What a fall it's been. To say it has been a busy hunting season is an understatement. As far as hunting I didn't get out as much as I would have liked, but life in general is showing just how busy it can get. This last spring Leah and I found out we had a second child on the way. We tried to plan the best we could and didn't do too bad. She would be due December 4th. Now this isn't a bad date at all I just knew it would affect the later part of my hunting season as it would be tough to go too far from home.
As always my fall started out with archery antelope season. I once again elected to go a little tougher route and drew an archery only permit in MT. I headed to an area I hunted last year in hopes of connecting with any antelope at all.
I found a few in an open field and made my move. I had two bucks grazing and I placed myself between them and a water source. Due to the fact the area was wide open I elected to use my MT decoy to cover me as I moved. I got in position behind a small Juniper tree and waited. After a while one of the bucks began to come to the water. There was very little cover so the buck was going to have to come right by me for this to work.
I waited as the buck approached. Things were coming together as I was hoping. I kept ranging the buck from 200 down to 76 yards. This is as close as he would get. Definitely out of my range. As hard as it was it was also an easy call to make to not take the shot. I had him broadside and feeding, unaware I was there.
The buck continued to a point where he finally noticed me. He eventually took off. It was a great start to the season and had me excited for things to come. A few days later I set up my ground blind on the water hole. I knew it was going to be a long sit as the sun doesn't set until around 8 PM. Also with antelope hunting you just never know when they are going to water.
I started my sit around 2 in the afternoon. I watched quite a few groups of antelope in the area, but nothing wanted to come to water. While sitting I almost got the opportunity to kill a coyote. He was out mousing and was unaware of my presence. Eventually he just kept moving and never got in range. I got to watch him try and put the sneak, but his hunt too was unsuccessful.
Right before dark the antelope began to move more and more. Eventually I had a doe and couple of fawns start heading my direction. Light was fading fast, but they began to play into the script and took off running in my direction. Eventually they worked to within 40 yards. With the way I had my blind set up they didn't come exactly where I needed them. I knew I had a good shot so I went to full draw on the doe. She kept working to my right and eventually got me into an awkward position in the blind. I let my arrow go and it was a clean miss.
Defeated, but not upset as a miss is only good when it is clean. I was upset that I had missed, but glad as now I still had plenty of time to hunt more. I continued to hit the area when I could, but I just couldn't get it to come together. I never got another decent opportunity again. It is a tough area to hunt just due to the lack of cover and it is not a giant area to cover.
After getting the opportunity to chase antelope for a while it was now time to move to archery elk season. This is still hands down my favorite time of year and season to hunt. I came into this season with what I felt was a different mindset that previous years. I was headed back to an area I was familiar with and had continued to gain more experience than last season.
I felt confident that I was going to knock down my first bull with my bow. I upgraded earlier in the year to a new Hoyt Faktor 30 and was confident in my shooting. I think you should feel confident every time you go out, but it just felt different.
I went out on opening day for the first time ever with my friend Matt. We decided to hit an area close to home that was a cow and spike only unit. I had never hunted this specific area and had drawn a limited permit in another spot so I was going to concentrate on just calling.
We loaded up the camper and headed to find a spot to camp. On the way in we ran into multiple people and vehicles. It was a little disheartening to say the least. Oh well it was opening day and you can't get anything accomplished if you give in that easy. We quickly found a great spot to set up and got camp all set up.
We hiked in a little ways just to get a feel of what the area looked like. With no scouting and hitting a new unknown area it was hard to say how it would go. After only going a little ways plenty of sign was found. It was looking pretty promising.
We got back to camp and settled in for the night. Of course a hard lesson was learned as I found out I had a leak in the roof of the camper. Matt got soaked and the rain kept coming. We woke up for the morning hunt, had breakfast, and got ready to head in.
As we were getting ready another rig pulled up and two hunters got out and headed in as we were leaving as well. It can be hard for me at times with these situations, but it is public ground and not much can be done. They were polite enough and we went our separate ways.
The rain wouldn't let up and we just continued on. The rain continued to come down and we ended up having to take cover. We enjoyed a good meal and eventually headed back to camp. Of course as soon as we made it back to camp the sun decided to come back out.
After assessing the damages to the camper we decided to pack it in and head home. Although it was the exact start we were looking for there was lots of season left.
I had a decent amount of time toward the latter part of September set aside to hit the limited area I had drawn. In the mean time I continued to chase antelope when I got the chance. I went back to the same area as before, but again just couldn't quite close that last 20 yards I needed to feel comfortable with my shooting.
Finally it was time to pack up and head to the east to start chasing elk in the rut. I met with my Brother Todd and set camp up in the same area I had hunted the past couple of seasons.
Todd made it in the day before I could come. He was able to hear the elk already and things were looking up. We headed in the first morning and went further back than I had the previous year, but I had also located more sign further in and wanted to try and get back further. Finally about 9:30 a bull ripped a bugle. It sounded good and we weren't too far off.
We began to start working his way, bugling as we went. He would answer, but didn't appear he was that interested in what I had to say. Eventually he went his own way.
We hunted hard the next few days, but things just go worse. In the end a decision was made to move areas. It can be a hard decision at times, but the fact that the local rancher was weaning his calves on the main water source it was an easy decision to make.
I headed further east while Todd had to go back to work for a little while. I set up camp and headed in for an afternoon hunt in an area I hadn't hunted in a few years. It yielded nothing, but I knew if we stayed persistent we would find some elk. The next morning I went into an area my Brother Kirk informed me about.
The temps were warm and the forecast called for hot temperatures. I was finding sign as I went and eventually I looked up to my left and found a doe antelope bedded in the timber. As she now noticed me she got up. Immediately to her left was a buck. I couldn't tell how big he was, but I didn't care. I had her at 45 yards and she began to go the other direction. Soon the buck stood up and began to follow her. I was never presented a shot.
I followed the two to try and put a stalk on. I got to the top and went the direction they headed. I quickly spotted them again. The buck was oblivious to my presence and he was only concentrated on the doe. Due to the fact the buck was so keyed in on the doe she would try and get away from me, but he would just run her back at me.
I had multiple opportunities to take a shot on the doe, but I figured she would eventually get run right back at me. I continued to push at them. Finally I was in position and just needed to have him get within range. The doe would continually be within 50 yards, but the buck would sit between 70 and 90. Just a tad too far.
I eventually had the buck and doe run off and figured it was over. They were now in the wide open and I only had a couple of small pine trees to cover myself. To my surprise I lost track of the doe, but up popped the buck within range. I didn't have time to grab my rangefinder. As you will read not ranging cost me on a couple of shots this year and made me remember that the small things make all the difference.
There he stood slightly quartering to me. I was at full draw and estimated him at 30. I held my spot , released my arrow, and over his back it went. I was crushed. I quickly realized this buck was under 20 yards. I felt confident in the shot and it flew true, I had simply estimated my range wrong. Great two shots so far and nothing down. I continued to hike and hike and located more antelope. It was great to see as the antelope population in this area had been down, but was looking on the up and up. I was unable to close the distance on any more antelope. This wasn't all bad as temps were in the mid 90's and taking care of any animal would be tough.
I headed back towards camp and on the way was met by Kirk. We got back to camp and settled in for a bit. After relaxing we got ready and headed back for the afternoon. We headed back to the same general area, but didn't turn anything up.
We were later joined up with Todd again. The next morning we headed to another area. I set up my MT decoy and began to call. I wasn't hearing anything, but still held onto hope the elk were there. eventually a long ways away I thought I may have heard a bugle, but didn't think anything of it. I headed back to the pick up point. On the way in right at daylight we spotted some antelope by the area I was dropped off at. They soon spotted me and took off.
We all met back up and Todd had an encounter from rifle range so we finally found the elk. What surprised me is what I thought might have been a bugle actually turned out in fact to be just that.
We went back into the same area and continued to get into the elk. We finally got into them every time we were going in. Just what I was hoping for. Now that they were located it was time to get the job done and have it all come together.
We continued to pursue the same elk for a few days. We finally got eyes on a few spikes. Todd and Kirk began to call and they started to come. I was set up and waiting with the wind in my favor. After a very lengthy sit I began to see one of the spike's antlers appear. This time I had ranged in the area he was coming and it was a mere 20 yards. All he needed to do was step up and he was mine. He got to where I could just see the tops of his eyes and never came further. He eventually worked towards another spike, and never presented a shot.
Shortly thereafter a few turkeys began to work our way. Kirk wanted to punch a tag so we first tried to voice call them and they slowly started our way. I thought what the heck and tried calling them with my Mistress diaphragm. It worked and they began to get closer. They got within 30 yards and Kirk had a near miss low.
I was down to one day left and Todd had to head back home. Kirk and I went in hoping for the best. It was pushing towards evening and last light. We had bulls in a couple of directions. One specific bull was separate from the others, which was obviously one of the herds satellite bulls.
He began to come our direction, but with all of the bugling going on in the direction of the herd he never quite made it to us. I was kind of to the point where I wasn't sure if it was going to happen. Kirk kept me going and I was very thankful he was there. We pressed on and tried to get to a viewing point, where we might get a look at the herd bull finally. With his bugle it made him sound like a very mature bull. You never quite can tell until you get your eyes on them.
Finally they came out into the open. We never did see the herd bull, but did get a good look at all of the others with him. There was approximately 6 to 8 bulls in the area. While looking things over Kirk began to cow call. The bulls were now going full force with their bugling. Two raghorns were in the back of the pack and began to work our direction. As I was watching the raghorns I overheard my brother whisper my name. He pointed down below me and I couldn't see anything.
Kirk continued to cow call and a bull let out a bugle right below me. Very shortly a very nice 300 class 6x6 started to appear. We were positioned above the elk and had a good wind in our favor. I couldn't believe just the night before I was dreaming of getting my chance at any elk and was blessed enough to possibly kill a great archery bull. The bull was coming on a string and even had a great 320 class bull behind him now jogging our way.
It was now the moment of truth. The bull continued in the direction of the calls and was now working up hill and reading the script the way you see on TV. The bull was working perfect. In my haste I forgot to range around me. This was a huge mistake. The bull stopped for a second and I was already at full draw. I estimated him at around 40 yards. Well within my comfort zone. I put my pin where it needed to be and let it fly. Missed low. I later found out he was closer to 55 yards. Amazingly the bull only ran a little ways and appeared to go further out than my last shot. I wasn't sure about my first arrow other than I was low. This time I knew he had to be at 50. Nope just over his back. The bull was so much in the rut he offered one more shot. This time I knew he was further yet. There was a few branches between us, but I was comfortable with my lanes. Nope hit a branch. The bull stayed in the area, but would not come in.
To this day I still don't understand why I didn't range around me. Every time I set up for a calling situation the first thing I do is range different areas. Why I didn't this time I still don't know. Had I remembered that small step I know I would have killed my bull. I'm not embarrassed or ashamed I missed my bull three times and it would be just as easy to say I just missed once and the bull ran off. It's all apart of learning each season. I now have gained valuable information that will help me out next time. One thing I can tell you is that I was comfortable with everything as the adrenaline didn't kick in until the bull was well out of range and on his way. I will say I did get flustered after the first shot and had time to range for the second shot I just blew the opportunity.
This above scenario is what I live for and love about archery. With a rifle it would most likely have been a slam dunk, but archery there is a lot that gets taken into consideration. This all goes back to where I mentioned before about remember the small things. I have gotten to the point especially after this last season that I just simply have to range before I shoot. I was fortunate enough that I didn't wound anything, but that may have been a possibility. I'm confident in my shooting abilities I just need to take that extra time to make sure I have my range. Lesson learned.
The next morning Kirk and I went back to the same spot as I had to leave my arrows behind as it got too dark to see. Upon returning I found my arrows and all were clean misses. Back to square one. On the way out we could hear the herd, but I had to head back home as my time was up. We finally were able to lay eyes on the herd bull we had only previously heard. He had a very distinctive bugle and finally showed his face. He was an awesome 350 to 360 class 6x6. I can only hope he made it through rifle season.
On the way out the antelope herd that had been hanging in the area were bedded down in a pretty good stalk-able position. I was able to belly crawl right into the herd. There were two bucks in the herd with both appearing to be well into the P&Y book. I began to scan the herd and found one of the bucks. There was a tree just beyond him at 50 yards. I couldn't go any further as I was right in the mix of them all. I got to my knees, got to full draw, and they stood. I held my pin on the buck and just missed from taking hair off of his back. I'm not sure if he ducked my arrow or not but it all felt right. To say I had a good start to archery elk season is an understatement. I may not have arrowed what I wanted, but I gain invaluable experience and can't wait for next year.
With all that excitement I packed up and headed home. After getting home I was excited to start chasing deer again. Before the fall I picked up a new rifle, a .270 Tikka and added a Vortex Viper 4-16 x 44. I was excited once again to start rifle hunting. I knew of some good areas holding some great whitetails and decided to leave the bow at home this year.
I headed to a few areas I hit before and had one buck in mind from last year I was looking for. I was unable to turn him up, but did locate three other bucks that were very nice with one that looked to be in the mid 150's. The first time I came across these bucks two of them both well into the mid 130's and bigger I was unable to close the deal. I returned with just one day left to get it done. Our daughter was due in not too long so time was short towards the end of the year. Once I got to where I saw the deer last I was excited as no one else was in the area. This was soon ruined as I watched a pickup drive on a closed road to where I was headed.
My hunt was ruined by two hunters that decided to cheat a little. This isn't the first time this has happened to me and definitely won't be the last, but it gets old. I let the landowner know about my run in with them. I wasn't able to get a good look at the individuals or their vehicle and I left it at that. It was a disappointing end to a tough season, but I can't wait for next year. I'm already gearing up for a fantastic spring bear season and am making sure to put in for spring turkey. I was a little spoiled out east where the turkey tags were guaranteed and not a limited draw. After my elk hunt there wasn't much for highlights, but that's how it goes sometimes.
I just recently moved once again and now have 10 acres to shoot my bow on. I literally have no excuse as I can shoot everyday. I'm excited for the prospect of getting horses once again and setting up my own personal archery range. Although it wasn't a season of filling tags that's ok in my book. I got to spend valuable time with family and friends once again as well as learn from mistakes made. My season is not finished though as there is now an extended late season cow hunt left.
I'm not sure if I'll make it out, but things are looking up come January. Hopefully I will have an update on that in the near future and a full freezer. As always shoot straight and aim small. Here's a few photos to end on.
This blog has fell behind due to being very busy so I apologize in advance. But with a little free time I'll try and catch everyone up.
2015 has started pretty slow at this point. I have been gathering my gear and getting ready. This year I purchased a new bow and am going with a little different set up. I upgraded to last years Hoyt Faktor 30. I went patriotic and picked up the American Heritage red white and blue. I usually don't go crazy with accessories on my bows, but this year I decided to differ and added some extra color!
My family also purchased a camper. Although not new and not very big it will now not only work great for family outings, but my base hunting camp as well. It is a gigantic 1972 12' bumper pull. I have had a blast putting it all together and remodeling the inside. It has turned out great and should last us a very long time until we need something bigger. It will be put to the test this year during spring bear and all of the fall seasons.
