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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.

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One deer, one to go

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Glassing was and is the name of the game here

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Mule Deer Country

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Travis with his solid mountain mule deer

-Written by Zack Boughton

https://vimeo.com/ondemand/theoutlier

As hunters we always have an attraction to adventure, and not just the kill. Travis found his adventure in 2014 chasing mule deer in the rolling sage covered hills of Montana. With only a handful of days, Travis searches the barren landscape with hopes of arrowing his first archery buck. This public land, DIY hunt shows the opportunity and importance of our public lands. This is bowhunting public land mule deer as seen in the 2015 Hunting Film Tour.

Produced in partnership with Sitka Gear and Behring Made Knives.

montana, mule deer hunting, mule, deer, hunting, montana wild, hunting film tour, the crags, bowhunting, archery, sitka gear, public land, diy

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If you haven’t watched our latest feature film, The Outlier, you can purchase it at our Web Store or on VimeoOnDemand.  The purchase of our films and apparel go a long ways in helping us continue to create high quality outdoor content most of which we will continue to release for free!

 

 

late season archery hunting, film

Today we are releasing our latest hunting film, THE COLD.  This film was shot over the course of two years spent late season archery hunting for mule deer.  The COLD is both a descriptive word for late season hunts, but also represents a sickness. In this case a sickness for chasing rutting mule deer. Watch as Zack puts his skills to the test searching for a mature buck.  Presented by Vortex Optics

And if you missed the teaser you can watch it HERE and a blog post giving some of the backstory of this hunt and film can be read HERE.

If you’re still doing Christmas shopping don’t forget we have a great line of apparel for the outdoorsmen or woman at our MONTANA WILD STORE.

-Zack Boughton

 

the cold, teaser, film, bowhunting

Our latest film, THE COLD is presented by Vortex Optics.  Watch the THE COLD Teaser below and you can read more about the backstory on this hunt right HERE.

Full film will release on December 12th right here on our website!

huge mule deer buck

For many hunters their season ends with the close of rifle.  Honestly by then we’ve had plenty of hunting and sleeping in sounds about right.  BUT, then you take a few days off and you instantly wish you were back out there.  About three years ago we looked into extending our season and late season archery hunting seemed like just the ticket.  Rutting mule deer bucks pushing out of their summer hideouts would cover hillsides for miles right!? Not so quick bud.

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Zack wondering where the heck a good buck can be found.

That first year was definitely one where we learned a lot.  Deer were plentiful but finding a buck pushing into the 150-160″ range was difficult.  In a week we saw two and made stalks but the steep country and crunchy snow made life tough for bowhunting.  Swirly winds sealed our fate and we went home empty handed but ready to tackle year 2.  The following year we put in a little more time researching areas and decided to move to a new unit.  This time we had more realistic expectations but also knew that finding a true 200″ deer could definitely happen.  With some snow moving in we were able to find more mature bucks although navigating the public/private landscape made approaching some deer almost impossible.

mule deer, hunting, idaho, phoneskope

Using the truck and spotter to cover country. Not a bad option when your new to the area and it’s cold.

As a hunter new to the area most of the first 4-5 days really felt like 90% scouting and 10% hunting.  After starting to hone in on some of the habits of deer moved in on the winter range we decided to hike up onto a ridge that would allow us to glass into a couple key basins that the deer used to bed in.  Sure enough that morning a few hours after the sun was up we found a big buck slowly feeding up through the juniper.  He was a stud.  His gait was characterized by a solid limp and I’m sure he’d had a long night chasing does and fighting with other bucks.

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I think he’s a shooter.

We were able to bed him and watch him eventually fall asleep, head rested in the snow in front of him.  With the snow frozen from cold overnight temps we had to wait till the sun heated up the west facing hillside.  I finally decided on a long zig-zag path that would eventually lead us to within 40-60 yards of his position.  We weren’t sure what the wind would be like on the other side but he was the kind of deer we came on this hunt for and there was no way we weren’t going to give it a shot.  Two hours later we hit the last patch of open dirt and now it was snow and over 80 yards to go before we would be within shooting range of his last position.  We slowly crunched through the snow.  I figured there was no way the buck hadn’t spooked by now as it was very loud.  As I slowly crept ahead I saw antlers ahead amidst the thick juniper.  It was him and he was only 40 yards away.  My heart went from 0 to 100 in an instant.  The bucks rack shifted back and forth a few times but he never spooked.  After about ten minutes of observing him he stood up.  I could see his chest but branches made for an obstructed view of his vitals and there wasn’t any ethical shot.  He slowly began to feed downhill.  As soon as he was out of sight we looped ahead of him and waited.  After twenty minutes we hadn’t seen nor heard anything and again figured he was gone.  We went back up the hill and grabbed the packs.  I was curious as to what he had done and wanted to go follow his tracks to learn more.  Sure enough as we got to about 30 yards of his last position I saw horns again.  Apparently he had only fed a short distance and then re-bedded.  We again were pinned with no shot.  We were so, so close but eventually the wind betrayed us and he bolted.  Game over.

