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Persistence Pays

montana, wild, bull, elk, bowhunting, archery

There would be no dark timber, no wallows and downfall this September. The subsititues would be coulees filled with sage and brush, patchy timber, clay buttes and grassy bottoms. The elk would be more visible but also much more educated. The name of the game would be spot-and-stalk, which was fine with me. When we arrived at our campsite a few days before season we were welcomed by seeing a dozen bulls trotting off from a pond nearby. The elk were here, we just needed to find the half blind, deaf and dumb ones and we’d be ok.

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The first day started quick. We spotted a herd feeding up back towards the hills as the east was beginning to lighten. The wind was still working in our favor and we quickly looped ahead. A couple bugles littered the morning as we dropped the packs. I snuck up to the last bush before the saddle I figured they would travel through. Travis stayed back with the camera in a more hidden position. I slowly stood to see if they were still coming. A small raghorn was looking my way but didn’t appear to recognize me. There were a bunch of bulls behind him and I crouched back down and put my release on the string. A minute later the first of about 10 bulls came through at 56 yards. Raghorn, spike, raggy, raggy, raggy, damn raggy! The last two bulls came into view, both small immature bulls. I cow called and one stopped perfectly broadside. I held my pin behind the shoulder. He was toast if I wanted him. I let down and they trotted off. Well things were off to a good start but where did the herd bull go? We dipped over to the next small ridgeline and sat down. Soon we saw a good bull emerge across the basin, pushing cows and softly bugling. They had made it to the timber and the game was over at the moment.

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Right now your probably thinking it’s just another cheery day in Montana out elk hunting but I’ll give you one word that will change your mind, mosquitoes. Heavy rains dropping multiple inches of moisture in late August had spawned the gnarliest hatch of mosquitoes that anyone had seen in many many years. At any moment you could have 20-100 mosquitoes swarming your body thirsty for blood. It made life miserable as they were there 24/7. Any semblance of scent control was out the window as you had to constantly be spraying bug spray to have any degree of comfort out there. The daily bite average had to be over 20 bites even with bug spray and head nets, which were worn during times of the most intense attacks.

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After a few days of this we were greeted by heavy rain for two days. Our boots were wet and with nothing to build a fire near our truck we were stuck in the truck with wet layers, socks and sleeping bags courtesy of a leaky topper. We camped it out, it’s part of the adventure right?

elk, hunting, montana, mud, danner boots

When the rain had resided we began hunting again. The mud stuck to your boots in large amounts. Turning your boots into 5 pound mud clogs. We still found elk and even a couple nice deer but stalking in mud that was multiple inches deep that squeaks and sloshes makes a quiet approach almost impossible.

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A day after the rain the hordes of mosquitoes were back which made for equally difficult stalking conditions. Trying to sneak through the timber within 100 yards of a bull with 10 cows is tough when your trying to swat mosquitoes out of your eyes and ears, add in a second guy filming and it gets even harder. Over the next week I was within 100 yards of 7-8 bulls that I’d be more than happy to tag. It seemed the elk had a sixth sense and would do everything opposite of what they had been doing prior to the stalk and contrary to what you thought they’d do. Add in a few stalks blown by dumb hunters (me) and a couple by death by mosquito and I was feeling a bit angry and frustrated. My time was up for the time being and it was my turn to pick up the camera and get to filming. Four days later Travis had a bull down and we were headed back to Missoula with an elk in the truck.

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We knew we had to return. We had about a week and a half until we had to head east for mule deer and I had a grudge to pick with these bulls. As we pulled into our morning spot the truck read 74 degrees. This was at 5:30 am. It was hot and daily temps for the next two days would easily surpass 85 degrees. The elk were back in their first and last hour regiment and sightings were minimal. The third morning the bulls were pumped up though, with 5 different bulls firing off in one small basin. After a couple hours we had closed the gap on the one bull staying vocal after the sun had risen. He was up at the head of a small draw. The boots came off and we headed up the side of the draw. After twenty minutes we heard coughing and hacking about 70 yards in front of us. After sneaking around a couple bushes I could see a cow shaking her head and blowing her nose trying to clear her airways of something. It seems she had sucked in one of those pesky mosquitoes. I glassed around her but saw no elk. I decided to loop up around a hundred yards. As we started dropping down into the timber I heard a bugle right back where we had been just ten minutes ago. They had circled under us and they were now up and moving. A few minutes later as we closed the gap on the bull a collared cow busted us and the gig was up. As we got back to the packs Travis says, “I wonder if that bull smelled the estrus I sprayed while I was waiting as you were watching that cow?” All I could do is laugh and shake my head. Sabotage at it’s finest.

