OUTFIITER REVIEW ON BANTHEM OUTFITTING
OUTFITTER REVIEW SCORE: A+
In the month of October we had an opportunity to hunt Whitetail deer and Mule deer with Jesse Banthem of Banthem Outfitting in Livingston, Montana. This hunt gave us the opportunity to see first hand the outfitter knowledge, equipment, and caliber of hunting Jesse Banthem has to offer, in addition to his World Class caliber Montana guided elk hunts that we have previously had a chance to experience and warranted naming Banthem Outfitting the 2019 HuntTheNorth.com Outfitter Of The Year! Upon completing our hunt with Jesse, we would rate banthem Outfitting an A+ for his World, class caliber whiteail deer and Mule deer hunts. Read the article below to see what made this hunt so special!
Montana Muleys and Whitetails
By Dan Wennerlind
Sitting in a frozen cornfield in November watching big drake mallards drop into the decoys is one of my favorite pastimes. As I keyed in on one big drake overlooking the Yellowstone River in Montana, with his wings set, I heard outfitter Jesse Banthem of Banthem Outfitting yell “Take Em!” and two big drakes fell to the ground. Just as I sat up to let my Chessy make the retrieve, a big 10 point whitetail buck came running through the decoys chasing a doe. I thought OMG that doesn’t happen everyday. Jesse just laughed and said that was pretty common out here this time of year. And so it was, over the course of the next two days I saw over 20 nice whitetail bucks come out of the Yellowstone River bottoms and up into the grain fields we were hunting, all day long. Seeing how excited I was Jesse said you really need to come back next fall and hunt whitetails with me, we have tons!
That was an offer I couldn’t pass up, as I knew if Jesse’s deer hunts were anything like his archery elk hunts, like the one I was on three years ago where I shot my first 6 point bull with a bow, this was going to be another incredible experience!
It didn’t take much coaxing to talk my good friend Jim Pierce into joining me on our next adventure to Montana the following year. However, traveling from the Minneapolis area, instead of driving 14 hours one way like I did the last time, Jim and I chose to fly into Bozeman, Montana and rent a car for the short 25 minute drive to the lodge. As quickly as we were up in the air that October morning, it seemed like we were landing. Way easier! The only downside to convenience is Jesse’s protocol that if you fly you MUST pay for a processing and shipping of your animal back home once you are successful to avoid any major last minute travel complications. A big bull elk could cost up to $1,000 for the processing and shipping fee but I tell you what, when you consider the price of gas these days, the juice is definitely worth the squeeze.
Jim and I arrived in Livingston the afternoon before the hunt so we could get acclimated to the area and check out the land we would be hunting. From being there the year before I knew exactly where to go at sunset, to do a little pre-hunt scouting on our own. Back to the grain field we duck hunted the year before, overlooking the Yellowstone river we went. And sure enough upon arrival there were over 50 deer grazing in the field with 5 shooter size 8 and 10 point bucks mixed in! Boy did that get the old heart pumping. What a great to start the trip!
The next day we met up with Jesse and got settled into the log cabin lodge he has in the mountains, minutes outside of Livingston, Montana. After getting unpacked we made sure our bows were sighted in properly before the big hunt. About an hour before sunset Jesse took us for a ride to do some last minute scouting. Jesse toured us on 7 different locations that we could choose from to hunt over the upcoming week. And of course each one had a full herd of Whitetail or Mule deer grazing on it. As we glassed each location looking for the biggest bucks on each property, we started to get an idea of what would be considered a “shooter size” animal for the trip.
On the way back to the lodge Jesse pulled over to the side of a mountain road and we glassed the area where he conducts his private property archery elk hunts. We saw over 20 elk running up and down the side of the mountain, including five big 6 point bulls.
Jesse went on to tell us that this past archery season, his hunters went 11 for 12 on having an opportunity at harvesting a monster 6 point bull with a bow. Now that is impressive!
Jesse went on to tell us that although his archery elk hunts book up at least a year in advance, the new package he is putting together for the meat hunter, is a whitetail deer / cow elk hunt during the rut of the deer season in Oct/ Nov which also coincides with the Montana’s rifle elk season. This not only allows a hunter to harvest a nice big Whitetail or Mule deer buck, but also to go home with some fresh elk meat as well. And if a big bull shows up well that’s just icing on the cake for a little upcharge to the package price.
The first day in the deer stand was about as perfect as we could ask for. The temps were not too cold so we could sit for hours on end comfortably and the deer were moving around freely, with very little hunting pressure in the area. Throughout the afternoon Jim and I compared notes via texting as we were set up about a mile apart on two separate private land ranch properties. I was set up at the top of a small cooley overlooking the Yellowstone river from which the big bucks bedded down all day and would come up to the field in the late afternoon. By the end of the evening hunt, I had 4 different bucks walk right up from under my above ground blind, none of which I was willing to drop an arrow into the first night though. Jim on the other hand had a very nice 8 point buck walk right under his stand, which was set up in a little gully that ran down the side of a foothill into a 40 acre alfalfa field. It was all he could do to hold off and not end the hunt the first afternoon in the stand.
Throughout the next couple days’ we both had numerous opportunities at smaller 8 point bucks, but having some older, more mature 8 and 10 point bucks grazing just out of bow range kept the carrot dangling. The second to last day Jim couldn’t take it anymore and he finally let one rip and the arrow hit home on a nice 8 point buck! Seconds after he connected I got the text “Buck Down!” I could tell he was ecstatic. I was actually impressed, as he stayed in his ground blind after the kill until dark as to not disrupt the rest of the herd of over 40 whitetails still grazing in the field in front of him. He kept a real close eye on the downed deer that didn’t make it much more than 50 yards before it keeled over. Not long after the kill, a big 10 pointer entered his field that was a real bruiser. Jim snapped a couple pics for me and was very persuasive that I sit in his stand the next morning and do my best to hold out for that one.
