Today I am starting a new series for this blog, all about Hunting Prep. As we are drawing closer to the opening hunting seasons in Montana for bear and turkey, I wanted to discuss what I am doing to get ready to be in the woods.
For the first part of this series I will discuss my bow and archery setup and what I am running during the off-season. The bow I am using is one purchased four years ago and it is a Mission Riot . Updated bows can from them can be found at missionarchery.com.
I purchased this bow with a couple of things in mind. The first was it has a lifetime warranty for the first owner. I would be able to use it first for my own bow, but then my kids can use it when they get old enough to come hunting with me. My oldest is 10, so she is two years away from going out with me and using this bow in the field. The reason she can use the bow is it has a wide range of draw length and draw weight. The draw length is adjustable without a bow press from 19 inches to 30 inches. The draw weights are from 15 pounds to 70 pounds.
Right now I am pulling 66 lbs. and I have it set for a 29 inch draw. I am unsure as to the speed of my arrows, but I have been using this setup for the past couple of years and have taken some great animals with it.
I had turned down the bow from the 70 pounds maximum to give me a bit of ease when pulling it back and holding for long lengths of time. The case for this was when 4 years ago I was holding on an elk for over two minutes waiting for one more step to be taken. To which he saw us and bolted. At that point I most likely wouldn’t have been able to get a good shot off as I was starting to shake and probably would have let down.
However, over this summer, I may turn the bow back up as I have been working towards a healthier lifestyle and should have the strength for it. More on that in future posts.
The arrows I am running are the Hunter XT from Goldtip. When I purchased the bow from the local shop, I purchased my first dozen arrows from Gold Tip. I had heard great things about how tough these arrows are. Unknowingly, I would put some through the wringer over the next couple of years. I have some arrows that were shot through multiple animals and remain intact. I have even seen a person shoot and hit a metal target with these arrows and the arrow didn’t shatter. From those original arrows, I still have three left. Another testament of how well they hold up.
Next week I will talk about the accessories (sight, quiver, and other items) I am going to be running this year for archery.
As I sit here writing this, reflecting on my year, I am just amazed at everything that has happened and that I have taken part in. I have been truly blessed again in the opportunities and the abundance of wildlife this year.
This is the story of my antelope hunting for the 2016 Season.
During this year, due to hunting for elk with my family and friends, antelope was an afterthought. Although there were multiple times that I went out hunting antelope with my bow, the first day I had eluded to in Kevin’s elk post awhile ago. Needless to say it didn’t work out on that trip.
After getting Kevin’s bull to the processor, we started back out to take a look and check to see if there were a couple of antelope on the property that we had permission on. They weren’t there, so we moved on to the state land nearby. We drove by and while we were glassing, there was a decent buck bedded down about 150 yards in.
We decided the best way to get close to this buck was to do the classic “drive up like you are a farm truck” and use it as a blind. The trick with this tactic is that you need to be able to have the shooter use the truck as a blind and also get the set up done quickly so that you can get the shot before the antelope gets nervous.
I got out the arrow and got ready. We pulled onto the road and when we were in bow range we stopped. I asked Henry how far and he said sixty, I was already thinking that in my head so I went with it. We were pulled off the road and I opened the door of the pickup as slowly and as quietly as I could.
I stepped out and nocked my arrow. I was shooting in the gap between the door of the pickup and the cab, which in this case was a 3 inch gap. I settled into the pocket of my aiming, squaring up my peep with the sixty yard pin on my Mission Riot bow, making sure the bow was flat on the bubble. I aimed and squeezed down on the release trigger. I watched the arrow fly towards the target and go just under the buck’s chest.
He ran off as only antelope do, fast and gracefully. I knew that was going to be it for him coming back to the property for awhile. I walked over to where my arrow went, and when I found the arrow and where the buck was, I ranged back to the truck 65 yards. I had missed my target by the slimmest of margins and it was the closest attempt I had at an antelope throughout bow season.
As Katrina had written in an earlier post, we were hunting the one weekend before the rifle opener for elk and deer. We wanted to get this done during that weekend.
After the first day being hurt by the extra human movement of moving cattle and the rain starting up that evening, we realized the best bet we had was to be out early and be on the fence line before light. We woke up early and got in position.
As we waited for a great Montana sunrise, we sat and tried to glass. As the first rays came over the top of the hills, we could see movement. To our right there were some antelope by the fence line only about 200 yards away. We sat and waited. Within about 30 minutes (and two hours in my mind), the antelope moved away on to the private land that I didn’t have permission to be on.
We decided to move on and come back by in a couple of hours and see if they crossed the property line. We went to another section of property which usually held antelope and started glassing. After about an hour of glassing the public land, we determined there weren’t any antelope there.
We moved back down to where we were in the morning. As we were moving through the edge of the bottom of a draw, we saw antelope, two bucks to be precise. I looked quickly at my GPS and knew they were legal. We looked to make sure weren’t any directly behind those two and there weren’t, but off to the right there were another 20. Henry and I talked about the antelope and we decided from the quick look we had, the one on the right was the biggest one. I settled into my ruger american 30.06 and turned the scope up to 12. I was looking at the antelope just over some grass. One good breath and as I hit the end of it, I squeezed the trigger.
The report sounded off and the antelope dropped out of the scope. It felt like it was a solid shot but I couldn’t tell from where I was shooting. I looked over at Henry and he said with a smile, “Lets go get him.”
We cleaned him up, snapped a couple of photos, and then loaded him up into the pickup. We then drove back to Henry’s and started processing. We finished him a couple of hours later, and loaded him in to the cooler to finish the rest back at home.
Badlands Diablo Dos pack
Mission Riot bow set at 66 lbs and a 29 in draw
Gold Tip arrows
Rage 2 blade broadheads
Ruger American 30.06 with Vortex Crossfire 2 3-9 X40 Scope
Federal Fusion 165 grain bullets.
We are excited to share this throwback hunt, from a friend of ours, with you today. It’s an exciting story and we think you will enjoy it.
By: Christopher Burns
It was a cool-crisp Saturday summer morning on September 3rd 2011, the first day of Montana bow hunting season. My friend Matthew Phillips and his brother Joel accompanied me to the Highwoods National Forest in search of elk. We had gone out a few times the season prior and had seen plenty of elk but we were never able to get close enough to get a good shot off on one. The archery bull tag for the Highwoods is a special draw elk tag for bow hunters. We got up to the spot where we would hike in at dark. First shooting light was around 6:13 am. So we wanted to be in position far before the elk started moving around for their morning feed. The first thing we did which we always do before the hike up was say a prayer for the Lord’s blessing on our day, for our safety during the hunt and, God willing, a successful hunt. The hike in was short and easy as we got into position in the pitch dark under a small patch of pine trees. As soon as the darkness started to turn a dark blue tint Matthew gave out the first bugle of the morning to see if there were any answers. The first one fell unsuccessfully without any reply. The elk talk very little in the beginning of the season before the rut starts. The cows were not chirping nor were the bulls bugling.
