This is my first ever submission of a report and I feel it important that I give some background as to who I am and then, hopefully, one can understand why I have decided to submit this report.
I am 52 years of age, was born and raised over in the UK where I hunted as a small boy up through my teens. All rough shooting, shot gunning for pheasant, rabbit, partridge and all sorts of small game, fur and feather. I arrived in the US in 1987 and in 1988 was invited on my first whitetail deer hunt. Immediately I was "hooked", and starting in 1991, on Anticosti Island up in the Gulf of St Lawrence, I have taken at least one, or often more, outfitted hunts per year. I have hunted with outfitters, and several on multiple occasions, in Kansas, South Dakota, Colorado, Montana and Texas and in Canadian provinces; Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Ontario, British Columbia and Labrador; Also, the South Eastern Cape of South Africa.
During this time not all of these hunts have been successful if success is judged by meat in the cooler or another taxidermy bill. I can say however that every hunt that I have taken, whether successful or not, has been enjoyable as I have always felt that the outfitters and guides always put forth the effort and in many cases it was they that were more disappointed than I that I left empty handed. Every year that is until this year.
The hunt with Okanagan Outfitters that my son and I had up in Canada earlier this year was, given the cost, the expectations and the service the poorest yet. I was basically prepared to just chalk it down to experience but then in the first two weeks of May I enjoyed the best hunting experience of my life on a South African plains game safari. The difference between these two hunts is so staggeringly different (at about the same base cost) that it got me wondering again and so finally I have decided to put fingers to keyboard.
A good friend and I, Wayne Coleman, booked a mountain lion, lynx and bobcat hunt with Okanagan Outfitters of Penticton, B.C. Canada at the SCI show in Reno in January of 2006 with our hunt booked for the first available opening which was in January of 2009.
The total cost was $10,671.25 US all inclusive of Canadian GST and fees for the Non-resident Hunting Preservation Fund and assorted licenses.
Closer to the actual hunt date I decided to take along my 15 year old son and was charged an additional $175 US per day x 7 days for an additional $1225 which I have included in the above total.
The original cost for just a mountain lion was $6600 with an additional $1870 for a lynx and bobcat. ($8470) This is a lot of money for a mountain lion hunt and quite honestly the odds of taking a lynx and/or a bobcat during the 7 day hunt are not good. It would be much fairer for Okanagan to charge a trophy fee for the lynx or bobcat if taken. Here, a word of advice here for anyone contemplating a hunt with Okanagan Outfitters as I believe the $1700 USD to be basically a "throw away".
We arrived in Penticton on Thursday January 29th and departed on Friday February 6th.
Marc Hubbard the outfitter, his wife Marcella, and son Sean had all been away attending the SCI show in Reno. I believe that they had been gone for 10 days, arriving back in BC just two days before our arrival.
Marc had arrived back with a heavy head cold and flu like symptoms. Weather conditions were not the best with no, or very little, fresh snow having fallen during the time that they had been away. Obviously having been gone, no scouting had been done of the areas that we were to hunt.
Wayne and I had experienced problems in traveling. Wayne lives in Norfolk VA and me in Cincinnati OH. I was over in Norfolk for a meeting early in the week of our departure and the plan was for Wayne and me to travel back to Cincinnati together and then depart for Canada from here. We made it only as far as Detroit and then inclement weather, snow and a winter storm, cancelled all flights for the rest of the day. We rented an SUV and drove the 220+ miles south to Cincinnati. Unfortunately however, we could not recover any of Wayne's luggage including his rifle and both his pack and his rifle case were eventually returned to Norfolk. My son and I had enough gear between us to be able to put together another bag for Wayne and we also packed my son's .243 for Wayne to use so we at least covered the essentials.
I mention this because due to the weather all banks and schools in the Greater Cincinnati area were closed. This presented a problem in as much as we had to take the remaining balance owed on our hunt with us. Marc had requested cash but I was not comfortable in carrying cash and, besides, as I had suggested to Marc over the telephone, whenever I pay cash for anything there is typically a discount involved. He said that a certified check would suffice. So, now I do not have the funds in the form that was requested. I took along a personal check and also a company check but Marc was not prepared to accept these. I explained that my office would make arrangements to wire the funds and that he would have these by Tuesday, latest of the following week. Again, this was not acceptable and Marc was insistent that we should stop by the bank on the Monday morning so that I could draw the balance owed, in cash, on my credit card. I explained to Marc that Amex would charge me $200+ to do this and that I would much prefer that he accept the wire option. He was insistent that this needed to be taken care of and that he would cover 50% of the charges to draw the cash.
