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THE OUTLIER – OFFICIAL RELEASE

the outlier, film, elk, hunting, video, montana, breaks, missouri river

Today we officially released our latest elk hunting film The Outlier.  This film has been a multi-year project for us and it’s hands down our best hunting content to date.  Follow along as four good friends battle to fill their elk tags with bows in hand in the Missouri River Breaks.  The film is available for purchase through our store on the website and also through Vimeo On Demand.  More information can be found on the films website www.theoutlierfilm.com

Purchase DVDs HERE.

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Purchase a DVD and T-Shirt combo pack HERE.

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And purchase the film digitally through Vimeo On Demand HERE.

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The Outlier – Behind The Scenes

the outlier, film, elk, montana, hunting

The Outlier.  If you haven’t heard about this film or seen the first teaser yet you should do so.  You can learn more HERE.  This is our largest film project to date and will be our best work yet.  Shot over the course of an entire archery season in Montana’s Missouri River Breaks, this film was no small undertaking.  I spent 40+ days in the field between filming and hunting and it was a great chance to capture some amazing moments and be part of some great elk hunts.  Going into this project we knew it would involve a lot of moving pieces and we would be filming with Josh and Brandon making things even more interesting.  With that in mind we hoped to capture some short snippets of what went into making this film.

Go check out the film’s website theoutlierfilm.com and read more about this film.  We expect the film to be released via DVD and VimeoOnDemand coming July 10th!

Zack

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10 Great Outdoor Instagram Accounts

Instagram is hands down our favorite social media platform.  We love photos so we inherently are drawn to it and it cuts out most of the worthless garbage you get on other platforms like Facebook.  Get on, scroll through some photos and your done, day not wasted.  With that said there are some individuals that crush it on Instagram and we thought we’d share a list of 10 Great Outdoor Instagram Accounts.  Take a look and enjoy!

#1 – Steven Drake (@stevendrakephoto)

Drake is one of the best photogs in the outdoor industry and can hang in the most remote and brutal conditions all while snapping epic photos.  He’s a force to be reckoned with and we’re stoked to see images from his next adventure.

steven drake, photo, photographer, moose, hunting, canada

#2 – Brad Christian (@bradschristian)

Brad helped lead the charge while at Mathews by utilitzing captivating, unique and beautiful images of the hunt to help shape the industry for the better.  He’s also one talented dude behind the camera himself and he now works with the fine folks at Sitka meaning you’ll be seeing more awesome work from him in the future.

brad christian, photo, photographer, mathews, sitka, bozeman, elk

#3 – Sam Averett (@samaverett)

Sam was one of our very first interns and he quickly became one of the dudes.  His solid skills with the camera have since then progressed quickly and now he’s one of our favorite guys to keep up to speed with.  He’s hard to pin down but we hope this won’t be the last time he will be showing up on our page.

sam averett, photo, photographer, elk, sheds, washington, badass

#4 – Nick Kelley (@ngkelley)

Nick works at Outside Magazine and lives up to the level of skill one would expect from an employee at such an inspiring brand.  He’s an exceptional photographer and his work takes him across the globe shooting and documenting the outdoor lifestyle.

nick kelley, outside, magazine, photographer, flyfishing, brown trout, underwater

#5 – Jordan Gill (@jordangillphotography)

Jordan is another young gun with a mean eye for sick photos.  His work has been utilized by powerhouses YETI, Sitka and Mathews to name a few.  He has a strong beard game, need we say more?

jordan gill, photo, photographer, montana, hunting, sitka

#6 – Puffin (@swishersweetswag)

Mixing it up here at #6.  We’re not even sure what this guys real name is but he’s darn fishy and doesn’t adhere to any standard fly fishing trends in the appearance department.  He’s a fresh look at fly fishing in an industry filled with old guys who think they know it all.  If you like looking at dandy fish, there is no shortage.

swishersweetswag, puffin, fly, fishing, trout, canada

#7 – Jerrin Uecker (@jerrin_uecker)

Another young guy making a name for himself is Jerrin.  His skill with the camera is beyond his years and his work is typified by great use of natural light and color.