After a few more minutes in just the waning moments of darkness early on this cool clear morning we could still see glimpses of stars shining when Matthew let out another bugle. This time we got several replies in about two or three directions. The farthest bugle was so far up the mountain that it was hard to tell just how far away it could have been. The closest reply sounded like it could have been within 300 yards away which this early in the morning on opening day is extremely close to the bottom of the mountain and quickly forced the adrenaline through our veins. As subtle light began to illuminate the peaks of the surrounding mountain tops to bring separation between darkness of the ground and the lighter tint of the sky, we waited for shooting light to arrive. Sitting under the low hanging branches of a large pine we sat in anticipation of the chase. Around five minutes to shooting light we headed in the direction of the closest bugle. We had heard what sounded like a cow chirp responding to nearby elk.
Nearing a patch of Aspen trees, Matthew made the motion for us to trek around the aspens by just hugging the tree line. I made a quick suggestion that quite possibly changed the course of our entire day. I motioned that we cut straight through the middle of the aspens. This was a very risky move because rustling the branches or leaves through the thick of the aspen trees could very quickly and easily scare off any elk that may be close by. Matthew checked his watch and the very minute of shooting light had arrived. We slowly started making our way through the patch of aspens, which was possibly eighty to a hundred yards thick, avoiding every branch and leaf that we could. About three quarters of the way through the aspens all three of us stopped dead in our tracks because we each immediately saw the same thing. A head with a mass of antlers appeared through an opening through the aspens. It was a beautiful 6X6 bull elk and at that moment it seemed almost too perfect to be true. As it was now just after shooting light his body created a perfect silhouette through the break in the trees. Quickly following close behind him was a slightly smaller rag horn bull and two cow elk. Matthew and I both immediately nocked an arrow. I was holding my Mathews Reezen 6.5 as I could feel the adrenaline welling up within me. I intended on watching Matthew, who was about 5 yards ahead of me, draw back his bow and take a shot but he quickly turned to me and said, “I don’t have a shot.” He had no shooting lane from his vantage point and there was no time to move or reposition because the slightest move would spook the small herd and they would be gone in no time and so would our hunt.
Here was my moment, that moment that every bow hunter dreams about all year. Remembering back, it seems to have happened in slow motion from this point. With my bow nocked with an arrow I made a range calculation instantaneously in my head that the bull could only be a mere 40 yards away. I had been practicing for this scenario the whole year in the off season. In moments like this sometimes there simply is no time to take a range measurement because if you even stop to take that moment to make the slightest movement then that window of time to take the shot may just as quickly be gone. I drew back the bow and placed the 40 yard pin of my sight in the vitals area just behind the front shoulder of the bull. By this time the bull was peering directly at us with his body perfectly broadside with his left side toward me through the opening of the trees. He looked majestic with his antlers broad and tall which were beautiful beaming brown towers that made him have such an appearance of power and grace. This was the perfect scenario…opening day, opening light, with a 6×6 bull elk in my sights 40 yards away. What an amazing thrill and pleasure it is to have the opportunity to be this close to such a beautiful, yet powerful, creature. When all seemed perfectly silent and still, I released the arrow on its flight. Instantaneously the bull bucked his fore body upward thrusting his horns straight ahead and began a full sprint to the left around and behind the aspens and eventually out of sight. We stayed still and could hear him as he ran down a wooded coulee across the stream we had trekked up and then up a wooded hillside. We could not see him but could hear his fleeing charge. There was a brief moment after I took the shot at him that Matthew could have taken a shot at the rag horn but his initial concern was tracking two bulls at once. After all it was opening day, at opening light and Matthew chose to pass on the shot.
About 30 seconds to a minute after I took the shot we heard what sounded like my bull give a gurgling attempt at a bugle from the other side of the coolly which was just on the other side of the stream that ran down the center of the coulee. We all three believed that this was the sound of blood building up in his lungs and we thought we would possibly hear him collapse in the trees at any moment. By this time the rag horn and two cows that were accompanying him had vanished out of sight around the aspens just as quickly as he had. After giving it several minutes we decided to survey the location where the arrow had impacted the broad side of the bull. I had very high confidence at this point that I got a very clean and good positioned shot on him. Upon examining the spot where he was standing there was no blood and no arrow.
After some time we walked down to the bottom of the coulee where we believed he had ran but there was no sign of him and no blood. With nothing in sight we did not want to push him any further than he had already gone so we decided to hike back to the truck for the game cart in case we did find any sign of him. After a while at the truck we set off to find some sign of where he had gone. We came upon a path in between the aspens that we were in and the creek bed. It was a small open field. After sweeping and surveying the area we finally came upon some hope. We found my blood stained arrow which was covered from G5T3 broad head tip to nock end. It was very exciting to find this and it picked my adrenaline back up. From the spot of the arrow drop we discovered that the blood trail began. We followed the faint blood trail up the creek a ways, across the creek, into the trees, up the tree covered hillside which switched back and forth all the way up. Half way up the hillside we came upon a paper plate sized pool of curdled dark blood which was a sign that the blood was building up in his lungs. Most likely this was the spot where he had stopped to give the blood curdling last bugle after he was shot.
We followed still a faint blood trail up the rest of the way, across a small clearing, into another thick tree line which was just the beginning of the thick of the forest. We followed the trail for hours and at some points we were even on our hands and knees looking for even the faintest sign of blood. By now Matthew’s oldest brother Jeff had joined us in the search. At times even finding a pin head sized blood spot kept us going to the next blood spot. After over eight hours of searching and tracking for the bull that I thought I was going to harvest, hope started to fade to a sickening feeling of defeat. The thought that I had lost this bull was overwhelming and frustrating. The perfect and ideal opening day hunt had turned into a nightmare. The last sign that we had of him was high on the mountain-side. In the thick of the trees it appeared that he had laid down and as the blood pooled underneath him it may just have been enough to clot the wound and enable him to begin healing. It was now evident that his lungs had gone completely unscathed. He was gone.
I went home that night frustrated and disappointed. Yet, I was absolutely amazed at the survivability of this animal. I had just shot an arrow completely through the body of this massive bull elk in what I thought at the time was a vital area shot and yet he had survived. Questions and doubt were haunting me and I had trouble sleeping for the next several nights. I have always touted my belief in a good, clean, ethical kill when hunting. The thought that I would merely injure an animal that I was hunting and not be able to harvest it is a nightmare because of those hunting morals that I hold true to. There was no doubt that my arrow had gone completely through his body because it was blood soaked from tip to tip. How could anything survive that? What incredible creatures elk are. If anything, this experience gave me much more of a respect for these animals.
Five days later on Thursday, 8 September, Matthew and I decided to go out to our same spot for an afternoon hunt after work. We made it out to the woods at just after 5:00 p.m. which gave us just about 3 hours for the hunt. After hiking up a ridgeline halfway to the peak of the mountain top that we were shooting for we stopped to scout the open clearings. While we were glassing the peak top clearings Matthew immediately spotted a small herd in a clearing where we had spotted them while scouting before the season opener. We were in such a rush to get up to this point we never really established who would be taking the shot if we got within range. By this point we both had an opportunity to take a shot at an elk this season. We decided to take a democratic approach; we played paper, scissors, rock. I won. So, Matthew agreed to call for me if we could get in on the herd. By this point we had only about one and a half to two hours of shooting light. We decided the only option was to sprint to the top. We took off. It was like the scene at the end of Last of the Mohicans when they were charging up the mountain side. We had no choice but to push hard. We were losing light by the minute.
