E-mail from Larry Amos to The Hunting Report, January 20, 2016:
I believe the true issue was that Mr. Andrew Feltenstein was not fit to do a wilderness elk hunt as those we offer. Our website and information sent to our hunters explains our hunts in full detail and exactly how they are conducted.
Mr. Feltenstein chose the 3rd rifle season to hunt. Understandably, the first three days of the hunt, the weather was bad. The temperature was below zero every night, and there were high winds, heavy snow and fog. Mr. Feltenstein did not mention anything about the terrible weather in his complaint, yet we saw he was not prepared for those conditions, which should be expected in such hunts. He did not have proper clothing for cold weather hunts, nor was he fit to handle the elements.
I believe this simply was not the type of hunt for Mr. Andrew was suited for. After talking to him in Camp, he mentioned hunting bear over bait and hunting in Africa and Australia, where you shoot game off the hood of your truck. As we openly state to all those interested in our hunts, that is not the type of hunt we offer. It is much more than just shooting game. Hunting elk in the wilderness with horses is a tough hunt for most people, and for Mr. Feltenstein, it was way out of his element.
Mr. Feltenstein also did not mention that he only hunted three partial days of a six day hunt. Those three days, of which we had terrible weather, he was never ready at departure time and his guide had to wait for him every morning to go hunt. Then, on the third day of the trip, he told us he received an email from his wife and needed to go home because of an emergency. Both the bad weather and the early departure are unfortunate and understandable, yet should be included and considered as the part of his hunt story.
In Mr. Feltenstein's complaint, he states that there were 30 people in camp. That is far from the truth. There were 10 hunters and my crew. He also states that there were children in camp. Those were my grandkids, who came to see their mother who was guiding that week. They were there for two days to spend the weekend close to their mom. Those kids being in camp had no effect on the hunting, nor was it any of Mr. Feltenstein's business.
Also, he states in his complaint that out of 10 hunters, not a single shot was fired at elk, and then a few lines below, he tells how a bull was shot on the first day of the hunt. There were 10 hunters in camp for the 3rd Rifle season. There were 2 bulls killed and 2 bulls missed that week.
As for the road he talks about in his complaint, the Base Camp is located at the end of a Forrest Service Road. Public land hunters do use this road, and it is the very road Mr. Feltenstein came up to get to camp himself. Even our website explains that our camp is accessible by a four wheel drive road. It is clearly stated on the website that we hunt on public land.
It is true Mr. Feltenstein experienced a hunt unlike his previous hunts, where you pay for the animals you shoot in Africa, or shoot a baited bear as you would a fish in a barrel. Buffalo hunts in Australia are almost like shooting a milk cow in the field. When he chose to hunt with us, Mr. Feltenstein did not buy a hunt like his previous hunts. He paid for an opportunity to take an elk in Colorado Wilderness.
The following are the comments of Joel Adema, who was Mr. Andrew Feltenstein's guide.
I guided Mr. Feltenstein for three days. Every morning, he was never ready to leave on time. He was not prepared to hunt in the cold and I had to build a fire for him every morning to keep him warm. When we needed to sit still to wait for elk in the mornings and evenings, he wanted to walk around because he was cold. He complained about riding horses every day, and I had to talk to him several times about being safe with his rifle. He did not mention anything while at camp about problems, and never mentioned the food. I do not believe we saw a public hunter when we were riding. We saw some hunters who where a ways off hunting in private land. This hunt was not the hunt for Mr. Feltenstein.
Mr. Feltenstein quit hunting after three partial days where the weather was terrible, so he hunted very little. Most, if not all the statements he made are untrue and not correct. This is another case of a hunter who complains because he didn't kill an elk. The weather was poor, the hunting was tough, and that is exactly what a late season elk hunt in the high country of Western Colorado is like, and that is what we offered him. Mr. Feltenstein just needs to continue doing his canned hunts in the future.
