WHO CARES? ESTHER MCGHIE CARES.
“There’s not too many careers out there where you can take your family with you.”
Meet Esther McGhie
I just love being in the north, enjoying the mountains, working with horses, meeting lots of great people – and to be able to share that really makes your heart full.
Esther loves her family AND the outdoors. Thankfully she doesn’t need to choose one passion over the other. She started guiding when she was just 16 despite not being from a hunting family after her oldest brother introduced her to the pursuit. Now based in Smithers, Esther and her husband Kurt work alongside each other doing what they love most as hunting and outdoor tourism guides, sharing their passion of the outdoors with others in British Columbia and Australia. Their son Trapper has yet to miss out on a trip into the mountains and new baby daughter Skye has been added to their team now too. When it’s your passion it doesn’t feel like a job…how awesome is that?
In a time where we’re discovering the limitations of meat production and struggling to meet demand – especially in a humane, healthy way – hunters choose to take an alternate approach to ensuring adequate protein in their diets.
Fair Chase hunters choose to harvest their food from the environment around them. Hunting is for food. All the meat is utilized, either by the hunter who harvested it, or given to family, friends, First Nations, or those in need in the community (via the Fair Chase Food Program and the Salvation Army.)
Wild meat is healthier than domestic meats. Hormone free and naturally organic, it has a darker colour and more robust flavor than farmed meat. It is excellent for those who prefer to know what they are eating, those with allergies, and those pursuing a locavore diet. Your taste buds will be invigorated by the meaty, healthy flavours!
In conjunction with rigorous provincial rules and regulations hunters are ethically obligated to pursue wildlife in a manner that is deemed to be “fair chase.” For example, hunters are not permitted to carry loaded firearms in moving vehicles or conveyance of any kind, they may not shoot from a vehicle or conveyance of any kind, they may not use a power boat, aircraft, or motor vehicle or other mechanical device to herd or harass wildlife (including drones), and they are not permitted to hunt wildlife within six hours of being in an aircraft. There are many rules, including what types of firearms and ammunition may be used, and these are just a few. Additionally, each species within each region in BC has specific rules that apply to its harvest. Seasons are short, and are limited by the age, gender and size of the animal in order to ensure a very low harvest. The allowable harvest takes many factors into consideration and is based upon scientific data with the aim of ensuring healthy, abundant and predator/prey-balanced wildlife populations.
Before residents may hunt, they must complete mandatory Conservation and Outdoor Recreation Education (CORE). This program ensures that hunters meet acceptable standards of knowledge and skill for safe and ethical hunting. The course requires 21 hours of study and a firearms handling practice and includes a practical firearms handling and written examination. Topics covered are outdoor ethics, firearm handling, hunting regulations, animal and bird identification, outdoor survival, first aid and safety, hunter heritage, conservation, and wildlife management.
In addition to the required education, hunters must register for a Fish and Wildlife ID number (FWID) purchase a license to hunt in combination with the appropriate species licence(s).
Non-residential hunters are required to be accompanied by a guide outfitter, assistant guide outfitter, or a holder of a permit to accompany at all times while hunting big game.
Wild meat is healthier
- Black Bear: 155 calories, 8.3g of fat, 20.1g of protein, 0g of saturated fat
- Moose: 134 calories, 1g of fat, 29.3g of protein, 30g of omega-3 fatty acids, 0.3g of saturated fat
- Deer: 187 calories, 8.2g of fat, 26.5g of protein, 94mg of omega-3 fatty acids, 4g of saturated fat
Compared to domestic ground meat
- Beef: 270 calories, 17.9g of fat, 25.6g of protein, 18mg of omega-3 fatty acids, 7.2g of saturated fat
- Pork: 297 calories, 20.8g of fat, 25.7g of protein, 70mg of omega-3 fatty acids, 7.7g of saturated fat
Hunters believe that what is appreciated, appreciates. They care deeply about wildlife and take a long-term approach to its management. They believe in conservation and science-based wildlife management decisions. They invest countless hours and dollars to ensure healthy wildlife – not only today, but for future generations.
The Wildlife Act uses hunting as a tool to keep wildlife populations in balance. Hunting is a key performance indicator of a healthy herd. There is a great deal of science-based rigor applied to hunting in British Columbia and no hunting is permitted if the herd is not healthy.
The North American Wildlife Conservation Model has proven how effective regulated hunting is to ensure healthy wildlife populations. The role of the outfitter and hunter conservationist has helped many wildlife species. In British Columbia, successes from this model include whitetail deer, Rocky Mountain elk, Roosevelt elk and black bear. All of these populations were nearly extinct in the early 1900s but are now healthy and growing.
Hunting helps to ensure a balance on the land, both from a habitat capacity and predator/prey balance standpoint. If there are too many animals on the land and the land is unable to provide, the animals will starve to death. Similarly, if there are too many predators, and not enough prey, the predators will eventually consume all the prey and then subsequently starve to death. In their desperation to survive, they may change what species they prey upon and move into urban areas. They may begin to exhibit unusual and risky behaviors, become human food conditioned, and may even prey upon pets and humans. Hunting of both predators and prey helps to keep this balance in check.
Cattle ranching is an example of the similar stewardship mindset held by many hunters and guide outfitters. For example, if you were to give a rancher 100-head of cattle, he or she will make a series of good decisions to ensure a healthy and profitable herd. He or she understands the importance of food and habitat capacity and will move cattle from summer to winter pastures, based upon the quality and quantity of feed. They will supplement with hay when needed. Ranchers will protect their cattle from predators and breed the cows at the right time to the right bull to produce healthy calves. They will keep the cattle they want and sell the others to market. The money generated will be invested back into improving the quality of the herd. Ranchers do not try to have more cattle on their land than the land can provide for.