As we approached the clearing that was through the tree line where we saw the herd we heard a bugle call out and we could tell it was somewhere within 150 to 200 yards away. Chills ran down my spine. Matthew explained that he would stay at least 80 yards behind me before starting to call to the herd. We spotted movement through the trees. Matthew got into position while I positioned myself further up in the trees edge by the clearing. I now was in full stalk mode. I knew that every movement, sound and breath I made was crucial. Matt gave out a few cow calls. A bull started barking back. Not giving a full out bugle but instead small short barks. Yet, they were loud powerful barks that emanated through the trees. As I quietly hunkered down inside the tree line I finally spotted the bull that was calling back to Matt. He was a nice mature looking bull. There was a patch of trees that the bull was hugging. This patch of trees was only a few hundred yards from the top edge of the mountain ridge in a beautiful clearing cradled in the midst of the thick forest pines. I could just make out his figure and then he walked out from behind the trees and stopped to look in our direction. I made no movement yet because he was out in the open and still about 100 yards away. Matthew did an amazing job of keeping this bull’s attention and curiosity up. It was as if I was listening to a conversation between a bull elk and a cow elk. Bothered by the call he walked into the thick forest tree line. Now out of the bull’s line of site I took this opportunity to advance my position. I gained a few more yards. Matthew continued his talking back and forth with this bull. I will never forget the resonating sound of the bark that the bull would let out. Being so close to a bull elk and hearing the sounds that they give off truly sends chills down the back of my neck making every hair stand on edge. There is no other sound like it.
The daylight was quickly fading, as was my window of opportunity. I watched as the bull walked back behind the small patch of trees. At about 80 yards away, I knew that I had no choice but to try to get within shooting range if I was going to get a shot at this bull. With my Reezen nocked with an arrow I began to slowly creep up the steep incline toward this small group of trees. Moving slowly up, my thighs were burning; not just from the hike up but also from slowly creeping up at a snail’s pace trying not to spook this bull. Adrenaline was keeping me going as I continued to stalk forward. I approached the edge of this group of trees and the bull was staring in my direction. I finally got right up behind and against a tree on the edge. The bull jerked around to the right in a short charge as if he was about to run away but he stopped. He was curious and did not know what I was. He turned back to the left with his left side facing me. All I was waiting for was for him to walk a few yards to the left and I would have a clear broad-side shot through the trees. He began to walk to the left as if he was going to head into the thick forest tree line and into cover. As he began to take his first steps to the left I drew back on my bow. Light was fading and I knew it was almost last light. If not for the fiber optic pins on my sight I would have had trouble sighting in on him. After taking a few steps he curiously stopped and looked directly at me. He was majestic, just like the bull I faced five days before. It was a perfect opportunity, as if the Lord was giving me a second chance at success in one week. Just as before, I had ranged him in my head. I put him at 60 yards. He was now perfectly broad side and looking at me. With my 60 yard pin on the same spot as before I relaxed, took a breath and let the arrow fly. It felt like minutes before the arrow reached him, the moment that took only seconds felt like forever.
The arrow penetrated his side, he immediately charged to the left and into the thick tree line of the forest. After seeing him run into the tree line about 80 yards away all I could do now was listen. I heard him stop, followed by a short pause. Next, I heard branches rustling, crashing and then silence. I knew that I had just shot and taken down a beautiful bull elk. Matt was still down the hill. I wanted to yell for excitement at the top of my lungs but I composed myself. I called out to Matt and said, “Matt, I got him! He’s down. I got him!” Matthew later told me that at that moment when I called out to him he looked down at his watch and it was 8:12 p.m., the last minute of shooting light. I shot a bull at the bottom of the mountain on opening day, just after first light and lost him. Five days later I shot a bull at the top of the mountain at last light and this time I got him. We walked into the thick tree line and found my bull with his 6X6 rack up against a tree.
The most amazing part of the story is what we discovered next. While field dressing the bull we pulled out the front half of my arrow that had broken off inside him during his fall which penetrated his lungs and brought him down. Less than two inches from my arrows entry point, in his left side, was another entry wound just an inch outside of the lungs. The other wound was recent but older by only a few days. There was an exit wound on his right side that clearly was the exit wound from the older entry wound on his left side. This was the same bull that I had shot five days prior on the same mountain. I shot him twice on the left side but only the first shot from five days prior had an exit wound on the right side. Not only did the Lord give me a second chance at success, he gave me a second chance at the same bull that I had shot just days earlier. I was exuberant with joy. I would not have wanted it any other way. What a blessing this was. This truly was a hunt of a lifetime. This is one I will never forget and maybe never surpass. This was my first bull to ever harvest and what a special one to start off with. It took Matt and I all night to drag him out of the woods quartered with our friends Dale Langendorff and Adam Reathaford. I will always be grateful for Matthew’s help calling in that bull and sharing that experience with me. What a great hunt.
Every year there is a place in Montana where I apply for an archery permit because it has 75% draw odds so I can draw it and hunt with the rest of the crew. This is one of my favorite hunts during the year, as we are able to see elk and every once in a while be able to get within bow range. This is a public land hunt, but sometimes it can seem as if it were not a public land hunt. This year I invited a friend, Kevin, to come along on this hunt and put in for the same draw for a permit.
This year ended up a bit differently. We applied for the permits and then came the long wait. The months and weeks seemed to crawl by, waiting to see how our crew did with the lottery. One day, while on Facebook, I saw someone post that the permits had been drawn and were available to look at on the Montana Fish Wildlife and parks website.
I went to look and after a couple of minutes, my hopes were dashed. I ended up not drawing the elk tag. After a few phone calls and text messages, I found out the rest of the party had. Since I didn’t want to miss out on this hunt though, this would essentially make me the caller for this trip. * On a side note, I would end up drawing a cow tag for the same unit, but that tag would not be a priority during bow season.
Kevin (my friend who I had apply for the unit), Henry (my father-in-law) and I packed up the camper and Kevin’s truck to go see what we could find. We pulled into the spot late on Friday and got ready for the next day. That first night is always a restless one, with the all too familiar dreams of grandeur and excitement. The morning also came with the familiar feeling of grogginess from the lack of sleep.
This morning was one of a close call. We were in position for where the elk were heading when a couple of hunters walked into the elk and they split and we weren’t able to get
back into them that day. The one good thing was as we split up and walked back to the truck. Henry found the best dead head of a 6X6 I have ever seen. He initially saw just the top two tines sticking up out of the mud, but as he pulled, the antlers just kept coming! It was a neat find.
The next day we saw more elk, but no luck in slipping in for a shot. That afternoon started the rain, which would continue throughout the night and into the next day. We decided to pack up the gear and headed out since the rain was really coming down. The area we were in could become a giant mudhole and we could potentially get stuck in there until it dried out some.
The Week Long Trip
The next week at work was fast and furious as I was attempting to get everything done in four days that I would have to take care of to be gone for 10 total. Finally Thursday night rolled around. Kevin and I would be taking his camper out so we met at his house to get all of the final items ready for us to get on the road.
Once in Lewistown, we decided to check out a piece of private land that I had permission to hunt antelope on. This time there were antelope on it, so what was supposed to be traveling to our elk hunt quickly turned into an antelope hunt.
Kevin and I got my bow out and started to pull a sneak on. I ended up seeing a buck chasing a doe and they were not really paying much attention, so I got into the irrigation ditch and snuck in.