As I come into a new season yet again I am filled with high expectations and excitement. there is nothing like starting off fresh and setting some goals. Most of my goals are set to where I feel I can accomplish them and not so high that I ever let myself never meet those goals. Ultimately I would say my unreachable goals for the year will be filling all of my tags with P&Y animals, but I always keep in the back of my mind. I will be happy with any outcome as long as I'm in the mountains doing what I love.
On April 20th my friend and co-worker Matt ventured into an area I hunted last year and located a bear. With work lately it has been extra tough to get out. As always the first hunt of the year is mainly locating random gear in random spots after last fall. I found most of everything I was looking minus a few smaller items. I figure as long as I have some food, water, a weapon, and tags I can at least get out there and hunt.
We went into an area I hunted last season and located a bear. I figured I might as well start where I left off at. We hiked in a few miles and glassed as we hiked. We eventually made it back to a glassing spot I located and sat for the day. After glassing for several hours no bear was located. The year has started out very dry. Still being a novice bear hunting I figure these next few years will be mainly learning the country with some aspiration at getting the chance to kill a bear. I will continue to be stubborn and only take my bow. Matt was smart and packed a rifle.
Well with no bears spotted we headed back to town. I had some scheduled time off coming up and was looking forward to trying out some new country as well as a new base camp.
I went out the previous morning and located some potential spots to camp and tried to do some scouting. It was some big country and fortunate for me I found my camp. I set out the following day and got everything set up. After getting camp set up I tried to find some good glassing areas. Those were plentiful and now it was just time to sit and wait.
Again no bears. The weather was hot and there was little snow left in the elevations. I continue to learn everyday that I'm out in the field. I basically spent three days finding glassing points, going through maps on google earth, comparing my GPS chip, and putting my boots on the ground. I know the bears are there, but it's such big country that finding one is very difficult. I must say it was nice to be able to set up my lap top in the camper and use the products provided by onXmaps. I was able to look at the area I was in and rule out some things without ever stepping foot on the ground.
I put some miles on my pickup the second day looking for additional areas to hunt. I found lots of great spots, but most were so thick with timber that trying to glass was near impossible. This led me to believe the bears were there, it was just going to be a tall task of locating one. The weather remained nice and made it pleasurable to be out and about. I must admit that this trip was mainly for exploring new ground, putting the new camper and base camp to use, as well as just general relaxation. I by no means went over the top and killed myself on the mountain.
It was great to be able to come back, cook some food, and make some camp coffee at the end of the day. I stayed very warm and comfortable. I always kept thinking back to last years elk camp and how nice it would have been to have this set up previously. Let's just say this year will be nice having the ability to stay out of the weather when I need and not having to worry about anything.
One thing that made me feel like I was in the right spot was the amount of cow elk I was seeing. I knew the calving season was upon us and there would be a decent chance the bears would be roaming in expectation of an easy meal. This also had me excited for the upcoming seasons in the fall. As much as I enjoy bear hunting in the spring it is hard to get elk in September off of the brain.
The spring seasons came and went faster than I expected. This is ok in a sense that I know fall will be upon us before we know it. I am partially through the summer and time is flying. I believe I will be ready for August and September when seasons begin to kick off, but as usual I'm sure I will be lacking in one area or another and I'm ok with that. I just know that I will make more memories this fall as in the past with as much or as little time that I have.
Although this spring bear season didn't reveal much assistance in finding or killing a bear I was able to get out and explore some new area previously unknown to me. I just recently purchased a new rifle and am bound and determined to kill a bear next spring. I will abandon my bow for a little bit if need be as I will never leave home without it, but at the same time I'm ready for a harvest.
I hope to see you on the road as I will be doing my usual sporting goods store events and possibly a couple of seminars. Stop by and say hi if you get the chance if not maybe I'll see you on the trail.
2014 Elk, Deer, and Antelope
This fall started out similar to past as it began with archery antelope season, closely followed by elk and deer. Normally I try to keep this updated as my season progresses, but this year has been a little busy with work and life in general.
I was only able to make it out for a couple of days chasing antelope. Prior to chasing goats I spent 10 days doing an annual archery elk hunt.
I left home the first week of Sept. to an area I had been successful in the past. Normally I take right around 5 to 7 days, but this year I took a little extra time and made a lengthy 10 day trip.
I just recently picked up the new TST (tone slotted technology) diaphragms from RMCH. As a side note I am blown away with them. I mostly used The Mistress as my primary call for both bugling and cow calling. I was also able to put to use the new Bully Bull X-treme. It is a deadly combo and I highly recommend them both as well as the other diaphragms.
This was the first year I primarily went from cow calling to doing more bugling. I was very pleased with the reaction I got and answers I heard. On the first day I met up with my brother Todd. The first afternoon proved that there was at least elk in the immediate area, which sometimes can prove to be the tough part. I had roughly 5 bulls in the area that were talking.
I was able to bugle back and forth with one specific bull for approximately 45 min. The first bull that answered appeared to be closer so I worked his way. As I was getting closer the bull became quiet. This made me believe it may be a smaller bull that wasn't looking for confrontation and my have had some cows with him he didn't want to lose. I worked my way back to the other bull, but he never came.
We headed back to camp and the snow started to fall. I couldn't believe it, I knew it had been predicted by the good ol' weather man, but I thought it might put a damper on the hunting. My guess was right. My brother headed home while I stayed at camp in the snow. I awoke to roughly 3 inches of fresh snow on the ground and it kept snowing.
Finally there was a break in the snow at around 9 am. I took advantage of it and hiked to an area I believed the elk might be hanging out. I tried calling a couple of times, but never got an answer. I continued to look around and eventually got on a lone bull track. I could tell they were fresh and followed them to a deep ravine where he headed down. I was at most maybe 15 to 20 minutes behind him. I continued to call, but never got an answer. Everything was quiet and it got to the point in the day where they like to bed down.
With visibility low I took the opportunity to run to town and grab a bite to eat. I packed a ton of Mountain House meals so a good greasy burger now and again is a welcomed break. I headed back to camp where the snow continued to fall.
The next couple days consisted of more and more snow. I took my opportunity when I could to track and hike where the elk were, but was unsuccessful. It got to the point where I was hiking in 9" of snow and the timber was too thick to go any further. At this point I was just getting soaked from the snow. After enduring the cold and wet I listened to the weather and a high of 15 for the night had me running to town. My clothes were soaked and I didn't feel like getting sick and ruining the rest of my trip. I grabbed a hotel room for the night to allow my stuff to dry out and make myself a little more comfortable.
Finally there was a little break in the weather and it began to warm. Even a 30 to 40 degree temp. felt great. I wasn't quite ready for the cold this early. This type of weather, I'm generally into Nov. during the deer rut. The cold had the elk shut down and kept them quiet, which in turn made the hunting a little more difficult. I knew they were still in the area as I was cutting tracks almost daily.
My brother-in-law Chris was coming to the area from CA for his first archery elk hunt and with the weather breaking things were looking like they could get good. It was now day 5 and I had 5 days left. Chris finally made it and I met him in town to make sure we had everything we needed. After double checking our equipment we headed to camp and made sure our bows were on and set camp for a little more comfort.
We headed out for the afternoon. The elk continued to be fairly quiet with only a bugle right before dark and usually one in the morning. We continued to hit the normal spots. After not having much success we hiked a little farther back. This proved to bring a little more interaction and activity. Finally we found where the elk had congregated. Time was winding down and there were only 4 days left to get it done. After living on Mountain House and snacks we went to town after a morning hunt. After getting a little refreshment and some good coffee it was back to camp.
We continued the pattern of going further back and were getting more reactions and answers. The following morning it was time to act. We pushed farther back earlier in the morning. Bingo we were hiking and all of a sudden a bugle, and it was close. Within 150 to 200 yds. I called back and forth with three bulls with one that decided to come in for a closer look. The timber was thick so it was going to be a 30 to 40 yd shot if he showed himself. I called behind Chris while he got ready. The bull came within around 50 to 60 yards and held up. We never did get a look at him, but tracked him further in.
It appeared to be a satellite bull as we found where the others were at with more tracks and sign. The plan was now set to try and press further and get closer. Up to this point my strategy had been staying a little distant from the elk. I had not blown them out of the area and they were still answering calls.
We finally got right in the mix with them. It continued to where it was calling in the morning and night. After pressing further in we set up to call and I could hear some running above us. It was a cow. I was pretty certain there were more in the area, but none showed themselves.
It was crunch time so my strategy changed from staying a distance away switched to hitting them head on. We again hiked a little farther. More and more sign kept showing up. Also the weather was much nicer and the elk were more active. It was also much easier to get around as the snow was now gone. The weather went from lows at night down to 15 degrees of a high in the afternoon of 85 degrees. We had just two days left.
After getting farther back a bull finally answered. after a couple of bugles he was coming closer. He finally shut down so we moved in his direction. I was cow calling and working closer. I made a mistake of not setting up before calling and there he was. I made a few cow calls and the bull did what they like to do and snuck in silently. At only 50 yards he magically appeared and we were caught. I continued to cow call, but he wouldn't move, only stare in our direction. Eventually the bull didn't see what he was looking for and headed out. We followed him and I was able to get good eyes on him. He was what I was hoping to kill this year. He was a nice 5x5 that would have went around 270 or so. Good tine length and heavy.
We hiked back to camp defeated, but to both Chris and I it was a successful hunt. Chris commented that just seeing that bull made the trip for him. This made me extremely happy as that is the reason I hunt. It is never the outcome of getting a kill, but just having the opportunity of interacting with such an amazing animal. This further drives me to be successful in the future.
It would have been great to end the trip with a kill and being completely worn out from a killer pack out, but looking back it was another amazing archery elk season chasing my favorite animal. I knew this was probably going to be one of the few opportunities to chase elk during archery season.
I was able to make it back out in Oct. with my brother Luke and a friend of his. I met up with them at camp. They had a pretty good head start with my other brothers Kirk and Todd. They had saw some success and Luke's friend Lenny missed a bull with his bow, but again it made the trip for them.
We made it out and started the day off with a little bear spray incident, which sent Lenny back to camp to "cool" off. We again went home empty handed. Luke and Lenny were able to make a trip to eastern MT later on in Nov. That trip proved a little more successful for them as Luke killed a rag horn and they both tagged out on great mule deer.
After my elk hunting trip I made it out a couple of days to chase antelope with my bow. I hunted some new areas on some block management. I was able to locate a couple of bucks with one being in a great area to try to put on a stalk. I watched him from around 800 yards. I finally decided I needed to act and grabbed my doe decoy. I closed the distance across an open field. Things were looking great and the wind was in my favor. I worked my way through lots of livestock and eventually closed the gap to right at 100 yards. Once within that range the buck finally quit feeding. He looked up and began to walk my way. He got within 80 yards, but wouldn't get any closer. Eventually just like the elk he wasn't seeing what he wanted and he headed out. After moving to a new area the antelope hunting has been a little tougher, but things look promising for next year.
After not tagging an antelope I got a new drive I haven't had in quite some time. I had not killed a whitetail buck in close to 10 years. I made my mind up that the rest of my hunting season was going to be my pursuit of a whitetail buck with my bow.
I set out with bow and blind to some block management I had hunted during antelope season. It has been great out here as my dad has some cousins of his that are enrolled in block management. I found plenty of whitetail to shoot, but was never given a shit opportunity.
After trying that spot I next headed to a wildlife management area that fish wildlife an parks has set up that allows public access for hunters. I didn't have much luck and ran into a lot of other hunters.
Onto the next spot. I ventured a little farther from home. The longer trip was well worth it. I hit some river bottom which also set up with block management. On my first trip down there were lots of hunters so I did some scouting to see if the area was goin to be worth making additional trips. The first spot that looked good proved to hold some wildlife as I spotted 2 bull moose and a cow moose. I wasn't seeing a whole lot for deer. With the rut in full kick I made an additional trip in the middle of the week. It was initially slow as temps were below 0, but right before dark I had a small spike give me a 20 yard shot. Not exactly the buck I was looking for. Due to the distance I wanted to find something closer to home.
I found a 1 section parcel of state land. Adjacent to that I saw several deer mostly does and 2 bucks. The one buck was a shooter and I put him between 140 and 150. I couldn't tell if he was a 4 or 5, but I knew he was big. Definitely the biggest buck I had saw up to this point in the season.
I came back to the same spot the following day and the deer were still there. I tried rattling and grunting, but he looked to be to preoccupied by all of his does. It was to a point in the season that if I didn't get him in the morning with my bow I packed the rifle along. I decided I had been stubborn enough with the bow and I would regret not shooting him with the rifle if given the opportunity.
He never presented a shot and remained on private. Although I didn't have any luck with this spot I did find a great spot for a tree stand for next year.
After a while I decided to head back to some block management I previously hunted and since I had the rifle I figured I would try and find a coyote or two. While looking for coyotes I spotted what appeared to be a doe and fawn feeding about 600 to 700 yards off the road in an open stubble field. This was my chance to fill the freezer. The week prior I decided to buy a doe tag just in case so that I could fill the freezer with some meat and still possibly hunt a buck.
I parked in an area out of sight. I was able to crawl down a ditch until I could again get out of sight further. I was able to place myself between the deer and a sprinkler pivot in the field. I dropped my pack and other things only taking my rifle, GPS, and range finder. From there I crawled on my hands and knees as well as belly crawled. I was able to stalk behind the pivot and maintained cover. I finally got myself set up and ranged the deer. The buck was at 240 yds and the doe was at 220.
I got set up and put a round in the chamber. I sat and I sat waiting for shot to present itself. Finally the buck stood to only take three steps with no shot. The doe remained bedded. The buck did his usual stand up take a couple of steps and bed down. Finally on the fourth time the buck bedded down, but left me with a great ethical shot on his vitals. I had a quartering back wind at about 30 to 40 mph so I knew I had to adjust for the wind. I put the cross-hairs where I thought they needed to be and squeezed the trigger. "Click" and nothing happened. I ejected the round and noticed the primer went, but nothing else. I do some reloading and I think I found a round that didn't have any powder.
Great now what? Is my next round going to go? I again settled in on the shot. This time it was flawless. My aim was good, but the wind did drift my round. I watch the buck get hit and he didn't move an inch. Tipped over in his bed the doe now stood up.
I told myself if she were to stand and offer a good shot I would take it. As bad as the wind was it was a blessing as she had no idea what happened other than the buck tipped over in his bed. She stood and gave me a perfect broadside shot. I fired another round and she was done. Tipped over within 20 yards of the buck. Finally after not having much of a season the previous year I put some meat in the freezer. He was definitely not my biggest buck, but he will eat great and the doe was full grown and dry.
Although I didn't strike with my bow this year there were many lessons learned and some great new areas for the future. The outlook is great for many more years. I'm always amazed at the knowledge gained each and every season. I'm excited for this coming spring as well as chasing some predators this winter.
