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.