Busy seems to be our go to word recently, but its tough to put it any other way. After Stan’s bear we headed back into the mountains for 1 & 1/2 days. Since Stan had tagged out, I had a couple days to hunt with Zack. I decided to check out a new area and that morning we found ourselves climbing up a steep ridge through the fog.
As soon as we crested the steep ridge and made our way along one of the old logging roads, I had spotted a black figure below us. A large black bear was feeding on the lush grass below. We made it to 100yards of this bear, waiting for the bruin to feed along the road to our position. The bear different plans and bumped off the road and bedded down in a thick patch of trees below.
That evening we attempted to relocate the large black bear. While waiting for the large bear Zack spotted another bear in the distance. We watch the bear settle into some dark timber and bed down. We setup our spotting scope and located the bedded bear in the trees. I decided to put in a stalk and hope the wind would hold its current direction. Zack and I snuck to 30 yards of the sleeping ball of fur. I ranged the bear, and came to full draw as the bear stood. Too small. The bear was tough to judge while sleeping, but now that the bear was standing I knew it was too young for my arrow.
That night we glassed until dark, not seeing the big boar we were after. The next morning I inhaled my granola breakfast, anxious to glass the grassy roads just over the ridge. Almost like clockwork I spotted the bear directly on the old logging road where I had stalked the smaller bear the evening before.
We were having some issues putting together a game plan on how we were going to get close to this bear. The wind was going to be blowing directly towards the bear from the only location we could get a shot at the bear. We decided to work to a better vantage point and see if the thermals would change. The bear worked behind a group of trees, and I took my eyes off the bear to close the distance. Next thing I know, I can’t find the bear anywhere! So frustrating, I sat there in disbelief. The bear had to have seen or smelled me. Blackie was gone for good and it was time to head back down the mountain to prepare for Zack’s upcoming bear hunt.
It has started, Zack’s road to redemption. He will arrow a nice bear this spring, and he has been almost too close for comfort. We will have a full blog post of Zack’s spring bear hunt, but here is a quick rundown on what we have been experiencing. We picked our location, grabbed our cameras, packed our Mystery Ranch packs and loaded our bikes. Oh wait…. My bike got stolen, lock cut off and all two days before leaving on our trip. Karma is a b*&$% and whoever took it is hopefully enjoying my Specialized mountain bike. Thankfully I have great friends that loaned me a bike for my trip.
We spotted 8 bears on the trip, 1 blonde, 4 chocolate, and 3 black. Zack got full draw on three bears, two were passed up because they were too small. One monster black bear was called into a fawn decoy at 25 yards within 3 minutes!! It was amazing seeing a black bear full on sprint to a decoy, only to not present Zack with enough time for a shot. Can’t wait for the footage to come out in 2014. We are excited and anxious to get back out there.
After experiencing a broken water filter, along with 80 degree temperatures, we decided that melting snow for our water intake was not going to be our best option to survive the backcountry. We made one last attempt to locate a mature black bear, but the temperatures had the bear activity to a minimum. We shortly thereafter received the memo that the Snowy Mountain Rifle 300WSM was finished and ready for test firing. Making our way back to town, we were anxious to check out the finished rifle.
The guys over there at Snowy Mountain did an outstanding job on the 300wsm! One of the best looking long range hunting rifles I have ever seen. The day had finally arrived. Sighting in the new long-range cannon.
The rifle blistered the targets downrange! Tight groups, sniper optics, jewel trigger, alongside the lightest kick I have ever felt from a large caliber rifle, made this one sweet rifle. We will have a full write up and permanent page with the specifics on the custom SMR 300wsm in the near future.
We will be back in the mountains soon. Zack is still looking to arrow a mature bear after four encounters at 30yards or less. Have a great Memorial weekend!
As spring takes root, claiming victory over another cold and long winter, there is an anticipation that builds in the spirit of every hunter. The receding snowline, resulting from the warmth brought by the new season has many implications.
As water levels rise from run-off, it creates new challenges for the individual in pursuit of fish. It signifies the transition to stalking an entirely different species, one that has lain dormant at the headwaters of our rivers for months. The hibernating bear is tired no longer and emerges from its den. The fresh blossoms and new leaves seen while commuting are not the only entities welcoming the return of spring. This is the time of year that brings life out from every corner.
The number of days to be spent waiting for the new hunting seasons are now gone. In the great state of Montana the years first big game hunting opportunity is marked by the opening of Spring Bear. This will be our first chance to re-enter the wilderness with a goal that is not focused on wild trout. The excitement towards this opportunity is not something that is rhetorically justified.
As the opportunity to hunt presents itself closer and closer, our preparation takes a new form. Out of the closet comes our pack, camouflage, and optics. Our practice tips are replaced with broadheads. Our weapons are checked time and time again for functionality and consistency. The term “overkill” has no place or meaning to those who strive for excellence. Focus and determination has been placed on our goal of harvesting a spring black bear.
As the bear awakens from its slumber, it does so with one thing on its mind, that being food. As you can imagine, after months of fast these animals are hungry. They operate opportunistically in constant search of a viable food source. This principle is the basis for a hunter’s tactics. Since it is early in the season, food is somewhat limited, therefore requiring the animal to travel more so than it would later in the year. To the hunter this creates an opportunistic time to spot the animal as traverses the countryside. One can only hope that when you do spot the animal you are looking for, that is it in a huntable area that provides means for a stalk.
Many variables go into the equation that results in a successful stalk. The time of day, the distance separating the hunter from the prey, and the wind are all effects that are mandatory for consideration. Over the years I have spent hunting black bear in the alpine lakes of the Pacific North West, I learned many things about the animal. Through trial and error, I feel at this stage confident as a hunter in my knowledge of bear behavior and tendency. The saying, “They didn’t get that big for no reason” applies enormously to the bear species. Trust me when I tell you that I have had multiple exceptional bears pull a spin on me, never to be seen again.
This leads me to bring forth a consideration that took years for me to recognize. If one can implement the following into their method of operation I am sure they will find a higher percentage of success in the field. But first I will explain the situation.
It was my first hunting season out of high school. My father and I had found an area that many bears funneled in and out of. To validate this statement I will tell you that a friend of ours took the number 4 bear in the state of Washington out of this area. This particular area was an old mountain top clear cut, the habitat had grown up, making the hunting more difficult. It was not uncommon to spot a bear that was in an area that was unhuntable. We had to be very critical on when we would and would not enter the country. It seemed to blow up easily, scattering the animals in the area.
One morning after reaching the spot we used to glass we spotted a bear that is still to this date the biggest black bear I have ever witnessed. Unfortunately he was in an area that was unreachable. Patiently we waited. After years of watching bears I have gathered that they do not move much between roughly 10:00 in the morning and 3:00 in the afternoon. This bear fell right into that category.
We put the spotter on the boar and watched him eat berries in same general proximity for hours. At about 9:30 I got restless, went against my father’s advice, and entered the country. My plan was to sit above the bear a couple hundred yards on a spine that paralleled where he was feeding. After an hour of bushwhacking I had carefully made my way to the destination I had in mind.
It was now around 11:00 and here is where the consideration comes into play. You see at this time I had no knowledge of how thermals work. If by chance you are like I was, I will explain. A thermal is a moving column of air; it acts as a supplement to wind. Dictated by the ambient temperature it carries your scent either up or down the countryside. Since the heat of the day had not yet taken its effect the thermals were essentially dropping my scent directly on top on that bear. Needless to say I never got another look at that boar. I often wonder how it would have transpired if I had listened to my dad and had just waited a couple more hours for the thermals to change.
This all plays into the education one acquires when you put in time and effort towards hunting. It is a big game of learning from your past experiences. I have not made that mistake since nor do I plan on making it again. As you begin to prepare for your upcoming adventure let me encourage you to draw back upon your past experiences. Ask yourself why you were or were not successful. Look for the areas that need improvement and strive to better yourself as an outdoorsman. We should all strive to be the best we can be at anything we partake in.
Once bear season starts here in Montana you will find us in the woods, on top of mountains, glassing for an opportunity at one of the magnificent animals our good Lord has created. We have evolved as hunters and are not the same as we were last season. We have learned from our failure just as much as we have learned from our success. Our expectations are high and we feel that the sky is the limit.
Written by Brandon Smith
Our Spring Break was not spent at some tropical oasis with scantily clad women. Instead, we have been working our butts off to finish our film submission for the Hunting Film Tour. The Hunting Film Tour is a new tour, created by the same crew that runs the very successful Fly Fishing Film Tour. We did not plan on having this film on the big screen, but when the opportunity presented itself, we jumped at the idea of showcasing our best elk footage from 2012 on the big screen. The elk encounters we captured is truly jaw dropping. Not many people can say they filmed a 14-year old bull walk out of the trees at 8 yards, and stare you down! The end of the film is surely to have you on the edge of your seat and ready to dust off your bow. Below is the teaser for our upcoming short film AMBUSH.
Elk hunting takes you to some of the most amazing locations in the world. Many times elk hunting is more about the experience than it is chasing the elk themselves. Watch as we travel across Montana going from the desolate dry desert to the dark timber in search of lifelong memories in the outdoors.
Ambush shows you how two young hunters adapted to the conditions at hand to arrow two mature bulls over the course of Montana’s archery season. To see the whole film please attend one of the many stops of this years Hunting Film Tour. For more information on tickets and tour dates check out www.huntingfilmtour.com
The Hunting Film Tour will be making a stop here in Missoula, Montana on May 3rd at The Wilma. All of us here at Montana Wild will be there! Thanks to everyone for their support over the past year. We truly appreciate our fans that share the same passion for the outdoors as us. We have some really amazing projects planned for 2013!
On February 7 we set out for yet again another one day film project. Sometimes the action is too good to not bring the camera along and it would be a good time get back into the swing of filming some fishing. The weather was close to perfect for January, and we were hoping to make the best of it. Anthony was along to put his new found filming creativity to work as a second angle for the project, along with adding his own behind the camera commentary. After a couple of slow hours, Zack finally hooked into a nice rainbow. The rainbow floundered in the shallows before gaining his bearings and heading for a sunken tree. As he headed towards the snag the line broke and the game was over. At that point we decided it was a good time for a short lunch. Fifteen minutes later Zack was back casting into the same hole, looking for Redemption. Little did we know he would hook into the same rainbow and this time bring him to the net.
I hope you enjoyed the video and be sure to treat yourself to a day on the water soon. Cheers!
Once a year you have a birthday. Yes, it’s just another day, but it’s always something you have to try to take advantage of and for Travis’ 24th we decided to spend the afternoon out on the river. The weather had stayed relatively warm, and we looked forward to a solid afternoon of hammering fish. Of course the thawing temps made for a slightly tricky and muddy drive into our location, but the tougher a spot is to get to the better the fishing.
As we geared up Travis decided that throwing up some birthday gang signs was the best way to let us know he was here to ruthlessly hassle fish all day.
After a couple fishless holes we finally got on track as Travis shined in true birthday form with a nice rainbrown.
Following a short fight Travis had his first trout in the net. It was a good looking fish, but there were more to catch and we pushed upstream.
Over the course of the next hour the fishing continued to progressively get better. Multiple fish were hooked from the same hole and even a birthday double was had by Travis and Stan.
Finally we reached a big deep hole that I had discovered last spring. It’s the perfect water for fish to hold in year round and the size and depth always makes it interesting to see what you can pull out of it. After a couple minutes of discussion and a few Pop Tarts, it was decided we would have a friendly fish off. Six casts and then on to the next person. I was up first. After five casts I finally remembered where I needed my fly to be and made my last cast. Mid-drift and my bobber (man that word sucks) disappeared. With the hookset of a bass fisherman, I had a nice rainbow locked up on the end of my line.
After a short fight I landed him and made sure he got his photo taken so all his fish buddies could see him on the internet.
Up next was the birthday boy. He proceeded to crip walk into the hole and hammer an even larger fish. Damn Birthdays.
That was the last good fish of the day and fittingly Travis had begun and ended our day on the river. It was a great day to spend with friends and a birthday that will be tough to top next year. We’ll be dropping a short fly fishing film soon that we filmed back on the 7th so be checking in. If you haven’t already be sure to give us a [LIKE] over on Facebook.
This past Sunday, as a crew of three, we headed out in search of some winter trout. Stan came along to help film second angles during this one day film mission.
The sun was breaking through the clouds when we arrived, bringing the daily temp to 33degrees. Perfect for January winter fishing! The river looked promising, flowing with ice cold blue water. The first hole was definitely holding fish, but there were no takers for the streamer setup. The nymph gang quickly produced a nice jumping rainbow, instantly re-energizing my passion for fly fishing.
We moved upriver, to the next series of curvy banks. Once again the holes looked like a breeding pool for large trout, but nothing wanted to bite. We picked up again and moved to the next section of slowly churning pools. I dropped in a cast, which was hit mid-drift. A nice cutthroat tore through the water. The fishing was starting to pick up.