In this manner, guide outfitters advocate for science-based wildlife management across the province. They invest thousands of volunteer hours both in and outside of their guide territories for initiatives that will benefit wildlife and their habitat today, and for generations to come.
“There is no doubt that the presence of human beings have impacted wildlife. We are now part of the equation, and to maintain a balanced environment, human beings must manage our resources.” ~ Leonard Ellis
What is a guide outfitter?
Guide outfitters are tied to their territories and spend a great deal of time in the field. Many are also farmers and ranchers and have a stewardship mindset when it comes to wildlife and the land. They invest countless hours and dollars to ensure healthy wildlife in their areas. They often share what they see in the wilderness with regional managers and collaborate with First Nations, who are also tied to the land and have a long-term mindset.
There are over 200 guide territories in BC and none overlap. However, there are many other tenure holders on the land, including forestry, energy, and mining as well as Provincial and National parks and ranchers.
Guide outfitters are assigned quota (the total number of a type of game species that they or their clients may harvest) in conjunction with their guide outfitter licence. This quota is reviewed annually by the regional manager and adjusted based on the health of the wildlife in the various regions.
Guide outfitters invest heavily in their guide areas. As they are responsible for the accommodation, transportation and feeding of their clients, they develop base camp facilities that typically include cook and dining houses, sleeping cabins, and washhouses. Hunts often extend over many days and take place in remote areas, and so guide outfitters often build cabins in the field. These are usually basic structures that ensure a safe, dry, and warm place to eat and sleep. There is significant investment into other aspects of their business as well, including staff such as guides, horse wranglers and cooks, vehicles and equipment such as pick-up trucks, tractors, snow machines, and quads, and livestock such as horses and mules.
Guide outfitters may employ assistant guides who must successfully achieve assistant guide certification, the standards of which are established by the Province. The purpose of this certification is to ensure that all guides have consistent and adequate knowledge of wilderness safety as well as provincial laws and regulations. Upon successful completion of the timed written exam, they may be employed by a licenced guide outfitter. They may not guide on their own and the guide outfitter must be present in his or her guiding area during the majority of the time when his or her assistant guides are guiding for game.
The benefits of hunting extend far beyond the hunter. Hunting brings socio economic, tourism, employment, and general benefit to rural communities.
Guide outfitters are the founders of British Columbia’s tourism industry and are an important part of the outdoor heritage in our province. Approximately 5,000 big game hunters come to BC each year and use the services of a guide outfitter. License sales statistics from 2017 show 4,624 non-resident hunting licenses sold. Many are repeat visitors, some of which return to the province year after year, generating ongoing revenue for the local and provincial economy (BC Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations License Sales, 2017).
The projected number of hunters in the US population (excluding individuals aged 16 and under) is expected to grow from 12.7 million (5.21% of the total population) in 2010 to an estimated 13.3 million in 2030, with an even further increase to 13.9 million in 2050. Guided hunting is a growth industry that the province can fully capitalize on (Canadian Federation of Outfitter Associations database).
The guide outfitting industry is an important contributor to the health and wellbeing of rural economies and provides approximately 2,000 jobs in British Columbia (Guide Outfitters Association of BC database). The industry generates approximately $116 million in revenue each year (Pacific Analytics, Economic Impact Report – 2001).
The traveling hunter has high disposable income and typically travels further than the average BC tourist. The longer a non-resident hunter must travel, the more likely they are to extend their visit to the province and thus generate more revenue for the local and provincial economy. The average traveling hunter also spends more money in BC than in any other sector. The average guided clients spend approximately $25,000 on a seven-day visit. Hunting trips often serve as the gateway to many other forms of tourism in BC. Hunters have a very high tendency to return, not only for more of the same, but also for a wide variety of other types of trips, with friends, business partners, spouses and other family members.
Growth for our industry means strong, stable, small businesses, and lasting contributions to remote communities. It is a goal of the industry to grow sustainable social, cultural, and economic benefits for all British Columbians. Our unique industry increases visitation and distribution of tourism benefits across communities, regions and sectors province-wide while increasing revenue to small, family-run guide outfitting business and supporting strong job markets in rural communities.
Guide outfitting promotes international tourism in communities that otherwise might have few visitors. The hunting seasons specifically are “shoulder” seasons which further help rural communities extend their opportunity to generate revenue. The ever-increasing additional non-hunting activities offered by our members further expands upon opportunities for visitors to craft their dream experiences and connect even more deeply with BC’s awe-inspiring nature and its cities on the edge of wilderness.
Outfitting occurs primarily in remote areas of rural BC where very few employment opportunities exist. Guides, cooks, and wranglers are directly employed; trucks are repaired in community, people are put up in the local hotels, outfitters are large purchasers of groceries, and heavily support local airlines, and various businesses of all kinds.
Exposing visitors to and supporting the local First Nation’s culture is also of tremendous importance. Many First Nations people own guide territories and many more work within the sector. Deeply connected to the land, they are well-skilled at guiding and through their expertise, visitors access the opportunity to learn about BC’s rich history first hand.
In the rare cases when hunters are unable to take their harvested meat home, the harvest is donated to First Nations or to those in need via GOABC’s Fair Chase Food Program