View Full Version : I'm pretty sure I killed the elk.

10-09-2009, 04:03 PM
The one and only elk in taken in the camp that week.

Having attained one of those ages evenly divisible by 10, it seemed like enough of a milestone to splurge with a “guided” elk hunt this past September in <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-comhttp://kifaruforums.net/ /><st1:State alt=</st1:State>Montana</ST1:p. I put quotation marks around “guided” for reasons that perhaps you will agree with.

I chose to hunt in the Bob Marshall wilderness complex. I contacted several outfitters serving that area. One seemed particularly responsive, had an opening during the rut season, could take on a single to form up a pair for “two on one” guiding, and offered a discount due to the economy. I called three references provided and they all seemed personable, although one was in retrospect somewhat careful in his answers.

Mid-September finally comes and I drive off to a little town in central <st1:State w:st="on"><ST1:pMontana</ST1:p</st1:State> on the east side of the Continental divide. I meet four of the other five hunters for dinner and drinks. Pleasant conversation, life situations all in the normal range. The two from <st1:State w:st="on"><ST1:pAlaska</ST1:p</st1:State> on their second drinking session of the post noon period, not sure about their morning. One fellow had hunted with the outfit so many times he was more a personal friend, and was one of the references I had talked to.

We are instructed to meet at the trailhead about 9 am the next morning. We convoy up and head out, four vehicles: the guy who’d been there before in the lead, me, the AK pair in a rental, the other singleton bringing up the rear. One of the guides is there slowly getting horses and mules prepared. Over an hour later the owner drives in with the sixth hunter, who’d flown in, and with the other guides and the cook, a woman with a toddler. I think we finally left the trailhead at nearly 2 pm.

It’s in the 80’s. It has been for the past week, and is expected to stay that way for another week. Sweaty, dusty, hot, ride. We are paired up with our guides. The two Alaskans paired together; myself and another; the longtime customer one-on-one with the owner; and the sixth, perhaps he’d paid extra for one-on-one also, with the fourth guide. The first afternoon we set up to watch a trail. We have sat about an hour and I hear a bunch of crashing just out of sight. Two elk have walked past the first hunter, the guide’s movement has spooked them, and I just see the back end of two elk crashing into a patch of understory. The guide claims one was a decent bull.

The next two days the hunting consists of leaving in the early morning dark, and riding to some unknown location as the guide pushes a squeeze-bulb cow-call. I don’t think we had any answers to the morning round of calling. Then we would take a four or five hour nap during the heat of the day, because the guide or the owner, had no plans for midday hunting. Around 4 pm the guide would then resume cow-calling, an occasional bugle thrown in. We did get responses. But the bulls never showed and, apparently following the owner’s instructions, we would simply leave when the bull never came out, so as not to make him leave the area. Then we would ride home and arrive after dark.

<O:p</O:pThe hunting was always single-file. The guide in the lead, with two hunters following. Even when we got of horseback, it was the same. That seems pretty stupid, especially when on foot. We never split up, we never devised any plan. We were never consulted. We never got a look at any map, to let us contribute in any way to the hunting plan. We were in the wilderness and were not provided maps. We had no clue the general direction we would be going during a day, or what the trails were. Everyone was warned with a sentence in the “bring” list, not to bring a GPS. I did anyway, I guess I must have jinxed the operation. I only took a coordinate of the camp itself, so in a worst case I might find my way back, and did not reveal or mark any super-secret location.

Riding in that heat we’d get quite sweaty and dirty. Asking for a pan of water to wash off before dinner was a surprise question, and felt like an imposition. I dared only ask that twice during the trip. The other days I’d find a creek midday and clean up. I would think a pan of warmed water or maybe even a shower set up might be part of a decent outfitted camp. With all the tons of hay, and propane, oven, wall tents, cots, deep fryers and even a kitchen sink, that a shower for hunters wouldn’t be so hard to add. I didn’t realize a week of grunge was part of the experience. Even as a backpacker, I try to keep somewhat clean.

On the fourth day we get a bull bugling in a riverbed below us. We decide to split up and go down separate minor ridgelines to see if one of us might get a shot. I went down one by myself. The guide and the other fellow went down the other. He was closer to where the bull seemed to be, on our left. We said good luck to each other and scrambled down the the hill.

The bugling all of a sudden started coming from a different location, across the river, outside our unit. A second bull comes into view, on the right side closer to me. I’m thinking, perfect, we both now have a bull. I get to where the ridgeline ends with a steep descent and a large pine tree. The bull is coming near to the riverbed, almost into our legal unit to hunt. I sit comfortably on the ridge’s near knife edge, a solid 2” branch at perfect rest height and wait. The bull crosses onto the gravel bar, its left side presenting almost exactly broadside at 100 yards.

I fire the first shot. The bull makes a slight flinch and turns exactly 180 degrees. A second shot comes from the other hunter and the bull’s front leg goes flopping. The bull keeps moving so I fire off a second and third shot and the bull collapses to the gravel onto its right side.