However, I too had a 10 point buck that Jesse had on trail cam that I was after. The only problem was that afternoon as I was walking in, I jumped the big dog lying in the tall grass about 150 yards from my above ground blind. What were the odds of that! My heart sank as I watched the big boy bound off into the horizon. None the less I still had an eventful evening as I watched another 20 or 30 deer make their way up from the river bottom and into the field above me. But nothing came close to the buck I had just watched bound away before me.
Coming up on last day I still had not connected with the deer I was looking for. That night at dinner Jesse told me to sit in the stand that Jim had been successful in the previous day the next morning and if I was not successful, he had his eye on a super nice Mule deer buck he had been patterning for about a week, that had been hitting one of his grain fields a couple miles up the road.
I did just that and the morning’s hunt was eventful to say the least. Jesse dropped me off in the dark with his pickup as so not to disturb the deer. It was amazing to me that even the ones already grazing in the field when we showed up didn’t seem to mind his pickup driving by, but if I had attempted to walk out to the blind they would have been gone for the entire day. By 9am I had over 75 deer in the field in front of me eating and sleeping. It was incredible!!! And on top of that I had four shooter sized bucks in front of me. Three real nice ten pointers and one great big 8 pointer. It was all I could do to keep from giving my location away in the ground blind as my head was continually on a swivel all morning long. Now for the lesson learned. Being from Minnesota I quickly found that my bow was not set up for western style hunting. I was used to using a single pin adjustable site. And when the big 8 pointer finally gave me the shot I was looking for I had my pin set for 35 yards. By the time I drew back he was close to 47 yards away. You can image what happened next…. A big swing and a miss. I shot just under the big fella and my heart sank. The entire herd jumped to their feet and made their way a looong ways away from my blind. I thought to myself GAME OVER!
Outfitter Jesse Banthem with Banthem Outfitting with Hunt The North’s Dan Wennerlind
Jim came and picked me up and I notified Jesse what had happened. I could tell he was also disappointed for me as well, since this was our last day. But he gave me some very sound advice to lift my spirits. He said we still have that Muley buck in our back pocket that we can go after tonight. Run into town to the Yellowstone Archery Shop and get yourself a 5 pin fixed sight and go back to the lodge and get that thing dialed in and I’ll pick you up at 5:30pm.
I learned years ago ALWAYS to listen to the outfitter and I did just that. Jim and I spent the next 2 hours getting my bow set up for one last hurrah. As Jesse and I headed out that evening, he shared with my how much more different hunting Montana is compared to back home in the Midwest where you typically have set shooting lanes and distance markers FROM A preset stand. Out here a deer or elk can change from 50 yards to 15 in a matter of a few seconds.
I felt confident with my new set up going into the last hunt. Jesse and I posted up in a dried up drainage ditch in between the upper foothills where the Muleys like to bed during the day and the green fields below. Jesse and I glassed the hills above and spotted the big dog- a beautiful 6 point buck sitting with a couple does way above us. Jesse told me even though he is only a 6 pointer, this one is a trophy! I was starting to get excited. And just as if Jesse had rung the dinner bell the big boy and his gals started to make their way down the hill. Now the only question was, would they cross our ditch within 30 – 40 yards on either side of where we were set up. I said a little prayer to the Lord above that I would get my redemption shot.
At this point Jesse was set up on the other side of the creek bottom from me so he could have a better vantage point as they made their way down the hillside. I was tucked into a small bush so my profile wouldn’t stand out when they crossed. It seemed like an eternity as Jesse would update me from time to time. Finally, he said here they come and wouldn’t you know it, they were going to cross exactly where we had hoped they would. Jesse said he is the second one in, let the first one go…. And just like that I had a monster Mule deer buck standing 30 yards away! My heart was pumping as I drew my bow back. I took aim and letter rip. It felt like slow motion in my mind as I heard the twang of the bow string go and then just like that, I heard the “Thunk” of my arrow hitting home on the mighty beast!
The buck turned and ran back the way he came, then he stopped… and fell over. But wait, he got back up. And then down he went again. He tried to get up one more time before he lay down for what would be his final rest. What a thrill!!!
I couldn’t thank Jesse enough as we high fived! He came through for me when the game was on the line and I made the most of a memorable and learning experience that I won’t soon forget. I’ve come to learn that it doesn’t matter how old you are, or how much you know about the sport of hunting. You can never learn enough or be too proud to try something new.
As we dropped my trophy buck off at Jesse’s favorite taxidermist the next morning, I felt even more grateful for all the hard work he had put in the entire week to make sure Jim and I were both successful on our hunt. Every aspect of the trip was well put together from the meals and lodging to the stands and blinds. Jesse is one of the most knowledgeable outfitters I have ever met and his wife Sam is a fantastic cook! Not only are the quality of the blinds exceptional but the location of each set up was perfect. And to be out in the mountains of Montana, the scenery was truly amazing! The only thing I could think of to make this hunt just a tad bit better would be to go home with some fresh elk meat. Just one more reason to come back again and spend time with my good friend Jesse Banthem and his wife lovely Sam! Until then…..
Contact Information For: Banthem Outfitting
Outfitter: Jesse Banthem