Frequently Asked Questions
Thanks for taking the time to look over my site. I hope that it has answered the questions that you have and guided you to choosing us for your dream hunt in the great Western US!
Every year I spend hundreds of hours on the phone talking with people about hunting with us in New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, Utah and Nevada. I love to talk with people about hunting and sharing a few stories as we get to know each other. But over the years I have learned the top questions that people have and tried in this format to answer as many of them as possible so we can concentrate on the important stuff on the phone! Call me anytime - I love to talk hunting!!!
What is the name of your organization and how do I contact you?
Compass West Outfitters, 505-801-7500, #33 Rd 25531, Aztec, NM 87410 in NW New Mexico about 35 minutes south of Durango, CO. Compass West Outfitters is licensed, bonded and insured, operating in Colorado under permit #1929. Due to the way the draw works in New Mexico, that license number will be furnished once we are in contract. We are under special permit to operate on public lands in the San Juan National Forest in Colorado as well as Gila National Forest, Cibola National Forest, Lincoln National Forest and BLM lands throughout the state of New Mexico. We are also under a special permit to operate on White Sands Missile Base for antelope and free range gemsbok (oryx). In addition, we also have a number of private land hunting operations in New Mexico and Colorado.
Who are you?
I have been a full time guide since 1988 when I started guiding fly fishing in Michigan. I moved to Montana in 1990 to guide fishing, up-land birds and big game then to New Mexico in 1997 to start my own hunting and fishing operation. I guide fishing in the spring and summer until scouting season then all big game until about Christmas then trapping and guiding fishing the rest of the winter and spring. Yeah, I am a lucky dog. I have been able to spend close to 300 days a year in the outdoors doing what I love and have found a way to make a living at it. Fortunately I have a loving, forgiving wife who seems to both tolerate and understand my love (she calls it an obsession) for hunting and fishing. My son who was born in 2004 has his own 10x35’s and wants them when I break out mine scouting. In the fall of 2006 when I was glassing some elk on a hillside, he started to say antelope, antelope… I told him we were looking for elk and then he said antelope all gone. About two seconds later an antelope ran in front of the truck. I think he’s a natural – he’s open for bookings in 2022!
What do you guide for in New Mexico?
Elk, mule deer, antelope, big horn sheep, oryx (gemsbok), ibex, varmint hunts, lion on request as well as trapping runs for bobcat.
What do you guide for in Colorado?
Elk, mule deer, bear, antelope, sheep and buffalo.
What do you guide for in Arizona, Utah and Nevada?
We have chosen to focus only on elk and mule deer in these states.
What are my draw odds and how does the draw work in New Mexico?
In New Mexico 10% of the tags for every hunt are guaranteed to non-residents hunting with an outfitter. So when you apply through an outfitter for any hunt in the state (other then sheep and oryx) you are in a much better odds pool then when you just apply as a non-resident. In order to get into the “outfitter” pool you must be under contract with a licensed outfitter in New Mexico. My contract will show what is and what is not a part of the package as well as the price, number of guided days and ratio of hunters to guides (2x1 or 1x1). Once we both agree to the terms of the contract and BOTH sign it, you will enter the “outfitter” pool with my permit number which increases your odds of drawing by 50-75%.
Deadline is in March for everything but oryx, that deadline is in early February.
What are my draw odds in Arizona, Utah and Nevada?
All three states are very difficult to draw tags for but we will assist you in gaining the preference points needed to draw the best tags in the world. All three states take a number of points to draw prime units.
What are my draw odds and how does the draw work in Colorado?
Colorado has a preference point system. For every year you apply and are not successful in the draw of your choice’ you will gain a point. In the areas that we guide in Colorado for elk, all bow hunts are over the counter and two rifle hunts are over the counter (no draw). For muzzle loader and first rifle hunts, both in the rut, you must draw a tag. Odds are not bad - about 75% for drawing on your first try but with one point and it’s almost a sure deal, With two points, buy your plane tickets!!!
What about guaranteed tags for elk?
I offer hunts with guaranteed tags in New Mexico, Utah and Nevada. Prices for these hunts vary greatly but as a general rule:
NM: $1500-$6000 plus guide fees
UT $4000-$15,000 plus guide fees
NV $4000-$12,000 plus guide fees
What about guaranteed tags for mule deer?