Another couple casts and I hooked into my biggest fish of the day. This fish wasn’t going to get airborne, but he had a couple good power boosts throughout the fight, proving he wanted nothing to do with my net.
Zack and Stan recorded the usual Hollywood fish shots, putting our day to rest, as the sun started to sink over the horizon. Another day in solitude. Film mission was a WRAP! If you missed our post highlighting our video be sure to watch it now.
The following day we once again met up with Stan. The sun looked like it was going to make a strong appearance for the day.
The fishing once again started slow, but soon was heating up as we pushed into the afternoon hours. Stan pulled multiple healthy fish to the net. Proving the pat’s rubber leg was the fly of choice.
At one point we pulled +8 fish out of a single hole. We would occasionally hook into a nasty white dog, but for the most part the trout were feeding.
We shot hundreds of photos throughout the day, hoping to capture at least a few quality images to share and help spread the winter fishing stoke.
This last week we were again itching to hit the river. Our friend Anthony just got back from the nasty weather in N. Dakota, and we decided to let him in on the fishing we have been experiencing.
The brush in the river really makes for difficult making good drifts with nymph rigs, but that didn’t stop Anthony from pulling in fish. We all landed our share of fish, making the cold hands warm once again.
Most holes during the day were productive, with multiple fish wanting to take a subsurface fly.
It was yet again, another great day on the river. Being able to enjoy this caliber of fishing in January is amazing and one of the reasons I’m glad to call Montana home.
Finally, a new hunting short film! Dead On 20 is the first installment of Montana Wild’s Season 2. This short film documents Travis’ first season of bear hunting. On May 20th, 2012 Travis headed into the mountains for a 3-day spot and stalk backpack bear hunt. After one failed stalk on this same bear he was finally able to seal the deal with his .300 and put a beautiful bear on the ground.
If you’d like to read the complete story of Travis’ bear hunt the click here>>> Travis’ 1st Black Bear
As always, for the best viewing experience please watch in HD with a pair of headphones. Enjoy!
Over the course of the next month we will be releasing our first fly fishing short and also the second episode of Season 2. Episode 2 will document Zack’s quest to arrow a bear in Montana. With four stalks it’s sure to be one you’ll enjoy.
This is part two of our recap of 2012. If you missed Part 1 be sure to check right here before reading on.
Summer started slow this year. The water ran high through June, and we didn’t get much in for fishing. In late June we decided to get back out and test our luck on some water that we hadn’t visited in months. It paid off as I fooled a large brown on a green drake just as the sun was setting in the west.
From there on out the fishing was stellar. The following week we took a small day trip to another one of our favorite creeks and found some fish willing to eat. Travis made the best of the day and finished with a nice cutthroat.
I had the camera along and documented the afternoon in a short piece titled “Creekside.”
We soon had elk on our minds and traveled to a few of our elk haunts to put up trail cameras for the summer.
We found good sign in our spots and had four cameras up by the middle of June. In mid-July we took our first backcountry fishing trip of the year. It took us into some amazing country and the fishing was great.
From there we had a few mellow weeks and then embarked on our annual fishing trip to some of the most beautiful country we’ve set foot in. It would be a weeklong fly fishing trip in the backcountry and the weather was perfect. The beginning of our trip started off with us exploring some new water upstream of where we had fished last year. After bushwacking to the river we were left with minimal options for a campsite. The spot we found couldn’t have been better and it started our trip out with a bang.
The fishing was exceptional as always if you were willing to put in the time to get back away from the easy access. This area, although remote, is just like any fishing in Montana. The easy to access spots usually get fished hard and the best water always requires a little extra effort. Up here any extra effort tends to pay off big time.
To read more about Part one of our trip see our post “The Unknown – Backcountry Cutties.” Not only did we catch a bunch of beautiful cutthroat but we also managed to find and land some bull trout. These fish are a little bit tougher to find and catch but we landed one each day we tied the streamers on the big rods.
To read and see more photos from our trip be sure to check out our post “The Unknown – Backroad Bull Trout.” It was a killer trip and we filmed a bunch. We came home and began sorting through the hours and hours of footage. What we came up with turned out to be our best piece of the year and probably our best fly fishing short to date. Enjoy “Wild & Clear.”
That trip would be our last fishing trip of 2012 and was a great end to another awesome summer of fishing. Again we shifted back to the upcoming elk season and we made it back into the mountains to check our cameras and scout some areas around Missoula that we knew held elk. We documented a day in the elk woods as we scouted in mid-August in a short film titled “Recon.”
In late August we made a two and a half day trip to Southwest Montana in search of antelope with our bows. We got at least a half dozen stalks in and it was never tough to locate the antelope. Getting in close undetected was definitely difficult.
On the last day we were able to cut off a large group of antelope does and unfortunately Travis missed as his arrow sailed right over her back. It was a great chance to tune up our spot and stalk skills as we would be heading out the next week to chase elk in the open country of the Missouri Breaks. Soon it was opening day of Montana’s archery season and our good friend Tyler had met up with us. After his brother failed to show up for opening day, we decided to bring him along on the first morning and see if we could get into some elk. Only an hour after daylight we had a bull on the ground. After a group of four bulls came up the hill right to us, Tyler was presented a shot on a medium size bull and sent one right through both lungs. He had taken his first elk and it was an awesome experience to share with him.
If you’d like to see more about our first week of elk hunting you can see more at “Brown and Down” and “Elk season continues.” For the rest of the week we hunted hard and found bulls everyday. We even called in a 5×5 to 20 yards, only to not get a shot opportunity. The next week we were back and conditions had changed drastically. There were hunters everywhere and the elk had congregated heavily in the thick willows that lined the riverbottom. Without a boat and a tree stand set it was going to be tough. After five days we had only located one mature bull that we could stalk. We were able to sneak to 70 yards undetected but without further cover we couldn’t get any closer. As is always the case, the wind swirled and the gig was up. After that we decided to give our spot in the dark timber a go. It was a stark contrast to what we had been hunting.
We found lots of sign but the elk weren’t being vocal. We had just missed the rut and it’s almost impossible to take a bull without being able to call one in. The second morning we had one come to 20 yards but the brush was so thick that Travis was never presented a shot and finally the bull spooked when he circled and caught our wind. We were starting to get a little worried and decided to change up the tactics the following day. After not finding any water sources we made our way to one that seemed too close to the road to be a good option. After further investigation we found that the small bit of water was actually getting used fairly hard. We decided to set up on a wallow that had fresh bear sign and wait. About an hour into the hunt and a monsterous, old bull stepped out at 8 yards. After almost two minutes at full draw, he finally turned broadside at 30 yards the the rest is history.
I had achieved my goal of arrowing a mature bull. I was super stoked and to top it off Travis got it all on film and it’s going to be an awesome episode that will be released in 2013. I had this bull aged and he ended up being a 14 year old elk. You can read the whole story on my 2012 Archery elk right here.
After that we continued to hunt hard in an attempt to get Travis and elk with his bow. After being unable to seal the deal with his Anarchy, it was on to rifle season. We invited our Dad down for three days and would be hunting elk east of Missoula. After two days of no fresh sign, we decided to move locations. A snow storm was blowing through that night and we hoped the fresh snow would give us the upper hand the next day. The following morning we woke up to a fresh blanket of snow. We hiked up onto the ridge where Travis had shot his bull before and began searching for tracks. After crossing a fresh set of grizzly tracks, we soon found tracks from a small herd of elk. After spotting two through the trees and not getting any shot opprotunities, emotions were down. We continued on and a few minutes later Travis spotted a black wolf cruising through the timber. He dropped to a knee and with one shot, killed his first wolf.
For more photos and the full story see our post “A New kind of Predator.”
Over the following months, we spent our time exploring new country in search of a big, old mountain buck. We got to see some amazing country and we hiked a lot of miles.
We found some awesome spots that we’ll be back to next year but we never did find that big mountain buck we were looking for. Soon it was Thanksgiving and we were back home chasing whitetails up the mountain behind my parents home. It was tough hunting, as spot and stalk would be our go to tactic. The deer weren’t responding well to any type of calling and the brush was very thick making our efforts seem worthless. On the last morning we were headed up the mountain when we spotted a nice whitetail staring at us off the side of the trail. Travis quickly sized him up and decided he’d be a great first whitetail. After two shots he had his first whitetail buck.
It was a nice 8 point and after some photos and a little video, it was time to take care of the meat and head back to Missoula. Again we ventured back into the mountains to see if I could get it done on the last weekend.
Once again we covered lots of miles and glassed up a lot of country. We found a few nice bucks but not quite what I had set out to tag. Unfortunately I would go another season without punching my deer tag. At least it will fuel the fire for next year as I look to bag a big mountain buck. After that we finally caught up on some sleep and editing. In early December we made it out to fish for the first time in months. We met up with our good buddy Anthony Von Ruden and hit a local spot. The weather was pretty nasty as the temperature was in the low 40s and a steady rain was coming down. We soon found that the fishing was red hot as we all began hammering into fish.
The action kept up for the next couple hours and Travis landed his largest rainbow of the year. It was a chunky bow that would rival some of it’s Alaskan counterparts. To see more from this day be sure to check out our post “Brown December.”
The rest of December found us working hard to get proposals out to all of our hunting sponsors so we can continue to make hunting films in 2013. We also spent countless hours going through all of our fly fishing footage from 2012. We finished our Fish Reel for 2012 and scheduled flights to go to the SHOT show to kick off 2013. Below is our 2011 Fish Reel and our most recent 2012 Fish Reel. I think that the progression is apparent and I can’t wait to see how 2013 shapes up for us.
Thanks again for all the support you guys have shown us and we are very excited about the projects we have planned for 2013.
2012 has been a whirlwind year. Travis and I have been blessed to experience so much throughout the year. It had it’s ups and downs but was by far the best year of my life. We put a lot of hard work in this year to make sure we continued to progress as individuals, hunters, filmmakers, photographers, businessmen and generally in all aspects of our lives. I can say we learned a lot, and we’re looking forward to 2013 as it’s going to be bigger and better than ever! A lot happened in 2012 and there’s a lot I could say but I’ll try to make it brief and to the point.
2012 started out with us chasing coyotes on the Hi-Line. Hunting season for the most part was over and the skiing was sub-par so we decided to call for some coyotes with our good friend Tyler McCann. After two days of poor weather, things finally shaped up and the coyotes started running to the call. We were able to put 4 on the ground the last day and made a short film called “Valley Gold.”
After that we came back to Missoula and got busy working on putting together our best fishing shots of 2011. We were able to finish up our 2011 Fish Reel, which I’ll post at the end of Part 2 to compare to this years reel. After watching all of our footage from the 2011 year we were motivated to go try our luck for the year despite the cold weather. This would be the earliest I’d fished, and it turned out to be a great day. My first fish of 2012 was a very respectable brown that broke the tip of my rod.
After that it was mainly school and work. Of course we had to have some kind of escape and our good friend Jeff Heiskell convinced us to go tackle the Missouri for a day. It was an awesome float and our first time on the Mo. We all caught our share of healthy fish and of course the colors during winter/early spring never fail to impress.
We brought the camera along that day and we were able to put together a nice short film that documented the day.
A few short weeks later we were back for two days and this time we found some fish looking up. We all got our first dry fly takes of the year and all were solid fish. You can read more about that day here. Again the camera was in tow and we created the short film “200 East.”
After that we returned home and went back to school. Between school and work, we had been feverously editing our hunts from 2010 into four episodes. I’ll spare the details here, but the following links will take you to each episode. Episode 1 – The Copper Ranch. Episode 2 – The Haggard Horns Buck. Episode 3 – The Bull Chase. Episode 4 – The Bear Creek Bull.
A few weeks later and it was officially spring. Our mindset had shifted from fishing to hunting and we began to get the bows sighted in and ready for Montana’s spring bear season.
Again we took the time to try to share and spread the stoke and created a short film documenting a few pieces of our what we do to prepare for bear season. The piece was aptly named “Preparation.”
Soon it was time to lace up the boots and head into the hills in search of bears. The first four or five days were slow and we failed to find any bears. It was a good time to get back in shape and retrain the eyes. Soon the bears began to pop up and we were on them daily. Travis hadn’t shot a bear before and was ready to make his first year count. After ten days we finally found a mature bear for Travis to take a shot at. He was able to put a .300 Win Mag through the vitals and had his first bear on the ground. You can read the whole story here.
After Travis killed his bear I was on a mission to get one with my bow. Unfortunately I missed a great chocolate phase black bear and got very close on another couple stalks but was unable to seal the deal. If you want to see and read more click here.
To wrap up our spring we spent a lot of hours sorting through our all the footage we had accrued during February and March and created a short spring fly fishing film we called “Contrast.”
That led us right into summer and again we were fishing and hunting as usual. Be checking back for Part 2 which will be up tomorrow and documents our summer and fall of 2012.
Merry Christmas! Travis and I would like to thank everyone that supported us and enjoyed our work in 2012. We feel very blessed to have been able to experience and share so much throughout the year. We hope that 2013 will be even bigger and better and can’t wait to begin working on new projects. This time of year is a little slow for us as far as content, but I can assure you we’ve been working harder then ever. Hopefully we’ll have a recap of 2012 up soon.
