Well it’s been a tough last couple of weeks. Those damn deer have been giving me fits worse that the elusive wapiti. Two trips to North Central Montana left us empty handed. Blue tongue left a destructive path throughout the river bottom of the Milk River. We saw a good number of mule deer but no shooters. Fortunately we were able to drop a handful of coyotes and keep the mood light. Other than those trips east we’ve been bowhunting deer and haven’t even picked up a rifle.
The weather quickly has went from fall to full on winter. Temps have dipped as low as 5 degrees and makes slow stalks on deer quite cold and difficult. Recently Travis and I had a chance to stalk a nice 9 point. We spotted him on a ridge early in the morning and watched him lay down for the day. After a mile loop we were above his position.
As we crept to within range we spotted a doe. I had a doe tag and was about to let loose an arrow when I spotted horns. He was bedded 10 yards behind the doe next to a downfall. I put my 40 pin on him and checked with Travis to make sure the camera was on him.
As my great luck would have it he jumped straight from his bed and booked it down the ridge. I couldn’t believe he didn’t stand for even a quarter of a second. With the recent snow we were able to track him down and follow him as he circled from his original bedding location. Again we looped to get to a favorable position. We spotted the doe bedded and crept to within 80 yards. This loop took us an hour and a half and a majority of that was behind the binoculars looking for the buck. At 80 yards the doe spotted us and stood up and slowly walked to our left. All of a sudden the buck stood up from under a small evergreen. I couldn’t believe we hadn’t seen him, and I quickly went to hook my release to my d-loop. Again I was behind the eight ball. After crawling for hundreds of yards in the snow, my release had iced up. I frantically tried to fix the problem before he walked away. After about 5-8 seconds I was back on track, and I drew on the buck at 55 yards. We tried to stop him before he walked behind a tree but he didn’t stop until he was behind it. I let down thinking he’d stand there and inspect where the noise came from but he soon continued walking. I drew again and had to rush a shot before he dipped over a small ridge. It sailed right over his back at 65 yards. I was boiling at that point. By the time we made it back to the truck it was 3PM and we’d been running off of only a bagel we had eaten at 6AM. We were exhausted and very frustrated.
Yesterday we were back at it again with a bow but in a different location. This spot has plenty of deer and some great bucks. The terrain is very tough as a majority of it is open country with little cover. After a couple of hours of walking and spotting we saw a nice herd of mule deer. We made a wide loop to get in position. As we were creeping over the edge of a coulee we noticed an exceptionally nice whitetail bedded on the other side of the coulee.
The wind was right for a stalk but I’d have to be careful that I didn’t spook the mule deer when I came at this deer from above. After a couple hundred yards of army crawling I was close, and I hadn’t spooked the mule deer which were in plain sight across the coulee. I slowly got on my knees and looked for horns. I could barely make out the chocolate horns over the grass just 60 yards away. I kept slowly moving and closed to within 40 yards and knew this was as close as it was going to get. All I could see was his head and horns and didn’t have a shot at him bedded. My plan was to get in behind him and shoot him in his bed but without being able to see vitals I had to change plans. The wind was beginning to swirl so I knew it needed to happen quick. I drew my bow and stood. A doe was bedded with him and saw me as I stood up. She immediately booked it, and I quickly got my pins on the buck. I knew I was going to need to shoot very quickly. I lined my pins up and was just about to send an arrow when he spun and ran off. From the time he stood up to when he ran away was maybe a second at the most. I had no chance to even shoot. All I needed was a quarter second more to pull that trigger. I seriously wanted to cry. Two bucks in three days that I had gotten to 40 yards of while they were bedded. Both never stood and gave me a shot. They both booked it immediately. What happened to those tv bucks that stand there for 5 seconds staring at the hunter while he lines up his shot? I couldn’t believe it. The stalk only spooked about 4 or 5 of the mule deer so we set back up to get on them. There was a great buck in the group and we devised a plan.