Jerrin uecker, photo, photographer, montana, antelope, Great Outdoor Instagram Accounts

#8 – Sean Kerrick Sullivan (@sully_land)

Sean crafted a spot in the snowboard community as a talented photographer and still shoots some of the best snowboard images year in and year out.  He also has a nack at taking great fishing images and is one that will keep you on your toes as to what his next post might be.

sean kerrick sullivan, photo, photographer, snowboarding, snowmobiles, backcountry, Great Outdoor Instagram Accounts

#9 – Derek Olthuis (@derekolthuis)

Derek is one of the fishiest dudes we know, possibly only surpassed by his good friends.  Whether it’s brown trout, bull trout, brookies or any other trout species chances are he’s caught one bigger than you and had a heck of a time doing it.  He keeps things fun and isn’t afraid to share some knowledge to make your next trip on the water more enjoyable.

brown trout, derek olthuis, fishing, Great Outdoor Instagram Accounts

#10 – Chris Hood (@chrisjhood)

Last but not least is Chris Hood.  He’s just wrapping up a long, long trip around the country in his van and the images are breathtaking.  Whether it’s hunting, fishing, landscape, portrait he can crush it on all fronts.

chris hood, glacier, park, photo, photographer, montana, nps, Great Outdoor Instagram Accounts

 

Written by Zack Boughton (@zackboughton)

 

 

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OVERLOOKED – New Hunting Film

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With rifle antelope season opening here in Montana on Saturday we decided we’d keep those hunting vibes going by releasing a short antelope film from this past season.  Travis drew his first rifle antelope permit and wanted to take full advantage of the new opportunity.  With only a few days blocked off to hunt he knew he’d have to cover a lot of country and keep his fingers crossed that he would turn up a good buck.  After hunting areas with lots of other hunters, the move was made to an area that was less obvious and very much overlooked.  A buck was spotted and the next day Travis headed back to see if he could punch his tag.

We also recently released an antelope themed T-Shirt.  You can purchase your Fast Food T in our STORE.

fast food, t shirt, shirt, antelope, hunting, montana

-Zack

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Goat Country – The Epilogue

mountain goat, hunting, montana, wild

It’s now been over a month since I embarked on my first ever mountain goat hunt.  Since then I’ve spent a good amount of time elk hunting and every time there is high, rocky country my eye wanders looking for those white specs.  I’ve actually spotted about a dozen goats now in areas I’d never think of looking if it hadn’t have been for this goat hunt.  Each time I watch them I’m reminded of their sheer agility and willingness to live in some truly wild places.  Back to my hunt though.  The plan was to get on the mountain a few days before season, locate a billy I’d seen during scouting and fill my tag quickly.  The plan sounded good enough.

mountain, hunting, goats, montana, wild, backpack, kifaru, bear archery

Kifaru Markhor loaded for 5 days.

With a heavy pack and fresh legs we started up the trail.  The weather was clear and warm and we made quick time en route to our first glassing location.  Cresting the ridge two hours later and glassing down into the first basin revealed a billy working across the top of some large cliffs.  So far so good.

mountain goat, montana, hunting, mountain goat hunting

A younger billy showing off in a maze of cliffs.

The next two days would be spent glassing from a large ridgeline, affording us a view into 4 different basins.  The closest basin was where I thought our target goat was living and sure enough on the first day we located him bedded under a rock edge.  Despite their white color the mountain goats were proving to be difficult to spot at times.

mountain goat, montana, hunting

Our target billy taking advantage of the topography. Well hid and shaded.

mountain goat, hunting, montana, wild, scouting, big 3

The daily jaunt up and down the ridge to glass and then glass some more.

That night we watched him peel around the edge of the basin headed towards the easiest trail to access and hike in the unit.  With a day till season he’d surely not make such a silly decision right?

mountain goat, hunting, montana, wild

The last sight of this billy. Around the bend into a bad zone for him.

The following day was one that didn’t build much confidence for the opener.  Our day began and ended the same, posted up along the ridge letting the glass do our walking.  Only a nanny and kid were spotted during the long day.

mountain goat, hunting, montana, wild, sitka gear, vortex optics, mountain goat hunting

Wondering where all the goats are at.

With all the nearby goats pushing further into the unit we hoped overnight we’d have a few work back into the closer basins.  The plan was to wake up first thing and look for our billy, if he didn’t show we’d make a long push along a ridge we believed was safe to travel along, leading us into a remote basin that seemed a sure bet to find a goat.

mountain goat, hunting, montana, wild, camping, backcountry

Camped out with the next days ridgeline looming.