The last few weeks have been a blur. As the snow has been slowly stacking up in the mountains we finally have been able to make it out to try our hand at some mountain lion hunting. A little scouting found no cat tracks and a healthy assortment of wolf tracks. As we headed back towards Missoula, we decided to try our luck on a small slice of the Clark Fork that we have been eyeing for some time. Travis has been putting together some tasty looking streamers on the vice this winter and was eager to give them a shot. After only a half dozen casts he had a nice brown hooked and in the net.
We soon ran out of light and had to call it a day. It wasn’t long though until we were back out in the mountains looking for cat tracks. We met up with our friend Adam Johnson who had his dogs with him, and hopes were high that we could find a good track to run. We met up with Casey Richardson and spent the day looking for a track. Unfortunately, we found a lot of wolf tracks, meaning the dogs wouldn’t be going anywhere that day. These dogs live for this and they were bummed that they couldn’t be turned loose.
This week we made it home for Christmas. We got to spend some time relaxing and enjoying good friends and family. The weather was great, and we got to get out with the horses and cruise up the mountain.
It wasn’t long until we were reminded of our endeavor to find a mountain lion, as we came upon a cow elk that had been killed by a cat a few weeks earlier.
We also had a chance this past week to collaborate on a video project with the guys at Seacat Creative over in Bozeman.
We were able to jump in the drivers seat and edit a desert sheep hunt that took place down in Mexico. With Adam and Steven’s help the project really came together and will be an awesome piece. The video is something we worked very hard on and are very proud of. It will be going live here in early 2013. We’ll have more details as the launch gets closer and hopefully our first hunting episode from 2012 will be up sometime in January. I hope everyone has an awesome holiday season! Cheers!
After a few weeks of wading through hundreds of hours of fishing footage we have finally cut it down to a short and sweet four minutes. These are some of our best shots from 2012. We are excited by the progress we have achieved and are looking forward to 2013!
***Please watch in HD. You’ll benefit two ways – 1) a better viewing experience and 2) improved patience. Enjoy!***
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December in Montana. The weather is unpredictable and many have put up the fly rods and rifles for the year. It’s a risk-reward time of the year when it comes down to fishing. Just catching fish is a success and often it’s just painfully slow on the water. With the rain steadily falling we threw the waders in the truck and met up with Anthony from the False Casts and Flat Tires crew and hit the road. Not surprisingly we were the first truck at the access. We figured most would settle for a beer and some football on a cold rainy day with the mercury hovering just above 40 degrees. Our plan was to settle for a beer and some streamers on a piece of water we hadn’t visited in a good 6 months. It only took about 5 minutes before Anthony decided to get the ball rolling.
We quickly moved upstream with eats in almost every hole. I quickly was on the board when a beautiful brown hammered my fly just feet from me as I was finishing my retrieve.
It was almost silly the streamer bite was so good. Any decent water seemed to hold a fiery brown willing to mount a vicious attack on any invader of its territory. Soon Anthony had another killer fish on. He had been holding in a very small sliver of water, and a precise cast fooled him.
We kept skipping past each other as we fished upstream. Soon Travis was hollering just upriver. I looked and saw the Echo doubled over. I quickly made it to him to help net his fish. After a few minutes it was apparent this wasn’t just any fish. This was a PIG! After a couple close calls I finally slipped the net under a rainbow that could be mistaken for one straight out of Alaska.
We snapped a few hero photos of this stud rainbow and then let him slink back to his lair.
After everyone’s success it was time to crack open a cold PBR and take it all in. Laughs were had all the way around. Despite the inclement weather it had easily turned into one of the best days on the water. We had been fortunate enough to catch one of those moments where the fish are just eating and it doesn’t matter what you put in front of their face. Unfortunately this brown wasn’t so fortunate. He had seen his last Montana summer and most likely had died of old age.
Again we kept the streamer train moving. After our early success we soon began to loose a little steam. Multiple eats resulted in near misses and the hook just didn’t set. The rain had subsided and the bite seemed to cool off. I was able to trick one last brown though.
He was a solid fighter as he took to the air 3 or 4 times before finally making it to the net. It’s always fun to see the differences between every brown trout. Some are bright and others more subdued in color. The size, shape and type of jaw always seem to vary and are one of my favorite species of trout to catch. It had been a stellar couple of hours, but all good things must come to an end. As we worked back down stream we were left with nary a bite. As quickly as it had started it had shut down. We hit the golden hour that day and all left with smiles on our faces. I want to thank Anthony for bringing his camera and snapping some killer photos. I’m sure we’ll be back on the water soon. If you haven’t fished in the winter before then get out and get after it! You don’t catch fish on the couch.
Its been a great season so far, with many memories I will never forget. I look forward to deer season every year, and this one was once again different from the last. I think that is one of the most intriguing details about hunting. You never know what is going to happen or where your hunt is going to take you, no one hunt is the same as the next.
The previous three years I have taken a mule buck during rifle season. This year I wanted to spend more time looking for whitetails than I have in the past. If I found a big mule deer, I would be more than happy to take it, but whitetail was my deer of choice. I’ve taken a handful of whitetail does with my bow, but never have I had the chance to take a good buck.
Zack and I headed home for Thanksgiving, hoping to get some quality time with our parents, and getting some time to hunt whitetails. Thanksgiving morning Zack and I headed out to a couple stands we set earlier in the season. We had hopes of filling a doe tag with Zack’s bow, while I filmed from an adjacent tree. We saw a couple does that morning, but they strayed to far from our stands, and never presented a shot. That afternoon I made the decision to hunt by myself. This whole season Zack was either hunting, with myself close by carrying the camera, or vise versa. Some hunting time to myself seemed like not a bad idea for the afternoon, being that we only had a couple days left of general season. I took out the parents ATV and parked at one of my planned hunting locations. Less than 10 minutes into my hike, and I could hear two bucks battling it out, and it sounded like they were really getting after it. I closed the distance, only to find a thick stretch of brush between myself and the sparring bucks. I waited, hoping to hear if they were still fighting so I could gauge how far off they were, but I was only greeted with silence. I decided to try and sneak through the thick brush on a small game trail. I exited the tangled mess to see a buck fleeing the top of the ridge ahead of me. GREAT.
I made a large loop that I had planned according to the wind direction. Towards the end of my loop I decided to skirt along a moss covered rock outcropping, hoping to see a buck below in the treeline. Before I could make my way to the edge, a huge buck busted from below me. I whistled to stop the buck, but he was far to educated to stop and give me the time of day for a shot.
At least I had Thanksgiving to look forward to. My parents once again did not disappoint with their amazing turkey dinner. I always gain 10lbs coming home and never take for granted a home cooked meal.
The next morning Zack and I once again climbed into our stands, looking for a doe. Although this time Zack decided to hang some ‘doe in heat’ scents in our general area, just in case a big buck was wandering the area. Just after day break a doe snuck behind Zack’s stand in complete stealth. The deer was already wary, for it must have knew something was up. Zack had to stay frozen, not able to grab his bow. The doe moved along, clearing Zack’s shooting lane before he could come to full draw. We headed home for brunch, and to refuel, before heading back out to find the buck I had caught a glimpse of the day before.
We loaded up the ATV and took off on the ATV trail leading through our parents small piece of property. We rounded the first bend, cruising down the long straight away. A few moments later I could make out a buck in the distance starring at us. He looked to be a good deer. I pulled the ATV off the trail, where I could get a better look at the deer. Zack handed myself the rifle, as I worked through the trees to my right, attempting to get a good look at the buck. I could tell he was a great deer to take for my first whitetail. I dropped to a knee and pulled the trigger on the quartering away buck. The deer hunched up, but continued a short distance through the trees. I waited attempting to see if the deer was down. I could barely see the deer’s tail still flicking through the trees in front of me. I crept a short distance towards the deer. Found a shooting lane, and put another shot into the broadside buck. The buck ran a short distance holding a limp shoulder.
I gave the buck little time, knowing I had put a definite lethal shot on the deer. I couldn’t believe it. I had on the ground my very first whitetail buck! It was not the way I planned on shooting my deer after hiking, and glassing countless miles. I felt almost as if I stole a tactic out of a redneck hunting magazine! But it is what it is and Zack and myself had a good laugh reminiscing over the series of events that took place.
I walked up on the buck, excited to have my first whitetail buck. He wasn’t as big as the whitetail I had seen just the day before, but he was perfect for my very first whitetail.
Zack and I figured the buck had been in the area checking the ‘doe in heat’ scents Zack and hung earlier that morning, being in the same general area as where our stands are hung.
Upon further examination of my buck, I found where my two shots had hit the deer. My first shot was high lung, while my second was a heart shot. While taking the hind quarters I noticed old bloodshot meat, along with a hole from a small caliber rifle. Someone had ass shot this deer previously this year. In the end it looked like it was meant to be that I took this deer. It would have been a long, uneasy death for this buck in the future.
I now have my groundwork in front of me, with something to build off of. This year has been a year of first’s for me. First bear, first wolf, and now first whitetail buck. I hope next year to take a buck that truly showcases the effort I put into my hunting season.
The action has been a little slow for Zack and myself ever since encountering my black wolf. We have been flooded recently with time consuming activities that are getting in the way of our beloved time in the woods. Zack and I have had days off from work here and there, but bad weather or lack of animal activity has been the main culprit of our lack of success. The weekend after my wolf encounter we set out to try and locate Zack a mature mountain mule deer. We have spent so much of our time scouting elk the months prior to September, that we have lacked the knowledge of good deer hunting spots that don’t stray to far from home. We headed out Sunday afternoon to meet up with our friend Adam to scout/hunt some new territory. The weather greeted us with ice cold rain, and a few mule deer does.
Zack and I camped out for the night in the truck topper, which we now call ‘home’ during the hunting season. Early the next morning we hiked a steep, knife-edge ridge, running far away from any roads in the area. The hike was a calf burner, and was no easy task considering I was packing around our 20lb camera setup. We once again spooked some mule deer does out of some thick downfall. We continued up the ridge, pushing further above snow level. At this point the snow was a melting mess, causing some dramatic spills by both Zack and myself. We got to the point where our boots, pants and gloves were wet from falling multiple times in the steep terrain. The decision was made to descend to an old logging road where we could loop back towards the truck, our only hope of escaping the woods before nightfall. It took us a good 1.5 hours to make our way down to the road. Cold, damp, and deep into the mountains, we did our best to start a fire with the small amount of dry kindling we could find.
Our next venture took us once again to a location foreign to both Zack and myself. We had high hopes of hiking in to a vantage point where we could glass multiple clear cuts. The fog greeted us at first light, limiting our visibility to 90 yards. Disappointed, but not discouraged we still searched all morning for a hidden buck.
In the afternoon we traveled higher in elevation, hoping to escape the foggy landscape. The new location looked to be a great habitat, with large rubs scattered throughout the young trees. But yet again we lacked a good vantage point to find a big buck, and mother nature had brought gusty winds, and freezing rain. We were able to catch sight of some does in the timber, but no buck was to be found.
The following week we decided to visit our good friend Tyler in eastern Montana. We had a couple days to burn, and if the deer hunting wasn’t going to be good, we figured the coyotes would be hungry.
We found very few mule deer in an area that once thrived with a large population of mule deer 3 years ago. The winter of 2011 had wiped out a lot of deer and antelope in the area, and it became a task to even find deer in the open country. The one mature mule deer we found, was not quite worthy of taking a bullet, but Tyler felt the buck was worthy of taking an arrow if presented with the opportunity.
Tyler crawled to within 80 yards, but the buck had a security crew of 4 does, which ruined the stalk. Once again it was back to the glass, searching for the ghostly mule bucks. After seeing some coyotes spook the following morning, we decided it was a good time to call some predators. Tyler busted out the distress call and quickly started his predator ‘music’. After distressing for 5 minutes, a coyote lingered over the ridge directly in front of me. The winds had been gusting 15-30mph all day, and the coyote was standing at 280yd. He wasn’t coming in any closer, and I decided to flip off the safety and let ‘er rip. The only shot present was a head-on chest shot.
The shot rang out! The coyote took off, dirt flying everywhere, but unscathed. I missed? We reviewed the shot, and I had missed just to the right. I had forgot to play for the wind at that distance and was paying for the crucial mistake. Of course I got an ear full from Zack and Tyler and lost shooting rights the rest of the trip. The remainder of our time in eastern Montana turned up nothing, but one coyote down, which we were not able to get footage of. The trip was not what we had planned exactly, but as always we had a blast hunting the open country of eastern Montana.
Our next expedition took us close to home. We had had this hunt/scouting trip in the back of our minds for awhile, and our plan was to hunt from the top of a little know mountain top to bottom, a good 3 miles through thick, steep, nasty terrain. With the pressure from rifle season we had hoped to find some secluded monsters lurking amongst the war zone of timber.
