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Northwestern Montana hunt offers good success on elk and deer

Here's a Montana elk hunt that offers good success for both rifle and bowhunters in the heavily timbered terrain in the northern part of the state.

Unlike central Idaho and other parts of Montana and Wyoming, wolves have not had much impact in this area. The outfit has maintained a good success rate for 20 years now.


Dennis Turin of Oregon, bow kill.

One reason this outfit does well is that the guides are experienced and loyal. Currently the newest guide has been with this outfit for six years. Most of the guides are bowhunters, so they take the fifth week of the six-week archery season for themselves. Last year during the course of the season the six guided 24 bowhunters and got shooting for 20 of the archers. Some got two or three close-range shots, but nerves got the best of many of the archers, and some made bad shots. Still, 11 bulls were recovered, including some dandies.


A Thanksgiving Day muley


Jeff Fleishhacker of MN


The kill rate for rifle hunters and bowhunters over the years has hovered at about 40 percent. Shooting is usually at close range because the area is heavily timbered. The outfitter said that rifle hunters who are in good physical condition and hunt all six days have about a 75 percent chance of filling their elk tag.

Bulls harvested on this hunt typically range from 300 to 320 Boone and Crockett points with the larger bulls each year in the 340s, 350s and 360s. The biggest the outfit has produced scored 402 B&C.

The hunt is based from a full five-bedroom lodge with two bathrooms, satellite, TV, a hot tub, a video library and a full-time cook. In the mornings, the guides take their clients in four-wheel-drive vehicles to their favorite hunting grounds. The outfit operates on 700,000 acres in five ranger districts in three different national forests. Driving time to hunting areas ranges from five minutes to 80 minutes. The farther areas are a bit easier for hunters who have physical limitations, and four-wheel-drives can be used to access some hunting areas. But in most areas expect to hunt almost entirely on foot, riding in a truck to the starting-off point each morning.

There are some big mule deer and whitetail deer in the area. Usually hunting for deer is difficult during archery season, so some bowhunters don't even buy a deer tag, choosing to concentrate on elk. But the rifle hunt have a good opportunity to take a big buck, especially in November as the approach gets under way. The hunts in the last two weeks of November used to be priced higher just because of the excellent opportunity to take a big deer. Whitetails range from 130 to 180 with the average bucks scoring in the 140. Usually about half of the elk rifle hunters take a deer and at least 75 percent have at least one shooting opportunity.

You don't have to draw a tag for either elk or deer to hunt with an outfitter in Montana, but you must book the hunt in time to buy the license before March 15. to the lodge.

Hunting methods vary, but bowhunters usually get shots at bulls that are lured in close by calls, while most rifle hunters still hunt or follow tracks in snow. Bow season lasts six weeks, but the outfit accommodates archers only during the first four weeks of the season, which starts in early September. Rifle season runs from Oct. 25 through Nov. 28.

This hunt usually fills up early, mostly by word of mouth and with repeat customers, so the outfit does very little advertising and does not go on the sport show circuit. Sometimes 80 percent of the openings are snatched by repeat customers. Often you must book two years in advance to get a spot.

If you fly to Spokane, the outfitter will pick you up at the airport, and you won't have to rent a car. If you drive, you'll be given directions


Tim Bienvenu of New Hampshire


"If you want to hunt with a very reputable outfitter in the northwestern Montana, where the timber is black, the mountains are rugged, and 93 percent of the land is forest service property, this is the hunt for you," the oufitter said.


Jeff Bowers of Oregon got two animals on two hunts.


Jason Snell of South Dakota.


Tim Anderson of Illinois.


The lodge has five bedrooms and two bathrooms and a hot tub.

Ernie Ott, left, guide Wade Wright, and Bart Ott with their 2008 trophies.

The hunt is headquarterd about 60 miles from British Columbia and 25 from Idaho.

Bow kill.

Hunt EK4125
Hunt/Hunter to guide ratio
Price per person
6-day elk/deer combo, 2x1
$Call
6-day elk/deer combo, 1x1
$Call
Trophy size

Over the past 18 years about 40 percent of rifle hunters and 40 percent of bowhunters have killed bulls. About 80 percent of bowhunters usually get shooting within 30 yards, but there are many misses, even under 10 yards. Physical conditioning and mental endurance are important on rifle hunts. The kill rate for hunters in good shape who hunt hard for the entire six days has been about 75%.

Most bulls taken on this hunt are six-point bulls scoring between 300 and 320 Boone and Crockett points, but some of the biggest bulls in the U.S. have come from this area. The outfitter's biggest so far scored 402. The biggest bull in most years scores in the 360s. The biggest bulls in 2008 scored in the 340s and 350s. Whitetails typically score 130 to 180 B&C points with the average in the 140s. There are some excellent mule deer.
Lodging and meals
Licenses, tags

Describe the lodging here and tell whether it is included in the price of the hunt. Describe the meals. Are they included. Do you hire a cook or eat in restaurants. Freeze-dried backpack food or ranch-style meals with Dutch oven roasts, etc.

Click here for details. Few bucks are killed during the bow season, so some archers choose to save $100 and buy elk-only licenses.

Travel
Seasons and dates

Fly to Spokane, Washington, where the outfitter will pick you up. If you drive, you'll be mailed directions to the lodge near Noxon, Montana.

Archery season is six weeks long. Open weeks this year are:
Sept. 4-10 and Sept.
25-Oct. 1.
Rifle season is Oct. 25-Nov. 28. Space is available Nov. 7-13, 14-20, and 21-26.

Area, terrain Acreage

Mostly rugged mountains covered by timber in the northwestern corner of Montana.

700,000 acres of National Forest Service land.

Not included in price

Notes

Licenses, tags, taxes, taxidermy and butcher fees.

The better your physical condition the better you'll usually do on this hunt.

Kevin Kroeger and his brother Kraig with a typical bull.

Bart Ott of Minnesota got a non-typical beauty during rifle season.

Horses are used mainly to pack game, but sometimes a guide will use horses if you're skilled on the saddle.

Amanda Courtney of California