The next morning broke to more beautiful weather.  As soon as we could see we were scouring hillsides looking for white specs.  Thirty minutes revealed nothing and we knew we needed to make our push towards the remote back basin.

mountain goat, hunting, montana, wild, sitka gear, bowhunting, mountain goat hunting

Goat country doesn’t lack in beauty.

mountain goat, hunting, montana, wild, hiking

The route better than anticipated. Still a “no-fall” zone.

The route proved doable and we soon crested over the top.  The basin sprawled out before us.  With game trails worn deep into the ridgeline we figured it would only be a matter of time before spotted a goat.  Unfortunately that afternoon only turned up a small group of sheep.  Disappointing but I guess that’s hunting.  We retraced our steps in time to take a last look for our same billy before we hit the tent for the night.  He was nowhere to be found and we got some needed rest before waking up hoping that the goats would reappear.  The next morning we quickly made it to our glassing point hoping a billy would be back into the nearest basin.  Nothing showed and the surrounding areas were devoid of goats as well.  Our move to test out new country in hopes of catching a billy off guard had proved futile.  We begrudgingly packed camp knowing today would be a long one.  A 1500′ drop would get us back to the trail and back up the mountain we’d go in the opposite direction.  As we crest the pass I got cell service and a text message told of a billy shot right off the trail where we now stood.  Apparently mountain goats can make easy and fatal mistakes.  With other camps on the pass we figured we’d drop elevation again to push deeper into the unit.  It wasn’t ideal but it would put us into some remote mountain goat country.  Three hours later we’d dropped to the bottom and climbed up to our next camp.  We were physically drained and took an hour to eat and take a short rest.  With rain in the forecast we knew we needed to push on and try to find a billy.

mountain goat, hunting, montana, wild, vortex optics, kifaru, mountain goat hunting

More wild and vast country.

A look into a vast chuck of country only revealed one goat, two miles across the basin.  He’d be safe for now.  We quickly sidehilled across the ridge to the next saddle.  Only a few seconds into glassing a goat was spotted bedded under a rim of cliffs.  The spotter revealed he was a billy and we knew a move had to be made quickly.

mountain goat, hunting, montana, wild

Bedded for optimal visibility. Typical goat move.

With adrenaline fueling our legs we sidehilled hoping our remote movements wouldn’t be observed by our target.  His bed afforded a perfect view of all below him and a careful stalk would be necessary to get close.  A mile out we had to begin utilizing the small amount of cover we had.  Staying behind trees and small boulders got us to 1000 yards.  He was now up and feeding.  100-200 yard openings would need to be covered as he fed up the hill and not looking in our direction.  Some patience was necessary but eventually we got to 300 yards.  He was still unaware of our presence but with a rifle built for it’s light weight and ruggedness and not it’s accuracy I knew getting closer would make this stalk into a guaranteed kill.  Another sprint in the open with the billy feeding away put us underneath him and to our last zone of cover.  As I peeked up over the boulders my rangefinder told me he was 190 yards away.  With a good rest this would be a sure shot.  I eased onto my pack and chambered a round.  The view through the riflescope was utterly clear and somewhat unreal.  The moment had come, I looked at his horns and although I knew bigger existed on the mountain this day had been an experience that embodied what I wanted the hunt to be.  It felt right and I confirmed Travis had him in the spotter.  As he stood slightly quartering away I eased into the trigger until it broke and the last thing I saw was the goat flip over and begin a short tumble down the mountain.  The next few moments were spent riding out the adrenaline high and realizing that we now were deep in the mountains with lots of work to be done and darkness quickly approaching.

mountain goat, hunting, montana, wild, wildflowers, mountain goat hunting

Life and death. A solemn and sobering moment.

mountain goat, hunting, montana, wild, mountain goat hunting

A beautiful location to end the journey.

A mountain goat tag is a very special thing to have.  That said mountain goat hunting doesn’t entitle you to a trophy or a goat, it only means you get to have an experience unlike any other and one you surely won’t forget.

Zack Boughton

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Fillin the Bumper

After a week of subzero temperatures, we decided the conditions were perfect for coyote hunting.  We met up with Matt Piippo of Predator Quest and quickly hit the dirt roads in the brisk -18F weather.   The day turned out to be our best day coyote hunting to date, seeing a coyote on every stand.  The Predator Quest Excursion’s bumper quickly started to fill and resulted in our title for the film “Fillin the Bumper”.