I kept as low as I could and eventually they turned broadside. The only issue, they were at 90 yards and I had no way of trying to get any closer. I knew we should get going, so I pushed it a bit and tried to belly crawl. Their eyes were too good and I ended up spooking them on to the neighbor’s property.
We loaded up and got ready for another 2 hour drive to get to our camp.
We arrived later to camp without a problem and began setting up for the week. Later that evening, Henry made his way into camp and gave us a hard time about not being out yet.
We hunted that Saturday and we saw elk, but it didn’t end with a shot. We talked about the plan for the next day and went to bed, ready to try and execute the plan.
The next morning we headed out and parked the truck. We moved to the top of the ridge and I let out a location bugle. To our surprise, three different bulls sounded off down the canyon. From this reaction, I figured it was going to be a good morning. We then split up from Henry and moved in closer.
As we got closer to where the bulls could be, I decided to adjust some gear. Kevin was new to bowhunting and all he had this year was a hiking backpack and with every step he took, it was making a swishing sound. I had him take it off in order to kill some of the noise we might make. He grabbed a few items and we moved on forward. We moved to the edge of a field and I put Kevin into a spot I thought would be perfect if the bull kept coming.
I moved off about 75 yards and set up my decoy. During this whole time the bulls were screaming bugle after bugle, getting us excited about what may be coming. I thought they were within about 150 yards and so I started cow calling since we heard a couple of cows in the mix. After a few minutes of calling, one bull seemed to be moving away , but the two other bulls were still bugling.
We decided the only way to get him to come in was to get closer to the action. We pulled the decoy and moved about 300 yards down the ridge to where the drainage we were on opened up to another drainage. I then set out the decoy and started cow calling again. While I was calling this time, after about every third call, I would hear what sounded like a hoochie mama from primos. Kevin and I talked about this for a moment and we decided that we should keep calling and that the primos call was maybe a hunter but hopefully they would stay were they were at. After about 10 minutes, the bull seemed to be moving further away again. This is when I went to desperation mode and I decided to rake the tree.
When I raked the tree, the bull lit back up and I started into my cow calls again. I sent Kevin down across the other side of the draw. I ended up cow calling a couple more times and then the surprise of the day happened. What we both had thought was a hunter calling using a hoochie mama, was actually a cow! She appeared over the ridge to our right. She saw the decoy and I called again and she started coming.
It was at this time I saw the bull, his antlers coming over the top of the ridge. From where Kevin was sitting, however, he couldn’t see him coming. I cow called one more time and he ripped off a bugle, which let Kevin know he was almost there.
It was just after this bugle, the bull saw the decoy (which I was sitting behind). Once he saw the decoy he lost his mind and he moved quickly toward the bottom of the draw and was 32 yards in front of Kevin. I saw Kevin draw and heard the bow go off and the great thwack the arrow makes when entering the body. The elk ran up the ridge a ways and then coughed out blood. I kept calling and he stopped one more time.
Kevin was jumping around with excitement and as he looked at me I signaled him to calm down and that I could still see him. I cow called one more time and he disappeared up over the top of the ridge.
I then packed up my gear and took my bow and strapped it to my badlands diablo dos pack. I moved across the draw and got up to Kevin. He was beside himself trying to decide what to do next.
From what I had seen I told we should wait about another 15 minutes and that we should go take a look at the arrow. We found the arrow in a bush and Kevin was worried as the broad head didn’t look like it deployed. I had him hand it to me and I opened it up, to which we saw it had blood and hair on the inside. This told me we probably were going to find the bull not too far away.
We moved up the hill to follow the blood trail (although it wasn’t where I last saw the elk). When we moved up to where he had coughed, there was a good amount of blood. So we kept moving. At the top of the hill, there was an insane amount of blood and I absolutely knew that the bull was close.
But for Kevin, he expected the bull to keep moving, as this was his first elk ever (and with a bow). As we approached the top of the hill, in a dip to the left I saw the bull upside down. Just as in the hunting shows, I ended tapping Kevin on the shoulder and pointing out his bull to him. It was at this moment he lost his mind.
The bull in the end ran about 200 yards but ended up only being about 100 yards away from the initial shot. Kevin had hit the main artery in the neck with his frontal shot (which we discussed a few months earlier about where to aim). I gave him my phone to take pictures with and I used my GPS to find where we left his pack.
We took a couple of pictures with Kevin and his bull and then we started to work. We tried to call Henry on the radio, but he didn’t respond.
From where he was located in relationship from the truck we determined to gut the elk, cut him in half and then go get the cart. The cleaning was probably the least bloody one we have ever had as most of the blood had come out of the neck. We cut between the third and fourth rib and moved the bull in to the shade. Just as we started heading up to the pickup Henry called and said to come pick him up.
We responded that he should come find us and we headed up to the pickup. We got the back half loaded in to the cart and headed back up to the pickup. Just as we were about a hundred yards away from the pickup, Henry saw us loading up the back half so he joyfully sat down and watched us load the back half.
He met up with us and said “Where’s the other half?”
We said down the hill a bit. He loaded up his pack and bow into the truck and we finished the pack out process for the bull.
After he was loaded up, we took him into the processor.
Things we did right:
Kept trying to get close in to the bull even while he is moving
Didn’t give threatening bugles after we figured he had cows
Using the decoy – this provided the bull the confidence when he got within the view of where he was hearing the calls.
Kevin was in a spot that the bull had to come through when he would see the decoy.
Things we could work on:
Making sure that we all had a radio – Kevin left his in his bag. Doesn’t help in that we split up at some point.
Don’t always assume that the calls being made are humans. Sometimes elk will sound funny or just like a call.
Keep working on calling. The more you practice, the more confident you can be at calling.
It can be really difficult to find a great Christmas present for the person in your life who likes to hunt and fish. There is SO much gear out there and for some items, quality is imperative. So we put together a list of items that we REALLY use and love or that we have seen in action and have been impressed with. This is not a comprehensive list, but a cumulative list of various items that would be great as stocking stuffers or big items under the tree.
*This article does contain affiliate links. The money received from affiliate links does not cost you anything, but helps offset the costs associated with running this site. We greatly appreciate your support!
Under 50 dollars:
Wool Socks – Socks can make a big difference in how comfortable you are when you are outdoors in the cold and everyone can use another pair of wool socks… The ones I use are from fox river. I use the merino socks for the bow and early rifle seasons and move to the heavier wool for the later season.
Shooting gloves – we have a pair of Cabela’s shooting gloves. They keep your hands cool during the morning hunts while still providing dexterity for those moments when you need it. The newer options have fingers and thumbs that work with your touch screen devices.
Fishing lures – spoons from JDRspecialtytackle.com are always a welcome gift. These are spoons that you will lose before you wear off their great iron hide finish. With the ice fishing season coming up, the small spoons (1/2 oz) should work well. On another note he has socks, face masks, and arm sleeves in colors to match your favorite fish! Most of the items are on sale right now and make sure to let them know in the notes when ordering that we sent you there!
Game Calls – most of the calls you can get for under 10 dollars a piece. I have been really impressed by the offerings from Phelps Game Calls or the ones on elk101.com. They sound great and are a great small item that can fit anyone’s budget. While you are at elk101, if you decide to order Elk University, you can enter MTO30 at checkout to get $30 off the purchase price!