The animal tracks were few and far between. We followed wolf tracks for a good mile of the descent down the mountain, followed by a few sets of bear, mountain lions, and coyotes tracks. We went the entire day without cutting a single elk track! It seems the predators were thriving, and the deer/elk had moved to safer stomping grounds. The trip was still a success though. We came across multiple areas where 15+ elk rubs could be viewed from one vantage point. We have these spots marked on our gps, and we will definitely be scouting these areas heavily come late summer.
The following week we were back at it, exploring new country and trying to find those elusive pockets of country that hold animals year after year. We hiked hard and were rewarded with some beautiful country.
In all honesty exploring new country and scouting out areas is almost as good as hunting sometimes. We’ve been to both good and bad spots this year, but I think we’ve got a few areas lined up for next year that could reward a few days of hard hunting with a great deer. These days of exploration always seem to be a hunting bust though. Often you don’t want to hike too far in the dark as you’ve never been there and want to get a lay of the land. After hiking in a few hours you often find a great area, but the animals are bedded down and the time of day isn’t ideal for catching animals moving around. It’s also been interesting to see the elevations that the animals have been hanging out at. It appears that a few warrior elk and deer haven’t moved off the high ridges and peaks despite a few feet of snow and the same sign can be found from these high elevations all the way down to the riverbottom in areas.
After a few days of trudging through snow for hours it was time to get back to town and make some money. Of course our down days weren’t without distraction. We just received a couple new bows from Bear Archery. Zack got the Empire and I chose the Motive 6.
I’m sure we’ll be reviewing the bows in more depth further down the road but let’s just say these bows are SOLID. They are accurate, fast, and deadly quiet. I can confidently say they noticeably better all-around than last years lineup. We’re stoked to get the bows tuned up and ready for some field testing!
It’s the final week of general season here in Montana and we are headed back into the woods, and we’re working hard to fill at least one more rifle tag! Hopefully we’ll be having a bit more time soon to do more write-ups about our season and what’s been good in Montana!
Predator vs. Prey. It’s a dynamic balancing act. During most of the hunting season I am the dominant predator, or so I thought. Seeking to find my prey, preferably elk or deer. This is the time of year when I get the chance to harvest my own wild meat and enjoy all the amazing wild places found here in Montana. I never realized how many other predators were out there until the past two years. Wolf tags have been issued in Montana for a reason. In 1995 & 1996 federal Fish and Wildlife Service transplanted 66 Canadian wolves to Yellowstone National Park and Idaho. By the year 2002, the Northern Rockies wolf population surpassed the federal recovery goal of 300 wolves in 30 packs. In the past decade, Fish and Wildlife has killed about 7% of wolves annually (1,200 wolves in total over the years). The wolves have expanded into most mountain ranges now in Montana, and we are seeing a decrease in elk & deer populations in many areas. As of now, the population has grown to over 1,700 and stronger measures were taken this year to help hunters reduce the population. One thing is clear, hunting is conservation. As a hunter I feel I should do my part. That’s why I bought a wolf tag and if the opportunity arose, I would be glad to use it.
This past weekend we met up with our Dad for some time spent elk hunting. He was looking for his first elk, and we were excited to help him try to achieve that goal. Unfortunately the trip started out with a flat tire just a few short miles from camp. We threw the spare tire on and got geared up at the trailhead. That night and the next day we spent our time attempting to still-stalk elk through the dark timber. A tough venture when there’s three guys and frozen, crunchy ground. With a stormfront moving across western Montana, I made the decision to change locations for the night. We navigated our way through the falling snow, often not able to see more than 50 yards in front of the truck. We knew with the fresh snow in the morning we would have a great chance to get close to some elk. The snow would allow us a huge advantage come morning.
After my 6AM alarm, I opened truck topper door to a fresh 3 inches of snow covering our two-truck campground. Zack and I gathered ourselves in time to eat a quick meal and move our Dad’s truck 1.75miles to where we planned on exiting the timber later that day. We dropped the truck off and made it back to the trailhead for a 3/4 mile hike through the squeaky fresh snow. I made sure not to tell my Dad exactly how far we were going to be hiking, for I wanted him to forget about miles hiked, and just focus on shooting a bull. Fortunately we made it over halfway up the first ridge before shooting light was upon us. Once making it to the top of the ridge, I saw my first set of animal tracks on an old logging road. It looked like snowshoe prints from a distance, but upon further examination it was a fresh set of grizzly tracks!
Of course the bruin was walking in the direction we were hunting, so I carefully followed the tracks, hoping he jumped off the game trail further ahead. My Dad was getting antsy, always thinking the worse is going to happen. I reassured him that the bear didn’t want anything to do with us. Soon we came across two sets of elk tracks heading the opposite direction we were hiking. They obviously had sought out lower ground during the night. We pushed on, glad to see the grizzly tracks head off the trail a 1/4 mile later. As we hiked we passed multiple sets of deer tracks, but never caught a glimpse of a single deer. My Dad was in awe of the beautiful white landscape before him, helping to keep his mind off of his aching legs. We finally got to the location where I shot my very first elk. Unfortunately, the elk were not there feeding in that same spot. We sat down and ate a quick bite, boosted our energy, and set out looking for fresh elk tracks.
As we worked our way back over the steep ridge, we came across 4 sets of elk tracks. I asked my Dad, “you have the energy to follow these tracks a ways?” He replied he did, so we started following the tracks. Soon enough we found some fresh beds, but no sign of elk. We followed the tracks further, as they spread out in the same general direction but a good distance apart. We positioned my Dad in the lead so he would get a shot if he caught view of a bull. Zack was between us with the camera hoping to have enough time to film if we saw an elk. After about a 1/4 mile of slowly creeping through the dark timber, my brother stops us dead in our tracks. He mouths “bull”, pointing to the hillside 150yards away. My Dad and myself look, unable to make out an elk. The timber was blocking our view and before either of us could move he trotted off. Zack was smiling, thinking it was funny that the cameraman could have just shot a nice 5×5 bull elk while the two hunters could see nothing. I didn’t share the same feelings at the moment. We continued following the set of tracks through the overgrown larch trees, hoping for the best. After tracking another 1/4 mile, I see another bull looking at us through the trees!! As I raise my Vortex scope up to see the bulls rack, the bull takes off once again.
The whole time we were tracking these elk we noticed that there was dirt kicked up along their tracks. Almost as if they were trotting through the woods. We knew it wasn’t us pushing them so we pushed on hoping to catch up to them if they slowed to feed for the morning. There were 5-7 sets of tracks in the snow so we knew there were more elk to find than just the two bulls we had bumped.
As we bypassed a small clump of thick brush I saw a dark figure moving through the timber to our left! At first I thought bear, but I saw a long tail! I instantly dropped to a knee and said “wolf” to Zack behind me. I quickly aimed my rifle into the only clear gap I had in the trees. The wolf finally trotted into my shooting lane. I settled the crosshairs and let the 8mm Ultra Mag rip! The wolf dropped instantly, my quartering away shot killing him instantaneously. “I just shot a wolf!” I glanced back at my brother, with the camera on me. “I just shot a black wolf!” I was so amped up and couldn’t believe what had just taken place! One second I’m following bulls, the next I’m seeing wolves hunting the same group of elk as we were!! This was my first real up close encounter with a wolf. I’ve heard them howl, and seen fresh wolf kills, but have never had the chance to get this close undetected. I approached the black mass of fur, completely in awe of the sheer beauty these animals behold.
To see the size of these animals is quite amazing. Upon further investigation of the area, we found multiple sets of wolf tracks, some being larger than this black male. Obviously a pack of wolves had the same idea we did that day. To be able to share this moment with my brother and Dad was priceless. My Dad only gets time to hunt a couple times during the year and this was truly an eye opening experience for him.
After knotching my tag and getting a handful of photos, I loaded the jet black wolf into my Mystery Ranch Long Bow and began arduously placing one foot in front of the other as we climbed the steep snow covered hill. It would be a good 500 vertical foot climb to the ridgeline and then 2 miles downhill to the truck.
After cresting over the small peak we came across the logging road which would take us back to our truck. Before I stepped foot onto the road, I noticed once again a set of large tracks? It honestly looked like bigfoot had ambled through. Of course we knew better and upon further investigation it was another set of grizzly tracks, this time even larger! Once again the tracks were going in the direction we were heading. Another 1/4 mile down the logging road the tracks made their way back into the forest.
We peacefully made it back to the truck, all things intact. No we didn’t get a bull for my father, but we did have one heck of a hunting experience! I couldn’t believe it, I had just put down an elk killing machine, another predator. The same predator that was hunting the same prey as I was. Not to mention we saw grizzly tracks twice that day. As humans we feel we are at the top of the food chain, when in reality, grizzlies and wolves rank very close seconds. We all have the same motive, survive. If it weren’t for grocery stores, humans would have to go out and harvest their own meat, which today is the healthiest meat in the world! The wolves are taking a toll on elk here in Montana, and I have seen this first hand. There out there, and we cross paths more and more often. This time we crossed paths a little too close. I may have just saved those elk I was pursuing today, and ya that feels good! The balance between wolves and elk is off right now and it felt great to help do my part of the management that FWP sets out for hunters each year.
October 6th we made the plan to make our way to the Breaks for a final 3-day hunt. I was still looking to fill my very first archery elk tag and with the elk rut turning cold, I figured the Breaks was a great option this late in the season.
Zack and myself once again had to work late the night before our hunt, leaving Missoula at 12:30am. We instantly slammed some energy drinks and hit the road for 5 hours before reaching our final destination. The Breaks greeted us with a frost covered landscape, and we hoped the cold temperatures would have the bulls bugling.
The first morning was a bust, with zero elk spotted. As the frost melted, the mud became a real issue. Our boots were instantly 5lbs heavier, sticking to the gumbo mud as we attempted to make it back to our truck. We broke out laughing multiple times, watching each other walk around like we had high heels on. On a serious note though, you had to be careful not to seriously roll an ankle.
That evening we hunted closer to the river, knowing a majority of the elk have been pushed into the cover of the tall, thick willows. Around 5:30pm we heard our first bugle in a long time! I quickly closed the distance and found a nice 6×7 with about 20 cows. They were working along some thick willows. After crawling and repositioning for about an hour, we managed to get within 100yards from the bull. Unfortunately, they weren’t moving much and we ran out of shooting light.
The following day was a total bust. We once again got into elk near the willows, this time they were seeking permanent refuge in the thick cover. So with few options, I decided to go in after them, ripping bugles as I attempted to steal their cows! I actually got great response from the bulls and managed to see one of the larger bulls a mere 90 yards from me in the last minutes of daylight. The willows were thick and the hike out in the dark was nothing short of unpleasant. We were happy just to have both eyeballs intact when we emerged from the maze of willows. We returned to the truck and got ready for our last day in the Breaks.
The last morning of our 3-day mission we headed back into the hills with rain in the forecast and wind gusts already upon us. We spent a good 4 hours hiking/glassing, but came up empty handed once again. The hunting was turning out to be much tougher than we had originally planned!
Zack and I decided to head back to the truck and eat some cereal to replenish our much needed energy. The cold wind was getting to us and we were running out of hunting options. I decided we should look over the adjacent ridge during mid-day, just to see if we could somehow find some elk bedded. I couldn’t believe my eyes! I spotted a bull bedded along a hillside, guarded from the wind, but in plain eyesight!! Upon further examination I could see he was hanging with two other bulls, one that blended in with the landscape due to his muddy body from a recent wallow session. It was game on and we closed the distance!
We moved to an adjacent ridge that gave us a +200yd vantage point of the bulls. The gusty winds had the bulls on high alert. The bulls got up and changed beds four times over the next 1.5 hours!! The fourth time the bulls got up to move, I knew it was my chance to make a move. The bulls were looking to cross over a ridge into thicker timber. The wind was just right and Zack and myself headed out to cut the bulls off atop the ridge. We crept silently through the timber, until I spotted the smallest bull a mere 60 yards away feeding, but no shot present. I moved on keeping an eye on either side of the ridgeline, assuming most of the bulls had already crossed over. As I began closing the distance on the raghorn bull, I heard a bull bust from my left!! How could it be?! The dirty bull had not crossed the ridge yet and had blended in behind some brush, where he was invisible to myself! Frustration hit once again.
That evening in a last attempt during the last hour of daylight, Zack started ripping bugles, lip bawls and cow calls to try and excite a bull in the surrounding foothills. I think we were both surprised when a distant bull responded. We were running out of daylight and time, and began to close the distance. As we hiked uphill, I froze in my tracks. A 6×6 was starring at us from just above the ridgeline only 100 yards above and spooked upon seeing us headed his way! How the **** did that happen? The bull must have been in an all out sprint to close the distance that fast! We crested over the hill to see the bull return to his +10 cows. It was over, I was done with the Breaks. We packed up, with plans to let Zack attempt to arrow a bear over the next two days.