 

[vimeo https://vimeo.com/84002606 w=580&h=440]

 

To read the complete story click here> http://montana-wild.com/subzero/

 

-Travis

 

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SUBZERO

Montana was in the midst of one of the coldest stretches on record and Saturday was quickly approaching.  With the big game season over it was time to start thinking about trying our hand at some predator management.  Our good friend Matt Piippo had invited us to come coyote hunt and with the temps dipping well into the negatives, we knew the conditions would be ideal to find some hungry coyotes.  As we drove to our first stand the temperature read -18F.

coyote, hunting, montana, wild, snow

The coyotes would definitely be on the prowl today.  As we walked into our first stand the wind just wasn’t right.  After a short set up calls we noticed a coyote sitting down in the bottom of the draw at about 420 yards.  Neither Matt or myself were prone and with the cold temps it was a poor shot to take.  The coyotes slowly drifted off knowing that human scent didn’t mean pleasant things.  As they did another two coyotes came flying into view, chasing the other two off.  A small territory battle was ensuing and we knew the day was only going to get better.  Our next stand happened about 5 miles to the west.  We parked the truck and hiked up to the top of a small plateau.  Matt began coaxing the call and soon two coyotes were coming in on a string.  As they closed the distance they dropped down through the small coulee and Matt quickly switched to the shotgun.  The lead dog came up the hill and stood broadside at 10 yards, still unaware of our presence.  Click.  The shotgun misfired and Matt quickly switched to his rifle.  Click.

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Some choice words probably went through Matt’s head as the coyote surprisingly still stood there looking for the dying rabbit.  Matt quickly dropped a fresh round in his gun and put the 1st coyote to rest.  As the other coyote spun and began hightailing it a second shot put a quick end to an exciting stand.

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We rounded up the two males and replayed the series of events.  None of us had experienced multiple gun failures only to finish strong with a double.  Apparently -18 does a number on the lubricants in a rifle as the firing pin had only just barely made it to the primer.  We scooped up our gear and headed back to the truck.

coyote, hunting, montana, wild, snow, double, sitka gear

As soon as we reached the truck we discovered that Matt didn’t have his usual rack to load the coyotes onto.  I quickly chimed in that the front grille guard would work equally as well and really add a nice touch to the Predator Quest rig.  Our motto for the day was now to “fill the bumper.”

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It was only 9:20 and we had a lot more country to cover.  After talking to some locals and a few landowners we finally made it back out to an area Matt has called in many coyotes over the years.  Right off the bat a coyote came flying out of the trees only to stop and sit at 300 yards.  A few series of calls failed to bring him closer and Matt knew it was time to let one rip.  Boom!  Snow flew behind the coyote as his round missed just high and the coyote went Mach 10 back into the timber.  A simple miscalculation of his bullet drop in the cold temperature left this coyote very alive for another day.  We laughed it off and headed off to some new country.  Over the next 45 minutes we saw 4 coyotes off the road.  Unfortunately, they also saw us and plans to call these areas quickly vanished.  As we were moving locations Matt pulled over to glass a common coyote hangout.  Sure enough he spotted a nice coyote mousing a mile and half up in a cut field.  Matt turned to me and said “We’re going to kill that coyote.”  We parked the truck and made our way up to the center of a nearby pivot and got ready.  A few minutes into calling and a coyote trotted over the ridge and closed to 240 yards before stopping to try to locate the sound.  I was ready and one shot left us with a 3rd dead coyote for the day.  I was all smiles as it’s been some time since I’ve had to chance to get a crack at a wily coyote.

Coyote hunting

We quickly made our way through the field to collect #3.  A long drag and we were back in the rig and ready for a new stand.

coyote, hunting, montana, wild, snow, hunting, sitka, vortex

Light was fading quickly and we decided to call a big basin with no cover.  We split up and made ourselves comfortable on the open hillside.  At first I didn’t think a coyote was going to commit.  The country was very open and it had been a good 8-10 minutes and nothing had appeared.  As quickly as I thought that, I heard Travis lip squeak to my right.  A coyote had just come running over the far hill and was closing the distance quickly.  I shifted my aim and watched as this pretty coyote continued to get closer and closer.  At 325 the yote stopped.  Apparently she didn’t see anything resembling a rabbit.  As she stood there I felt she wasn’t coming any closer and with my gun resting on my pack I slowly squeezed the trigger.  Thwack!  The shot dropped her in her tracks and number four for the day was in the bag.

coyote, hunting, montana, wild, snow

Light was fading quickly and with it the temperature was also plummeting.  With coyotes blocking our headlights we decided to call it a day and loaded up the last coyote into the grill of the Excursion.

