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About three years ago we release Tooth & Fang on Vimeo On Demand.  It was our first full length film and it covered the controversial topic of coyote hunting.  We had been coyote hunting for years and knew why we did it but often met those who knew nothing about it and based their ideas off emotion and not real life truths.  Over almost three years we filmed with ranchers and our hunts to put together what would be Tooth & Fang.  This week we released it on our YouTube channel for free.  You can watch the full film below:

The release this week has been hugely successful and many people have been sharing their support for the film.  Please take the time to watch it and if you like it, share it with your friends.

Zack Boughton

A few years ago I had the idea to make a short 1 minute ad piece that would showcase the work that occurs over the year and the lead up to filling a tag you’ve worked so hard to fill.  That piece would be called “Enjoy The Challenge” and our good friends at Vortex Optics decided to pick it up and be the lead sponsor.  The goal was to slowly build up all the pieces of the process from summer scouting, reloading, working out, eating clean, and then of course hunting, all culminating in a kill and awesome organic meat in the freezer.  The shoot was a blast despite not finding many mature bucks.  Take a look and let us know how you liked it.

And here’s a few stills from the hunt as well.

mule deer, mountains, montana, deer, high country, rifle, wall tent, camp, hunt, hunting

One deer, one to go

mule deer, mountains, montana, deer, high country, rifle, wall tent, camp, hunt, hunting

Glassing was and is the name of the game here

mule deer, mountains, montana, deer, high country, rifle, wall tent, camp, hunt, hunting

Mule Deer Country

mule deer, mountains, montana, deer, high country, rifle, wall tent, camp, hunt, hunting

Travis with his solid mountain mule deer

-Written by Zack Boughton

WorkSharp Pocket knife sharpener, hunting, sharpener

Key Gear from the Field – Worksharp Pocket Knife Sharpener

Every year new gear makes it into our kit. It gets tested and either meets the mark or it doesn’t. I want to start sharing with you guys pieces of gear that we add to our kits that rock. Over the years we have carried small knife sharpeners with us in our kill kits. They helped put an edge on dull knives while in the process of cutting up deer or elk. They worked well enough to help get the job done but never really wowed us either. I recently wrote a blog about knives which you can read HERE. I talked about my progression from a fixed blade knife to a Havalon which is a replaceable blade knife. The reason for the switch was that I couldn’t get my fixed blades sharp enough. Now that I’m able to sharpen a knife to my standards, I’m once again carrying a fixed blade knive.  The only downside, they often need a touch up while you’re breaking down an animal. This September I was with the Trent and Steve from Born and Raised Outdoors on a hunt in Wyoming with Trail and Brady from GoHunt. Trent killed a nice six point bull and the process of breaking it down began. Half way through the work Steve pulled out the WorkSharp Pocket Knife Sharpener to touch up his knife.

worksharp, pocket sharpener, hunting, elk

Steve tuning up his knife

Mine was getting dull so I asked to borrow it. A few strokes on the ceramic rod and I was back in business. I was impressed. It not only got my knife edge smoking sharp but was lightweight and a bright yellow so that it would be hard to lose in the field. After that day it went directly into my kill kit.

worksharp, pocket sharpener, hunting, elk

If you carry a fixed blade knife into the field and don’t have a sharpener currently you should definitely check them out. You can view the product and learn more at www.worksharptools.com/pocket-knife-sharpener. And Christmas is just around the corner, for only $14.95 these make for an awesome stocking stuffer.

Zack Boughton

knife, hunting, sharp

A sharp knife is a safe knife. That’s definitely true and regardless of your hobbies or lifestyle there’s a solid chance you use knives on a regular basis. Whether that’s cutting meat in your kitchen, filleting a fish at the boat launch or deboning an elk deep in the wilderness. As society has adapted over the years some of the simple skills we should know have slowly eroded. Take sharpening a knife for example. Go back 20-30 years and it would have been a basic skill. Today millennials exist and we have electric sharpeners and disposable blades and a society that expects things to be done for us. I’ll be honest I’ve never been great at sharpening a knife sharp enough to shave hairs and I’ll be the first to admit it. As a hunter a sharp knife is key especially when you have an elk down and the only way it’s coming out is on your back.

elk hunting, zack boughton, idaho, elk, archery, diy, public lands

Zack beginning the process of breaking down an elk in the field

As Travis and I started hunting we used some different knives on our hunts and always wished they were built a little different in one way or another. A few years later we met James Behring, a custom knife maker based in Missoula, MT. Through our friendship we eventually came up with the idea of designing our own hunting knife. After over a year of testing we finished our design and named the knife The Outlaw. You can read more about that process HERE.

the outlaw, hunting, knife, knives, outdoors, montana, wild

One of the first few Outlaws made

That year we used the Outlaw on multiple hunts and were stoked on it with one exception. It ideally needed to be sharpened after cutting up an elk and neither myself or Travis was exceptional at the process. I purchased a Spyderco sharpener and tried that but couldn’t get a sharp edge that I was happy with. Now I’m sure that sharpener does the job just fine but I couldn’t manage to master that thing after sharpening dozens of knives. I’d often drop by James’ shop and have him sharpen it but that wasn’t always time effective with my schedule or James’.