I offer hunts in New Mexico and Colorado on private ranches that we lease and manage with guaranteed tags or very high draw odds. Fees for tags are built into the price of these hunts.
How many years have you been in business?
I started guiding big game hunts in Montana in 1990 in the Bob Marshal Wilderness area as well as in Wyoming in the Cloud Peak wilderness area. I moved to New Mexico in 1997 to find the biggest and best mule deer and elk in the world as well as world class fishing allowing me to guide year round. I have been a full time outfitter/guide in NM since 1997 offering fishing and hunting year round. I sold my fly fishing lodge and fishing operation in New Mexico in 2007 to allow me to concentrate on my true love, big game hunting.
How many hunters per year do you guide at one time?
Colorado: you will likely be in camp with no more then 6 people. We do not like to operate large camps because we feel you loose the personal touch.
New Mexico: you will see 1-4 people in elk camps and 4-6 in mule deer camps with limited draw. Since we only guide the best units there is a high chance you will be the only hunter on some hunts.
Arizona, Utah and Nevada: you will likely be the only hunter in camps because of the extremely limited number of tags.
What dates are your elk and deer hunts?
Bow elk - September with three hunts to choose from
Muzzle loader hunts in Colorado - September
Muzzle loader hunts in New Mexico - October
Elk rifle hunts - October for all the New Mexico
Mule deer in New Mexico are the last week in October and the first 3 weeks in November
Mule deer in Colorado - November.
How difficult/what physical level is required for the hunt?
We try to customize trips to meet client’s needs and wants for all trips. New Mexico hunts are lower elevation and “generally” less demanding but bow hunts are “get it on’ hunts when chasing rutting bulls! Colorado is higher elevation but my area has good access to lots of flat land areas as well as places we call death valley or hell’s hole to give you a idea! We WILL hunt at your physical level and the more up front you are at the time of booking the better we can plan for a hard or easy terrain hunt.
How large is the hunting area we will be hunting?
In Colorado my permit area is about 70 square miles; we are the ONLY outfitter that is allowed to hunt in this area with paying clients. There is public hunting but no other outfitters. In New Mexico we guide on about 60 square miles of land for mule deer and nearly the whole state for elk because of the limited tags drawn each year; we have specialized guides in almost all the best areas of the state.
What is the elevation in the area of the hunt?
New Mexico 6000-8000 feet and 7000-11,500 in Colorado depending on time of year and animals we are hunting. Sheep hunters should plan on camping and hunting at 10,000-12,500!
How far is the hunting area from base camp?
You can drive from 20 minutes to 1.5 hours from camp to prime hunting areas depending on animal movements and rut; we try to locate camps in prime areas close to but not in our hunting areas. However, in 2007 I killed two bulls walking out of camp in the Gila area of New Mexico on bow hunts.
How will we get from camp to the hunting area?
We use 4x4 trucks 99% of the time to access hunting areas in New Mexico as well as some ATV travel. In Colorado we access by 4x4 trucks. Most of the horseback hunting is at your request and more likely to happen on bow and muzzle loader hunts when animals are in higher elevations.
Do you own or lease the land we will be hunting on or is it public land?
We have some leased land in New Mexico and Colorado for elk and deer hunts but 99% of our hunts are on prime public lands.
How do you determine what the quantity and of what caliber the animals are in the area you hunt?
We research an area by scouting and state harvest reports before offering a hunt in any area. At the time of booking, we will try and get a feel for the animal quality that you are looking to harvest; guides will assist you with field judging once an animal is sighted. YOU MAKE THE CALL. We view all animals no matter the size as trophy animals! Colorado hunts are for what we call “personal trophy” size elk and some monster mule deer and bear. New Mexico hunts are more trophy hunts for elk in the 340+ range and mule deer in the 170-200+ range but we encourage you to go more with the guide’s call as to the quality of the animals to harvest in New Mexico. Arizona, Utah and Nevada are mega trophy hunts where 350+ animals are the minimum that we are looking for.
What style of hunting will be used to pursue the animal (tree/blind, stalking, drives, etc)?
Ninety percent of the time we do glass and stalk on all rifle hunts. We will sit on some water on dry years but spot and stalk has worked best over the years. Bow hunts will be a mix of spot and stalk and water hole hunts and calling during the rut. We will do some small drives on deer hunts during the day to keep you in the field. We do not hunt from tree stands on any hunts but if you are a bow hunter and would like to bring and put up your own stand (insurance reasons) we will show you where. We try and line up a hunt that meets your needs; if long hard physical days of walking are not in the cards and we know that, we will set up ground blinds and save your legs and lungs for when we need to chase after a monster!