We stopped at a bank in Penticton and after over an hour of phone calls back and forth I was finally allowed to draw the cash. I gave Marc the full amount and I ate all of the charges. Basically, I considered it my fault that regardless of the circumstances I had not been able to provide the balance owed as soon as we had arrived at camp. This was not Marc's fault but the surly manner in which he insisted I draw the cash for him left a bad taste in my mouth. Marc doesn't know me but I am the CEO of a successful private company and the most important thing to me, the thing that I value over all else, is the reputation that I enjoy amongst business colleagues and friends for honesty and integrity. Perhaps Marc had been cheated before hence his most obvious lack of trust but his attitude certainly didn't endear him to me.
On the Friday, our first day of hunting, Marc's son, Sean took Wayne and Marc guided for myself and my son Max.
The pattern was the same every day. Breakfast at 6.00-6.30 and then we would leave shortly thereafter taking a packed lunch. We would drive to a spot. The guide would unload his snowmobile and then off he'd go to look for sign. He would typically return about midday and we would then drive to another spot, eating our lunch en-route. The process would then be repeated with the guide taking off once again to scout for sign.
The accommodations were fine. We stayed in a guest bunkhouse across from the main house/ranch. The food was average. My son struggled as he's an extremely picky eater but then that's his cross to bear. One evening, I forget what dinner was, but Max didn't eat a bite and quietly asked me if he could have some cereal before we retired for the night. I asked Marcella and was met with incredulity, a shake of the head and a frown but Max's request was granted and he had a bowl of Cheerios before we retired for the night.
The quality of the sandwiches that were packed was extremely poor. I should have said something but didn't. (Call me paranoid but I never send food back at a restaurant. I've heard too many stories of what can happen to your meal before it's returned to risk it!) Max couldn't eat his but after I spoke with Marcella she packed him peanut butter which he does eat. For the first couple of days I had luncheon meat, don't remember what it was but it was edible, then bologna was the order of the day for the rest of the trip. For what we were paying, I definitely thought that better fare could have been provided. I did notice on one occasion that Marc's sandwich was certainly not bologna; I could well be mistaken but what he had looked like tinned salmon. For the last 4 days of the hunt the dogs ate my sandwiches and I got by on candy bars and fruit.
Evening meals were served at 6:30. The company was congenial enough but as soon as dinner was finished the family made it clear that they were "turning in". Marc was still fighting the flu and so we completely understood. We would then spend the next 2-3 hours in our shared room watching television; the channel selection on which was extremely limited and the picture quality poor. (Wiping a thick layer of dust from the screen helped some in this regard).
One evening while clicking through the channels I actually came across a UFC, pay per view fight. I can only assume that this was being watched in the main house otherwise we would not have been able to access it without paying for it ourselves.
On Super Bowl Sunday we asked if we could watch the game on the big TV in the house. This request was granted but we felt that we were creating an imposition and were glad that it didn't go into extra time. No offers of a drink or further refreshments were made whilst we watched out the remainder of the game.
One morning it was decided at dinner the previous evening that we would leave a little earlier, breakfast @ 6.00 instead of the usual 6.30. When we arrived we were greeted less than warmly by Marcella who had not been informed of the earlier breakfast.
On the third day of the hunt Wayne treed and shot a nice, approx, 150lb tom lion. Sean was the guide and Wayne was extremely pleased with his trophy. Wayne should then have been onto his lynx and bobcat but being the fine fellow that he is he suggested that Sean should now guide for Max and I so that Marc could get a little extra rest. Also, Wayne suggested that when Marc was tracking, that he should prioritize and concentrate on trying to find a lion for Max and me in addition to looking for lynx and bobcat.
On either the fourth or the fifth day of our hunt Marc was off scouting the canyon behind his property and so Max and I were just "hanging" at the ranch. We went walk about for a while hoping to see a coyote and just generally exploring. When we returned Max decided to watch a movie on his laptop.
Whilst the family had been gone the hounds, of which there were 10 or so had been fed and watered but had not been cleaned out. Their pens which were well laid out and well constructed were full of excrement, approx three weeks worth - or more - I estimated. I found a wheelbarrow and a shovel and spent the next couple of hours cleaning out the pens. I removed 9 wheelbarrows of soiled straw and excreta. A job well done I thought and was certainly not expecting praise but then there was not even an acknowledgement from anyone in the family for what I had spent my afternoon doing.