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Another day in deer country.

The next morning we returned to the area but this time a few ridges over.  We watched another great buck chase does and fend off a smaller but still impressive buck.  As sun began to rise the deer began their daily route back up to the juniper covered hillside.  I knew two good bucks were in the group and we quickly shifted into position.  After a few minutes I saw a doe 70 yards to my right.  They’d picked a trail one away from the one we were sitting on.  The big buck hit a gap at 70 but it was too long of a shot to make quickly and they eventually hit our wind.  One buck spooked and one still to go.  We began to creep down the hill.  Out of the corner of my eye I noticed movement.  It was a doe being pushed by a buck.  I crouched down and saw 4 points on one side through the juniper as the buck nudged the doe once again.  The doe was on to me and bounced up the hill.  The buck wasn’t quick as keen.  He stepped up into my opening at 20 yards and my arrow flew true.  He bolted and I thought I’d shot the smaller of the the two big bucks.  Emotions were high.  After a half hour we began tracking.  A short ways later I saw tan in the snow.  As I walked up on my buck I had a mix of emotions.  I was ecstatic that I’d been able to fill my tag on a 4×4 on such a difficult hunt but I was disappointment that it was a young deer and not one I’d shoot if I’d been able to identify him better prior to the shot.  Lesson learned.

idaho, mule deer, bowhunting, late season, montana wild

Zack pumped to overcome the odds and fill his tag.

We took a few photos and then proceeded to quarter him up and make the relatively short trek back to the truck.  Year Two had ended in success but given the circumstances of the prior day it felt as if we had unfinished business.  We’d surely be back next year.

mule deer, camp, wall tent, bowhunting, late season archery hunting

Back for year 3. This time a wall tent came to help stay warm during the cold nights.

Our original plan for year 3 was to come down for the end of the season.  When a good friend wanted to join we shifted the dates to accommodate his schedule.  We would now be hunting the opening week of the season.  We knew there hadn’t been much snow but we’d give it a shot.  When we showed up the day before the opener we were sorely disappointed to see a rifle cow hunt ending with guys on 4-wheelers everywhere.  This pressure would surely make the big bucks extremely hard to find and with no snow it was shaping up to be a tough hunt.  Sure enough 4 days later and we’d only seen small two and three year old bucks and many, many does.

bowhunting, mule deer, late season, hunt, idaho

Long hikes and few bucks characterized the early part of the hunt.

With our film permits limiting where we could hunt in the unit we went back to where we’d seen a few good bucks in the past.  We turned up a nice 4×4 and proceeded to hunt him over the course of the rest of the hunt.  Each morning we could find him somewhere out among about 30-50 does and small bucks.  They’d eventually fill their bellies and start working back up the mountain.  Cutting them off was a guessing game and trying to avoid all the other deer proved to be a challenge.  We got close but his daily routine never had any pattern to it.  With a hundred elk in the area it was a zoo some mornings and keeping tabs on this buck proved to be quite the task.

mule deer, deer, buck, hunting, late season, idaho

The best of the bunch, protected by numerous does.

The weather was warm and sunny one minute and cold and blistery the next.  We covered country mid day hoping to find other bucks.  We went miles in to the nastiest areas only turning up does with little bucks.  The snow wasn’t present in the mountains and the big bucks hadn’t pushed into their wintering area.  Our timing was off and we re-focused on our target buck.

mule deer, hunting, idaho, controlled tag, late season, bowhunt, late season archery hunting

Enjoying another beautiful night in God’s Country.

