Outfitter Lepley Creek Outfitters, Inc
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Growing up in central Montana, Jake Halmes of Lepley Creek Outfitters, was raised with a deep appreciation for the outdoors. Jake and his brother were frequently recruited by their father, Skip, to work the cattle ranch where they cut their teeth as ranchers and outdoorsmen. Today, Jake and his wife Tara, own and operate the family hunting and fishing outfit just down the street from where he was raised in Cascade, Montana.
Lepley Creek offers half and full-day fly fishing trips, six-day elk hunts, and six-day mule deer hunts. With access to over 30,000 acres of pine ridges, open hillsides, and access to the Missouri River; there’s no doubt anyone who makes the trip will leave satisfied. Jake shares that while he himself loves to hunt; he really doesn’t care if he gets anything. “It’s rewarding to help guys who are excited about it get their animals. Their face lights up. I’m twice as happy when someone else gets one so that’s probably the most fun part for me.”
Jake and Tara met at school in Bozeman, Montana where they both attended Montana State University with athletic scholarships; Jake for rodeo and Tara for track. Shortly after graduating, Jake convinced Tara to move back up to Cascade where she began teaching and he began building out the family business.
Working on his dad’s ranch and seasonal guided hunts wasn’t quite enough of an income to live off of, so he slowly began building out the fishing portion of Lepley Creek. It’s obvious that for Jake, being able to make a living in the outdoors is a dream come true. His year consists of fishing in the summer, hunting elk and deer in the fall, and running cows in the winter.
The Halmes have two young sons, Hatcher, 2, and Kit, about a month old. Jake and Tara can’t help but share the outdoors with their children. Just a few months ago, Hatcher experienced his first fishing trip. Jake shares with a laugh that, “we had to grab him from jumping out of the boat a few times because he just likes the water so much.”
He also playfully recalls that, “[Hatcher’s] first word was ‘horse’. He don’t even like his mom and dad enough to say mom and dad, but he’s got ‘horse’ down.”
Tara grew up on the western side of the state where she learned to hunt and fish. Still, Jake and Tara have found new experiences in the Montana wild to share together. This past fall, Jake took Tara out on her first mule deer hunt - yes, you’re doing the math correctly, she was about six months pregnant, there was three feet of snow, and temperatures reached close to negative ten. There’s no doubt that Tara is, what you might call, a badass.
The balance between outfitting and fathering is a tough one. Jake acknowledges how lucky he feels to have his family join him at camp in the fall. Tara helps cook and the kids can run around. “It’s a time of year that seems really busy for everybody,” says Jake, “but you get to spend a lot of time together which is really nice.”
As Jake reflects on his own childhood, he remembers that, “[his] favorite memories of [his] dad were always outside doing something - whether it was hunting or fishing or even moving cattle or something like that. The outdoors in Montana is so special that it’d be a shame to not really enjoy it because there’s not a lot of places like this left.”
He stresses the importance of making the outdoors an enjoyable experience for kids. At the same time, you need to “keep it to where they discover that it’s cool instead of you trying to make them think it’s cool.” Similarly with their career path - the Halmes boys will be encouraged to join the family business, but if they find their passions lay elsewhere, Jake and his wife don’t plan on discouraging them.
“If you don’t enjoy [ranching], it’s a lot of heartache for not a lot of reward or financial income. I definitely wouldn’t want them to do it if they’re only doing it because they felt like they had to. Same thing with hunting - they’ve got to enjoy it,” he says. “There’s a lot of other stuff you can do here in Montana. You miss out on some of that neat, big city stuff, but at the same time I think Montana as a community is a little bit more sane.”
When asked about what characteristics he wishes to instill in his boys, Jake almost immediately spits out, “hard-working and perseverance.” He recounts his own need for these two traits when he first moved back to Cascade after college. He was a young man with a new wife, needing to make a living. He had to put an incredible amount of time and effort into building up the fishing side of the business to be successful, scalable, and consistent enough to make it worthwhile.
Jake closes with some final words of wisdom that don’t seem all too hard to live by. “Make being outside be fun for your kids. Take them camping by a creek for the night, read some stories around the campfire, cook a good meal. That makes it fun for your kids to do the stuff that you like to do. Then it’s almost impossible not to have fun.”