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It had been an epic day.  We had seen 16 coyotes and went 4 for 5 on called in dogs.  We were able to get a little bit of footage and will be making a short video to share with you guys in the next few months.  Soon we will be off to Idaho to late season mule deer hunt and then it will be Christmas.  Good luck to anyone still getting out into the field and we can’t wait to get back out ourselves.

And for more content not seen here please follow us on Facebook and on Instagram @montanawild.

-Zack

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A Lot of Work and a Little Luck

Elk hunting.  It’s my passion and if I had to pick one hunt it would be a bowhunt for elk, in the mountains, during the rut.  Again this year I was blessed enough to do just that.  I won’t bore you with all the details but let’s just say I had my chance at my dream bull.  Bad luck or a poor decision, you can chalk it up however you see fit when you see the footage next fall, but as quickly as he came to my bugle, he left equally as fast.  As I searched the mountains for bugling bulls I had the opportunity to see some of the deepest, darkest, and most beautiful timbered slopes a man could ask for.  To say my archery season was a failure would simply deny the fact that something positive always comes from time in the mountains.

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I explored new areas and hoped I could once again lure a mature bull into bow range.  I did one other time but busted the bull as I moved to get in position for a shot.  As I continued my search it seemed the odds were stacked against us.  September and early October saw lots of heavy rain and snow, variables that make filming a hunt quite difficult.  We pushed on despite the difficulties and seemed to always be on the heels of the big bulls that called these woods home.

elk, hunting, montana, photograph, stock, rub, sitka gear, bowhunting

Eventually time ran out and my #1 goal for the season was unmet.  I chalked it up as a loss and turned my focus to deer.  Again the weather put a dampener on our ambition and kept us holed up in a tent during our first five days in the mountains.

camping, montana, hunting, mountains, deer, elk, wild, outdoors, snow

The mountains won that battle and Travis and I turned our attention to lower elevations.  We decided to continue the tradition of heading east to hunt mule deer in the flatlands during November.  We both bagged nice bucks and you can read our stories by clicking either of the following links (All In Character) / (The Bumpy Road – Part 1).

mule, deer, horns, antler, montana, wild, eastern, 4 point

After that I again began to think about those wily wapiti.  I had never truly hunted for elk with a rifle and would definitely consider myself extremely unknowledgeable about elk movements and habits during this time of year.  I had a few spots in mind that I knew elk lived in and afforded us the opportunity to use the binos and spotting scope to our advantage.  As we turned off the highway I was excited to begin the hike up the mountain.  As we continued down the road we soon had already passed three trucks that had hunters pouring out of them in the inky black.  As we pulled up to our spot my stomach began to turn.  Six other trucks were already parked there.  As we sat there wondering what to do another rig pulled up next to us.  The sun was beginning to lighten the sky and I knew it was too late to go somewhere else.  I figured we would hike as far back as we could and hope someone spooked some elk to us.  We threw our headlamps on and clamored up the mountain.  As we crested onto the final logging road we saw another hunter ahead of us.  He was a older gentlemen in his mid 60s and I was surprised he was back here.  He must have been hiking for about an hour and a half in the dark.  I was impressed to say the least.  We quickly passed him as he split up the hill.  A light snow covered the hillside and with temperatures in the single digits it was a crunchy mess.  We quickly made it to a good lookout and built a fire.  No sooner had we finally got the fire roaring a group of 3 bulls appeared from the timber 700 yards below us.  A rocky deep valley lay below us and I knew we wouldn’t be able to close the distance without completely losing sight of the bulls.  We scrambled to get the cameras on the elk and I got positioned on my pack.  My adrenaline was raging and I struggled to get the elk in my 20 power scope.  By the time I located the biggest bull he was already moving to the right and I was way to shaky to think about taking a shot.  They disappeared into the timber and we grabbed our packs and began to slowly slip down the ridge.  We proceeded to move about 300 yards down the mountain to an area where we could see across the creek bottom.  No elk were in sight, but I could hear the faint noise of rocks crashing.  I knew they were somewhere in the bottom.  A few minutes later Travis spotted them directly to our right on a grassy, timbered ridge.  I quickly laid down and began to look the bulls over.  They were feeding slowly and I knew I had a moment to pick a bull and get settled in.  After a few minutes I had found the biggest of the group and I lined up my reticle right behind his shoulder.  As he stepped forward a slightly quartering away shot presented itself and I sent a 168 grain Berger right through his boiler room.  He moved up the hill about 15 yards before toppling over and quickly expiring.  I jumped up and yelled like a wild man.  I honestly had planned on going for a nice hike, and had no plans of shooting a bull that would eclipse the 300 inch mark.  Travis and I celebrated before finally grabbing our gear and crossing the small valley to go inspect my first rifle killed elk.