Again we relocated him.  His general pattern was there but there was no consistency in his path back to bed each day.  One day it would be a 1000 yards different from the day previous.  As we neared the end of our hunt we found him honed in on a hot doe.  It was just two of them and there were far less other deer in the area that morning.  As we moved to cut them off they shifted their path at the last minute, rounding the hillside away from our position.  We looped ahead and picked them up again.  They were now in the bottom and we watched from above.  They moved slowly and worked up into a shaded and snow covered face.  After a short time the two bedded.  It wasn’t the best area but it appeared I might be able to make a huge loop and get behind and above them.  If the snow was soft enough in the shade I might be able to close the distance.  It was now or never and again I set off on a stalk that we hoped would end with an arrow airborne.  Tune in on December 5th to see the trailer for the film and December 12th to watch the full film and see if I can fill my tag on a mature mule deer buck.

Zack Boughton

 

It’s now August and most bucks have put on about as much antler growth as they’ll get before shedding their velvet.  With season starting soon this is a good time to get in a few quality days of mule deer scouting in hopes that your season will be a success.  With that said, scouting for mule deer in the high country can be a daunting task if you aren’t sure where to start. Ever wonder where you can learn about the necessities of backpack scouting? Below we’ll take you through some of the process so your next trip into the mountains is time well spent.

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Your first order of business should be deciding where you want to go. Mule deer have a wide range of habitats ranging from sage flats, to high mountain peaks above tree line. Depending on your physical ability, and willingness to hike, you’ll have a wide range of options to chose from in Montana and many other western states. I personally like to scout in more remote locations and at higher elevation. If you are willing to do the hiking it takes to get into the backcountry, you’ll eliminate many of the struggles that people sticking closer to roads and town will have due to human pressure on the animals.

scouting, maps, montana, mule deer, mule deer scouting

When preparing to scout the high country, I try to look for a few key things that will be essential for deer to live there. Food, water, and cover are the main three, but other things come into play as well. When looking over country on Google Earth, it can be hard to figure out where all of these necessities are located, but if you pay attention to detail, you will be much more successful at finding deer. For instance, much of the high country in western Montana is rocky and rugged. This means that in an area that’s super rocky, you’re going to want to look for grassy meadows in bowls, basins, and on top of ridgelines for food sources. Another great food source for high country bucks are burns. Burns provide regrowth, and abundant amounts of food for deer and elk to feed on in the summer months, but can make glassing much harder, and make the animals much less predictable due to the abundance and wide range of feeding locations. When looking at a spot on google earth, I always try to think about: “Where are they going to eat, how are they getting there, and what are they eating?”

montana, mule deer, scouting, wildlife

When scouting high country mule deer, you will want to have a very select list of gear in your arsenal, and know how to use it well if you plan on being successful at finding that giant velvet buck you’ve been dreaming about. When packing for a trip, I try to keep three important things in mind: space, weight, and durability. You’ll want to make sure you have everything you need, while eliminating items that you don’t think will be necessary. As a general rule, I tell myself that If I’m not going to use something three or more times on a trip, then it’s not going in my pack. This obviously excludes necessities like first aid kits, bear spray, and emergency survival gear, but you get the point. Below is a list of some of the items that always come with me into the backcountry, that are easy to find in different weights and sizes depending on how much money you are looking to spend.

  1. One or two person lightweight tent (I prefer a two-man tent to keep myself and my gear dry in the event of a storm.)
  2. Lightweight packable sleeping pad
  3. Sleeping bag & compression sack
  4. Water purification pump
  5. First Aid kit
  6. Bear Spray or a side arm
  7. Mountaineering boots (Although not a necessity, a stiff boot with added support will make your hikes and time scouting much more enjoyable, avoiding unnecessary foot fatigue.)
  8. Binoculars
  9. Spotting scope
  10. Lightweight compact tripod
  11. Freeze dried food items (Mountain house, Backpacker’s Pantry, etc.)
  12. Snacks ( anything from Cliff Bars to trail mix/jerky to a bag of M&M’s. You will want to bring something to snack on while glassing / have a way of getting some calories in you without stopping to make a Mountain House)
  13. Eating utensils
  14. A 100 Ounce water bladder or a couple one liter Nalgene bottles.