We race down across the river. The guide arrives first, I arrive second. There is no visible blood on the up side of the bull, the left side I’d shot at. I’m somewhat shocked, certain I’d hit it. I feel for a hole, or for blood, but don’t happen to find any. I’m mystified and embarassed. The guide say then he didn’t think I’d hit it and that he hadn’t seen the bull react to my shot.

We flip the bull over and there’s a huge shot up area on the right side. I say it looks more like an exit wound. The other hunter says, “That’s right where I was aiming.” I was dumbfounded by such a ridiculous statement. But at that point I had no evidence to back me up. The guide says he thinks the other hunter killed it. I’d already made a bit of a calculation, it was only a 5x5. I wasn’t going to pay for taxidermy, and it wasn’t quite what I wanted to used up precious wall space with. I was considering saying, well let’s wait until we butcher it, to do some forensics, and to defend my honor and shooting ability. But, instead I conceded the bull to the other hunter. I could see no point in defending my honor to strangers, and it seemed a pointless two against one argument.

Since the bull is turned back over with it’s right side up, we gutless method prepare that side first. We flip it over to work on the left side, my shot side.

Lo’ and behold, if there isn’t a perfect little spot of blood now. Perfect shot placement. About 4” below the spine, a bit behind the left shoulder. I believe I’ve shot textbook. We peel back the skin. Perfect little entrance wound in both the skin and chest cavity. Copious amounts of blood when found coming out the mouth, just like a lung shot. None of this blasted shoulder nonsense.

I believe I killed the elk with my first shot, and furthermore actually was the one to finally stop its movement after the leg-mangling shot. But this guide was a dull fellow, and who can blame the other hunter for his willingness to jump to conclusions.

I think the guide should have told the other hunter not to shoot after my first shot. At that point it was mine to miss. The guide should have waited for a more complete look at the wounds, some rudimentary forensics. But this guide was merely operating at the quality level the outfitter has set upon him. Poor instructions, no communications, no engagement of his clients, no planning, never asked any open-ended questions about our needs during the hunt, just a constant stream of old stories, which when added together hardly amounted to a steady record of success.

We spent two more days doing the same thing. The final morning I opted out of hunting with the guide, and once everyone had left, walked out to hunt on my own. I very nearly had a shot at a bull just as I turned around to walk back to camp. I believe had I gone off on my own and done the hunt my own way, that I would have been successful.

I think I have some things to put together as recommendations when choosing an outfitter. At this point, I would rather handle the planning, outfitting and execution of a hunt with my own hunting partners, and leave the outfitters out. I certainly have no interest in signing up with an outfitter who disregards the ability of his clients.<O:p</O:p

10-09-2009, 06:12 PM
Sorry for your misery. But I did enjoy the story, it was a good read, good writing!

10-09-2009, 06:21 PM
Sorry to hear about the disapointment the outfitter brought your hunt. How about some pictures though?

Just being able to spend a week in the "Bob" had to bring ya some happiness (even if you were a bit smelly by the end of the trip :) )


10-09-2009, 07:36 PM
Nice write up. At least you got out and saw something and got to shoot at it. You can read some of these reviews or post your own to make yourself feel better.


Scoutin' Wyo
10-09-2009, 09:24 PM
Thanks for the great read. Sorry the hunt wasn't what you were hoping for.

Next time!

10-09-2009, 10:45 PM
Who was the outfitter? Was it out of Augusta, MT? No Shower???? Did the guy have all his teeth?

10-10-2009, 12:35 AM
DP - I've thought many times of just such a trip....guided elk hunting trip in Montana. The money and planning and anticipation of such a trip would take up all my attention if I ever committed to such a thing and I can only imagine how much you must have been looking forward to it. To me, this is the type of horror story that pisses me off and makes me want to be extremely selective, if I ever do go down that road.

I can feel your disapointment and disgust and I would have felt exactly the same. I'm curious how you came across this outfit and if they came recommended to you or if you just saw them at a show. Lots of lazy-ass crooks that won't blink an eye in taking your hard earned money and spitt'in on your dreams of a classic trophy hunt.

Wish it wasn't so hard to find good quality, hard-working outfits that put the hunter first and follow through on their word. I'm a bit surprised about the maps and GPS thing. I used an outfitter for a drop camp in 2007 and wouldn't have gone if I didn't know what area we would be set up in so I could have my own maps with me. Guide or no guide, I won't venture out in the backcountry, especially backcoutry I've never been to before, without a map, compass and GPS.

Did you ever get pictures of their camp setup before you booked? Seems like the camp itself (i.e. lack of shower) and how it was run was a bit of a mystery to you before you arrived. Which is why I was curious about how you found these guys to begin with.

I'm sure many hard but valuable lessons were learned from your experience. Thanks for sharing.

10-10-2009, 04:40 AM
One more question did you get the outfitter elk tag?(the one that you have to hire an outfitter "guarantee"tag from FWP, or did you draw? This is a very sad story! I would be very upset!

