Could your next vacation be centered around fishing or hunting? Why not, say the founders of Mallard Bay, a new booking service for outdoors excursions created by a group of LSU students and alums.
Launched last November, the VRBO-esque site connects hunting and fishing enthusiasts with domestic and international guided expeditions. Book a goose hunt in Kansas, go salmon fishing in Alaska, or cast a line in the clear blue waters of Costa Rica.
The online marketplace is a big improvement to the way such trips have been traditionally booked, Mallard Bay’s founders say. “The status quo of booking these trips is that you’d go directly to the outfitter’s website, try to get him on the phone, and if you do, then he’s going to say, ‘Mail me a check by this date and you’re locked in,’ which presents a whole host of problems,” says co-founder and chief growth officer Joel Moreau.
Instead, Mallard Bay enables travelers to compare numerous options in one platform, where they can see available dates, read reviews, pay for trips and rate their own experiences.
The idea for the company was inspired by a negative experience that founder and president Logan Meaux had after arranging a surprise father-son getaway for his dad, Waitr founder Chris Meaux. Hunting and fishing have long been a big part of their relationship, the younger Meaux says.
“One of my first memories is of my dad waking me up at the crack of dawn and dragging me out in a field in the middle of nowhere in some oversized hunting clothes,” Meaux says. “We’ve always had that as something we did together.”
Meaux booked a three-day excursion in Oklahoma. But instead of experiencing a memorable, trophy-filled weekend, he and his dad were taken on one hunt with 13 other hunters in tow.
“We didn’t even fire a single shot,” Meaux recalls. “It was just overall a very poor experience. I couldn’t understand why there wasn’t a something like an Airbnb for the hunting and fishing industry, something that could have solved this problem for me.”
Meaux, along with childhood friend Wyatt Mallett, Moreau and a handful of other LSU business and technology majors, worked on the concept for several months before officially launching last fall. The startup has an office in the Louisiana Business and Technology Center at LSU, and in April the effort won $200,000 in funding from the country’s largest student startup competition at Rice University.
With 135 outfitters on the site currently, the experiences travelers find vary from hunting for elk on horseback in Colorado to a seven-day, multi-species excursion for caribou, waterfowl and salmon in Alaska. “We’re across 28 different states and seven different countries, so there’s a wide variety of places you can go,” Mallett says.
And while traditional audiences find plenty of rustic camps and lodges on the platform, it also offers experiences that appeal to hunting’s changing markets. Women are its fastest growing demographic, Meaux says. Families and friends looking for a high-end getaway can find plenty of posh lodges with onsite chefs and turnkey services.
No matter the price point, that’s what many outdoorspeople are looking for these days—the option to deploy their favorite hobby in new environs rather than confine themselves to a single hunting lease, Meaux says.
“The overall idea is that instead of you having to go out and buy and maintain property, you can go on three guided hunts a year, and it’ll cost you less,” Meaux says. “We provide access to successful hunting and fishing, not just hunting and fishing.”