,

Bucks & Birds

pheasant, upland, hunting, partridge, grouse, montana, wild, shotgun, antelope, pronghorn, hunt

Chasing antelope with a rifle has become one of my favorite hunts. Not because its a rifle hunt, but rather the change in landscape and pace after charging hard in the mountains all of September. Its nice to be able to see as far as the next horizon and look over a lot of animals.

montana, gumbo, mud, antelope

Pronghorn country.

I was fortunate to have drawn a rifle tag in 2016 and I was relieved to know I would have the chance to put meat in an empty freezer. I brought my shotgun as well, hoping to add a little upland bird meat to the menu.

Remington, wingshooter, shotgun, upland, montana, pheasant, easter, wild, antelope, pronghorn

The trusty 870.

After filling the truck and a couple hours on the road, I was in the heart of antelope country. The recent downpour of rain had left most two-tracks closed and gumbo was in full force. This was actually a good thing, because the road hunters had to stay on main roads and couldn’t access some land that they may be able to if the roads were in better condition.

montana, gumbo, mud, antelope

Gets ya stuck real quick.

I scanned and glassed vast amounts of country, looking for a buck that caught my eye. I peered deep into the horizon through my spotter, instantly seeing what looked to be an army of white butts. One of the largest groups of antelope I had seen while hunting was feeding deep in an untouched zone. I decided to drive a large loop around the group and approach from a direction that I felt would provide more cover.

pronghorn, antelope, country, hunt, montana, 406

Searching for ‘the one’.

I finally spotted the group of speedgoats 900yds out and bedded. Out of the 6 antelope I could see currently, there appeared to be one particular buck with great prongs. I decided to get closer, but with no other options I had to get dirty and army crawl. It was one of the longest army crawls I have had to do and in no way was it joyous trying to avoid cactus. A few sharp needles found a new home in my soft knees. At this point I had crawled to within range, and decided the buck I had my eye on was going to be worthy of a shot. A couple discharges of the rifle later and I had successfully filled my tag.

hair, horn, antelope, pronghorn, speedgoat, hunting, montana, wild

Its all hair.

The best part was that the hunt was not over. I spent the next 24hrs attempting to jump shoot birds with my good friends Tyler and Cole. We took Charley the supposed ‘bird dog’ along. What you need to know about Charley is he is not the best bird dog. To be honest Charley is a horrible bird dog. Charles is the dog that flushes all the birds 100-150yds in front of you and the moment a shotgun goes off he hides behind your heels. After Charley had his fun for the day, he went back on the leash.

bird, dog, lab, montana, retriever, upland, pheasant, grouse, partridge

Charley sad about his bird dog performance.

After getting Charley under control, we had a very successful day shooting pheasant, partridge, and sharptail grouse. The recoil of the shotgun and the flush of birds is definitely addicting. I felt like a fire was re-lit for upland birds and hopefully I will be loading the shotgun with more 2 3/4″ shells soon.

Rooster, pheasant, montana, hunting, upland, feathers, bird, dog, hunt

Roosters in full force.

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Sharptail feathers.

If you would like to see more upland bird content or upland bird related apparel, leave us a comment below!

Love pronghorn hunting? Love pheasant hunting? Check out our latest Fast Food shirts:

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fast food, antelope, pronghorn, longsleeve, shirt, tee, t-shirt, montana, wild, hunting, huntCLICK HERE TO SHOP

-Travis

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FISH REEL 2017 – Fishing Cinema Reel

fish, reel, montana, wild, mousing, night, pink, mouse, yellow, brown, trout

It has been a few years since our last FISH REEL. We originally started the “Fish Reel” back in 2011 to showcase some of our favorite shots in one short video. Well we’re back and so are the Fish Reels! These were some of our favorite shots from the past couple years.

Leave us a comment, let us know what you think and don’t forget to SUBSCRIBE to our YouTube channel for our most recent uploads.