Marc returned at dusk. Once again, no sign or fresh tracks had been found.
During the course of the week Marc had disclosed that he had the King of Morocco's sister arriving the following week to hunt mountain lion with him. The Princess was flying over, apparently attending a meeting with President Obama and then arriving in Penticton with an entourage of seven and was staying in one of the downtown hotels.
On the very last day of our hunt we were out in the morning with Sean; the usual procedure, sitting in the vehicle waiting while he took off on his snowmobile. He returned at noon with the news that his father had cut the track of a Lion and deduced that it was probably a female. I was informed that to shoot a female incurred an additional $1000 USD trophy fee. Something that had never been mentioned when we booked the hunt and neither was there anything in the contract to this effect. Regardless I did not want to shoot a female but decided that we would hunt and try to tree this cat so that at least we would experience a hunt, as much for young Max, who had been very, very patient in sitting and waiting for 6 and a half whole days.
We got on the trail a little after 1.00 in the afternoon as I recall. We loosed three hounds and the hunt was on. We spent an exciting couple of hours or so while the hounds were hot on the trail. Sean followed the progress via his GPS and the tracking collars on the three hounds. At one point the cat was heading towards a deep canyon and we had to try and head her off on the snow machines to turn her back. This we successfully accomplished and we finally treed the cat, an approximately 130 lb female, 40' up a big pine tree. We took photographs and then returned to the snowmobiles with the hounds and headed back to the ranch. Our hunt was over.
The following week the Princess of Morocco was successful in taking a tom lion that Marc tells me will rank in the top 5 of the BC record book.
There are things that you know and can prove and then there are things that you know but cannot prove and this falls into that second category I'm afraid but I am 100% convinced that this lion was scouted and was located during the week that we were hunting. In fact on our last evening, Marc let slip that he had found the tracks of a big cat that led into a rocky area and a cave where he believed the cat was denned up.
I inquired about the possibility of returning to hunt and asked if any consideration would be given regarding the cost. I was told that no such consideration was possible as all of their costs were exactly the same whether a hunt was successful or not. My question was, in any case, theoretical as regardless; Okanagan Outfitters are not someone that I could recommend and certainly not someone with whom I would care to hunt again.
If anything, I believe that I am guilty of an overdeveloped sense of fairness and fair play. When we left Penticton, Sean drove us the 15 minutes or so to the airport and when we parted I gave him a $300 USD tip.
He seemed surprised and was grateful. I suspect he was surprised and was not expecting this as we had been unsuccessful in taking any of the three cats for which we had paid. I was grateful for the previous afternoon's hunt however and felt that it was only right to show my thanks in the appropriate way.
In conclusion I believe that Marc Hubbard was, in his day, possibly as good a cat guide as can be found on the North American Continent. He has produced some wonderfully large trophy lion for clients over the years. It is now apparent to me however that he now relies upon this reputation to perpetuate his guiding business but he really does not now put forth the effort that such an expensive hunt should command. It's now all about the money. Whilst we were with him we saw a group of Californian Big Horn Sheep that were coming into a feeder below his ranch. Wayne took some photographs. I asked Marc one day about his sheep hunts and the duration and his response was a quiet chuckle and "one day". I said that I thought sheep hunting was a long and arduous process and was surprised that his hunts only lasted a day. He simply explained this away by saying that they did a lot of scouting and knew where the good rams were. Heck yea, they're in the canyon behind his house and come in to his feeder!
To me this is not hunting, it's "collecting" but if a "hunter" want to add a Californian big horn to his collection then for $55,000 USD I suppose this is as good a way as any to do it!
I would also add, for the record that although my good friend and hunting companion, Wayne Coleman did get his mountain lion, he considers himself very, very lucky and in regard to my comments here, Wayne is in full agreement. I believe this to be worthy of mention as it refutes any accusation of "sour grapes" on my part. As I have already explained, a hunt does not necessarily have to end with meat or hides or horn to be enjoyable or judged a success.
I do want a lion however and I have now booked with an outfitter/friend in Colorado. His modus operandi is to wait until a fresh winter storm is on the horizon and then he makes the phone call. The hunter then flies in and hunts in fresh snow. If the hunt is unsuccessful with no cat found or treed then the process is repeated with the only additional cost being the air travel to and from Montrose, CO. The cost of this hunt for a tom lion is $3500 USD and there is no charge for my son to come along as an observer.
