It was sometime in February after a day of fishing when Zack, Travis, Anthony and I huddled around a computer reviewing pictures and reminiscing the past hunting season. As always the conversation turned to the coming hunting season and plans began to materialize. We decided that Travis and I would start hunting the last weekend in April. Zack and Travis had hunts planned for the first two weeks of May when the hunting would be ideal for spot and stalk hunting with a bow. The goal was to try to get me my first bear with a rifle to start the season off with a bang. After juggling school and work we finally made time to get out to the range and get the rifle dialed and ready to go.
We made quick work on the range as we sighted in and then took a few shots over on the 600 yard range. It was go time, now we just had to wait a few weeks until our schedules meshed and we could get up in the mountains. After two long months of waiting the call finally came. Zack and Travis would have a few days to get out after a win at the Simm’s Shoot Out competition. They were on the road back to Missoula and it was time to load up the pack. On Friday afternoon I met up with Zack, Travis, and Brandon to get ready for our hunt. Before long, the bikes were loaded into the back of the truck and we were off to the trailhead. After an uphill ride we reached the base of a steep ridge where we stowed the bikes and took off on foot. The hike was steep but it felt good to be back in the mountains.
After a couple of miles we rounded a corner and entered what looked like bear heaven, there were clear cuts separated by dark timber and a creek running through the middle of it all. We soon spotted fresh bear sign and our excitement levels rose. It was still pretty brown and seeing some sign definitely took a little bit of the edge off us all. We continued hiking and stopped to glass every time the trees opened up enough for us to get a clear view of the opposing ridge and basin. As we hiked single file along the ridge I heard the unmistakable voice of Travis saying “Bear!!…………I gotta bear!” I turned to see Travis looking up the drainage through his Vortex binos. Zack quickly set up the camera and got some footage as we discussed the game plan. Everyone agreed that the bear was big and worth a stalk, but he was over a mile away and there was only about an hour and a half of daylight left. The race was on and we busted ass up the ridge. Once we reached where we had planned to camp we dropped our packs and continued towards the spot we last saw the bear. Forty-five minutes after Travis spotted the bear we came to the corner where we had last seen him. Zack and Travis turned the cameras on, I checked the wind and it was go time. We crept around the corner as slowly and quietly as possible while keeping our eyes peeled for the bear. We rounded the corner and the bear was no place to be seen; we decided to keep moving. We didn’t go another 10 yards and I spotted the bear in a dip below us not 80 yards away. I quickly dropped to the ground and everyone else followed suit. We sat there and discussed the next move. From where we were located I didn’t have a clear shot at the bear and we weren’t sure if the bear was heading towards us or away. We decided that we needed to get to a high spot 15 yards in front of us if we were going to get the shot on film. Travis and Brandon stayed back and filmed from their location as Zack followed me forward. At that instance I felt what every hunter dreads……..the wind at the back of my neck. I thought for sure the stalk was blown and the bear would be gone. As we continued forward the wind switched back and was once again blowing in our face, but the bear was nowhere to be seen. Still we crept forward until we could see the entire dip that the bear was in….still no bear. My heart sank as I looked around. At that point I was sure he had winded us and took off. I turned and shrugged my shoulders to Travis and Brandon and figured the hunt was over for the evening. When I looked back over my shoulder there he was, standing 90 away with his head down feeding. I swung my pack off and sat down; quickly I rested the rifle on the pack and waited for him to come up on the road. Adrenaline was now strongly surging through my veins and moments later he appeared back on the side of the logging road. I turned to Zack and he gave me the green light. I settled the cross hairs and squeezed the trigger. A few seconds later and my first bear was dead not 50 yards from where I shot him.
Congratulations and high fives were shared between us all as we headed downhill to the bear. As I approached him I saw his gray face, split ears and large paws; the sure sign of an old bear.
I was overcome with excitement to have killed such a big mature boar as my first bear and it was a surreal moment kneeling beside an old warrior of a bear who had seen many hunters in his time.
I punched my tag and we raced to get as many pictures as we could before dark. Soon we were all working away to get the bear skinned and quartered.
Before we knew it the Mystery Ranch was loaded down with meat and hide and we were headed to camp. The 3/4 of a mile back uphill to camp was grueling. It’s a lot of work in the backcountry and the four of us all teamed up to pump enough water for 4 meals and gather wood for a fire. The moon was out and it was all laughs around the campfire.
Needless to say a warm fire and some freeze dried food put us to bed quickly. The next morning we were up and heading down the hill with our packs heavier than the trip up. Though the weight of the bear was a burden on my shoulders I couldn’t help but smile knowing I had killed my first bear with good friends in the backcountry.
