Become a Professional Mountain Guide

Learn to pack, pursue big game, and guide clients from top professional guides and outfitters

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13 Day course for aspiring guides and DIY hunters wanting to take it to the next level.


Experience and Expertise

As the operating staff of Flat Tops Wilderness Guides, one of the largest wilderness outfitters in North America, we live and hunt for over 150 days a year in a harsh, high altitude wilderness environment. Our staff doesn't hunt for 30 days and make TV shows for the rest of the year. We don't hunt 10 days and write books about hunting for the next six months. We literally hunt, scout and guide as a way of life. And just like YOU, we were born to hunt. Our experience puts us in a unique position to empower you with a wealth of knowledge and outdoor education.

A Better Deal

Our courses provide more value than any other guide or advanced hunting course on the market today. We strictly hold to the following standards:

  1. 13 day courses only. Full throttle for all 13 days! One classroom session and one hands on session per day.
  2. Max of 6 students per session.
  3. Full support staff in addition to lead instructor. More hands on experience and individually directed teaching. Ratio of 2 students per staff member.
  4. Three guest instructor sessions from big names in the hunting/guiding world.
  5. Hands on capeing and processing done on actual animals (domestic sheep and goats) - not just theory or classroom teaching.
  6. Facility built to pack 50+ mules/horses at a time leads to an exceptional teaching environment for the fundamentals of packing - a skill that will put you far above other guide applicants.
  7. Wilderness First Aid Certification
  8. 100% whole foods diet and optional daily workouts (morning glassing hikes and kettlebell classes).

The RMGS Philosophy

Guiding Philosophy:

Every human was born to hunt, but not all were born to live the hunt through a life of guiding. Being a hunting guide is not "getting paid to hunt". It's more than that.

First, you must be wilderness ready. That means woodsmen skills: horse/mule packing, wilderness medicine, wall tent camp construction, proper personal gear, mental toughness, and knowing how to cook a steak over a fire like Grizzly Adams. If we only get you this far, you are already more marketable as a guide than 85% of applicants. Next, we lay the foundation for you to become a professional level hunter. We cover glassing with high quality optics, animal behavior, scouting, managing hunters and personalities (social skills of guiding), all the way to processing game. If you master these skills and keep yourself in peak physical condition, there isn't a corner of this earth you can't get a job being a guide in.

Your hunting experience is irrelevant to you becoming a high level guide. Some of the best guides have come from non-hunting backgrounds. After a couple of seasons guiding, based on the sheer exposure to hunting and the mountains, you will have surpassed 99% of big game hunters on this planet.

Our Philosophy on Hunting:

Hunting is a normal and important part of being a human. Historically, if you didn’t hunt; you didn’t eat. Today, with the advent of corporate agriculture, we no longer spend our days outdoors tracking down game, we simply take a trip to a grocery store. This shift away from outdoor hunting to couch-surfing has destroyed our physical and mental well-being. But we can get back to our roots by developing a lifelong passion of pursuing wild game and guiding those on the adventure. There are a few reasons why this makes sense:

  • First, wild game is one of the greatest sources of protein on this earth. You were born to eat it. Were you born to eat genetically engineered beef? A wild and free food source, away from industrial farming, is where it's at!
  • Second, our sedentary lifestyles can make us lethargic and overweight. Hunting enhances your physical fitness and overall vitality.
  • Third, overcoming challenges in the wilderness builds confidence and problem-solving skills. These elements have positive spillover effects in our everyday lives.
  • Fourth, hunting satisfies a primal instinct. There is no replacement in life for pursuing, harvesting, and processing wild game.

The Facility and Location

We operate from our private ranch that borders the Flat Tops Wilderness Area in Central Colorado. The Flat Tops Wilderness Area is over 240,000 acres of road-less and forever wild land protected by the Wilderness Act. RMGS classes are taught primarily at the ranch but we will take a graduation pack trip into our remote camps. These camps are 5-16 miles from the closest road and we enter the camps via horseback or on foot--just like our ancestors.

Our facility is built to accommodate wilderness hunting trips and remote summer expeditions. We maintain a herd of 35+ mules and horses, a 3,000 sq. ft. pack station, bunkhouse and a 3,500 sq. ft. log lodge.

The Course

Hunting Techniques

Learn how different species are hunted. Spot and stalk hunting will be the focus of the course, but we will cover hunting from tree stands, still hunting dark timber, and various other hunting methods. We will do a special session on elk calling during the rut. We will do a special session on glassing high country mule deer, goats, and bighorn sheep with high quality optics. Tripod glassing will be covered.