Fishing poles – as I have said in the past, you can never have too many poles, most starter poles can run under 50 dollars. I have liked the jason mitchell line for the ice fishing season.
Maybe the outdoorsman in your life already has everything as far as gear goes. If so you might want to check these out. Some local friends of ours create these really cool items made from materials like antler, oak from a Jack Daniels barrel and more. They are worth a look! You can find these items on their Etsy shop.
Over 50 dollars:
Glass – this could be anything from binoculars to spotting scopes. Depending on your budget I believe that Vortex makes some of the best for their price. I own a pair of diamondback 10X42 binoculars and and a crossfire 2 scope. These come with a great warranty and i have had friends that have sent them in for work.
Packs – I have been using Badlands packs for about 7 years and have not had a single issue with any of them. They have a great warranty that passes along to anyone you may sell it to. Right now I am running the Diablo Dos and have been thrilled with it as a daypack.
Boots – If you have heard your significant other talk about, complain or praise their current boots, you may be able to figure out what they want to try or continue with the current selection of boots. For the price, I have really been enjoying my Irish Setters. I wear the Grizzly Tracker and a Vaprtrek. They work well and have withstood a lot of abuse from me in the past few years. Other brands that are a bit more expensive that may do well are Crispi and Kennetrek.
Guns – always a winner in my book, but we as hunters are always thinking of the next gun that may have a use for in our hunting. There are great new calibers and guns out there ranging from a couple of hundred dollars to others that will cost a couple of thousand. If you get your spouse talking about this last hunting season or what may be coming up, they may let you in on what gun they want.
Fishing poles – so ok, I know I have put them on the under 50 dollar price range items, but sometimes you need a specific pole for a specific situation. There are a lot of great poles that can be bought. You could go to impress by a G. Loomis or a St Croix, but I have a buddy that swears by his scheels brand fishing pole. These poles are warrantied by the company and usually come at a great price.
In Montana the past two seasons, the state has opened up a shoulder rifle season for cow elk in certain hunting districts. In 2015 I wasn’t able to take advantage and fill one of my tags during the late season. However, I thought that this may be different this year.
After playing bass for the church my family and I attend on Sunday, I packed up my hunting gear for the very warm start to the 2016 hunting season. The season started the next day on Monday, August 15th and was scheduled to be 85 degrees.
When I arrived in Lewistown, my father and law and I hopped in the truck and took a ride. After not seeing much that evening, we thought that there may be a group of elk that would come out on a certain piece of state property, which is irrigated and still very green. We had our plan for the morning.
We woke up early about 4 am. We got dressed and got all of the gear loaded up and headed out. Along the drive about 10 miles away from the place we were planning to check out, we had 8 elk come up to the road to our right! This is just what we were looking for.
We kept driving, hoping that they were going to go to the state land we were headed to. I got out of the truck to open and close a gate. As I stepped out of the truck, I realized the temperature was already balmy, I looked when I was back in the truck and saw it was 55 degrees.
As we continued forward, daylight was just breaking. We rounded the corner and saw a pickup stopped in the road. The driver opened his door and walked back to Henry and I.
This gentleman was a person that Henry knew, and he said there were about 20 or 30 elk in the field ahead of him and if we waited just a few we would all be able to get our elk.
We waited a couple of minutes to get us to the time where we had shooting light. When it was time, we moved forward in the vehicles and then the elk saw us coming. They started moving forward and away from us. We all busted out of the trucks and the guy in the other truck got out and steadied himself for a shot. He took a shot and was able to get his elk, but we didn’t have a shot under 400 yards.
The elk were now running. We didn’t have much of a chance for a shot. We ran forward to a place where we had a chance to shoot. I tried to get my rifle steady for the shot, but couldn’t get set up well, so I didn’t try for a shot.
Henry and I took a minute and talked about what we thought could happen. We decided to hop in the truck and go around to the other side of the place we were hunting. We figured that the elk were going to move to the private property on the other side.
We got in and started driving. About 20 minutes later, we were on the other side. We stopped the truck and get out and just started listening. Right away I heard cows mewing. I told Henry and we moved into the woods. Not 200 yards in, we see the first cow. Henry takes a shot and misses. I hear them move to my left and so I break from Henry and get into position. I hear Henry shoot again and about a minute later, I end up taking a couple off hand shots at a cow moving through the trees. I missed!
I checked the area where the elk was and confirmed my miss and then I went back to check on Henry. I found him looking for me and he said that he hit a cow well. We then went and checked where the elk he hit was standing and found good blood. We then followed the tracks and after a bit we couldn’t find any more blood.
We moved forward through the woods when all of the sudden I see an elk with her head hanging lower looking at us. I didn’t have a good shot from where I was, so I tried moving to where I could get a good shot to get the cow down. During my movement, she saw me and busted out of those trees.
We got up to those trees and found more blood, so we started tracking her and found her 200 yards away, dead.
We got in and got to work. We got her broken down into half and went to go get the cart. We brought in the cart and she was only about 700 yards from the pickup. We loaded up the back half as fast as we could and got it back to the truck and then went in for the front. We were back at the truck about 9 am and 67 degrees, headed for the processor as fast as we could.
While heading to the processor, Henry and I discussed the fact that the cow was not dry. We decided that we would head back out to the spot after we were done at the processor and try to get her 6 month old calf who would probably still be hanging out in that area.
After a long couple of hours back and forth, we pulled in to the spot where we had parked that morning. We walked in and when we were 100 yards from where we got the cow, we saw the calf. Henry tried cow calling as I moved toward the calf and a tree to get a shot. I ended up setting up in a bad spot and didn’t have a shot and the calf ran off.
We talked about our next plan of action. We decided to move and get our wind right and start calling. So we get set up and Henry said, “I’m going to take a nap, wake me up before you shoot.”
I start calling a couple more times and then I hear the calf respond 100 yards away in another patch of trees. I get Henry ready to call and i get my rest on a tree. There was one window I had through all of the branches and said to myself when the elk hits that spot, I need to be pulling the trigger. Henry called one more time and the calf trotted in to the opening and I pulled the trigger. I hit the calf right behind the front shoulder and it went 20 yards and laid down. I snuck over and took another shot to end it.
I got to work cleaning the animal and Henry went back to get the cart. I moved the calf as far as I could by myself with the shade we had. After 15 minutes, Henry made it back and we loaded the calf up. We then were back at the truck in another 15 minutes. The temperature then, at 11 am, was 77 degrees so we were in a hurry to get him to the processors as quickly as possible.
It was a great hunt for filling the freezer.
Things we did right:
We were in a spot where there was good feed during the morning (where most people wouldn’t go to)
We knew where the elk would most likely go after we had seen them.
We had the GPS chip from ONX Maps that we were able to follow the fence line in to where we needed to be.
We did have ice to put on the elk if we did get it in the afternoon.
We had a lot of fun this summer on a night fishing trip. Some of the guys we went with have done this for years. This night was a special one though because we decided to get a good group of guys together, rent a large pontoon boat and spend a good couple of hours getting to know more about each other in relative darkness.
