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Chasing antelope with a rifle has become one of my favorite hunts. Not because its a rifle hunt, but rather the change in landscape and pace after charging hard in the mountains all of September. Its nice to be able to see as far as the next horizon and look over a lot of animals.

montana, gumbo, mud, antelope

Pronghorn country.

I was fortunate to have drawn a rifle tag in 2016 and I was relieved to know I would have the chance to put meat in an empty freezer. I brought my shotgun as well, hoping to add a little upland bird meat to the menu.

Remington, wingshooter, shotgun, upland, montana, pheasant, easter, wild, antelope, pronghorn

The trusty 870.

After filling the truck and a couple hours on the road, I was in the heart of antelope country. The recent downpour of rain had left most two-tracks closed and gumbo was in full force. This was actually a good thing, because the road hunters had to stay on main roads and couldn’t access some land that they may be able to if the roads were in better condition.

montana, gumbo, mud, antelope

Gets ya stuck real quick.

I scanned and glassed vast amounts of country, looking for a buck that caught my eye. I peered deep into the horizon through my spotter, instantly seeing what looked to be an army of white butts. One of the largest groups of antelope I had seen while hunting was feeding deep in an untouched zone. I decided to drive a large loop around the group and approach from a direction that I felt would provide more cover.

pronghorn, antelope, country, hunt, montana, 406

Searching for ‘the one’.

I finally spotted the group of speedgoats 900yds out and bedded. Out of the 6 antelope I could see currently, there appeared to be one particular buck with great prongs. I decided to get closer, but with no other options I had to get dirty and army crawl. It was one of the longest army crawls I have had to do and in no way was it joyous trying to avoid cactus. A few sharp needles found a new home in my soft knees. At this point I had crawled to within range, and decided the buck I had my eye on was going to be worthy of a shot. A couple discharges of the rifle later and I had successfully filled my tag.

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Its all hair.

The best part was that the hunt was not over. I spent the next 24hrs attempting to jump shoot birds with my good friends Tyler and Cole. We took Charley the supposed ‘bird dog’ along. What you need to know about Charley is he is not the best bird dog. To be honest Charley is a horrible bird dog. Charles is the dog that flushes all the birds 100-150yds in front of you and the moment a shotgun goes off he hides behind your heels. After Charley had his fun for the day, he went back on the leash.

bird, dog, lab, montana, retriever, upland, pheasant, grouse, partridge

Charley sad about his bird dog performance.

After getting Charley under control, we had a very successful day shooting pheasant, partridge, and sharptail grouse. The recoil of the shotgun and the flush of birds is definitely addicting. I felt like a fire was re-lit for upland birds and hopefully I will be loading the shotgun with more 2 3/4″ shells soon.

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Roosters in full force.

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Sharptail feathers.

If you would like to see more upland bird content or upland bird related apparel, leave us a comment below!

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-Travis

Early Sunday morning we loaded up the truck, and headed to Bozeman.  The wind gusts pushed us east along I-90, and we sailed through bursts of snow and rain throughout the drive.  It looked like we might be in for a cold couple of days of filming & fishing.  Just before noon we stopped to fish a small stretch of the Clark Fork.  The wind gusts and freezing temperatures made for slow fishing.  We felt a couple tugs and even managed to fool a few small browns on a Parachute Adams before loading back up to finish the roadtrip to Bozeman.

shoot, out, rain, simms, ford, f 150

We finally arrived at the Simms headquarters, and met with the rest of the filmmakers.  All of the filmmakers were super friendly and cold PBRs were spread throughout the room.  After a half an hour of chatting and waiting for the guides to finish piling in, it was time to get to business.  The guides drew names out of a hat to decide who they would be filming with and we were paired up with Dan “Rooster” Leavens.  Zack and I didn’t have the slightest clue who Rooster was, but we would spend the next 3 days filming his every move and learning the ways of the Rooster.

simms, fly fishing, waders, boots, headquarters, bozeman, montana, shoot out, ice out

The next morning our 4:50AM alarm rang out, ducks quacking for me to awake.  Zack and I gathered our gear scattered on the hotel floor and headed out into the cold, windy, snowy weather.  Our destination was Twin Bridges, and we hoped we could get some early morning shots before meeting with the Rooster.

fog, clouds, snow

 

After a bitter cold morning of filming, we threw our frozen boots into the truck to de-thaw and finally made it to our destination, the Stonefly Inn & Outfitters.  Rooster had coffee ready for us, and we sat down and talked for a good hour about hunting and fly fishing.  We soon found out that Rooster had been sick throwing up all night.  He blamed the pizza he ate the evening before and to compound the issue, his wife was also sick.  A bug was going around, and we crossed our fingers that we wouldn’t be hit with the unfriendly sickness.  Rooster was feeling better fortunately, and decided that not the weather nor the sickness would stop him from fishing. We grabbed Willy the chocolate lab, loaded the truck with camera gear, and finally made it to the river.

