Tag Archive for: archery

Well the calendar keeps rolling forward and Montana’s General Archery opener is quickly approaching.  This past week we were able to get the time off to go brush up our archery skills by chasing around some of the elusive antelope.  Conditions started off with temps in the upper 70s and low 80s but deteriorated quickly by the time mid-week hit.  The last 4 days of our hunt saw rain for the most of every day.  Quality gear was a must this year as the rain can quickly put you back in the truck if your not prepared.  After getting some real good stalks in early we decided to go meet up with our good friend Branden VanDyken who is the co-owner over at BeTheDecoy.  We quickly got started with him as Travis was able to lay down a nice goat our first day out as a crew of three.  I was able to get one down on the last day after a long and stressful day prior spent in a constant downpour.  Life is total chaos right now trying to get ready for elk/deer so I’ll leave you with some photos from the hunt.

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This is what it looks like when the 3 bucks you just stalked in their beds pop up and don’t give you a shot at 30 yards.

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The sun sets on Day 1.

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Zack hunts smart before hunting hard on Day 3. Being able to wake up and pull out the spotter is the nice part about living out of your truck.

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Travis uses some natural barriers to get to 30 yards before slipping an arrow through this bedded buck’s chest.

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Travis with his 2014 Montana antelope.

 

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The guys packing out Travis’ goat. Not much weight when it’s split in half.

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Looking for the “Hundred Dollar” buck in the pouring rain.

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Tony being a turd and forcing us to bump him out of the wheat.

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The final stalk. The antelope was bedded below the rock and Zack was able to slip down the hill using the rock as cover. After getting to the rock it was an easy 20 yard downhill shot that ended our day with the 2nd tag being filled.

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Zack with his 2014 speedgoat.

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The final pack out and the lightest we’ll have all year.

If you have never bowhunted antelope I’d highly encourage it.  When we set out on Day 1 I told Travis that I didn’t feel very deadly.  I hadn’t hunted in months and it was awesome to get back out and start hunting again with the bow in hand.  By the end of the trip we definitely felt ready to tackle just about anything we could encounter come elk and deer season.  Good luck to everyone this year!  And thanks to the companies we work with that make some of the best gear out there – Vortex OpticsBear ArcheryMystery RanchSitka GearYETI CoolersFHF GearDanner BootsTrophy Taker

-Zack

Our scouting  before season was paying off, as we marked rubs, fresh sign, and wallows on our GPS. The next morning we scouted another new area and found plenty of fresh rubs and beds, where large bulls had pissed and marked their home.  The area was looking good and we headed back into town to hang out with our family and gather supplies for opening day.

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While at home our Dad convinced us to take him out archery elk hunting for his very first time.  We told him we would be sitting a wallow all day and would require a lot of patience.  He didn’t care, he just wanted experience the hunt and the plans were made.  We checked the weather one last time before heading back into the mountains.  The forecast was looking iffy.  Opening day looked as if we might get scattered showers, continuing through Sunday night.  Zack and I unloaded the truck, flung some last minute arrows, and prepared ourselves for the following days sit.

Ultimate Steel

The next morning my alarm sounded off and almost instantly I saw headlights pull up behind my truck.  An older man walked up, asked my Dad where he was hunting and proceeded to say “I’m sitting that same spot”.  It was kinda a bummer being there all night and to have some guy just charge out in front of you to go sit where we had originally planned to sit our father for opening day.  We made the best of the situation and decided to have our Dad sit the wallow Zack and I had planned to hunt.  We bushwacked into our location, hoping for a wind from the west.  We snuck into the area, Zack and myself setting up in a small ground blind we had built this summer, which was only big enough for two people.  With no choice we set our Dad on the north end in a small area of trees.