I was one of the last ones headed out as I was waiting for my father-in-law to arrive at my house so we could go out as a carpool. A good portion of the guys had either taken down the camper and/or have headed out to go pick up the pontoon boat, which would fit all of us on it, plus our food and gear, for the evening.
We arrived at the lake about 6:45 pm, just as the other guys were getting the boat into the water. After helping with the boat docking, we loaded all 8 of us and our gear for the evening and set off.
We were able to get to “our spot,” a specific spot on the lake that we have had success with in prior attempts. During the summer, the trout congregate at a certain part of the lake, especially at night, and the results are just so much fun! After anchoring the boat, we tied on glow hooks and weights to our lines, and then we got Josh set up. He had just moved to Montana from California earlier that year and this was to be his first fishing trip and his first fish (if all was to go well).
We went through how to set up the reel and rod and how to tell how far down you were in the water. I was hoping that this would work out for him, as this is what it is all about! Spending and sharing the outdoors with everyone we can.
It was a bit a of a slow start as we were there before it started to get dark, which is what we found is needed to be able to get our spot. We all decided on different depths to see where the fish were going to be at, which as it turned out, was a very good thing.
After a bit, Henry (my father-in-law) decided to fish the bottom which is quite a ways deeper from where we normally fish. To our surprise he ended up hooking up with our first fish of the night! A Ling or Burbot – if you never have seen these fish you need to check them out – very tasty although they don’t look like it.
We had a fish here and there for awhile especially at the front of the boat which had lights. Then all of a sudden, the bite was on! It was about 10 pm which, which we have found is when they first start biting well.
We found the school and they were at 20-30 feet! For the next two hours, it was a non-stop frenzy of baiting, dropping the line down, reeling and netting. We found out on this night that the fish were attracted to the lights (old car lights in styrofoam hooked to a car battery) so we moved the lights from the front to the back of the boat and back up front every half hour or so. We not only had trout during this trip, but a few walleye had graced us with their presence during this spell as well.
The good thing about the night fishing is that it tends to slow down about 11pm (to usually finish out your first day’s limit) and then pick up again at 1am. One o’clock in the morning is the next day and another limit in store for us!
Just as we have done in the past, the fishing picked up again at 1am, and by 3am we had all pretty much limited out! The fishing was great and we were able to share the blast that we know as night fishing with one of our friends.
We placed the large amount of fish in a cooler on ice, planning to clean them when we get home and went to bed. Morning came early and we cooked breakfast for the group of guys (except for the eggs I forgot to bring), loaded up and headed back out on to the lake.
One of the guys, Jeremy cleaned up his catch at this point as he wasn’t able to go back out that morning.
In a prior fishing trip, we found that at another point on the lake there are perch to be caught so we decided to try there. We had been there a couple of weeks before, but this time we were only able to find a few here in there. This is when Henry said, ” Let’s try over there” and he pointed out over the water.
I relayed his suggestion “Hey guys, let’s move over there where Henry said to try.” and after a few minutes, we were anchored again, but this time over a very large school of perch and some walleye! In about an hour, between all of us we had filled two five gallon buckets full of those dry tasty fish!
We decided that it was about time to head back, especially if we had to clean all of those fish. We packed it up and in and returned home to Brad’s house to clean.
All in all we had caught and kept 120 perch, 10 walleye, and 63 trout. Not a bad couple of days fishing!
Things done correctly:
1. We had experience in where to start fishing. Right spot at the right time
2. We had the right equipment: My set-up, a medium rod with spinning real combo, glow hooks, lead weights (split shot) and night crawlers for the trout and a medium light rod and spinning combo with a jig head and night crawlers for the perch.
Things that we could of been better:
1. We are working on a new set of lights that will give more light without the large battery needed.
2. We need another set of lights so the whole boat can benefit from the lights.
3. I should have taken a bit more time before heading out to teach how everything worked for our new fishing partner!
Overall this was a great trip with good friends. If you want to get to know someone, take them fishing overnight!!! This is something that will most likely be an annual trip for us (if not a couple times a year trip).
During August of this year my family and I were visiting the great states of Oregon and Washington to visit my wife’s brother, Jonas and his wife Sarah and their family, who live in Battleground Washington, just north of Portland. We enjoyed the chance to visit and explore the area. We picked blueberries and caught them at the end of their growing season, but still picked a quick 60 lbs in two hours. We visited the sights and the big Farmer’s market, but one of the things I was most excited about is the fishing!
I have never been out on the ocean to fish. I have done a few tours and such on the ocean, but never had the means and time to be able to fish!
So Jonas and I went on two different fishing trips out near Astoria (Goonies never say die!”) .
Going After Bottom Fish
The first day we chartered a boat going out to fish Rock Bass and Ling Cod. We started out early from the house, 3 am to be exact. As we headed out and got gas, Jonas looked and we realized we were going to be really close to arriving at the docks at the last minute we had to check in.
We drove as fast as we legally could, trying to get there in time. Luckily for us, we didn’t have a lot of traffic and the construction that happened to be in our way didn’t slow us down. We arrived just as we needed to be there and were able to get on the boat.
The boat was a rather large one, and we were going to be passing through the most dangerous waters in America. The crazy part of this trip was the travel to the spot we were going to be fishing.
The travel in the boat took about an hour to get in to the spot where the rock bass were staying. We arrived and the captain and deckhand were setting up the rods. The fishing rods were about 8 feet long and were very, very stout. They had a counter on them so that you knew how far out you were. The setup consisted of a large lead weight with a couple of rigged hooks with plastic tails. They are tipped with a small fish and sent down to the bottom.
You then drop the lines when the captain says and then go to the bottom and bounce the rod up and down until they hit the line, then you bring them back up. Then after you float out of position, you reel up, the captain moves you, and then you fish again.
The group as a whole has a limit of 7 fish per person.
After a couple of minutes I found that I was starting to get the idea of how to fish. I was catching a fish here and there, when all of the sudden, the line went really heavy. I started reeling the line up and to my surprise, I had doubled up with two really nice rock bass!
The rest of the trip was fast and furious as I landed 10 fish total, with two being fish that we had to throw back as they were not legal to keep.
The biggest struggle I had was keeping my footing, but I was fishing well and had caught quite a few.
As fast as the fishing had started, we were told to reel up as the limit had been caught. There was one person who had caught a ling cod, but we had caught quite a few fish in only about 45 minutes.
The ride back was rough and showed me why it is a dangerous port way.
The next day of fishing was much easier, as far as the trip out went. But, buoy 10 had just opened the day before and there was only one boat that had caught fish so far. Which was news that we didn’t want to hear. However, we decided it would still be fun to go out as I hadn’t experienced that before.
We arrived after grabbing some lunch to take on the boat and got ready to go. We loaded up on to the boat and took our seats. We were being guided by Forest Shields and his deckhand Scott Shields from Gone Catchin’ Guide Service. We had only four people on the boat for this trip, which I was really excited about as we would have more fun with less people on the boat.
We set out to the area where the fish had been caught the prior day. The crazy thing is that phones work so that the guides can talk to each other to figure out where the fish are. We had fished for awhile when one of the lines started jerking.
One of the other client’s rod had a salmon on the line. It was reeled in and was a fish that could be kept so it went in to the bag. We stayed in the area for awhile, but no other fish were caught.