Live Game Tracking and Tracking Wounded Game

Learn to read sign and tracks of all western big game. These classes will be taught in prime mule deer and elk habitat. We will teach you to track live animals in real time.

We will go over blood tracking techniques and theories in the classroom. We will extend this knowledge on the final hunt by tracking actual wounded game animals.

Wilderness Survival and First Aid

Our instructors will take you through the skills that allow you to be at-home in the wilderness for weeks at a time. The basics of choosing a camp site, setting up camp, stock packing, backpacking, day-to-day camping, wilderness first aid, emergency communication and survival will be taught.

Understand Hunting Gear

The world of sportsmen gear is overwhelming. We will go over the details of what gear we use as guides, working over 150 days a year in the field. A focus will be put on proper clothing and layers, choosing a rifle, choosing a bow, backpacks, lightweight camping gear, optics and survival gear.

Ungulate and Predator Behavior

Knowing as much as you can about the animals you hunt will improve your chances of success in the field. We will go over habitat preferences, feeding patterns, migration, and rut behavior of the main western game species.

Wilderness Navigation and Map Reading

Hunting drops you into the remote world of wilderness, but it also lands you into the ever changing land ownership and access challenge. As a hunter and guide you need to know where you are at all times, if you are on land you can legally hunt, and how to figure out hidden access points into game-rich geographies. We will take you through real maps, using GPSs to solve these problems, and practice with you in the field.

Understanding Rules/Regulations and Planning Your Hunts

Permits, Fish and Game Regulations, Game Units... it goes on and on! We will walk you through planning a mock hunt. In that process we will cover, state-by-state, how big game drawings work, tags, game regulations, and planning around these restrictions.

We will also offer a unique session on the regulatory environment between guides/outfitters and the different land management entities we deal with (USFS, BLM, Timber Companies, Private Ranch Managers, Ranching for Wildlife, etc...)

Diet and Fitness Preparation for Guiding

Forget any preconceived notions you have about hunters. Wilderness, free-range guiding is a physical challenge. Training to guide, through an improved diet and workout regimen, will improve your ability as a guide as much as any other factor. We will go over the routines we use and the important physical factors to prepare for.

We will emphasis high intensity training, long-distance cardio, and functional fitness like kettle-bells.

Wild Game Processing and Cooking

Wild game is the best source of protein on the planet, but it does present challenges. We will go over the key elements of field dressing game, keeping meat safe and clean, and processing the different cuts of meat.

We will go over basic field taxidermy. This includes shoulder mount capeing, caring for velvet racks, full body capeing, rug skinning, turning ears, eyes, and lips, and packing taxidermy for travel.

During the course, almost all meals will include wild game meat. You will learn how to prepare wild game in the kitchen. Understanding the differences between cooking high fat present day grocery store meat relative to naturally lean game meat will be a focus.

Last, we will cover basic camp cooking. All proficient guides know how to cook for guests in spike camps.

Marksmanship and Hunter's Safety

We will go over the important safety measures you will need to understand as a guide. Covering proper rests, marksmanship, arrow setup, cartridge setup, and working with clients' limitations, will also be an important part of this segment. In this segment we will also discuss the ethics of hunting and the responsibilities you have as a hunter and guide in today's society.

Horse and Mule Packing


Knowing how to pack is not brain surgery, but in the guiding community it is what separates the men from the boys. Guides that are comfortable packing stock, go deeper, hunt harder, and are more proficient with their time.

This segment of the course is over 35% of the course time. We will cover livestock management on the mountain, different types of packing (hitches, gear, etc...), packing game, leading strings and basic horsemanship. We will also cover strategies when guiding hunters on horseback.

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The Instructors

Cliff Gray - Head Instructor

Cliff is an avid backpacker, wildlife conservationist and big game hunter. He has a pilot’s license and is a certified wilderness first responder. Cliff is a registered outfitter in the State of Colorado with commercial special use permits for hunting, fishing, and remote horse packing in the White River National Forest and Flat Tops Wilderness Area of the Rocky Mountains. He grew up on ranches in Northern California and Adam’s Rib Ranch in Eagle Colorado, where his family managed an outfitting and cattle business. Cliff earned a BA from Stanford University in Economics and a MBA from University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business.