elk, bull, 300, inch, montana, wild, rifle, hunting, photo

The bull was a great 6×6.  He was on the tall and narrow side and very symmetrical.  I couldn’t have asked for more and spent the next hour admiring the beautiful bull.  I felt so blessed to have the opportunity to take such an amazing animal and with my brother at my side.  Travis has been there for all of my elk kills with the camera rolling and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.  Travis and I both were blessed with great bulls this year and we quickly snapped photos of the fallen warrior.

montana, bull, elk, 300, inch, wild, mountains, rifle, season, photo, western

The temperature was perfect for the task ahead of us.  As we worked the sun kept us warm, while the shade allowed the meat to cool as we worked for the next two hours to get everything in order for the pack out.  Soon all the quarters were in game bags and it was time to load some meat and begin the pack out.  We were three miles from the truck and luckily enough it was mostly downhill.  As I headed up the mountain the weight of the elk bore down on my shoulders, reminding me of the immense  responsibility we take into our hands when we hunt these great creatures.  It was sad to take a life, but it felt good that I’d be filling my freezer with some of the healthiest, organic meat a man can put in his body.  This day was a blessing from God and even though my tag was punched I couldn’t help but think about the next time I’d get to chase the ever elusive elk.

montana, wild, elk, hunting, rifle, packing, out, 2013, photo

-Zack

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The Bumpy Road – Part 2

Work, work, work.  What many don’t realize is we don’t spend every day out hunting and fishing.  Don’t get us wrong we spend plenty of time out in God’s country.  The past week had been spent tirelessly staring at a computer screen for 12 hours a day, editing video, drafting emails, planning 2014, and editing photos.  Tomorrow we would be hitting the road and I had not even looked at a map to make a gameplan.  It would be a roadtrip filled with exploration at it’s finest.  A map, a gps, and some optics would be the only compass on this trip.  We’d drive and look for any likely buck hangout.  I won’t rehash Travis’ hunt for you as he’s already written a solid piece detailing the first part of our roadtrip which ended with him shooting a sweet looking 3×3.  Please take a few moments and read about his hunt and the beginning of our roadtrip HERE.

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What we had learned over the past 3 days is that a lot of the ground we could hunt has little access that doesn’t have roads or ATV trails criss crossing through it.  There is no map that will accurately show the roads in an area.  This means you must be willing to drive entire days just to see where and how you can access the land you intend to hunt.  Areas that look amazing might be total crap if a road is beat right through the middle of it.  Take enough time to do the ground work and you will be rewarded though.  After getting Travis’ buck on ice in the YETI it was my turn to grab the rifle and start sifting through the country searching for a mature deer.  Our first evening was spent driving into a new area with a GPS glued to my hand.  It appeared that multiple areas existed that would provide enough seclusion for a big mature buck to exist.  One thing we had found was that there is no shortage of small bucks.  This night was no different.  We spotted deer about two miles off the road and could tell there were a few bucks in the group.  A closer look would be needed.  As we crested the last grassy knoll a group of 20 mule deer were feeding in front of us.  Immediately my eye was caught by a buck harassing a doe who must have been in heat.  He chased her back and forth across the field with ruthless authority.  Again though, the buck was just not mature.  With 4 points on each side many would put a tag on this buck.  As a hunter I try to find mature bucks and let the little ones grow.  If I don’t find one I’ll eat my tag or shoot a doe.  As the sun faded this buck finally had pestered this doe long enough to be granted a quick mount.  We headed back to the truck, mildly frustrated and hoping that hard work would eventually pay off.  That night we drove over an hour on a rough dirt road accessing the far reaches of a peninsula secluded land.

night, photography, YETI, coolers, hunting, montana, wild

As sun broke the horizon in the east a few deer could be seen grazing the rolling hills.  Again only small bucks were visible.  As I glassed the hills multiple truck and ATV tracks could be seen in the yellow grass.  The area was closed to motor vehicles but we all know these signs mean nothing to some hunters.  I had felt good about the area, but I was now questioning that thought.  As I looked through the spotter Travis said he had seen three does further up the adjacent coulee.

