Big Game Hunting Guide My Experiences
It’s been many years now since I first set my sights on those snow caped peaks of the Rocky Mountains. It seems like it was only yesterday but the many scares and wrinkles say differently. I feel pretty lucky that she never gave up on me and allowed this attraction to grow into this lifelong relationship. I am nothing but humbled by the many opportunities, good friends, good horses and many of life’s experiences along the way.
When most of my friends were diving into sports illustrated and hot rod magazines, I was reading as many books and magazine articles as I could find on the west mountain men/trappers and big game hunting stories. I still remember my grandfather had this book of nothing but pictures and articles about Outdoor Life writer Jack O’Connor and his many hunting adventures. I was truly captivated the very first time I opened the cover. I about wore the book in two by the time I was 13 with the lingering over and over again of the pictures and getting so lost in the depth of its pages and O’Connor’s lifestyle.
I didn’t know how or when or in what capacity but I did know I needed to explore some of what O’Connor expertly wrote about. It was the spring of 1972 along with three of my high school closest friends when I made my first trip to the Rockies on a do it yourself pack trip. Brent Nelson had family out in Riggins ID. and helped to line up a trip into the Seven Devils just west of where the Salmon and the Snake Rivers join in west central Idaho.That pretty much sealed the deal for me.
By 1978 I was hired on with a logging company and moved out to White Sulphur Springs, Montana working as a timber faller. Wonderful country with some of the best hunting and fishing around. What a place to grow! Had a few mentors who helped with this process and I truly want to thank; Bob Rooney, Barb & Wes Stidham, Louie Johnston, Steve Lukinbill and Terry Tellock. I couldn’t have done it without you!
Several years later as I was strumming through the classifieds in the back of one of my Bowhunter Magazines I came across this ad. It was short but to the point.
(Big Game Guides Needed ~ Train Now ~ Jobs Waiting ~ Call Erv Malnarich ~ (406)-961-3603) I said to myself; I can do that! Why not give it a try. The logging industry was slowing down and I figured I had already used up most of my nine lives. What would I have to lose?
I did make that call and sure glad I did. After a few minutes on the phone I knew I was talking to the right man. Erv told it like it was and didn’t sugar coat it. After our conversation I was convinced I could do it, but had much to learn. The long hours and hard work didn’t scare me and I surely wasn’t immune to getting my hands dirty. Growing up on a cattle & hog farm in MN I was pretty sure horse & mule crap couldn’t hold a candle to the crap I grew up around. That was until I met Mr. Bear feces in the flesh! But that’s another story…
It wasn’t long and I sent off for the home study part of my training. The Outfitters & Guides Bible. After diving into it I soon found out it was packed full and in Erv’s own words years of advice and needed information that would carry me through and help me down the road. I went on to extensive Hands on Training down in WY and wouldn’t you know it after graduation Erv had a job waiting for me with a reputable Outfit over in Idaho; White Cloud. I learned later that owner Michael Scott also trained under Erv back in 1976.
I still remember that late afternoon as I was pulling up to the ranch house. I was thinking and hoping my expectations were as close to what I speculated? Louise greeted me as I drove up. Told me to drive around back and she would show me where to bunk. We are having hamburgers on the grill tonight. Michael, Dave and Paul won’t be back till around 8:30. Make yourself at home and if you need anything just holler. By the way if you are hungry just help yourself to the frig or anything in the cupboard. I thanked her and thought to myself this is nice!
The welcoming committee started warming up as their truck & trailer pulled down the driveway. (It was a full harmonic performance of horses, mules and hound dogs by the time they come to a stop.) I waited for the dust to clear some before I exchanged my howdy-does. Jumping in where I could we got busy unloading stock, saddles and putting everything away.
Over burgers that night I was informed as to what was expected of me and lined out as to what was on the agenda. The next morning we were off packing out some fishermen from Cabin Creek. The next day we were up scouting for Big Horn Sheep and the next thing starting on building some pasture fence up Gardiner Creek. I soon learned you will never get bored doing the same old thing. Another thing I figured out fairly soon about this lifestyle is that what you may plan at the super table may change entirely by breakfast. This was my introduction and yes it only got better! Had a whole lot of blessings throughout the years and some bumps mixed in but they only helped me to gain more focus. All in all I wouldn’t change a thing even some of the more rough goings.
Once we finished the fence building it was on to cutting firewood, clearing trails and more sheep scouting trips. Working with the stock about every day now as we got closer to September. Learning the hunting area, main drainage’s and boundaries plus setting up camps and corrals and packing in hay as archery season was right around the corner. Not to mention Bighorn sheep hunts. Sounds busy? Wait till hunting season really gets rolling. As a packer you may be required to maintain 5 different camps plus packing out game as I soon found out. Talk about living out of a horse trailer. ( This is a must! I kept a journal the first 3 years, listing what I did each day. Listed the names of all horses & mules, their markings and temperaments). This came in handy when packing and when loading. Pecking order is a big thing with these four legged pack beasts. Plus I listed all names of trail heads and camps. I kept a pad and pencil with me at all times either in my front pocket or saddle-bag. When maintaining camps you must remember the supplies you will be needing to replenish. That first year we had six hunting camps set up over about three hundred thousand acres from four different trail heads. Plus sheep hunting spike camps. Sounds exciting and complicated? It was and is!
The first archery elk hunt that year was real hot. I was camp cook and packer plus helping out Dave McKenzie with guiding. So as soon as I was done with breakfast dishes, cleanup, chores and tending our pack animals that were left in camp. I would head out on horseback with my day-pack, lunch, bino’s and bugle to meet up with Dave and his hunter. This worked out well as I was learning more of the country, cutoff trails and getting my first taste of guiding. By mid afternoon I would head back to get the evening meal started. Living on three hours of sleep a night; I wouldn’t of changed a thing.
Since then I have had the privilege taking many fishermen to some of the most outstanding high mountain lakes. Helped many of hunters harvest elk, bighorn sheep, mountain goats and mule deer. I have packed many a miles over steep mountainous trails, some good and some not so good, Had a few good horses and respectable strings. I’ve rubbed shoulders and worked right along side of some real outstanding individuals and experienced things very few have a chance to see or do.
The bottom line, whether you are guiding, packing, digging outhouse holes, spring boxes, cooking or wrangling horses in the middle of the night, it’s all good! It’s all part of the big picture in making an Outfit run and work as it should.
I tell you from my experience there’s no job too small.
*This writing is to help portray this lifestyle as I know it will and help you latch on to some of this as I have.*
You have my guarantee there’s just nothing else like it…