elk, hunt, stalk, sitka, bear archery

Two days later we quietly slipped down a ridge. It had once again rained and everything was quiet. As we sat down to glass we quickly spotted two bulls. One fed over the far ridge and the second bedded in a group of brush. It looked like a stalk was possible and we closed the gap. We peeked up over the ridge across the basin from him and he was still there looking complacent as he chewed his cud.

elk, montana, wild, hunting, bow, archery

I got landmarks, took off my raingear and headed off. As I crept over the ridge I knew the brush was taller than I had expected. I kept sneaking in closing the gap and the far hill was only 60 yards. He was close but I couldn’t see anything. As I stepped back to move further down the hill I heard grass being ripped up. I turned back and saw antler tips through the brush. He was now on his feet feeding. I stepped back up but my only gap left a shooting lane that only revealed his upper back and head. No shot. He soon had wandered downhill behind the brush. I looked down the hill and noticed one small gap and the area behind it looked grassy. I hoped he’d head that way. After a tense moment that felt like ten I saw him coming. I was ready and as soon as he was a step from hitting my lane I drew. He proceeded to turn downhill and then enter my gap quartering away too hard. He was 45 yards and after just over a minute of being at full draw he turned broadside. My pin settled behind the shoulder and the arrow was off. It made a loud smack and he ran down the hill. I could see my arrow sticking out and as soon as he disappeared I heard crashing and wheezing. I knew it was over, all the effort fighting the elements and matching wits with some of the most educated elk in the state had finally paid off.

elk, bowhunting, montana, video, bear archery, wild, 2014

mystery ranch, elk, backpack, hunting, montana, wild, sitka gear

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-Zack

Mosquito City, MT

[Well September is a busy busy month.  Archery season is only so many days long and throw in time spent filming and getting some work done and it always seems like time is too short and the personal days you get to hunt too few.  This fall has been a whirlwind and we've been very blessed so far.  I just wanted to give a quick update on the elk hunting and some recent success I had before we head back out the door to chase mule deer.  Enjoy!]

Two days prior to opening day Zack and myself wandered the hills, searching for bugling bulls. Our ears were instead filled with the buzz of little pests.  The mosquitoes were like the plague.  The heavy rainfall that this area had received at the end of August rejuvenated the mosquitoes in the area to biblical proportions. We quickly made a detour to the closest town to buy mass quantities of bug spray and cross our fingers that our Thermacell would deter a small portion of the hungry critters.
mosquitoes, sitka solids
Zack was up first, while I had the camera in tow. The elk hunting was difficult, between hunting pressure and avoiding the mosquito swarms. Stalks on bedded elk usually ended in a blood buffet for the mosquitoes. Staying still for more than five minutes was a chore and  spending time behind the glass was rather frustrating.

hunting mosquitoes, sitka shooter glove, vortex summit

Zack still managed a bunch of great encounters and passed on multiple bulls, hoping to lure the herd bull in close. Before we knew it another heavy rain storm was upon us.  The gumbo mud appeared in full force and our boots instantly turned into ten pound weights.  Living out of the truck became quite the task.
Gumbo, mud, montana, bad, nasty
After battling the elements, the sun regained its strength, but not without a price.  The mosquitoes had flourished in the new rainfall and we were now on the brink of insanity. Zack was frustrated and gave myself the opportunity to hunt the last four days of our trip. I made the best of my time, finding multiple bulls, and breaking the 100yd mark on numerous occasions.

elk, bull, wapiti

Our final morning we found a large herd we had been following. Our wind was swirling all morning and half the herd split for cover. A lone bull stole 6 cows and wandered elsewhere.  We pursued, seeing opportunity in the landscape they were headed. Removing my boots and going into ‘full ninja’, I crept in to 35 yards, cow calling the bull to his feet before deploying an arrow.

Ninja socks, hunting, stalking, socks

The shot looked good, but the penetration was not as expected.  Lung blood littered the ground, but slowly dissipated into a timbered coulee.  After an hour of searching we relocated the bull, who was bedding and standing every hour in the thick brush.  With no opportunity for a stalk, we waited the bull out for 6 hours, before he finally bedded in a position where I thought a shot might be possible. I got back into my ninja socks and crept in to within bow range.  The bull was about to stand to re-bed once again, I came to full draw, fighting the heavy crosswind before putting pressure on the trigger.  The bull stood stunned as I put two more arrows in his chest before taking his final breath.