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The morning consisted of a bunch of small browns and frozen fingers, leading us to move locations.  That afternoon, the sun finally started to peak through the clouds.  We got back onto the river and it wasn’t long before Rooster hooked his first nice brown trout of the trip.  About an hour later and a few fly selection switches and a boss trout was hooked up.  At first we didn’t know what it was, but as the fish came to the net, it was a nice 2-foot rainbow!

2 foot, rainbow, monster, montana, wild, bent, shoot out, iceout

The rest of the day Rooster reeled in multiple nice fish and the vibe quickly began to swing into our favor.  With a couple browns weighing in around the 20″ mark and a rainbow pushing 24 we called it a wrap for the day as Rooster had to go home and take care of his wife and children who had been fighting the sickness.  Family comes first, and we had no objections to Rooster heading home before sundown.  Zack and I spent the rest of the evening filming around town and captured some late afternoon timelapses.

sunset, montana, twin bridges, stonefly, inn, outfitter

Zack and myself stayed up until 2:30AM organizing our clips from Day 1, making sure we were on top of our game and ready to start editing the film the following evening.  We got a few short hours of sleep and immediately were back up and firing up the cameras.  We finalized our storyline with Rooster and moved over to the fly shop.  After a broken fly rod, an obnoxious customer call, a spilled box of flies, and a flat tire, it was finally go time.  Rooster started the morning drive to the river by saying, “can’t show the lions on the first day boys”.  Little did we know he was not lying about “showing the lions”.  Rooster proceeded to catch fish after fish consisting of large browns and chromed out rainbows.  The footage was stacking and the shots were being logged.  Rooster was starting to put on a show that any fisherman would appreciate.  Helping us for the day were Rooster’s guides Gray, Bubba and Dave who added more punch to the fish fight.

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rainbow, fat, montana

With plenty of solid shots stored in the camera, we decided to hit some new water to finish the day.  Rooster made his way below a small bridge and proceeded to catch fish after fish, throwing low, precise casts into the money spot.  It was a truly remarkable sight, with the Stonefly guide peanut gallery watching the show go down from the bridge above.

Dan, leavens, rooster, montana, simms, iceout, shoot, out, montana, wild

We wrapped up the day with dry fly eats on chernobyls, brown trout to the face, and an amazing steak dinner.  From here on out it was coffee, Monsters, and no sleep.  This was a chance that we had to take full advantage of.  You are not given opportunities like the Simms Shoot Out very often and we were here to win.  This was our chance to show that we can run with the best in the biz and we began the long process of crushing two days worth of fish into a 6 minute film.

all, nighter, mac, apple, editing, montana, wild, film

 

Before we knew it the film was in its final stages of production.  The sun was rising and Rooster was waiting to check out the latest cut of video.  Rooster gave us some final input and before we knew it the video was exported and we were driving to the Simm’s headquarters to turn in our film.

 

We relaxed the rest of the day and fished a local river the following morning with our friend Tom Urell.  The streamer fishing was hot, with fish attacking the streamers most of the day.  No monsters were brought to the net, but we had a blast fishing the local Bozeman holes.  Later that evening we watched all four submissions of the Simms Shoot Out at the Ellen theater.

simms, fly fishing, shoot, out, film, ellen, theatre, montana wild, rooster

After the films kicked off it was a nervous half an hour before I saw the Montana Wild logo flash up on the backdrop and the rest is history.  We had won the Shoot Out!!!!

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We spent the rest of the night celebrating with new friends and somehow managed to not spend all $2,000 at the bars.  We woke the next morning, packed our bags and headed back to Missoula.  That evening we found ourselves hiking 6 miles back into the backcountry…. Be looking for our next blog post about Stan’s amazing bear hunt.

 

I wanted to give a big shoutout to Dan “Rooster” Leavens for being such an amazing guide and host, and Dana Leavens for letting us steal Rooster for a couple days and allowing us to sleep at the Stonefly Inn.  Dan  loves to fish and he has a great family and group of guides.  Thanks Bubba, Dave, and Grey for your antics and not so helpful music suggestions.  We hope we can work with Dan in the future and hopefully the friendship we made will last for a very long time.

 

Below is our winning submission to the 2013 Simms Shoot Out!!!

[vimeo https://vimeo.com/65079211 w=580&h=440]

 

-Travis