OUTFITTER REVIEW ON:
Part 1:THE HUNT
Hunting Montana’s Elusive Wapiti
By Kenneth Kunz
It all started with a desire to see that elusive 6-point bull elk standing right in front of me, and offering an opportunity to harvest such a beautiful animal. HuntTheNorth’s President Dan Wennerlind put me in contact with the Official HTN Montana big game outfitter – Jesse Banthem of Banthem Outfitting and told me this is your guy! After having an in-depth phone conversation with Jesse about his amazing Montana guided elk hunt package, I was all in!
After months of preparation and numerous trips to Bass Pro Shop, my partner Clark Lodge and I were finally ready for the big hunt. Our trip was set for November 8th so we decided to take an extra couple days on the way up to Livingston, Montana from Denver and meet a couple friends in Jackson Hole for some world class fly fishing. We had a great time fishing the Snake River just below Jackson Hole, WY. It was a great way to start off the trip.
We met our outfitter Jesse Banthem right on time that Sunday and he proceeded to take us up to his property just outside of Livingston, Montana. We started off by sighting in our guns at Jesse’s private range. After a couple of well-placed shots, Jesse gave us the head nod and we were headed up to the cabin for the week. On the way Jesse mentioned that they had received about 2’ of new snow recently which had made the hunting a bit more difficult the week before. That certainly did not detour our drive to give it all we had to have a successful hunt though.
On the way to the cabin we met up with one of Jesse’s guides Zach who would be hunting with my partner Clark, as well as the camp cook and we all headed up the mountain together.
We finally arrived at the cabin after a pretty treacherous hall up the snowy, slippery mountain side. We had to chain up in order to make it all the way up the steep mountain. The oversized cabin was absolutely perfect and certainly a step up from your typical hunting cabin. It was built out of big beautiful logs with chinking filled perfectly and scattered throughout the cabin. The fireplace was beautiful stone work that truly made you feel set back in time. The entire cabin was filled with beautiful trophy mounts from the area, which gave it such a mystique of what the property could potentially hold for me and my hunting partner on this trip.
After unloading our gear, we decided to take in a quick night hunt so Jesse could take us around the private property and give us the lay of the land. I went with Jesse and Clark went with Zack. Clark was able to obtain an OTC hunting license that included a combo Mule deer / elk tag. We set off in our different directions and went after it. We only had about an hour of shooting light left so I knew this would simply be a scouting trip….or so I thought.
During the last 10 minutes of shooting light, we hear the “Bang”! Jesse and I looked at each other with amazement and we quickly found Zack and Clark. Zack yelled down- “Clark just shot a nice buck, come help us get him out”. With no trouble at all we met them at the bottom of the mountain where they were already coming down with Clark’s beautiful prize. As the buck came into the light, I witnessed a beautiful, heavy 5x6. I couldn’t have been happier for Clark, as this was his first Mule deer. We had points on the board within the first hour of the hunt.
After a night of moderate celebration, we went to bed early to prepare for our hunt the next morning. We woke up early with breakfast already made to perfection, with some good ol’ Montana cooking. We were really excited to explore more of the private hunting area that Jesse’s camp was located on, as well as check out some of the block management area that was directly behind the private lease. We did some good hiking that day and saw a ton of tracks and countless Mule deer running amuck as they were just getting into rut. We glassed the hill sides and found a few nice sized herds of elk which we planned to stock for our evening hunt. After a great lunch and some well needed rest we set out for our night hunt.
On cue, Jesse and Zack took us straight up to where we witnessed the herd earlier in the day. We glassed the herd for about 30 minutes and thought we had our shooter bull in our sights. From 400 yards it was tough to tell how big the bull was, so after another stock mission that allowed us to get within 250 yards, we could see that the bull was only a 5x5 and was not what we were looking for. It was still really exciting to have a bull in the cross hairs on the 2nd day of our hunt.
The next morning we set out to another lease that Jesse had secured on some beautiful sprawling hills that ran up to some steeper mountains. This particular property just felt and looked extremely “elky”. Those steeper mountains although a little bit of a work out, were more than climbable, as we had to hike over them to find the elk. Once we got to the other side of the property, we jumped in Jesse’s side by side and took off down the trail about 3 miles to get to the base of the mountain. On our way up we saw a nice herd of about 60 elk that were running to the backside of the mountain.
