Written by: Brad Hanzel/Owner S&W Outiftters
This interview features, Brad Hanzel who is the owner of S&W Outfitters which is a hunting and fishing guide service in Montana. Today Brad provides valuable insight on how he has been successful in guiding since he was 18 and the opportunity he had to take Steven Segal on trips.
When did you start guiding in Montana, and why did you start guiding?
In 1985 I was asked by a local outfitter to help him out for one week. I grew up in Lewistown Montana and have hunted and fished my whole life. When I was asked to help out in a fully guide hunting camp I was really excited about doing it. I was 18 years old, and excited for the opportunity. I now own that same company.
Can you tell us a little more about your business?
S&W Outfitters, Inc. was established in 1981 by Sammy Smith and Jack Wyle. Since its establishment the company has bought out three other outfits and changed partners a couple of times. Still operating from the original East Fork camp, the company has grown to offer the Wolf Creek and Corral hunting camps as well as the fly fishing operation.
The fishing operation was developed by Brad in 2010 after working for nearly 17 years as a guide for other outfitters. Wolf Creek started in the early 80’s and Corral was taken over in 2003. We offer the sportsman fair chase rifle and archery hunting for elk, whitetail, mule deer, antelope, bear, wolf, turkey, mountain goat. For the angler many rivers, streams and lakes fly fishing for trout and hunting walleye. We are a guide service for hunting and fishing in Montana. www.huntnfishmontana.com
Doing what I truly love to do, I have a passion for hunting and fishing.
With any business there are challenges, what is the biggest challenge in this industry?
Booking clients to pay the bills each year is always huge challenge. The cost of doing business is expensive and difficult, the regulations make it tough and competition is all around you. I’m very up front about our product and you have a small audience looking. I am fortunate to have been around for a long time and have a solid group of clients that return and refer others my way. It’s so important to always keep a great reputation.
Has anything surprised you about being a guide?
Not really, I sometimes need to pinch myself. I’ve been on a pretty positive path over the last 30 years.
What do you think are the 3 most important skills to being a successful guide and why?
Social skills a must, ambition to make things happen and knowledge of safety first. Safety is no accident.
What is the most unique/unusual or fun guided trip you provided?
I was Steven Segal’s personal hunting guide for a few years. The whole tour was a trip.
What advice would you offer to someone who wants to start guiding?
Do it for the love of it. You will be rewarded by the satisfaction of doing what you love. Not many people are cut out to be the guide and not the shooter. Be prepared for a long road to success. Meaning it’s what you really do for a living.
What is the proudest moment in your business?
When the clients tell you you’re the dream maker. And you pull off what others say you can’t.
What is the top tool or resource you use for your guide service?
The guides hands down. In my operation they have all become very close friends and team mates. I would have it no other way, there is no I in team here. I do my best to treat them the best and they all return the respect. They are all professional and have made guiding what they do for a living. They truly are amazing people.
Brad Hanzel/Owner S&W Outfitters, www.sandwoutfitters.com