James behring, knife maker, custom, knife, hunting, missoula, montana

James grinding and refining a blades edge

Eventually we reverted to just carrying a Havalon knife. I wasn’t a fan of disposable blades but it was sharp and light and so I conceded. Now a Havalon has it’s place. Caping an animal or any detail work needed, the knife is hard to beat. On the other hand, trying to tackle some of the meatier places on an elk resulted in broken blades, blades pulling off and if you use it long enough, some nasty cuts.

havalon, knife, elk, montana

Travis tackling trimming some blood shot meat off an elk front quarter with a Havalon

hunting knives, the outlaw, havalon

The Outlaw (fixed blade, beefy) and a Havalon (replaceable blade, fragile)

This spring I got my hands on a Worksharp Ken Onion Knife Sharpener as well as a Guided Field Sharpener. My girlfriend has been telling me how dull all my kitchen knives are for a while and so I got straight to work. The Ken Onion Sharpener was so easy to use. To get started I looked through the manual to make sure I knew how to use the sharpener properly. From there I took their guidelines on what type of belts to use and how many strokes on each side based on a style of knife and got to sharpening. The first knife off the sharpener was razor sharp. I was impressed.

Worksharp, knife, sharpener, hunting, montana, deer, elk

Sharpening a blade

Some cool features of the sharpener are the easily adjustable sharpening guide giving you a range between 15 and 30 degrees, premium belts, an adjustable speed motor, and a blade guide.

Worksharp, knife, sharpener, hunting, montana, deer, elk

LEFT) Angle adjustment CENTER) Motor speed adjustment RIGHT) Sharpening a blade

For me I have been using this sharpener to get a razor sharp edge on my main hunting knife and my kitchen knives.  The included manual goes through the process but most knives I sharpen require grinding with the three main belts.

Worksharp, knife, sharpener, hunting, montana, deer, elk

Extra belts and the manual that specifies best practices for sharping all kinds of different knives and tools.

The sequence of order is generally 6-10 strokes on one side and then the other with the X65 belt, 6-10 strokes alternating between sides with the X22 belt and then finishing with as many strokes as necessary on the X4 belt.  For me this has resulted in a razor sharp edge every single time.  I’ll be honest it has been rewarding to be able to get my knives shaving hair sharp after struggling for many years.

The other sharpener I have been using is the Guided Field Sharpener and honestly I’ve used this much more often. I have one in the door of my truck and another in my hunting gear box.

hunting, gear, box, worksharp

Having one in my hunting gear box is key so I know I can always sharpen my hunting knives and broadheads if necessary on a hunt

Using it is simple and the sharpener has a diversity of surfaces to aid in sharpening knives, tools, hooks and more.  The sharpener has four main sides.  There are two diamond plates, one course and one fine to help shape and refine the edge of your blade.  There are two ceramic rods and a leather strop.  Under the diamond plates is a broadhead sharpener for bowhunters who need to sharpen and re-tighten their broadheads.

Worksharp Guided Field Sharpener

To sharpen my knives such as my hunting knife The Outlaw, I simply just start on the smooth grit and give about 5-6 strokes on each side. From there you go to the carbide sharpener which refines the blade edge. The carbide cylinder has 3 sides to it 1) coarse grit 2) fine grit and 3) a fish hook sharpener. I generally just use the fine grit side for another 5-6 strokes on each side and from there go to the leather strop to finish.

More of a visual learner?  Watch the video we made about this same story and process.

Between these two sharpeners I know have no excuse to not have a sharp knife. You can learn more about both sharpeners as well as the Worksharp brand at www.worksharptools.com and by following them on Instagram and Facebook. Their products are very affordable and would make a great addition to anyone’s gear.

