By: Liesl Greathouse
(MONTROSE, 11/20/12)–Darrell Gilks has been in the hunting guide business for 36 years. His service is very helpful to hunters because, “most people can’t do it by themselves,” he explained. “They think they can, but they realize they can’t. That’s why they come to me.”
Originally from Colorado Springs, Gilks decided that Montrose was the best place to raise a family. He grew up hunting and became a hunting guide by accident.
“My brother-in-law called me about taking him and some people he knew hunting in the area,” Gilks said. “The people enjoyed it so much that the company they worked for hired me to take their employees hunting.”
The company closed down ten years later and Gilks has continued working on his own as a hunting guide for 26 years.
Gilks dismisses common myths about hunting. One is that being a hunting guide is easy. “People have no idea what I do all day,” Gilks explained. “People say that they envy what I do, but it takes a lot of work. There is no glamor.”
Many people likewise believe that it is easy to find big animals, such as a 30in buck or 350-class bull, to hunt. However, some people do not actually know what a 350-class bull looks like. “Animals look a lot bigger when standing up and alive, but then shrink down when dead,” Gilks said.
Also, hunting is not all about the meat. Gilks’ clients are mostly hunting for sport, hopefully to get a trophy. “But nothing goes to waste,” Gilks explained. “Many of the hunters I take out pay for the meat to be processed and then donate the meat to local charities.”
Montrose is a great place for hunters, being known far and wide for its deer hunting. There is also lots of public land for hunters to go on, which some guides will take their clients on as well.
However, Gilks tried that and got tired of it. “Public lands are too crowded,” he explained. “You have no control over anything, and no luxury for waiting for the perfect moment to shoot something. The rule of thumb on public lands is if you see it, you better get it.”
Gilks now owns several large ranches along the New Mexico border, with a diverse range of animals, including turkeys, antelopes, bears, deer and elk. The privacy and control on his ranches adds value to Gilks’ hunting guide business.
“I hear more people saying they are giving up hunting on public lands because there are too many people,” Gilks said. “So they are looking for something better. That’s what I offer.”
What people pay for Gilks’ services varies widely depending on what they are hunting and which ranch they go to. Antelope hunts runs $3,500-$4,500 per person. Elk hunts can be up to $8,000 per person, while deer hunts can be $4,500-$7,500 per person. Gilks does not advertise his services, with most of his business coming from word of mouth.
As with many other businesses, Gilks was hit hard by the recession. “For two or three years it was puny,” he said. “This year my business finally picked up.”
Gilks compares the main difficulties of being a hunting guide to being a real estate agent; 20 percent of the hunting guides make 80 percent of the money.
“There are very few people now who have been doing this for as long as I have,” Gilks explained. “When I started, there were a couple hundred hunting guides. Now, there are thousands and thousands of them. Most are just in it to make some quick cash and then leave. There are few people like me who are too hard-headed to quit.”
For more information, contact Darrell Gilks at 970-249-6375 or 970-209-0900.