I hope everyone reading this had a great season whether successful or not. My goal each year is to learn new tactics, areas, and friendships. Once again most of my goals were met with the exception of filling archery tags. I'm sure I missed some things and that's why I enjoy typing this as the season goes, but these are just some of the highlights that stuck out.
I had been anticipating finally getting the chance to chase after some black bears after recently moving to western MT. I never really put much thought or effort into actually hunting them, but now that I'm living right in some great bear country I couldn't pass up the chance to do so.
After getting nice and rested up I headed back to the same area as the previous day and glassed a wide open area that would give me the opportunity to spot a bear in the open. I began the morning by spotting several elk and had the privilege of getting to see them interact in their environment. It was great to see them chasing each other around. I spent the morning glassing for around 4 hours and didn't see much. I explored some more of the area as it is all new.
After going back to work for the week and having the itch even more I headed back to see if I could find another bear. I headed back to the same area, but hiked in from the other direction on a different trail head. The drive in was great once again with plenty of elk spotted. One cow even gave me the opportunity for a quick photo right off of the road. I hit the trail right at sun up.
The archery season finally kicked off for me. My original plan was to make it out on the 15th, which was the opener, but I had some commitments come up that I had to attend to first. The morning of the 19th rolled around and I was out in the field.
I immediately found some antelope on a state section. I parked on the shoulder of the road and the antelope headed the other direction. I went farther down the road and began my hike to where I though the antelope would head. While heading to the area I wen to cross a creek bottom and took a spill as I lost my footing. I landed on my pack and my water bladder burst and lost the majority of my water for the day. I cleaned things up and continued to pursue the antelope.
I finally made it to where I expected the antelope to come. I dried my equipment out the best that I could. After waiting for a while I headed back to my vehicle. As I headed back I continued to try and locate the antelope. Finally I saw the same buck, but he was now bedded on private ground. While waiting to see what the antelope were going to do from their new position I received a phone call and had an emergency at home I had to take care of. I never made it back out for the day, but was looking forward to getting back out when the opportunity came.
I wasn't able to make it out on the 20th as my family and I are getting ready to make a move to Helena, MT in the next couple of weeks. I did however make it back out on the 21st. I again headed to the state section and found a couple more antelope. I set out again to see if I could stalk within bow range. The antelope eventually left my sight and headed further onto private property.
The morning was short and filled with unsuccessful sighting of antelope I could hunt. The season has started out slow thus far, but you never know when the right day will come and it's time to fling an arrow. This season will definitely test me as there will be fewer days this year to hunt for me than in years past. Life sometimes throws curve balls your way and you just have to be patient and take the right swing and things will come together.
Antelope opened on the 15th, which will be followed by archer elk and deer opening on Sept. 7. The anticipation is killing me, but I'm just glad the season finally got here. I look forward to keeping everyone updated on the season as days go by. It will go fast and then there will be the wait until the next season, but each season brings so many more memories.
April 16 MT
The MT season opened up on the 13th, but I wasn't able to get out until the 16th. It has been an unusually cold April so far and when I went out the morning of the 16th it felt more like I was hunting deer during the rut in Nov. than hunting turkeys in the spring. The morning started out with me contemplating on even going out due to the weather. It didn't take much thought and I was out the door.
I got my blind, equipment, and decoys set up and ready for the hunt. There was fresh snow on the ground and it continued to snow. I sat and called for a couple of hours with no luck. On the way in it looked like I had been beaten to the spot by other hunters due to tracks in the snow, but they appeared to be from the previous couple of days. Finally the snow stopped and I continued to call. A couple of hens eventually replied to my calls, but never came in. After a couple of hours I called it a day. I knew my first hunt would be short, but it was great getting out there and doing what I love. I may not have been successful in terms of filling my tag, but it was a very successful morning regardless of the outcome. This would be the only morning I could hunt until I head to SD to chase turkeys with my friends Stephen and Dusty.
April 19-22 SD
I started my trip by heading back to SD after my day shift, which ended at 7 pm. I hit the road with great anticipation for the hunt we had ahead of us. Stephen went home ahead of time and was able to get some scouting done early. After talking on the phone with him it was determined if the weather was to cooperate we should have a good shot at being successful.
I met up with Stephen and Dusty at Stephen's around 1:30 am and didn't get but 45 min. of sleep. I made us some breakfast and got ready to hunt for the day. To say I was exhausted was an understatement. Even as exhausted as I was I was excited to finally get out and chase some birds around.
We headed to a spot we had hunted the previous two seasons and automatically found some birds. We had a good idea what the birds would do, but they beat us to the punch and instead of coming into calls crossed a road behind us and onto property we didn't have permission on.
On to the next spot. We drove around the area and located a couple of more birds, but needed to get permission. We tried to call the landowner by phone, but didn't have any luck. We looked a couple of other spots we had hunted in the past and located some more birds. One thing we weren't lacking was birds we just needed to get permission to chase them. While waiting to hear from the landowner we continued to watch the various groups of birds. In one spot there was three very big toms strutting in an opening and just to the south was a big tom and some hens.
While waiting we decided to shoot our bows to make sure everything was on and good to go. Thank goodness we did this as my bow was shooting about a foot to the left. This is something I will do from now on every time I travel with my bow. After finally dialing it in we went back again to gain permission. At last permission was gained. We figured it wouldn't be a problem getting permission to hunt these areas, but it's always best to ask year after year.
The first place we went is where we located the three big toms strutting. We set up the blind and decoys. We prepared ourselves for a quick hunt and I began to call. After not hearing or seeing anything it appeared we were too late and the birds left the area.
We went to the next spot where we had spotted the single tom and hens. We began working to where the birds were and made a mistake and go too close to the birds and they blew out of the area. Back to the pickup we went and headed back to Stephen's to take a much needed nap by all.
After our nap we headed to the local bar and grabbed some lunch. Dusty had gained permission at another location and we decided to give it a try. As we headed to the landowners residence we spotted several birds. After talking with the landowner we went and set up. We had a decision to make on where the best spot to set up was and after some talking the spot was decided. All set up I began to call. And call. And call some more. The birds were answering, but taking their time. I continued to talk with various hens and have the toms answer now and again. Finally after a very long wait it was decided we would leave the blind and try to ambush the birds as they got close to a creek crossing. As Stephen and I exited the blind I looked up and the birds were finally working our direction. We hurriedly jumped back in the blind. We had picked a couple of toms out as they were strutting in the open. The first tom to come in was the biggest of the bunch. It was determined Dusty would take the first shot and I would follow up. Dusty's bird closed the distance and began to feed around the decoy set up. I started telling Dusty to shoot as I was afraid the bird might leave. About the time I was telling him to shoot I spotted two more fans coming over a hill. Great more birds. We had the decoys set up right around 10 yards from the blind. As soon as the two additional birds popped the hill they came running. They worked perfectly into the decoys and went to town and began spurring him. Right after they went to town Dusty took his shot and smacked his bird. I drew and shot the bird I picked out, which had a much longer beard than the other tom. I watched my bird begin to drain blood from the wound. The one downfall to this perfect setup was that Stephen left his bow in the pickup so that he could video the hunt. After shooting my bird he came back to the decoy for more. I knocked another arrow and made a good shot, not a perfect shot, but broke a leg and disabled him more. The birds were now going nuts around the decoy and another mature tom came in to join in on the action.
Eventually the birds left the area and we went to retrieve our birds. As we neared the hill the birds left over I could hear a bird flopping. I have saw in the past and know how tough turkeys can be. Stephen kept a watchful eye on Dusty's bird and watched the others keep going and his did not follow. After popping the hill my bird took off. He his the creek and dove under a tree for cover. I placed one more arrow in him to finish the job. We quickly looked at my bird and I couldn't be any more thrilled. It was the largest bird I have taken with archery equipment and had an 8 1/4 inch beard and 1 inch spurs. Now onto Dusty's bird. We walked the creek where the birds ran too and up jumped Dusty's bird and into the water. The bird got back on the bank and found cover. Dusty finished him off with one more arrow and we had our birds. Time for some pictures. The morning started out cold and snowing and turned into a beautiful sunny evening. We tagged our birds and took some photos to remember this great hunt. We got everything working at Stephen's cabin and settled in for the night. Our friend Matt and his girlfriend Katrina came over to the cabin, drank a few beers, told some stories, and cooked up some great elk steaks for dinner.
The morning of the second day we decided to rest up and slept in. Later in the day a good friend of ours Bill Soyland showed up in camp and joined in on the fun. We stuck around the house and visited for a while. Dusty had a prior commitment for the rest of the day so he headed into town. Stephen, Bill, and I headed towards the Grand River to look for some birds and maybe do some scouting for the next morning's hunt. Lucky for us we immediately found some birds and made a plan to set up on the birds.
We hiked our gear down to an opening and set up the blind and decoys. After the second set of yelps on my box call the birds answered. It was hard to tell exactly where the birds were at, but they kept answering and slowly working closer to us. A couple of hens made themselves visible and would talk back to me and work their way in. Pretty soon we spotted the big tom that was grouped up with the hens. He would gobble now and again when I was calling, but they were taking their sweet time to come in. We had set up in a good spot, but put ourselves in a bowl that was lower than most of the other terrain making it hard for the birds to find us. I continued to call and call, and the birds finally came our way. The tom and a single hen began to come closer and closer, but the hen was very cautious. The tom finally got to a point where he could see our decoy setup. After noticing the decoy set up the tom couldn't take it any longer and came sprinting in.
The bird stopped right at the decoy. Bill kept saying to just film the bird, but Stephen was at full draw. The bird began to act like he might jump on the decoy and Stephen let his arrow fly. A perfect shot the bird did three back flips and died not but a couple of feet from the decoy. A very easy tracking job and ethical kill. Amazingly he was the only tom in the area. Bird number three down and another giant bird. He had a 8 3/4 in. beard as well as a double beard and inch long spurs. This was by far our best spring of turkey hunting in the past three seasons. We took some photos and headed for home. A great end to day 2.
Day 3 started out with heading back to the areas we first hit on day 1. We located the birds we were hoping to hunt, but they beat us and made it to private property we couldn't hunt. Down the road we went and located the group that blew out on day one. All four of us were hunting now and we took two blinds in. We set up the blinds and decoys and got ready. As I called the birds did what they do sometimes and went the opposite direction. It was Bill's turn to hunt this time. We picked up and headed to where we last saw the birds before they went out of sight. We knew we were close. Stephen and I went to go check if we could see the birds, and to our amazement we were very close. The only problem is that we were too close. The birds spotted us and took off. We tried to call them back, but had no luck.
After having the birds flee we looked around the area for more birds but had no luck. We headed back to Stephen's and again relaxed for the day and rested up a little more. Bill had to take off for the weekend so it was down to three of us once again. We again headed to the area where Dusty and I doubled up. The birds were scarce, but did eventually find them, but made the decision to leave them alone and called it a day. Dusty again had other things going on so he was done hunting for the trip. This ended day 3. Up to this point we had an awesome trip so it was nice to relax the last couple of days. Stephen and I spend Day 4 relaxing at the cabin and caught up just visiting. We both had to work the next day so we headed out in the afternoon. I made my trip back to MT and am hoping to get back out after some birds in the coming weeks in MT.
May 6th MT
Where to begin other than amazing. The day didn't result in a harvest, but an encounter I will forever remember. My friend Jerry McPherson got a hold of me and we decided we needed to get out after some turkeys. Jerry wanted to get some video of some prototypes and I was all for getting out and doing some calling.
We headed out west of Colstrip and hiked for a ways and attempted to locate some birds. Finally after a while we located the birds in the roost. The only problem was that they were a long ways away from where we were at. We hiked and hike some more until we finally caught sight of the birds. There were multiple toms in the area. Unsure of the number I would guess between 5 and 6.
I called and Jerry called, and I called some more. Finally after about 25 minutes of the toms going nuts a single one couldn't take it anymore and started walking our way. He would gobble and strut and slowly keep coming. I continued to call and pretty soon the tom did what I didn't expect. He appeared to be weary and took his time coming in. The bird worked to our right and went to the top of a hill. There was a fence between us and the tom. I could tell he was trying to find a place to cross, but wasn't having any luck. I continued to call softly and the bird started to get closer. He finally crossed the fence. There was one major problem. With the direction the tom came in, it placed me between him and the decoys. I knew it was a long shot, but I hoped the bird would walk past where I was lying and work into the decoys. I quickly learned how great a turkey's hearing is as I peaked over the berm I was lying behind and the bird was under 30 yards away and closing the distance right to me. He began to strut and look for the hen that was making all of the calling. Pretty soon I again looked and the bird was closer yet. I hunkered down, and waited. I knew he would be close to me, but not as close as he came. The bird came around a corner and appeared at my feet. Not 10 yards not 5 yards, but less than 3 feet. The bird was spitting and drumming and was keyed in on the decoys. I thought for sure he would keep going, but I'm pretty sure he caught me. He lifted his head and went the other way. For a split second I figured the bird would jump on top of me. He was close, too close. I was caught and there was nothing I could do. I tried to jump up to maybe get a shot, but was never presented with an ethical shot so the bird lives another day. This will be one of the most exciting set ups I have ever been a part of. The day ended with us heading back to the pickup and headed home. Even though I didn't get a shot it will be one of my favorite turkey hunting moments of my life.
May 9th and 10th MT
The season for spring turkey in MT doesn't close until the 15th, but the 9th and 10th were the last days I could make it out for the season. It turned out to be a great season as I took my best bird to date with my bow in SD and had some great encounters in MT as well.
The morning of the 9th started out with me heading to a spot I knew had birds in the area. I started by trying to locate them, but never had any luck. I packed up and hit another spot I had deer hunted in the past and crossed a couple of turkeys. As I got out of my pickup the birds were already gobbling, and they weren't too far from where I parked. I hurriedly got my blind and decoys set up and began calling. I was answered multiple times by multiple birds. I thought for sure I was going to get another chance at a bird. I had two birds working my direction and all of a sudden they stopped answering me. Not too long after the gobbling stopped it started to sprinkle some rain. As in the past I knew this is what made them stop. Before too long the sun was back out and I had another bird working. It took me a while, but he finally gave in and gobbled his head off as he came in. I continued to call and listen to the bird and pretty soon I could tell he was nervous about coming in. As soon as he came in the bird circled around me and never came in. It is getting late in the season so birds are getting more and more hesitant about coming into the calls. I finished up after this bird left me and called it a day. Leah had to work so it was daddy duty for me when I got home.
The morning of the 10th I was up bright and early again and headed back to the area where I found the birds the previous day. I went further from the pickup this time and could hear birds on the roost. I got set up and began to softly call. They were going nuts I had around 5 different toms around me and the hens were calling back as well. Again I could tell the birds were hesitant as the continually circled me, but would not make an approach. Finally I got two birds working together and they started me way. The closest they got was around 70 yards and I even got to see one, but that was the extent of it. The birds quieted down, and I figured my morning was over. While picking things up and breaking down I heard one more bird in the distance. I called and got him to commit to coming in. As before this bird too circled around me and wouldn't come in. My MT season ended without a bird, but I had a great season overall. In the end I now have a good spot to shoot for next season a little bit earlier.