Written by: Zack Boughton

REBOUNDING FROM DEFEAT

“He was right there…..” I beat my fist on the ground and looked up at Jordan, embarrassed, upset and elated all at the same time. We had been working an area I’d just found a few days prior and had already passed on two bulls. Our day was going well until a dream archery bull spun and ran out of my life. Lets backtrack a few days though. Two days earlier I’d been just a few ridges over with my girlfriend Maddie. I wanted her to experience the thrill of archery elk hunting and we were lucking out as I had just found a great bull and him and a few others were all bugling. We had bumped him the night before and relocated him the next morning. We slowly tailed the herd as it was too noisy and open to try to move in close and call. As we crept up the ridge I could see him raking the ground about 120 yards up in the timber. He was a dandy and my heart beat increased instantly. We took the boots and backpacks off and started a sneak attack. Soon I saw a cow and she forced us to stay ultra low as she was bedded and facing our direction. As I neared the 90 yard mark the bull swung back around to chase off a spike. He then pushed the cow that had been facing us back towards the rest of the herd. Long story short either another part of the herd saw us or smelled us as we tailed him and they ran out of our lives. We went back to the packs and could hear bulls bugling across a nasty, nasty valley. I figured there was no sense in calling to them as it was almost 10AM and they’d soon bed. Maddie urged me to bugle and so I fired off about 3 bugles in 5 minutes. About 10 minutes later we could see a tree swaying just over the ridge. It was a bull raking a tree. The raking stopped and I patiently waited. Nothing came up the hill so I fired off a bugle and sat waiting with an arrow nocked. Moments later a rack appeared over the crest of the hill. A nice six point bull appeared and was coming towards me and too my left. I was kneeled down and as the bull passed behind a tree I drew and waited. The bull walked into my opening and turned uphill. I cow called and stopped him at 27 yards. He was facing me at a very hard quartering to angle, almost straight on but not quite. There was a good pocket in front of his left shoulder and I took my time to settle my pins on my spot. The bow went off and the bull quickly spun and disappeared. I’d seen my arrow as he turned and it looked like I’d hit him in the front of his shoulder with no penetration. Agghhhhhhh!!! All that practice all summer and I’d somehow screwed up a chip shot. Low right. Dang it.

bowhunting, montana, elk

Settle pin and slow squeeze

I knew sometimes the arrow will pull out when the bull runs and I hoped I was wrong and had got better penetration. We decided to wait 4 hours and then go look for blood and the arrow. As we waited I proceeded to bugle another 6 point into 25 yards. He got the pass for obvious reasons. Four hours later I found my arrow just yards from the point of impact, broke off right at the back of the insert. It was a direct hit on the shoulder blade with zero penetration. The bull should be alright just with a bit of new hardware.

bowhunting, montana, elk

Yaaaaaa, that’s not any penetration.

Fast forward to the next day, it’s 5:30pm and we are on top of a ridge where we thought a bull had bedded in from the morning. We slowly worked down the ridge calling occasionally. Finally I got a response down to my right. I knew the wind would be bad if I called him to me now and we quickly pushed lower. As we dropped about a 1000’ I bugled or chuckled at him about 4 times. Each time he responded allowing me to pinpoint his location and also slowly get him worked up. As soon as I got to his level I fired off a bugle which he quickly responded to. He was close and before i could have Jordan move downwind he had pushed his cows up into eyesight just 80 yards away. We both knelt quickly to stay out of sight. I could just see his horn tips. He looked around and then turned to go back the way he’d come. I slowly turned and ripped a bugle behind me. Instantly his cows ran up on the bench we were on and to our right. I shifted on my knees towards them assuming the bull would follow. Right as I asked Jordan how far the cows were I could see horns moving to my left. The bull was going to parallel our bench just below us. I quickly drew before his eyes crested the hill. He soon walked into full sight but with limbs in the way. I knew I’d have to pan with him as he closed the distance and thought at such a close distance he would key in on the slight movement. He was soon inside 25 yards with only small windows between limbs. I knew if he stopped it would give me the split second to find my gap and then shoot. But he kept coming. I had one last clear window and a cow call in my mouth. Unfortunately my brain had expected the bull to stop and look for his challenger by now and with yesterday’s events in the back of my head I wasn’t going to shoot until he stopped. Before I knew it he’d passed my gap and then hit my wind. Boom he ran off and I cow called and stopped him at 25. Of course there was a tree over his vitals. He then spun and ran off and over the mountain. I hate bowhunting. I’d just had a big, big bull at 15 yards and didn’t even get an arrow in the air. Deep breaths. I was mad, disappointed, and embarrassed since Jordan had just watched me royally mess up what should have been a slam dunk call in. I vented and then told myself it was an awesome experience and I was blessed to just be here. In the back of my head I was upset though.

bowhunting, montana, elk, big bull, archery, public land

Ouch….

It’s days like this that we dream of but moments of failure that make them unforgettable for all the wrong reasons. I know from years past these moments can quickly ruin a season. The mental side of it makes you rush from that point onward. You start thinking, “I should have already killed a bull, I need to get another opportunity quick,” “Time is running out,” “There’s only so much of the rut left I need to be aggressive from here on out,” and so forth. Being that close to killing makes you rush to try to get back to that point. That rush though often means you screw up well before you ever got an opportunity to let an arrow fly. You soon quickly add failure to failure and end up wasting days in the field rushing to try to kill your elk. You lose the ability to enjoy the experience and just focus on the kill. After years of hunting I’ve learned to slow down and reset my mind after a failure. Learn from it and count your blessing that it even happened in the first place. It could always be worse and hunting is more about failure than it is about success. How you rebound from those failures will determine the kind of hunter you are and show you more about your character as a human being. I’ve come to respect and appreciate failure when it happens and take the time to scrutinize it and learn from it. Don’t just try to forget about it. Scrutinize every detail of that encounter. What went right? What went wrong? Store that info so that you’re better on the next encounter. And remember, it’s just hunting. We are so blessed to just set foot in the mountains that we should have a smile on our face punched tag or not. Being able to rebound from failure will make the rest of your season more enjoyable and you’ll also have a better chance of filling your tag when the next opportunity presents itself.