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The wind blew out of the south most of the day, which was not the wind we were looking for.  The only thing we saw all day from 6am-745pm was two hunters.  Opening Day was a wrap. My Dad was more than satisfied, and headed home that evening.

stars

The next morning we pulled the same routine, same location.  This time the guy didn’t waste his time hiking back in through our campsite.  As we finished loading the truck with our gear, we started to hear the sound of rain drops.  The weather had showed up, and it was not going to be pretty.  Zack and I hustled into our raingear and made the hike into our ground blinds.  The wind was once again coming out of the south.  With no choice we sat on the north end of the wallows, taking cover under some large trees.  It was time to wait, and the wall of rain thickened.  About a half hour into the sit and we heard our first daylight bugle.  Faint bugles could be heard throughout the morning, and I assumed the bulls would swing by the wallow.  Soon enough I could tell the elk were working farther away, and I decided to bugle.  I was getting consistent response, but decided to hold our position and not risk totally frying our camera gear chasing bulls in the rain.  The bugles slowly faded as late morning hit.  No dice.  Zack and I held out until 1230pm, before making the decision to head back to camp and try to judge the weather for the afternoon hunt.

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The rain had calmed around 4pm, and we headed into the general area where we heard those bulls move earlier that morning.  I set up at various locations, calling with no bugles in response.  Once again the rain had picked back up and it looked like thunderstorms rolling over the mountain.  We decided to hike back through some old timber and hopefully call a bull in from cover.  We found plenty of great sign, but we failed to encounter a bull.

Rain, sitka

The next morning we again ventured into an area where we felt we had a good chance of calling a bull in.  This part of Montana is nasty.  The brush is thick and seeing an elk doesn’t happen on a daily basis.  This morning was particularly nasty because we needed to be silent in the area we would be calling, so we hiked raingear free.  The brush was still dripping wet from the weather from the day before.  Once again we had a downright miserable hike, soaking wet.  We heard one small bugle, and took a handful of spills on the slick downfall.  Beaten we headed back to the truck midday.

The afternoon was slightly more pleasant, the sun peaked his head out and dried up some of the water.  I decided to head down another ridge within a mile of our wallow.  The area was littered with monster rubs, some fresh, some old, but the elk still didn’t vocalize that evening.  It seemed the rut was still a week away.

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That night we checked the forecast, which was calling for sunny weather with a high of 75F.  I knew the elk hadn’t hit the wallow recently, and with the wet weather transitioning back to hot, I felt like the wallow could be a great option for day 4. That was the plan, back to the wallow in the am!

Zack and I chose to hike into the wallow from a different direction that morning.  Hoping to maybe locate a bull on the way in.  The route proved longer and we didn’t hear a single bugle.  Once again the  wind was coming out of the south!  Sitting in the trees and not being able to sit either of the blinds we had built was a little frustrating.  All morning was silent, other than the hundreds of squirrels chirping and chucking pine cones around our location.  I motioned for my bow multiple times, thinking an elk was coming.  Nope, just pine cones flying out of the trees hitting logs and branches.

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We caught up on some reading, soaking in the hot weather and drying out our gear.  We rotated taking small naps as the afternoon progressed.  Around 5pm I thought I heard a very light bugle coming from the timber to the southwest.  “Zack did you hear that bugle?” I whispered.    “No,” he replied.  I checked the wind, which was now coming out of the north.  “Zack the wind switched, lets move the decoy and sit the blind on the south end”.

I grabbed the decoy, moved it to the east side of the wallow and we got comfortable in our best blind at that location.  I had to plan on setting up for a bull coming from the southwest, and I hoped I wasn’t just imagining I heard a bugle.  We sat and waited.  About 30 minutes later I heard that distinct rumble of brush.  “Zack somethings coming,” as I sat upright and grabbed my bow.  Silence was all I heard for the next couple minutes, until I finally saw long browtines poke through the brush to our left.  My adrenaline hit, this was awesome!!  The bull worked slowly into the water, raking his horns in the muddy water a mere 70 yards from our blind.  Zack followed the bull with the camera as he wallowed and eventually laid down in the water at 65yards.  I shifted to my right in the blind, giving me a clear view of the bull.  The bull stayed there, enjoying his muddy bed for a good 6 minutes.  I ranged the nearest clump of grass as a marking point, 63yards. The bull stood, and I drew back.  He faced away from me instantly, giving me just a view of his butt.  I held full draw for 1minute 15seconds, almost letting down once.  The bull turned perfectly broadside, dragging his horns in the mud.  I held my sixty pin, settled for 7 seconds, felt 99.9% sure of the shot and squeezed off.  I heard the smack as the bull took off towards our blind!  I quickly mouthed two cow calls and nocked another arrow.  The bull slowed to a walk only 35 yards away as blood flowed from the exit wound.  The bull wobbled and tipped over only 30 yards from us.  It was over! Finally I had arrowed my first bull!  I sat there in disbelief, still having an arrow ready in case something happened.  The bull quickly expired and I still sat there, wondering if it was all real.

