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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.

antelope, hunting, montana, wild, spot and stalk, archery

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.

antelope, hunting, montana, wild, archery, sitka, bear archery, vortex optics

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

-Travis

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coyote hunting

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Zack

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

elk, hunting, photos, timber, gps, bull, elk, montana, wild, stock

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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-Zack

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Zack

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read Part 2 HERE.

-Zack

We drove into the sunset after enjoying a day of elk hunting with our friend Ryan.  Our roadtrip east had begun.  Images of big muley bucks clouded my thoughts, navigating through small towns, until finally reaching our destination at nightfall.  We had seen small groups of mule deer off the road on the way in, giving us a small glimpse of what was to come.  I was excited for my first chance to shoulder a rifle of the fall season.

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That night I could hear the large snow flakes beating the  outside of the truck. The temperatures dropped as I  hunkered in my 15F sleeping bag. I jolted awake to the sound of my alarm, setting my eyes on a blanket of fresh snow.  Zack and I gathered our gear and ate breakfast in our truck, attempting to gain any warmth we could before heading into the frozen landscape.  As I sank my teeth into a muffin, I pulled up my binos and glassed through the foggy windshield.  Instantly I located the outline of a deer which resembled the characteristics of a muley buck.   Zack and I quickly finished our breakfast and began to close the distance on the deer.

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The buck was a nice 4×4 with a 3in kicker off his left beam.  The deer was still young and we decided to pass and look for a mature buck. That day we found plenty of deer and passed multiple bucks, ending the day with a close encounter with a decent 3×3.  This 3×3 wanted to do nothing else, but chase does.  It looked as if the rut was in full swing.

buck, 3x3, montana, muley, deer, buck, hunting, wild

At last light we decided to bust out the predator call.   After 15 minutes of calling Zack spotted a coyote 600 yards away along the fence line.  I dialed in my scope to 20x and got setup to take a shot if the coyote presented myself with an opportunity.  I lost sight of the coyote and continued to scan the long grass for the small furry figure.  Quickly I looked left and saw a coyote at 150yds staring at me!  I motioned Zack to get the camera on him, and instantly the yote took off running, with another coyote close by.  I guessed my yardage as Zack stopped the coyote with a bark.  Missed high.  Coyote ran another 300yards before stopping again.  Another miss high and the coyote was gone.  It was an awesome coyote stand, and a spark was ignited inside me.  Calling in coyotes is truly an adrenaline rush and anyone who hasn’t tried calling coyotes needs to buy a distress call and do their best Les Johnson impression!

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The next day was spent weeding through more mule deer, once again running into the kicker buck 4×4.  Plans were made and we headed north, looking for new country.  Our afternoon we found an endless amount of smaller bucks and a young 4×4 with great potential in the coming years.  All of the bucks were tied up with does, oblivious most of the time to our presence.  We camped for the night, grilling elk steaks to cap off the day.

 

The next morning we continued further into the breaks.  Finally we found a pocket of land that the landowner had blocked access to trucks or ATVs.  We headed in and instantly saw a couple small bucks chasing does.  We kept our eyes glued to the glass before spotting a large mule deer body in the distance.  It was a buck, and needed a better look.  We closed the distance from 1 mile to 1000yds.  The deer was a tall framed, crazy 3×3, with forks in the back.  The deer’s headgear resembled a small elk rack and  I decided this deer was definitely deserved of a closer look.

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Our only option was to sneak through the coulees in front of us, which put us to within 350yds of the herd.  I finally located the buck bedded in some sage.  He stood, chased some smaller bucks away from his does and then bedded back down, directly behind another sage bush.  I knew this was a deer I wanted to take if given the opportunity.  If the deer stood, he would have to clear the brush in order for me to have a shot.  Zack and I setup, waiting for the deer to make a move.

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I dialed in my Vortex turret to just over 300yds and settled into a sturdy rest on my MR pack.  After 45min of waiting, the buck stood, chasing his does with his nose in the air.  It was awesome watching it all take place through my rifle scope.  This buck was doe crazy and his interaction with the other deer was very entertaining.  The deer finally stopped broadside, I squeezed off, hitting the deer slightly high.  I racked in another HSM round as the deer stopped after a couple steps.  I put one more round into the deer’s vitals, dropping the deer within seconds.  The Snowy Mountain Rifle had done its job, buck down!

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I walked up on the downed deer, checking out his unique looking rack, complete with thick cactus looking bases.  The buck was a cool looking deer, with a ton of character.  Zack said it best at the beginning of our trip, “I don’t hold out looking to shoot a deer that meets someone’s scoring standards, when I see a buck, I just know whether its a deer I want to take or not”.

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We deboned the deer and loaded the fresh meat into our Longbows.  We made the hike back through the numerous coulees and breaks back to the truck.

mystery, ranch, montana, wild, longbow, packout, mule, deer, muley, sitka, gearZack and I cracked open some beers and situated the fresh meat into the cooler, watching the light fade fast in the distance.

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The Yeti 160 was starting to fill up, and ready for one more deer.  The road trip was off to a great start!  It was now Zack’s chance to search for a mule deer.

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-Travis

Hunting out of your backpack is something every hunter should try at some point.  The endeavor isn’t easy.  Day after day of hunting in the backcountry with only your backpack will mentally and physically wear on you.  If you haven’t trained in some way to handle the extra stress that a backpack hunt will put on your body then I recommend attempting a 2-3 day hunt about 5 miles back.    Backpack hunting is by far one of our favorite ways to hunt and it can make a big difference in the quality of animals you can hunt.  It allows you to really connect with the land and gain a greater appreciation for the outdoors.

