Guide School

Class Dates

#1 Date June 3 to June 29, 2024 - Price $4500
#2 Date July 15 to Aug 10, 2024 - Price $4500


Bridger Institute Guide School is the most complete school of its kind in the country. Our students report that our school incorporates 40% to 60% more information and skills than other schools in our field. Two of our most important goals are to first maintain the highest quality school as possible and second to help our graduating students as much as we can to achieve their goals in this industry.

Our average daily schedule includes  10 to 12 hours of instruction and hands-on training, instead of the normal 8 hours. We do not use students as free help to do ranch chores, although students will rotate chores pertaining to their own needs and maintenance. We utilize up to ten different instructors all experts in their field, in each of our guide schools.

The heart of any guide school are the basics of:  horsemanship, packing horses & mules, hunting & fishing techniques, guiding skills & techniques, outdoorsmanship,  game care and rules & regulations. We go far beyond the basics in these areas and add many more. We are unique to other guide schools in that we offer additional skills such as: reloading, special firearms training, advanced bow hunting skills, MFH trapping program, fly tying & fishing techniques, career development, grizzly bear encounter course, fitness for horse & rider, and the most in depth animal tracking, wilderness first aid and wilderness survival course in the industry.

Although most of our training takes place outdoors, we have the best classroom in the industry. Our classroom is packed with the latest equipment, visual aids , training aids and WIFI to help with your job searches. Attending a guide school is a big investment for most people and we want to make sure that we are the right fit for you. In this effort we prefer to talk with each student attending our school by phone, Email or onsite visit.

To help you understand the depth of our guide school program, we have organized our curriculum into the following units.

Please download the enrollment application. Print it out, complete the application, and mail it to the Bridger Institute mailing address. Also please include a check made out for a deposit of 50% of the course tuition payable to Bridger Institute with this enrollment form. I understand the remaining balance is to be paid no less than 30 days prior to the course starting date.

Bridger Institute
P.O. Box 1991
Whitefish, MT 59937


Unit 1  Rules, Regulations and Ethics

There are several different state and federal agencies that are responsible for managing federal and state lands and their resources. These agencies include National and State Forest Service, BLM, Game and Fish, etc.  It is the responsibility of the outfitter and guide to know and lawfully abide by these rules and regulations set by these agencies. In this unit, students will be supplied with these rules and regulations as well as other resources such as  professional outfitter and guide associations. When possible, field trips or speakers from theses organizations will be made available.

Unit 2 Horsemanship

This unit will focus on natural horsemanship and cover topics such as: equine anatomy & physiology, equine psychology, breeds, colors, markings, training techniques, riding skills & techniques, vet care, horseshoeing, problem solving, trailer loading  and  more. Students will have a great deal of hands-on experience to develop their horse training & riding skills.

Unit 3 Packing Horses & Mules

This unit will focus on packing horses and mules. You will receive instruction with hands-on experience in all methods of packing. This course is one of the most complete packing schools of its kind. It is designed to teach basic and advanced techniques of packing for your own personal packing requirements or for employment with organizations and businesses that require packing skills.

Unit 4 Professional Guide Skills

There are a variety of skills that a good guide must possess in addition to the standard riding, packing and hunting skills that are the basics of most guide schools. These skills are too numerous to list here but examples would include: scoring & measuring, skinning, caping, field dressing and preserving big game. The professional guide should be capable of teaching the interested client how to identify animal tracks and sign, how to identify edible plants, the best fishing flies and lures,   when and how to use bear spray, and a host of other important skills. These skills and many others are covered in detail throughout the course.

Unit 5 Big Game Hunting Skills & Techniques

The big game unit will focus on twelve North American big game species including: moose, elk, caribou, bison, white tail deer, mule deer, pronghorn, big horn sheep, mountain goat, cougar, wolf and bear. In addition to species specific information, we will also detail twelve major big game hunting techniques and how and when to apply them. They include: spot & stalk (camouflage & stalking techniques), spot & shoot (long range hunting techniques), still hunting (on land and by river raft) animal tracking, game calling, elevated stands, baiting bears, driving, blinds & decoys, hunting with dogs, ride & shoot (hunting from horseback) and hunting dangerous game. Other topics addressed  include scouting and game care.

Unit 6 Bow Hunting Skills & Techniques

The bow hunting unit will focus on bow hunting techniques and strategies. This course will address techniques and equipment for primitive archery, traditional archery and modern archery. Students will have hands on experience with atlatls, primitive bows, long bows, recurve bows, compound bows and crossbows. Students will have extensive practice shooting at land targets, aerial targets, moving targets, bow fishing and shooting from elevated stands. Each student will also make a variety of arrows and bow strings. The National Bow Hunter Education class is also available for those who would like to take it.

