Tag Archive for: archery
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Its not very often that my black bear tag makes it past the spring season. This year was different. I had limited days to spring bear hunt with my bow after preparing to move to Bozeman and had failed to get any decent opportunities to arrow a bruin. It was somewhat exciting to have a black bear tag for the fall season, and considering the locations I would be hunting elk and deer, the likelihood of seeing black bears was high. I was excited to see what opportunities would present themselves.
Fast forward to September. I had just finished a grueling 9 day out of state hunt. I failed to fill my tag and was now back in Montana to hopefully help call an elk in for Zack. After grinding through a couple days of work, we had just enough time to pack up the truck and head out for a 2.5 day backpack elk hunt. I must say it is nice feeling being able to enter the elk woods with a bear, wolf, and elk tag in your pocket.
The hunt started with Zack taking the lead as we crossed creeks and finally entered a timbered stretch littered with elk sign. Zack ripped a few bugles along the way, hoping to locate a bull. With no responses, we slowly followed a game trail, still stalking the timber hoping to catch a glimpse of a bull. Magpies rang out their typical cry and Zack crept slowly in their direction. Suddenly Zack froze and waved me to creep up to his position. 130yds away was a stout black bear ripping at some sort of animal carcass.
With no bear tag left for Zack I was the only option for a stalk. I picked my stalk line, made sure the wind was good and proceeded to ninja to 43yards. I got ready for a shot and waited for the black bear to turn broadside. The bear was moving around the carcass eating on various pieces and occasionally moving away and then wandering back. Finally he remained in a single position on the carcass. I drew, settled and released. The bear ran 15 yards, looked around and then proceeded to come back and feed. I must have misjudged my yardage or my broadhead dove as I missed low. I crept up to 37yards from the unaware bear. I drew, really took my time to pick a small spot and released. This time I saw my arrow hit its mark as the bear whirled and took off on a death march down the mountain and out of sight.
Zack and I looked for my arrow and found it completely intact and covered in blood. I felt good about the shot and with light fading fast I followed the direction the bear had sprinted. The blood trail was minimal, so I made the decision to just go look for the bear. Zack and I spread out and started searching. After about two hundred yards later I heard Zack holler.
I crept his way arrow nocked, only to see the motionless mound of fur that lay ahead. He was done, a quick clean kill. The beautiful dark brown boar was a sight to behold as he lay in a patch of timber littered with elk rubs. The trees in the area were perfectly displaced and made for some unique photos.
This was my first time having a fall black bear tag and also my first bear with a bow. A memory that will live with me forever and an adrenaline filled stalk that I won’t soon forget.
August is always an exciting month in Montana. Its the start of the archery season, and a great time to get your hunting skills sharp before elk season gets underway. Chasing antelope in the rolling hills of Montana is a rush and definitely one of our favorite archery hunts. AUGUST RUSH is an archery hunt from a couple years ago, where Zack and myself find success with our good friend Branden VanDyken.
If you are gearing up for an antelope hunt, make sure to check out our latest Pronghorn inspired t-shirt HERE.
Montana’s Antelope draw results came out today. If you put in go to MyFWP to check your draw status. With that said we decided to put up a short film we shot in 2013 that documents our first successful archery antelope hunts. We learned a lot and were fortunate enough to come back with two bucks.
Also, be sure to check out our store. We have updated our inventory on some of our hats and T-shirts as well as added a few new products. Our Outlaw knife is also back in stock. You can check it all out here > Montana Wild Store
With spring bear hunting in full swing here in the West we are releasing BUSTED. This film, shot in 2013, follows Zack as he looks to arrow a black bear in the mountains of Western Montana.
Supported by: Bear Archery
This past year we had the chance to chase mule deer on public land in October. In less than perfect conditions Zack found a buck worthy of an arrow, but could just not seem to connect with a shot. Its never easy to shrug off a miss, especially when your bow is still on. Sometimes its all a mental game when archery hunting, and if you can overcome that mental hurdle, you will most likely succeed.
More hunting videos are on the horizon!
