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!
Well my bow hunting season has been quite the challenge this year. My season has consisted of mistake after mistake. Finally this morning I had the day to myself and went out and put a doe down after only 1 hour of hunting.
My brother and I were supposed to go out and film our hunt, but Zack had college priorities he had to tend to. This was fine with me, but for some reason I always end up filling a tag when the camera isn’t around. My morning started off at first light with a nice 1.75 mile hike in. I spooked about five deer in the dim light about 1 mile in. I slowly hiked to the spot where the deer seem to migrate and once again was spotted by a whitetail before I could even get an arrow nocked. Ten minutes later I spotted two does making their way around a ridge. I used trees as cover and crept to within 100yds. The deer positioned themselves in some small pine trees and I quickly dumped my backpack and tippy toed another 40yards. I finally made it to 47 yards of the two deer. I drew, stood up, and settled my 50 pin on the doe. BAM! My arrow knocked the whitetail off her feet! I hit a little high, and quickly put another arrow through her chest.
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 decided it was time to make some stickers. Just got these bad boys fresh off the sticker machine. We have 16in ($8) and 30in ($25) stickers, which we would sell at cost if interested. Check the photos below for sizing.