10-10-2009, 08:08 AM
Sorry to hear about that. The rule should be the 2nd hunter does not shoot unless you have either obviously anchored your elk, and he's shooting at another one, or you have obviously wounded your elk, and you don't have a shot, so he's helping you to put it down for the count, and for this one, only upon command.

I wish you great luck the next time. It's your turn for the 6x6.

RD Martin
10-10-2009, 08:19 AM
I know a few guys that hunted the BOB openining week and know it was very hot during the day. I don't mean to flame but I do question your shot placement. "About 4" below the spine could very well hit nothing and crease the top of the lungs at best. Just behind the elbow and 4" high would me my idea of perfect shot placement. Some shoot shoulder....some neck...personal choice I guess. The argument about 2 hunters shooting the same animal has caused some awful fights. Game Wardens usually decide on who made the killing shot. It is a tough call.
I met a guy a few years back (an accountant from the N.E.) that was buying and Outfitting Business....sounds like the same guy.
Too bad your experience in the BOB turned out the way it did.

flamingo 7
10-10-2009, 08:56 AM

Sorry to hear about your hunt. I've considered an outfitted hunt for a while and keep backing away thinking of just such problems you point out. I generally hunt solo and have gotten use to my own quirks and company, maybe a drop camp someday.
There are plenty of organizations and forums to post the story of your hunt. All too many are simply places to extol the virtues of some outfit or another. Surprisingly there are few who point out the warts and that's the shame (much like reading gun reviews in the typical gun mag). You've told a pretty straight forward story, naming the outfitter would do everyone a favor. Somehow we've got to differentiate between the 1st teir guides and those who don't make the grade.

10-12-2009, 09:29 AM

How about some pictures though?

I took very few pictures, none of the elk, although I should have. I just looked at http://www.dundeesportsmansclub.com/Dundee%20Pic/elkshotplacement.pdf page 9. I'd say my shot was at about 2 o'clock on the edge of the pink circle shown in the broadside view.

After a couple of days being led from unknown here to unknown there and given a steady stream of, "oh the elk are usually here," and "we don't want to spook this one out of the area," I had a thought in the back of my mind that the bulls were being reserved for preferred customers.

I purchased a general non-resident tag, not a landowner's or outfitter's tag. I'm considering returning on my own some time in November. At least then if I got into an argument with another hunter over a shot, I wouldn't have a guide there to take sides prematurely. That was another weird thing. As I was about to drive away, the outfitter came up and began to warn me about hunting without a guide. I told him, no, he is wrong, my tag doesn't require me to use a guide. It was as though it finally dawned on him that I hadn't purchased the outfitter's tag. And all this "loving care" (or basically pains taken to prevent me from hunting on my own terms) became absurd.

In a wilderness area without a map, seems like malpractice.

10-12-2009, 10:54 AM
Outfitters and guides are only as good as the standards they are held to, either by their customers or by their state's outfitter and guide association, and I suppose the Forest Service.

You were too accomodating of their shortcomings. I'd have had an earnest side conversation with the ring leader just about the time that it became clear that they didn't provide their clients with some way to wash up, especially for the kind of money you shelled out. Given all the other gear you said these bozos brought in for their base camp, a battery/propane Zodi shower system would have been an afterthought. The capper would have been them ignoring your simple dietary requests. Not allowing clients to have maps in the Bob...totally insane.

I don't know what to say about the guide allowing the other guy to shoot after you had already taken the first shot. I'd have been royally pissed off if I'd mortally wounded the bull and was waiting for it to expire in the next few seconds (i.e., standing dead), only to have some yahoo begin liquefying big chunks of valuable meat or possibly even gut-shooting the heck out of it and make a mess of things. That was YOUR elk to continue missing/hitting since you had shot first. The guide should have held the other guy from shooting until you asked for help (weapon malfunction, out of shells, whatever). Period.

WRT your shot placement, I'd encourage you to shoot much lower. The small red horizontal line in the picture below is approximately 4" below spine, and as per the circulatory system illustrration...there ain't a lot of stuff there. You are basically only clipping off the top or one or two lungs and since it is high in the chest cavity, there will not be as much of a blood trail to follow compared to making a drain hole lower the chest cavity. I'd encourage you to place your future shots on deer and elk more in the lower/larger crosshair. Do that, and you'll really mess up those vitals and their blood pressure will drop precipitously and they will expire very, very quickly.


They don't sound like the sorts that would offer to somehow make amends for their obvious shortcomings. I would absolutely publicly mention their name when talking about your experience so that others could at least google them for some other references other than their own hand-picked referrals, and avoid a similar experience. I'd also give the Montana OAGA a call.

10-12-2009, 02:09 PM

I agree on shot placement. I was shooting down on the elk and it was quartering away just slightly.

10-12-2009, 02:26 PM
Ah, I see. It was more than likely only a matter of time then before it faltered and fell over dead.

I feel for you man. I hope your future trips prove more satisfying overall.

10-12-2009, 04:51 PM
Sad tale, DP. Sorry to hear about it. Just out of curiosity though, did you ever get the rationale behind their rule that you not bring a GPS?

Doesn't sound like it was to guard the secret of their honey-hole.