We decided to take the up and over method, to flank the herd. It was tough climb, as it began to snow and it was a steep hike. Once we got to the top, we saw a lot of big bull tracks, as well as wolf tracks. This was not exactly what we wanted to see, however it was pretty cool to see how big the wolf tracks were. We began to glass to area and of course saw about 75 Mule deer and a pair of Moose mating in the distance, pretty cool to see. We never caught up with the elk herd that day but it was a great day of adventure and fun to see all of the wildlife on such a beautiful piece of land.
The next morning we were after it early with high hopes of taking down a beautiful bull. Jesse took us to the top of a saddle where we witnessed a beautiful sunrise over the mountains. He pointed out a logging road that bordered his private land. Since this was block management land Jesse had to stay behind. We set out down the logging road and did just what Jesse instructed us to do. We would stop and glass, walk, stop and glass, walk. We made it about a half a mile down the logging road when I was stopped again and looked back from where we just came. All of a sudden, two beautiful bulls appeared out of nowhere, running across the hillside above the logging road. I immediately called out to Clark “These are shooter bulls” and dropped to the ground.
The two bulls were on a mission and were continually moving across the face of this hillside. I was afraid they were not going to stop. I tried to gather myself, while throwing off my pack and reaching for my range finder. The bulls finally stopped and looked at Clark and I. I ranged them at over 400 yards. The adrenaline was purging through my body. I felt confident with the yardage as I put my 300 WinMag up on my shooting sticks. I called to Clark, “I’ll get the front bull and you get the back one”. We had about 5 seconds before they were sure to run back over the top and out of sight.
We counted down, “3, 2, 1 “, BANG, I saw the bull I shot at blow back a few feet, however he did not drop. The bulls both looked confused. They started running back and forth on the hillside in a switch back motion. This kept the bulls in our line of sight for another minute or so and I proceeded to take 2 more shots at the bull I had first shot. These were shots that I would typically not take, however I knew I had wounded the bull with my first shot and I wanted to get him on the ground. I was unsuccessful in placing the kill shot on my other attempts, so I knew I was in for a tracking session, as both bulls went up and over the saddle and down into a steep bowl.
Once they were out of sight I calmed myself down and called Jesse to have him meet up with us to track the bull. He told me to sit down and wait so we didn’t push the wounded elk deeper into the thick country. Clark and I waited for about 30 minutes before we started after the wounded elk. It was very easy to track him as his blood trail illuminated in the white snow. We tracked the blood trail for about a 1,000 yards until we saw a clump of little pines where there was a huge puddle of blood. As we looked further into the trees we saw the back of the elk and realized he was down.
Clark and I looked at each other and gave a big High Five, thinking it was all over. Right as we finished the high five, the elk jumped up and looked right at us. I threw my gun up and took a quick shot at about 30 yards and saw the elk run down the steep part of the bowl. Then we heard a big crash in the trees below and we knew it was a done deal. As we climbed down the mountain side, there he was- a beautiful 300+ 6 x 6-point bull!
HuntTheNorth Field Rep Kenny Kunz And Clark Lodge With Outfitter Jesse Banthem And A Beautiful
6 x 6 Montana Bull Elk!
Filled with joy and adrenaline, we realized that the hard work was just beginning. After a few minutes, Jesse and his crew showed up and got right
after it, quartering the elk. Within about an hour we had the elk quartered and in game bags. Because this was such a beautiful bull I wanted to get him mounted, so I was tasked to carry the head and cape up to the top of the hill. This was something that I have never done before and I didn’t realize how heavy the head and cape could be. Well, it was heavy and it was a treacherous hike out, but we managed to make it. I must add, that Jesse and his crew carried twice as much weight as I did and came flying by me and then came back to help me. These guys are incredible, and such great people.
We were all in high spirits that night and celebrated back at the cabin with some fresh elk back straps and a great dinner. We made a plan for the next day and got a much needed good night’s sleep.
