The play by play of a successful day in the life of a Montana elk guide
I have one of the greatest jobs in the world for four months out of the year. Once guiding gets in your blood it becomes like an incurable disease. No matter what you do to get out of it, something always happens, to make you go back for more. After years of fighting it, I've decided to embrace. I'm a "lifer". I know I will never make a lot of money. I will continue to hear; “You need to get a real job”. I will never fit into what society deems acceptable. I will get to see more sunrises and sunsets in a year than most will pay attention to in a lifetime. I will see more smiles than most dentists. I will swear several times during the season that I'm quitting. One week after the season's over, I will be planning for the next, counting the days till it comes again.
For those who don't know what it's like to be a guide or want to become one, here's a day in the life… I chose one day from early in the season, while it's still fun and exciting, before I become tired and cranky!
Good friend Steve Nesbitt is the trigger man. Steve and I have hunted together for the last couple years in several different states. It's always a good time. Joining us occasionally throughout the hunt is good friend Mike Santino. Mike and I go back nine years now. He hunts and helps out at Rawhide Guide Service during the bow season.
12:01 A.M- Sound asleep. Just got to bed about a half hour ago. No dreaming, just unconscious sleep.
3:45 A.M- Up before the alarm. Wide awake. Get coffee going. Roy (boss man) meets me at the coffee pot.
4:00 A.M- Dang alarm goes off. Wasn't expecting that. Heart wasn't either. No need for caffeine now.
4:08 A.M- Heart rate back to normal. Eat a granola bar.
4:30 A.M- Hunters make their way to the table. Joking ensues. Scratch that, sarcasm and making fun of each other ensues. Good to have morning people in camp. Dave (buddy of Steve) tells about his dream involving Indians and being captured by them. The rest of that story is not appropriate to tell.
Eat breakfast type dessert, made by Faye (boss lady).
5:05 A.M- Done eating. Insert fresh pinch of Copenhagen. For those of you who don't chew, the first dip of the day acts as a laxative. Saves you numerous times from taking #2 in the woods. Dips 2-15 have all kinds of different guide powers. Frustrated dip, stay awake chew… You get the idea. Dang stuff is not only addictive but a cure all!
6:15 A.M- Leaving camp, late as usual. That Dave guy is a funny dude. Sides are hurting from laughing. Dip #2 in the lip.
6:30 A.M- Legal shooting time has arrived. Still driving. No worries though, can see more country while truck is moving rather than sitting still.
6:46 A.M- Saw doe & fawn. Tell Steve he should consider shooting her. After all, this is the third day of his hunt. He's tempted but passes.
6:55 A.M- Truck is parked by lake. Zeiss Victory SF binos in hand. Zeiss spotting scope attached to window. Glassing hillsides to the north and west. I always tell my clients that Zeiss glass is the best. Guess I was wrong because I'm not seeing any elk.
7:00 A.M- Thinking about getting into another profession.
7:05- No more A.M behind the timestamp, y’all know it's morning. I think I heard a bugle. Steve hears one too. Holy crap, there's bulls bugling like crazy to the north of us.
7:12- Zeiss binos are back to being the best. Several hundred elk are moving up the mountain to the north. Not on our property.
7:13- Maybe I should guide for the outfitter who has that ground.
7:35- Elk just ran out of the drainage on our ground. They’re running toward us! Nope, not anymore. They are headed north. They just ran three miles to join the big herd! Stupid elk.
8:00- Shoulda brought fishing rods. Trout are rising in the lake we are parked next too.
8:30- Thinking about lunch. Can still hear elk bugling on the neighbors. That pisses me off. Put in dip #3.
8:45- We caught a glimpse of a good bull in the drainage to our south. Steve and I discuss our options.
9:15- The Zeiss optics have been glued to our faces. Haven't seen that bull or any other elk. I think he's bedded. Decision time.
9:25- Headed up the mountain in the Power Stroke. I tell Steve we will slip in the timber a couple hundred yards and set up, if he doesn't respond, we will back out and wait till evening.
9:45- Park. Grab Badlands pack, Power Bugle and assortment of cow calls. Spit out chew and take a swig of water. Showtime!
10:05- Thermals have switched and the predominant wind couldn't be better. Steve's 75 yards above me when I give first cow calls. Nothing.
10:20- I've been running around like a damn fool trying to sound like a herd of elk. Still nothing.
10:30- Motion Steve down to me. We discuss our options in whisper mode. Forget waiting until tonight, we are going to push the limits right now. I don't know why I make plans, I never stick to them. My wife hates that.
11:00- We are so close to him, I'm scared to move. We haven't seen or heard him but we know. The wind is perfect. All senses are on full alert. Steve sets up, I back off about 50 yards. EEEEWWWW.