Zack Boughton

Six years. It seemed like forever before I drew my first rifle antelope tag. Finally it would be me behind the trigger on a Montana antelope hunt and stoke was high. I’d been on a few other rifle antelope hunts and they always were a blast ending with a good goat on the ground and tasty meat in the cooler.

antelope hunting montana, maddie sieler, travis boughton

Maddie with her 2017 buck and Travis with his from 2015

SCOUTING

Some hunts I try to get some intel on and others I just go in blind and use my skills built over the years to try to find success. I chose the later on this one. It was just me, my gear and some maps. It would be a lot of miles but I knew if I spent the time driving and glassing, driving and glassing I’d find some good bucks worthy of my tag. The first day had me rolling into my unit about 5:30pm. Just enough time to look over a little country and start inventorying bucks. That night I found the first good buck.

montana, antelope, hunting, rifle, public land, diy

I really liked the look of this buck from head on with both cutters and horn tips curving in

I knew he wasn’t huge but he wasn’t small either. A few text messages confirmed that he was a good goat. I had 4 more days before opener so I knew I’d keep searching. The next morning I woke to rain and fog. Visibility was pretty minimal.

montana, antelope, hunting, rifle, public land, diy

I’d actually camped in a spot where I’d hopped to hike down into a coulee and glass for mule deer. With the fog I decided to hit the road and move to my next target area for antelope. After about 3 hours of driving dirt roads I’d only turned up a few smaller bucks. Antelope seemed to be a rare commodity in country that seemed like ideal habitat for many, many more animals than was present. My map was a combination of mule deer spots and antelope spots. I’d drawn this tag with the intent of scouting for mule deer as well and before I knew it I was again in a spot that screamed mule deer. With fresh snow on the ground and a stiff 20mph wind I wasn’t excited to get out of the truck but finally I manned up and hit the hills.

montana, antelope, hunting, rifle, public land, diy

Muley country

Soon I was at the head of the coulee and it was much deeper than I’d expected. As I crest over the top I spotted multiple bucks bedded on the other side. A quick look through the spotter revealed a few 4 point bucks but nothing over 150”.

montana, antelope, hunting, rifle, public land, diy, mule deer, buck

The “big” buck, pretty typical for Eastern Montana.

Pretty standard for Montana. They really need to do something about such a long rifle season and allowing it to run straight through the rut. It’s made for poor age classes of deer in much of the state and good genetics quickly get shot out. I snuck closer and decided to make a quick stalk on them for practice. As I got to the last ridge I looked below me. There was a smaller 4 point buck bedded facing away. I quickly ranged him at 40 yards and drew holding my pin on his vitals. It wasn’t easy holding in the wind but was good practice. I let down and headed up the hill looking for the main group of bucks. As I crested up higher the buck below me caught my wind and spooked up the draw collecting about a dozen does. That group stopped on the hill and I could see my group of bucks was now on alert. They were just 66 yards away. They slowly crept up over the top of the hill before fleeing to the next draw. Oh well, at least he wasn’t a big one. I glassed a few other pockets before heading back to the truck and going back to searching for antelope. That night I found one antelope buck. It was slim pickings out here but at least it was a buck and not a terrible one either.

montana, antelope, hunting, rifle, public land, diy

One lone buck in dozens of square miles of perfect habitat

The next morning I kept moving west headed for new country. Right off the bat I spotted a few groups in a field. A quick rip down the road put me just a few hundred yards from them and I threw up the spotter. There was one buck in the group that I’d say was a shooter.

montana, antelope, hunting, rifle, public land, diy

The group’s leader. Unfortunately never to be seen again

I watched him for a while before they trotted off to the north end of the field. I kept searching that day only to find a few other small bucks. Over the last month I’ve been working on getting a new rifle all dialed in and setup for mountain elk and deer hunts. It’s a Weatherby Ultra Light Mark V in the 300 Weatherby Mag caliber. Overkill for antelope but this hunt would be in-the-field practice which I wasn’t going to say no to. I needed to double check my zero and then shoot 400 and 500.

montana, antelope, hunting, rifle, public land, diy, weatherby, 300 mag

Trying to verify my zero at 200 in a strong wind. Not fun

Of course the wind was ripping so I tried to find a spot where it was at my back. I shot and quickly found my zero wasn’t exactly on. Weird, I’d just shot it at the range a week ago and it appeared to be on. I fiddled with it and adjusted it to the best of my ability given the winds. I wasn’t ultra confident in it but would have tomorrow to shoot more before the opener. That night was a hearty dinner of mule deer backstrap courtesy of Maddie and some mashed potatoes. The next morning I decided I needed to shoot the rifle while the wind was calm. I quickly verified my zero at 300 yards on my coyote steel. First shot was money and actually blew a hole right through the steel. Ouch.

steel target, hole, hunting, rifle

I’m pretty sure my bullet will penetrate on an antelope

From there I drove down the road to some state land and shot 400 and 500 to verify my drop at each distance. First shot hits at each yardage told me all I needed to know and my confidence was restored after yesterdays tough shooting.