The 8 hour drive was quite brutal, arriving at our hunting trailhead at 415am after pulling an all-night drive. We were beat and we knew it, instantly falling asleep in the topper. We didn’t get up until 10am, needing the rest if we were going to complete the 4.5 mile hike to our hunting destination. The whole goal for the next two days was to 1) check out some new wilderness area, 2) shoot a bear if it presented itself or 3) put down a bull if we found one. It was Zack’s turn to hunt, but I still packed my bow ‘just in case’.
We set out into the high country. This location is very unique in its amazing landscape dotted with rocky peaks and numerous lakes. We found multiple wallow locations and elk rubs, which lined one of the steepest knife-edge ridges we have ever come across.
The scenery up there is absolutely jaw dropping. We didn’t find any elk, bear, or monster muleys that day, but did find wolf tracks, which could be the reason why we weren’t seeing much game in the area. As the sun dropped out of sight, we made our way back to camp. The following day we planned to reach an area we felt had a great chance of holding elk. Unfortunately our path to this location was extremely difficult! We bushwacked and wrestled through a jungle of downed trees, only to turn around when the going did not get easier….. but much WORSE! We backed out to the truck and came back to civilization, where we would work the next 3 days before heading out for the final weekend of archery elk season.
Friday before work I made a solo mission to one of our unknown local elk hunting spots. I woke up early and made it up the steep ridge just in time for day break. As soon as I glassed the first open feeding area, I spotted an elk butt. I closed the distance to 100 yards, setup the camera and attempted to call in any bull that may have been hanging with the cow I had spotted. Sure enough I got some cows chatting and managed to get a couple bugles out of the bull. With no way of running and gunning with the camera, I decided to back out, and leave the elk be until the following day.
The next morning Zack and I woke early to the sound heavy rain. Great. Yes we can hunt in rain, but we can’t risk our camera gear filming in an all-out downpour. We postponed the hunt til the afternoon. Thankfully we took advantage of a break in the weather and packed in our camp to our final destination. The only problem now was finding a home for our tent without it blowing off the mountain, for we were now dealing with not just rain, but gusty winds. We settled in amongst some trees and headed out for the evening hunt. The afternoon revealed no animals, but I did find a very cool moose paddle! That’s why I love doing what I do! There is always something new out there, no day is the same and you never know what to expect. After returning to camp, I come to find out my Camelbak bladder was leaking all over in my pack. So we started a fire, and I was able to dry most of my wet layers out fairly quickly. Thank God for fire at times like this, because wet gear is a deal breaker!
The next morning we headed out in the dark, hoping to explore deeper into our hunting location. As we worked a logging road in the dark (no more than 1/4mile from camp) the hillside exploded into a stampede! We had busted elk and we knew it. That pretty much summed up the rest of my final day of 2012 archery season. I spotted one cow at a distance and had a cool encounter with a bighorn out of the blue.
Rifle season is just right around the corner. Zack and I decided to leave our camp up the mountain, with plans of hunting this same location this coming Saturday and Sunday. We found a ton of elk sign, and we know they like hanging out there before the snow pushes them down. We are crossing our fingers and hoping for the best. If not, I am looking forward to a 3-day elk hunt with our Dad!! We would be so stoked if we can get him his first elk ever!! Our Dad means the world to us and for him to come out and experience elk hunting with us is priceless! Should be a great week!
It’s here! Our final fly fishing short film of 2012, and it’s a real dandy. From underwater footage of wild cutthroats rising to our flies to the elusive bull trout. We present WILD & CLEAR!
***Please watch in HD. You’ll benefit two ways – 1) a better viewing experience and 2) improved patience. Enjoy!***
BACKSTORY: This summer we once again planned a week long fishing trip. It took us to the northwest corner of Montana in search of native cutthroat and bull trout in some of the most beautiful waters an angler can find. We were joined by our good friend Ian Orlando, and this would be his first trip into these remote parts. We had an amazing time and caught many fish. If you’d like to read about this trip please view our previous post that documented our stay @ The Unknown Part 1 and The Unknown Part 2.
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My watch woke me at 6:00. We had survived another night camped on the edge of some serious bear country. We begrudgingly crawled out of our warm sleeping bags and stepped into the crisp morning air. We quickly packed up camp and headed north up the dark logging road. We were again headed to a new location, situated below the ridge we had hunted only one day earlier. Just as the sun began to creep through the tree tops we slipped into a good location to call.
We called for 20 minutes. Nothing. It seemed as if the elk were ghosts. Leaving us sign but never seeming to show themselves. We moved up through a ridge full of the regular downfall.
We worked slowly and patiently, knowing a bull could be lurking anywhere in the dark timber. We called again with no success. We tried cow calls, bugles, raking, and a combination of all three at times. The elk were just being stubborn, or at least that’s what I’d like to think.
We continued on undeterred. We were constantly reminded of the bulls that roamed and call these thick mountains home. Rubs would crop up out of the blur of grey trees, and often in the most dense areas. This only served to fuel the fire further.
We pushed on and stuck to the game plan. Sneaking through the woods as quietly as possible and calling in any area that seemed good.
Over the course of this trip we were thoroughly impressed with the Open Country pattern on this trip. While one might not think that a lighter patter would be ideal for the dark timber, the pattern actually blended with the woods amazingly well. Let’s just say if an elk came in it wasn’t going to be seeing us.
As we neared the truck that morning it was beginning to set in. We were running out of time and we needed to find an elk. When half your time is running the camera your season is cut in half, and Travis and I needed to seal the deal soon. We had worked hard and knew it could only be a matter of time. Just keep a positive mindset and keep pounding away. As Cameron Hanes would put it, “Go Beast Mode.” We hung out at the truck and had lunch, contemplating the options for the evening. As we sat and talked we began talking about a water source. In the two years we had hunted here, we had never found a creek, wallow, or seep. We knew the elk had to drink somewhere, and we decided to check out a small pond back down the road. It’s easy to access and I figured wouldn’t hold any promise. Well I was wrong. After some inspection we found some quality sign around the pond. Nothing to amazingly fresh, but we knew they’d be back sometime. We continued to walk the waterline and found a natural blind another hunter had created. I knew it was there for a reason and shortly after I found why it was there. There was a heavily used wallow that had been carved into the ground almost three feet from years of use.
The only real fresh sign were a few sets of bear tracks. I still had my bear tag and a good feeling began to make it’s way into the depths of my brain. We got back into the truck and decided to quickly head to a new area and make a final decision for the night around 3PM. After a few hours of exploration we had yet to uncover anything too mind blowing and relied on our instincts. Travis and I both had a good feeling about the wallow, and with our knees sore from the constant climbing over and through deadfall we decided to go back and spend the final evening sitting in the natural blind on the edge of the treeline. I’m not usually one to sit in place for long, but I knew our chances were better here than busting brush all night. We threw on new layers and walked the 400 yards from the truck to our natural ground blind. We setup and settled in for a patient evening.
As we sat I wondered about the hunter who had made this blind. Was it meant to be that we found it? Did he already shoot an elk from here or had he made it and was looking to come back to it at another time? I said a prayer and leaned up against the log as Travis and I waited and listened. After about thirty minutes I decided to lay down. Sitting in one spot usually isn’t my thing, and I can get very sleepy staring at the same piece of real estate for too long.
Soon I felt like I should man up and be ready for anything. This was our last night and I needed to be in the best position to have my bow in hand if something did sneak in. I got back up and waited. I’m glad I did because twenty minutes later Travis told me he heard something walking our way. He always seems to hear things before me, and I got my bow in hand and waited. Sure enough the sound was unmistakable, an elk was making his way through the tight trees and headed for the pond. Soon I could see a chocolate set of antlers peeking through the limbs. He was getting close and the adrenaline hit hard. I hoped our wind was good and got into my shooting position. He was on a path that would bring him very close to us. As he finished his way through the tight trees he soon closed to twenty yards. When he made his way behind the last set of trees, I drew my Bear Anarchy. He stepped out at 8 yards and stopped. At this point I could only see his head and half of his huge neck. Travis had a full view of him only a few feet to the right of me. I was nervous as the bull waited and listened. Moments later a squirrel began chirping 100 yards behind us. The bulls head swung instantly, inspecting the area. He wasn’t looking directly at us but soon turned his head and stared at the two of us, sitting dead still staring back at him. With his ears alert I figured a mature bull like this would bust and I’d never get a shot. Well he didn’t. He looked right through both of us, and I know that our camo served its purpose. He didn’t see us as humans. He slowly turned and began walking towards the wallow. At this point I’d been at full draw for a minute. Between holding my bow back and the adrenaline, I was beginning to shake. He slowly walked away, only giving me a Texas heart shot. I waited. He neared the wallow, taking one slow step at a time. Soon he turned broadside with his front leg back. My pins were shaking all over even though he was 30 yards away. It had been almost two minutes now and I was on the verge of letting my bow down. I took one last deep breath, and as he stepped forward with his right leg I released my arrow. It was a hard hit behind the shoulder. He instantly bucked and went screaming into the timber. I could see the blood instantly coming from his right side as he ran off, and I knew that he wouldn’t make it far. I could hear him crash up onto the road. He ran down the road and then there was a loud crash followed by silence. I sat and listened. Nothing. He had to be down. Travis and I decided to give him thirty minutes just to be safe.
We grabbed our packs and slipped out into the golden meadow. As we neared the wallow we could see where he had stood when I shot him. A few short feet later the blood trail began. It wasn’t huge, but enough to follow easily.
We slowly made our way into the timber and soon found my arrow, covered in rich red blood and broken off just behind the broadhead.
I slipped the arrow back into my quiver knowing it would only be a few minutes before I laid hands on my second elk. We made it up to the road and followed his tracks down the side of the gravel logging road. The blood had been covered by a truck that had passed earlier leaving us only his hoof prints. We soon began looking for blood where he had crashed off the side of the road. That’s when I saw those white tips just over the weeds on the side of the road.
I couldn’t believe it. After 120+ miles this year and hunting through some of the gnarliest deadfall imaginable, my bull was laying only 20 feet from the road. It was ironic but also a blessing as he was truly one of the largest bodied elk I’d seen.
He had wedged himself in a very interesting spot. His rear half was on top of a rock and wedged against a tree. His front half was about to slide under a downed log just behind him. They just don’t always fall in the best spots as this year has shown us, but I couldn’t care, my #1 goal for the year was complete.
The character and the mass on this bull was also truly awesome. His left side held incredible mass throughout. His third tine was palamated and thick. The right side also had good mass but only held three points. Along with that he either had lost his brow tine or G-2 over the years as he had one set of tines protruding from his forehead. I figured with the huge body, heavy mass, and a degenerated right side that this was an old monarch of a bull. A true king of his domain.
I couldn’t believe it, after so much hard work it was the most simple of tactics that paid off. It truly goes to show you that you can make elk hunting as complex or as simple as you’d like and still be successful. This bull had lived a long life. He had survived many winters, avoided numerous predators, and kept his distance from many hunters, only to be killed in the most simple of setups. I later had him aged by a biologist, and he was estimated to be 9 or 10 years old. I’m extremely blessed to have harvested such a beautiful, old bull in only my third season of chasing elk. He’s going to be tough to top next year.
Not only was I able to harvest an elk, but I was able to do so with my brother by my side. A guy just can’t ask for much more. It’s a memory that will last a lifetime for both of us, and Travis was able to beautifully capture the whole hunt on film. We’re really excited to share the footage here in the future as it’s by far the best elk footage we’ve captured in our short two years of filming our hunts.
Once we had taken some photos we began the process of determining what to do with him. If we cut him up as he lay he would slip down under the deadfall below him and it would be miserable to attempt to cut him up. We drove up the road and got service. We called our dad and told him the good news. We told him of the situation and asked him if he could bring a chainsaw and a tow rope up the mountain and help us pull the beast from his final resting place. After an hour and plenty of time to relive hunt he showed up. Smiles were had by all, and then the work began. The tow rope barely made it to the elk. We tied it up to both rear legs and cleared some small trees. The diesel quickly pulled the 700-800 pound elk up to the side of the road.
God truly answered my prayers on this night. We shot an awesome elk, on film, and didn’t have to spend at least 12+ hours packing him out of the jungle. Not only that but my brother was there for the hunt, and my Dad made it up to see my bull in one piece this year. I’m truly excited for the future and all the amazing things that lay ahead of us out there in God’s country.
I also found a few thing interesting about my hunt this year compared to last. Last year I shot my bull on my first day hunting the mountains of Western Montana after hunting the Missouri Breaks. This year I shot my bull on my first full day back in the mountains after 5 days in the Breaks. Last year I ambushed my elk at 40 yards from my knees. This year I ambushed my elk from 30 yards off my knees. Last year I shot my elk quartering away, and he ran and looped left only making it about a hundred yards before he took his last breath. This year I also shot my elk quartering away and he also made about a hundred yard loop to his left before crashing. Nothing too crazy but definitely an interesting comparison of the two seasons.
Thanks for reading my story. This is a post that I look forward to writing each year, and I can’t wait till 2013. So far it’s been a truly awesome season. We helped my good friend Tyler McCann kill his first bull this year, and I was able to take a great elk also. Now it’s Travis’ turn, and we’ll be working hard to get him a bull before archery season is over.