 

Travis

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10 Great Online Fishing Films

fishing, film, montana, trout

Fly fishing film.  It’s come a long ways in the last five years yet also remained surprisingly stagnant.  Technology has helped put the tools to create great film in almost everyone’s hands and documenting the sport has never been easier.  With a younger crowd pushing into the industry the look and feel of the content has slowly began to shift.  On the other hand it seems little progress has been made towards new and creative content.  Each year’s film tour is filled with the same storylines, slow-mo tarpon jumps, and exotic locations only the rich or connected few will ever see.  Some would disagree but hey that’s just my opinion.  The emergence of quality fishing films really started about 5-6 years ago in my opinion and since then there have been thousands of films made.  As filmmakers we continually look to progress the realm of fishing films and to some extent I think we have although not without ruffling a few feathers.  The fishing community can be a touchy bunch.  As such though we try to keep an eye on what other films are coming out and we appreciate the work others put into promoting the sport of fly fishing.  At the end of the day that is really what fishing film should be about, promoting the sport and passion for catching fish and as a result of that passion we want to protect the places those fish live.  With that said here are 10 of our favorites from over the years.  Over half of them are now two years old and to me that says something, I’ll let you interpret the meaning for yourselves.  Without further ado watch, enjoy and please leave me a comment below with your thoughts on remarkable fishing films you feel we may have overlooked!

Trout Is All

Rolf Nylinder is one exceptional filmmaker and storyteller.  He graces this list twice and for good reason.  His films have style and this film merges much of why we trout fish into one beautiful short film.  No egos, just fishing, beautiful places and rising trout.

Double Down

Shot five years ago this film is one that hasn’t lost any appeal since then.  Still moody as ever and filled with great fish and some great shots.  The underwater shot a 2:00 is still a personal favorite.

Mighty Mouse

Mice, trout, AK.  Need we say more?

Breathe

RC has become a beast behind the camera over the years.  From competing against him at the Simms Shoot Out in 2012 his progression has been rapid.  This film of his came out about 4 years ago but still rings true as ever.  Fishing is good for the soul and sometimes all you need is a deep breath and a fly rod in hand.

New Zealand – Dream Come True

Great music, big trout, & beautiful New Zealand.  This is a more recent piece and many fishing films have come out of NZ but this one we seemed to like a bit more than the rest.  Did we mention we’ve got a trip in the works?

Early Morning Jungle Poon

The music and editing might be a bit jarring but the shots at 1:40 and 3:00 are easily worth the admission.

Plan B

Faceless Fly Fishing has been around for a good long while and this film from 5 years ago is a classic.  Cutties, bull trout, browns, brookies and falling buildings.

The Field Coffee Diary – Ep4 – A Late Hatch

Rolf with more poetry in motion.

Streamers Inc.

Breaking the mold here with a funny parody about streamer fisherman.

Knocking On The Door

The next generation is here.  These guys are all about stoking out the next generation and embracing the next wave of anglers to take up fly fishing.

Picking only 10 makes it tough so please share with us in the comments some of your favorite fishing films that are free and online!

Zack Boughton

My Montana Wild Internship

internship, outdoor, photography, film, video

Are you a young, motivated individual who is passionate about the outdoors, and filmmaking & photography? Are you looking for an internship to develop those skills? If so, look no further. Montana Wild is looking for interns for 2017, and you could be one of them. Follow along as I take you through my summer as an intern for the guys at Montana Wild!

montana wild, internship, hunting, fishing, photo, video

Taking a break from running the camera and throwing a salmonfly sure isn’t a bad gig.

As I approached my final summer as a college student at the University of Montana, I knew that I wanted to stay in Montana for the summer and work somewhere that’s directly related to media arts, which is what I’m studying in school. Shortly after making this decision, I saw a post on Montana Wild’s Facebook page that they were hiring, and also had internship positions available. From there I got ahold of Zack and Travis Boughton, and sent them my cover letter, resume, and portfolio. Shortly thereafter, I met up with the guys to talk about being an intern, and the next thing I knew, I had landed myself the sickest summer job around. I was stoked!

montana wild, internship, fishing, photo, video, smith river

Snapping photos, rowing, fishing, and camping on Montana’s Smith River.

