Editor’s Note: At first glance, you don’t expect an attractive, 5’2” lady to be an elk outfitter and guide who not only can find, call in a bull elk, field dress the animal, pack out the meat and take care of the horses, the humans and the animals in the high mountains of southwest Colorado. But Mia Anstine of Pagosa Springs, Colorado, also is a writer, photographer, mother and wife. According to Mia, “I’ve hunted elk as far back as I could remember. I’d tag along with my dad when he hunted elk. I’ve been hunting elk as an adult for the last 22 years. I started my guiding career about 12-years ago and guide mainly for Wolf Creek Outfitters (https://www.gohunt.com/outfitter/wolf-creek-outfitters-inc), a few non-profit organizations and some landowners in my area. I’m also a licensed outfitter. Wolf Creek Outfitters hunts in southwest Colorado, all on private property.”
I started guiding for my husband Hank when some guides didn’t show up for work, and he asked if I’d guide with him. I was hesitant. Before I met Hank, I mostly guided by myself. I’d guided my uncle on an elk hunt, located a bull elk for him, coached him through the shot, blood trailed the elk and found his elk for him. Ever since I was a little kid, I had helped skin out elk for friends and family, packed out the meat and wrangled the horses. Back then, I didn’t need the label of guide, because all kids where I lived helped friends and family find elk, and packed out the trophy and the meat for them.
Hank told me, “You have hunted enough, and I know what you do on a hunt. Just do what you do, and everything will come out alright.” Hank had drawn a once-in-a-lifetime moose tag one year, and I’d gone with him on that hunt. So, he knew I was strong enough and understood the animals well enough to guide.
At first, most of the people I started guiding for, knew me, and they were excited to have me as their guide. Through the years, I’ve called in somewhere between 25-50 elk for myself, family, friends and the hunters I’ve guided. My first hunt to guide for Hank was a third-season elk rifle hunt – a time when we didn’t call very much, because the rut was over. The bulls were reluctant to come to a call. We did use an elk bugle call to try and locate a bull, but we didn’t call in any bulls.
The most-difficult problem that an elk guide has, whether they’re male or female, is getting the hunter to the spot where he’ll have a chance to take the shot. All the time I’m asked, “What’s the most-difficult problem with which a lady elk guide has to deal?” When I hear that question, I think the person who’s asking is thinking, “You’ve probably been discriminated against since you’re a lady guide.” I’ve had hunters not want to hunt with me because I’m a lady guide, but that doesn’t hurt my feelings.
I believe too some of the men don’t want to let me guide for them because they may be married and believe their wives won’t be happy with them being in the woods with a lady guide for several days. I understand that. I had one lady, who didn’t want me to guide for her. She told Hank, “I’d rather have a man guide me.” Maybe she thought that because I was only 5’2’ tall I might not be physically able to get to where we needed to be to shoot the elk, to field dress an elk and to pack the animal out. I wear my camouflage when I’m hunting. I don’t wear logger shorts, and I perceive myself to be a very-feminine woman. However, I have had both men and women not want to hunt with me because I’m a woman.
The first lady I planned to hunt with said, “No, I’d rather have a male guide.” So, Hank gave her another guide, and I went with them to wrangle the horses and be there if she shot an elk, help break the elk down and pack up the meat and the trophy. The opening morning hunt didn’t go as planned, the weather was really cold, and we didn’t see any elk. The afternoon hunt was a repeat of the morning hunt. When we sat down to eat a snack on the side of the hill, I started glassing for elk. Eventually, I looked over at the lady hunter and realized that we both had Swarovski binoculars (https://www.swarovskioptik.com/us/en/hunting). Most new elk hunters don’t have quality binoculars like these finer ones. So, I asked her about her hunting experiences, and what animals she’d taken. I learned years ago that the best way to learn about the people you’re with is to encourage them to talk about themselves. I kept asking questions – I was interested in her. We seemed to form a bond. The next morning, after breakfast, this lady said, “I want Mia to take me out today.”
