Every hunter has the thought at some point during their career: “How can I make a living guiding hunters and sharing my passion with others?” Usually its during the summer when the avid hunter is sitting at his desk staring at a computer screen and wishing they were outside setting trail cams, planting food plots, or putting in pit blinds.
Starting an outfitter business requires a mess of paperwork. Yes, there are some outfitters that are quite successful and never have to use any paperwork, and Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard so everyone who stuck it out and graduated is obviously doing it wrong… The following is a list of the documents that you would need to start what would be considered a legally sound outfitting business:
Entity Formation—LLC or some other kind of business structure: Starting an entity to house your Outfitter corporation is usually a good idea. Aside from the liability protection afforded by an LLC or business structure, the outfitting company itself becomes a valuable commodity. Protecting and building this valuable commodity allows for the company to create value and you may one day wish to sell that business—Selling a business is far easier to do with a trade name such as “Best Hunts, LLC” as opposed to a sole proprietorship you own in your own name. Corporate structures also lend credibility and formality to a company that you and your customers will enjoy.
Hunt Contract and Liability Waiver: These two documents are the most important documents that you will use during your time as a hunting or fishing outfitter. Yout outfitting contract ensures that you get paid and tells your customers what to expect and, importantly, what NOT to expect on their trip with your guide service. Additionally, there are many states that require outfitting contracts to contain certain items or they are legally unenforceable, so this is worth some research before your contract is finalized and sent to your clients. Liability Waivers should always be separate documents from the contract and give your clients an accurate idea of what they will encounter on their trip (what class of rapids, how high of elevation, how heavy of a pack, what kind of temperatures, and what dangers exist on the property that you’ll be on). Again, though, states differ on what makes or breaks the enforceability of a liability waiver, so make sure that you are not just downloading the first online form that you find and hoping that it will protect you and your business in the case of an injury to your client.
Hunting Lease: Unless you own the property where you will be hunting, you’ll need a lease to use the land of another person. This can get a little tricky—As an attorney, I would never advise my clients not to use a written agreement when leasing property that their business will depend on. However, I am also intimately familiar with small, rural farmers and ranchers and their reluctance to sign lengthy lease agreements. This can be a little difficult to navigate, so you’ll need to use your best judgment and make the decision on whether you can enter into an oral hunting lease or walk away from the property.
As you can see, there are several things to get in order before you set your first tree stand for a client. The initial paperwork on outfitter startups can be burdensome but should always be done correctly from the very start: San Antonio Business Attorney Nathaniel Gilbert creates custom tailored Hunting Leases, Liability Waivers and Hunt Contracts, and LLC organization documents on a flat fee basis in Texas, Colorado, and Kansas. The Outfitter Startup package, available here, gives outfitters predictable, efficient services that help to streamline their businesses.