Now that we’ve gone over what gear to bring on your trip, it’s time to discuss packing your pack. Ideally, you are going to want to have a good sized pack that can easily hold all of your gear. I like to keep in mind when packing my pack that if it were hunting season, I may need more room on the way out in the event that you do harvest a buck. When putting your gear in your pack you will want to make sure you are distributing weight evenly, and that you aren’t putting the important things that you may need to access quickly at the bottom of your pack. I know it sounds like a no brainer, but the last thing you want is to be desperately digging around for your spotting scope as a stud buck is heading for the timber off in the distance.

scouting, summer, deer, montana

A couple of weeks ago I went scouting in Southwest Montana, and it was an eye opening experience for me, in the sense that I had no idea how big the country was going to be. This was my first time scoutng in that specific spot, and had an awesome experience. Over the course of the two days we spent in the backcountry, we spent time scouting between 6,500 – 8500’ and were able to locate a good number of bucks, in a wide range of locations. On the first day we packed in at dark hoping to reach a solid glassing point by daybreak. After reaching where we had planned to start glassing, I quickly realized that the country we were in was much larger than I had imagined. As the day went on we covered more country, locating multiple water sources and stopping at a few more good vantage points to glass, but only located a few deer. After a midday nap, followed by hunkering down in a hailstorm, we moved to the next ridge and sat down to glass.

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It wasn’t long, and Zack had spotted a group of bucks bedded down. As the evening went on, we worked our way around the bowl, glassing it from multiple vantage points, and turning up more and more deer. A lot of times the key in scouting the high country is finding the pockets where the deer like to frequent. Many times when you find one group of deer in a basin, there will be many more as well.

montana, summer, deer, hiking, camping

The following week, I headed into another promising backcountry area with a good friend in hopes of locating more bucks and bulls before the fast approaching season. After my experience the week before, I knew going into it that the country was going to be much larger than it looked on Google Earth, so I planned accordingly bringing extra food and water for the hike in. After a six mile hike, we set up camp and glassed the last hour of the evening, turning up one small buck. As the next morning rolled around, we got up and glassed the first couple of hours on the other side of camp from where we had glassed the night before. Just as I was about to move to a new spot, I found a group of bucks feeding through the bottom of a basin surrounded by cliffs and shale slides on all sides. Although none of the bucks were shooters, it was nice to know that I was finding deer in areas where I had predicted they would be because of readily available food.

montana, hiking, scouting, hunting, summer

Over the course of the day we hiked an 8 mile loop up to one of the surrounding peaks, and back. This gave us the opportunity to spend the middle of the day checking out new country, and glassing occasionally in spots that looked like they would have the best chance of holding animals. We didn’t turn up any more bucks that day, but it was an awesome way to see the country first hand, and get an idea of what areas we needed to focus on come September. As we got back to camp and built a fire, the wind picked up, and the temperature began to drop as a storm rolled in. Although this was a less than ideal situation, we came prepared, and were able to layer up and hunker down for the night while the storm passed.

Camp

The next morning, we decided to glass a new spot closer to camp, and to our surprise, turned up three more bucks, but again no shooters. That afternoon, we packed up camp, and began our hike back to the truck. About half way into the hike, we came across a ton of bear sign. This was no surprise to us, and if you plan on hunting and scouting in the high country, and wilderness areas in particular, then you’d better be ready to encounter bears. This isn’t something that should scare you, or deter you from going into these areas, but it is something to be aware of and prepare for.

flat tire, montana, nighttime

Whether you are on the drive into the trailhead, or ten miles from the truck, I can’t stress enough how important it is to be prepared for any situation. My final piece of advice would be to double check everything from your tire repair kit in your truck, to your first aid kit in your pack before you leave, because you never know what can happen out there. Luckily, if you come prepared, you can keep a little problem at bay and fix it before it becomes much more serious. Do your research, pack smart, come prepared, scout hard, and have an awesome time doing it.

Written By: Calvin Connor

Edited By: Zack Boughton

Photos: Travis Boughton, Zack Boughton, Calvin Connor

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Its been a long journey for Zack to find a mature mountain muledeer in Montana. Read the full story here: MONTANA’S MOUNTAIN MULEDEER

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bow, breaker, bucks, mule, deer, bowhunting, archery

This past year we had the chance to chase mule deer on public land in October. In less than perfect conditions Zack found a buck worthy of an arrow, but could just not seem to connect with a shot. Its never easy to shrug off a miss, especially when your bow is still on. Sometimes its all a mental game when archery hunting, and if you can overcome that mental hurdle, you will most likely succeed.

More hunting videos are on the horizon!

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Last fall Travis had a handful of days to fill his first ever, archery mule deer tag. Boots tight and arrows dialed in, we set foot in the badlands of Montana, with hopes of capturing this adventure on film. The result was an unforgetttable hunt, with the ups and downs that come with hunting spooky public land mule deer. Make sure to catch the full film in the 2015 Hunting Film Tour. Check here for a showing near you: huntingfilmtour.com

 

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

hunting, montana, wild, mule, deer, vortex optics, eastern, sunset, ford, f150

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