Educating Elk in the Little Belt Mountains
The Story Of One Smart Elk
By Craig Salmela
Edited by Mike Lipshultz
and Tyler Harwood

You may have seen the Article by Don Lafferty and how we introduced it by talking about looking “past” a persons “Job” description to get to know the “Real” person.  Here we give you yet another example of the “Real” person behind the business person. So, “why” should you care about what that “Real” person is like?  Well hopefully because you are always open to meeting like minded people and building friendships.  However in the Business world to many people nowadays discount or fail to see the value in  such things.  Well the reality is getting to know the person you want to do business with or are doing business with can have great value.  Because all things being equal people prefer to do business with people they know. Now I will bet after reading this Article by Mr. Craig Salmela, you will feel you know more about him then him simply being the guy that is a hog farmer for a living!  

  Besides “we” as humans need to take a break from Work, Work, Work… In fact having a life outside of work will not only make your life better, it will help recharge you and keep you energized.  So happy reading and… Don’t forget to make room for the “fun” things in your life!

Hunting Elk at Homestead Ranch…
And the Story of One Smart Elk.
By Craig Salmela

If you’re in the market for an affordable yet memorable elk hunting trip, consider the Homestead Ranch. Located at 780 20th Road Northwest, Choteau, MT 59422, phone number 406-466-5775. They offer accommodations for up to 6 hunters in a two story cabin on the Middle Fork Creek 12 miles back in the Little Belt Mountains.

R.T Snyder and his wife Katherine run the business, which was handed down from Kathrin’s Father and mother Ed and Billy Lou Arnott who started the business with the idea of offering hunting trips the working man could afford. Unfortunately Ed passed away in 2011 but .R.T. and Katherine have continued with that philosophy.

  This is truly a hunt for the working man, offered by a working family. From the accommodations to the folks who run it, this is a no nonsense hunt without sacrificing service. The entire family and crew are deeply religious and very humble. They will do everything they possibly can to make this hunt something to remember. For hunters like me who are DIY hunters and don’t have unlimited funds, they offer a fantastic hunt at an extremely affordable rate.

The hunt starts with a 3-4 hour twelve-mile ride on horseback to the cabin on trails that will likely make the average flatlander who doesn’t have a lot of riding experience a bit uncomfortable.  I can tell you after you have made that ride, you will probably have formed a bit of a bond with your horse. But most certainly by the end of the week you will have come to at least appreciate the animal that has hauled you up and down those mountains every day.

  Most likely you will be so focused on the hunt to come that you will completely miss just how magnificent the scenery is, but I can tell you, after the hunt is over, and you are on your way home,  Not wanting to let go of the experience, as you are riding out you may then realize what you may have missed on the way in—how absolutely gorgeous the scenery is. 

  During your stay there you will experience homemade meals. The meals are made every day by R.T. including breakfast and supper fit for a king prepared on an old wood stove. He also prepares sandwiches, fruit and snacks to pack for lunch.

The stories and camaraderie with R.T. and his crew are also something not soon forgotten, by the end of the week they feel like family.

Sleeping is located on the second level, 3 rooms 2 hunters per room. The beds are a bit old and bouncy but after a day in the mountains they feel pretty good.

The guide service is also top notch, and with one guide for every two hunters you’ll have a good chance of a successful hunt without the pressure of too many guns when animals present themselves.

  The guides are very attentive to the individual hunter.  If you are not in the best of physical condition they will ensure you have the best opportunity to bag an animal by using horses to get you to good locations.

If you are in above average condition and want to trek up and down the mountains that is also an option. They do a great job field dressing and preparing the animals for the trip home. The guides are also experienced capers so if you bag a trophy your taxidermist will still speak to you after you present him with your hide.

In this area of the Little Belts there is no point restriction. As such shooting a huge bull is a little difficult although not impossible.

Two years ago my brother in-law Andy shot a beautiful six point with impressive mass. He happened to shoot it within 20 yards of where I was standing on a prearranged drive one morning.

I had left my assigned spot 20 minutes too soon because I don’t carry a watch and time seems to crawl for some reason when I am sitting in one spot.  It was below freezing and the wind was blowing. Yes, in retrospect as I write this, I feel like a sissy, but at the time I honestly thought I had stayed beyond the time I was supposed to have been there. I may have been hungry, too.

Last year I took a smaller 4x5 which was my first antlered elk. The day I shot my bull was after 6-8 inches of snow had fallen the night before, so my brother in-law Andy and I wanted to still hunt as the conditions were perfect.

As such the guide dropped us off on the top of the mountain and we started down looking for tracks in the fresh snow. After some time, we came across two sets of tracks meandering through the snow.

We figured it was a cow/calf pair as they seemed to be nose to tail and the snow was too fluffy to make a size estimate.

We slowly followed the tracks for an hour or so when I saw an elk about 80 yards downhill, bedded and fast asleep, and it had antlers! A hunter with his wits about him would have taken time to scan the area for the other elk that was traveling with this one. But unfortunately I was the one that saw him first and I had my riffle.

I whispered to Andy, “There he is” and promptly pulled up and shot. The bull never got up. However the bull he was with did. His bed was within 30 yards off the one I shot.

We spent the rest of the day playing cat and mouse with him, only we were the mouse and he was the cat.

If that Elk had a gun on him we would have been the ones on the wall at least a half dozen times.

At one point, we came across a spot where he had gotten above us and when we got there we could tell he had been watching us for quite some time as his prints were facing the direction we had just come from.  And judging by the fact that they were melted down to the dirt he had been watching us longer then “we” had been watching him.

It wasn’t long after that, that we realized that due to my stupidity I had just educated this Elk.  And he was now smarter then our ability to track and hunt him.  So he won that day, and we moved on to other game.

I would bet that this educated Elk is still running around in those mountains and now quite possibly trophy material. If you are in the area and encounter an educated Elk, taking you to school don’t say I didn’t warn you!

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Editor: Tyler Harwood, Mike Lipshultz