What I didn’t know going into this internship was how many awesome places I was going to go while working. The major highlight of my internship for me was floating the Smith River and seeing first hand how important of a resource it is for Montana. Not only was it an awesome place to experience, but over the course of the trip I was able to shoot a wide variety of photos, and get to use some new gear for the first time. It gave me time to try new things, and ask questions that greatly improved my photography as a whole, but specifically fishing related photography and astrophotography. During that trip I also was able to see firsthand how the guys at Montana Wild work on a production. Being able work side-by-side with Zack and Travis helped shorten my learning curve greatly.

montana wild, internship, spring, summer, fishing, hunting, photo, video

Camping while on the job.

I also went on trips shed hunting, bear hunting, and a few days of salmonfly fishing/filming in SW Montana, where I was able to gain experience shooting on a cinema camera for the first time. Running a professional grade film camera allowed me to get a closer look at all the settings available to the filmmaker but also what it takes to make these cameras really shine. When you make that step up inherently you are going to make mistakes and being able to have a focused yet fun setting to make those mistakes was a great way to learn. After the shoot I had the opportunity to edit all my footage and work with high quality slow motion video for the first time as well. Aside from shooting and editing content in the field, as an intern for Montana wild you will learn the ins and outs of social media, advertising, brand and social promotions, and what it takes to run a successful brand and social media platform.

montana wild, fishing, internship, filming, summer

Running the Sony FS7 while Zack navigates some whitewater.

montana wild, internship, film, photography, outdoors, hunting

Chase packs out during a spring bear hunt.

Over the course of my internship I had the opportunity to work on a wide range of daily tasks that took me to some pretty incredible places. Daily tasks included the following:

  • Creating and scheduling daily social media posts
  • Creating focused, branded content packages for social media
  • Brainstormed photo/video content ideas
  • Shooting photo/video content
  • Editing photo/video content with Adobe programs
  • Coming up with blog post ideas. Writing blog posts
Montana Wild Internship

Developing skillsets, one click at a time.

If you are looking to become an intern for Montana Wild in the future, you should have some experience or be proficient with Adobe software. Specifically Lightroom, Photoshop, and Premiere. Having a strong grasp of the basics is a necessity of the internship but will really allow you absorb much more during your internship. The more you already know the better, but that brings me to my next point.

By now you’re probably wondering, “So what am I going to get out of this internship?” other than a summer full of stoke, brown trout, camera gear and laughs. The answer is A LOT. Over the course of my internship I was able to improve my skills across the board from shooting photos and video, to editing said shots in Premiere, Lightroom, and Photoshop. When it came to shooting content, my technical skills improved drastically when it was time to set up gear, or quickly getting camera settings to desired levels to capture a shot. The more you do it, the easier it gets, and knowing how to use your gear to its fullest extent will greatly improve the content that you end up with. Subsequently, the content that I was shooting greatly improved as the summer went on. This was partially due to being out and shooting more frequently, but also because I had a resource to bring my work back to and be critiqued. Seems like a solid gig so far doesn’t it? Well it gets better yet. If you’re a college student, you more than likely will be able to receive credits towards graduation for your work over the course of the summer. In my case, I was able to get 6 credits, which meant less class and more time in the mountains come September!

montana wild, internship, hunting, film, photo

Spending time in the mountains with the guys meant more knowledge gained about cameras but also about hunting and backpacking.

Interested in working in the hunting and fishing media industry as a career? Not to worry, as an intern for Montana Wild not only will you build skills that will help you succeed in the future, but you will also have the chance to make connections by learning the ropes and insider tips from Zack and Travis. This will also allow you to meet other like minded people in the industry, and in today’s world, being talented at what you do, having job experience, and knowing the right people will get you far. Like what you see? If so send the guys at Montana Wild an email to info@montana-wild.com with the SUBJECT line: Montana Wild Internship.  Be sure to send a resume, cover letter and a portfolio of any photo/video work you’ve done.  Good luck!

Written by Calvin Connor

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Buzzer Beater Bull

elk, hunt, montana, rmef, missoula, bozeman, great falls, livingston, malta, dillon

As fall of 2013 rolled around, I was headed to Montana to start my freshman year at the University Of Montana, and unknown to me at the time, a journey that would would take me on an unforgetable ride over the course of the next four years. Growing up in Wisconsin, western hunting was something completely new to me, and I couldn’t wait to jump in feet first. Instead of spending my mornings in a cold ground blind, come September I would set out into the mountains of western Montana in search of my first bull elk.

elk, hunting, montana, sunrise, bull, moon

Elk country.

