Leupold Banner

Does anybody really regulate outfitters on USFS lands?


New member
Jun 29, 2021
A bit of a rant but, I believe, some useful insights for discussion…

So, I have a high alpine, remote, elk hunt that I was pondering a pack out by an outfitter for our elk (2 tags in camp) if we felt the need.

Simple minded as I am I thought to call the Forest Service and ask “Who are the permitted outfitters for these several drainages I plan to hunt as options A-C for the 3 weeks we have to bowhunt.”

The first gal I spoke to said there is no USFS list of permitted outfitters with this info and I should do like SHE DID and search the Colorado guide and outfitters association website for the unit and start calling to ask the regulated folks where the regulators gave them permits to operate. No doubt that line of BS works for the other 90% but I am easily a top 10 percenter in the realm of instead pivoting to “Naw, I’d prefer you do your job we pay you to do instead.” She did give me the names of the 3 on that list she downloaded for my unit (which is missing at least 2 outfitters I KNOW work in there) and she had no idea which specific drainages they are permitted for. She seemed to not understand that if an outfitter is not a member of the association, they ain’t on the trade association list and if they are a member and do not submit the data they too are not on that list. This my purpose in calling USFS who ‘regulates’ the permits… Sheesh, the USFS grants the permits with specific geographic, timing and activity constraints but cannot tell me a darn thing about said permits?

So I asked/suggested there must? be someone in the office responsible for managing the permits and could I talk to them to learn who is permitted in the drainages I am interested in? Why yes there is but he will tell you what I did…and she sent me to his voice. He actually called me back a few hours later.

Step2 ). I talk to the very nice gentleman at USFS in that office who MANAGES ALL THE PERMITS I AM ASKING about. We talk and he explains permittees have geographic areas or compartments mostly defined by drainage names so him telling me the compartment names probably won’t mean much to me. I tell him I know the name and location of the significant drainages so try me. Groan from him and he starts rattling off 6 compartment names, all of which are super obvious and well known drainages. Perfect, I write them down and then prepare for receiving the very short list, or single names of outfitters permitted for my 3 drainages/compartments of interest.

So I say “Awesome, I knew this data had to exist so now all I need are the outfitters permitted for my desired day use pack out or possible drop-camp-pack-in-pack-out activity for drainages A,B, and C. I do not need the others so no need to go to the trouble for those since you said you have to dig through paper files to get it.

He says, with a lot of rustling paper sounds. “Oh man, everything is in paper files and I have over 80 permits to manage and I have only been in this job for a year, I never dig up permits to review the particulars unless there is a reported issue with a given outfitter. This is gonna take time to go through this huge paper file…I really need to organize this.” He keeps rusting and double talking and finally says this will take some time, “how about I get back to you when I pull the permitted outfitter names for the areas together”

I say sure and maybe the effort will prove useful for future requests and how about you email me if that makes it easier. He says he is doubtful the effort will be useful to his needs and I am the first person to ask who outfits where…(mind you this is a pretty high preference point area). The next day/today I get the following response to my question which remains “Which outfitters are permitted for pack in/pack out or drop camp activity in the three compartment/drainages A, B and C.


I was going to compile lists and information of what you requested, but currently I do not have time to get it done. Unfortunately I have priorities/permits/campgrounds that outweigh additional projects at this time.

I can give you the website that will allow you to search units, guides, hunt types and they will give you contact information for the outfitter. Please call the outfitter that meets the requirements and request information for their hunts. They know the area and terrain and can easily answer questions that will take hours for me to look up.



Holy crap!! Asking who the permitted outfitters are in 3 drainages is considered ‘a new project?”…. leading to my thread title question’”. Who regulates outfitter permits on public land?!

Answer is Freaking NOBODY. If an outfitter is not accused of high crimes nobody at the USFS can tell you if they are even permitted to work an area, what area that is, nor which of many categories of use they are permitted for. We are told to ask the outfitter trade association and the outfitters…

Anybody see a problem with the regulators having a ‘system’, if you can call it that, where they have basically no ready access to the info about who they gave permits to and for what activity and where?

More than frustration, I think I am kinda mad this is how our publics lands are ‘managed’.

Did he not just say with a straight face. “
My excuse is I am crappy at my job and so I cannot help you because being crappy at my job prevents me from providing 3-5 outfitter names so I hope you understand and sympathize that it is not my fault I am crappy at my job?”. Kinda sounds like it when I think it though from start to finish...

Thoughts? Am I being too hard on the fat fed employees here?
My experience is a forest service team called "Special-Uses".


Dec 23, 2000
Noise added to protect the innocent. Red is closed to domestic sheep grazing to protect bighorn sheep. The black circle is the area the band of domestics was grazing, 1.3 miles from the nearest active allotment. Two out of three years now....
Well that was after finding out about a report last year. After this last weekend we can say three out of the last four years.


Well-known member
Nov 7, 2011
I tried getting similar info from the GMUG a few years back, with the intent to hunt where outfitters weren't...I might as well have been speaking a different language.


Well-known member
Jan 11, 2009
I tried getting similar info from the GMUG a few years back, with the intent to hunt where outfitters weren't...I might as well have been speaking a different language.
The guides I run into that outfitters send to my area are a joke. Last one I talked to was here in Montana from Pennsylvania and it was his first year guiding. Never ever had set foot in the country we were in until that day. If it wouldn't have been illegal, unethical or whatever, I would have taken that poor hunter that got screwed and got him a bull. mtmuley

Latest posts

Forum statistics

Latest member