How Do I Start a Hunting or Fishing Outfitter Business?

Business Law Tips & Advice, LLC Investor Resources, Texas Hunting Law Tips & Advice

Attorney Nate Gilbert

For every passionate hunter, there comes a time when the allure of the wilderness tugs harder than the confines of an office. The thought of turning your passion into a thriving business, guiding fellow hunters and sharing the thrill of the chase, becomes a tantalizing dream. However, this dream entails more than just chasing game; it requires a solid foundation of business structures and legal framework. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the essential documents needed to kickstart your outfitting business, ensuring it stands on legally sound ground.

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:

San Antonio Business Attorney Nathaniel Gilbert is an avid outdoorsman, giving him an intimate knowledge of the issues facing hunting and fishing outfitters in today’s climate. If you want to start your outfitting business the right way, get in touch with Nate today.

The Outfitting Business Structure

One of the initial steps in establishing your outfitting business is choosing the right legal structure. Most commonly, forming a Limited Liability Company (LLC) or other appropriate business entity provides not only liability protection but also adds value to your company. Having a formal structure lends credibility and professionalism, which both your clients and your business will benefit from. Moreover, the chosen structure can ease the process of selling the business in the future, allowing for a smoother transition of the assets of the company.  However, the choice of an entity is not one to be taken lightly and you should consult with your attorney before going all in on the business structure that may be most popular.

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.

The Hunting Contract and Liability Waiver

Two paramount documents that will define the boundaries and expectations of your outfitting business are the Hunting Contract and the Liability Waiver. The Hunting Contract is your cornerstone for ensuring payment and outlining what your clients can anticipate during their guided hunting or fishing trips. However, remember that various states mandate specific elements in outfitting contracts to ensure their enforceability, so careful research is crucial during the drafting process.  The contract itself should be a reflection of the services that you intend to provide to clients, and even more importantly, which services you will NOT be providing to those clients.

On the other hand, the Liability Waiver is a vital shield against potential legal issues arising from accidents or injuries during your clients’ trips. Crafting a well-structured waiver that accurately describes the risks associated with the activities involved is essential. Additionally, the Waiver that you use for your business should go hand in hand with other liability protections including the structure of your business.

While using online templates might seem convenient, keep in mind that legal requirements can vary from state to state. It’s always wise to consult legal professionals experienced in outdoor recreation and hunting law to ensure the utmost protection.

Hunt Contract and Liability Waiver: These are the two documents that you will use during your time as a hunting or fishing outfitter.  Your 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 and gross negligence should always be considered, and written with separate documents from the contract. 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.

The Hunting Lease Agreement

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.

If your outfitting business operates on lands that you don’t own, securing a Hunting Lease Agreement is paramount. While written agreements are strongly recommended, rural property owners might be hesitant to commit to lengthy contracts. This presents a challenge where judgment and negotiation skills come into play. Carefully balancing the need for legal protection with the concerns of landowners is essential in such situations. A solid lease agreement outlines the terms of land use, payments, and responsibilities, thereby safeguarding your interests.

Putting It All Together

Launching an outfitting business entails more than just setting up trail cameras and pit blinds. The paperwork and legalities are the foundational pillars that ensure your business’s longevity and success. Aspiring outfitters should remember that while successful people like Bill Gates may have found their paths without following the traditional route, adherence to legal requirements is non-negotiable.

San Antonio Business Attorney Nathaniel Gilbert, with his deep understanding of the outdoors and the intricacies of outfitting businesses, stands as a valuable resource for those looking to start their ventures on the right foot. With his expertise, you can craft tailored Hunting Leases, Liability Waivers, and Hunt Contracts that align with the legal standards of Texas, Colorado, and Kansas. The Outfitter Startup package he offers streamlines the otherwise daunting process, providing outfitters with efficient and predictable legal services.

Final Thoughts

Transforming your hunting passion into a thriving outfitting business requires meticulous attention to detail, especially in the realm of legal documentation. Establishing the right business structure, crafting thorough Hunting Contracts and Liability Waivers, and securing well-negotiated Hunting Lease Agreements lay the groundwork for a successful and legally compliant endeavor. Remember, the journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step, and in the case of outfitting, that step involves understanding and embracing the necessary paperwork.

Nathaniel Gilbert

Nathaniel Gilbert is the sole attorney at The Law Office of Nathaniel Gilbert, PLLC. Practicing in the areas of Business Law, Nate assist clients with LLC formation and drafting contracts in the states of Texas, Colorado, and Kansas. He can be reached at 726-999-0087.