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With rifle season about to begin it often can pay off to get out further away from access areas.  During the first 3 weeks we’ll be doing just that as we look to hunt in areas that just don’t see many hunters.  Already this year we’ve hunted with camp on our back over a half dozen times, and figured we would give you a quick look into what we carry.  The goal when backpack hunting should be to stay warm, dry, and happy.

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This past week we did a quick 2 day trip about 5 miles back.  We were searching some high country basins for mule deer.  Despite not seeing any bucks it was still a success and was a good prep for some longer trips we have planned for rifle season.  Below is some of what I generally will carry in my pack for trips from 2-7 days.  Click the photo to enlarge.

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Pack:  Mystery Ranch Metcalf

Tent:  MSR 2 man

Bag:  Mountain Hardware 20 degree bag

Pad:  Therma Rest Neo Air

Layers:  Merino Wool top, Jetstream Jacket, Jetstream Vest, Kelvin Hoody, Timberline pant, Stormfront pant, Dewpoint Jacket, 1 baseball cap, beanie, Smartwool long underwear, 2 pairs of socks, 2 light gloves, 1 heavy glove.

Food:  Dehydrated meals, Clif Bars, trail mix, jerky, dark chocolate, fruit snacks, candy

Boots:  Danner Crag Rat

Others:  Backpacking stove, water filter, 4 game bags, CamelBak 75L, Vortex Razor 65mm spotting scope, tripod, 2 knives, knife sharpener, firestarter, 2 lighters, GPS, headlamp, 75′ para-cord, extra shoelace, notepad, pencil, toiletries, first aid kit

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This list doesn’t include everything and is just the essentials.  It’s not a perfect list and should simply get you started in the right direction if you’ve never done such a hunt.  We don’t weigh our gear and get worried over ounces due to the heavy camera gear that we constantly carry.  If you can, go as light as possible.  You legs will thank you and you’ll be able to hunt harder.  As the season progresses we’ll try to keep notes on what does and doesn’t work for us out there on the mountain.  The vibes are good going into rifle season and good luck to everyone out there!

-Zack

 

We’re fresh to the antelope hunting game.  This was our second year but we both were able to fill our tags with a bow.  It wasn’t easy but is definitely achievable for the everyday hunter.  Rather then tell you my story of my hunt I figured I’d write down my advice, tips, and insight on what we’ve learned about antelope hunting.  Much of it is common sense but hopefully you might be able to learn something that will help you be successful if you choose to go after antelope with a bow.  Nothing is absolute in hunting so take these with a grain of salt and as always experience is the best teacher.

1.  In case you forgot antelope can see extremely well.  This seems to be their #1 defense from predators.

2.  If an antelope sees you once, your chances of getting to within bow range are slim to none.

3.  Stalking an antelope in your socks is the most silent and generally best method to close the gap.

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4.  In rolling open country your much better off cover lots of country in your truck and trying to locate them from afar.  Hiking around is preferable if you know there are goats around but often you can cover many many miles without a sighting and hiking in 80-90 degree heat will drain you physically and mentally very quick.

5.  Your truck is easily picked up by antelope from very long distances.  If they see your truck they will be more alert and your chances of getting close diminish.  Strategically using your truck to get to new areas and then using your feet to move into good positions to glass lots of country is key.

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6.  In our experience, antelope on public ground generally have no pattern.

7.  Antelope are small targets and are easily missed.  Practice with your bow daily while on your hunt.

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8.  Wind is almost always a factor and can and will limit your effective shooting distance to very close ranges on many days.

9.  Stalking bedded bucks, especially solo bucks is a great method for getting close.

10.  Bucks don’t stay bedded in one spot for long.  When you locate one try to make a sound game plan and act quickly.  This is where instinct comes into play.  Trust it and go.

11.  Hunting a blind will give you the best chance at getting a good shot and filling your tag.

12.  Don’t expect antelope to regularly hit the same water hole unless it’s THE only water for the surrounding 5+ miles.  This scenario seems to be quite rare.

13.  Antelope don’t like blinds.

14.  You can put up a blind and immediately hunt it with success but having it up well ahead of time will increase your chances of bagging a buck.

15.  Bring lots of arrows and broadheads.  Nothing kills a hunt like running low on either one of these.

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16.  Practice shooting from a blind and chair before hunting your blind.  You don’t shoot the same as you do from your feet and having confidence to make any seated shot will help you convert your opportunities into notched tags and meat in the freezer.

17.  Set your blind in a spot where the prevailing wind is in your favor and where you will get a good broadside shot.  Good blind placement is key.

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18.  Take lots of reading materials to your blind and having multiple games on your phone makes the time pass easier.

19.  Don’t overlook the use of a decoy.  Early in the season a well placed decoy can draw in a buck from a long ways away.  It’s best to get as close as you can and then put up your decoy in a spot where you can get a shot if the buck heads your way.  Use the terrain to your advantage and try to get them to take a pre-defined path to the decoy that presents you with a good shot from some type of cover.

20.  Being able to discern land ownership is very helpful.  Hunting GPS Maps makes a great line of products that make this very easy, and I actually shot my buck on land that I was able to access using their Montana chip.

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21.  Have fun.  This is key to any hunt.

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Hopefully one of the above will help you in your next hunt.  If you have any advice you’d like to add please leave a comment below and we hope your next hunt is a success!

-Zack

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