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I figured we could go take a quick look before heading back to the truck.  As I slowly peeked over the ridge I instantly spotted a buck feeding.  I dropped my pack and crawled up over the edge.  As I raised up my binos I was instantly impressed.  He was a narrow and tall 3×4.  I had hoped to find a bigger buck but sometimes you just know when you’ve found your buck.

montana, mule deer, buck, grass, morning, rack, antlers

This buck was one that I’d gladly put my tag on and he was only 100 yards away, unaware and feeding in the shade.  I snuck back to Travis and we quickly made a gameplan.  As I crawled over the hill with gun in tow I found that a small buck had feed up towards our position and was intently staring up at our location.  He finally disappeared and I thought he had gone back to feeding.  I continued to crawl to a position where I could see down to the big buck.

hunting, montana, wild, mule, deer, vortex optics, eastern

As I finally slowly sat up I noticed the does looking up to my right.  The small buck had circled to our right and had pinned us.  He slowly trotted off.  The does had taken note and anxiously glanced up at the ridge where we were quietly waiting.  True to their nature the does began running up the hill.  The buck followed and I quickly got my gun setup on my knee.  The does stopped half way up the hill to look back (a tragic mistake for many mule deer).  The buck stopped, the sun shining off his rack as he stared back at me.  My crosshairs mildly shook over his vitals and I slowly squeezed the trigger.  BOOM!  The buck instantly dropped.  The adrenaline quickly began to flow.  We quickly gathered our gear and dropped down through the coulee to go take a look at my deer.

hunting, montana, wild, mule, deer, vortex optics, eastern

As soon as I layed my hands on him I knew I had made the right decision.  This deer was a mature 3×4 with a narrow and tall rack.  He was a handsome deer and his rutted up neck told us he was a dominant deer.

zack, boughton, montana, mule, deer, buck, 2013, wild, vortex optics

After getting some photos of him it was time to drag him down into the shade and begin the real work.  As I quickly quartered him up I milled over the past few years and how they had all come down to this moment.  So much effort had been put into this success.  Finally the buck was de-boned and packed neatly against our NICE frames.  It was time to load up and head back to the truck.

hunting, montana, wild, mule, deer, vortex optics, eastern

The load fit my back nicely and I felt like a million bucks.  It was only a short mile and a half to the truck and the quiet hike gave me time to reminisce the past weeks of the hunting season.

hunting, montana, wild, mule, deer, vortex optics, eastern

When we finally made it to the truck it was time to lay the meat out in the shade to cool and crack a beer.  Our annual mule deer trip had been a success and we kept the tradition alive by drinking only the finest, Keystone Light.

hunting, montana, wild, mule, deer, vortex optics, eastern

The trip was all we had hoped it would be.  Two bucks in six days and memories for a lifetime.  Tenderloins were cleaned and cooked and it was nice to relax and watch the sun set with no pressure to find deer.

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As the sun set we began talking about next year and how we could make our trip next season even better.  Plans are already slowly being etched into the calendars, and we can’t wait to return.

-Zack

,

The Bumpy Road – Part 1

12:23AM – The glow of my computer screen reveals a map littered with steep faces, jagged peaks, avalanche chutes, and small alpine lakes.  Since this time last year I’d been waiting to return these mountains.  As we bounced up the rocky back road the anticipation built as steep faces grew from the thick creek bottom.  For the past two years I’d wanted to wrap my deer tag around the thick antlers of a mature mule deer.

hunting, montana, wild, backcountry, mule, deer, elk, mountains

Early last October I began to search the mountainous country of Western Montana with that purpose in mind.  Many days were spent without ever laying eyes on a big deer.  The only glimpse of light at the end of the tunnel was a day in late November when we arrived at a new trailhead only to see a bruiser of a buck down just above us on the mountainside.  A couple of hunters vibrantly glowed off the snow covered hillside.  I knew we were getting closer, but I would have to wait till 2013 to continue searching.

