These are unquestionably challenging times, and our thoughts and prayers go out to everyone affected by the pandemic. We especially want to thank all of those on the front lines helping to battle the virus. Their courage and resiliency have been inspiring.
Given the current situation, it would be understandable if there were concerns about what fall hunting seasons might bring, so we reached out to some of our readers and members of the Shooting Sportsman Endorsed Lodge Program to see how they were feeling. Imagine our relief when the feedback we received was overwhelmingly positive. Naturally, there was caution expressed, but almost universal was the feeling that come fall life would be returning to normal and that hunters would be back in the field enjoying their sport. In other words: Game on!
Every Endorsed Lodge we spoke with planned to be operating come the opener. Extra safety protocols were being developed as a precaution, but the lodges expected guests to enjoy experiences every bit as wonderful as in the past. The hunters we contacted were equally enthused—booking trips and anticipating the season with a newfound appreciation. There did remain some apprehension, but assurances from lodges had gone a long way to instill confidence.
For those considering booking hunts but who have concerns and want more information, we offer the following tips.
With few exceptions, all Endorsed Lodge offices are open and accepting inquiries via phone, email and online. Staffs are well aware that prospective guests may have questions about COVID-19’s potential impacts on the season, and they are providing the best information possible. Regarding deposits, the majority of Endorsed Lodges are temporality amending their payment policies. These amendments vary by lodge, and those that are retaining their regular policies are making exceptions on a case-by-case basis. Presently, the coronavirus projection does not forecast lodge closures, travel advisories or other conditions that would cancel the hunting season. If travel should turn out to be highly ill-advised, the lodges will not force guests to choose between their safety and their deposits and are prepared to work out plans (e.g., rescheduling, refunds, credits) to protect their guests. The details vary between lodges, but all are happy to answer questions on the subject. (Contact info here.)
Patience and Understanding
The degrees to which lodges are stepping up to accommodate concerns jibe perfectly with their world-class reputations. Their efforts are being made under difficult conditions, and most report that their customers have exhibited heartwarming patience and understanding. It is worth emphasizing that it is always a good practice to communicate concerns and needs to outfitters, as this ensures not only that you receive the best possible service but also that your hosts are able to manage their businesses to maximum efficiency. For example, if you decide that postponing or canceling a trip is unavoidable, it is only fair to advise a lodge as soon as possible. This gives the lodge the opportunity to try to fill your slot with another party and gives you a better chance of rescheduling for the following season.
An unfortunate reality is that the COVID-19 crisis ultimately will put some hunting operations out of business. This sadly will affect the livelihoods of hardworking people who have provided years of good service to their customers. It also could result in the loss of deposits given in good faith to those businesses. Again, we stress the importance of staying informed and asking your outfitter the right questions. You also might consider hedging your bets by booking with well-established, stable lodges—businesses with track records that include withstanding prior challenges, like the 2008-’09 financial crisis. These lodges did right by their customers then and are positioned to do so again now.
The bottom line is that the choices and decisions regarding trip planning and sporting travel are very personal. What might seem comfortable to one person may feel uncomfortable to another. Either way, the things that should be non-negotiable are health and safety. During these difficult times, Shooting Sportsman and its Endorsed Lodges will do their part to keep the wingshooting public updated as the season approaches. In the meantime, we wish you good health and positive thoughts for better days ahead.