a tip. It goes as follows, a tip is not a stipulation it should be treated as a bonus. It doesn’t have to monetary, sometimes it’s an over the top dinner, gear, or something of the sort. Guiding is not a business people get into to get rich.

Usually after expenses it’s a break even deal, so we that do it do it for the love of it. Many times, a guide or the outfitter is there to not only insure the
safety of the guest, but also the interests of the land owner(s). Most guides spend a lot of time in the field and have a wealth of knowledge. They can share all of their experience and give great advice on hunting, reloading, calling, shooting, a whole spectrum of things. Most importantly the guide/outfitter is
there to listen to your stories and make you feel that every penny you’re spending is well spent, and makes the experience truly and individual one and a cherished memory.

So, in regards to tipping there are a lot of avenues as to what constitutes a tip, but it should always be earned. If I had to say from a monetary standpoint for those wondering a percentage from 10%+ is very appreciated!

– What’s the most exciting/dangerous thing that’s happened on a hunt?

I once had a group of guys on a Scimitar Oryx hunt. We shot a good bull late afternoon and he ran into some brush and couldn’t find him. It was already getting dark so I told the guys lets head back to camp and have supper, and we would go out after supper and shine for eyes in the brush. So about 3 hours
later we headed back out and within 15 minutes we saw eyes. The hunter put one round into his shoulder while he was lying on the ground. He took it like a champ and stood up pawed at the ground grunted and proceeded to put his head down ready to charge.

He quickly pulled his sidearm and shot twice more and anchored down the Oryx. That was pretty intense considering how resilient that animal
was and that he wasn’t going down without a fight.

– For those thinking about OF/guide as a career, can I make a decent living? Hunts are expensive, so where does the money go?

I would say that doing it for a living is not an easy task. There is money to be made but a lot of factors have to be in your favor. I personally made a go at it for a couple years as my sole source for income and at times the money was great and at times it was nerve racking. Well, hunts are not cheap, and every
outfit and ranch has their own set up. Also, some animals/hunts will yield a higher profit margin. Without giving the many examples, which could be story all its own. I would say if you love to be outdoors and interact with people and love hunting do it for those reasons not to get rich!

– What do you think about all the hunting shows on TV? Are any of them too staged, over the top, etc?

I’ not a big TV fan first and foremost. However, I think the biggest downfall of hunting shows is how much product placement and pushing of gear shows have to do. Air time is expensive regardless of channel and 99% of the shows rely on the income from the product sponsors. That being said it really
cuts away from showing an entire hunt versus showing just the killing phase of the hunt, or the misses, or the things that make a hunt a hunt. I personally don’t have a qualm with hunting shows, I just wish there wasn’t such a trade-off showcasing products vs real time hunting footage.

– Who’s the most famous person you hunted with?

I’m not a big time outfitter, so I haven’t hunted with anyone famous, but I hope to meet someone famous and really cool at some point.

-George