I apologize that this report is not as short or concise as many that I'm sure you receive but I have tried to give the reader a true feel for why this hunt with Okanagan Outfitters was such a disappointment.
Additional comment from Wayne Coleman:
Hi Graham! I think you accurately communicate the facts of the experience with Marc. The use of my name or mention my thoughts of the trip aren't disagreeable to me at all. It's what took place and what I also think. The only addition I would suggest is the remainder of the hunt I sat in the cabin thinking Marc was searched for a cat for you while I hunted for transportation alternatives for a potential boat purchase that he was looking to make in South Florida. Like with your poop scooping I got no thanks.
Again I feel this will help you get it off your chest and perhaps depending on the distribution caution other hunters that may be considering Marc's outfitting services or cause Marc to rethink the way he treats his customers.
Rebuttal from Marc Hubbard of Okanagan Outfitters:
In my defense, Graham compares our free range uncontrollable B.C. wilderness hunt to a South African Safari (behind fence). I believe that I gave Graham 150 % even while being sick. I had the choice of sending him home, hiring another unqualified guide or bite the bullet and go out everyday except for the one morning doing 120 miles a day on the snowmobile trying to be successful for him. I clearly mentioned to Graham about a 50 % cancellation hunt before he left and there was no commitment on that. In March I received a request from him for the next available opening for a hunt and the cost. I presumed that he did not want to wait for a cancellation opportunity as we are always booked out for two years and wanted to just book another hunt so I forwarded him the info. It strikes me funny now that with the numerous things that he thought were wrong with our operation that he was prepared to book another hunt and come back, until he changed his mind after his South African hunt.
Graham is not the first client that unfortunately has gone home without a cougar but most of the unsuccessful client's have come back BECAUSE of our demonstration of commitment, hard work, good equipment, large guide area, great accommodations & friendship. I take an offence to his comment towards my wife Marcella and he should take responsibility on his son's behalf. I recall numerous times her asking all of them how their lunches ect.: were. Never once did she give them bologna but different kinds of meat cuts. As far as throwing away the sandwiches and living on candy bar & fruit are absolutely stupid, what did he expect fresh gourmet lunches cooked by a chef out in the mountains daily. He should of informed us of his son's issues ahead of time and we would of prepared for his son, we are known for support & many donations for youth hunters and also try and make it a good experience for them, similar to our correspondence about boots for his son and Graham stating that he did not want to spend money on boots that his son would grow out of and my response back to him was that he should spend some money for good boots for him so he does not get cold and have a bad time.
Graham being a CEO should of been more diligent in complying to the contract and it was his total negligence in not following the terms of payment. As far as a discount for payment in cash again his knowledge in being a CEO should of told him that because of his lack of compliance with the contract cash was requested only because of the delayed time to clear an out of country check. This tells me a little about Graham that he is clearly looking for every chance to discredit us as he was absolutely totally at fault with the final payment. This is obviously an good example of why we do not except personal checks on final payment. As far as not being aloud to stay in our house all evenings and watch TV that is why we built a first class cabin with all of the amenities including your own TV, so at the end of a very long day hunting (my day does not end) as a business person I must go down and continue with business issues: answer e-mail/phone calls/fax's ect. and my office happens to be in the room with the big screen TV. Most camps (except for Africa I guess) you're lucky even to have running water or stuck in a Motel!!!!!! I think that we provide above and beyond most expectations.
As far as Graham cleaning the kennels that was above and beyond any expectations from us but honestly I did notice that they had been cleaned the following morning as I had gotten back well after dark looking for a Cougar for him but my hard working wife has been known many times in doing this for us guides as she knows how much of a strenuous day we put in and I just thought that she had done it.
Comments about our California Bighorns sheep hunts are just ignorant again, the feeder is to help the sheep in bad winters and they don't come anywhere near them in the rest of the year as obviously there is abundant feed in the mountains. Our quality and success on these sheep come from dedicated commitment to our clients with the above and beyond pre-scouting that we do before the hunt. Ignorance is again in play when there is comments in regard to pre-scouting for him prior to the cougar hunt, there is no possible way you can pre-scout for cougars. They booked their hunt with us at the SCI convention and knew ahead of time that we would be at the same convention prior to their hunt, now he's bitching!! We know our hunting area inside out and backwards, we know where cougars normally cross it's all about covering a lot of country (120 miles a day) to locate a fresh track in order to release the dogs and not release them on a old track that you could lose your dogs for days and spend time looking for them instead of hunting for a cougar track.