The last morning of the hunt we got going early, after another great breakfast. Jesse and I were tasked to go down the hill and glass back up the hill to see if we could spot the herd and get word back to Clark and Zack. As soon as we got to the bottom of the hill, we saw the herd 100 yards off the road moving back up towards Zack and Clark. We were ecstatic and were getting ready to contact Zack when we heard a shot. We assumed that Clark took down a cow so we went back up the hill to see what Clark had shot. On our way
up Zack told us “Clark just shot a sweet bull”. We were beside ourselves and hurried back to Jesse’s barn to saddle up his horses and make our way to where Clark and Jesse were. Clark had also harvested the elusive 6 x 6 bull. Filled with smiles and adrenaline he went into the story of how he was able to get that beautiful bull. He said that the bull was sitting on a saddle as they were walking over the hill to try and get a shot at a cow. He said his first shot was deflected by a branch which made the bull jump. They were able to run over a small hill and get another shot where Clark dropped him right where he stood.
We were both thrilled to tag out and have such and incredible journey with Banthem Outfitting. This was by far the best hunting experience that I have ever had. Jesse and his crew were incredible with every aspect of making this an incredible hunting experience. We certainly have made some new lifelong friends with these amazing guys and can’t wait to come back next year for my fist bow hunt during the rut.
If anyone is looking for a once in a lifetime experience, call Jesse Banthem and get your trip booked immediately. With his incredible hunting experience and amazing properties, you are sure to have an amazing similar experience. Until next year Jesse, we thank you and can’t wait to see you and your crew again in the fall!
Part 2: THE REVIEW
|OUTFITTER KNOWLEDGE / PERSONALITY: ||Score||5 / 5 |
Jesse is one of the most easy going and fun outfitters I have hunted with. He is one of those guys that everybody gets along with, which really added to the overall experience of the hunt. In additional Jesse is also a VERY experienced outfitter and due to the fact that he does all of his own scouting, he knew exactly where the animals were and put us on elk pretty much every day. And once the animal was down, he took care of everything for us, to make sure we got the meat to the processer and capped the animals out for us to bring to the taxidermist. Overall he did a wonderful job 5 / 5!
|QUALITY OF |
|Score||5 / 5|
The equipment we used on this trip pretty much consisted of Jesse’s 2 pack horses and his side by side 4 x4 for getting up and down the mountain. Both of Jesse’s horses worked great and did their job without a hiccup. It was also nice to be able to hop in the side by side to make the trek to and from the hunting grounds much easier. Another aspect of the hunt that really made a difference was the ability to sight in our rifles on the way up to the lodge at Jesse's private range, just to make sure we were dead on before the hunt started! 5 / 5!
|Score||5 / 5|
This was really the highlight of the hunt. We probably saw 400 – 500 Mule deer during the hunt, as well as several hundred elk. But more importantly we had multiple opportunities at harvesting a bull during the trip and were able to hold off for the trophy. Obviously the proof is in the results and we both harvested 6 x 6 trophy bull elk and Clark got his big 5 x 6 Mule deer for the wall as well. Definitely a 5/ 5 score!
|QUALITY OF MEALS |
|Score||4 / 5|
I would describe Jesse’s lodging to be a high end hunting cabin. The frame work was beautiful with the hand cut logs and masonry. The cabin itself offered 3 bedrooms and could easily sleep 6 hunters comfortably. It was also a huge bonus to have hot running water after a long day in the field and a full time chef to make sure we had 3 hot delicious meals ready each day after a long hunt. Our dinners consisted mostly of either elk steaks or venison stew. Jesse definitely runs a true hunting camp 4/ 5!
HUNT PACKAGES AND
|Score||4 / 5|
Jesse offers two specific Montana big game hunt packages. One for archery elk and one for rifle elk hunts. Both of his packages are 5 day, all inclusive rifle fully guided elk hunts. They are both a one on one hunts with an experienced guide. The price for either hunt is $4,500 per hunter. For an additional $1,000 you can also add on a Mule deer combo package to the rifle elk hunt. For a chance at a true trophy bull elk or Mule deer on private land, we felt Jesse’s prices were right in line with the going rates. 4 / 5!
|OVERALL QUALITY |
OF THE TRIP:
|Score||5 / 5 |
Overall this trip by far exceeded both of our expectations. Having the opportunity to harvest a 6 point bull has been a dream of mine for many years and to finally get that opportunity was truly amazing. Everything about this hunt was first class- 5 /5 for sure!
Overall Banthem Outfitting Scored A 28 Out Of 30 Giving Them An "A" Rating. We Would Not Hesitate At All To Refer Jesse For His Spectacular Montana Elk and Mule Deer Hunts.
|28 / 30|
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