On Nov. 17 my father-in-law Dan and brother-in-law Chris came out from CA for a visit for thanksgiving. Prior in the year we had planned to head back to SD where I grew up and do some pheasant hunting. Dan was able to make it out 3 years ago with one of his good friends Mike, and we had a very successful trip. They flew into Billings on Nov. 15 and we stuck around Colstrip for a day to relax. We hit the road the morning of the 17th and figured we would get an afternoon hunt in.
We made back to Lemmon around 1:30 and headed out to my friend Stephen's for the afternoon. I hunted the area a couple of weeks before and there was plenty of birds to go around it was just up to the shooting as it normally goes. I also brought my French Brittany named Colt. I hadn't had him out for a while and was just looking forward to letting him get some good exercise and play around. I figured out playing to him meant it was time for business. I kick myself all the time for not investing more of my time into him, as he performed way above what I was expecting.
The first afternoon there was plenty of birds, but the majority were getting up a little far out for us to shoot. We were hitting birds, but it was becoming apparent that our loads were too light to knock them down. We hit a few spots, and the Hungarian Partridge numbers are way up, which is awesome to see as they are such a fun bird to hunt. We walked one of the big fields, and I had Colt out and we finished our walk. We all gathered at a corner of the field, and Colt went on point. It had been long enough since I used him last that I didn't recognize him on point, but I quickly remembered and went to where he was at. We had just walked through the area so I figured he was catching old scent. I was wrong we all headed in and he was pointing right on top of a rooster and hen. The rooster went down to the gun of Dan. We ended the day with shooting a couple of pheasants and a couple partridge. Was a good hunt for the three hours we were out.
The morning of the 18th we headed back out to the same areas. It was a tough day as the birds continued to fly far out. Colt once again did fantastic and continued to point live birds. The tough part is that he can't depict between a rooster and hen, so quite a few were tight holding hens. We hit a lot of birds, but we were still shooting too light of a load. The birds we were hunting had been hunted hard since the opener in October, so they were a little wild. We again ended up short on our limit and again shot a couple more partridge. We knocked a few down, but not hard enough and didn't recover all that had been shot. All and all it was a fun day. I almost ruined the trip on our last walk though as I dropped the keys to our rental car. I was devastated I was already planning my trip back to Colstrip to get the extra set of keys. I headed back to the highway to meet my mother so we could make a plan. Just as I got to the highway I got a great call from my mother-in-law, Dan and Chris found the keys. I thought I could hear them yelling, but wasn't sure and then I saw the headlights and I knew we were good to go. The day went from devastating to time to get out in the morning and hit it hard.
The morning of the 19th we headed to the local store to find some heavier ammo. The store had a great selection, and we switched from 5 and 6 shot to 4 shot. What a difference. The birds were now falling and being recovered. We hunted all day and Colt did awesome. We had found every bird we shot and we finally lost one. I let Colt head to Chris to help look for the bird. With the help of Colt the bird was located and he had a grip on it and wouldn't let go. We had two more birds to get and were headed to another field, and a couple of roosters and hens made it easy on us and sat by the road. Dan and Chris jumped out and got our last two birds for the day, we filled our limit and even headed home before the sun set.
The last morning of the 20th it was going to be a short hunt as we had to head back to MT for Thanksgiving. We hunted the same areas and after a couple of hours had three more birds and hit the road. It was a very fun successful trip, and we learned to make sure and pack some heavier lead later on in the season.
I won't be going back to SD to hunt birds again this year, but I can't remember the bird population doing so well. I often forget how lucky I was growing up there and going out hunting after school or on the weekends and shooting birds so often. I also found a new hunting partner I will be taking advantage of from now on. If you ever get the chance to work with a pointer take full advantage of it. He isn't the best at retrieving but he knows how to find them and won't let them go. I look forward to the rest of the bird season in MT.
On Nov. 6th I worked nights and had previously decided to head back home to do some pheasant hunting with Stephen. We had planned a trip together where he would hunt deer in the morning and afternoons and hunt pheasants when we weren't in the stands.
I finished my day shift, packed up, and hit the road to South Dakota. I arrived at Stephen's at around 1:45 am. Just in time to get a little shut eye before hitting the stand in the morning. The plan was for Stephen to get a nice buck with his bow, but he tagged out the day before. He ended up shooting a fantastic 140's whitetail that he had trail cam pics of. With a buck tagged we decided to sit in the stand anyway as he still had a couple of doe tags, and I really didn't feel like driving all the way out for two days and not spend any time looking for deer. It was a chilly morning and we never had any does come close enough for a shot. We climbed out of the stand and we had been watching a little spike buck working our direction. After making back to the ground and warming up a little the buck continued to work our way. Pretty soon the buck was coming right at us so Stephen and I hid behind a tree and took some video of the buck getting closer. When the buck got around 15 yds away Stephen jumped out for the behind the tree and scared the small buck, which made him turn inside out and flee the other way. Was definitely a good laugh.
We returned to the house and took a nap for a bit as both of us were wore out. After getting a little rest and some food in us we headed out after some birds. We hit some areas right around the house, and I was quickly reminded of how fortunate it was growing up there and the amount of birds that are around. I always took it for granted with the amount of birds. I would like to try and describe how good the bird hunting is, but I can do it no justice as it is unreal. Stephen grabbed the camera while I hunted. We hadn't walked very far and the field erupted with birds. I would like to guess what got up, and will take a guess at somewhere between 250 to 300 birds flew up, but I also know that is way to few for what we saw. I was testing out a new shotgun purchased by Leah's dad, and pretty sure he may not get to use it as I was shooting birds like crazy. I ended up with my limit and Stephen wanted to go scout for deer. We drove around and saw more birds, and an abundant amount of sharptail grouse as well, even bagging a couple along the way. We scouted until dark and then headed to our friend Matt's house for some dinner. We cooked up the couple of birds we shot. We deep fried them and they turned out awesome, much better than you could expect. We sat around the table and had a few beers and shared stories from hunting to "get togethers" from the past. Stephen and I headed back to the house and determined the following day was going to be a great day to sleep in.
The following day we kicked back and headed out mid morning. We did some driving around the country side, which is one thing I truly miss as when we were in high school we could spend everyday out just driving around, and you forget how good simple things were growing up. There was a group of hunters coming out from CO and TX that I had an opportunity to hunt with around 7 years ago and it was great getting out hunting with them again. Everyone shot exceptionally well. By the end of the day there was 5 of us hunting and we got our limit of 15 pheasants, 7 grouse, and one partridge. I would like to say that we walked and walked and walked to get that many birds, but in reality we were done in two hours. We stuck around the house and had a fantastic home cooked meal, and it was time for me to head back to MT as I had to work the next day. It was a very quick trip, but even with a short 2 day trip it's more than worth it to spend some quality time hunting with great friends. Life just doesn't get any better. Getting very excited for my return trip Nov. 17-20 with my father-in-law, and brother-in-law from CA. Looking forward to showing them some of the best upland bird hunting in the WORLD!!!
I let myself get a little behind on here so will catch you up with some hunts I have been on. I hunted a couple of last days of Oct. and still had no luck. I was seeing deer, but just nothing for size and nothing giving me a shot. The first part of Nov. the rut began to kick in as smaller bucks were chasing does, and I even got to see the non-typical buck I had saw previously in the season. This time I got a great look at him as he and a couple of other smaller bucks followed a large group of does. I stayed within sight at around 200 yds. The non-typical wasn't as big as I had originally thought, but he was still a very nice 150's or so. He was a big three on one side and 5 on the other with large point growing on the main beam between the two sets of main forks. I was now beginning to see more bucks coming out and much larger bucks day by day. I snuck up on a couple of smaller 4x4's but no luck. During one evening hunt I saw the buck you dream about. I watched him from a long ways off, but got to watch him for quite a while before the sun went down. After glassing him over and getting to watch him for an extended period of time I guessed him in the 180's. I later met up with another hunter from town who had watched the same buck and guessed the buck will score easily in the 190's. Either way he is huge. I continued to watch deer day after day, but could just not get a shot, and would repeatedly have deer in areas I couldn't hunt.
I took a break from MT and headed home to SD where I took in some pheasant hunting with my good friend Stephen. Our plan was to do some deer hunting and pheasant hunting when not deer hunting, but he killed an awesome 140's whitetail with his bow the day before I could make it out. The bird hunting, well that's a story all of it's own.
I made it back to MT and knew I only had a couple of days left to hunt. I would have the 12th and 13th off and decided it was now or never. I went out the morning of the 12th on a block management area west of Colstrip. I hiked the majority of the morning, but had no luck. On my way back to the pickup I spotted a heavy heavy 4x4 chasing a doe. The doe spotted me and left with the buck. If only I had a rifle. I took the rifle along, but the area was an archery, shotgun, or muzzle loader only area. I'm bound and determined to get my buck with my bow, but as the season is winding down the rifle is getting more tempting. I went back out in the afternoon, but again had no luck.
I decided to stay home the day of the 13th as Leah and I are cleaning the house in preparation for her family visiting for Thanksgiving. I figured I would kick myself later as I was running out of time fast. The deal was I would take the 13th off in order to hunt the morning of the 14th, even though I was on nights for work that night.
The morning of the 14th rolled around and I selected an archery only area around Colstrip once again. As stated before I'm bound and determined to stick to archery equipment. I headed out on the unit and headed east along the boundary. I found an area with lots of tracks and set up. I sat for around a half hour and got impatient. I always try to stress the importance of patience when bow hunting, but it went out the window as time was coming to an end for the hunting season for me. I took off towards the south end of the unit, and bingo a small 2x2 tending a doe. Pretty soon more deer. At this point I was going to be very happy with a doe, 2x2, or whatever else gave me an opportunity. I continued to watch the deer from a distance, and happened to glance to my left on a hill side to the east of the other deer. A larger buck tending a doe. I couldn't tell exactly how big he was I just knew he was much bigger than any of the other bucks in the area. I continued to watch the bigger buck as he pushed the doe further away from where I was.
I headed down off of my vantage point and figured I would try to cut some distance between myself and the smaller bucks. I figured the bigger buck would push the doe away from and I wouldn't have a shot. I continued to watch as I carefully walked across an opening towards a creek bottom, which would give me some cover if the deer were to move my direction. As I continued to head to the creek bottom, the bigger buck picked his head up and became alert. I figured there must be a doe or another buck I couldn't see below me. Before I knew the buck was headed in my direction. I hurriedly took off for the creek bottom. I continued to watch the buck the best I could and noticed he picked up speed. The buck was now running right at me. I was a little confused because I knew there were no other deer in the direction I was headed after getting a better view. I made it to the creek bottom and got some decent cover. As I crossed to the side closest to the buck I began to see his antlers form just over the top of the creek bottom. I couldn't believe it the buck was acting just like an antelope would during the rut. Not only did the buck run from a ways away, but he was over 500 yds away from where I first spotted him. I can't recall which direction the wind was blowing, but I know It was in my favor as the buck kept coming. I could tell the buck was looking for me, but I had just enough cover that he couldn't see me. I came to full draw as the buck was just out of sight at around 20 to 30 yds. I could tell the buck was nervous and he began to step to my left. I slowly stood at full draw and the buck took off further to my left at a slow jog. I grunted at him and he stopped. Everything had happened so fast I didn't have time to get my range finder. I confidently figured the distance to him to be at least 50 yds and standing broadside. Never take a shot unless you are very sure of your shot. I settled my pin right in the middle, behind the shoulder, and everything was feeling great. I released my arrow and I watched the buck jump the string. I heard the hit and quickly watched my arrow exit out of the opposite side. I knew my shot was right where it needed to be, but at over 50 yds there is room for error, as I have experienced in the past. I quickly grabbed my binoculars, and I knew it was a fatal shot as the buck was sprinting to the next creek bottom as fast as he could and began to cough up lots of blood. At the very minimum I knew I caught a good amount of lung.
I waited 20 minutes before I went and looked for my arrow. I watched where the buck ran to and did not see him come back out into the open. I knew it was a matter of time and my buck would be laying on the ground. I went and checked my arrow and noticed the majority of the arrow was there, but I was missing my fletchings and nock. There was a huge amount of blood on the arrow and as I quickly looked around I found a highway of blood. The buck immediately began to bleed and bleed good. There was spurting blood, which left quarter size drops every couple of inches. I returned to the creek bottom and made a few enthusiastic phone calls. I waited another 25 minutes just to be safe. I kept telling myself I know he's dead, but give him an hour just to be sure. The last thing you want to do in go after him too soon and bump him, and then never recover him. It was a very long 45 minute wait,but well worth it. I ranged the area where I shot the buck and he was 53 yds away.
I headed to where my arrow was at and began to follow the blood trail. The little bit of snow that was left on the ground helped in following the trail much easier. I kept following it and still, no buck. Pretty soon I got to the next creek bottom where I last saw him run to. I followed the trail around a bush and there he was on his side. He ran between 150 to 200 yds and fell over on the trail. I went up to him and could not believe the amount of blood. I for sure hit some lung, but mostly hit heart. The only thing I could figure out is that there was enough time for him to turn towards me as the arrow was getting to him and I snuck the arrow through the front crease of his front shoulder and it exited right behind the opposite shoulder, which would be a slight quartering to shot.
He was much better than I thought. He was definitely not the biggest buck I have hunted this year, and not the smallest, but I'm beyond thrilled with a last day buck of any kind. He turned out to be a 5x3. This is my second mule deer buck with a bow. It just doesn't get any better.
I cleaned up my buck and took some photos. I skinned and quartered him out. I took the first load back to the pickup, which was right around three quarters of a mile. After dropping my pack and bow off at the pickup I got a hold of my friend Jerry McPherson, and he helped me make the second trip in to pack him out. Can't thank good friends enough for the help. I ended up shooting him right before 8:30 am, and got everything done and back to the pickup by 1:00 pm. Oh how I sometimes miss the days of just driving the pickup out to the deer and loading them up, but at the same time love the reward of bringing the weight out on your back. It was once again quite the season this year, and already dreaming of next year. Now its time to head back to SD for more pheasants and hopefully get some coyote hunting in over the winter before Lane gets here.
I signed up for a different area, which is also an archery only area. I hiked for a ways and took my time following the creek bottom. Again I saw little game movement as the weather was again chilly. I went to another area I had permission on in the same BMA and watched 7 does and one little mule deer buck feed close to the pickup, close enough that if I wanted to I could have possibly filled my tag. I decided to hold out as the only buck in the group was just a year old 2x2.
I headed west and began to see more and more deer moving. I drove to a state section west of town and watched several does and 2 yearling bucks, both 2x2's, feed close to the road. Again the bucks were just too small to shoot at this time of the season as I would like to wait for the rut to kick in.
I headed back to the area where I had saw the other does and buck feeding and walked the area out. As soon as I left the pickup I spotted a 2x2 buck bedded. Again just a small yearling. I crept up and got within 35 yards, but elected to pass once again. I try not to be too picky, but figure I would like to see the buck grow up, and there is a lot of season left. I returned home and didn't make it out as I rested up for the night shift.
