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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.

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

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.

mountain hunting rifle, weatherby mark v, ultra lightweight, razor hd amg, hunting, rifle, gun

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

 

 

Vortex Optics, vortex, rangefinder, stoke, The Outlier, The Outlier Film, giveaway, hunting film, Outdoor Media, Montana Wild, Bozeman, Montana

Well, it’s no secret that if you’re reading this, chances are you’re a big fan of cool hunting content, and free gear every once in awhile. With that being the case, what better way to launch The Outlier on iTunes than to combine the two. As a way to celebrate the film’s launch on iTunes, we’ll be giving away a Vortex Ranger 1500 to one lucky viewer of the film! Now that I’ve got your attention, you’re probably wondering how you can be that lucky winner. Follow the steps below, and get entered to win today!

Step 1 – Purchase and watch The Outlier Film on iTunes HERE.

Step 2 – Leave a review of the film on iTunes between now and 4/19/18.

Step 3 – Keep your fingers crossed, and we’ll draw a winner on 4/19.

Vortex Optics, Rangefinder, Giveaway, Hunting, The Outlier Film, iTunes, Hunting film, outdoor media

Not familiar with The Outlier Film? No worries, we’ll get you up to speed. The Outlier is a full length DIY public land elk hunting film, with a strong focus on conservation. Watch as four good friends experience the highs and lows that go into filling their 2015 elk tags. Watch the official trailer below for a large dose of elk hunting stoke!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hunting Gift Guide, 12 Days of Christmas, shopping, christmas, gifts

Christmas is just around the corner and to help you shop for that special someone we’ve put together a list of 12 items that we think absolutely rock and would be great presents for any outdoorsman that might make their way onto your shopping list.  We present the 2017 12 Days of Christmas Hunting Gift Guide!

#1 – FITS Socks ($23.99)

Serious hunters know that good socks are always worth having.  Keeping your feet happy makes all the difference on those tough hunts.  We have been wearing the Light Hunter this fall and they fit amazing, are durable, and have kept our feet happy on 13+ mile days in the mountains.

FIT socks, socks, hunting, light hunter

#2 – Phoneskope (~$30)

We have had a Phoneskope for years now and can’t imagine being in the field without them.  Being able to film through your spotter or binos is a great way to capture some amazing shots and memories from your time in the field.  Snaps into place easy and weighs nothing.

phoneskope, hunting, filming

#3 – Kifaru Gun Bearer ($31)

Carrying a rifle all day in the field can wear you down especially if your rifle weighs 10+ pounds.  Kifaru developed the Gun Bearer to solve having to re-sling your rifle over your shoulder 10,000 times per day and frees up both hands so you can glass with your binos or use trekking poles to navigate the sketchiest of terrain.

Kifaru, Gun Bearer, rifle, hunting, accessories

#4 – HSM Trophy Gold Ammo (~$45)

The Hunting Shack is located in Stevensville Montana and their Trophy Gold ammunition has proven to be deadly and extremely accurate.  We’ve taking plenty of big game animals over the years with this ammo and would recommend it to anyone.

hunting shack, hsm, ammo, ammunition, hunting

#5 – Outdoor Research Men’s Sequence L/S Zip Top ($69)

This is the best base layer we’ve worn, hands down.  From early season archery hunts to late season rifle missions the Sequence L/S Zip Top is the favorite.  Merging the best qualities of merino wool and the quick drying benefit of polyester this is all an exceptional hunting piece but can also be worn doing just about anything from cutting wood, smashing some powder or going out for a night on the town.

outdoor research, base layer, best, hunting, montana, elk, deer

#6 – Outdoor Research Crocodile Gaiters ($85)

Hunt long enough and you’ll need a good pair of gaiters.  The OR Crocodile Gaiters are the best in the world in our opinion and for good reason.  They work and they last.  Whether it’s deep snow, mud, creek crossings, wet underbrush, these have you covered.  Grab a pair and enjoy dry feet on the nastiest days.

Outdoor Research, gaiters, hunting, best

#7 – FHF Gear Bino Harness PRO ($105)

You have to carry your binos somehow in the field and the FHF Gear Bino Harness PRO is the best we’ve found.  Protects your glass yet makes quick and reliable access a breeze.  Grab a rangefinder pouch and you’re set for any hunt!