E-mail from Andrew Feltenstein to The Hunting Report, January 22, 2016:
Thanks for forwarding this to me. I have copied all of this to the 4 other hunters who shared a tent with me. I think that they will corroborate my report. I have noticed that Larry's reply is fairly typical of outfitters who are criticized. They say the hunter was not prepared, was out of shape, complained all the time etc. Here are a few replies to Larry's comments.
"The temperature was below zero every night, and there were high winds, heavy snow and fog." There was no snow at all while I was there, the skies were clear and I never saw fog. I heard it snowed after I left.
"He did not have proper clothing for cold weather hunts, nor was he fit to handle the elements." I have the best Browning cold weather hunting clothes there are. I had no problem with the weather and never said anything about it.
"After talking to him in Camp, he mentioned hunting bear over bait and hunting in Africa and Australia, where you shoot game off the hood of your truck." I have never hunted bear, and never said I did. I was not aware that in Africa and Australia you shoot game off the hood of your truck.
"Mr. Feltenstein also did not mention that he only hunted three partial days of a six day hunt. Those three days, of which we had terrible weather, he was never ready at departure time and his guide had to wait for him every morning to go hunt." I did leave on the 4th day because of an emergency, but as I mentioned, the weather on the first 3 days was fine. We never knew when we would leave in the morning, and on the 3rd day the guides left early in order to help the TV crew and hunters. They may have waited 5 minutes for me.
"Also, he states in his complaint that out of 10 hunters, not a single shot was fired at elk, and then a few lines below, he tells how a bull was shot on the first day of the hunt." I said that one of the TV hunters got an elk on the first day of her hunt, not ours. "There were 2 bulls killed and 2 bulls missed that week." I don't know who got those bulls, but they were not us 10 hunters, who have been corresponding with each other.
"As for the road he talks about in his complaint, the Base Camp is located at the end of a Forrest Service Road. " I was not talking about this road. Rather, I was talking about the trails we rode, and where people were parking their trucks and setting up camp.
Comments from the guide: These generally just repeat what Larry says. A couple of things though are worth mentioning.
"I had to build a fire for him every morning to keep him warm." He never built a fire. Mostly we just sat around and ate snacks. "When we needed to sit still to wait for elk in the mornings and evenings, he wanted to walk around because he was cold" I wanted to walk around because sitting still did not seem to be helping us to find elk.
E-mail from Doug Barrett to Andrew Feltenstein, January 22, 2016:
Thanks Andrew for forwarding Larry Amos' excuses. Regarding our "preparation" Mr. Jones may want to know that our group has been hunting elk in the Rockies on 7-8 occasions, we came well prepared with appropriate gear and expectations, and had no problems with weather. As for being physically prepared, l was in good shape having run 5 marathons in the past. Mr. Amos' responses are not accurate and future hunters should be aware of his questionable ethics. Doug
Sent from my iPad
E-mail from Wayne Marion to The Hunting Report, January 22, 2016:
We have read some of the recent correspondence regarding evaluations of Winterhawk Outfitters in CO and we feel compelled to provide feedback on our experiences there during the third season for bull elk (early November 2015). We were distraught and disappointed with this elk hunt for several reasons (detailed below), the lack of useful communications, and the lack of follow-up from the Outfitter (Larry and Laura Amos). Our concerns were outlined and documented in a letter dated November 17, 2015 that was sent directly by U.S. Mail to Larry and Laura Amos. We have received NO reply to our earlier letter. In that letter, we also requested a partial REFUND of the cost of these hunts, but still we have received NO reply.