Metcalf 2, mystery ranch, sitka gear,  core, merino, elk ridge, snapback, knife

After examining my first shot, I found out my arrow placement was too low given the downhill angle.  My arrow had pierced one lung and struck the sternum. I thanked the good Lord above that I was able to recover this animal and felt relieved to know that the animal would not go to waste. This elk season has brought about so many challenges, yet this season has been my best elk season to date. Once again I have been overwhelmed with the knowledge you gain elk hunting year after year. The confidence is high going into the remainder of the season.  Elk meat is in the freezer!

elk, hunting, bowhunting, missouri breaks, bull, montana, wild

mystery ranch, hunting, metcalf, 2, II

-Travis

Carbon Express Arrow Giveaway

carbon express, maxima, hunter, 350s, giveaway

We are teaming up with Carbon Express Arrows to giveaway a dozen of their Maxima Hunter 350s (unfletched and uncut).  These are a killer hunting arrow which we’ve both used with a lot of success.  Here’s the contest rundown.  During Montana’s General Archery season (September 6 – October 19) you’ll have the chance to submit a photo which will enter you into the contest.  The photo must be archery related.  It can be taken from anywhere you please and there is no constraints on the subject matter.  Our only criteria is that it embodies the experience of hunting in some way, whether it’s a horseback ride into camp, an epic sunset, two bulls fighting, or you and a buddy celebrating after a kill.  Be creative and get out there!

To enter simply post it to either Facebook or Instagram as follows:

Facebook – Simply share your photo on our wall with a quality caption of the photo.

Instagram – Post your photo to your account and simply use the hashtags #montanawild and #carbonexpress

***To be eligible you must [LIKE] both Montana Wild’s Facebook and Carbon Express’ Facebook***

We will pick a winner sometime the week of 19th-25th of October and announce it both on Facebook and Instagram.  We will be giving away some Montana Wild gear for some of the quality runner ups.

Photo Examples:

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hunting, bear, backcountry, montana, wild, backstraps, spring, diy, videos

elk, quarters, in, tree, hunting, montana, wild, videos, bowhunting

antelope, hunting, broadheads, montana, wild, spot and stalk, videos

-Zack

Speedgoatin’

Well the calendar keeps rolling forward and Montana’s General Archery opener is quickly approaching.  This past week we were able to get the time off to go brush up our archery skills by chasing around some of the elusive antelope.  Conditions started off with temps in the upper 70s and low 80s but deteriorated quickly by the time mid-week hit.  The last 4 days of our hunt saw rain for the most of every day.  Quality gear was a must this year as the rain can quickly put you back in the truck if your not prepared.  After getting some real good stalks in early we decided to go meet up with our good friend Branden VanDyken who is the co-owner over at BeTheDecoy.  We quickly got started with him as Travis was able to lay down a nice goat our first day out as a crew of three.  I was able to get one down on the last day after a long and stressful day prior spent in a constant downpour.  Life is total chaos right now trying to get ready for elk/deer so I’ll leave you with some photos from the hunt.

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This is what it looks like when the 3 bucks you just stalked in their beds pop up and don’t give you a shot at 30 yards.

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The sun sets on Day 1.

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Zack hunts smart before hunting hard on Day 3. Being able to wake up and pull out the spotter is the nice part about living out of your truck.

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Travis uses some natural barriers to get to 30 yards before slipping an arrow through this bedded buck’s chest.

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Travis with his 2014 Montana antelope.

 

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The guys packing out Travis’ goat. Not much weight when it’s split in half.

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Looking for the “Hundred Dollar” buck in the pouring rain.

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Tony being a turd and forcing us to bump him out of the wheat.

antelope, hunting, montana, wild, spot and stalk, archery

The final stalk. The antelope was bedded below the rock and Zack was able to slip down the hill using the rock as cover. After getting to the rock it was an easy 20 yard downhill shot that ended our day with the 2nd tag being filled.

antelope, hunting, montana, wild, archery, sitka, bear archery, vortex optics

Zack with his 2014 speedgoat.

antelope, archery, hunting, mystery ranch, metcalf

The final pack out and the lightest we’ll have all year.

If you have never bowhunted antelope I’d highly encourage it.  When we set out on Day 1 I told Travis that I didn’t feel very deadly.  I hadn’t hunted in months and it was awesome to get back out and start hunting again with the bow in hand.  By the end of the trip we definitely felt ready to tackle just about anything we could encounter come elk and deer season.  Good luck to everyone this year!  And thanks to the companies we work with that make some of the best gear out there – Vortex OpticsBear ArcheryMystery RanchSitka GearYETI Coolers -FHF GearDanner BootsTrophy Taker -

-Zack

YETI Coolers – SCOUTING SEASON blog post

Recently I headed into the badlands of Montana to scout new land for large velvet bulls. September is right around the corner and I was itching to get my eyes on some elk. Below is a video summary of my scouting adventure.

 

For the full story on the trip, go to: http://yeticoolers.com/pages/blog/scouting-season/

 

-Travis