We do not guarantee big tom cougars, but do have a reputation on taking huge cougars and Graham did have an above average female cougar treed and turned it down, there are a lot of hunters would of been happy with. As far as the $1,000.00 female trophy fee it is right on our price list. As far as the comments as to being 100 % convinced that this cougar was scouted for the Princess is absolutely (bull) during all hunts we come across old track and sometimes fresher tracks that we cannot work out for the dog release. Bottom line was the snow conditions played the biggest roll in the success of the hunt. The Princess paid extra for three guides to hunt just for her and was very lucky to be successful as she had the same kind of snow conditions that they had if not worse and was not successful until the 5th day of her hunt, this putting 8 days after Graham had left here and if you think that was the same cat track that we had spotted during his hunt this is again just ignorant of the facts, these cats can travel 20 miles overnight unless they are on a kill. Anyways bottom line is that Graham is unhappy and is looking for any little issue that he can turn around and discredit us. Our hunt is 100 % free range & free chase I wish him the best of luck on his phone call hunt in Colorado where it has been known for some guides to tree the cat and hold them up the tree sometime for days until the hunter is flown in to kill it (GREAT HUNT) Graham!!!!
I know in my heart that 99 out of a 100 readers know us and they will see thru his disgruntled comments. Being outfitters for over 34 years I have only had two hunters that I would never care to visit with again (that's how great of a business this has been making many new lifelong friends) and Graham has made it 3, I WARN other outfitters to remember his name and beware!!!! As far as his comments about me (was, in his day) is another resentful comment as I assure you that I still produce many large cats with high success for our clients and still love being in the mountains guiding hunters. Again I very doubt that Graham's intention to discredit us will have little to no effect in hunters that know us or are looking to come with us.
As conscious person things like this do bother me & had decided not to step down to Graham level and give a rebuttal but after reading it in full I would do our reputation no justice just letting this one-sided view be presented.
To close, Wayne Coleman did get a very nice tom Cougar with my son on the same hunt (and Graham cannot even remember my son's name, it is Russ not SEAN)I do believe that Wayne did a very honorable thing for his friend in giving up his additional days for hunting the other cats to increase Graham's opportunity having both of us hunting for him.
Rerebuttal from Graham Hill
Obviously Marc isn't happy but his rebuttal is full of innuendo, half truths and downright lies.
Wayne has already given you his version of events and I guess Marc hasn't read this yet or he'd be up to 4 hunters that he wouldn't want back!? (All jokes aside) I can provide you with numerous references of outfitters and guides with whom I have hunted, some successful and others not in terms of trophies taken.
All of these individuals would, I am sure be more than happy to attest to my character and to the type of hunter and guest that I have been whilst hunting with them. Just a couple of quick points that I would like to make. With regards to my son's boots.
When we went on this hunt he was 15 years of age and like any teenager, regardless of what he does or does not eat, was, and is, growing like the proverbial weed. I asked Marc for a recommendation with regards to boots simply because I did not want to spend $150-200 on a pair of boots that he would outgrow in a year unless it was absolutely necessary. As it was a pair of $60 pak type boots worked just fine.
Additional fee for killing a female cat.
Nowhere in any of the correspondence, or in the contract that we signed, is there any mention of an additional fee for killing a female. Hunt is described as a "Cougar Hunt".
To the very best of my knowledge absolutely no mention was made of this. In fact I clearly remember Russ (apologies for getting his name wrong) mentioning that there are no discounts as all of Okanagan's costs are the same whether a hunter is successful or not.
Why did I keep in touch with regards to the possibility of another hunt?
Here I have to admit that my intentions were somewhat duplicitous. I simply wanted to remain on good terms so as to be able to ask the question, at a later date of "how did the Princess do". Even though I felt pretty sure of what I knew the answer would be.
I had read one other negative report in your publication with regards to Okanagan Outfitters and a rebuttal to that from Marc was also included.
On both occasions Marc's rebuttal makes him sounds like a victim, whilst also throwing in some heavy insults and doses of sarcasm towards his accuser(s).
When Marc first read my report he called Wayne to complain. Why didn't he call me; in fact this is exactly what Wayne suggested he do. He told Wayne that he wasn't going to provide a rebuttal as he didn't think my comments worthy of such.
Marc's comments don't surprise me but he should really look inward and take what I have said as constructive criticism.
As I have said, given a little more time I could really flesh out an opinion for every point in Marc's rant. Your readers will form their own opinions.