My 2013 deer season began on October 12th.  My Metcalf was full of backcountry gear and food and we headed off up the mountain.  The goal was simply to become more familiar with the area.  Our first day started with a moose sighting.  This bull stood patiently observing the area and quickly had me dreaming about one day having a moose tag in my hand.

moose, bull, fall, montana

We set up camp that night and laid eyes on a few deer through the spotter.  Day 2 was spent looping high onto a rocky ridge and inspecting an adjacent basin.  No deer were spotted, but we gained valuable knowledge of the area.  As we descended back to the truck we spotted 2 bears feeding on berries in the thick brush on the adjacent hillside.  The brush was far to thick for a bow stalk and we simply watched them disappear into the tall bushes.  No bucks had been spotted but we felt confident that we could change that when we came back with a rifle in hand.

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Montana’s general season found us back at the same trailhead with packs loaded down for 7 days.  We slowly worked our way up the uneven trail keeping our eyes peeled for the tan hide of a mountain buck.  That morning the spotter revealed two bucks nosing does high on the mountain.  Neither buck was the “one” and we pushed onward up the mountain.

Day 2 broke with a storefront rolling in.  Cold temps and snow were being called for.  We were ready for the nasty weather, but unfortunately I had forgotten to tape the drop chart to the side of my stock and only remembered the data for 0-300 and 600 yards.  To top it off Travis had come down with a head cold.  We decided to back out for a few days and then come back for a fresh start.

hunting, montana, wild, backcountry, mule, deer, elk, mountains

Three days later we were again headed back up the mountain.  Our goal would be to hunt a loop taking us over 3 mountain passes and through some great country to try to find a big buck.  The gameplan was to get camp up to the first pass and spend two days there glassing the adjacent hillsides.  Without knowing where these bucks liked to spend their time meant we would be putting in a full days work behind the glass.  As we settled in for our first night, the sound of snow bouncing off of our tent was something we weren’t sure if we should be happy or mad about.  When our alarms went off the next morning, snow and fog surrounded our camp.  Low visibility, wind, and more snow meant we would be hunkered in the tent for some time, and we intended to wait it out.  To worsen a poor start to our hunt, I’d started the morning with a sore throat.

hunting, montana, wild, backcountry, mule, deer, elk, mountains, camping, snow

The following afternoon the fog lifted just enough for us to sneak out for the last few hours  of daylight.  We slowly worked down and around a ridge working our way through the rocks.  Nothing.  It appeared that the the game would be found high on the exposed, wind blown slopes or far down the drainage below us.  We made it back to camp where a fire was built, and we dried out before taking refuge in the tent once again.

6:20AM  I’ve already been awake for a few hours.  My sore throat has developed into a full head cold.  Being stuck in a tent at over 7000′ with a cold is no fun, but the weather was clear and it was time to move.  We shook our snowy tent off and loaded up our packs once again.  We slowly began breaking trail through a foot of snow as we moved towards our second camp location.

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After two days of living in the tent we were low on water and took a detour down to a lake to pump water before continuing on.  As we did the unmistakable tracks of a buck crossed the trail and went up the hill.

With our water refilled we pushed on with high hopes of getting an opportunity in the next three days.  Just as we reached the flat bench we would be calling home another storm began rolling in.  We quickly got our tent up and immediately got out of the weather to avoid getting wet.  A few hours later the visibility had decreased to about 200′.  The decision was made to still stalk that evening and see if we could cut a track.  With no tracks found we headed back to camp.

As I unzipped the tent the following morning I was very displeased at what lay before me.  Another foot of snow and zero visibility.  Enough was enough and I made the decision that sometimes the mountains win.  This time, just as many times before they won.  We quickly packed up camp once again.  With two feet of snow it now complicated our descent back to the truck.

hunting, montana, wild, backcountry, mule, deer, elk, mountains, snow

The plan had been to traverse some avalanche chutes where the deer liked to live and then work down to the trail and finally make our way to the truck.  With the snow it made the idea of traversing avalanche chutes one that didn’t sit well with me.  I didn’t feel like dying, and we decided to slowly slip and slide our way down through the trees and brush.  Multiple small cliffs had to be navigated around and three hours later we finally set foot back on the trail.  Five days essentially wasted in a tent and hiking through snow.  Again I had failed to even lay eyes on a big mountain mule deer.  No one said it would be easy and when you must teach yourself everything and find your own locations to hunt it makes it even more difficult.  With no time this summer to scout I decided that our annual trip east must once again be done.  This time we’d be exploring on our own in hopes we could fill not one but two deer tags.

Read Part 2 HERE.

-Zack