That evening I went back to the area I’d seen one of the better bucks and glassed from a high vantage point.  I saw antelope spread out over a 2-3 mile range and were well back off the road.  With an idea of where to expect to see antelope I found a camp spot and prepared for opening morning.

THE HUNT

The next morning started with a beautiful sunrise but no antelope in the usual spots by the main road.

montana, sunrise, prairie

I drove back around onto a county road and started glassing into a field they had been calling home.  A few small bucks showed up in the field down low but they were small.  A drive further down the road revealed two other larger groups of antelope, but all the bucks appeared to be medium sized through my spotter.  I wasn’t sold on a stalk yet and decided to check one last area before going and hiking to the back end of the public section.  As I pulled up on top I looked down to my left and saw a buck.  He was on the small side and I decided to go up and turn around and see if some hiking could produce something larger.  After turning around I was coming back down the road when I looked back down where the smaller buck had been.  There now were four other antelope and one buck that looked to be worth a closer look.  They were just about a 1000 yards off the road and I quickly grabbed my stuff and headed down on the back side of a ridge.  I thought the ridge would have a lower field on the backside where the antelope had fed to but I was wrong.  It actually just came straight up onto the field by the road.  By the time I got down there and peeked over the antelope where now up on the flat only a few hundred yards off the road.  Unfortunately I couldn’t get close enough for a shot and they crossed the road and ran way out into a large flat field.  Dang, I should have just stayed up by the road and could have easily shot a buck just a few hundred yards from the truck.  Oh well.  I put the spotter on the buck and verified that he was right on the cusp of what I was hoping to shoot.

I watched them feed off and drove around to start a hike back into the area I felt they were headed.  Forty five minutes later I was hiking up a draw trying to gain some ground yet remaining low and staying out of sight.  I looked up and spotted white up ahead of me.  I pulled up the binos only to see that it was a coyote hunting his way down the draw.  I rarely pass on the chance to hunt a coyote and I quickly put a bullet in the chamber and grabbed my distress call from my cargo pocket.  I knew if he was going to come it wouldn’t take much coaxing.  I blew on the call just a few times and got ready.  Soon I could see a head bounding over the grass.  He came down intently looking for the dying critter he had just heard.  I put the crosshairs on the coyotes chest and started to pull.  Nothing.  My safety was on and before I knew it he was coming closer.  The coyote was on a mission and I thought for sure he would key in on me sitting behind my backpack in the knee high grass.  I panned my gun with him as he swung to my left side.  He was oblivious to my movement and was soon about to hit my wind just 30 yards away.  I barked and he finally stopped.  I aimed low and squeezed one off.  He spun a few circles biting behind his shoulder and then was dead.  I’d made a perfect shot and the new Weatherby had it’s first kill.

coyote hunting montana, montana, coyote, hunting

I took a few photos and looked the coyote over.  His buddy came up on the hill while I was dinking around and I could have shot at him but he was skylined and I only had 7 more rounds of ammo for my hunt.  I passed and soon had my pack back on and was headed to find these antelope.  Soon enough I spotted the main group.  I backed around and shortly was within 400 yards of about 15 different antelope and 5-6 bucks.  The problem I soon had was that they were all smaller than I had hoped for.  The stalk and being able to get within range gave me confidence that I would be able to put the hammer on one as soon as I could locate a shooter.

antelope, rifle scope, hunting

A small buck with no idea how luck he is

antelope buck

A better buck that decided to peel off the main group. I’d end up passing on him later in the day.