If we are not successful after a few days in a particular area, are there other areas to hunt that you have access to?
This is why my camps are all drive in camps now days. Guides will go where the game is; all of my hunts are from camps that we can drive into allowing us to move you to better areas with ease!!
What is the success percentage?
This is the million dollar question…. It depends on weather, animal movements, rut, physical condition of hunters, weather again and rut again… On our mule deer hunts in the last 5 years we have been 100% shot opportunity for all hunters. In 2005 we had 11 hunters take 11 deer, in 2006 16 hunters took 14 deer (2 held out for monsters), in 2007 16 hunters took 14 deer but all had the chance to shoot. On elk hunts in New Mexico our hunters have had 100% opportunity to see and shoot or turn down shots at nice bulls. In New Mexico we have been about 75% for elk the last 3 years. In Colorado 65-75% harvest odds are more likely for this area. It also depends on your definition of success!! Was it a great hunt? Did you see bulls? Did you have a wonderful time and make a friend of your guide? Last question, did you harvest an elk…?
What "unit" is the property located in?
In Colorado units 73&74 is the main area we hunt; in New Mexico for elk, units 16A, 16D, 16E, 16C, 16B, 17, 10, 9, 2A, 2B, 2C, 5B, 6C, 19, 12, 13, 34, 54, 48, 50, 13, 15. We hunt many more areas for elk in New Mexico depending on draw odds and clients desires for quality! For mule deer in New Mexico we only guide 2A, 2B, 2C, 7 - the BEST areas in the state for monster deer!
How many guides do you have total?
I have 7 guides that work for me.
What is the experience of the guides? How many years have the different guides been with your organization?
Some of my guides have been with me since 1998, but the average is 4 years. We have one of the best pay rates for guides in the West and we take good care of our people. Some of the guides only work for me in one area, allowing me to have the best of the best guides on most hunts.
Are the guides employees or contractors?
For tax reasons for me and them, they are all contractors.
Do they live/ work on the property year round or come in just during the hunting season?
Most of my guides live in the area all year, but a few of them guide other areas in the summer and winter like New Zealand and Chili or Alaska but return 1-2 months before the start of the seasons to scout.
Do you track the success ratios of each hunting guide?
No, this is just too hard to track. We track client return rates for the guides more then harvest; there are far too many variables in hunting and client conditions for this to be a fair question.
How will our guide be determined? How far in advance is our guide designated?
Most of the time I know who you are going to hunt with before I hang up the phone. I have been guiding since 1988 and have developed a great ability to feel people out in almost no time. Knowing the personalities of each guide, I can normally pick a guide for you right when you book. But the KIND of hunt you want and quality of animal you are looking for also plays a big role. I have guides who work for me in maybe just one area, with low draw odds in NM, I don’t know who will have tags until June each year so that is when guides are assigned. My gut feeling on guide choice is normally right on. You will typically hunt with the same guide for the whole hunt allowing you to get a good feel for each other and to develop both confidence in him and a relationship that we hope will bring you back year after year. Almost all of my guides have 100% repeat bookings!
Can we speak to our specific guide before arriving?
Guides are guides not outfitters for a reason; they are not into all the phone calls and emails that I am now accustomed to. If there is a dire need to talk with a guide before a booking, I will have them call you. But it is not my policy to put you in touch before the hunt. You might end up hunting with another guide than you thought because of health, auto or personal issues that may arise before a hunt. Most of my guides know all the areas but your guide might really know an area in New Mexico well and end up staying for an extra week or month making me change the guide schedule.
Do the guides provide guidance to the hunter in the field on size of animal and recommendations on taking or not taking a specific animal?
Yes, always that is what we are here for. Guides will know what you are looking for as well as what the area has to offer as far as quality. They will always make a suggestion that you shoot or don’t shoot, but YOU need to make the final call. Don’t be afraid to say that is the biggest deer or elk I have ever seen and would like to harvest it. It’s all about the quality of the experience, not the size of the animal. If it was a fun four hour hands and knees stalk and ends up being a smaller elk or deer then you thought but you liked the experience and want to harvest that animal, YOU make the call! For full on trophy elk and deer hunts, guides will advise you where the animal stands as fair as ranking in quality for the area.