After getting to know a few locals and doing as much research as I could, I was ready to head out into the field. To be completely honest, my only goal that first year was to find elk on public land, and go from there. If I got something, great, but I was as excited as could be to just get out and explore. After wandering around aimlessly for a few days, I went out with a friend who had hunted elk before, and got my first real elk hunting experience. Somewhere in the middle of a 4:30 AM hike in a snowstorm without the right gear, I found myself questioning what I had gotten myself into, but by the end of the day, I was hooked. This first season would go on to be a great learning experience, as I found myself “in elk” a handful of times, and learning something valuable with every encounter. Being that western hunting is about as opposite from hunting in Wisconsin as it get’s, I found myself hiking further, spending more time behind my glass, and realizing that if I was going to take this seriously the following year, I’d need to step my game up.

vortex, optics, razor, glassing, elk, montana, western, missoula

Locating the herd.

Over the course of the next two seasons, I found myself not only spending more time in the woods, but being much more strategic about how I would spend my time there. Learning how to elk call, paying more attention to detail while glassing, and hunting in a wide variety of locations lead to a mixed bag of success including mule deer, whitetail deer, cow elk, antelope, and black bear. Although despite the many stalks, calling set ups, and extremely close encounters, I had yet to wrap my tag around a bull’s antlers.

calvin, muledeer, buck, wester, mt, montana, 406

Heavy packs and good times.

Some of the biggest lessons learned throughout these seasons are as follows:

Time:  As with anything, the more time you spend doing something, the more likely you are to be successful. This means getting out whenever you can, and making your time in the field count by hunting as hard as you can. It doesn’t matter if the weather is crappy, or the animals aren’t being as active as you’d like them to be. Go as often as possible, and stay for as long as you can. The bottom line is, you can’t kill them from the couch.

 

Distance: One of the biggest keys to success in western hunting is getting away from other hunters, and finding animals that aren’t as pressured or educated from previous human encounters. This means lacing up your boots, throwing on your pack, and hitting the hills for a day full of hiking. If possible, I generally try to hunt in areas that are at least two to three miles from the nearest road. This will cut your competition in half, and greatly increase your chances of seeing larger numbers, and a better quality of game animals.

hunting snow, elk, hunt, western, montana

As I entered my fourth season of hunting in Montana, I had gained a ton of knowledge, had drawn a limited entry bull elk tag, and for the first time in my short elk hunting career, was feeling confident in my ability to fill my bull tag as the season approached. As archery season began, I found myself surrounded by elk, and calling in a bull pretty much every time I went out. My skills as a hunter were growing, and the lessons I had learned from previous experiences were giving me the advantage I needed. At this point it seemed like it would only be a matter of time before I would release an arrow, and on the morning of September 12th, I did. Unfortunately, the shot was followed by the unmistakeable sound of my arrow hitting the bull’s front shoulder blade. After hours of searching, and scratching my head as to how I could have possibly messed up an opportunity that I had worked so hard for, I went home without a bull. Luckily, I was able to locate the same bull a few days later, and was pleased to see him chasing cows around like nothing had ever happened.

phoneskope, razor, hd, vortex, optics, elk, digiscoping

Time to strategize a gameplan.

As the season went on, I continued to hunt hard, getting out every day I could, but the majority of the elk in my unit had made their way onto private land. This meant that hunting far from the truck wasn’t going to increase my chances by a whole lot, and if I wanted to fill my tag, I was going to have to take a different approach. As I set out for the final week of Montana’s general season with a bull tag burning a hole in my pocket, I knew that if I wanted to be successful I would need to spend my time in areas surrounding the private land that was holding the majority of the animals. On November 25th, I headed into a spot that bordered a section of private that I knew frequently held elk. After watching the main herd of 40 + branch bulls feed past me a mere 100 yards on the wrong side of the fence, I glanced over to my left, and there stood a bull on my side of the fence. After a few chaotic seconds, I settled my crosshairs and my rifle roared, followed by the unmistakeable “whop!” we all hope to hear after pulling the trigger. After four years of learning, making mistakes, and hunting my hardest I was finally able to wrap my tag around an awesome first bull.

elk hair, hide, hunting, western, montana

Taking in the experience.

elk, hunt, first, bull, internship, montana, wild

Memories.