I finally made it back out after a little break. There was a break in the season between archery season and general season starting on the 15th and ending on the 20th. The general season opened up on the 20th, but I was in ND for a baby shower for the little one on the way. A big thanks to everyone.
After going back to work I finally got some time off. I headed out the morning of the 25th to some block management which is designated as archery only. I hiked around for a while on the coldest day of the year thus far. It was nice getting out in the 20 degree weather, but I realize I may have to get some more layers of Sitka gear, as I did get a little chilled. The system I am using is more for early season, but I won't have to add much to keep me just a bit warmer. The wind kicked up and it cooled off as the morning progressed. It was a very slow morning, and not much was moving. I did not see a single deer in the area I had permission on.
I hiked out back to the pickup and headed north and west of town to other areas and still did not see much moving. I headed back home to warm up. I didn't make it out in the afternoon, but Leah and I took a drive west of town to get out of the house for a bit and see some country. There wasn't much to see as it looked like the weather had everything tucked in and not moving.
I headed out the afternoon of the 11th. I had the 10th off as well, but decided to rest up and stay around the house. It had been quite a while since I have gotten to just relax and lay in bed. The day of the 11th I stayed home and did some cleaning, and took care of Leah as she was sick. I sat around the house, and the itch to get out was too great. I headed out the door and went out for an evening hunt.
I headed west of town to some public ground and sat in a spot I had sat before, and waited for the sun to go down. Although I didn't see anything it was great to just sit on a rock and watch the scenery as night came. I did however spot some really nice mule deer bucks in an area they hung out in last year. I spotted 5 really nice shooter bucks and am getting excited for the general season to open up. The 11th was my last day to hunt as all seasons for big game close for a week, and will re-open on the 20th. Hopefully my luck with deer and antelope will turn around.
Kirk and I headed out early in the morning to beat the deer movement. We headed east of town and started near the river. We hiked in and took our time moving slowly. Nothing was moving to start with and we eventually spotted some coyotes eating on some sort of kill. We continued to glass and I eventually spotted a nice whitetail buck feeding in our direction. We decided to set up the Dreamy Decoy and do some bleat calling. I used the simple to use Primos bleat can and as soon as I let a call out the coyotes began to howl. I continued to call and did not see anything moving. Before too long I caught some movement out of the corner of my right eye. It was one of the coyotes. He looked right at me, but didn't spook. The coyote was content in the area and continued to look a the decoy. The coyote slowly began to head towards Kirk and gave me an opportunity to draw my bow. I drew and the coyote appeared to see my movement and continued towards Kirk. I let my bow down, and knew before too long Kirk was going to get a shot. Sure enough the coyote presented him with a shot. I heard the bow go off and the coyote take off. I was pretty sure the arrow had struck something in flight, but was unsure of what it was. I got up and headed over to Kirk, and he let me know he had a perfect shot but his arrow hit a piece of sage brush throwing his arrow just off. I headed back to grab my gear, and all of a sudden a 2nd coyote came running. This time neither of us had a shot and we headed out.
We decided to hike around and see what else was moving. Pretty soon the buck that was feeding earlier got up and headed in the opposite direction. No luck on him and he was a very nice deer, but just no opportunity. We headed back to the pickup and glassed as we hiked. Pretty soon we spotted a couple of whitetail does moving, and a couple of mule deer. One of the mule deer was a nice 4x4, so we made a plan. We watched the buck bed down, and he bedded in a stalk-able spot. We made our way around and were able to get above the buck. We went to where we thought he would be and he was gone. We did spot some does and fawns, but the buck wasn't with them. It appears he is one of those smart ones, and left the area. A smaller 3x3 eventually went to where the does were at. Kirk went one way and I headed the other. I was getting close to getting back to the pickup when the does and fawns beat me to where I was headed. I watched the does and fawns come out, but no buck. I headed back towards Kirk's location, and figured he might have shot the buck. I crept my way along the top ledge, and before I spotted the 3x3 buck he took off giving me no shot. Our morning hunt was over.
We drove around looking for a deer or antelope to chase, but didn't have much luck. We continued to drive, and get to high points to glass, but came up empty handed. I knew deer numbers were down this year in the area, but they are much worse than I thought. We stopped in one spot and grabbed a cup of soup for lunch. Still no luck.
For the afternoon we headed to an area I had not previously been. We hiked into an area that showed great potential, but very hard hunting. We hiked, and hiked, some more, and eventually came back out by the pickup. We decided to head back to town, and hunt areas on the way, while the deer were up moving. We saw a few here and there, but not much for bucks, and not on areas that we could hunt. The drive back to town was great as the sunset was no doubt one of the best I have ever seen.
We also got to see a beautiful colored fox right off of the road. I was tempted to shoot him, and even might have had a shot, but it was his head only, and I was glad to see him run. He had very black legs, and lots of black throughout his coat. He would have been nice to skin out, but I'm glad he got away. The weekend was over and it was time for me to return home. I stayed and Kirk's for supper and spent some time with his family. Although the day may not have been successful in terms of filling tags, it's always a very successful day getting to spend the day with my brothers. These are times that mean more than going out and killing anything, these are the moments I cherish most.
I picked up an extra shift on Oct. 5th as my pants from Sitka were on their way, but wouldn't arrive soon enough for me to get out and hunt. The morning of the 6th I headed north of town once again to see if I could get a chance at one of the mule deer bucks I had previously seen or the antelope that were continually hanging around. I sat in one spot for a while until the sun came up and did not see anything. I got up and hiked around the hill hoping to get a chance to sneak on a bedded buck, but had no luck and only spotted a few mule deer does and fawns. After not seeing much I headed back to the pickup and went out west of town to see what was moving. The deer were moving, but in areas I didn't have permission to hunt on.
My nephew Ethan had a football game in Colstrip in the morning so Leah and I headed to the game to watch him play. Miles City played great and ended up winning. After Kirk and his family headed out of town I stayed around the house and eventually got my things together to go hunting with Kirk for the weekend.
That afternoon I headed to Miles City and met up with Kirk. Kirk, Ethan, and I headed east of town and looked around to see what was moving and make a plan for the following morning. There was a few animals moving, and even got to shoot at a coyote, but was pretty slow for the most part. We headed back to the house to rest up and get ready for the next day.
I headed to the BMA I signed up for the previous evening. I took off on foot and didn't have much luck. As soon as I got towards the east end of my area I looked up on the horizon and found the buck I had been looking for. I didn't get to see the buck very long, but I could tell he was a very nice non-typical mule deer buck. I could tell there was at least 7 to 10 points on his left side and just as many on his right, but did not see how wide he was. The buck was smart, and headed out of sight only giving me a quick look at him, but just long enough to see he was definitely worth chasing. I headed back home, and would hope to see him in the afternoon.
I headed back out just before dark, and when I reached the area I wanted to hunt, there was a bunch of cattle in the area now. The cows had been moved into the area while I was at home, and I knew the buck wouldn't come into the area with all of the cows in there too. I headed to another portion of the section, and slowly worked my way along the creek bottom, and didn't see a single deer until I go to the very edge of the permit boundary, and finally found one small 3x3 mule deer buck. It was a successful weekend even though i came home empty handed.
My season will be on break for a bit as my Sitka pants ripped at a seam. I called Sitka and was treated extremely well by their customer service department. They are exchanging my pants without question. Another reason I am very glad I went with their gear.
I headed back north of Colstrip to look for the antelope, but came up empty handed. I went west of town and signed up for a block management area. I headed off from the parking area at around 7:15 am. I headed to some timber to look for some deer. I hiked the area for around 3 hours, and saw 5 does and one buck. I went to the south of the BMA and watched a smaller buck bed near a tree. The buck put himself in the perfect spot as he was impossible to stalk. I also spotted a bigger buck bedded beneath another tree, but he too was impossible to stock due to the fact he was bedded off of the BMA. I headed home to rest up and return in the afternoon.
I headed back to the south end of the area I was hunting, and noticed the smaller buck had left the area, and I was able to find his bed right beneath the tree. I headed further south, and as I was walking I was spotted by a group of antelope. I hurriedly put up my decoy and tried to stalk the antelope, but they wanted nothing to do with me and took off in the opposite direction. I sat next to a fence post in the middle of the field and was able to glass the entire area around me. All I saw was a decent mule deer buck, but he was too far away and couldn't tell the exact size of him. The mule deer buck eventually got up and walked out of sight. I headed back to check out of the BMA, and signed up for another area for the next morning.
I finally got back after. After still coming off of my high of shooting my first elk with archery equipment, Leah and I had a doctors appointment to see what we are having. We found out we will be having a boy. It was very obviously a boy, and the doc said if in the end we have a girl, something is wrong. She said it is 100% a boy.
Well after the doctors app. and spending some time on our horses the previous set of days off, I worked a couple of more shifts and it was time to hit the field once again. Previously I titled this post archery antelope, but as of now I'm hunting just as many deer as antelope, so I will just compose as both from now on.
On Fri. the 21st I headed back north of Colstrip to see if I would have any luck on the goats or possibly get a glance at one of the nice mule deer bucks I had previously seen in the same general area. I drove to the north of the section and spotted a group of antelope watering where I had saw them water in the past. I parked the pickup to the south and headed out on foot to try and stalk on the antelope. The wind was perfect, and there was also a little hill that hid my presence from the antelope and I was able to stalk within 130 yds. I was able to observe the antelope close to the water, and finally got a good luck at the buck. There was also some cows watering that knew I was there. pretty soon the buck looked to become concerned with what the cattle were looking at. Before I knew it I looked to my right and here came the buck. It was now or never I knew this was my chance. Everything happened so fast that I did not get a range of where the buck would be coming to. I looked up and the buck was standing there looking in my direction. I crouched down and drew my bow. I knew he was closed and guessed the range to be 30 yds. I stood up and put my 30 yd pin on the buck. I relaxed and released my arrow. LOW it went just under his belly. The buck was actually closer to 40 yds. The only good outcome was that it was a clean miss. The buck headed back to his does, and they skirted around me and eventually ran out of sight. Everything happened so fast that I was back at the house by 7:30 am. The morning hunt lasted a whopping 1 hours. I would be done hunting for the day and spent the rest of the day at home with Leah as she too had the day off of work.
I headed right back to where I had saw the two bucks the previous morning to see if they returned over night, and tried to set up where the antelope may also come into water. As the sun came up I hadn't saw anything move, until I looked on the hill side and a lone coyote worked his way in my direction. He came within 100 yds, but saw something he didn't like and headed the other direction. I continued to sit and watch for movement and finally caught some on the hill side to the north of my location. It was a very nice mule deer buck I had previously saw in the area in the month of July. He is only around 22 in wide, but very very tall with great forks. He definitely didn't look quite as good as he did in velvet in July. None the less if he came close enough I was ready to take him. He fed away from me and in the same direction to private as the bucks from the previous morning.
I headed to the top of the ridge where the bucks were the previous morning and walked the tops to see if anything was in the creeks below. Not much was around, but I did find one small 2x2 mule deer, and thought it might be the same on from the previous day, but the bigger buck was not with him. I headed back to the pickup.
Once back at the pickup I saw a buck crossing the prairie dog town, and headed after him. I tried my decoy, but it didn't appear to appeal to the buck and he headed away from me.
I headed out west of town to the block management area I had signed up for. While driving back to the parking area I saw a huge framed mule deer bedded close to the road, but on the wrong side of where I was allowed to hunt. I looked the buck over and he looked really nice until he turned his head and he forked at the very top of his antlers and that was all. He was basically a really big 2x2. I headed out on foot to see what I could find. I located some antelope on the wrong side of the road and found some shade to watch and see if they would eventually come my direction. The antelope never came, but I had a hen turkey and 3 little guys get within 10 yds of where I was resting. They headed one direction and I headed back to the pickup for the day to head home and spend some time with Leah before I headed back to work, and eventually my week long elk hunt.
Well once again after finishing night shift I decided to immediately head out and see what I could find. I headed north of town once again, and again found some antelope. There wasn't a good way to make an approach that was close so I headed to the long way. Finally after crossing a very deep creek bottom I headed to where I thought the antelope would be. I hustled, but no luck I couldn't find the antelope anywhere. I continued to look over each hill top and never could figure out where they went to.
As I continued to look I looked up to the horizon and saw a small 2x2 mule deer buck bedded at the very top of the ridge. He had spotted me, but it didn't appear that my presence bothered him too much as he remained bedded. I looked to the right of the small 2x2 and, WOW what a buck. I could tell the buck was sleeping, and could tell he was a decent buck. I stopped in my tracks and looked him over the best I could. I figured he was around 26 to 28 in. wide and had decent mass. The buck finally awoke and lifted his head. The buck was a mature 4x4 with great forks, and good eye guards. I would guess him to be anywhere from 155 to 165. I sat and watched the bucks to see where they would go. There was no way to put a sneak on them, and they were also bedded on private land. The bucks eventually got up, fed further onto private, and walked out of sight. After the bucks left I headed back home to rest up for a bit.
I headed back at out in the afternoon. I headed back to where I had last saw the two bucks. While waiting I crept closer to the top of the creek bottom only to find the missing antelope I though had left the area. Once again I had been spotted before I could spot them. The buck and does left the area. I never did have any deer come out to feed. It looks like the warm temps have the deer coming out to feed after dark. I did have one antelope doe work her way towards the water on three separate occasions, but would never come close enough to offer me a shot. Although it was an unsuccessful day there is definitely a good outlook for deer.
I headed right back to the Sate Sect. from the previous day. I wasn't able to locate any goats as the sun came up so I headed out to see if any goats remained in the area. I walked to the north of the section, and there they were. Only bad part was the one thing I hoped wouldn't happen, happened. Two does spotted me before I spotted them. I was pretty sure I was had, and was going to be out of luck, but if I didn't try for them it would be a pointless trip there. I crouched down and threw up my decoy. I began to creep towards their location, but no luck they fled the area, and so did the bigger buck from the previous trips.
I got back to the pickup and headed west of town to some block management areas. I checked in to see if I could sign up, but the area didn't open up until Sept. 1 when the rest of the general archery season opened up. The BMA was more for management of mule deer rather than antelope. Before checking in I had driven west to see the damage the recent fires had caused, and found good numbers of antelope. Most of the antelope were on private ground, but I did locate a couple of bucks in a newly opened area. After finding out the area was closed it was time to head back east and look for other goats. The good thing was I now had another area close to home that was holding decent numbers of antelope I could later access.
I headed to some public ground I had yet tried to hunt. I put on quite a few miles, and hadn't seen many goats. Finally I found a two section area with a two bucks and three does bedded on it. Time for a stalk. I parked out of sight and headed after them. I again threw up the decoy and crawled towards them. One of the does picked me off and began to get curious to what I was. I stopped and set up. The bigger of the two bucks stood up and looked the north. I knew something else was out there and looked to the north. Pretty soon three mule deer bucks headed north across the prairie and out of sight. The antelope soon settled down, and re-bedded. I sat patiently, and the antelope finally had enough, left the area and headed to private ground. I searched a couple more areas, but to no prevail. Back to home I went and attempt another day.