I went back to the truck and made lunch and considered my options.  I’d seen 2 if not three bucks in this area that I’d shoot and I just needed to find one.  It was too early to relocate and I’d noticed that a portion of the antelope were using an adjacent state section that I needed to drive around to access.  I couldn’t glass into it but figured it would be worth a shot for the afternoon hunt.  I drove around and again grabbed my pack and gun and headed out.  I dropped into the bottom and soon was glassing up mule deer bucks and does across the drainage.  Nothing special and they just watched me from a distance as I proceeded down the draw.  Soon I saw a buck just a few hundred yards out.  He saw me at the same time and stood up.  I was able to put my spotter on him and noticed he was the same buck I’d seen earlier that left the large group.  He’d moved about a mile and half and was by himself.  I deemed him not quite a shooter and started walking towards him.  He wasn’t too scared and would run off to about 2-300 yards and just snort and blow at me.  I kept going and wished he would give it up and just run off, little did I know he would soon come in handy.  As I slowly rounded the next bend I saw a buck bedded down the draw facing me.  I quickly ducked down and worked up about 50 yards to the last roll of terrain I could get to before being exposed.  As I peeked up over it I saw the buck on his feet and moving to my right.  He apparently had seen me or heard the other buck and was inquisitive.  At this point he was looking towards the other buck behind me and too my right but circling my position and not coming closer. He was just over 500 yards out and with the wind this was just too far.  I knew I needed to get closer or else he would run off and that would be it.  There was one knob down below me about 150 yards and I knew if I could get there I could make a shot.  He’d see me but I didn’t have any other options.  I grabbed my gun and back bag and started jogging down to the hill.  The buck looked at me and I soon was out of sight behind the rise.  I snuck up and quickly laid down on the hill top as the buck looked my way.  I was breathing heavy and thought the buck would run very soon.  I hustled to range him and get a round in the chamber.  He was 360 yards out and as soon as I got him in my scope he started moving.  This time though he was coming closer.  I don’t know if he was mad the other buck he’d heard and saw was in his area or though I was possibly another antelope but he was going to find out.  Soon he was at 300 yards and I put the gun on him again.  Before I could settle he was on the move again.  He stopped about twenty yards later and this time I was ready.

My crosshairs were on him and I knew the wind would cause a slight shift in my point of impact.  I held 1 MOA left for wind and squeezed one off.  The shot was crisp and in my follow through I saw the buck drop right in his tracks from the frontal shot out of the 300 Weatherby Mag.  I’d done it!!! I’ve hunted antelope a lot with my bow and with other people but this was the first time I’d got to kill one with a rifle and it was a blast!  I gathered my stuff and was soon headed to check him out.

zack boughton, antelope, buck

I shot some photos and then proceeded to cut up the antelope.  The temps were perfect for cooling the meat and flies were nonexistent!  Soon the meat was off and I was ready to load up.

antelope, montana, hunting

kifaru, antelope, montana, hunting

Kifaru 22 Mag is hands down my favorite day pack

Soon the Kifaru 22 Mag was loaded with all my gear and my buck.  I hoisted the pack and began the mile and a half back to the truck.  Life was good and the setting sun made for a beautiful end to an awesome day.

montana, antelope, hunting

This hunt ended on a high note.  I had many points leading up to this that had me down though.  From no visibility, to snow and cold temps, to few antelope, muddy roads, gun sight in issues, bucks disappearing and lots of gas burned.  A hunt with no challenges is not much of a hunt and to end up on top with a respectable buck in the cooler made what started as a tough hunt one that I will remember and cherish forever.

montana, antelope, hunting

Mud and my 2018 antelope buck

Written by Zack Boughton

Archery season here in Montana has been a blur and September is almost gone.  As I look at the calendar rifle antelope looms and will be here quickly.  October 6th is the opener and I plan on being there and ready.  So yesterday I decided to go put some more trigger time in behind the Weatherby and try to find out which bullet it would shoot best.  Often a gun will shoot one type of bullet or even one weight of bullet much better than others.  With 3 new boxes of ammo, each a different bullet style, I set out to go attempt to shoot some 200 yard groups.

rifle, mountain, hunting, weatherby

Now shooting groups is actually a fairly difficult thing in my opinion.  It’s very results oriented and one bad squeeze messes up the group.  Eliminating the human error is all but impossible.  I tend to shoot better at longer distances so I like to shoot groups at 200 yards if possible.  This day I had three rounds to test out.  A) 180 grain Accubond B) 180 grain Norma Spitzer & C) 180 grain Nosler Partition

weatherby, mountain, rifle

Bullet testing and a trophy bull for motivation

I started out by cleaning my rifle as it’s only had about 40 rounds through it and I’m trying to help break in the barrel even though it is hand lapped.  I shot a round to clear the barrel of oil and then started in on my 200 yard groups.  Each group I’d shoot 3-4 rounds.  Sometimes you know when you made a bad shot and I like to eliminate that shot and shoot a fourth so that I don’t have to restart on a new group and burn through more ammo.  I shot a group with each different ammo and then cleaned my rifle once it had cooled down.  I also made sure to let the barrel cool down some before continuing through my groups.  I shot my first round off the concrete bench but found out it had a little wobble in it.  I was wondering why my reticle was moving left to right on me and that was it haha.  For the second round I laid prone off my bipod.