Over the course of the last four years, the journey to harvest a bull elk has been an unforgettable one, taking me to some of the most beautiful places montana has to offer, and allowing me to witness things in nature that I would have never imagined. Teaching yourself how to hunt elk on public land is no easy task, but with the right mindset, a willingness to learn from your mistakes, and a little bit of an obsession that keeps you coming back for more, it’s a journey that will eventually pay off in a big way.

 

Words by: Calvin Connor

Images by: Calvin Connor & Gus Conrad

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BIG GULPS – VIDEO

salmonfly, fishing, montana, video

The Salmonfly, one of the biggest meals on a trout’s menu.  It’s one of our favorite times to be on the water.  Last summer we took the camera out for a few days to capture a bit of why we love that time of year.  BIG GULPS is descriptive of the big eats that these bugs elicit from the trout that call Western Montana home.

If you missed the blog post giving a bit more info about the film and our fishing see the other post right HERE.

Also, if you didn’t quite get what you had hoped for this Christmas please visit our store and consider some of our branded apparel.  The purchase of this gear helps us make more free films for you in the future.  Shop here > MONTANA WILD STORE

-Zack Boughton

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BIG GULPS – Salmonfly Fishing SW Montana

salmonfly, fishing, montana, brown trout
salmonfly, nymph, montana, hatch

Pteronarcys californica

Late each spring salmonfly nymphs begin their migration towards banks, rock walls, logs, boulders and any other good structure where they can hatch.  The largest of stonefly here in Montana mean big food for all the fish in the river.  The hatch exists across the Western part of our state and in many areas across the Western half of the US.  It’s something anglers wait for and anticipate.  My first good taste of this hatch was in 2013 when good friend Dan “Rooster” Leavens, owner of the The Stonefly Inn, called me and said it was on.  I grabbed my camera and showed up for two great days of fishing.  Those days proved to be enough for a short film and Bareback Rider was created (watch below).

Since then we’ve fished the hatch in many places and had many memorable days.  This year we wanted to return to some of the areas that were quite renowned for their salmonfly fishing and take the camera out for a few days.  Fishing a massive dry fly is something I enjoy and love to capture.  This year we were able to get out ahead of the hatch and try to watch it progress and learn more of the intricacies of this impressive bug.

salmonfly fishing, montana, montanawild, film

Where they at?

Early on the fish didn’t key in on the dry.  As a few adults would begin to hatch you’d think it would be popping off at any second.  An hour later and you hadn’t had one fish rise to the big bug.  Nymphing, streamers and other small dries were the ticket to getting fish in the boat those first few days out.  As to be expected when the fish started looking up for the salmonfly the word got out.  It wasn’t unusual to see 10-20 trailers at all the main fishing access sites along the river.  Fish were to be had but catch a few and pull over for a quick photo and you just might get passed by a handful of boats.

salmonfly hatch, montana, fishing, brown trout

Travis kicking the morning off with a slab of butter.

Some days I didn’t know which was better, be out in front and be the first bug the fish see or sit back and let the other boats create the hatch.  We had big fish eat both ways and regardless of pressure you’ll always have those fish sitting in the spot that only 10% of anglers can either cast to or get a good drift through.

salmonfly hatch, bug, tula hats, babe, fishing

Sunny, warm days, salmonflies and pretty women in the front of the boat. Life is good.

brown trout, huge, big, massive, montana, salmonfly hatch, film, video

The “if you’re real lucky” salmonfly eater

At the end of the year we’d gotten enough shots to piece together a short film.  Monday the 9th we’ll release our latest fishing film, BIG GULPS, here on the website!

Zack Boughton

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THE COLD – FULL FILM

late season archery hunting, film

Today we are releasing our latest hunting film, THE COLD.  This film was shot over the course of two years spent late season archery hunting for mule deer.  The COLD is both a descriptive word for late season hunts, but also represents a sickness. In this case a sickness for chasing rutting mule deer. Watch as Zack puts his skills to the test searching for a mature buck.  Presented by Vortex Optics

And if you missed the teaser you can watch it HERE and a blog post giving some of the backstory of this hunt and film can be read HERE.