For me elk hunting has become a passion and a lifestyle. For now, my #1 goal each season is to arrow a bull elk with my bow. This year was no exception. In 2011, just my second year bowhunting elk, I was able to arrow my first elk. He was just a raghorn, but a trophy nonetheless. If you you’d like to check out my 2011 bull elk please read a bit more here – My 2011 Bull Elk. Being the person I am, I constantly am looking to improve and challenge myself no matter what it is I set my mind to. This year it was two-fold. One I wanted redemption in the Missouri Breaks. Last year I had been very close but couldn’t seal the deal. After time spent with filming Travis in the Breaks this year, I knew I had a very solid chance at doing just so. My second goal was to arrow not only a bull but a mature bull. Mature can mean a lot of things and each elk is different, but in my mind I had a solid idea on where I’d draw the line.
After 5 days in the Breaks I had only one stalk to show and no elk. The action was slow and with lots of other hunters pressuring the elk, it was just tough hunting. It was turning into another year chasing elk and not much as far as actual hunting. I hadn’t given up on the Breaks, but it was time to switch gears and hunt a bit closer to town. This summer Travis and I had placed game cameras in a few areas that seemed promising. With photos like this cropping up, I knew we had to at least devote a weekend to chasing elk in the deep, dark timber of Northwest Montana.
Our bags were packed and on the morning of the 23rd we hit the road. We arrived at our spot at 5:45AM and started our hour hike in with camp on our backs. As we made our way up the old logging road we hoped that we would be catching some part of the rut and that the elk would be fired up. We heard no bugles on the hike in, but we quickly set up camp and dropped over the nearest ridge to begin hunting. Travis was up first. I’d run the camera for the first day and a half and then we’d switch. As we began hunting it was very apparent, the dark timber was starkly different than the open country in the Breaks.
From stands of lodgepoles scattered with downfall, to more open slopes covered in brush that grows overhead, it’s beautiful and frustrating at the same time. It really is a magical place and this area has to be one of my favorite places to hunt elk even though it’s one of the hardest places also.
As we worked through the brush we finally heard our first bugle. The bull was below us, and we knew he was working up the north facing slope to bed for the day. Unfortunately the wind was headed straight downhill. After exchanging some bugles we had closed in to about 200-300 yards attempting to flank him on his right side. As we tried to sneak along the only game trail we heard hooves pounding up through the jungle. We were busted. There is literally no such thing as stalking a bull in these woods. Between the thick brush and downfall, it’s impossible to move around without sounding like a rhino. Add a backpack and the noises that a human makes moving through the woods, and you simply aren’t going to get close to much. You simply must call them to you or sit in wait in one spot and hope an elk passes by. We pushed on, at points wondering if we were even elk hunting. It surely wasn’t possible that an elk would want to be in this tangled mess. As soon as you begin thinking that your often humbled by an obnoxiously large rub.
We knew they were around and it was only a matter of time before we found one. Most of the rubs were easily less than a week old. The fresh smell of pine lingering and the sap freshly beaded up on the tree. Now if they would just pipe up and bugle it might get exciting. Before long though it was mid-day, and we worked back to our camp to rest up for the evening hunt.
Around 3:30 we headed back into the darkness. We worked a couple old growth ridgelines and dropped into the tops of a few drainages in search of a bull. We called multiple stands, waiting for 20-30 minutes before moving on with no success. Half the battle was moving any considerable distance in these woods. It’s so thick that you sometime can only hike a mile an hour. We continued on. Our only find that evening being another impressive rub and some scattered elk sign.
The next morning we were back at it again on the same north face. Travis and I worked back down the hillside to where our trail camera had been posted up this summer. The camera had been on one of the only game trails in the area, and it cut across a wide face that the bulls came up in the mornings as they headed to their beds in the deep, brushy thickets. After just a couple minutes of calling Travis could hear an elk coming up through the bushes towered overhead. We held our ground and hoped he’d come up to the game trail. We couldn’t move because he’d hear us and know we definitely weren’t two elk, so we sat and waited.
The brush was so thick here he’d have to work to inside 20 yards. As he pulled within 50 yards we crouched behind a down tree. Moments after I spotted antlers just above the brush at 30 yards, a solid 6×6. Seconds later he stopped behind some trees at 20 yards. He listened and stood still. He either trusted his instinct or didn’t like the complete silence above him. He turned and bolted down the hill and stopped. Travis bugled and raked and then threw out some excited cow calls. The bull came back up the hill but flanking us to the left. Travis had a glimpse of him at 40 yards until he stopped and began circling us trying to get our wind. Well with nowhere to move, it was only a matter of time. He finally smelled us and was gone for good. That’s just tough conditions, conditions we need more practice in. Again the bull was silent the whole time. Not necessarily the conditions you’d dream about. Hopefully we’d be able to catch the rut somewhere, but apparently not in this area. We hunted back to camp and made the decision to move locations.
We drove back down the logging road and decided on a new spot. The beginning of the hike in was actually bearable. It was fairly thin and there was sign hidden amongst the brush. We kept pushing on hoping for some clearer forest and talkative elk.
The only problem was that it just kept getting thicker. Up here it can be frustrating trying to move to areas when you don’t know what the vegetation consists of. A map only tells you so much, and once your in the woods you never get a chance to see out. It’s just trees and brush in every direction. Sometimes you just have to set out and explore and hope something good comes of it.
After a while it got downright silly. You definitely couldn’t say we were elk hunting. Bushwacking some major jungle was the name of the game. Wouldn’t you know it though there was sign in here too. The animals are straight crazy to call some of this home.
After a solid hour we finally emerged onto a ridge that significantly opened up. We began slowly working the deadfall in hopes of being quiet enough to setup further down the ridge and call. Some rubs started showing up, and we knew we were in the right area. Again we felt it was only a matter of time.
After calling three setups we had not had any luck. We slowly made our way out and hoped Tuesday would be a better day. We’d have one day left to try to seal a deal on a bull before we had to head back to Missoula for work. We cooked dinner, dumped the SD cards, and got in the tent for the night. Tomorrow was going to be a good day.
Year three of my short elk hunting career, and it was back to the Missouri Breaks. The goal, arrow a mature bull in 5 days.
As we bounced our way down the familiar dirt road, the temperature read 56F. It was 5:30 AM, and we had just completed our 6 hour drive from Missoula, MT. The headlights illuminated the sagebrush, and soon we were geared up and ready to hunt. With headlamps on we started working up a long ridge full of coulees on both sides. We knew if we wanted to catch a bull on his feet it would be necessary to be in position before daylight. These elk often will stop bugling for the morning by sunrise and stay on their feet for maybe an hour longer before bedding. As the sun rose we continued walking.
That morning we glassed the hillsides for hours after sunrise. With over 5 miles covered and many more glassed, we had to return to the truck. Our only finds being some mule deer does, a hunter on a horse, and 3 trucks and a horse trailer. Great start! We weren’t worried yet though, after our first trip to the Breaks when Travis was hunting, (see story here – Elk Season Continues) we had high hopes of finding mature bulls daily. That night we glassed a basin that held multiple bulls the last time only to find it empty. The next day we went back hoping some bulls would filter into the area overnight.
We made it back down into this basin well before sunrise. No bugles and no elk in the hills. We could see elk in the river bottom and hear them sounding off. The riverbottom consisted of willows that are thick and only huntable from a blind or treestand. A boat is extremely helpful and neither a boat or treestand are in my elk plans as of now. We continued to move on in hopes of locating a bull and getting a stalk in. That night was no better. We headed back, cooked up some hot dogs, and got ready for another early morning.
Day 3 and we were in a new area. With some deep coulees away from the road and river we had high hopes of finding some elk.
Just like any other morning the name of the game for us had been get in the area early. If we hear bugles then close the distance. If we don’t hear anything then break out the binos and spotting scope.
On this morning we had to resort to option 2, get out the spotting scope and binoculars. We heard nothing and got zero responses to any type of calling. We glassed until 10 and then decided to loop back to the truck. After once again hiking close to 5 miles, we were amused to find our only bull of the day, a small raghorn, just 600 yards from the road.
We were starting to get just a touch worried. It was Day 3, and we had yet to find the elk and especially not any great bulls. It appeared that the elk had shifted drastically with the heavy pressure that had recently been plaguing the Breaks. The Missouri Breaks is a love/hate area. Your not going to feel like you’re alone by any means. On this trip it was no exception. There were trucks parked at almost every access each night and the sounds of ATV’s or boats on the river were common while hunting. The amount of time your able to actually hunt each day is very limited. You get about two hours in the morning and about two at night to catch a majority of elk on their feet. The elk have to be some of the most hunted in Montana and are very smart. The bugs are often clinging to any exposed skin and the temperatures hot. All of those negatives fades away when you see some of the bulls out here. They aren’t extremely plentiful, but there are some real toads running around. One day when we were hunting earlier this season, we stumbled into a 320 class bull hanging with a 350 in a secluded draw. Unfortunately, that hadn’t happened on my trip, but just the thought of a bull like that around the next corner keeps a guy hunting hard and we did. Most days we easily covered 8-10 miles hiking ridges, crossing coulees, and working creek bottoms.
I knew it was only a matter of time. Finally on the morning of Day 4 we found a bull. We had been hiking in the dark for about 20 minutes when I decided to throw out a bugle where two draws met, hoping for a single bugle in response. One echoed out from a long ways off about a minute later. We knew he was a ways up the draw so we spent the next twenty minutes climbing to the top of a ridge to glass and hope to spot this bull. After ten minutes of glassing I spotted a group of cows. Sure enough a bull popped out. We pulled out the spotting scope as the early morning wind tried to tear through us. It was shaping up to be a particularly windy and cloudy day, and they appeared to be content to mingle around in the bottom of a small draw. We geared up and snuck closer. After about a half hour we had pulled to within 300 yards of the cows and spotted the bull bedded in the bottom. As we decided on a game plan the cows started working our way. With the wind swirling bad we decided to keep our distance until we could assess the bulls position and how we would go in for a stalk. Of course as we repositioned to get a better view of the bull, the cows fed down below us at around 100 yards. All of a sudden the bull was with them again. If we had stayed put and the wind held, I could have already had a 60 yard shot at him. Now we were above and upwind of them. Soon the bull and cows bedded, and we began a long and arduous process of circling around to get into position for a shot on the bedded bull. After a half hour of belly crawling carefully through the short grass in the bottom we were ready to start moving into position. Of course as we moved in he decided to exchange his current spot for one more tucked away. He now was further from the spot we were working towards, but he was bedded broadside at least.
We kept moving forward, hoping we could get close enough for a shot or that he’d get up again soon and present a shot. We still hadn’t been winded and we crept to within the 100 yard mark. As we worked through the last little dip we peaked over to find that he had repositioned and now was bedded facing away. Great, all this time and now I’m 70 yards from a bull that is bedded with his a** facing me. We decided to wait for a few minutes and see if he’d get up again as we were in a good position if he did. Unfortunately, the wind suddenly shifted as it often does, and before you know it all 5 of the elk are over the ridge. Exciting and frustrating at the same time. The scenario just wasn’t right that day. The elk had beaten us again. I tried to second guess myself, saying that I should have cow called to get him to stand, but with the wind and length of shot, I never would take that on an alert animal. We made it back to the truck and took a mid-day nap.
That night we moved up the same draw some ten miles before hunting again. We did see some mule deer and elk sign but no elk. We hoped this new area would hold some bulls looking to avoid the strong hunting pressure down low.
The next morning we worked down to the creek bottom in hopes of catching some elk coming off the water and moving back into the hills.
After about an hour of glassing we had only turned up two raghorns and a couple spikes. I was leaned back on my pack in a state of heavy depression when I heard the sound of two bulls fighting and some cow talk. They sounded like they were a ridge north, and we hustled to cross over to see if we could locate them. As we cleared the next ridge I saw a bull on the opposite hillside climbing up through the sand with his tongue out. He appeared that he was running from a fight. We let him cross over the top and then slowly worked to the edge to see if any elk were still in the bottom. Of course as we slowly worked around the edge we spooked a bull below us in the timber. He booked it over the same ridge as the other bull and once again we sat there in disbelief. We had put in so many miles and hunted from sun up to sun down for 5 days and had only one stalk to show. Not exactly my idea of how the hunt was going to play out. I figured with the success we had had on the first trip, we were going to storm in there and be on bulls everyday and definitely get a shot. I was hoping to redeem myself for not getting one last year in the Breaks, but that hope was fading fast. On Tuesday morning we humbly packed up the truck and headed for home. It was time to get back to a regular work schedule and get back to the dark timber of Northwest Montana. It felt a little too similar to last year, but I knew we still had a lot of season and many opportunities to come.
