Born to Hunt and Provide: 10 Strategies for a Successful Montana Fair Chase Big Game Hunt by Rick Wemple Outfitting.
Rick Wemple Outfitting has 50 years of experience in archery- and rifle-guided ‘fair chase’ Montana hunts for elk, deer, black bear, antelope, mountain lion, moose, wolf and Bighorn sheep in the spring and fall seasons. Here are his tips.
1. Seek the Wisdom of Outfitters:
Outfitters, the gatekeepers of Montana’s wilderness, provide invaluable insights into your target game and the expansive terrain they roam. From navigating complex license regulations to understanding wildlife habits, they serve as your vital bridge to a successful hunt.
2. Preparing for the Long Haul:
Plan ahead for the ultimate experience. Invest years in gathering bonus points for coveted draw tag areas, ensuring you’re ready to secure a chance at Trophy Elk, Mule Deer, Shiras Moose, Big Horn Sheep, and Mountain Goat.
3. Outfitter-Backed Advantage:
Leverage preference points to boost your odds of drawing general Elk and Deer tags. Remember, Black Bear and Wolf tags are often available over the counter, and Mountain Lion tags in select areas. Consider your preferred game and pursue it wisely.
4. Research Your Outfitter:
Before sealing the deal, scrutinize your chosen outfitter’s credentials, testimonials, and track record. A thorough evaluation of their website, licenses, and affiliations with the Montana Board of Outfitters is essential. Remember, your hunt is an investment.
5. Align Expectations with Reality:
Engage your outfitter in candid conversations about your skills, hunting aspirations, and your target game’s behavior. Remember, fair chase hunting hinges on your preparedness and a bit of luck. Honesty is key.
6. A Day in the Life of Guided Hunting:
Understand that preference point-sponsored licenses often entail guided hunts. Embrace the fact that you’re investing in a complete hunting experience, not just a solitary pursuit. Make sure you allocate sufficient time to account for weather and maximize your chances.
7. Master the Art of Shooting:
Safety and precision are paramount. Practice shooting with your chosen weapon and select the right ammunition for your target. Swift opportunities might arise, and your outfitter/guide’s expertise becomes your greatest asset.
8. A Range of Options:
Outfitters offer a spectrum of services, from game retrieval to caping and knowledge of processors and taxidermists. Some even provide drop camps, semi-guided hunts, and diverse accommodations. Choose the option that suits your preferences.
9. No Guarantees, Just Opportunities:
Understand that fair chase big game outfitters cannot promise a kill. Your booking is a hunting adventure, not a guaranteed trophy. Keep your expectations realistic.
10. Success is a Quality Experience:
Ultimately, your success lies in the experience you gain. Whether you fill your freezer or return empty-handed, fair chase hunting enriches your life, contributes to the economy, and supports conservation efforts. Remember, you’re a part of a broader mission.
Epilogue: Reflecting on a Lifetime of Guiding and Outfitting
As I look back on a lifetime of guiding and outfitting, I’m humbled by the countless faces and miles that have colored my journey. My parents, Jack and Shirley Wemple, making the decision to become Wildlife Outfitters in 1968 set the stage for a remarkable adventure. We traded a gas station for horses and saddles, and ventured into the Selway Bitterroot Wilderness, and later launched Wildlife Adventures Inc., in 1991.
Over the years, I’ve logged thousands of miles in the pursuit of elk, deer, and black bears on public lands, sharing these wild spaces with the general public. I’ve trained hundreds of guides and placed nearly 1,000 students in the field as capable outdoorsmen.
While I can’t claim to have been a perfect guide, I’ve always upheld honesty and integrity with potential hunting clients. Fair chase hunting doesn’t guarantee success, but it offers a profound connection to nature. It’s an opportunity to test your skills and a chance to give back to the conservation and hunting community.
Today, hunting faces new challenges, from changing weather patterns to shifting landscapes and evolving regulations. But the spirit of fair chase hunting endures, offering the thrill of unexpected opportunities and the satisfaction of a well-earned experience.
In the end, every elk deserves a day off, and every hunt is a chance to embrace the beauty of the wilderness and the camaraderie of fellow hunters. As I’ve learned, aging brings its own wisdom, and the key is to adapt, slow down, and savor the prime moments of the hunt. Whether you’re after a trophy or sustenance for your table, fair chase hunting provides fulfillment and adventure.