Park High Alumni Entrepreneurs: Mike & Milee Dailey

Ava Malone

One of the most prominent industries in the Paradise Valley is the outfitting industry. It’s a hobby of many, and some even used their love for the outfitting world and turned it into their own business. Mike and Milee Dailey, both Park High graduates, did just that. Mike Dailey graduated in 1987, and his wife Milee (Malone) Dailey graduated in 2001. After high school, Mike studied Ag Business and animal science at Powell, and Milee studied animal science at MSU with a full ride scholarship for the MSU rodeo team. Using their combined knowledge from both school and life experiences, they were able to begin their own outfitting business, Horsetrack Outfitters.

Let’s start from the beginning. Horsetrack Outfitters is a horseback-based outdoor company offering guided elk, bighorn sheep, and mule deer hunts, as well as day rides and pack trips. They operate in the headwaters of Yellowstone, and around Yellowstone National Park in some of the most remote areas in the lower 48. They have one of only 35 Yellowstone Park horse concessions that allows them to take commercial rides in the park. 

Mike and Milee Dailey’s passion for outdoor life started way back when they were little. “I’ve wanted to be a mountain man ever since I was a young boy, and Milee wanted to run her own business one day using her own horses,” Mike explained. He has been a professional hunter and outdoorsman since 1987, was able to get his first hunting lease in 2005, purchased their wilderness camp in 2017, and was finally able to purchase their park permit in 2020. “It was difficult to purchase through traditional banking, but in 2016 I met an individual who was there to help us finance our dream,” Mike elaborated. Milee put a lot of her focus during those same years pursuing her rodeo dreams and training horses for clients. 

Mike has wanted to guide, live, and work in the backcountry. He worked for nearly 15 years for various different guides learning their skills and perfecting his craft. “I made it a point to seek out and work with the best outfitters in the region. Working with Warren Johnson with mule packing, Scott Sallee and his knowledge with hunter relations, and Larry Guastad’s craft of camp set up. Iron sharpens iron, and you must work with good operators to become one.” As far as education goes, the classes in college and learning from industry professionals were the best for the Daileys. At the time, Park High didn’t have many options for extra classes, however Montana History as well as Vo Ag were the most beneficial for Mike.

Mike shared his scariest moment while in the park. “In 1988 I was working as a contract packer in Yellowstone during the fires, we got cut off and got burned over by a huge firestorm! We feared that we were lost, but came out unharmed! 

Mike and Milee work together taking rides and setting up trips. Milee takes care of the book work as well as booking rides while Mike takes care of the logistics such as shoeing, guiding, and setting up camp.  Their operating season mainly runs from May through November, however they are marketing their business year round. They set up at shows across the country, and they will be at Cowboy Christmas in Las Vegas this December during the NFR (National Finals Rodeo). In the January months they offer services to help clients apply for their hunting licences.

The Daileys love to be in the great outdoors, and they find it is never a dull moment. “There is always something fun and challenging to do! My family and I work together, and it is great. There isn’t a 9-5 schedule, and it is nice to be able to spend time together all the time,” Mike tells me. 

There are a lot of future guides out there, especially in our community. Many entrepreneurs of this business have a similar story to Mike’s. “My advice to young folks is that guiding is not for the weak of heart. It is a labour of love, and if you are in it solely for the money you will fail. If you don’t love it, crave it, it will show in your dealings with your clients.It is an interesting way of life, you meet amazing people and develop great relationships with them. There aren’t many millionaires in this industry. For every big elk we bag, there are long days of setting up camp, hours on the phone, and days away from family. However, teaching the many clients about Montana, this way of life, and Yellowstone makes it all worth it! Families get to unplug, and actually visit and communicate with each other, and we facilitate that,” Mike advises.