By Barbara Crown, Editor-in-Chief
Online travel booking services like Trivago, Kayak and TripAdvisor have "disrupted" the whole travel industry, changing the way people plan and book their travel-but would you book hunts this way? There's a new online service that's poised to revolutionize the way outfitters market hunts and hunters book their trips. BookYourHunt.com is billed as an "online marketplace for hunting" by founder Aleksei Agafonov, who says his site brings transparency to hunt pricing and the booking process. BookYourHunt lets you review and comparison shop for hundreds of possible bookings.
When we first learned of BookYourHunt, we were somewhat skeptical, expecting some sort of online catalog. But we looked into it with the encouragement of James Reed from Sports Afield Magazine. Reed joined BookYourHunt as a partner and director of North American operations and was excited about the service, expecting it to be the next big development in how hunters book their trips. We also learned that well-respected outfitter Jim Shockey was a cofounding partner and featured in a number of video tutorials for site visitors. So we took a serious look, and a catalog of hunts is not what we found.
Agafonov, a dedicated traveling hunter, started the company in 2015. He got the idea for BookYourHunt after learning that he'd overpaid for many of the hunts he'd booked and taken through third parties. He wanted to create a transparent "marketplace" where a hunter could easily sort, compare and find the right hunt at the "real" price. He started with only three outfitters and just a handful of offers on his site. Today he has more than 280 outfitters signed up with more than 18,000 hunts offered in nearly 40 countries.
Tutorials show you how to use the site, which is designed to be transparent, telling hunters who the operator is, where the hunt takes place and how much it costs. It is organized a bit like some of the airfare and hotel booking sites but customized to hunters' needs. You can search by region, species or hunting method (such as driven hunts or bowhunts). Each of these sections prominently displays how many trips on BookYourHunt.com meet your criteria, the number of outfitters offering those trips and the starting price. You can also search by classification, such as "dangerous game" or "predators." A filter allows you to narrow your searches even more. You can select a budget (in one of several currencies) and a date range-no use looking at listings for dates you can't travel or prices you don't want to pay. More filters let you add species, select a difficulty rating (easy, medium or extreme) and even filter for hunting only unfenced areas. Search results show prices and a number of photos that illustrate the territory, lodging and recent trophies taken. Another click gets you a full description of the outfitter, where you would be hunting, what the area is like (with a map), services offered (such as rental guns), what is included in the posted price and what is not included, plus payment terms and a cancellation policy....