My wife gave me a hunting trip as a retirement gift. After a brief internet search, I'd narrowed my choices down to Swan Mountain Outfitters (SMO) and another local guide. Because I had a fairly narrow window of opportunity to do the hunt this year, I called as their published dates didn't match my availability. Ashley was very polite and prompt and we had settled on alternate dates that matched my widow of availability within two phone calls in about 15 minutes. Ashley was also very helpful in providing pre-hunt information and answering questions.
Upon arrival into Kalispell, Pat (owner) met me at the airport and I enjoyed the conversation during the hour-or-so long drive to the lodge. That evening, I met my guide, Shawn, who joined us for a family style dinner (Pat's wife, JoAnn (sp?), is wonderful in the kitchen by the way). Over dinner, Pat and Shawn asked and answered questions - all in an attempt to tailor the five days to me.
The next morning, Shawn and I set out and he put us into "bear country" (lots of bear sign, etc) right away....it was obvious he had put time in scouting before my arrival. Within an hour and a half, we saw our first bear....unfortunately the bear saw us (my fault, not Shawn's) before I could set up. Some 16+ miles of Montana mountain later that day, Shawn put us atop a ridge overlooking a bowl where several elk were grazing. While I was enamored with elk-watching, Shawn picked up the movement of another bear - a BEAUTIFUL cinnamon color phase bear. Fortunately, I didn't mess up this second opportunity, and in about a year, I'll have a beautiful rug for my Man Cave.
What truly impressed me was what Pat and Shawn did after helping me to fill my tag on that first day. With four days left, Pat and Shawn offered to take me fishing, or turkey hunting (the only other wild game open during this particular time of year) - even going so far as to lend me a shotgun. You seldom see that level of "tailoring". Two days later, my shoulder hurt from throwing a fly line in beautiful mountain lakes and my turkey tag was also notched.
Overall, I would highly recommend SMO. Excellent/responsive before, during, and after the hunt; wonderful and pleasant people; fair prices; great guide service, food, and accommodations. A hunt I'll fondly remember for a lifetime!!!
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