We decided to move to the other side of the bay with the tide moving a different direction. We set down the lines, which had different weights to get the lines down to the bottom and not tangle. The heavier weights were in the front, whereas the lighter weights were in the back allowing them to fall behind the boat.
So after a pass we moved back up to the top of the bay when all of the sudden, Scott called out, “Montana, fish on!”
I ran to the back of the boat and grabbed the rod, all the while everyone else was reeling up. I felt the fish pull on the other end and I started into my routine, letting the fish run when it pulled and then pumping and reeling when he was stopped and moving towards me.
This was the fight I had for a good 15 minutes, him pulling and seeming to win for awhile, then me getting him close to the boat. Finally after what seemed like a long time, we were rewarded with the sight of the fish. A great Chinook Salmon! Forest moved expertly in place and had me pull one last time to get him into the net! I had accomplished my goal. The biggest fish of my life. We estimated him at about 20 pounds and after he was into the net and brought in, we determined he was legal and kept him.
Scott handed him to me and we took this picture, a great trophy! The fish was then put into the cooler bag ready for the rest of the day.
We then proceeded to the top of the bay again, when another fish jumped on my line. Jonas took the turn at the rod and line. After a few minutes, another great fish was in the boat!
The crazy part of the day was by this point, we were basically the only boat on the bay that was catching fish! So with that, boats all over were coming in close to see what we were using and what we were doing, which was nothing different aside from the guides helping us out.
We kept fishing for awhile longer and another client ended up hooking into another fish which was legal and pulled into the cooler bag. We had all caught a fish.
The rest of the day was slow with no more fish to be had and so we moved back to the dock where Forest cleaned the fish and got them into a bag for us to take home and get in the freezer.
This was another great day and time fishing and a new experience that I would really like to share with my father in law Henry and my dad and Jonas again at some point in the future!
A special thanks to Jonas for taking me on this fantastic adventure.
Thank you also to Gone Catchin’ Guiding Service. If you are going to be in the area, you can check them out at the website below. http://columbiaguidedfishing.com
Things done right:
Finding great guides (Jonas did some great prep work.)
Going fishing during the week keeps out the weekend locals for the most part
Spending time doing new things.
Things could have done better:
Could have stood in a different place on the first boat so that I wouldn’t have slipped all over the place.
For this part of the series Katrina and I joined a couple of friends, Kevin and Crystal for a fishing trip to Ft. Peck at the southern part of the late had Hell Creek marina. This would be our first time fishing there on that arm of the lake.
During the weeks leading up to the trip both Katrina and I were figuring out what we would need to bring for both food, water, and fishing gear. We brought what we thought would be a good batch of gear. A medium-light action spinning combo, a medium action spinning combo, and my typical tackle box: basically the spoons from JDR Specialty Tackle that I had purchased on the last trip.
For the food we borrowed a Yeti 125 from my dad so that we would have just one spot to keep the food cool and get the fish cooled down until we were able to get home. We wrapped dry ice in newspaper and put it in the bottom with regular ice over the top. It worked so well, we were able to freeze the fish we caught and it kept our ice from melting the whole time.
About a week prior to the trip, we met up with Crystal and Kevin, who we would be getting to know very well during the next week (if want to get to know someone, the best way I have always found is to go “live” with them for a period of time by camping, hunting and generally being outdoors). We talked through some of the specifics of what each couple would be bringing so that we could prevent doubling up on things. This really set us up for a good time!
On the night before we were going to leave for the trip, we got as much of the gear ready as we could, so that we would be ready for the next day of travel. After I wrapped up my work the next day, we loaded up the cooler, our gear, and the kids who were going to stay with grandparents who happen to be on the way.
We got the kids settled with their grandpa and grandma and met up with Kevin and Crystal in Lewistown. This is where the fun began. We hooked up the boat to my pickup as it was better suited to pull it and could handle all of our combined gear. We got gas and then were on our way.
We arrived to the camping spot about 12:30 am, which was about what we figured, based on when we had left Lewistown. We then started stealth-fully looking for a camping spot which had shade during the time when we would possibly in camp. We found a spot and pulled out the tent to get it set up.
We had just recently purchased a tent from our local Sam’s Club and we had set it up in the yard the week before, that was helpful since we were setting up the tent in darkness. We got it up just as the wind started blowing. We found out one of the legs was a bit weak and we supported it with a bit of duct tape.
After finishing up the tent we went to getting the truck and camper unloaded. At this point we were all a bit tired and crashed.
Day 1 of Fishing:
We woke up early and made breakfast and tea for the girls and talked about what we would try to do to get the trip started off well. We ate and got on the water relatively early and we were fishing!
The day started off kind of slowly. We decided since I had had some luck bottom bouncing with my dad a few weeks earlier, that we would try that. We were able to get a couple fish here and there, but nothing truly significant.
Katrina: I am going to interject here and just say that I had never been fishing like this. My previous experience with fishing had been sitting on a bank, throwing the line out and waiting. So I really didn’t know what to expect when I found out that we would be sitting all day in a boat. I brought a lot of books and was prepared to nap! But what I found out was, it was amazing out there. There is a lot more to the ways you can fish from a boat which makes it really interesting. And it was just so relaxing and fun, especially in the morning, the water is beautiful, the fresh air smells fantastic, and you don’t really have any responsibilities on a boat. It’s not like you are expected to accomplish anything besides fishing out there!
Once again we woke early. This time we tried further down the lake, we found where the electronics said we had fish, but they were not biting. We used all types of colors, ranges of depths, and speeds, but to no avail. The fish were just not biting.
We decided to take a break as it was very hot. We moved into the main part of the lake and before we knew it Kevin had jumped in. We all decided to follow suit and jumped in after him. This was a great change to the day, it being so slow for so long.
After we all clambered back into the boat, we decided to try going around the edge of a cove trolling some of the spoons from JDR specialty tackle while bottom bouncing. We were trolling along when Katrina called “I think I’m hung up!” When I turned to look, the rod was bouncing heavily! After a few more moments of reeling, to our disappointment, the line went slack. After reeling in the line, I looked at the end and it was a clean break, telling us it wasn’t a snag, but rather a pike’s teeth that had done the job. Unfortunately, we had not set up that pole with a steel leader. Just a reminder that when you can, use a steel leader to help get the fish in the boat.
We moved down the bay, and a few minutes in, we were all reeling up again as Kevin had hooked in to a fish. However, this wasn’t an ordinary fish. I happened to be watching Kevin as the fish hammered down the bottom bouncer and almost took the rod into the lake. At times during this fight, the fish seemed to tear line from the reel, then Kevin would be able to catch up to him and get him closer to the boat. However, after the five minute struggle, the fish, with his sharp teeth, cut through the line and left Kevin struggling to accept what had just happened.
After that fish, we decided to keep fishing that bay, as it seemed to be holding fish that were biting. After another few minutes, we found out that we were going to have a “crappie” day! Kevin hooked into the first one, and then one after another we all started catching these great pan fish! We also caught a few walleye during that day and packed it up to head to camp and have another great dinner done by the whole crew.
Day 3 – Redemption
After talking the previous night, the gals decided they would like a morning off to sleep a bit more and enjoy their warm drinks (coffee and tea) while Kevin and I decided to head out. This proved to be good for us, bad for the gals.
We decided to try to catch the walleye bite in the morning in the same bay that we had fished the day before.