Unit 7 Firearms Hunting Skills & Techniques

This unit will focus on hunting with firearms including : handguns, rifles, shotguns and muzzleloaders, firearm safety, scopes and sights, reloading ammunition and shooting from a variety of different positions. Students will learn the basics of reloading for handguns and rifles. Reloading for long rang shooting and making lead bullets for handguns will also be addressed. Students will have extensive practice mastering shooting techniques from standing, kneeling, sitting and prone positions.

Unit 8 Fishing Skills & Techniques

This unit will focus on different methods of fishing including: fly fishing, spin reel fishing and survival fishing.  This unit, like all of our units, is very hands-on and will address topics such as: fishing equipment, fish species & behavior, fishing rules & regulations, fishing lakes, rivers & streams, processing & preserving  fish, trophy fishing, and much more. This unit will also provide a session on tying flies, in which each student will tie several different flies and test their effectiveness in our local streams and rivers. Instructors for this unit are professional fishing guides who have guided from Alaska and throughout the lower 48.

Unit 9 Trapping Skills & Techniques

Trapping is a potential off season activity for employment when hunting season ends. This unit will focus on the history of trapping, rules & regulations for trapping, benefits of trapping, furbearer identification, habits/habitat and trapping techniques for each furbearer species. Trapping equipment, land sets, water sets and elevated sets, will also be addressed. This unit will be conducted by members of the Montana Fur Harvesters association who have many years experience trapping in many different states.

Unit 10 Wilderness Camping and Outdoorsmanship

This unit will concentrate on important wilderness skills such as the safe use of chain saws, crosscut saws, axes, knives and other camp equipment. Students will learn how to setup and take down different size wall tents and will have extensive practice using portable electric corrals, highlines and a variety of different hobbles. Low impact camping with horses & mules is an important focus of this section. Students will setup a seven station low impact camp which will apply low impact techniques to the following areas; sleeping, kitchen, latrine, horse containment, horse feeding, fire, wood cutting and equipment storage.

Unit 11 Wilderness Cooking

This unit will focus on basic wilderness cooking. As a big game hunting guide there will come a time when you will, out of necessity or emergency, be required to cook. This unit is a brief overview of our wilderness cooking course. Students will be required to plan & cook at least one Dutch oven meal during the course. For a more complete course on wilderness cooking, please refer to our wilderness cooking course.

Unit 12 Wilderness Navigation

Navigation is a critical skill for anyone who works or recreates in the backcountry. This unit will address the use of maps, compasses, GPS and how to use them separately and together. The unit will also focus on celestial and solar navigation as well as several different ways to make a compass in the wilderness.  Students will be required to navigate a map and compass course in groups of three.

Unit 13 Wilderness Survival

Wilderness survival is another critical skill for the guide and outfitter, who are ultimately responsible for the client’s safety. This unit will review the differences between primitive and modern survival and will focus on the psychology of survival, survival priorities, survival kits, survival shelters, fire starting skills & techniques, survival cooking, water procurement/purification, plants for food & medicine, bird traps & snares, fishing poles & traps, mammal traps & snares, mammal tracking, primitive tools & weapons and signaling by day & night. Students will divide into small groups and will build and spend one night in a primitive survival shelter. Students will also be required to cook one survival lunch in which they will incorporate plants, fish, birds or small mammals in the meal. Students will have hands-on experience making fires and using a variety of different primitive tools and weapons.

Unit 14 Wilderness First Aid

Wilderness First Aid is yet another critical skill for the outfitter/guide or anyone venturing into the backcountry. This wilderness first aid program is the official collaboration between the Wilderness Medical Society, the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons and the Emergency Care institute. It is one of the most comprehensive wilderness first aid courses in the country. Instructors for this part of the course are wilderness EMTs, paramedics and registered nurses,  many of which also have experience working with search & rescue units. Students completing this program will receive a wilderness first aid completion card and diploma.

Unit 15 Fitness, Health & Safety For Horse & Rider

This unit will focus on the physical, nutritional and safety requirements for performing at your best in the field of outfitting and guiding. This unit will be conducted by a retired exercise physiologist who has worked with world class athletes.  Topics addressed will include self assessment, evaluation and training for cardiovascular fitness, muscular strength, body composition, and flexibility/agility. Learning to evaluate your hunting clients physical condition is a very important safety factor before asking them to participate in a strenuous hunting technique. You will be able to select the safest and most productive hunting techniques outlined in unit 6 for each of your clients. 

Unit 16  Career Development

This important unit will instruct students on different aspects of job employment and career development. Topics addressed in this unit will include: networking, resume development, successful job interview strategies, job searching skills, off season employment opportunities, career goals & objectives and more. This unit  is on the level of a mini college course and will help you with what ever job you pursue in the future. While the ultimate responsibility for finding a job and developing a career lies with each student, it our goal to help with this process in any way we can.



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