FHF Gear, bino, harness, hunting, hunting gift guide

#8 – Option Archery Quivalizer ($195)

We got the chance to try these on our bows this fall and both Travis and myself won’t be taking them off any time soon.  Hold on target easier with the Quivalizer.  The quiver acts as a long stabilizer and gets the weight of your bow in-line with your riser and string.  We shot better groups right away.  Multiple ways to mount the quiver to your bow makes any carry style easy.

Option Archery, quivalizer, bow stabilizer, hunting, archery

#9 – Sitka Gear Drifter Duffel ($149-229)

Hunting trips often mean bringing extra gear and storing them properly can be an issue.  The Sitka Drifter Duffel makes carrying extra layers and small items a breeze with their durable and highly water resistant bags.

Sitka Gear, drifter duffel, duffel bag, hunting

#10 – Garmin inReach ($399-449)

The ability to two-way text from anywhere in the world as well as send out a SOS that sends search and rescue to your location is a piece of gear that brings comfort to your next hunting trip and your friends and family at home who might be worried about your safety.  The Garmin inReach is a must for those who hunt solo.  We don’t leave home without this piece of gear.

Garmin inReach, Hunting Gift Guide

#11 – Kenetrek Mountain Extreme Non-Ins Boots ($455)

Known as some of the best hunting boots on the market, the Mountain Extremes  have proven to be comfortable and durable in any conditions we’ve been able to throw at them.  A good pair of boots is worth the money.

Kenetrek, mountain extreme, hunting boots

#12 – Vortex Optics Razor HD 10×50 Binoculars ($1289.99)

Without good binos your putting yourself at a disadvantage when hunting open country out West.  The quality of glass is amazing in the Razor HD 10×50’s especially in low-light and they are extremely durable.  Throw in their industry leading VIP Warranty and you might never buy another pair of binos again.

Vortex Optics, razor hd, binos, hunting

vortex optics, razor hd, binos, hunting gift guide

Thanks for reading through our 2017 Hunting Gift Guide!

Written by Zack Boughton

 

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.

mule deer, hunting, buck, montanawild, late season, bowhunting, late season archery hunting

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

 

mountain goat, hunting, montana, wild

It’s now been over a month since I embarked on my first ever mountain goat hunt.  Since then I’ve spent a good amount of time elk hunting and every time there is high, rocky country my eye wanders looking for those white specs.  I’ve actually spotted about a dozen goats now in areas I’d never think of looking if it hadn’t have been for this goat hunt.  Each time I watch them I’m reminded of their sheer agility and willingness to live in some truly wild places.  Back to my hunt though.  The plan was to get on the mountain a few days before season, locate a billy I’d seen during scouting and fill my tag quickly.  The plan sounded good enough.

mountain, hunting, goats, montana, wild, backpack, kifaru, bear archery

Kifaru Markhor loaded for 5 days.

With a heavy pack and fresh legs we started up the trail.  The weather was clear and warm and we made quick time en route to our first glassing location.  Cresting the ridge two hours later and glassing down into the first basin revealed a billy working across the top of some large cliffs.  So far so good.

mountain goat, montana, hunting, mountain goat hunting

A younger billy showing off in a maze of cliffs.

The next two days would be spent glassing from a large ridgeline, affording us a view into 4 different basins.  The closest basin was where I thought our target goat was living and sure enough on the first day we located him bedded under a rock edge.  Despite their white color the mountain goats were proving to be difficult to spot at times.

mountain goat, montana, hunting

Our target billy taking advantage of the topography. Well hid and shaded.

mountain goat, hunting, montana, wild, scouting, big 3

The daily jaunt up and down the ridge to glass and then glass some more.

That night we watched him peel around the edge of the basin headed towards the easiest trail to access and hike in the unit.  With a day till season he’d surely not make such a silly decision right?

mountain goat, hunting, montana, wild

The last sight of this billy. Around the bend into a bad zone for him.

The following day was one that didn’t build much confidence for the opener.  Our day began and ended the same, posted up along the ridge letting the glass do our walking.  Only a nanny and kid were spotted during the long day.

mountain goat, hunting, montana, wild, sitka gear, vortex optics, mountain goat hunting

Wondering where all the goats are at.