If our hunt ends successfully but early, what other activities are there for us to do?
You can either choose to stay in camp or leave early. For the Colorado and NW New Mexico mule deer hunts, the San Juan River offering the best trout fishing in the western US is 1-2 hours away. You can also choose to just travel around at your own pace. There is not a great deal of things to do in the areas around camps and guides are going to be busy with all the other hunters once you have harvested your animal. This is a TEAM effort; once you are done, your guide will take another hunter from one of the other guides.
Accommodations / Food:
What are the accommodations?
Most of my hunts are from tent camps. My tents are all custom made 10X12 tents! There are 2 people in each tent, 2 cots and a small table in each tent. If you are a solo hunter, you will NOT share a tent with another hunter. We have wood stoves but 99% of the time now days we heat with indoor safe propane heaters in the tents. We have a large eating and cooking tent (16x20) where you will enjoy great meals and lies over dinner.
Are there different levels or types of accommodations?
Some of our hunters stay at hotels or lodges for mule deer hunts, but travel time will be 1-2.5 hours to prime hunting areas. You may also choose to stay at local motels or resorts near hunting areas if you like for elk hunts.
What meals/food are provided in the price?
You will get 6 night lodging and all meals for all my elk and deer hunts.
Oryx, antelope and buffalo, you will be on your own for all meals and lodging as well as all reservations for these hunts; guides will meet you at assigned locations or at your hotel.
Does the pricing include handling of game?
Guides will field dress your animal as well as make all the proper cuts for mounting your game. You are welcome to join in if you would like or to just watch and learn. Your guide will pack your animal out; you can again choose to or not to assist with this. Your meat will be taken to camp. If you are hunting 1x1, your guide will assist you in getting your meat to a local packer; if you are 2x1, the cook will help or we might ask you to dive it in to town in order for your friend to keep hunting with the guide. Dealing with an elk down will often times take a whole day.
Who field dresses the animal?
Your guide, or you and your guide, or you, depends on if you want to be involved. Please make your choice VERY apparent to the guide.
Who and how is the animal transported from the field to the camp?
By the guides back, ATV, truck or what ever we can do to pack it to the truck. I will also lease horses in New Mexico to pack out game if in a really rough area. You can choose to help or not; you are not expected to help in the packing out of game but if you are physically able, it will speed up the process!
How is the animal stored and cared for at camp?
It will be hung in camp if cold, or taken to town to be placed in cold storage. You will pay for cold storage, butchering and shipping of meat.
Do you offer services to cut/wrap and ship the meat?
No, you will need to have it packed locally or stored until you are ready to go home. Storage is about $20-30 per day and packing for elk about $200 and $100 for deer and bear.
How are antlers handled? Do you offer mounting services?
Guide will cape and prep your head for the taxidermist but we will not always skin out the full head - this is best left to the pros. Although we are all very good at skinning out the face, we like to allow taxidermists to do this if possible. I do not offer mounting service but do know locals that do a good job and they can ship it to you. Takes 12-16 months to get a head back! Guides will not assist in the transportation to taxidermists unless you have made arrangements prior to the hunt. Often taxidermists are more then 2 hours from camps so you will need to transport to the shop of your choice. In the event of warm weather you will want to place the head in cold storage (as well as the meat) to avoid hair slip caused by bacteria that will start to grow once the animal is dead.
What is the customary way to manage the meat and the antlers and get them back to us after the hunt?
You are responsible for handling of and shipping meat and heads; please ask for advice on this or plan ahead with airlines for proper packing! Most butchers will ship the meat via UPS; cost is $150-$250.
What is the closest airport? Do you provide transportation to/from the airport?
Albuquerque, NM is the closet airport with good flight choices and ticket prices. Most clients find it is cheaper to fly into Albuquerque, and rent a car for the week then to fly into other local airports. If you are hunting in unit 34, El Paso Texas is the best choice.
Drive to NM hunting areas from Albuquerque, is about 2.5-3 hours for mule deer and 2-4 hours for elk please check with us if you need exact times. For Colorado hunts about 4 hours from the Albuquerque airport is the drive time. You can also choose to check on flights into Durango, CO or Farmington, NM both are about 1.5 hours from the Colorado hunting areas and 1 hour from Mule deer camps.