If you’re still doing Christmas shopping don’t forget we have a great line of apparel for the outdoorsmen or woman at our MONTANA WILD STORE.

-Zack Boughton

 

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THE COLD – The Teaser

the cold, teaser, film, bowhunting

Our latest film, THE COLD is presented by Vortex Optics.  Watch the THE COLD Teaser below and you can read more about the backstory on this hunt right HERE.

Full film will release on December 12th right here on our website!

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THE COLD – The Backstory

huge mule deer buck

For many hunters their season ends with the close of rifle.  Honestly by then we’ve had plenty of hunting and sleeping in sounds about right.  BUT, then you take a few days off and you instantly wish you were back out there.  About three years ago we looked into extending our season and late season archery hunting seemed like just the ticket.  Rutting mule deer bucks pushing out of their summer hideouts would cover hillsides for miles right!? Not so quick bud.

late season, mule deer, hunt, hunting, archery, idaho, bucks

Zack wondering where the heck a good buck can be found.

That first year was definitely one where we learned a lot.  Deer were plentiful but finding a buck pushing into the 150-160″ range was difficult.  In a week we saw two and made stalks but the steep country and crunchy snow made life tough for bowhunting.  Swirly winds sealed our fate and we went home empty handed but ready to tackle year 2.  The following year we put in a little more time researching areas and decided to move to a new unit.  This time we had more realistic expectations but also knew that finding a true 200″ deer could definitely happen.  With some snow moving in we were able to find more mature bucks although navigating the public/private landscape made approaching some deer almost impossible.

mule deer, hunting, idaho, phoneskope

Using the truck and spotter to cover country. Not a bad option when your new to the area and it’s cold.

As a hunter new to the area most of the first 4-5 days really felt like 90% scouting and 10% hunting.  After starting to hone in on some of the habits of deer moved in on the winter range we decided to hike up onto a ridge that would allow us to glass into a couple key basins that the deer used to bed in.  Sure enough that morning a few hours after the sun was up we found a big buck slowly feeding up through the juniper.  He was a stud.  His gait was characterized by a solid limp and I’m sure he’d had a long night chasing does and fighting with other bucks.

mule deer, hunting, buck, montanawild, late season, bowhunting, late season archery hunting

I think he’s a shooter.

We were able to bed him and watch him eventually fall asleep, head rested in the snow in front of him.  With the snow frozen from cold overnight temps we had to wait till the sun heated up the west facing hillside.  I finally decided on a long zig-zag path that would eventually lead us to within 40-60 yards of his position.  We weren’t sure what the wind would be like on the other side but he was the kind of deer we came on this hunt for and there was no way we weren’t going to give it a shot.  Two hours later we hit the last patch of open dirt and now it was snow and over 80 yards to go before we would be within shooting range of his last position.  We slowly crunched through the snow.  I figured there was no way the buck hadn’t spooked by now as it was very loud.  As I slowly crept ahead I saw antlers ahead amidst the thick juniper.  It was him and he was only 40 yards away.  My heart went from 0 to 100 in an instant.  The bucks rack shifted back and forth a few times but he never spooked.  After about ten minutes of observing him he stood up.  I could see his chest but branches made for an obstructed view of his vitals and there wasn’t any ethical shot.  He slowly began to feed downhill.  As soon as he was out of sight we looped ahead of him and waited.  After twenty minutes we hadn’t seen nor heard anything and again figured he was gone.  We went back up the hill and grabbed the packs.  I was curious as to what he had done and wanted to go follow his tracks to learn more.  Sure enough as we got to about 30 yards of his last position I saw horns again.  Apparently he had only fed a short distance and then re-bedded.  We again were pinned with no shot.  We were so, so close but eventually the wind betrayed us and he bolted.  Game over.

hunting, mule deer, sunset, montana wild, film

Another day in deer country.