We got to the bay early with no other boats around. We decided not only to try to be there in the morning, but to also try plastic baits on a jig head instead of spoons and bottom bouncers. Almost right off we started catching crappie and a walleye here and there. It was fun to be catching fish consistently which was a change from the past two days.
One of my casts in particular I threw towards the bank where we had fish the day before. This time, to my surprise, I ended up hooking in to something different! It struggled and pulled differently than any of the fish I had caught prior, and after a couple of minutes, I ended up bringing to the surface a really nice smallmouth bass! We brought him in to the boat and took a couple of good pictures and then moved down shore, not 10 minutes later I brought in another one just about the same size! I couldn’t believe it! Two really nice bass within a couple of minutes.
After the two bass I thought it had been a really successful day and didn’t really expect much else from the day. It was then I ended up hooking into another nice fish. As I was reeling, it felt different as it was coming up. When it hit the surface I was ecstatic. It was about a 5 lb walleye, my biggest to date! Kevin was giving me a bad time about my luck as we took a couple of pictures and put it on to the stringer. Since it was a big fish I decided to put two hooks through his mouth so he wouldn’t get off.
We kept on fishing for awhile, still in awe over the difference in this day. I decided that I would look to see how the fish on the stringer were doing. When I looked down I saw something terrifying. My walleye had worked his way off one of the hooks and the other was open! I set down my rod and was going to pull it up slowly so I could replace and close the hooks, but when he felt me pull up on the stringer, he shook right off of the hook and back in to the water.
This was devastating as he was by far the best Walleye I have caught and I definitely wanted to show Katrina a good sized walleye. But after a few minutes we both got back to fishing.
Kevin, running the boat and fishing from the bow, then got a bite and hooked into a good fish. The fish came up relatively quickly, but it was another 5lb walleye. Although we both knew it was a different fish, I couldn’t let him get off easy, so I told him thank you for getting my fish back into the boat. This time we ran the string through the gill so there was no way for him to get off.
It was about lunch time after Kevin’s fish so we headed back to shore to eat lunch and pick up the girls. We then went right back out to that bay to see what else it would hold.
To our dismay, the rest of the day was filled with a fish here and a fish there, although Crystal did get a good sized bass.
Day 4 –(4th of July) All good things must come to an end.
We woke up early to get a couple of hours on the water. Although this was a last ditch attempt we didn’t have very much luck. A few fish here and there. Kevin did, at the end of the morning, finally did catch the pike of the trip.
Things we did right:
Used electronics to find the fish
kept trying different depths, colors, and methods
When we found something that worked, we stuck with it
Having friends and family around
Things we could have done better:
HAVE A LIVEWELL
Asked about what was working from a local shop before fishing.
We had some great experiences this summer and some of our favorites were the fishing trips. Good food, good friends, lots of fishing and relaxing. Rather idyllic actually…
We intended to post updates after each of these trips, but Summer got away from us. So now you can check them out in this four-part series: Ft Peck Trip 1(you are here); Ft. Peck Trip 2; Night Fishing/Perch Fishing, and Salmon fishing off the Oregon Coast.
Here’s Bob to fill us in on some of the highlights of the first Fort Peck Trip.
Part 1: Fort Peck, Montana in June
During the first part of June, my father (Nick), his friend (Cheri), and I made a trip to the biggest lake in Montana. We were planning on spending five days on the water learning and catching fish in one of the best fisheries Montana has to offer.
Dad and Cheri met me at my house so I could follow the truck/camper and boat combination. After staying the night at a place about half way to the lake, we arrived about mid day to find our camping spot. We spent the rest of the day setting up camp and getting my truck hooked up to the Lund boat my dad had purchased the year before.
That evening at dinner we were surprised to learn we did have data for our phones so we would be able to look at the fishing report. After learning they were catching the fish in about 5-15 feet of water with green bottom bouncers, we thought we were set.
We were up early and got out onto the lake. With Fort Peck having more shoreline than the entire West Coast, we really had a lot of options on where to start. We decided to go across the lake to a spot around some islands.
After about 25 minutes of motoring across the lake and we were finally fishing. I set up my bottom bouncing rig and got started. About 20 minutes later after finding the fish, I finally got my first hit. Although it wasn’t a good fish, it was a walleye and it was the first one on Peck!
About an hour later I was able to hook into another walleye, and then was followed by another. That first day was kind of slow.
We decided that we would go further down the east arm and see what we could find. After riding a bit further in the boat, we set up the bottom bouncing rig and then had another couple of walleye.
Not really getting into the walleye we were hoping for, I decided to test out the spoons I had purchased from JDR Specialty Tackle. I was quickly rewarded with my first Pike and Bass! These were caught by tossing them towards shore and then a slow retrieve back to the boat. A couple of pike that day were also caught by trolling the spoons behind the boat while using the bottom bouncers.
We weren’t having the walleye we were looking for so we decided to move down the other side of the East arm. I decided I was going to change it up though. I had been using night crawlers on my bottom bouncer rig up to that point, but decided to try out minnows. I put one on. After about an hour of trolling the line went taut! I ended up catching my biggest walleye to date! It was about 5 lbs and ended up being the fish of the day.
Day 3: Another spot
Since the previous day landed some great fish on that side of the lake, we decided to go down the east arm again. After fishing for awhile we finally landed on the large amount of Walleye that Ft. Peck is known for. We were using a green bottom bouncer and we hit them hard.
We caught quite a few little walleye and some great eaters. After awhile the fishing for the walleye went dead. We decided that it was time to try some of the bays for the pike that might be lurking around.
Moving closer to the very north part of the lake, we were once again using the spoons I had purchased the prior week. They didn’t disappoint. We caught a few more pike and this wrapped up day 3.
Day 4: The game is on.
Knowing where we left the walleye the day before, we moved out to the same spot. They were there again, and after about 6 hours of great fishing, we decided it was time to try the pike again.
This time the pike were unbelievable! Cheri ended up catching a 9 lb pike and another 5 lb pike. My Dad caught a good sized one that he ended up letting go since we had two good pike in the boat.
Day 5: last half day
We needed to leave at about 1 to be able to get home, so we decided we would try for the pike one last time. We went out to where we had caught those pike the day before but nothing was happening. I finally dug it out, the box of lures my Dad had taken to Canada some 30 years prior.
I used one of the big poppers that moved quite a bit of water. It was so crazy that I didn’t think it would work. My Dad took a video of it because it was so loud. I have attached a link to that video here.
Just after the video ended, a big pike hit the lure! I was able to get him just about to the boat and he then made a second run and when he did this he was able to spit the hook. We were so bummed as this was the only fish we had hooked that morning.
I switched lures again and we made a round by the same spot. This time no dice, but I did happen to see quite a few bass underneath the boat.
I told my Dad to pull one of the minnows out and put in on a light action rod with just a hook and a small split shot. Within five minutes he had a great bass! Both Cheri and I made the switch to the same set-up (not wanting to end up skunked) and a couple of minutes later Cheri had her bass. Finally, I ended up with the same result.
It was quite fun as with those light action rods, the bass were able to make quite a few runs before they were brought up to the boat.
All in all this was a great trip with great memories! We were able to discover and learn about this fishery and know what to do the next time we return.
Experiencing the outdoors with family and friends in one of God's greatest places!