We are all veteran hunters and we all expected it to be a tough hunt, with several unknowns and no guarantees of success. We have hunted elk in various western states, both with and without outfitter services, and we feel qualified to evaluate and to comment on this 2015 experience. After we arrived at the Winterhawk Outfitter Camp, we were immediately told by Larry Amos that his permit to occupy and to hunt the Flattops Wilderness in 2016 and beyond had been denied by the U.S. Forest Service and that he would need to pull out ALL of his camp (including the cookhouse and shower) at the end of the 2015 season. He had also invested heavily in an expensive water system for the Camp and livestock and he discussed that briefly with us. Larry expressed his frustration to us about this situation and said that he was weighing his options for the future, including complete retirement. This whole discussion set a negative tone that was obvious throughout the week while we were there. On the positive side, we found the Camp accommodations, Camp personnel, and the livestock to be quite excellent compared to other outfitted hunts we have been on. The food served was edible, but BELOW average; it seemed to be nothing special, mostly leftovers.
The elk hunting experience, we believe, was seriously lacking in the following ways:
1. Our assigned Guide (Martin) was poor at communicating with us and not at all motivated to help us to be successful in harvesting a bull elk. Several times, we suggested that he (Martin) and his assistant (JR) might ride out or walk out through prime elk habitat and try to send animals out to us. Each such request was abruptly denied by Martin. Our Guides seemed to think that their 'job' was fulfilled by leading us in riding out to one location and tying up the horses/mules for the day. The 'hunt' then proceeded with hunters (us) sitting or standing in 1-2 spots all day long looking for elk to appear. We also were told that other guides would be hiking through the landscape to provide that function -- but that never really happened. Meanwhile, the Guides would lie down on the ground, sleep, and smoke e-cigs at a warming fire for much of the day. Near the end of the day, the Guides would set up another hunt for the last hour and then ride with us back to Camp after dark. This 4-5 hours of activity we did NOT think constituted an entire day of 'work' from the Guides. The bad attitude and lackluster performance from the Guides at Winterhawk Outfitters, we believe, contributed to 3 of the original 10 hunters quitting the hunt and leaving Camp by day 3, to several of us NOT seeing any elk at all, and to NONE of these 10 hunters getting a shot at either bull elk or buck deer during the hunt.
2. The focus for the week never seemed to be on the success of the paying hunters (the real clients here), but it was more on Jessica Amos and the public relations and filming efforts for the commercial 'Girls with Guns' (GWG) company. Much of the excitement and emphasis of the Camp Staff was focused upon the success of this GWG effort in filming and public relations. A bull elk was found early in the week for this GWG effort and our Guide (Martin) was pulled away from us for nearly an entire day to complete the harvest (with his knife) of a wounded bull elk for the GWG effort. This distraction of our guide was NOT at all fair to us. Likewise, the 6 hours of filming and interviews with the GWG staff served as unwelcome interruptions and distractions from what should have been the real hunting focus of the week (with us, the real paying clients).
3. We informed Larry Amos after dinner several times during the week that we were NOT seeing animals and that we were dissatisfied with the hunt. All we heard back was that he was 'working on it', but then nothing changed in terms of attitudes, assignments, or performance of the guides from the beginning of the week until the end. If anything, the week got worse rather than better! We also have heard the feedback from various outfitters and guides that the clients were out of shape, they could not walk far, they were looking for a 'canned' hunt, they were not dressed properly (for all weather conditions), and that they could not shoot. We believe that our group was an experienced group of elk hunters and that these shortcomings are unfounded. We have also heard the excuse that the weather was NOT conducive to our success; we experienced nearly every weather condition from balmy to blowing snow and cold above 10,000' during that week and we seriously doubt the validity of this assertion.
4. There were small children in Camp and that was NOT expected nor appropriate. NO ONE comes to elk camp to have little children present! These were Larry's grandchildren and Jessica's children who were there for several days and were (unfortunately) exposed to some very crude (even raunchy) language and jokes at dinnertime.
5. There were several confrontations between Larry Amos and his client hunters that were overheard by others in Camp. These issues should have been handled more privately and discreetly.
We hope that this information will help you to get a clearer picture of why we think Winterhawk Outfitters lost its focus and our respect and did not deliver a positive experience for us during the third elk season of 2015 in Colorado.
Doug Barrett (FL), Bryan Carothers (FL), Andrew Feltenstein (GA), Wayne Marion (WA), and Lee Przybylski (WI)