I offer a shuttle from Durango, Cortez and Farmington airports for $200.00, but once you are in camp your stuck, if you tag early you will not have transportation for the rest of your stay. I can on some hunts arrange pick up in Albuquerque, NM.
What is the detailed cost of the trip, and what is included and specifically what is NOT included?
Price changes from hunt to hunt but all contract info will include a FULL list of what is and what is NOT provided as well as the website. Please talk with us more once you have chosen a hunt about the total cost and what the package includes!
Is gratuity included or not. If not, what is customary?
This is another one of the most common questions, what we think is this:
Your tip is based on the experience not the harvest, guides spend a great deal of time scouting for your elk and deer but weather, rut, shooting, and physical ability all play a MAJOR roll in the outcome of your hunt. Please don’t think about the number of days you hunt when tipping the guide, remember that if you shoot your animal on the first day it’s because guides were dialed in! We recommend about $500 per person for the guides for a week and 100 per person for the chef in camp. Everyone works long hours with tons of scouting for the guides. If they bend over backwards for you and exceed your expectations let them know with a great tip, then also please tell me about your great experience as well so I can give the guide a big thanks as well!
What are the typical costs of meat processing? Shipping the meat back to us?
100$ for deer and bear and 200$ on elk, you might also pay a 100$ extra fee for faster meat packaging, like 24 hour turn around so you can head home. Shipping depends on where you live but plan on about 200-300$ for shipping by air. Many clients choose to donate us the meat and just pack the lion and back strap home. This is fine with us we will charge you the possessing fee and get the meat to local churches and into the hands of people in need!
What are the typical cost of mounting the animal? Shipping the mount back to us?
About $550-650 on deer and $750-900 on elk, shipping is about $400-600 depending on where you live.
Is there a minimum or maximum antler size for the price?
I do not have trophy fees on any hunts so the cost is for the smallest or biggest you would like to harvest
Does a higher caliber animal cost more?
Never but you might want to tip the guide extra fat for a world class buck or bull.
Will we be limited from shooting any specific animal based upon the price we paid?
No, but if you combo hunt in Colorado a deer or a bear harvested on an elk hunt WILL result in a $1000.00 trophy fee.
Is any portion of our money refunded if we are not successful?
No in the event of catastrophic weather problems we may negotiate a deal for the following year. I offer nothing but FAIR CHASE HUNTS so you are hunting not shooting an animal.
What if conditions beyond the outfitters control (severe weather, act of god, war, etc) disrupt or cancel our hunt, will any of our money be refunded?
In the event of a severe act of God or war we will work to find a solution, weather will never cancel a hunt.
What is your booking policy? What deposit is required and when? When is full payment due?
For over the counter seasons 50% at the time of booking and 50% no later then August 5th. For Drop camps 100% at the time of booking and there are NO refunds for any reason on drop camps. For New Mexico and Colorado Draw hunts, we will take a credit card at the time of booking to “hold” the booking you must send a check for 50% once you draw and final full payment is Due before August 5th. If you back out of a booking after you HAVE drawn a tag we WILL CHARGE YOU a 50% booking fee regardless of reason for cancellation on the credit card as well as cancel you big game license for the state.
What is your cancellation policy? Do you offer or arrange any trip cancellation insurance?
Insurance is a good idea but I do not at this time offer any service to provide insurance. If you cancel a reservation on a draw hunt for any reason we WILL CHARGE YOU 50% booking fee if you drew a tag. After a trip as been booked and deposits paid there are no cancellations that will result in money returning to you unless you can supply us with a licensed hunter for that same hunt. With limited tags and short work years we must and will stick to our cancellation policy, all disputes will be handled by the San Juan County courts in New Mexico.
Do you take credit cards?
Yes , I do take any cards, if you want me to take a CC there will be a 5.0% add on fee for the service. I will however also take payments.
Can you provide 3 successful hunters and 3 unsuccessful hunters in the past 2 years?
Please email for a list specific to the area that you hope to hunt at any time! Most will also email a phone number when you contact them but for privacy reasons I will not post phone numbers.
Do you have a survey you give past hunters to fill out to get feedback? Can we get a copy of this survey?
Not at this time but I am working on one for future years.
How many repeat customers do you have? (What % of your customers each year are repeat business?)
For the last two years I have 100% repeat bookings for all New Mexico elk hunts and 75% in Colorado. For mule deer we are close to 90% repeat bookings.