Last summer I found an old magazine a friend had left at my place. It was the summer, 2004 issue of Outdoor Canada magazine, and on the last page was a short article titled “Homage” by Gary Ball. In it he gives his list of the perfect qualities a guide should posess. I think he comes pretty close.
There are those who can hunt, fish and otherwise live off the land in the northern wilds all on their own. And then there are those who can’t. Therein lies the major distinction between guide and client. That and the fact that the client gets to choose the guide, while the guide only rarely has a choice of client. The perfect guide, of course, is much more than that, although it would be easier to nail wood smoke to a hunt camp wall than to develop an all-embracing job description. But if we could conjure up the perfect guide, what qualities should he possess? Consider the following.
- A skillful hunter, angler, stalker, marksman, game caller, butcher and skinner.
- Able to navigate the wilderness by instinct alone.
- A master of all forms of transport, from canoe and bass boat to all-terrain vehicle and four-by-four to horseback and dog team.
- Able to survive on bark and twigs – and make them taste good.
- A peerless forecaster, and reader of how the weather affects fish and game.
- Able to identify, by spoor and call, every wild creature in the region.
- A skilled entertainer, a character who can make clients laugh about a swamped canoe, an elusive trophy or a bush pilot who forgot to pick them up.
- Able to provide, from his tiny day pack, any gear the client left at home.
- Able to swallow a client’s jokes, tall tales and excuses.
- Able to identify any plant, then describe its uses in Aboriginal medicine, cooking and folklore.
- Able to read a client’s mind, to ensure that every moment in the field is as good as, or better than, what he or she had hoped for.
- And, finally, the perfect guide is tough enough to turn around and do it all over again.