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Montana in Black and White
Author: Jeff Simpson
Groups: Athletes
Categories: Hunts | OPTIFADE | Sitka Athlete
Athletes: Jeff Simpson
Nov 2, 2011

2011 Montana elk... what can I say? The journey was as long as it possibly could have been, the elk were as quiet as I've ever witnessed, but the experience remained a great one. It’s been three weeks since my elk adventure wrapped up and, looking back, it dawned on me.

This was my second trip to Montana in the past three years and, comparing the trips, I couldn’t have had more opposite experiences. Back in 2009, I was fortunate enough to draw a Missouri River Breaks tag. It was a hunt on a private chunk of ground that was nice, rolling hills. The openness of that country made the elk visible and huntable. I had a huge hunting party following me around the woods; my wife, my friends Vaughn Esper and Chad Johnson and a cameraman. We were staying in the basement of Dan and Lori's house (BD Ranch) where we could shower daily, charge batteries and sleep in beds and on top of all that, there were elk absolutely EVERYWHERE.

This season, we spent 90% of our time in general draw units in the Montana backcountry.  There were no beds, just one-person tents.  It was just either Kyle or William running camera, depending on the juncture of the season, and I.  There were no outlets to charge batteries; we relied on our solar power solutions from Brunton to keep us going.  Moving camp meant 70+ pound packs to wherever our next home was going to be.  We ate far from camp to keep the bears away, water was provided from natural springs, the terrain for the most part was brutally steep with blowdown and there were not many elk talking at all. It was what most would call a rough backcountry hunt, but for me, it was just what the doctor ordered.

The 2009 trip was the worst hunt I've ever had. Unfortunately, we had one person in the hunting party that ruined the experience for all of us.  Sure we harvested a great bull, but the end result leaves me to cringe when thinking of that trip.  This season, we didn't harvest a bull. Heck, we didn't even see a bull we truly wanted to pursue, but we covered a ton of beautiful ground, had highs and lows and did it with a smile on our face.  Don't get caught up in judging your hunt by the number of animals seen and certainly not by the harvest alone.  Enjoy your time, build memories, take pictures and put the work in to get deep in the woods and experience natural environments that such a small percentage of as humans get to truly see.

Enjoy some pics from the trip and enjoy your season, no matter how it unfolds!

Cheers  -  J. Simpson


For more blog entries, pictures and video from Jeff, you can follow his company blog at

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I was also hunting elk in Montana last year with two friends, we pulled up to the area we had been hunting for the past couple of days and you and your cameraman were parked there getting your gear ready to go hunt.At the time I didnt know who you were but you guys talked to us for nearly an hour, you even gave us gps coordinates for a area you had just come from.Reading your comments about your hunt and the time you took to talk to us shows what a true professional you are.Hooked for life now on your work. Thanks, Robert from New Mexico

Posted by Robert on Jul 20, 2012 11:34 AM
Great Pics Jeff! But I tip my hat to your AMAZING ATTITUDE! For many of us you have touched on the genesis of what brings us joy through grins and grimace while the hunt is afoot.
Posted by Jesse F. on Nov 4, 2011 7:01 PM
IMO if you come home from ANY hunt w/o taking in all the different aspects involved you missed out. OBVIOUSLY we all want to shoot the biggest animal we can find and theres nothing wrong with passing some while looking for bigger BUT if you do you better be prepared to deal with the "should have" feelings. If you're prepared to come home with a tag in your pocket BEFORE you go the trip will almost always be a success.
Posted by Dale Pearson on Nov 2, 2011 2:43 PM
Amen; you can't say it any plainer. Nice work and awesome pics.
Posted by Luke Johnson on Nov 2, 2011 1:30 PM
Great tips Jeff! Nothing better than having a great experience with friends and others that enjoy the total "experience" without ruining it for others. Awesome photos! Thanks for the journey.
Posted by Chad Bell on Nov 2, 2011 1:16 PM
Great pictures Jeff! Never judge a hunt by the outcome or how many animals you see (although seeing some is definately a plus). Ive had some great hunts where I did not get anything yet I consider them some of the best ones Ive been on.
Posted by Chris Lord on Nov 2, 2011 12:48 PM

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