I finally made it back out after working some extra shifts for work. I got home at 7 a.m. and decided it was time to get back after it. I got ready and headed out. I headed back north of town where I had an encounter with a nice buck. As I got close to the State Sect. I saw the buck from the previous encounter with a few does.
I left the pickup with my gear and headed after them. I got to the same area as before and the goats were no where to be found. I sat for a while and had no luck. All of a sudden two bucks appeared on the prairie dog town out of no where. The were smaller bucks, but if they came in I would be happy with either of them. I threw up my decoy and caught their attention, but had no luck and the bucks eventually went out of sight. Back to the pickup I went and headed home for the day around 11 a.m. I was beat as I had worked the previous night and was ready for some sleep and try to hit it the next day.
I finally had a couple of more days off, but took the 20th to spend with Leah. On the evening of the 20th Leah and I drove north of Colstrip to a State Sect. I have seen antelope on before, and surprise surprise there they were right where I was hoping.
On the 21st I headed north to try and kill the buck I had seen the previous evening. I left the house bright and early before the sun was up. I headed out on foot as I had located the antelope near the area where they were the day before. On my way to the antelope I looked down and seen some fresh coyote tracks. I didn't think much of it. All of a sudden I looked to my left and there standing was a coyote. I couldn't believe it. I grabbed my range finder, and he was at 50 yds standing broadside and didn't seem bothered by my presence at all. I drew and shot. I missed just over his back. I forgot to aim a little low as I was at an angle above the coyote. I never found any hair on my arrow, but just barely missed. Oh well back to the antelope.
I continued to keep an eye on the antelope and snuck within 100 yds of where they were feeding. I was able to get a good look at the buck and he was a dandy. I figured between 13 and 14 in. buck with good mass and good prongs. Definitely a shooter, compared to what I had seen this year. I sat and watched the buck and does for a while when the buck noticed me. He began to come closer as his curiosity was getting the best of him. All of a sudden he took off running. I could tell I hadn't scared him, and that's when I noticed another group of antelope to the west. There was a smaller buck he was chasing.
The bigger buck gathered up all of the does. I returned to my gear and again grabbed my decoys. I set them up and made sure the buck could see them. The decoys caught his attention. I could tell he didn't like having another buck in the area. Pretty soon he gathered up the does and pushed them to the south. All of a sudden the buck popped a hill within 120 yds. I knew he meant business so I readied myself and took some ranges. The buck came, but then stopped. He was just out of range and stood on a prairie dog hole at 72 yds. I'm comfortable at 60 yds, but at 72 yds I was not going to push my limits and risk losing the buck due to a bad shot. The buck stood there for around 5 min and would just not come any closer. Pretty soon the buck looked at his does and headed back to them. I figured I was done, but here he came again. Once again he stood just out of range and eventually figured something was up and off he went back to his does. The morning hunt was over so I headed back to the pickup.
My day wasn't over as I headed back east to where I had the encounters the previous days. As soon as I got to the section I was hunting there was a doe and fawn bedded right on the public and private boundary. Great I knew they were in there I just was unsure of the exact location. As soon as I headed towards the creek I saw a bucks head right at the top of the horizon. I threw off my pack and grabbed my buck decoy. I set it up and it caught the attention of the buck. He was a shooter for sure, not near as big as the one from the morning, but still a shooter. The buck headed downwind and would only get come as close as 120 yds. The buck left.
I headed in the direction of where I encountered the big herd previously. As I was headed there I looked back to where I had just came from and seen another buck on the horizon. I worked my way across a flat to the creek bottom. Along the way I kicked up a doe and fawn. I continued and eventually lost sight of the buck. I looked to the south and here came another buck. I watched the general direction the buck was headed in and went to cut him off. I set up where I figured he would come. He came right to where I figured he would, but he also spotted me before I spotted him. Once again at that 100 yd mark. Again this would be so much easier with a rifle, but not near as much fun.
I was once again sitting for hours, out of food, and slowly running out of water. The heat was getting to me so I found what little shade I could and laid down for a nap. After my nap I saw five more smaller bucks bedded on the private, and also managed to locate two other hunters hunting the same antelope I was. I was now out of water and it was time to head back to the pickup as once again wore out from the beating sun. I was done for the day and returned home, and back to work for a stretch of 7 nights before I can get back out. By the time I get more time off archery elk and deer will be open. I have a week long trip planned for the Snowy Mountains with my brothers, but will also still be trying to stick a goat in the mean time.
It was now the 16th and the second day of the season. I headed back to the area where I had located the buck the previous evening. As I got close to the section the goats were all over. I located approximately a doz. bucks and around 20 does just standing next to the road. I stopped, and noticed another pickup behind me. The pickup went behind me and parked. I figured I would give them first dibs and I would run and check my other areas.
After checking my areas I did not find any goats, so I headed back to the previous stop. Upon returning the other vehicle had left. I took off with my pack on foot around 8:30. I topped the hill and immediately found a buck. I headed to the creek bottom to see if I could put together a plan on the buck to hopefully harvest him. I worked my way to the far west of the buck. I made it to the creek and began to slowly look for other antelope meanwhile keeping my eye on the other buck. I did not find any and finally sat on the edge of the field in the creek. The buck had spotted me work my way across the open field and worked in the same direction I was headed. Finally the buck re-appeared and headed back to the north. The buck eventually bedded near the top of the hill from where I started the morning. I sat and watched the buck for around 2 hours. While watching him I figured it was time for lunch. I grabbed my mountain house meal and had lunch. The buck never did get off of his bed.
Finally the buck got up. I grabbed my gear and prepared to ambush the buck if given the opportunity. The buck began to feed and work his way to the west, but wasn't getting any closer. All of a sudden I noticed something had caught the bucks eye. I looked in the same direction and here came another much bigger buck. It was time to make a move. I grabbed my Montana Decoy antelope and got between the two bucks. The bigger buck noticed it but would not come in. Eventually the smaller and bigger buck left the area. I followed the bigger buck and found his herd. There was the majority of the bucks I had seen by the road in the morning and a lot more does.
It was now around noon and I was stranded. There were antelope all over, but they were on the private ground. All I could do was sit and watch and wait to see if they would come close enough for a shot. I returned to my pack and threw up my Montana Decoy antelope buck. It caught the eye of a couple of antelope, but they just continued to feed, and bed down, and feed, and bed down. I sat there for what seemed an eternity. I ate my last snack from my pack and slowly ran out of water. Now what do I go back to the pickup or wait more. It was getting really hot and the sun was beating down, and at this point all I was getting was a very nice sun burn. I finally returned to my pack and grabbed my Montana Decoy antelope doe and placed her by the buck. The biggest buck was continually running smaller bucks off and trying to get his territory built up. Finally the buck looked over, and now a few more does were watching in my direction. The buck got between the does and me and off all of them went. Even though I spent 8 hours with that herd and not getting a shot, it is always worth the wait, because you never know when things will come together and you will get that shot you have been waiting for. This is where I talk about patience being a virtue with archery hunting. If you don't have much patience archery hunting can get very frustrating.
I finally packed up and headed back to the pickup. The sun was setting and it was time to head back home. As I neared the pickup there ran 4 bucks right back to where I came from. I was too wore out to chase after them. I got back to the pickup and re-hydrated myself. Homeward bound and I would return later. But wait on the way home at the edge of the section stood a nice buck and a few does. Out the door I went, but was another unsuccessful stalk. That was the end of the first two days of season and now back to work for a couple of days.
Well this will be my 3rd year with the 900 antelope tag. The season opened on Aug. 15th. I made it out for opener and the following day the 16th. The 15th started out as a gorgeous day. This year has been abnormally hot, and wouldn't you know it the opener brought 60 degree weather and rain.
I headed east of Colstrip in search of a decent buck. Antelope numbers have came down drastically enough that rifle tags went from 13,000 down to 3,000 total tags. Numbers have plummeted, and it looks like not as many people are putting in for tags. I did something I have never done and forgot to put in at the June 1 deadline. I was feeling really down about it as antelope is one of my favorite animals to hunt. It's always the first thing in the fall so anytime I can get outside and chase something is great. Fortunate for me there were surplus tags. I knew when they would be going on sale, and I just happened to be working night shift when that happened. I purchased my tag and I would once again be chasing goats come Aug.
Well the opener came and I was as excited as always to make it out. I even had the opener and following day off of work. I hadn't scouted much as I received my tag only days before the opener. I knew some areas that I had watched antelope in the past. I headed that direction and goats were very hard to find. Finally near a State Section I was able to locate a buck and a few does. The took off towards the public ground so I headed the same way.
I knew there was a dam on the section they were headed to so I grabbed my blind and pack and headed out. The dam was very good size and there wasn't much of an area to pinch off where the antelope would come to water. I found an old stock tank with fresh grass around it so I knew there would be water there, and it was in the general direction the goats were headed. I popped my blind up and decided it was time to sit and be patient. The weather was windy and rainy, but I didn't mind as we needed the moisture and I was nice and dry in my blind. I sat for around 4 to 5 hours and nothing came in. I even managed to catch a nap. After a while I determined I would pack everything up and look at another area I knew where they like to hang out.
I headed that way and made it to the same section I killed my buck at the previous year. I headed across the field and popped the hill above a deep creek. Immediately I spotted a small buck feeding around 200 yds in front of me in the wide open. There wasn't much I could do and there would be no getting around him. I popped up my Montana Decoy doe antelope and made him aware of my presence. Immediately a few mule deer to my right took off. The buck became curious, but never came close, and eventually headed off in the opposite direction. I picked up my gear and headed back to the pickup, I now knew where I would be in the morning.
The evening of Sept. 6 started with me getting off work and getting my gear ready. I had scheduled time off for the 7th through the 13th. I got all of my gear gathered up, set it all out and made sure I had enough equipment to help me stay comfortable for 7 days out in the woods.
Here is what I would have to make work for 7 days or so I thought.
This was the finished product and how I would take camp in if needed.
As always the anticipation of the hunt was unbearable. I stayed up quite a while just getting my gear ready, and making the list for the final items I would need to pick up before heading to meet my brother Todd. After a good nights sleep it was time to hit the road and head to elk camp once again. This is my most anticipated hunt for the year, and one of my favorite hunts to go on.
It was finally here, the day I had long awaited. I headed to Billings to begin my trip, and stopped at a couple of sporting good stores to pick up the final items I would need to make a great week of staying away from the pickup. I made it Billings by 9:30 in the morning and hit up the stores, and finally made it out of town by noon and headed to meet my brother, get gear ready, and try to get an afternoon hunt in.
I met with Todd and we got all of our gear together and got everything we would need to head off the trail, and live away from civilization for a week for me. Todd would have to head out a little earlier due to other commitments, but I was cleared until the 13th.
We made it to an area that looked good and hit the trail. Todd and I hiked in for around 1 mile and decided to turn around as it looked like we would have to hike a long ways before we could effectively hunt, and we had not found any water to this point, which was going to be key to have an extended stay. After thinking things over we decided to back out of that area and head to another.
We headed to another area that looked good, and it was beginning to get to be late afternoon. We decided to try and hike in around 3/4 mile off of the main road and locate some elk. It wasn't long after parking the pickup and getting ready to hike when Todd thought he heard a bugle. Well that is exactly what Todd heard, and they were somewhat close. Pretty soon I could hear the bull, and it was obvious it was an older bull as the bugle was very raspy, and what you would think a mature bull would sound like. What an amazing start to our trip we now had located some elk. This can be the hardest part about hunting elk. If you can't locate them they can be very difficult to hunt.
We headed off in the direction of the sound of the bull. As we continued to hike in the bull continued to bugle. Pretty soon the bugles began to sound closer, so it was time to set up and try to call them in. We were no further than 1/4 mile from the pickup, and the sounds again sounded closer. Todd and I dropped our packs and got ready to find an area to set up.
I set up towards the opening to make sure I had a clear shot. Todd set up below me and began to call. I ranged around the areas I could see, and could range anywhere from under 15 yds to 60 yds where I may get a shot. During practice I continually made sure I was very accurate out of 60 yds, and boy did it pay off.
Todd continued to call, and pretty soon another bugle rattled off. If you have never experienced the elk rut and hearing a bugle in the wild you are truly missing out on the best sound ever made by an animal. I sat as still as I could and pretty soon I could hear something walking close to my right. I slowly kept looking to see if I could see what was walking as I knew it was elk in the area. Out of nowhere I heard one of the last sounds you want to hear. I heard a bull bark as to warn every other elk in the area of danger. I later found out from Todd that there was a 5x5 rag horn within 40 yds of him, and the bull spotted me, and blew up. I figured the gig was up and we were out of luck for the evening. I remained still and was going to wait for Todd to come out and head back to the pickup.
Not too long after the bull barked I could still hear something walking out in front of me I just couldn't see any movement. All of a sudden I saw what I was hearing. Right behind some tree I ranged at 50 yds I saw the rear end of an elk coming out of the trees. I drew my bow, stepped out from behind a limb, and readied myself. There it was, a big cow elk came out from the trees and looked right in my direction and to where the calling was coming from. I stood completely still, and remained at full draw. I thought to myself do I want to shoot a cow this soon since we were already into elk. That thought crossed my mind for around 3 seconds, and I knew it was time. The cow looked up the hill behind her and gave me an opportunity to put my pin on her. I knew she was only at 50 yds, and I was very confident in my shooting. I put my 50 yd pin right where it needed to be and let my arrow go. I MISSED, I watched my arrow go right over her back, or did it? The arrow flew perfect, but I just missed high. Right after I shot I heard Todd come out from where he was calling from. I turned around and told him I just missed her high. Todd immediately told me to hold still and be quiet. I turned around again, and saw the cow come back out into the open. I hurriedly tried to nock another arrow and get ready for another shot. Wait a minute something was wrong with the cow. She began to get weak in the legs and looked like she was hurting. Unbelievable, she began to wobble, and lose her footing. I now knew I had made a great shot. I watched her as she then fell. I was very confused on what had just happened. I knew my shot felt just like you want it to. I was very confident in the shot and it looked perfect left to right and flew well, but looked high. Well what had actually happened was that I lost sight of my arrow as it crossed her body. I almost made a huge mistake and didn't stay as quiet or still as I should have.
Todd and I came together and just realized I had just killed my first elk with my bow in the first 20 minutes of the hunt. My emotions went from I missed to I just killed an elk in less than a minute. It's hard to describe the feeling, but it will be something I will never forget. When I saw the arrow go high I figured I had made a mistake in my shot, even as good as it felt. I knew I had the range right, and I knew everything felt good, I just knew it was something that fell apart when I let the arrow go. I felt disappointed I missed, but after realizing it all came together it was almost too much. I have been trying to kill an elk with my bow for the previous 4 seasons and I now have just killed my first on the very first evening of the hunt. Not only was I tagged out, but the pack out was only 1/4 mile from the pickup and it was down hill. It doesn't get much better than that.