We spent day one of our elk season packing out Tyler’s bull and getting it transported back to his house. Around 11PM we finally rolled back into the Breaks and were back to hunting first thing the following morning. Tyler’s brother showed up at camp finally, so they were going to hunt off on their own, and Zack and I would hunt as a separate group. Zack and myself went the first hour of the morning with nothing to show. Soon Zack flagged me to quiet my step, as he spotted a nice 6X6 bedded a mere 150yards below the sagebrush ridge. It was only 7am! With the daily temperatures reaching +90degrees, and a full moon at night, the weather had these bulls bedded very early in the morning and they would stay bedded til the last 30 minutes of daylight.
The wind was good for a stalk from the right side, and I made it to about 80yards of the bull, but still couldn’t get a shot. I backed out, regrouping with Zack to put together another stalk plan. Zack had recommended trying to crawl to another vantage point that looked to be a spot where you could have a clean shot if the bull stood up. The morning was wearing into the heat of the day quickly. We watched the bull for another hour, to see if the bull would change beds and allow for an easier stalk. The bull stayed put and seemed to be getting sleepy. I made the decision to back out and come back early in the afternoon, assuming the bull would lay there all afternoon. We came back to find that the elk had vanished, and his bed abandoned! I was let down a little, and knew I should have attempted another stalk that morning, while the chance presented itself. We saw more hunters than we did elk that evening and called it a day.
We decided to switch locations for the next day. We went to another small creek where we had seen some bulls in previous years. We worked a good 3/4mile in the dark, before I could make out a bull in the creek bottom in front of me. The bull was a mere 100 yards from me, but clueless as he watched his two raggy horned friends lock horns nearby. I made the move to try to loop around the elk, searching for a larger bull. As we made a loop, the wind swirled and the bulls spooked out of the creek bottom. We moved on with high hopes of glassing more elk. We only were seeing mule deer does until Zack spotted two bucks feeding in some scattered timber. One was a real nice 4×4 with deep forks! We watched the bucks until they disappeared into some dense trees. I decided to go in for a stalk, assuming they were bedded. As we dipped into the creek bottom I spotted the two bucks starring at me. They took off in a hurry! The bucks weren’t bedded yet and had snuck down into the creek bottom unnoticed. Stalk over.
Back at our truck we attempted to take a nap during the heat of the day. Every afternoon the wind would pick up and the flies and no-see-ums were always hovering and biting when they could. Often sleep only came in short bits. For the afternoon hunt we elected to move coordinates once again. We setup on a high ridge, to glass the valley below for the evening. We were surprised to see no bulls, but a handful of cows that evening.
We went out to try our luck again the next morning, back in the creek bottom. As soon as we started to hike into the valley, we could hear 2-3 bulls sounding off bugles. The hunt was on! I quickened my pace trying to close the distance, knowing the bulls were probably already leading cows into the hills. I bugled and got more bugles in response. I closed the distance again, only to see a cow 60yards away starring at me in the dark. She didn’t mind me much at all and just watched as I moved forward, seeing a good bull that had just started making his way up the ridge. I got aggressive and followed into the woods downwind of where the bull entered. I bugled, and once again was given a response bugle, this time much closer. We setup, hoping the bull would come into our calls. We waited, no response. Then it happened, I could feel the wind switch and blow against our exposed necks. We knew the elk had spooked, and we quickly hiked up the closest ridge hoping to see to catch a glimpse of the elk. Nothing. They had disappeared like ghosts. We moved on. An hour later Zack worked into a new coulee. Zack waved the silent signal and I crept foreward. Zack had spotted the biggest bull of the trip feeding on the hillside 500 yards below!
We could tell he was feeding into an adjacent coulee, so I took off to the next ridge, hoping to keep sight of the bull. Traveling along the next ridge, my wind switched AGAIN and spooked a bull that was hiding below me. I could see there were now 3 elk visible, 2 being monster bulls! The alert bulls took off around the ridge. Zack and I ran coulee after coulee following these bulls further into the desert. Finally the two biggest bulls split ways, with the largest one disappearing out of sight, while the narrow heavy 6X6 bedded amongst some brush nearby. (Below is a screenshot from some footage of the bulls. Can you say Mr. Wide?)
To make a long story short, we decided to make a stalk on the tall tined bull. Before I could even get in position for a stalk our wind once again switched before I could get in on this very stalkable bull. A bull that size is not stupid, and the slightest whiff of a hunter and he is out of there! Once again we were eluded by a bedded bull! It seemed like the wind was always swirling and never consistent on many of our stalks. The following morning we decided to go back to where Tyler had shot his bull. We hiked a nearby ridge into the dark, and were happy to hear bugles yet again! This time it took us too long to locate the bulls, for they were already 1.5miles from us and making their way into some thick timber to bed. I could tell they were both shooter bulls, and we would try to locate them that evening in the general area I thought they would bed down.
In the afternoon we made our way back to where we spotted the bulls heading that morning, and I was excited to see one of the bulls already on his feet and feeding right where I thought they would be. Zack and I worked in closer we saw the bull was not alone, a larger 6X6 loomed twenty yards from him . They were working out of a draw and over a ridge. Zack and I quickly looped ahead, removed our boots and started stalking these two bulls in our socks, but could only get to within 90 yards. The bulls were changing course quite often and it made it tough to determine where the best spot to get to was. We kept working up the ridge as Zack saw the first bull skylined about a 100 yards out. We worked all the way to the top and can’t find these two bulls anywhere! I decide to cow call twice, assuming a bull would come from the ridge below me if they were still around. 20 seconds later I hear an elk 30 yards behind me! Zack and I are shoulder to shoulder, with no room to move without making a ton of noise from the dry grass. I freeze hoping the bull will pass by and allow myself to draw for a shot. As soon as the bull rounds the first set of branches, he turns, looks right at us standing there with no cover, and was gone! Sick to my stomach that I just missed another opportunity. This time at 20 yards! I tried to stay positive, and finish our final morning with a kill.
The next morning we got completely skunked. With a stormfront moving in, we found little sign of elk that morning. We packed up our bags, and headed home. I wish we could have stayed longer, but we can only go so many days without working to pay for our elk hunting adventures. We will be back at it soon though! This week should be interesting!
With our tags in hand, we took off for the Missouri Breaks 2.5 days prior to season. We arrived Wednesday evening to smokey skies and hot temperatures, but set out for an evening scouting mission hoping for the best. After a 2 mile hike we had our first bull spotted. We found a 6×6 bedded in a deep coulee. We got some shots and moved on, not disturbing the bull.
After walking a small finger, we once again spotted a bull bedded on the adjacent hillside and in plain view, something that we were sure wouldn’t be happening in a few days. A nice 5×5 was napping in his sandy bed, and a raggy 5×5 with a crown fed nearby on some grass. Again we let the bulls be and moved another 1/2 mile across a flatop. As we crested the ridge we setup in a spot to glass the remaining 1hr of daylight. Once again we spotted a nice mature bull feeding up the adjacent hillside. Off to a great start and this spot looked promising for opening day!
The next morning we set out to find a watering hole Zack had found via internet maps. It has been very dry this summer, and the Breaks was no exception. Fire warnings were on the radio constantly and fire crews were patrolling the area. Most creeks were holding little to no water and water sources are key for finding the elk out here. We were pleased when we found the watering hole……but completely dry and deprived of even the slightest drop of water. We continued to hike and glass and heard one bugle the whole morning. The area we found held numerous farm cows, with not much sign of water or elk. Time to move on.
In the afternoon we went to a location we had hunted a couple days last year. We once again set out to check some watering holes, only to find them dry once again. We decided to setup high on a ridge and glass a deep coulee where access is easy. We weren’t suprised when we spotted 3 other hunters glassing from a nearby hillside. Fortunately for us we had the Vortex Razor Spotting scope, which allowed us to glass 3 different sets of elk that evening, which wouldn’t have been seen through most bino’s. With only 30 minutes of daylight we saw a group of 4 bulls working a heavily forested coulee, and saw elk about 2.5 miles away that we couldn’t tell if they were bulls or cows, due to the extremely smoky conditions. No shooter bulls were visible, and we knew this spot would be getting some serious pressure opening weekend.
The next morning we went to a location where Zack got very close to a 300-class bull on our final day hunting the Breaks in 2011. We got there early and glassed from a couple different high vantage points. We heard bugles from the deep willows in the river bottoms below, but never laid eyes on any elk. Last year the elk would move from the river bottom into the hills at night to feed due to scarce food supply from all the silt caused from high water last year. Not the case this year. The elk seemed very satisfied to hangout down in the river bottom 24/7. Once again, not a top choice for hunting this week.
Our final afternoon we spent shooting, making sure everything was dialed and headed out for the final evening of scouting. One of our best friends Tyler McCann met up with us, with hopes of scouting that evening with us and to meet up with his brother to hunt with him opening day. We hiked a good mile up a ridge that ran adjacent to one of the only creeks that had little water in it. We setup and quickly spotted a decent 3×3 mule working down towards the creek below us. We watched him feed and disappear into some brush. We glassed for the next hour, finding two bulls bedded across the valley from us. One looked like a decent bull and the other a small raghorn. Out of the corner of my eye I spotted an elk running through the valley below, I quickly put my bino’s on the elk, which turned out to be a massive 6×6 bull that was bleach white and extremely wide. Something had spooked the bull, for we watched him run a good 2 miles until he was out of sight. Tyler was all pumped up to see a bull that big the day before season! We made jokes about us always putting Tyler in the best hunting spots in the Breaks. We glassed until dark, not seeing any elk moving, and surprised that the two bulls we spotted earlier, stayed bedded until sundown. We soon found out Tyler’s brother Cole was not going to show up that evening to hunt with Tyler on opening morning. We were slightly uneased at first. It is tough enough trying to film elk hunts with 2 people, and 3 is definitely even tougher. We had no choice but to bring Tyler with us to our #1 spot for opening day. We owed it to him and we knew it. Tyler was a big influence on getting Zack and myself hooked on hunting here in Montana. Just four years ago Tyler invited us to mule deer hunt with him, and we had the time of our lives! It was time to pay it forward and bring Tyler along with hopes of getting his very first elk.
Opening morning came in a hurry. We put a plan together, with Tyler excited to shoot any bull raghorn or bigger, while I was hoping to hold out for a larger bull. We geared up and hiked the 2 mile ridge to where we had spotted elk previously. We were instantly greeted with some distant bugles. With shooting light upon us we glassed the hillside below. With no elk in sight I decided to move another 100 feet to the next knob overlooking the fingers below us. I instantly heard footsteps below, only to see two bulls working the ridge less than 150 yards from us. We were pinned down and instantly dropped down to our knees. Zack had the camera rolling, setup with myself to his left and Tyler to his right. The bulls fed over the small hill below us, and there was not 2, but 4 bulls with 3 being shooters. The four bulls walked out of sight below the rolling ridgline in front of us. The plan was if the bulls worked left I would take a shot, and if the bulls worked right, Tyler would let an arrow rip. We sat there motionless, arrows nocked, for we were kneeling on dry brush that made a racket with every movement. We sat for a good 7 minutes, with no sound, or sight of the bulls. I could tell Tyler was getting anxious to see where they went, but I told him to sit tight. Moments later we could here a bull working close to Tyler’s position. Tyler drew, expecting the bull to appear in front of him. He held at full draw for a good 2 minutes before he could see the velvet tips of the bull below. Tyler said later on he thought it was a huge mule deer because the top portion of this bulls rack were still velvet covered. This bull was the biggest of the group easily pushing close to 300. As Tyler lifted his bow slightly the bull spotted movement, for he was literally 10 yards from Tyler! He spooked below us with the 2nd largest bull. Oh great! Blown opportunity….. but I could still see the smallest raghorn standing below, and as I lifted my head I could see the bulls had not ran more than a short distance. I quickly attempted to range the largest bull below us, but couldn’t get a quick enough yardage through the brush in front of me. This time the elk were quickly moving back down hill. I quickly attempted to make a couple mouth cow calls. I saw a bull stop quartering away below us. I ranged him 75, 80. Tyler settled his pin and let the arrow fly. We heard the arrow hit perfectly burrying into the opposite shoulder. The elk took off over the ridge leaving only a cloud of dust for us to stare at.
Tyler was all smiles. After spending all summer in the oil fields of North Dakota, his short amount of time he had preparing for this hunt had finally paid off. We waited a good 45 minutes before following blood and staggering footsteps to where the bull laid. The bull had crashed into a 8in diameter tree and was belly-up in the deepest sand coulee he could have possibly found. It was smiles all around! Tyler had his very first elk ever, a nice 5×5 and all on film to boot.
We quartered the bull in the position it was currently in. We couldn’t budge the beast or roll him over for he had wedged himself into the sandy bottom. We got to test out the Mystery Ranch Long Bow, packing out a full quarter bone-in and let me tell you, that pack is a BEAST! Loved how comfortable it was with all the weight and gear still inside. The 2.5 mile back to the truck was no easy task, ascending a steep coulee from the start, followed by rolling hills/coulees until we reached the truck. The final load was the head, which I gave Tyler the right to carry it out on my Long Bow, while Zack packed the front quarters out after being de-boned. Tyler was even able to recover his broadhead and a few inches of his arrow from the front right shoulder while cutting the meat from the bone.
