A Guide School Student's Journal

hunting guide camp

DAY 1 -  Monday

Well, here goes. About mid-morning I drove to the big cattle ranch near Philipsburg, MT where Cody and LeRee' Hensen operate the Royal Tine Guide and Packer School. The place is great - surrounded by mountains, with big stands of pine and fir spilling down into the foothills and draws where the ranch actually lies. Cody tells us the ranch is bordered on three sides by U.S. National Forest, and elk, deer and bear can move freely onto the ranch. Some huge elk herds move down during the fall and winter here on the ranch and then move back up onto summer range after calving out in the spring. Quite a few stay on the ranch year-round too. Can't wait to get out and take a look at them. What better way to learn to be a guide than to practice on the real thing?

When I drove to the cluster of white canvas wall tents where the school is actually conducted, I figured I'd hit the jackpot. It looked just like the backcountry hunting camps I'd seen in the magazines. Base camp lies along a great-looking trout stream with timbered foothills as a backdrop. Horses and mules graze loose in the mountain meadow that surrounds camp. Just add the echoes of bull elk bugling come September and this camp must be like heaven on earth.

Royal Tine only takes eight students per class, with at least two instructors at all times. The Hensens, Cody and LeRee, actually live at camp with the students and Cody does most all the instructing himself. LeRee does all the cook student instructing plus cooking. That way every student gets plenty of instruction and experience the right way.

The students all arrived this morning, and we started at noon with orientation - introductions, overview, and some basic camp and conduct rules to keep things running smoothly.

guide and packer

Then we jumped right into horse/mule identification by coloration and distinctive markings. Buckskins, bays, sorrels and blacks, duns, roans, etc., all with different stars, snips, blazes and brands. It's a lot to remember at first, but we'll have to know the stock we work with here at school and out in the real world and be able to identify it without sounding like greenhorns. After that we took a hike up onto the ridge behind camp and I saw my first elk herd - all cows and calves, but what a way to start off!

Topped it all off with a big supper. If LeRee's cooking is always that good I'll be in trouble by the end of class.

Better cash in for tonight and get some sleep. Tomorrow we'll start off early. I didn't draw camp jack duties, but my turn will come soon enough.

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Royal Tine Guide & Packer School  -  PO Box 809 Philipsburg, MT 59858  -  (406) 859-5138  -  royal_tine@yahoo.com