Todd and I gave the cow some time to expire, but knew she was finished as she fell within sight, and we could hear her coughing, which meant there was lung involved in the shot. We just sat there and took it all in and tried to wrap our heads around what had just happened. Normally I would just expect to have a couple of encounters at best, and get to hear the elk bugle once in a while. I couldn't have dreamed up a better scenario. The only thing that would have been better, would be to take a huge bull, which wouldn't taste near as good.
Finally after giving her enough time we went to track her and see where she was. The first thing was to find the arrow. I did not see or hear the arrow hit her so it was unknown if my arrow passed completely through or not. We went to where I shot her and found no arrow or blood. I started to head to where I last saw her at, and still found no blood or arrow. I continued to look and started to head to where I last saw her fall. I looked, and THERE SHE WAS out for the count. We went to where she was and there was very little blood in the area, and still no arrow.
Now for the work to begin. Todd did the majority of the work as I helped where needed. I have some amazing brothers that makes things way to easy for me. I can't thank them enough. Before skinning my cow out we took some photos for memories then got after it. We rolled her over and found the entrance hole. It was a perfect shot. If anything I hit her a little low, but Todd watched her after my shot, and she began to wobble in the first 20 seconds and was dead in just over half a minute. The shot was right behind the shoulder in the pocket you always try to aim for. I ranged from where I she was shot from and she fell within 33 yds. It's absolutely amazing how fast archery equipment works when done right. While skinning the cow out I finally found part of my arrow, which was on the ground just up the draw from her. I also found a good blood trail, and it was amazing that with the size of the animal there was actually minimal blood. The arrow had broken off inside of her. We finally got her quartered up, got the back-straps, loins, and even brought out the cape. It was an ideal pack out as it was mostly down hill and close to the road.
We made most of the trip in one load, and I headed back to the kill site, and pulled out the ivories and came out with the last quarter. Both Todd and I were exhausted, but headed into town and got the meat to a freezer and found a good place to rest for the night. All I could think about is that I was tagged out. What a memory it will be. We could not have been much luckier, and blessed. It was luck for the elk to come in like they did, but also took some skill on my part to make the shot. Elk are a big target, but everything has to come together, and my practice surely paid off in the end.
The morning of the 8th started with us resting our bodies for the rest of the trip. We had one elk and did it right away, which was way more than we could have asked for. With our bodies refreshed we went and did some laundry to get the stink off of our clothes then grabbed some food to keep us going. We headed to set up camp and then head back out hunting for the night.
The afternoon of the 8th we headed right back to where we were the previous day, but headed further in. We sat and listened and began to hear them bugle right before sunset. I set up in the trees with the decoys and watched Todd as he called and would signal for me to call. I continued to watch, and noticed Todd could see something. I heard something walking, and heard a branch break, which meant elk were in the area. After several calling sequences dark began to set in, and the elk were close, but we didn't want to put too much pressure on them and have them leave the area completely. Right before dark Todd signaled to head out and back to the pickup. We made it back to the pickup and headed to camp for the night. While calling Todd could see a tree moving close to him and I both. He said it was a rag horn at 50 yds, but he just didn't offer a shot, but also stayed in the area for around 20 minutes.
It was a short day, but a successful day as the elk were still in the area. While hiking in we found some good tree rubs, and there was elk sign all over the place.
We finally made it back to the pickup and back to camp for the night.
The morning of the 9th started out with a hearty Mountain House meal, and a good cup of coffee. If you ask Todd I move really fast in the morning. We were going to head in where we finished off the night before.
We headed off at around 6 am and headed back in. We set up and just listened for them to bugle and try to figure out where they were at. I again set up with the decoys, and a couple of bulls began to bugle back to the cow calling that Todd was doing. After a while the bugling stopped and it looked like everything was bedded down for the day. The forecast for the weather for the days was going to be the hottest day we would be hunting, so them bedding down was no surprise.
We headed further in and found a good opening where the elk had been using multiple trails. We shaded up for the day and would wait to see if they would move mid day or if it was going to be a sit all day and hunt just before dark. It turned out it was going to be a sit all day and hunt the last part of the day and see what we could come up with.
Finally at around 6:30 pm a bull bugled, but he was quite a ways away from where we were at. A little while later the bull bugled again, but this time it was farther away. Todd decided it was time to set up and see if we could get some elk to come from the south of us. Once again I set up the decoys and tucked back into the trees as to not be seen. I stayed within ear shot of Todd so I could hear if he needed me to call. Todd began to call, and there was no answered bugles, but he continued to call every so often.
Pretty soon the calling stopped, and I could hear Todd saying something, but I wasn't exactly sure what it was. All at once it clicked and I began to call. As I called I could hear something walking, but I wasn't sure what it was. Pretty soon I looked through the trees and could make out an elk and pretty soon I could tell it was a cow. I continued to call and try to keep the cow's attention on me rather than Todd. I continued to give soft cow calls, and she continued to come closer. Pretty soon the cow stopped. I continued to call, and watched the cow take a couple more steps, and then I heard the shot. I heard the bow go and then the smack of the arrow hitting the cow. I hurriedly cow called in hopes of slowing the cow down, and then I could hear Todd begin to celebrate. At that point I knew the cow was dead and met Todd in celebration. I looked to where the cow headed and saw her fall in the trees and begin to cough, I knew it was a great lung shot.
After realizing both of us were tagged out in basically two days, Todd filled me in with what I didn't see. While he was calling he heard the cow step on a rock, and she had him pinned down to where the calling was coming from, and that is when he was telling me to call. He said before I began to call the cow came in cautious, and was unsure of the other cows, Todd and I, were all about. He said after I began to call the cow saw the head of the Elk III decoy, and she came in on a string. He said she was unsure, and then came on a b-line towards the decoys as I called. I could see the cow looking for the calling, but she couldn't tell where it was coming from. The cow stopped behind a tree between her and Todd, as he drew his bow. Todd said as I kept calling she stepped out and gave him a broadside shot at 38 yds, and it was game over. The cow ran down hill 100 yds and tipped over. It was another young dry cow that was going to taste amazing.
It was time for photos and pack out. Todd made a perfect double lung shot. Once again it is absolutely amazing to see how effective archery hunting is when it is done right. It was still so unreal to be done, not only myself, but both of us. It had been 10 years since Todd had last archery killed an elk. It was my first kill of an elk with a bow, and we were done in just a couple of days. It will be an elk season we will never forget. Todd boned out the cow and we packed her out once again downhill and close to the road. You couldn't ask for much better. It will be very hard to top this weekend hunt we had.
I'm very excited about starting my own site, and looking forward to passing on some of my knowledge. For my first blog I figured I would put up some old pictures and give a look back at some details I remember of those hunts starting from old to new! This will be very long so be prepared, but should also be entertaining!
I will never forget this deer. It was the very first whitetail buck I ever shot. It was around 2003 my senior year of high school. I had already been hunting since 1996, but had never killed a buck up until this point. I had previously been out the past few years with my dad and took a doe every year during the youth season. I could no longer hunt just does, and was now looking for a buck. I was hunting with some friends I hunted with every year. There was Stephen, Riley, Preston, and myself. I can't recall all who filled tags, but I knew I was ready to fill mine. We drove around for quite a while, and finally found some deer in a corn field. We drove the edges, and finally there he was bedded just on the inside of the corn less that 50 yds away. I took aim and fired with my .308 Browning. A perfect shot the buck never moved and died right where he was bedded.
This was pheasant opener a few years back with Stephen and I. As I recall we both had our limit of pheasants and were done within the first 15 to 20 min. I sure do miss the great bird hunting I was able to do back in the day. If we weren't chasing pheasants or coyotes, that meant it was ice fishing time or deer season.
This deer was shot during the 2005 West River rifle season. It was again Riley, Stephen, and myself. We had been back on a place we normally hunted, and we spotted him in an area we called Buer Draw. We threw the spotter up and could tell he was young, but a nice wide buck. I decided I would punch my tag with him. Off we went. The deer held tight in the bottom of the draw and finally ran out. He ran straight away and with one shot that was it. This was the third buck I had killed.
This mule deer was taken my very first year as a resident in Montana. This is where I realized just how much of a flat lander I was. It was 2007 and I had just started working at the office the previous fall, but had to wait to gain residency in MT. I finally had some time off during the deer season after attending the law enforcement academy.
My brother Todd took me out to some public land in the eastern part of the state. We hiked away from the road for a couple of miles as the sun was coming up and began to glass for deer. There he was trailing two does. Todd said he was a really neat buck and a huge buck for being a 2x2. I told him good enough for me. The buck and does were walking around 250 yds from left to right. I steadied myself and took aim. BOOM I missed, for those that have hunted with me know full well I like to give the deer a warning shot before I mean business. Well I like to think of it that way. The deer took off, I fired again and missed. Finally I calmed myself as the deer was leaving our location and was going to go out of sight. Just as the buck started to peak a drainage around 350 yds away I fired. I could tell the shot wasn't that great, but I hit him right in the back leg. Off we went to find my buck. We took our time as we got closer. There he was lying in the bottom of the drainage doing his best to hide. I got within 50 yds and put another round into him. That was it, now the work began. I was so used to just driving the pickup up and throwing them in the back that this whole lets pack it out on our backs was news to me. After gutting, and quartering my buck we loaded our packs, and headed back to the pickup. The sight of the pickup was a blessing as I was wore out. To date this is still one of my favorite bucks. He was rough scored by my brother Kirk at a whopping 131 inches. Not bad for just a 2x2.
This would be the Spring of 2008. My brother Kirk and I went out to find a turkey or two. Up to this point I had never really chased turkeys around a whole lot.
We headed down to the Custer National Forest. It was a gorgeous morning and things were looking good. On our hike in we managed to catch a coyote by surprise and he ran right at us. Kirk pulled up with his shotgun and got him. A short time later we managed to find a really nice 6 pt. elk shed. This was the first elk shed I had ever found. Kirk found it first, but had many of his own so he let me keep, and it now sits on top of my TV stand. Not a huge bull, but a respectable 6x6.
Finally it was time to get into the birds. Kirk began to call and here they came, I could hear two birds gobbling away. They kept getting closer, but something held them up. We picked up and headed towards the birds. There they were a fence was blocking them, but I had a shot. I fired and hit the lead tom. Off he went I followed him and found him again. Kirk had gone bellow me and the bird came running my way. I fired as he was at around 10 yds with my 12 ga. It was done I had my first bird and it was time for some pictures.
2008 was a year of many firsts for me. First I killed my first turkey in the spring, and would soon be hunting elk, as I drew a very coveted either sex tag with rifle for the Custer National Forest (CNF). Before elk season though came antelope. I had never hunted antelope in SD as the winters of 96 and 97 had hurt populations and a couple of seasons were shut down.
Finally while living in MT I drew an antelope tag. Kirk and I again headed to CNF. We had looked around a few places, but never saw many goats with size. Finally we seen my goat, but he was on private. We went to a couple of other spots, but no luck. It was the next day, and the goat we were after finally made it to public ground. The stalk was on, as the buck was bedded out in the open, but in a stalk-able position. I crawled out and he was still bedded at around 130 yds. I fired, miss, right over his back. Again the warning shot! I chambered another round and fired. Perfect shot right behind the shoulder, the buck tipped over backwards and that was it.
With antelope over it was now time to concentrate on elk and deer. I had never been elk hunting so I was very excited to finally get the chance to possibly take such and amazing animal.
I had been scouting with Kirk the prior week to the opener. We had located some elk near some BLM, so we figured we would start there come opener.
Finally it was elk season, I still couldn't believe I was hunting elk, and it was the first year that I had applied for the tag to boot. On our way in to set up camp a few cows crossed the road, which meant things were looking good. I was joined by Kirk his son Ethan and my dad. My dad had drawn a general elk and deer tag. I was very excited to have family hunting with me. My dad was able to take a cow, but no bulls with his tag in the area we would be hunting. We finally got camp set up.
This would be a season I would never forget. It was the day before opener and tragedy had struck. We got a phone call and a very dear friend of the family had just passed away. Our family friend Brad McGee had been found dead while out elk hunting in the Black Hills of SD. It so very hard to take the news. Brad was a friend that went to college with Todd and Kirk in Bottineau, ND. Almost every fall Brad would stay at mom and dad's and hunt the West River Rifle deer season, so Brad spent a lot of time at the Anderson household, and over the years became part of the family. Todd headed over during the search to help look for Brad and he informed us of the bad news. I wasn't sure how to take the news, but knew Brad was now looking down on us. It was later determined Brad had a massive heart attack. The world will never be the same place without Brad, but he is in a better place and he will be forever missed.
After very little sleep the season had opened. Kirk and I headed one direction, while Ethan and dad went another to look for a cow. Amazingly dad and Ethan had a close encounter with a bull. There they sit by a tree in the open and a very nice 6x6 bull fed right by them within 30 yds. Kirk and I didn't have the same luck and eventually met back up with dad and Ethan, and boy were they excited to tell us the news.
Kirk and I immediately headed in the direction that dad and Ethan watched the bull go. There was only a couple of places the bull could go so we did our best to get a good vantage point. We walked the top of the draws and looked for the bull. We knew we were close as we could smell the elk, but we weren't sure of the exact location. After looking for the bull for a while we came up empty handed, so we headed back to camp. We sat in camp for a while and decided we better go to try and find the bull again. We went into the same general area above the draw. There he was I couldn't believe my eyes. All I could see was horn. I had never saw such an amazing animal. It was huge. He was at the bottom of the draw within 50 yds. Not only was this my first elk hunting trip this was my first ever day in the first few hours chasing bulls and now I had a great 6x6 bull within archery range, yet I'm holding a rifle. I told Kirk I could see him and Kirk hurriedly told me SHOOT. I got down and took aim. I hit him in the neck. I fired again, but missed, I was a little excited to say the least. The bull ran into the open and paused to look back. I fired once more and hit him again he was standing around 120 yds away. I knew the hit looked good I just wasn't sure how good. I couldn't believe it I had done it. Not only was I getting the chance to finally elk hunt, but I just shot a great bull. I have never had a feeling quite like this. I have had adrenalin rushes hunting before, but nothing compared to this. I asked Kirk how big he was and all he could say was BIG. I asked what he would score and Kirk figured anywhere from 330 to 350. Before season my goal was a bull over 300, although the area can produce much bigger bulls. I could hardly catch my breath, what did I just do it was a dream come true that was short lived.
After calming my nerves Kirk and I went to where the elk had been to look for blood. Blood was found, not a great amount, but blood, which meant a hit. We began to follow the blood trail. I told Kirk to stop I could hear something, but I wasn't sure what it was. Pretty soon I knew I heard the bull cough, which was an indication there may possibly be a lung that was hit. Kirk decided we better back off. About the time the decision was made, we went to leave the bull alone and uh-oh he took off, crashing through the trees making a ton of racquet. We followed the blood some more and found where he stopped. The blood looked good as it began to pool up on the ground where he would slow down. We got to the edge of an opening to try and locate the bull, but he was no where to be found. Great now what.