Last fall Travis had a handful of days to fill his first ever, archery mule deer tag. Boots tight and arrows dialed in, we set foot in the badlands of Montana, with hopes of capturing this adventure on film. The result was an unforgetttable hunt, with the ups and downs that come with hunting spooky public land mule deer. Make sure to catch the full film in the 2015 Hunting Film Tour. Check here for a showing near you: huntingfilmtour.com
There would be no dark timber, no wallows and downfall this September. The subsititues would be coulees filled with sage and brush, patchy timber, clay buttes and grassy bottoms. The elk would be more visible but also much more educated. The name of the game would be spot-and-stalk, which was fine with me. When we arrived at our campsite a few days before season we were welcomed by seeing a dozen bulls trotting off from a pond nearby. The elk were here, we just needed to find the half blind, deaf and dumb ones and we’d be ok.
The first day started quick. We spotted a herd feeding up back towards the hills as the east was beginning to lighten. The wind was still working in our favor and we quickly looped ahead. A couple bugles littered the morning as we dropped the packs. I snuck up to the last bush before the saddle I figured they would travel through. Travis stayed back with the camera in a more hidden position. I slowly stood to see if they were still coming. A small raghorn was looking my way but didn’t appear to recognize me. There were a bunch of bulls behind him and I crouched back down and put my release on the string. A minute later the first of about 10 bulls came through at 56 yards. Raghorn, spike, raggy, raggy, raggy, damn raggy! The last two bulls came into view, both small immature bulls. I cow called and one stopped perfectly broadside. I held my pin behind the shoulder. He was toast if I wanted him. I let down and they trotted off. Well things were off to a good start but where did the herd bull go? We dipped over to the next small ridgeline and sat down. Soon we saw a good bull emerge across the basin, pushing cows and softly bugling. They had made it to the timber and the game was over at the moment.
Right now your probably thinking it’s just another cheery day in Montana out elk hunting but I’ll give you one word that will change your mind, mosquitoes. Heavy rains dropping multiple inches of moisture in late August had spawned the gnarliest hatch of mosquitoes that anyone had seen in many many years. At any moment you could have 20-100 mosquitoes swarming your body thirsty for blood. It made life miserable as they were there 24/7. Any semblance of scent control was out the window as you had to constantly be spraying bug spray to have any degree of comfort out there. The daily bite average had to be over 20 bites even with bug spray and head nets, which were worn during times of the most intense attacks.
After a few days of this we were greeted by heavy rain for two days. Our boots were wet and with nothing to build a fire near our truck we were stuck in the truck with wet layers, socks and sleeping bags courtesy of a leaky topper. We camped it out, it’s part of the adventure right?
When the rain had resided we began hunting again. The mud stuck to your boots in large amounts. Turning your boots into 5 pound mud clogs. We still found elk and even a couple nice deer but stalking in mud that was multiple inches deep that squeaks and sloshes makes a quiet approach almost impossible.
A day after the rain the hordes of mosquitoes were back which made for equally difficult stalking conditions. Trying to sneak through the timber within 100 yards of a bull with 10 cows is tough when your trying to swat mosquitoes out of your eyes and ears, add in a second guy filming and it gets even harder. Over the next week I was within 100 yards of 7-8 bulls that I’d be more than happy to tag. It seemed the elk had a sixth sense and would do everything opposite of what they had been doing prior to the stalk and contrary to what you thought they’d do. Add in a few stalks blown by dumb hunters (me) and a couple by death by mosquito and I was feeling a bit angry and frustrated. My time was up for the time being and it was my turn to pick up the camera and get to filming. Four days later Travis had a bull down and we were headed back to Missoula with an elk in the truck.
We knew we had to return. We had about a week and a half until we had to head east for mule deer and I had a grudge to pick with these bulls. As we pulled into our morning spot the truck read 74 degrees. This was at 5:30 am. It was hot and daily temps for the next two days would easily surpass 85 degrees. The elk were back in their first and last hour regiment and sightings were minimal. The third morning the bulls were pumped up though, with 5 different bulls firing off in one small basin. After a couple hours we had closed the gap on the one bull staying vocal after the sun had risen. He was up at the head of a small draw. The boots came off and we headed up the side of the draw. After twenty minutes we heard coughing and hacking about 70 yards in front of us. After sneaking around a couple bushes I could see a cow shaking her head and blowing her nose trying to clear her airways of something. It seems she had sucked in one of those pesky mosquitoes. I glassed around her but saw no elk. I decided to loop up around a hundred yards. As we started dropping down into the timber I heard a bugle right back where we had been just ten minutes ago. They had circled under us and they were now up and moving. A few minutes later as we closed the gap on the bull a collared cow busted us and the gig was up. As we got back to the packs Travis says, “I wonder if that bull smelled the estrus I sprayed while I was waiting as you were watching that cow?” All I could do is laugh and shake my head. Sabotage at it’s finest.