I love to be out in the woods and hunting in the mountains. I don’t care that much about whether I’m the guide or the wrangler who takes care of the horses and the elk when he’s down. I don’t enjoy being the camp cook though, and usually when male hunters show-up at camp, look at me and ask, “Are you the camp cook?” I quickly answer, “No. I’m one of the guides.”
On this lady’s hunt, I called in the elk she shot – the first elk bull this lady ever had taken, and she had hunted all over Africa and taken a large variety of animals. When her elk was down, we field dressed the bull, brought in our horses, put the meat in game bags and loaded them on the horses. The lady was very happy to have had a successful hunt.
I often overhear conversations where one hunter will ask the hunter I’ve guided, “What kind of hunter is she?” My hunter generally will reply, “She can do it all.” I enjoy guiding and teaching people to appreciate the outdoors, and all the animals we see while guiding. Some hunters just want to shoot an elk. After they pose for a picture, they may then say, “That bull’s not very big.” That’s hard for me to hear and understand because I know there are other hunters who will have loved the opportunity to hunt and harvest any elk.
My favorite type of hunter is the one who asks a lot questions. He or she wants to learn all they can about elk and how to hunt elk. I also enjoy a hunter who’s done a lot of elk hunting and still appreciates the opportunity to see elk and have the opportunity to harvest one. I also teach hunter education before elk season arrives. In general, most of our hunters come elk hunting with us to learn all they can about the elk and about how we hunt elk. I just enjoy teaching, guiding and being in the mountains with my clients and elk during elk season, whether my clients are bowhunting or gun hunting for elk.
To learn more about hunting elk successfully, check out John E. Phillips’ book, “Elk: Keys to 25 Hunters’ Success,” available in Kindle, print and Audible versions at https://amzn.to/2IDszQk. You may have to copy and paste this click into your browser. (When you click on this book, notice on the left where Amazon allows you to read 10% of the book for free and hear 10% of the book for free).
John E. Phillips has published several more books this fall and winter of 2020 you’ll enjoy.
1) “How to Bass Fish Like a Pro, Volume II” – available in Kindle and print at https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08LBD7M4G/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_hsch_vapi_taft_p5_i2
In “How to Bass Fish Like a Pro, Volume II,” you’ll learn tips and tactics from 21+ Bassmaster Classic winners, two Major League Fishing champions and 20+ Bassmaster Anglers of the Year about some of the dramatic changes in bass fishing.
2) “PhD Gobblers: How to Hunt the Smartest Turkeys in the World, Revised Edition” – available in Kindle, Print and Audible at https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B083V83RLG/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_hsch_vapi_taft_p4_i8
Turkeys that have earned their PhDs in the turkey-hunting wars know more about hunter-dodging than most hunters know about turkey hunting. These turkeys have built such a huge database on humans they’ve earned their PhDs.
3) “PhD Whitetails” – available in Kindle and Print and soon to be in Audible at https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1979793387/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_hsch_vapi_taft_p7_i3
To become a “PhD Whitetail,” a whitetail deer has to have gone to school on hunters. He knows when to move, where to move, and how to move to avoid detection. The professional hunters in this book have spent their lifetimes finding these bucks with doctorates.
4) “The Bowfishing Bible” – available in Kindle, Print and Audible at
This book doesn’t promise salvation or a ticket to heaven, but it does give you much of the information you need to be a happy, successful, productive and winning bowfisherman.
5) “The Briar Patch Philosopher” – available in Kindle, Print and Audible at https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00MX0ZODI/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_hsch_vapi_taft_p5_i4
Some of the reviews for this book include statements like, “I find myself looking through these wonderful thoughts about life, courage, love, children and God. This collection of sayings are very useful in helping me control my emotions. Some of my favorites include:
“Feelings change, Truth remains.”
“Embrace fear, because it’s an excellent motivator.”
“Life is a race. The beginning, we can’t control, and the end can’t be determined. But how well we run in the middle is all that counts. ”
Tomorrow: What Mia Anstine Has Learned about How to Hunt Elk