Again these deer were in an open field down in a small valley. There was no cover for a stalk so we set up on a hillside where they occasionally travel up to a small ag field. After my first stalk I was wet and the wind had now picked up. It was a long and very cold couple of hours of watching these deer feeding and the bucks chasing does.
They never made a move and we had to back out and admit defeat for the day. A couple of nice bucks will live to see another day, and my search for a buck for 2011 continues.
We’ve been busy hunting and filming all fall. We’ve been fortunate enough to get some really great footage. Travis edited a short preview video for what’s to come after we complete the 2011 hunting season. We are excited for the upcoming episodes and videos. Check this one out in HD!
There should be no shortage of more hunting coming up so stay tuned to Montana Wild.
Even though it’s general season here in Montana we still enjoy bowhunting. This last Friday we set out to “The Ranch” to get in some spot and stalk bowhunting. We had a general idea of the deer movements from the week before when we had hunted.
We got their before sunrise and got in position on the edge of a field on a plateau. Right away we spotted approximately 25 mule deer feeding on the north side of the field. We were positioned on the opposite side so we sat and watched, waiting for them to dip over the side so we could close the gap.
As we were watching these deer a whitetail popped up over the far side of the field and was working right towards us. We had a general idea of where he might cross so we got set up on the fence line. With only the fence as cover we waited. The buck kept coming and crossed the fence. I could only range a small bush as everyting around the fence was grass. The bush ranged at 60 yards and I though he was going to walk right behind it. I drew as he crossed the fence and then stopped him. As I was settling in to my peep I kept having to readjust as my glove was thick and prevented my face from getting into it’s normal anchor position. Right as I was hitting the release my bow was wanting to let down and my arrow went flying off into space. I was pissed and Travis had to let me hear it also. We walked up to where the buck had been and it ended up being 75 yards. I’ll just say even if I would have made a good shot I most likely would have missed low anyways. We continued on and got back on the mule deer we had spotted earlier.
Soon we had crept to the field edge and immediately had does below us. I quickly ranged a doe at 48 and ripped an arrow. Somehow I missed again. Talk about frustrating. Two shots in under an hour. That’s just how it goes I guess. We stayed put and watched the mule deer as they hadn’t been spooked by my second miss of the day. As we were sitting there a young deer showed up right below us and was making a beeline our way. We watched what we thought was a doe come bouncing right up the hill towards us. I got my bow ready and Travis dialed in the camera. Soon the deer popped up 30 yards away and I smoked her through her front shoulder with a Grim Reaper. We watched as she ran back down the hill and piled up. Well we finally connected.
We got down there and found out it was a yearling buck. We tagged him and decided with the near freezing temps we could leave him and try to put a stalk on one of the bucks that was bedded just across the valley. We had a small snack and then made a mile loop to get in position for a stalk.
Soon we had made it to withing 100 yards of where we had last seen them bedded. We snuck up and found out they had moved slightly. Another hour of trying to position ourselves better and we spotted this decent buck from the top of the ridge. I quickly backtracked and started a slow stalk from behind him. At first all I could see were his antlers just above the grass. I soon closed the gap to 70 yards and could now see his back. I slowly kept creeping up trying to be as quite as possible. The whole time it was very difficult to range him. It was hard to not range grass in front or behind him, but I finally got to close to 45 yards and was able to confidently range his rack. At that point he slowly stood. I’m pretty sure he had caught my wind, and I slowly drew back. He snapped his head my way and a short stare down ensued. I settled my 50 pin low and behind his elbow and released. I could hear my arrow hit him and he spun and ran off. I could see my arrow through his right shoulder and out his neck on the left side, and I thought for sure he was going to drop right away. He ended up running off and the group settled down across the small valley. About five minutes later they spooked themselves and began a disappointing run to the neighbors property. I just couldn’t believe this buck was getting away. How could an arrow through one shoulder and through the neck not hit something vital? It made me sick. We followed them to the property line and could still see blood from where the buck had ran. We are currently trying to get access to the property to look for this deer. We reviewed the footage and were amazed at how hard this buck had jumped the string.
