Montana, 2007, Guided
It was nearly 100 degrees outside as I walked through the door to my house. It was July 20 and I had just gotten home from work. Little did I realize that six months later, my husband and I would be sitting on top of two horses in -20 degree weather with near blizzard conditions while looking for majestic bull elk!
It all started that sweltering day in July when the Montana hunt draw results were available and I found out that my husband, Mark, and I had drawn coveted elk tags for the Gardiner area just outside of Yellowstone. There was only a 1.8% chance to draw, but somehow we had managed to draw as a party of two.
The main problem was the hunt took place from January 18-21 - only a four-day hunt in one of the coldest places in the United States. The other downside was the impact the wolves were having in the area and the size classes of bulls that were still available to harvest. It was also tough on my husband, because he loves to bowhunt.
We did some research from people who had drawn the tag in the past and realized the best option would be to hire an outfitter with horses to get us back to where the big boys hung out and also to be able to walk through three feet or more of snow for miles. We decided on Hell’s a Roarin’ Outfitters out of Jardine, Montana. This would be the first time we had ever hired an outfitter and were a little apprehensive about the whole thing, but our decision would prove wise at the end of the hunt.
As we drove through the gates of the lodge, we were both excited for the next day’s hunt. The weather was nasty and snow was deep - great timing for elk to move out of the park. We walked inside and were greeted by a gruff “hello” from Warren Johnson and a warm hug from his wife, Sue. They have been outfitting the area for years and Warren had grown up here outfitting for his father. I knew we had made the right decision after talking with them over a great dinner Sue had whipped up.
The night seemed short, with not much sleep due to the anticipation of the big hunt. As we stepped outside, we were greeted by blowing snow and freezing temperatures. We would be joined by a young guide named Kellen and our main guide, Warren.
After a nice breakfast and a cup of coffee, we headed out. It was dark and cold but we wanted to get out to where the elk crossed by daylight. As we climbed on the horses, a wave of emotion came over me. It had been a long anticipated hunt and now we are here and actually doing it! Both Mark and I have ridden horses a bit, but not for years, and we both felt a little stiff as we trotted up the trail.
As daylight broke we were on top of about 100 elk, mostly cows and young bulls. What an awesome sight! We made our way up on top of the ridge and Warren noticed a group of elk heading our way. He thought there was a good bull with them, so we bailed down through some brush while trying to keep up with our guide. We made our way to a little bench and could see the elk getting closer. Dismounting, we approached a small rock outcropping where I might be able to get a rest.
For a full account of Lara's adventure, go to page 44 in the June/July 2010 issue of Eastmans' Hunting Journal.