Nothing. I throw out several more cow calls. Finally a faint, one note answer. He's bedded. He's close.
I scream at him! Oh boy, that did it! He screams back! I cow call and bugle again. He cuts me off. He is right in our face. Branches are breaking. Finally we get a glimpse of him through the trees, he is running.
11:15- Steve is at full draw. The bull is within range when a second bull appears. Both are over 300”. I'm just waiting to see the arrow fly.
11:16- It's all over. The wind swirled at the worst possible moment. Both bulls busted us before Steve could get a shot.
11:19- We re-live the last couple minutes and cuss the wind. Man, was that fun! To bad the tree hugging morons in the world will never get to experience such a thing. On second thought, they don't deserve too. Where's my Cope?
11:56- Back at the truck. Load up and head in for lunch. Gonna be late. I'm never late for lunch. Ahh, there's my chew. Dip #4.
12:45 P.M- Arrive at lodge and another great meal has been prepared by Faye. The joking and sarcasm picks up right where it left off at breakfast. This is a good group of guys, hope everyone kills an elk.
1:30- Nap time. Throw a load of laundry in first. Text my wife, son and brother about the morning's events. My wife says; “That's exciting”! My brother said; “Huh”. My boy said; “You suck”. He's well on his way to becoming a guide! Minus the chewing, I hope.
1:45- Feeling groggy.
1:55- I awake to the realization that I overslept! I scramble around before I realize that it's not even 2 yet. We don't leave until 3. I'm awake now, so I start writing a piece for Guidefitter.
3:00- I dress in camo but decide to scout instead of hunting tonight. We will regroup and plan out tomorrow's hunt. I wear tennis shoes instead of my Kenetreks', those boots are work horses, they deserve a break.
3:45- Just leaving camp. Late as usual. That dang Dave shoulda' been a comedian. Mike Santino is going along this afternoon.
4:30- Arrive at our glassing spot. Nothing moving.
5:30- Still nothing up and about. Man, am I tired.
Put in dip #7 I think.
6:30- Alright, enough of sitting here, we’re gonna drive from high point to high point and glass. I want to have a solid game plan together for the morning.
7:00- It's dead out. We've seen a couple Muley does and that's it. Heading higher up the mountain.
7:15 Steve jumped out to get a gate when I glassed up a bull to the south of us, about a mile away. He's on the property line. He’ll be off of us before we can get to him. Wait till morning.
7:25- Screw that. He's by himself, maybe we can call him in right now.
7:35- Off to the races! He's just feeding along.
Please God, let this work!
7:37- Sucker jumped the fence! Oh well, maybe we can call him back.
7:50- Just spooked a bunch of cows. Bovine cows. Just great. They sure made a racket getting out of here. I'm sucking wind. Spit out chew, drink water, get setup.
7:53- Cow calls. No answer. Bugle. He answers... He's coming!
7:55- I'm not sure what's going on, but it's loud. Branches breaking, grunting, bugling and…
Steve's drawing his bow... arrows gone.
I bugle, Steve yells something explicate.
7:56.30- He's ranging, drawing his bow again. Arrows gone…
7:56.58- Arm in air, Steve whisper yells; “He's done”
7:57.13- I'm standing by Steve, looking at a very dead elk, not 80 yards away! High fives! Can't believe that just happened.
8:00- Quick prayer of thanks to the Man above.
8:04- Snap pic of bull, drop my stuff and haul butt back to truck.
8:21- Santino congratulates me as I get to my truck. He heard all of it. I'm soaked with sweat. Trying to get my truck to the bull with some light left.
8:40- It's dark upon arrival. Take pics and gut bull. Drag him 15’ to truck.
9:15- The three of us struggled to get him loaded. We can't. Out comes the knife and saw, we cut him in half.
9:45- Finally got him loaded. Heading back to camp.
9:47- Heard loud noise. Whew, only my running board cracking. Put in chew, elk blood and all. Tastes good.
10:10- Send pics to my wife, son and brother. Wife says; “Awesome, good job!” Brother said; “Looks big” The boy said, “You're amazing, almost as good as me.” He's definitely gonna be a guide.
10:30- Arrive at camp. Hustle up to eat supper.
10:35- No one realizes that I'm covered in blood and reek of elk.
10:40- Finally we tell everyone we got one killed. Good news, he's already in the truck.
11:05- Head to butcher shop.
11:45- Skinned and put on the rail, weighs 440lbs. Big bull.
12:00 A.M- Wash down the butcher shop.
12:35- Crawl into bed, blood and all. I lay there re-living the day's events and how much I like my job. Until my dying day, I will remember this day, this hunt, this animal and most importantly the people that were involved. Can't wait for tomorrow. Matter of fact, it's already here. Better get some shut eye and do it all over again!