Big Bulls in Steep Country: A Look at Our Montana Elk Hunts

Our Montana elk hunts take place in steep and rugged wilderness country. It’s a place where big bull elk congregate. Even after the rut and after all the cows have migrated to lower country, these places are a haven for bulls. The hunting isn’t easy and great horses are a critical part of our strategy. But the effort is certainly worth the rewards!

We recently had a chance to speak with one of our clients from the 2016 season about his Montana elk hunt. Jim Huber hunted with us during the general rifle season, at one of our wilderness camps.

“I first heard about Lazy J Bar O Outfitters when I saw one of Mike’s Bob Marshall Wilderness elk hunts being auctioned at the SCI Convention,” Jim told us. “I went to speak with Mike about it, and he told me about the option to hunt an area in southwest Montana. He encouraged me to consider it due to the number of elk and the quality of bulls.”

Jim decided to book the hunt with his Cousin, Barry. And Mike’s recommendation to consider the area in southwest Montana area turned out to be a good one. Jim told us later that he counted 36 bull elk on his hunt. In fairness, some of those were probably double counted. But there was certainly no shortage of bulls!

“On the first day we rode horseback into the wilderness camp, which was already set up when we arrived,” Jim said. “Our guides were great. They worked very hard and really knew what they were doing. The food on the trip was outstanding. That first day arriving at camp, we organized our gear and prepared to hunt the next day.”

“The first morning up the trail on horses was slow because the guides had to clear so much deadfall from an old burn,” Jim continued.” But once we reached a high glassing point, we immediately began to spot elk. We saw six bulls that first day, including one that looked very unique. His fourth, fifth and sixth points formed a crown on top, almost like a red stag. He was a neat bull and one we wanted to keep an eye on.”

On the second day of the hunt, Jim and his guide spotted the same group of bulls and decided to get a closer look. They climbed through some incredibly steep country, which Jim recounts as one of his most challenging hunts. At 68 years old, Jim is in very good shape. He and his guide gained a point where they could see the bulls bedded down below. They were out of range at over 800 yards and there was no cover to make a stalk. But they made a plan to move in on these bulls the next morning.

“On the third day, we rode up to a point near where we had seen the bulls the two previous days,” Jim said. “From there, we had to make a very steep climb. It was so steep that I could sometimes reach out and touch the mountainside in front of me in a standing position. It took me about two hours of climbing, but my guide finally spotted the bulls right where they had been the past two days and we were in a perfect position.”

The bull with the unique antler configuration was there. But when Jim got in position, he had trouble locating the bull through the tangle of limbs and downfall from the old burn. When he did spot it, he could only see the top of the bull’s back and there wasn’t a great shot. They decided to stay put and wait for the bull to stand. He was bedded down at about 290 yards, and 250 yards with angle compensation.

“We waited there for probably more than an hour,” Jim recalled. “Finally, the bull stood up and fortunately he didn’t go anywhere. I had a small, pie plate-sized shooting window right on the vitals and I told my guide that I could make the shot. I fired and the bull dropped. My guide said, ‘Dang!’” Jim laughed.

With the bull quartered and the meat protected as best they could from birds and other scavengers, the crew headed down the mountain back to camp that night. Jim recalls being totally exhausted. The next morning, the guides took a pack string up the mountain to retrieve the bull while Jim rested at camp.

“I was very impressed how quickly they got the meat to the processor and prepared for my trip home,” Jim commented. “We spent the last few days hunting for mule deer. We didn’t have any luck killing a buck. But when it was time to go, my meat was cut, wrapped and frozen.”

Unfortunately, Jim’s cousin, Barry, hurt his leg the same day that Jim killed his bull, which hampered the rest of his hunt. He didn’t get the chance to kill a bull but we are glad that Jim and Barry both had a great experience.

“It was a challenging adventure and a great hunt,” Jim told us. “My horse was one of the best if not the best horse I’ve ever had the pleasure of riding. And the guides were great. I would certainly recommend it as an outstanding elk hunt.”

We’d like to thank Jim for taking the time to chat with us about his hunt and share the experience. It was a pleasure hunting with Jim and Barry last season!

For more availability and other details on our Montana elk hunts, please give us a call at 406-932-5687 or send us a message. For general information and pricing on our hunts, check out our Hunting Page