The above picture is a screen shot of the footage we have of me shooting this buck. The first image is him looking at me as I’m lining up my pins. The second is my arrow initially hitting him. He dropped and spun a considerable amount as my arrow was headed his way. If this buck would not have been so quick he would have been dead very quickly. This just goes to show you that bowhunting isn’t easy and you always need to try to get as close to your quarry as possible. My bow is by no means slow and it shows these deer can really do some amazing things. I don’t regret taking the shot. It was a good stalk and shot with disappointing consequences. Times like these are inevitable in bowhunting. It just makes you focus harder to become a better hunter and shooter. We finished the day off by getting some stalks under Travis’s belt. We cut off another herd of deer moving back to this field in the evening but made a couple small mistakes and couldn’t connect on another deer. We’ll be headed back soon though so keep checking back for more hunting adventures with Montana Wild.
Well it’s been a few weeks since we’ve dropped any new posts so it’s finally time to make an update. It’s been a busy few weeks of school, work, and hunting. Two weekends ago Travis and I were back in our spot from opening weekend. We found tons of large rubs, hunters bugling their faces off constantly, but no elk. After two days of no sign or sound of elk we moved camp about 5 miles to the west.
Again we little fresh sign and again week old rubs and scat but no elk were currently holding in the area. We moved again. Getting to our last spot of the weekend I spotted a cow in the bottom of a coulee. We geared up and started a stalk. After working to within 40 yards we saw they had bedded and that we would need to re-angle ourselves to get a broadside shot. Soon we had backed out and were again moving close to what we thought were 2 cows. The wind swirled at about 50 yards and one of the cows busted up and barked at us. Soon 4 other cows and a bull poped up. By the time Travis was ready and the bull stopped he was 85 yards out and his arrow sailed well left.
The next weekend we were back at the Missouri Breaks. Conditions were very poor for elk hunting as the temps rose into the low 90s the whole weekend.
We soon found out that the elk were moving to bedding areas after only about 45 minutes of shooting light. This made it very difficult to locate and set up in front of the elk. With so many coulees and ridges for these elk to work up it was highly dependent on right place at the right time. Calling to these elk often sends them running and generally only allow you to locate and then hope to cut them off so the conditions were by no means excellent. The evening hunts were all but non-existent other than at most half an hour before dark. The high temperature and moderate hunting pressure kept them clammed up and bedded down.
To make matters worse about 300 head of elk were on the refuge all weekend and a solid half mile of vehicles showed up for the nightly elk show. The only upside was we got to see a bunch of bulls and got a few decent pictures.
Nonetheless we still had some action but it was pretty limited. Our good friend Bryce had a few bulls show up on game camera but he wasn’t able to seal the deal either.
During the day we did spend some time honing our skills on some wary prairie dogs and it was a good way to kill the long wait between morning and evening hunts. I smoke this guy at 52 yards.
We soon headed out empty handed and I won’t be filling my elk tag in the Breaks this year.
This weekend we’ll head home to Bigfork and see if we can’t get on some more elk. A couple small but shootable whitetail bucks are frequenting our stands and hopefully we can get something on the ground. The elk seem to be finally really rutting but only time will tell.
Warm weather has been upon us here in western Montana. Zack and I decided to trek out and setup my game cam on a wallow we encountered last year. The road allowing close access has been washed out during runoff, so we had to manage a 4 mile hike to the money spot.
After 2.5 hours of hills, we finally made it to within 150yards of our destination, when I noticed a large 5X6 bull elk standing exactly where I planned on setting up the game camera. We were stoked after not seeing an elk all day.
Within the last 1000 yards of our hike back to the Dodge, I was excited to find the first elk shed of the year. Maybe we’ll get a chance to see that bull this year and hopefully he’s put on some growth.