We returned to camp, and would later return to again try and locate the injured bull. I knew I had made a good shot, but I never realized how tough of an animal they are. My dad, Kirk, and Ethan headed off to look for a deer, or elk for dad. I continued to search for my bull. I had my gps so I followed the property boundary between public and private. Unbelievable I found more blood just as it was getting dark. I marked the spot and went to find the others to head back to camp for the night. The next couple of days would be the longest of my short hunting career. Never had I been through such a high to a low so fast. I knew I would find my bull, or at least I hoped I would. I just didn't know where or when that would happen. I was not going to give up until I did or exhausted every option. It was my responsibility to locate the bull I had just shot.
The following day I picked back up on the blood trail. I looked and looked, but came up empty. Wait what was that, no more that 50 yds away a bull ran out. Was it my bull? It's a bull, but he sure doesn't look that big and it doesn't appear he's been shot. I pulled up my rifle and took aim. I sure don't see any blood on him and he looks way too small. I let the bull go. I continued to look for blood. Later joined by my brother we found more blood. The bull jumped the fence onto the private. Just what I was hoping wouldn't happen.
I was able to find the landowner and explained my situation. To my surprise the landowner gave me permission to retrieve the animal. Great another hurdle jumped. He even went so far to grant me permission to drive right to it. I told him no I would be on foot and would leave my firearm at camp. While I was diligently following my bull my dad took the opportunity to shoot a fantastic mule deer. He was very happy and it turned out to be a very memorable hunt. I joined the others and we took some photos with dad's deer. Kirk, Ethan, and dad had to take off, but I was going to stick around and continue to look for my bull. I was later joined by my brother Todd who assisted in looking for my bull. We continued to find blood until dark.
The following day I was on my own. I picked up where Todd and I left off. I wasn't finding any blood, but all of a sudden heard some coyotes in the general direction of where the blood went. I took off running, I just knew it had to be my bull. I popped the hill within 100 yds of where Todd and I left off. Magpies took off flying, I couldn't believe my eyes. There he was, my bull had died. I ran as fast as my worn out body would allow. For the first time I go to put my hands on him. I pulled out my tag and tagged my bull. I immediately found some cell service and passed the word to Todd. There wasn't much of the bull left so the pack out job wouldn't be bad. It appeared the bull passed the same day I shot him. The coyotes tore him apart. Everything in the hind end was gone. There was the front shoulders, but I figured they had spoiled as well. Todd was unable to help out so I called Kirk. I returned to the bull and began to prep him for the pack out. I cut his head and neck off. I learned the hard way that there is a lot of neck meat on an elk.
Finally Kirk and a friend of his showed up to assist in the pack out. My body was wore out. It will probably be the easiest elk packing job I will ever do, as we only came out with the head. I had earned those horns, and I proudly put my tag on him. It was very hard to lose so much meat, and would have been very easy to have given up earlier and went to find another one. Not me I gave every effort possible to find that bull, and find that bull I did. Once Kirk and his friend arrived they showed me that I had around an extra 50 lbs of meat left on the neck, and once removed I was able to pack the head out. After a few pictures we hit the trail and got the bull out. This isn't my last elk hunt, but it is one I will never forget.
I had filled all of my tags except for my deer tag. Todd and I met up and headed east. He knew of an area with some decent bucks hanging around so we headed there.
I kept in the back of my mind how amazing it would be to fill all of my tags. I still couldn't believe I had fill my elk tag. Todd and I looked around and seen a few bucks here and there, but nothing really worth chasing. It was getting dark, and the deer began to move. Todd grabbed me and said here he comes he's a huge whitetail. I looked and couldn't believe my eyes. After closer inspection it was deemed that it was in fact a mule deer buck. I looked him over, and decided he is the one I wanted to shoot. We sat and waited for the buck to come closer. Finally the buck was within range. The buck stopped at right around 200 yds I fired, miss. There's that warning shot again. The buck just stood there. I fired again this time hitting my mark perfectly. The buck ran a few yds and tipped over. Finally all of my tags were filled. We quartered the buck and packed him out to the pickup. 2008 will be one tough hunting season to top, and will always be one of my most memorable.
2009 was very different that 2008. I wasn't quite as successful, but then again 2008 is going to be pretty tough to beat. I started out, but convincing my friend Stephen to put in for an elk tag as a non resident for elk and deer. Stephen ended up being successful in drawing an elk permit for the CNF.
Stephen came out and we set up camp with Todd and Kirk. It was a blast as elk camp always is. I came a little later due to work and time constraints. Before my arrival Todd, Kirk, and Stephen had some good luck getting into elk, but weren't able to close the deal. After a couple days of not being very successful Todd and Kirk had to head out, so it was just Stephen and I.
I hadn't had much experience calling elk, but watched my brothers do it. The left behind a hot lips elk call, which is a call made by Primos that you could make sound like two cow elk calling at once. Stephen and I tried on our own in a couple of spots, but didn't have much luck. We went to a new spot on the last day Stephen could be out. The weather had taken a turn and Stephen and I were wore out. We asked each other when we woke up if we should even go. The answer after a little bit was YES we better. We slowly got going and headed out to look one last time for some elk. About the time we were ready to give up, Stephen found some elk. I glassed where he was looking and sure enough 9 cows and calves were headed out into the open. Amazingly they began to somewhat head our direction. The only puzzling thing was that there wasn't a bull with. It was prime rut yet no bull. Oh well I told Stephen we better get going. Off we went running to the bottom below the elk. I had Stephen set up in front of me about 40 yds. I began to cow call, and cow call, and cow call. All of a sudden an answer, and she was close. I continued to call and there she was less than 20 yds from Stephen stood a cow and calf. The cow had my location pegged. I watched Stephen draw, I thought yes here we go she is done for. Stephen shot I heard her bark, and take off running. Stephen immediately acknowledged he had shot her. Stephen was unsure of his hit, but we immediately found blood, and lots of it. We gave the cow around 2 hours before going in after her.
After trailing blood for a while it began to taper off. We looked and looked, but no cow. I broke away and continued to look and again picked up on blood. Stephen continued on, but I remained near the last area of blood. I looked, and wait what's that, it was her tipped over in some thick stuff. I yelled for Stephen and he came running. After a couple of photos we had her skinned, quartered, and loaded onto the game cart.
I killed this buck in the fall of 2009. I spent quite a few days searching for a good buck. Finally towards the end of my looking I finally found a decent one on some public land. I stalked within 176 yds, and shot. I ended up hitting the buck on the first shot, and hit him twice more, and also missed twice. This was the first buck I killed on my own.
I also killed a nice antelope on my own on some public land north of Colstrip.
2010 was the year archery hunting would become my addiction to what it is today. I started the year off hunting antelope with my bow. I had drawn the 900 archery only antelope. I had made my mind up I was going to concentrate and finally kill something with my bow. It had been over 10 years since I started bow hunting and I had come up empty handed every year, although I had never really concentrated only on archery.
I was excited for the 900 tag because it would give me a couple of extra weeks to hunt. I spent the a lot of time in my ground blind, but wasn't having very much luck. I knew water would be key early on due to the high temps. I continually sat by water. On one specific morning I watched some antelope near a water hole so I set my blind up hoping they would come in at some point. No antelope showed up, but I did get a close visit from a black bear. I later set up at another water hole that I kicked three antelope off of, and they later returned the same evening. I left my blind up and returned in the morning. Almost immediately after the sun came he came in. I wasn't sure how big he was I just knew he was a buck and that was good enough. I drew back and knew he was around 45 yds away. I took aim and let my arrow fly. It hit it's mark, I couldn't believe it all of my preparation had paid off I had my first buck. I later got a shoulder mount done, and he officially scored 66 4/8 only 4/8 short of P&Y, but he had 0 deductions. I also got the hunt on video which is attached.
After antelope it was onto archery elk. Kirk, Todd, and I would be joined by Brad McGee's wife, and her friend Mick Jost. Both Danielle and Mick drew out of state elk and deer permits.
We headed down to CNF. I ran into a few elk, but never seen any nor had any close calls. Before I had my encounters I went to an area Kirk sent Mick and I to set up on a watering hole. As soon as Mick and I entered the area I heard a cow bark, and I knew we were busted. I had Mick sit anyway just in case. Before setting the blind up I cow called, and had a cow come right in. The closest she would get was 80 yds. After she left Mick, and I set the blind up and he got nice and cozy. I went to another area and got a few responses from a couple of bulls but no luck.
After dark came I met with Kirk and we went to pick up Danielle and Mick. Upon arriving at their location Mick was very excited, and stated he stuck a big on. Both Kirk and I figured he was just kidding as that tends to happen from time to time. Mick was dead set on the fact he had just killed a really big bull. Still not believing him he said he found blood, and all of a sudden it was very apparent Mick wasn't kidding. It was time to celebrate. We headed in, and found blood just as he stated. We looked and looked, and pretty soon Danielle found him. At first Mick stated he was sure the bull would score over 300. As soon as I seen the bull I knew not only had Mick killed a 300 bull, but I told him Mick that's a 360 bull not 300. Sure enough after he had it scored it scored right around 360. An amazing bull killed by an amazing man congrats again Mick that is one bull of a lifetime. We got the bull all ready to go and packed him out finally finishing at around 2 am. Brad truly looked down on us all with a big smile. No one else was lucky enough to punch a tag, but fun was had by all.
Next was deer season, and Danielle returned for a chance at a mule deer. The very first morning Kirk, Danielle, Danielle's friend Laura, and I headed out. We headed off the road on foot, and while glassing Kirk spotted a very nice buck. Off we went. We managed to sneak within 70 yds of the buck and his does. Danielle made a fantastic shot and killed the buck. He had a nice double white throat patch, and turned out to score in the 170's. What a trip for a couple of SD hunters. Hunts they will never forget with great friends.
After we got Danielle's buck taken care of we headed down the road. As we were driving Kirk stopped and said WIDE buck. We jumped out and off we went, Kirk and I. We crawled to a vantage point and I could see the buck bedded in the creek bottom. Wide was right one of the better bucks I had seen. I took aim, and the buck stood up. I fired the ol' warning shot and the buck took off. Shot again got him only in the rear. The buck fell to the bottom of the creek I snuck up and shot again got him in the spine. Finally I got really close and finished him off. I think it's time to hang the rifle up. In the end we had two great bucks shot within a couple miles of each other.
2010 also included a Mt. Goat hunt. Todd was fortunate enough to draw a coveted mountain goat tag for the Crazy Mtns. We decided on a 5 day trip. It will probably go down as one of the most grueling hunts of my life. We hiked back 8 miles in to some of the most rugged mountains you can find. It is also some of the most breathtaking country you can go into.
We set camp and did a little fishing. The first day I stayed at camp as the hike wore me out. Todd, Kirk, and Todd's friend Derrick headed out after goats. The following days I tagged along looking for goats. It was the last day, and we would have one more day to try and get Todd a goat. I was nice and snug in my tent when I hear Todd and Kirk waking me up telling me to get my butt out of bed as there was a black bear in camp. Apparently the bear woke Todd up as he was also fishing in the lake, but he would do belly flops into the water. Finally I crawled out of bed my contacts still hazy in my eyes. I threw on my boots some hunter orange and headed out in my underwear. I was given Todd's TC .300. I seen the bear he was a mere 45 yds away. I took aim, and missed. MISSED how do you miss, well I guess I can answer that...I still don't know, that one will haunt me forever. But I guess it must have happened for a reason. We broke camp and hiked out. As we made it back over to the main trail we continued to hike, and there he was right towards the top of the mountain one lone billy laying in the shade. Todd, Kirk, and Derrick decided to go for him while I stayed at the trail. I watched them take off after the goat and 3 hours later they were on top of the goat. They almost killed themselves getting to him, but Todd made a great shot and had his goat. It will be another long lasting memory and a hunt my body will never forget. It's one of those hunts that you never turn down if a friend or family member has a tag.
2011 started with me headed back to SD for spring turkey. I would be hunting with Stephen, and our friend Dusty.
There was definitely no lack of birds it was just up to us calling right and the birds willing to cooperate. I was the first to strike, and took a bird off of my buddy Matt's place. Next we headed along the Grand River. We found 4 jakes. Everything came together, and Dusty and Stephen doubled up on two jakes.
I again drew the 900 antelope tag, and was again successful. This bow hunting thing gets very addictive, when you start killing a few things. I did not have much luck early on with antelope. I took a break for a bit and headed out for elk.
The forest was full of hunters as well as full of elk. I hunted elk for 8 days, and got into elk 7 out of those 8. On the 14th of Sept. I heard around 150 bugles and called in 3 bulls. To date this was my best year of elk hunting even though I was unsuccessful. I called in a bull that would have scored in the 350 range to 140 yds, followed by a 340 bull that came with 80 yds, and an hour later a 300 bull with 4 cows within 20 yds, but could only see his neck and the very top of his back, no shot. I also found the herd bull in the area which would have grossed around 370 to 380. It was an unbelievable elk season and even though I did not kill it will be an everlasting memory.
I next concentrated on deer and elk. I had lots of encounters with deer, and missed a nice 110 in whitetail at 20 yds, I had guessed him at 30, talk about frustrating. The week before this encounter in the same area, I shot my antelope. I was planning on hunting deer, but watched a few antelope cross below me so I set up where they crossed as I had seen another group of antelope headed that way, and I figured I could cut them off. What do you know it worked. I had two does cross within 10 yds, and the buck was 15 behind them. I drew and sat up and the buck ran out to 40. I let my arrow go and hit him a tad back. I followed him and ambushed him again and placed a perfect arrow at 20 yds, to buck took two steps and that was it. At this point I now had 1 antelope buck, and one turkey under my belt. My success is beginning to turn around. I rough scored this antelope at just under 62
It was now time to concentrate on killing a deer with my bow. I was hunting some public ground west of Colstrip. While hunting the public ground I ran into a local landowner who gave me permission to hunt some of his ground. I jumped on the opportunity as I knew the quality of bucks the area would produce. I set my blind up and tried some spot and stalk in the area.
I wasn't having very much luck. I had a nice 150 to 160 in. buck come within 10 yds of my blind he was just on the wrong side of the fence. Earlier while driving in the area I saw a buck I guessed to be in the 180s close to where I could hunt. I didn't ever get a chance at the buck, but did manage to ambush this nice mule deer in an area I could hunt. I snuck up to an embankment and waited for this buck and a smaller one approach my location. The smaller buck seen me and fled the area. Lucky for me the bigger buck stuck around. I drew and sat up. The buck didn't even budge. I let my arrow fly as the buck was quartering to me. Once again a little far back. I followed the buck and again ambushed him, and as he walked to me he got within 20 yds quartering again, but this time I hit him perfect right through the heart. The buck ran a few yds and expired. I ended my 2011 season better that I thought I ever would.
That is pretty much all of my older hunts I have pictures for so from now on most all of my updates should be current hunts you can follow along with. Thanks again for taking your time to read about my hunting, and I hope you enjoy reading it, just about as much as I do telling the stories.