Finally we rolled around the last Forest Service gate and quickly dumped our packs and took a well deserved rest. We unloaded the meat and threw it in the YETI. The end of an amazing hunt was here and it had only been one day!
I can’t thank Zack, Travis and Brandon enough! I wouldn’t have been able to do it without them. The next week will be spent finishing school and then we will be back in the mountains searching for a bear in hopes of sneaking close enough to let an arrow loose.
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.
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.
Travis and I have been getting after it this spring, and if you check in often you’ll see that we may just have put down a bear on film. Anyways it’s been an interesting spring around here. Its felt more like summer than spring at times and it helped those hillsides green up in no time.
After spotting our first two bears of the season it seemed we couldn’t go a day without spotting one. We had started mixing things up and were hunting the mornings hoping to catch them before they went back to the timber. We had went back up to an area that we know holds bears all spring and where we had failed an earlier stalk. Sure enough we round the corner that leads us to an overlook of a whole drainage and bam, bear spotted. We start moving up the logging road, because at this point were about a mile out still. As we get further up the road we stopped to glass again. Just our luck, it was a sow and two cubs. Man those little guys are cute.
We tried to go up and get closer to the sow to get some footage and actually spooked a bear right off the logging road. We didn’t find the sow and cubs and we hunted hard the rest of the day. We knew the area was holding bears, but we thought we’d let things cool down in the area before going back. On Saturday we loaded up the truck and headed to a new area west of town about an hour. We drove way up the mountain and were glassing clear cuts hoping to make out a bear. We’ll the only thing we found was big white truck that had beat us up the mountain that morning. We weren’t sure what he was up to but we knew any bear stupid enough to stay out in the open after this truck drove by was probably already dead. We turned around and went back to the tried and true method of hunting, gate hunting.
Chances are if you find a gate and go in a mile or two your bound to find more game than cruising the dirt roads. Our friend Adam had told us this could be a good area to bike into and glass the clear cuts, and we were more than happy to check it out. We had biked only about ten minutes when we rode up on some extremely fresh scat. We figured we’ll ride the trail another 1/4 mile and if we don’t see him on the logging road we’ll sit down and see if we can call him in with the distress call. Well about twenty minutes go by and we hadn’t seen anything so we took a seat on the edge of the road and I pulled out the trusty distress call. Now I figured if I call in a bear it’s probably gonna be a big one, and to be honest I didn’t think I actually would call a bear in. Well about five minutes in I see a brown head coming up the hill and its only about 40 yards away. A very pretty, chocolate colored black bear was coming in.
So this bear is at thirty yards and what do ya know, my bow is on my back. Good one idiot. So I start trying to size up this bear. I really was shooting for getting one with a bow unless it was a real toad and then I wouldn’t mind slinging some lead. Well this was a mature bear and had a perfect coat on it. To top it off it was in the sun at thirty yards on film. I finally decided I’d use the old thunderstick. Right as I look through the scope to take a shot the bear trots off about sixty yards into some downed trees and bushes. Dang it you idiot Zack! I throw out a few more distress calls hoping it will show up again and offer me a shot. I ask Travis if he can see it and he says he’s pretty sure it’s going to come up on the logging road. I start scrambling to get the bow off the backpack and an arrow nocked. Right as I get my bow off the bear comes out on the logging road looking right at me sitting in the middle of the road. I get an arrow nocked and range him at 52 yards. He’s still there looking at us and acting goofy. I figure he’ll come a little closer and at some point he’ll present a shot. Well right then he turns and starts walking away. A few whistles and he stopped and looked back. I figure he’s at 60 at this point and settle my pin in. I shoot and it slips right over the top of his back and he’s gone. Well that was a rush.
At this point I’m a little bit pissed off. I just had broke numerous rules I set for myself for the year. Number one and the biggest flaw was that I shot at an alert animal past 40-50 yards. Now depending on the animal this can fluctuate with it being the shortest for deer. After watching the footage I could see that old Yogi had dropped a solid foot before my arrow got there. Yes I’m a slow learner and no you won’t see that happen again. I am confident past 60 and just should have know that he wasn’t going to sit there and watch the arrow hit him. Second I rushed the shot. I knew the bear wasn’t going to hang around very long and I shot as my pin was rising up to my spot. I’m almost positive I shot higher than I had intended to because of this. These two factors led to a clean miss which I’m totally ok with. It’s amazing how hunting can go from nothing to an adrenaline fueled frenzy in a matter of moments. Things happen so quick it’s easy to forget the basics. If anyone has any ideas on how to practice for these situations please let me know because I can’t think of too many ways at the moment. Overall, it was an awesome day and one I won’t be forgetting anytime soon. Be sure to check back as there’s going to be more stories about bears and this time they’re coming home with us.