Two days later we quietly slipped down a ridge. It had once again rained and everything was quiet. As we sat down to glass we quickly spotted two bulls. One fed over the far ridge and the second bedded in a group of brush. It looked like a stalk was possible and we closed the gap. We peeked up over the ridge across the basin from him and he was still there looking complacent as he chewed his cud.
I got landmarks, took off my raingear and headed off. As I crept over the ridge I knew the brush was taller than I had expected. I kept sneaking in closing the gap and the far hill was only 60 yards. He was close but I couldn’t see anything. As I stepped back to move further down the hill I heard grass being ripped up. I turned back and saw antler tips through the brush. He was now on his feet feeding. I stepped back up but my only gap left a shooting lane that only revealed his upper back and head. No shot. He soon had wandered downhill behind the brush. I looked down the hill and noticed one small gap and the area behind it looked grassy. I hoped he’d head that way. After a tense moment that felt like ten I saw him coming. I was ready and as soon as he was a step from hitting my lane I drew. He proceeded to turn downhill and then enter my gap quartering away too hard. He was 45 yards and after just over a minute of being at full draw he turned broadside. My pin settled behind the shoulder and the arrow was off. It made a loud smack and he ran down the hill. I could see my arrow sticking out and as soon as he disappeared I heard crashing and wheezing. I knew it was over, all the effort fighting the elements and matching wits with some of the most educated elk in the state had finally paid off.
[Well September is a busy busy month. Archery season is only so many days long and throw in time spent filming and getting some work done and it always seems like time is too short and the personal days you get to hunt too few. This fall has been a whirlwind and we’ve been very blessed so far. I just wanted to give a quick update on the elk hunting and some recent success I had before we head back out the door to chase mule deer. Enjoy!]
Two days prior to opening day Zack and myself wandered the hills, searching for bugling bulls. Our ears were instead filled with the buzz of little pests. The mosquitoes were like the plague. The heavy rainfall that this area had received at the end of August rejuvenated the mosquitoes in the area to biblical proportions. We quickly made a detour to the closest town to buy mass quantities of bug spray and cross our fingers that our Thermacell would deter a small portion of the hungry critters.
Zack was up first, while I had the camera in tow. The elk hunting was difficult, between hunting pressure and avoiding the mosquito swarms. Stalks on bedded elk usually ended in a blood buffet for the mosquitoes. Staying still for more than five minutes was a chore and spending time behind the glass was rather frustrating.
Zack still managed a bunch of great encounters and passed on multiple bulls, hoping to lure the herd bull in close. Before we knew it another heavy rain storm was upon us. The gumbo mud appeared in full force and our boots instantly turned into ten pound weights. Living out of the truck became quite the task.
After battling the elements, the sun regained its strength, but not without a price. The mosquitoes had flourished in the new rainfall and we were now on the brink of insanity. Zack was frustrated and gave myself the opportunity to hunt the last four days of our trip. I made the best of my time, finding multiple bulls, and breaking the 100yd mark on numerous occasions.
Our final morning we found a large herd we had been following. Our wind was swirling all morning and half the herd split for cover. A lone bull stole 6 cows and wandered elsewhere. We pursued, seeing opportunity in the landscape they were headed. Removing my boots and going into ‘full ninja’, I crept in to 35 yards, cow calling the bull to his feet before deploying an arrow.
The shot looked good, but the penetration was not as expected. Lung blood littered the ground, but slowly dissipated into a timbered coulee. After an hour of searching we relocated the bull, who was bedding and standing every hour in the thick brush. With no opportunity for a stalk, we waited the bull out for 6 hours, before he finally bedded in a position where I thought a shot might be possible. I got back into my ninja socks and crept in to within bow range. The bull was about to stand to re-bed once again, I came to full draw, fighting the heavy crosswind before putting pressure on the trigger. The bull stood stunned as I put two more arrows in his chest before taking his final breath.
After examining my first shot, I found out my arrow placement was too low given the downhill angle. My arrow had pierced one lung and struck the sternum. I thanked the good Lord above that I was able to recover this animal and felt relieved to know that the animal would not go to waste. This elk season has brought about so many challenges, yet this season has been my best elk season to date. Once again I have been overwhelmed with the knowledge you gain elk hunting year after year. The confidence is high going into the remainder of the season. Elk meat is in the freezer!