With all the nearby goats pushing further into the unit we hoped overnight we’d have a few work back into the closer basins.  The plan was to wake up first thing and look for our billy, if he didn’t show we’d make a long push along a ridge we believed was safe to travel along, leading us into a remote basin that seemed a sure bet to find a goat.

mountain goat, hunting, montana, wild, camping, backcountry

Camped out with the next days ridgeline looming.

The next morning broke to more beautiful weather.  As soon as we could see we were scouring hillsides looking for white specs.  Thirty minutes revealed nothing and we knew we needed to make our push towards the remote back basin.

mountain goat, hunting, montana, wild, sitka gear, bowhunting, mountain goat hunting

Goat country doesn’t lack in beauty.

mountain goat, hunting, montana, wild, hiking

The route better than anticipated. Still a “no-fall” zone.

The route proved doable and we soon crested over the top.  The basin sprawled out before us.  With game trails worn deep into the ridgeline we figured it would only be a matter of time before spotted a goat.  Unfortunately that afternoon only turned up a small group of sheep.  Disappointing but I guess that’s hunting.  We retraced our steps in time to take a last look for our same billy before we hit the tent for the night.  He was nowhere to be found and we got some needed rest before waking up hoping that the goats would reappear.  The next morning we quickly made it to our glassing point hoping a billy would be back into the nearest basin.  Nothing showed and the surrounding areas were devoid of goats as well.  Our move to test out new country in hopes of catching a billy off guard had proved futile.  We begrudgingly packed camp knowing today would be a long one.  A 1500′ drop would get us back to the trail and back up the mountain we’d go in the opposite direction.  As we crest the pass I got cell service and a text message told of a billy shot right off the trail where we now stood.  Apparently mountain goats can make easy and fatal mistakes.  With other camps on the pass we figured we’d drop elevation again to push deeper into the unit.  It wasn’t ideal but it would put us into some remote mountain goat country.  Three hours later we’d dropped to the bottom and climbed up to our next camp.  We were physically drained and took an hour to eat and take a short rest.  With rain in the forecast we knew we needed to push on and try to find a billy.

mountain goat, hunting, montana, wild, vortex optics, kifaru, mountain goat hunting

More wild and vast country.

A look into a vast chuck of country only revealed one goat, two miles across the basin.  He’d be safe for now.  We quickly sidehilled across the ridge to the next saddle.  Only a few seconds into glassing a goat was spotted bedded under a rim of cliffs.  The spotter revealed he was a billy and we knew a move had to be made quickly.

mountain goat, hunting, montana, wild

Bedded for optimal visibility. Typical goat move.

With adrenaline fueling our legs we sidehilled hoping our remote movements wouldn’t be observed by our target.  His bed afforded a perfect view of all below him and a careful stalk would be necessary to get close.  A mile out we had to begin utilizing the small amount of cover we had.  Staying behind trees and small boulders got us to 1000 yards.  He was now up and feeding.  100-200 yard openings would need to be covered as he fed up the hill and not looking in our direction.  Some patience was necessary but eventually we got to 300 yards.  He was still unaware of our presence but with a rifle built for it’s light weight and ruggedness and not it’s accuracy I knew getting closer would make this stalk into a guaranteed kill.  Another sprint in the open with the billy feeding away put us underneath him and to our last zone of cover.  As I peeked up over the boulders my rangefinder told me he was 190 yards away.  With a good rest this would be a sure shot.  I eased onto my pack and chambered a round.  The view through the riflescope was utterly clear and somewhat unreal.  The moment had come, I looked at his horns and although I knew bigger existed on the mountain this day had been an experience that embodied what I wanted the hunt to be.  It felt right and I confirmed Travis had him in the spotter.  As he stood slightly quartering away I eased into the trigger until it broke and the last thing I saw was the goat flip over and begin a short tumble down the mountain.  The next few moments were spent riding out the adrenaline high and realizing that we now were deep in the mountains with lots of work to be done and darkness quickly approaching.

mountain goat, hunting, montana, wild, wildflowers, mountain goat hunting

Life and death. A solemn and sobering moment.

mountain goat, hunting, montana, wild, mountain goat hunting

A beautiful location to end the journey.

A mountain goat tag is a very special thing to have.  That said mountain goat hunting doesn’t entitle you to a trophy or a goat, it only means you get to have an experience unlike any other and one you surely won’t forget.

Zack Boughton