Photos and Story: The Beginnings of a Guide Life

Written by: Karen Syron,  Flying B Ranch

2020 FBR Wingshooting Guide School Graduates (left to right): Bruce Mawyer, Charlene Lambert, Nigel Gibbens, and Joshua Crumpton.

Just before travel came to an abrupt halt for many of us, the Orvis-Endorsed Flying B Ranch Wingshooting Guide School wrapped up the 2nd annual course. As the only course of its kind, this guide school is focused on preparing guides for the unique demands of guiding at the Orvis-endorsed level. For decades now, discerning wingshooters from around the globe have relied on Orvis’s Endorsed Wingshooting network as an assurance of the highest quality wingshooting experiences. With that highest standard of quality comes the need for the best wingshooting guides in the business.  After all, the guide is who connects that individual with the hunt. The guides have the ability to make every hunt in the field into an experience that their guests will treasure for years to come. With that ability comes great responsibility to master all areas of their craft.

Idaho’s Flying B Ranch, which opened in 1985, has been Orvis Endorsed for decades now. A diverse operation, their programs include not only a well reputed wingshooting program, but also free-range big game hunting and Orvis-endorsed fly fishing.  The year-round lodge retains its professional guides and full-time staff, many of whom have more than 20 years of experience in the profession. Two of these guides, BJ Walle (recently named as the 2020 Orvis Wingshooting Guide of the Year) and Chad Weber, teach the wingshooting guide school.  They have created a curriculum for this 5 day/ 6 night inclusive course that covers the essentials of guiding at an Orvis-endorsed Lodge. As they guide students through this Orvis-approved curriculum, they have decades of experience in the field to share with their students. Topics range from safety, dog handling, and field gear to the advanced skills of guiding wingshooters with their own personal bird dogs, first-time hunters, and an array of unique guest needs essential to their safety and overall experience. The vast majority of this course is taught in the field, with hands-on dog handling sessions, hunt planning, guest care, and full mock hunts. 

Students are welcome to bring their own dogs to the school, as well as handling our professionally trained kennel of GSP and English Pointers.  The school includes all course materials and equipment for the field, aside from personal items. Students stay on site in our beautiful lodge with all meals provided. At the close of course, graduates are presented with a certificate of completion from their instructors and General Manager Jeremi Syron during a staff send-off barbecue. Students are provided with a custom embroidered Orvis Pro Guide Vest and Chaps as well. 

Following presentation of certificates, 2020 guide school graduates celebrate among new friends, FBR instructors and staff.

The Flying B Ranch retains graduate records and will provide references , direct from instructors to potential employers for each graduate, as requested. The course is limited to 6 students.  Course fees are $5,000 and the Flying B Ranch offers custom payment plans for students with no additional fees, in order to accommodate all potential students who are passionate about making this their profession. 

Next year’s course has been scheduled for March 7-13, 2021.  Please contact the Flying B Ranch at 800-472-1945 or email jeremis@flyingbranch.com for more information and to secure your spot for next year’s school.  To learn more about the Flying B Ranch visit their website.

Why Take This Course?

There is no substitute for experience. You can never learn enough in a course to be prepared for every circumstance you will experience as an Orvis-endorsed wingshooting guide. What this course does for its students is provide the tips, tactics, and essential skills that the guide will draw from in future roles at any Orvis-endorsed operation. It’s about developing an understanding of the highest standards, teaching new skills, and in some cases adapting previously learned behaviors. The Flying B Ranch is fortunate to have little need for new guide staff on an annual basis, but without doubt would hire from the students completing this course as needed. 

2020 graduate Charlene Lambert directs a hunter as they approach a GSP pair on point, overlooking the Flying B Ranch lodge in Lawyer Canyon.

Since the first course in 2019, the Flying B Ranch has provided references to several other Orvis-endorsed lodges inquiring about guide-school graduates. Guides don’t escape aging, no matter how hard they may try to avoid the topic. For every professional guide in this industry, there will come a time when their knees can’t keep up with their guests, and the goal of this course is to be annually finding those dedicated individuals who will replace them. No matter whether course graduates guide at the Flying B or any other Orvis-endorsed Lodge, FBR wants to continue cultivating the next generations of professional guides in our industry. They want to continue surpassing the expectations of guests with the quality of Orvis guides, and to be the first step for a class of guides who will teach future generations of hunters, to be the standard of safety, ethics, and passion for the practice of wingshooting.

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