From my first round the 180 grain Nosler Partition was the easy winner.  I didn’t take an official measurement but it was well within the 1 MOA standard and close to a 1/2 MOA group.  Plenty good for a rifle that I’ll rarely push past 5-600 yards in a hunting scenario.  Now between groups I’d been shooting my other rifle, a 300WSM at distance trying to dial in my ballistics through my Kestrel, so by the time I got into round 2 of my groups my shoulder was getting a touch sore and my shooting seemed to go downhill a bit.  I still put some good rounds downrange but had more flyers it seemed.  The Spitzer and the Nosler Partition were close and the Accubond just didn’t perform.  To end my session I took two of the Nosler partitions and took shots at metal gongs at 458 and at 620 yards and got hits on both.  I’ll be shooting another round here in the next week or so to pick between the Partition and the Spitzer and then from there zero in and start extending the distance.  With antelope coming and general rifle just around the corner I’ve got my work cut out for me but things are looking promising given I get a few more quality days in at the range.  Setting up and getting acquainted with a new rifle is a process but doing it right from the beginning makes all the difference and helps you develop a level of confidence with your rifle that will translate to more one shot kills in the field.

weatherby, rifle, hunting, montana, kestrel

Zack Boughton

The ultralight craze has been going on for years now, ounces turn into pounds as they say!  Much of the advancement in technology that saves us weight is and has been a good thing.  That said, there is a fine line between counting ounces, and maintaining performance and comfort.  Take backpacks for example, I’d definitely go 1-1.5 pounds heavier to have a pack that feels good on my back and will reward me when I turn my 35-50 pound load into an 80-100 pound load.  Food, cut ounces where you can but if you don’t get the nutrition and calories you need your physical performance will suffer.  A sleeping pad/sleeping bag, lots of weight can be cut here on many guys setups but at the end of the day I pick a pad that gives me the best sleep even if it does weigh an extra 8-16 ounces.  All that said I believe the same theory applies with rifles.  For the past 6 years or so I’ve been hunting with a 300WSM built by Snowy Mountain Rifles.  We picked components that would yield a durable and extremely accurate hunting rifle.  It weighs 12lbs 1oz without ammo so add in bullets and a sling and we’re right around 13lbs.  Not light by any means but a tack driver and something that once you lay down behind it it’s not going to move on you.  The past few years I’ve done more backcountry hunts for multiple days and although I can handle the weight I’d be happy to shave 2-4 pounds off my setup if possible.  This year I decided to build a new Mountain Hunting Rifle, one that would fall more in the middle of too light and too heavy.

THE GUN

Already having a custom rifle I wanted to get my hands on a gun you could purchase over a store counter and see how I liked working with a factory gun.  After some research I finally decided on the Weatherby Mark V Ultra Lightweight in 300 Weatherby Magnum.  This caliber requires a 9 lug bolt and comes in weighing just 6 3/4 pounds.  A few things that attracted me to the rifle were weight, the sub-MOA guarantee, a 54 degree bolt lift, and a hand lapped and fluted barrel.  The rifle also looks great and with a muzzle brake should be a great shooting gun.

Weatherby Mark V Ultra Lightweight, rifle, weatherby, mountain, hunting, lightweight, mountain hunting rifle

COMPONENTS AND SETUP

Getting the rifle is one thing, but setting up the gun to shoot is another.  First was the scope.  I wanted a few things in my scope: durability, high quality glass, and precise and repeatable elevation and windage adjustment.  I decided on going with the Vortex Razor HD AMG 6-24×50.  This scope is made in the USA and is an amazing scope especially with a weight of only 28.8 ounces.

vortex optics, razor hd, amg, built in the us

To mount the scope I decided on an EGW 20MOA Picatinny Rail as my starting point and then Vortex Precision Matched Rings would hold the scope firmly in place.  I also had purchased a Timney trigger in hopes of getting my trigger weight down close to the 1 pound threshold that I’m accustom to.  To finish it off I’d be putting a Triad Tactical check piece on the stock to help get a better cheek weld and still be able to comfortably see through the scope.

To install the optics and trigger I dropped into the Snowy Mountain Rifles Custom Shop and had old friends Greg and Jim help me out.  First things first we tried to install the new Timney trigger and set it to the 1.5 pounds that they advertised.

Jim installing the new trigger

Jim installed the trigger but anytime the trigger was set to less than two pounds the firing pin would go off as the bolt was racked forward.  Not good.  After working with it we decided to see what we could get out of the stock LXX Trigger which was advertised as being able to go to 2.5 pounds.  It had felt great initially and the only reason I wanted a different trigger was that I’m used to shooting a 15oz Jewell trigger and am a big proponent of a light trigger.  Jim worked on re-installing the factory trigger and after some work and testing it was safely pulling right around 2 pounds.  Sweet!

1lb 15.9oz

Greg then threw the rifle in the vice and began the process of mounting up the scope.

tactical gun build, EGW picatinny rail

Lining up the mount points

weatherby, mark v, ultra lightweight, mountain hunting rifle

Level, level and more leveling

After the rail went on the rings were mounted.  We adjusted the scope to fit my eye relief and then began leveling and tightening the rings.  Each ring was tightened accordingly with a torque wrench and soon we were in business.  At this point we added a Flatline Ops 30mm Sniper Accu/Level and called it good.  We took it over to the scale to see what our weight was.

