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A Good Read on the Issue of Cancellation Insurance

NOW THAT THE NEW YEAR'S FESTIVITIES ARE OVER, THE HUNTING SHOW SEASON IS ON. It's the time of year when both hunters and outfitters start gearing up for the coming season. Many hunters have planned trips to Reno and elsewhere to look for a last-minute hunt, firm up plans with the outfitter for a hunt already booked, check out future hunt possibilities, or simply to meet and greet old hunting friends. Outfitters are also gearing up for the shows in anticipation of reconnecting with past clients and meeting new prospects. It is an extremely important (and fun) time of year for outfitters.

As the hunt date approaches, hunters are busy getting into physical shape, confirming travel plans, checking equipment lists and many other details related to their hunt. Outfitters are busy getting crew lined up, buying supplies, getting horses and gear ready to go, servicing aircraft (for some) and the countless other logistical tasks that need to be done in advance of the hunting season.

Everyone has prepared as best they can - then the unthinkable happens. This could be one of many things - the power grid fails in the northeast USA causing massive power outages across several states and provinces, which in turn cancels and delays hundreds of flights. A terrorist attack paralyzes the continent for many days with the same result. A client blows out his knee two days before his hunt. A family emergency occurs just days before the hunt. A disease like SARS or BSE (mad cow) breaks out.

Hunters often ask about the need for cancellation insurance so I think it's worth explaining how the situation can play out. The above scenarios have happened at one time or another. None of them are the fault of the hunter or the outfitters. And nearly all of them have resulted in a call to the outfitter requesting that the hunt date be postponed or deposit money be refunded. This is quite often a problem and the problem gets even more complicated as the hunt date draws nearer.

From the hunter's point of view, he has a pretty good chunk of cash on the table for a much - anticipated hunt and now, through no fault of his own, is not able to get there. It makes sense for him to get a refund. So, what's the problem with that?

The problem is that the outfitter has usually spent or committed that deposit money long before the hunter arrives. As hunters will know, gone are the days of the inexpensive wilderness hunts. Most outfitters have anywhere from a half million to several million dollars invested in their hunting operation. Insurance and fuel prices have about tripled in the past few years. Mortgages have to be paid, airplanes have to be chartered, supplies and equipment purchased, crews hired and transported, horses fed and transported, licenses and government fees paid for - this list goes on. Most outfitters don't have the cash flow to absorb this kind of loss, especially if it happens on a large scale like 9/11 did. Many outfitters take it on the chin to preserve good will, not because they can afford it. Most outfitters will do their best to accommodate the hunters' predicament, but there are financial and logistical considerations that limit what the outfitter can do.

A hunter may think that simply coming next year solves the problem. Well, quite often it doesn't. The outfitter may be fully booked for the next year. Even if he isn't, the outfitter is now expected to take the hunter at a discounted rate because of the money the hunter already has on deposit. What the hunter often doesn't understand is that he will be taking a spot that would otherwise be filled by a hunter paying the full price. Again, the outfitter has taken a financial hit from the vacated spot last year and is again expected to absorb another financial hit and fit the cancelled hunter in. The reality of it is some outfitters can handle it and some can't. Every outfitter has their own cancellation policy; it is a good idea to check into it so there are no surprises to you.

So where's the win-win solution to this fairly common dilemma? One answer is for the hunter to purchase cancellation insurance to combat these unexpected and unfortunate situations. Most insurance carriers offer cancellation policies. That way, if life comes at you in unexpected ways, the hunter gets his hard-earned money back, less a small deductible, without his misfortune impacting negatively on himself and the outfitter. Purchasing cancellation insurance may not be for everyone, but it is definitely worth looking into.

Kelly Hougen, President
Association of MacKenzie Mountain Outfitters

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