Check out the latest from Montana Wild. This is footage from our last trip to Havre, MT where we met up with our good friend Tyler McCann. Check out the post from that trip here. The trip didn’t go quite according to plan and we missed some pretty epic shots with the camera but overall we had a blast and got to see some coyotes drop. Be sure to check it out fullscreen in HD.
Travis and I are headed out tomorrow to go try to get on some wolves in the Western part of the state. We’ll have some more updates showing up soon so check back.
It’s been an exciting fall for us as we’ve been able to hunt so many amazing animals and places. We’ve been far more successful than last year but things still feel like they could have went far better. I guess that’s always how hunting is going to be. There’s always room for improvement and another hunt to go on.
This last weekend we were back in North Central Montana looking to find a shooter buck. We packed up Thursday evening and left town around midnight. We rolled into Havre and left for our first hunting spot of the week.
We came up empty handed on spotting any deer to start our first morning so we decided to get on the distress call and see if we couldn’t round up a predator or two. We set up on a fence overlooking a small coulee and set up Kujo our Montana Decoy. After 3 minutes of calling Travis saw 2 coyotes out of the corner of his eye. They had run up behind us to about 15 yards. They were keyed in on the decoy, and I quickly sat up and dumped the closest one. Unfortunately, Tyler was in a spot where he couldn’t shoot without muzzle blasting me so the 2nd coyote made it down into the coulee. That coyote never stopped for a shot, but we were excited to have fur on the ground the 1st morning.
We quickly moved on from that stand and got back to scouting for deer. Nothing showed up and we headed to our last location of the day. We sat on a field edge and hoped a big buck would pop out. We never saw a shooter but stirred up a decent number of does.
Day 2 started out with a bang. We set two consecutive stands where Tyler was able to drop a coyote.
On the 1st stand I had forgot to load a shell when we set up and when I set my crosshairs on the coyote and pulled, all I got was a click. Tyler dumped him before I could load a shell and we were on the board with a coyote. The 2nd stand contained some mis-communication with the cameraman and the shot wasn’t filmed but again we had some more fur on the ground. We learned that we needed to set up with the camera in mind also so we can capture these hunts on film.
With only some does and a couple small bucks spotted we set off again to walk coulees and see if we could stumble upon a monarch mule deer buck. Well let’s just say if the deer hunting ain’t good, just turn to your buddy and say “Let’s get to calling.” We soon had a coyote pop up 200 yards to our left and trotting away. Cole got on the coyote quick and layed down the hurt.
Despite not seeing any quality bucks we were having a great day. Even though the landscape is bleak at times it also has moments that make you want to hunt everyday.
We continued on busting coulees. As we headed south we spotted some deer a half mile away climbing up to an agriculture field. Again we weren’t able to locate a good buck. We spooked up a coyote and Tyler let some lead fly. He missed low right and the coyote peeled out and dipped over the ridge. We called a stand and then continued on. As we were cresting another ridge we saw a coyote in the bottom. He spotted us and started running up the far side of the coulee. The guys scrambled to get a rest and get their guns on the coyote. Cole was the quickest and when he stopped at 250 yards he let the hammer drop. Another passenger for my truckbed.
The next day we were back at it. Again the deer were sparse and the coyotes hungry so we got to calling. Immediately we had 2 coyotes start heading our way. The 1st slowly came in and then disappeared behind a ridge. The yote seemed to be circling to catch our wind. When a second one showed up I new we needed to get a shot off. Tyler set up for 300 yarder but the coyote trotted forward. We it popped up again he was 235 yards away. Ty got his AR lined up and squeezed off a round. The coyote spun and ran off. Tyler had been shooting FMJ’s and thought he had hit the coyote. We headed up and searched but found no dog. We headed back to the truck to review the footage and see if he’d hit him.
After watching the footage we were confident he hit the coyote in the chest. Because he was shooting a full metal jacket (FMJ) the bullet passed through the coyote and hit the dirt behind him as you could see in the footage. Chances are the bullet pierced one lung and the coyote was never retrieved. We continued to hunt hard but never got a chance to pull the trigger on a big buck.
Again we had an awesome time despite things not going according to plan. We’ll be out again this weekend looking to get me a deer with a good set of headgear.
Here’s an afternoon of coyote hunting from opening weekend. The deer hunting was tough so we decided to switch things up and call some predators.
Were currently back on the Hi-Line in search of shooter. Chances are we’ll be finding more coyotes roaming the vast open terrain of Northern Montana.