Tyler was beat, fighting leg cramps the entire way out during the second trip. I was excited to be there to experience his first elk and to help him pack out his bull before the temps reached the 90′s. It is a day we all will never forget. We’re off to a great start so far, be looking for part II of our trip here soon!
Zack and I put in for 900 archery tags this year, with hopes of being able to set aside time to chase speed goats two weeks before archery elk season kicked off. Little did we know that time would be an issue for us. 2012 has so far been a year of adventure and full of memories I will never forget, but along with our adventures has come a struggle to have enough time to do everything that we would like to in 1 summer. Between elk preparation, fly fishing, working, and editing footage, we have found ourselves working late nights and early mornings in an effort to do what we love to do. Zack and I have never hunted antelope, so I have been starting from scratch when it comes to finding somewhere to hunt antelope successfully. The past week I have been searching maps after maps on google and trying to pin down block management locations since they were made public. As some of you may know we filmed a film project recently following our 6 day trip fly fishing Montana’s backcountry. Our goal for this film is to have it finished before September 1st, because once hunting season hits, you won’t find us doing much other than hunting and working. As of last Thursday we had planned to not hunt antelope due to the fact that we are crunched for time, needing to finish this film project, and not to mention saving our money for elk season. Friday came and went and I made a last minute decision to chase antelope the following morning. We got off work at 1230am, and hit the road at 4am. I had a couple spots picked out that I thought would hold some goats, but had no clue since I had never been to this part of the state, let alone heard if it is worth hunting. We took a risk, and come 8am Saturday morning, we were stalking our first antelope buck!
We spotted a nice pronghorn with two does working up a ridgeline. We quickly assembled our gear and attempted to cutoff the buck. I spotted the buck at 70 yards, before his horns slowly disappeared over the small hill in front of us. Zack and I crept forward, hoping to look over the hill and sneak a shot off at the buck. Before we could see the buck again, we saw the antelope taking off at speeds that are unreal. The antelope does were further ahead of the buck we were stalking and had caught our wind. Stalk #1 failed.
We pushed further into the public lands we were hunting. After driving a couple miles we had spooked a couple groups of pronghorn that were hanging near the dirt road we were driving. I was surprised that we were the first ones down this road seeing it was already past 9am. When you spook antelope, they don’t stop, we found out they run as far as possible until they feel safe. From there on we made sure to glass the country in front of us, before driving further down the road. We once again spotted a buck working up another ridge, with a doe and fawn close by. Stalk #2 was on. We watched the buck separate from the doe and bed at the very top of the ridge. We setup a game plan. Zack was going to film the stalk from about 300yds away as I attempted to stalk to within shooting distance of this bedded buck.
I attempted to pick out landmarks that would help guide me to the bedded subject. I snuck down the adjacent draw, took my boots off and threw on another layer of wool socks. I have found that in order to get close, stalking in just socks is one of the best ways to do so. Attempting to avoid stepping on cactus, I started rolling over the ridge, waiting to see the tips of the antelope appear. The buck took off to the left of me! He was bedded 60 yards further down the ridge than I had thought! The picture above shows the view I had prior to stalking in. The photo looks as if I am closing in to about 50yds of the buck, but in reality the buck was at least 90 yards from me. This stalk was a nice refresher on how detailed you have to be when picking out landmarks before attempting a stalk. Becuase once you start stalking from a new location, everything looks a heck of a lot different. We made a big loop into the surrounds hills, spotting a small group of does and one large antelope who had bedded in a location that was flat and unstalkable. We worked back to the truck and decided to take a short nap, having only received 2 hours of sleep the night before.
I woke up before Zack and decided to set up the Vortex Spotting scope to glass the rolling hills behind us. In less than 15 minutes I had spotted 3 bucks bedded in different locations. All were bedded in locations where a stalk was not possible. We moved on once again to some new public land and once again we spotted bucks. This time it was a group of 7 bucks, with one buck that overshadowed the rest. We ran a ridgeline hoping to cutoff the bucks before they made it to the flat top that lay ahead of them. We made it in time to setup, but with little to no cover to conceal two men and a camera, the bucks blew our cover before we had even the slightest shot. That was a day for us, and it was sure heart pumping!!
We woke the next morning to a burning sunrise. The smoke has been bad across Montana, and has made for less than perfect glassing conditions, but some amazing sunrises and sunsets. It was Zack’s turn and once again we spotted a buck less than 1/2 mile from our camp. We packed up and set out on once again another stalk. Unfortunately the buck disappeared over a small rolling hill, and as we set out to close the distance, the buck had worked back over the hill, catching us dead in our tracks.
The stalk was blown and we continued to glass the large basin below us. We spotted several goats feeding in the basin, but with no cover we had no chance of stalking within shooting distance. Once again it was off to explore new land, and again we were rewarded for going the extra distance. Again we spooked some goats off the road. This time we went down one draw and decided to race up to the top and try to catch them coming out of the draw we last saw them in. No luck. We did see a lone buck staring at us on another ridge top. He didn’t want to budge so Zack set off on a very low percentage stalk. I stayed on top with the camera and Zack dipped out of sight and into the draw. As he snuck up the other side he poked his head up only to see the buck 90 yards away and staring him head on. Unfortunately, with little to pick from for landmarks, Zack just didn’t line up right to get within bow range. Again the stalk was over.
Glassing was the name of the game for us all weekend. Finally I glassed a buck bedded with three does, allowing for a stalk from above. We worked into 150yards of the bedded antelope and quickly dropped our boots and got back into our ninja feet. Creeping above the buck, we closed the gap to 60yards, Zack drew on the buck, waiting for the buck to stand. The buck stood and was gone, not waiting for Zack to settle his pins. Again, so close, but no cigar. Zack was able to attempt one more stalk on three bucks we spotted later in the afternoon, but before Zack could close the gap, they had made their way outside of his shooting distance. With the day coming to an end, we moved to a piece of block management I had found via FWP info. The land contained a pivot filled with green grass and alfalfa. There was a group of 16 or so speed goats, bedded along the edge of the crop. With a northwestern wind, we had only one line of attack on these bedded antelope. Unfortunately, we had to cover over 100yards in the open, and instantly the antelope spotted us and took off for the hills. We set up for camp, hoping the antelope would return the following morning. The rest of the evening was spent drooling over the copious amount of whitetails in the nearby fields.
We woke at dusk the following morning, to see that the antelope had returned to the green field, but were moving fast into the surrounding coulees. This was our final morning to hunt, and quickly grabbed our gear and attempted a 1 mile loop hoping to get in front of the antelope. There was one large buck in the group, but we were willing to take a doe if a shot was present. I was excited when I crept over the hill in front of me to see the antelope moving slowly across the flat above the coulee. It was now a guessing game. Where were these antelope going to go from the flat? We got setup in a position we hoped the antelope were going. To my surprise the speed goats were feeding our way. We quickly got in position by one of the only piece of cover we had, a small bushy tree. I quickly ranged the few landmarks in front of me. The speed goats fed past me at 25yards, but I was blocking the camera and had to wait for them to feed past us to what I believed was 40yards. With no buck in sight I drew on a broadside doe. As I drew the doe looked directly at me. I settled my 40yard pin on her vitals and sent my arrow flying. The doe quickly jumped my string and ducked. Ahhh! The one thing I had been talking about all preseason. Aim low on an alert animal! We did capture some amazing footage of the event and below is a screen shot before I let off my shot.
I reviewed the video footage and found a clean arrow. After the shot I re-calculated the doe’s distance and it appeared the doe was closer than I had thought. I was upset to say the least, after being presented with our best opportunity of our entire 2.5 day trip. Then again I was excited and rejuvenated at the same time. The whole trip was a blast! Not to mention it got me ready to chase elk come September first. The trip was a success for both of us, for we now have some pretty awesome land to attempt spot and stalk antelope hunting. Next year we plan to set aside more time to chase speed goats. Spot and stalk antelope is addicting and not for the faint of heart. We are excited for September 1st and have high hopes of putting down a big bull! This was our first chance to really put our gear to test for the year, and everything performed great. The Stika open country is amazing for hunter concealment. As you can see below, we managed to blend in extremely well in the environment at hand. Do you see Zack in the photo?
Be looking for our archery antelope episode in the future.
If you missed the first write up about our recent fly fishing trip into the Montana backcountry, be sure to read the post “The Unknown – Backcountry Cutties.” During our six day trip we not only set out to explore some of Montana’s most beautiful water, but to legally target and fish for native bull trout.
In the earlier part of this century and also within the last few decades, the bull trout was seen as a cannibal of the trout family. Many viewed it as a trash fish because of it’s highly predatory nature and its voracious appetite for other fish. There numbers soon began to plummet due to extensive logging ruining spawning habitat along with unchecked fishing practices. Today they are now found in healthy numbers and are addictive to catch. We had never fished for these trout but felt confident we could get into a few. Very few people fish for bull trout so as long as you can find them, you should be able to catch some. I figured they would be easiest to find on the main river with its deep holes and long runs. We decided to bushwack down to the river off a nearby dirt road and set up camp. To say the canyon we’d be fishing was stunning was an understatement.
We immediately scouted for a suitable campsite. Fortunately we found a small sandy area along the river and got situated. Bull trout can grow upwards of 3 feet and are very powerful fish. For this trip we decided to take a couple 8wts. It’s best to play these fish quickly and without a sturdy rod, a big fish might be running downstream with no end in sight. A big thanks goes out to Dan @ Grizzly Hackle. He was gracious enough to help outfit us for our trip. If your around Missoula, be sure to swing by. Whether it’s trout, steelhead, or tarpon, they have what you’re looking for.
We quickly set up the rods and hit the river. Immediately we found great looking water. I honestly felt like I was in some exotic place and surely not Montana.
The water is deep emerald and the surrounding rich forests and moss covered cliffs made me feel like I was in New Zealand or deep in the Canadian backcountry. The first hole looked promising and we spent almost an hour drifting streamers through every nook and cranny amongst the rocks.
Finally I heard those magic words, “I got one!” Travis had hooked into the first bull trout of the trip. After a short fight we had a nice bully in the net.
Travis was pumped up. This was his first bull trout on a streamer and things were looking good. We kept moving up the canyon, methodically working each hole. One of the problems we encountered on this stretch was the depth of each hole. Often you couldn’t see the bottom. I know some of the holes were at least 20 feet deep and with the current it was just plain tough to get your streamer deep enough and in the right spot.
We fished hard that day but never got into another bull trout. The scenery keep us in good spirits and we slowly worked our way back to camp.
With the clouds rolling in we decided to call it a day and hang out by the fire.
We had an amazing view of the river, a hot tasty meal, and good conversation to finish up the day. Just down river there was an osprey nest perched on a tall dead tree next to a tall cliff. Mom was screaming her head off and even did a bit of fishing.
Over the course of the trip we got a chance to fish a lot of water. Another day of our trip was spent exploring a second deep canyon upriver.
This canyon is only accessible from one end or the other. We worked in from the bottom and immediately were met with beautiful water. This canyon consists of long deep pools, large boulders, and some solid rapids. The water is ideal for bull trout, but again we were up against very deep holes. With little room to cast it was difficult to properly fish much of the water.
After a few hours we were beat down. The water looked perfect but the fish just weren’t emerging from the shadows.
Just as I was about to turn and begin fishing back to the truck I heard Travis yelling. I headed over to see what was going on. He had a bull trout chasing from one of the larger boulders, and I intently watched as he worked his streamer along the boulder. After a few misses he finally connected. Although it was a juvenille bully, it did re-energized me to continue working a deep run. After a long cast I let my fly drift back and down about 60 feet. I then slowly twitched my streamer across the current. Boom! These trout attack the fly and often it initially feels as if you have a snag. They soon realize their caught and the fight begins. After a few surges and small runs, I turned him into the shallows and chalked up my first bull trout of the trip.
Over the course of our trip we learned a lot about where to look for bull trout and how to fish for them. The key is to go deep and get twitchy. White and grey seemed to work best for us. Also they enjoy lurking next to any type of rock formation that allows them cover and a quick path to small fish passing by. Another characteristic we found was that when they do feed, they often will fall back into the tail out of a pool where the river condenses into a smaller area. Two pictures down are three bull trout sitting in a tail out of a pool we found.
Travis was also pretty excited that his homegrown flies did the trick. Grey Gandalf was doing work and a couple white variations had success also. The few days we spent fishing for bull trout was very educational for us. We were able to successfully explore a few areas that held bull trout and learned more about where to find these bad boys. We even got a chance to sight fish for them. I’m already looking forward to next summer as we found another spot where the bull trout are fairly numerous and should be easy to catch with the knowledge we acquired during this trip.
As they say, “The tug is the drug.” Watching your streamer get hammered is by far one of the most fun aspects of fly fishing that I have yet to experience. I now understand more of why people love fishing the salt flats for tarpon. Maybe one day. Hopefully Travis and I can get working on the video before hunting season get’s too far underway. I think we got some awesome footage and can’t wait to share it with everyone.