Bull Down

I approached my bull completely in awe of its amazing characteristics.  He was a true dark timber bull.

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My #1 archery goal had finally been achieved, four years in the making.   I studied the bulls muddy horns, which had great mass and unique tines.  After looking the bull over I  searched for my arrow and to my amazement it was floating in the wallow!  As I fished the arrow out of the water, I noticed large wolf tracks in the mud from the night before.

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Zack and I snapped photos as we transitioned to the real work, cutting up the bull.  We used the gutless method to butcher the elk, hanging the two front quarters in a tree to avoid losing meat to the large number of bears and mountain lions in the area.

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Zack and I loaded our packs with the de-boned hind quarters, backstraps, and tenderloins.  Our packs rang well over 75lbs with our gear and meat.  The journey in the dark began, as we crossed downfall and brush, using our GPS for direction.  Soon we were heading the wrong direction as the satellite was putting us in the wrong location.  S*#%!  We hit walls of brush, impassable with our heavy loads, backtracking and cussing as we crossed nastly 3.5ft tall snags and downfall.  I finally busted out my iPhone and used the “my location” GPS function.  The iPhone instantly showed our location on the satellite imagery.  Back on track, we eventually made our way through the timber, safely making it back to the truck at 1:15am. I don’t know why the Garmin GPS satellite was misrepresenting our location, but I’m glad we had a backup source for direction.

After a short 4 hours of sleep, we busted back into the kill location, hearing bugles echoing around us.  Zack and I  loaded our packs once again and ventured back into the thick brush with the final load.  I battled every tree, branch, and log that morning.  The rack did not find its way smoothly through that environment.  I have no idea how those bulls travel through the brush so silently, but they are truly masters of their domain.

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We let out some final war cries as the last load made it to the truck.  To be able to notch my elk tag by the fourth day was unreal.  That morning it really resonated with me how amazing the elk hunting experience is.  To be able to enjoy it with your best friend and brother is pretty special.

-Travis

This past December we got the chance to collaborate with an amazing Bozeman based company, Seacat Creative.  Seacat Creative owner, Mark Seacat, asked Zack and myself to put together a Sitka film from the footage he shot on Carmen Island with the Foss family.  Mark captured some decent footage.  We had 5 days to put the film together.  Right away we had our hands full organizing foreign footage.  This was our first time piecing together a film with video that we had not shot first hand.

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Adam Foss and Steven Drake would be helping the process by helping create storyboards and recording voiceover.  Adam Foss and Mark Seacat had a first person account of the whole desert sheep hunt, so their input was critical in the creation of Band of 3.  The next week we spent most of our days working til 2am.

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Zack busted out the main sequence, while I worked on audio, motion graphics, and titles for the film.  The long nights were aided with  numerous Salmon Fly Honey Rye beers and the Adam Foss favorite,  a large batch of dark and stormy cocktails.

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Finally after a grueling week, we were in the final stages of post production.  The final cut turned into a film that intertwines hunting and conservation into one inspirational piece. Most people don’t know that we were the editors behind this piece.  Below is Band of 3.

 

-Travis

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Spring in Montana.  It brings beauty and beast to the western half of the state each and every year.  Mostly it’s been beast.  Since Travis killed his bear, we’ve been blasted with rain almost every day.  The state of the weather flips on a dime it seems and the second you think the weather is shaping up, well think again.  The conditions have been making my goal of arrowing a black bear more and more difficult.  With the rain and longer days the grass is green almost everywhere, and it’s making the bears less and less reluctant to stay in the open for long.  Fortunately we’ve still been getting after them and we have upped the bear count to 20 for the year with 7 seen in the last 7 days.  Let’s just say seeing bears doesn’t convert into killing bears.  Often they are a ways off and on the move.  I could have killed at least 4 with a rifle, but the challenge of the bow makes it more intense and rewarding when it’s all said and done.

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The Backroads

The weekend started slow as we left town and drove 30 miles into the mountains.  We were able to glass one clearcut before the rain started coming down and hard.  Soon we were fogged in and had to call it a day.  It’s a bummer when you can’t even get out of the truck, but the mountains make the rules.

