Editor’s Note: Fifty-two-year-old Shannon Parsons and his dad, 85-year-old Mike Parsons, own property in the Crazy Mountains of Montana near the town of White Sulphur Springs. The Parsons have been hunting elk and mule deer since 1978, and they have developed a very-successful method of finding and taking elk for both rifle hunters and bowhunters in their guiding business of Crow Creek Outfitters. Shannon’s son, Mike is 23-years-old and will be the third generation of Parsons in the elk-guiding business. One of the reasons the Parsons have been so successful is because they pass down all the knowledge about elk hunting from one generation to the next.
Another big advantage that the Parsons have is they’ve hunted the same ranch (private land) for over 30 years and 100,000 acres of national forest for over 40 years. Hunting approximately 135,000 acres means they don’t put heavy hunting pressure on any area. These elk are much-less spooky than the elk on public lands that receive extreme elk-hunting pressure. Besides knowing where to find the elk, and when they’re most likely to show up, all the guides at Crow Creek Outfitters offer are very proficient in calling elk.
I haven’t taken a lot of elk with either my bow or my rifle because when you earn a living as a guide like I do, your job is to try as hard as you can to get your hunter in a position to take an elk. I can’t take an elk my hunter could have taken. I usually don’t have an opportunity to hunt until the last day or two of elk season when we have no hunters in camp.
My most-memorable hunt ever is when I hunted with my dad and my son Mike, who was only 16 at that time. He took the biggest bull we’ve ever taken. That bull scored 380 inches. The first elk my son took was a cow elk, so the following year I told him we would attempt to let him take a medium-sized bull. My dad, Mike (Shannon’s father and son both are named Mike), went scouting the day before the hunt and spotted a bull elk high in the mountains, going into the timber. So, the next morning to get to the place where my dad had seen the bull, I had to use a bulldozer to move the snow off the road. We arrived at the place where we wanted to sit and sat in the snow for about two hours. Next 35 elk came out of the timber and moved into the open meadow in front of us. Then 1/2-hour before dark, eight, big 6-point bulls came out into the meadow above us. I whispered to my son, “Mike, you might as well shoot that big one because if you don’t, someone else will.”
My son, Mike, shot my Winchester .270 short magnum. When I ranged the elk, I told my son, “He’s at 342 yards.” I was also thinking, “If I had an elk tag I’d shoot that bull myself,” but neither my dad nor I had a bull tag. My son was the only one of us who legally could harvest that bull. Before this hunt, my son had taken several deer before, and we’d taken him out before the hunt to let him shoot my rifle at different ranges. I felt confident he could make the shot.
When the rifle reported, the bull stumbled, reared-up and fell over on his back. All three of us were so excited we left our stand in an all-out run to reach the bull. I think that was the happiest three generations of Parsons ever – at one time, in one place. My son had bagged the biggest bull ever taken on the property we hunt. He even received a certificate from Boone & Crockett (https://www.boone-crockett.org/), verifying the score after the antlers had dried. And even today when we get together (my son’s 23 now), we talk about that hunt. Today, Mike (my son) guides rifle hunters during deer and elk season with us.
* Shannon Parsons on His Favorite Ways to Elk Hunt:
Here’s again the way we hunt elk. To find a bull to take early in the morning watch the way he leaves his feeding area to go to bed when the sun comes up. Then early in the afternoon, set-up a stand site close to the trail that the bull has taken when he’s walked out of the feeding area just after daylight. Expect him to come down that same trail, and go out into that same opening where he’s fed the day before, instead of chasing him from his bedding site and hoping to catch up to him and see him before he spots you when he gets to his bedding site. My dad, Mike, turned 75-years-old on July 13, 2020, and still plans to guide in the 2020 elk season. My dad just loves being a guide, and so do I.
My favorite way to hunt elk is hiking. If you ride horses close to where you expect the elk to be, you have to get the hunter off his horse and his gun out of his scabbard, and try to sneak in close enough for the hunter to get a shot. Then you have to move to get in closer to the elk, which means you may be a good distance from where you’ve left the horses. So, then you have to return to get the horses and load your hunter up. When you’re hiking, you can walk straight back to the truck when you’re done hunting. However, my dad prefers to hunt on horseback, and I guess that’s because that’s how he’s always hunted, and my son prefers to hike because he’s not much of a horseman. Nothing’s better than elk hunting and being in the great outdoors.
* Transportation for Elk Hunts:
We use four different types of transportation to get our hunters into the areas where they find elk. We hike, ride horses and use trucks and ATVs to ensure we can get our hunters as close as possible to the elk before he or she takes a shot. On our horseback hunts, we get up before daylight and ride toward the place where we’ve spotted elk herds the night before. We tie the horses up a good way back from where we’re setting-up to take the elk. We often use the horses to pack out the trophy and the meat after an elk has been harvested, especially in areas where we can’t get close enough to use a truck or an ATV to get the animal out of the woods.
When we’re hunting on forest-service land in September, we have to either use horses or pack the elk out using frame packs and foot power. Then I use my truck. I’ve got a wench on the back of my truck and a ramp. I can use the wench to pull the whole elk up the ramp and into my truck. I don’t mind carrying the elk out in a frame pack because I’ve done it many times, however, that wench and truck sure saves a lot of wear and tear on my back and leg muscles.
To learn more about elk hunting, check out John E. Phillips’ books, “PhD Elk: How to Hunt the Smartest Elk in Any State” and “Secrets for Hunting Elk,” both available at http://amzn.to/WkbAWa and http://amzn.to/WGb9le. You may have to copy and paste these clicks into your browser. (When you click on these books, notice on the left where Amazon allows you to read 10% of the books for free).
Tomorrow: Shannon Parsons’ Guide Pack and Clothing