The next morning we returned to the area but this time a few ridges over.  We watched another great buck chase does and fend off a smaller but still impressive buck.  As sun began to rise the deer began their daily route back up to the juniper covered hillside.  I knew two good bucks were in the group and we quickly shifted into position.  After a few minutes I saw a doe 70 yards to my right.  They’d picked a trail one away from the one we were sitting on.  The big buck hit a gap at 70 but it was too long of a shot to make quickly and they eventually hit our wind.  One buck spooked and one still to go.  We began to creep down the hill.  Out of the corner of my eye I noticed movement.  It was a doe being pushed by a buck.  I crouched down and saw 4 points on one side through the juniper as the buck nudged the doe once again.  The doe was on to me and bounced up the hill.  The buck wasn’t quick as keen.  He stepped up into my opening at 20 yards and my arrow flew true.  He bolted and I thought I’d shot the smaller of the the two big bucks.  Emotions were high.  After a half hour we began tracking.  A short ways later I saw tan in the snow.  As I walked up on my buck I had a mix of emotions.  I was ecstatic that I’d been able to fill my tag on a 4×4 on such a difficult hunt but I was disappointment that it was a young deer and not one I’d shoot if I’d been able to identify him better prior to the shot.  Lesson learned.

idaho, mule deer, bowhunting, late season, montana wild

Zack pumped to overcome the odds and fill his tag.

We took a few photos and then proceeded to quarter him up and make the relatively short trek back to the truck.  Year Two had ended in success but given the circumstances of the prior day it felt as if we had unfinished business.  We’d surely be back next year.

mule deer, camp, wall tent, bowhunting, late season archery hunting

Back for year 3. This time a wall tent came to help stay warm during the cold nights.

Our original plan for year 3 was to come down for the end of the season.  When a good friend wanted to join we shifted the dates to accommodate his schedule.  We would now be hunting the opening week of the season.  We knew there hadn’t been much snow but we’d give it a shot.  When we showed up the day before the opener we were sorely disappointed to see a rifle cow hunt ending with guys on 4-wheelers everywhere.  This pressure would surely make the big bucks extremely hard to find and with no snow it was shaping up to be a tough hunt.  Sure enough 4 days later and we’d only seen small two and three year old bucks and many, many does.

bowhunting, mule deer, late season, hunt, idaho

Long hikes and few bucks characterized the early part of the hunt.

With our film permits limiting where we could hunt in the unit we went back to where we’d seen a few good bucks in the past.  We turned up a nice 4×4 and proceeded to hunt him over the course of the rest of the hunt.  Each morning we could find him somewhere out among about 30-50 does and small bucks.  They’d eventually fill their bellies and start working back up the mountain.  Cutting them off was a guessing game and trying to avoid all the other deer proved to be a challenge.  We got close but his daily routine never had any pattern to it.  With a hundred elk in the area it was a zoo some mornings and keeping tabs on this buck proved to be quite the task.

mule deer, deer, buck, hunting, late season, idaho

The best of the bunch, protected by numerous does.

The weather was warm and sunny one minute and cold and blistery the next.  We covered country mid day hoping to find other bucks.  We went miles in to the nastiest areas only turning up does with little bucks.  The snow wasn’t present in the mountains and the big bucks hadn’t pushed into their wintering area.  Our timing was off and we re-focused on our target buck.

mule deer, hunting, idaho, controlled tag, late season, bowhunt, late season archery hunting

Enjoying another beautiful night in God’s Country.

Again we relocated him.  His general pattern was there but there was no consistency in his path back to bed each day.  One day it would be a 1000 yards different from the day previous.  As we neared the end of our hunt we found him honed in on a hot doe.  It was just two of them and there were far less other deer in the area that morning.  As we moved to cut them off they shifted their path at the last minute, rounding the hillside away from our position.  We looped ahead and picked them up again.  They were now in the bottom and we watched from above.  They moved slowly and worked up into a shaded and snow covered face.  After a short time the two bedded.  It wasn’t the best area but it appeared I might be able to make a huge loop and get behind and above them.  If the snow was soft enough in the shade I might be able to close the distance.  It was now or never and again I set off on a stalk that we hoped would end with an arrow airborne.  Tune in on December 5th to see the trailer for the film and December 12th to watch the full film and see if I can fill my tag on a mature mule deer buck.

Zack Boughton