The next day we were in a spot we hadn’t hunted this year but knew held bears.  We had ran into two last year doing some elk scouting and there was plenty of open landscape to glass.  About 20 minutes in on our bike Travis made a crazy good spot.  There was a good black bear crossing some rocks and moving up a north facing slope.

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Bear #17

He was about 850 yards across a deep ravine.  We watched him bed down right behind that tree and watched him for a while.  He seemed to be staying put despite it only being 8AM.  We decided we better try to locate him and try to get a shot.  We backtracked on the bikes and went down into a steep ravine before climbing up onto the ridge the bear was bedded on.  We had taken landmarks and knew we only had to go down this ridge about 100 yards.  We slowly started creeping down the ridge.  I knew we were getting close but it was thick.  The wind was perfect, the only problem was we had a bunch of downfall between us and the bears position.  Finally I saw black fur through the trees.  He was still laying down and I could see his butt and legs.  We were only 45 yards away, but there was no shot with all the branches and downed trees.  There was no option of approaching him any other way and getting a clean shot so I kept sneaking forward.  Every step was slow and we were being as quiet as we could be.  Of course a chipmunk decided now was a good time to start screaming at us.  That combined with one tiny, and I mean tiny twig breaking was enough to make this bear sleepily sit up.  I could see him sitting there, groggy, and contemplating laying back down.  Well his intuition had the better of him, and he slowly stood and walked back down and to our left.  There was never a shot and we were only 37 yards away at that point.  We slowly crept down the hill only to never see him again.  It was a letdown but it felt great putting such a stalk on a mature wild animal.  I truly believe this is the best way to hunt, and I hope you’ll never see us hunt from a treestand over bait.  I feel that bears should be hunted fair chase, spot and stalk just like every other animal unless they become a problem or there’s zero open terrain to catch a bear in.  It’s just seems like the American way to throw out your bait and sit there and pick your bear.  You just learn so much more being out there, seeing new areas, learning about animal movements, and experiencing God’s country.  It’s also going to be so rewarding when it comes together.  We left that area and decided to explore some new roads on the other side of the highway.  Well we made it way up in the mountains and decided to get some more time in with the new Razor HD spotting scope before the weather changed.

We found a few new areas that looked promising as far as bear hunting or some elk scouting but it’s still a little brown that high up and the snow is still sticking around.  We both took turns on the scope but only found one lone cow elk bedded in a small cut in the timber.

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We finally packed it up and head back to Missoula.  After a couple hour break we were back up the mountain and glassing more open country.  After about 20 minutes Travis made another solid spot.  He could see a nice blond bear about a mile away.  Ordinarily we would have gone after this bear right away.  On this day we pulled the spotting scope out and took a closer look.  Good thing because it was a sow and two cubs and it saved us a heck of a trek.  We watched them until the weather began to change and we knew it was time to call it a day.

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A beautiful sow and two cubs

The next day we woke up at 545 only to find it raining and foggy.  We’ll looks like we’re sleeping in.  When I got up around 930 it was clear out and sunny.  Uhhhhh ok Montana you win.  Looks like you’ll let us hunt this evening.  Well of course as we start heading out of town the clouds start building.

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Spring storms

About 2 minutes into driving the dirt road it starts pouring rain.  Soon it began to hail and we were surrounded by lightning.  We decided to see if it would pass and reluctantly turned around as it was just too dangerous to get out of the truck.  We rallied some mud puddles and made it about a mile down the road before we stopped to get a few timelapses.  We’ll by the time we had finished some filming it was turning out to be pretty nice again.  We figured we’d drive back up top and at least glass and see if we saw anything pop out of the timber.

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Searching

We continued to glass for about an hour but only were able to spot one lone mule deer doe.  The weather was shifting so much I’m sure most of the animals were seeking cover in the timber and waiting for nicer weather to really come out and feed.

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Things aren’t shaping up to be too great the rest of the week.  It’s raining now and the forecast is calling for 100% tomorrow.  I’m sure we’ll be back at it again this weekend.  It’s coming down to crunch time as this Thursday marks the one week mark until season is over and it’s officially summer fishing.  I hope we can pull it together and get one more chance before it’s over.  If not it’s been an amazing spring and time spent in the mountains is always a blessing.

-Zack