Cliff guides and outfits over 80 hunters a year for elk, mule deer, big horn sheep, mountain goats and bears in the Flat Tops Wilderness Area of the Rocky Mountains and across British Columbia.

Tom Watts - Big Game Behavior and Hunting Instructor

Tom is Certified Wildlife Biologist, currently working as a consultant to several trophy hunting ranches in northern New Mexico. Tom spent 30 years managing the mule deer and elk hunting programs on the famous Jicarilla Apache Reservation in New Mexico; which is the top producer of record book mule deer in North America. His expertise in the hunting world combines 45 years of personal hunting with 30 years of professional experience in managing mule deer and elk populations and their habitats. He grew up in New Mexico and has lived, worked, and hunted extensively in both Colorado and New Mexico.

He holds a Bachelor Degree in Wildlife Biology and a Masters in Wildlife Science.

Sam Madison - Tracking and Big Game Hunting Instructor

Born into hunting, fishing, cattle, and horses in the Arkansas Ozarks, Sam came to Sweetwater at age seven, in 1969. Even as a teenager he worked as wrangler during summers, and part of elk season at Sweetwater from 1974 to 1979. Sam rode bareback broncs and bulls at local rodeos through the high school years and began learning trapping at an early age. He still traps predators each winter.

From 1980 to 1985 Sam guided lion and bear hunters. He went on to serve as a tracker for search and rescue missions for Gila County Sheriff's Office, and was a deputy there for two years. He worked as a wrangler and elk hunting guide for Brink Outfitters for over 20 of the past 29 years.

Sam's other jobs included Firefighter, EMT, Coast Guard, and working on Alaska's north slope oil field.

Wes Gray - Marksmanship Instructor

Wes was a ground intelligence officer that served with the United States Marine Corps from 2004 to 2008. He is a combat veteran, an expert pistol and rifle marksman, and graduated from The Basic School, Infantry Officer Course, Ground Intelligence Officer Course, and Marine Corps Platoon Commander Scout Sniper School in Quantico Virginia. His military decorations include: Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, Combat Action Ribbon, National Defense Service Medal, Iraqi Campaign Medal, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon (with bronze star), and the Global War on Terror Service Medal. Wes has extensive medical and safety training to include training in CPR, combat trauma, basic surgical skills, and casualty care.

Dr. Gray is currently the Executive Managing Member of Alpha Architect, an SEC-Registered Investment Advisor. Dr. Gray has published two books: EMBEDDED: A Marine Corps Adviser Inside the Iraqi Army and QUANTITATIVE VALUE: A Practitioner’s Guide. Dr. Gray earned an MBA and a PhD in finance from the University of Chicago and graduated with a BS from The Wharton School. Wes grew up on a working cattle ranch and loves to get up and work in the mountains whenever he can.

Kurt Grimm - Hunting, Tracking and Predator Behavior Instructor

Kurt grew up hunting with his Dad in California, participating in his first mule deer hunt at the age of 12. In 1977 Kurt moved to Western Colorado and spent the next 12 years as a big game hunting guide, packing horses and guiding hunts. By 1988 Kurt began to archery hunt exclusively. By 2006 Kurt had completed the Colorado Big 8 (Mule Deer, White Tail, Pronghorn, Mountain Lion, Elk, Big Horn, Mountain Goat, and Black Bear).  All of which were DIY archery hunts.

An avid hounds man and photographer, he enjoys chasing lions, the end result of which is usually a few camera shots before letting the lion go.

In 2012 Kurt was on one of the competing teams on the Campbell’s Camera Top Outdoor Producer Show. Kurt’s team finished ahead of teams  such as Solo Hunter, Buck Commander, Endless Season and Matthews TV.

Kurt is passionate about the conservation and preservation of wild places and wild things. He feels that it is every outdoorsman’s responsibility to preserve the wild places and opportunities that we are offered.

Alan Hood - Wilderness Horse Packing Instructor

Alan has been working and guiding in the Turret and Sweetwater drainages for decades. He has packed in hundreds of hunters into our camps. He knows the area and stock better than anyone else. Alan has competed in horse packing competitions and is one of the most experienced packers in the West.

Amy Gray - Diet and Fitness Instructor

Amy is an avid skier, ski instructor on Vail Mountain, marathon runner, and NASM certified personal trainer. She has competed in the Chicago, Boston, Eugene and other marathons across the country. Amy is the founder of Healthy, Hungry, Happy, a blog on healthy eating and exercise. Amy is a graduate of the University of Arizona.

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