The final measure: 9 pounds 9 ounces without ammo and before we added the cheek piece.  The hunting weight should fall just over 10 pounds.  Now by industry standards this is not an ultra light rifle but in my opinion it’s a lightweight rifle ready for multi-day backpacking trips in the mountains of Montana, Idaho and Wyoming.

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INITIAL THOUGHTS

At the start of this process I was shooting for a build that would be in the 9 pound range so I went a little over my goal, but after shooting it I think it will be the perfect blend of weight, accuracy, and durability.  I’ve shot guns in the 8 pound range and to be honest they are hard to keep on target from hunting positions if you don’t have a lot of practice with them.  My 300WSM is on the heavier side of the spectrum but when you lay down on either bipods or a backpack, it’s rock solid and all you need to worry about is leveling the rifle and a smooth squeeze.  That has made for lots of perfect one shot kills over the years.  I’m hoping this new rifle will do the same while shaving about three precious pounds.  On my way home from Missoula I decided to get out and put a few rounds through the gun to start getting acquainted with the rifle and my new setup.  One thing that I quickly noticed after shooting a few rounds was the 54 degree bolt action.

weatherby mark v ultra lightweight, building a lightweight hunting rifle

Bolt closed

weatherby mark v ultra lightweight

Bolt open

This made for quick and easy reloading while staying on target.

flatline ops, sniper, accu level

Flatline Ops bubble level

The Flatline Ops bubble level was great as flipping it out made it easily visible while prone and shooting.  Being able to flip it back behind the turret means less pieces of the gun to catch on clothing and brush when in the field.

Vortex Razor HD AMG

Locking turrets on the AMG are money.

Weatherby Mark V, hunting, rifle, montana

Fluted barrel and a flawless stock finish

Triad Tactic cheek piece

Kestrel, Elite 5700, hunting, rifle, Mark V, Weatherby

This pocket perfectly fits my Kestrel and will mean less fumbling around when a longer shot presents itself.

So far I’m excited about this rifle and will be working on breaking in the barrel a bit more and finding out which bullet and grain combination work best in the rifle.  As I continue on the process I’ll post up further blog posts.

Zack Boughton

 

 

backcountry, fuel, subscription box, hunting, fishing, camping, backpacking, montana

backcountry fuel, hunting, eating, food, cooking, camping

Each year brings on a number of different hunts, some day trips and others week long backpack missions.  Each has one thing in common, fuel.  What you put in your backpack and your body has a great impact on your performance in the field.  Generally the more calories the better and often happier you’ll be.  They come at a price though, weight.  As you fine tune your setups you begin to weigh calories to weight and try to maximize the equation in your benefit.  Eventually we all find foods that fit the bill and taste good, for a while a least.  By November we often dread another Beef Stroganoff Mountain House or a Chocolate Chip Cliff Bar.  It’s easy to come by and trying new things can be expensive and hard to find.  This year as I began to prepare for another fall in the mountains I dreaded the thought of the same old foods filling my pack.  Fortunately I’d seen the Backcountry Fuel Box started by Cody Rich and got my hands on one.

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I opened the box one day at my desk and proceeded to eat the first thing in the box, a Protein Puck.  Dang that was good!!  I had a hard time not eating the whole box at my house.  Over the next three months I got to try a bunch of cool food products from small backcountry nutrition brands.  Here were a few of my favorites:

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I got to try the Peanut/Apricot version and it was great.  There are two bars in each package coming in at a whopping 650 calories and 33% of your daily nutrition.


fbomb, meal to go, hunting, backpacking, fuel, montana

Next up was the FBOMB.  I got to try the Macadamia with Coconut version and it also was awesome.  These small packets are filled with nut butter and this one is Macadamia nut butter and Coconut Butter.  It tastes great and provides 205 calories in 1oz of weight.  Big on calories, taste and light on weight.


The Protein Puck in Almond Butter – Dark Chocolate was the first thing I ate out of a Backcountry Fuel Box and it was tasty as hell.  This one comes in at 460 calories for 3.25 ounces of weight.


So far I haven’t really been diving into the dinners that come in the boxes, I’ve been saving them for hunts.  There’s usually about 10 items in each box and they come on a monthly basis.  It’s super easy, subscribe and each month a box shows up in your mailbox or doorstep.  You’ll be able to use the food to supplement hunts and try new products you might not have easy access to.  I would highly recommend them.  You can learn more and subscribe super easily at their website > wwwbackcountryfuelbox.com

Zack Boughton

Montana PRO T-shirt, montana, apparel, bozeman

Summer is starting to taper off and fall will be here before you know it.  We just introduced the new Montana PRO T-shirt to help you transition seasons in style.  Whether you’re getting that last bit of summer fishing in, hitting the mountains camping, scouting or hunting this shirt has you covered.

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A discharge print on a super soft Anvil lightweight tee makes for a shirt you will want to wear for days on end.  You can view and shop this shirt HERE.

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Rowing in search of risers.

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Side channel slurper.

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You can view our full line of apparel under the SHOP section of our website.