I ran across this awesome series of children’s books while at our local library recently. I am in no way affiliated with them, I just really wanted to share them. They are part of the Little Sportsman series by Robert H. Jacobs, Jr. (There may be other authors, but that’s who wrote the ones we read.) They are all about a boy in his early teens named Jake who is learning about hunting, using weapons and having adventures. There are even more books, including some about fishing, but we haven’t got into those yet. The books we have read have a definite focus on gun/bow safety along with a simple, straight-forward stance on gun rights. If you have young kids in your life, these are an excellent way to teach them about these things all while enjoying a fun read-aloud time.
I have been reading them to our 5 yr old and when I grab one off the shelf, both my 8 & 10 yr old daughters come sit with us to listen too. I was excited to see on their website that there are plans for a Little Jane series, featuring a teen girl who will be hunting.
I’ve included some pictures of parts of the book that I really appreciate because of how they approach hunting and gun use so respectfully.
Last year we were invited by our friends, Kevin & Crystal, to go along with them to Fort Peck Lake here in Montana. We all had such a great time, we decided to go for a 2nd Annual trip. Fort Peck Lake is below Fort Peck dam and is 134 miles long at normal operating level, with 1,520 miles of shoreline.
We kept a journal this year and have lots of pictures to share. If you get a chance to fish this lake, I would definitely recommend you do it.
*Note: Not all fish pictures are necessarily the exact fish that corresponds with the writing. Once you take this many fish pictures, it’s hard to remember which was which. But I did try to keep the actual type of fish accurate to the text. Also, some days include a fish count. And some days I forgot and there were too many fish and too many days for me to remember. Lots of fish, people, lots of fish…
I’m opening up our posts about Fort Peck through the haze of having had a nap after being on a boat all morning. The naps are one of the big perks of these fishing camps… I fell asleep to the feel of rising up and down on the waves since my body seems to think I am still out on the water. It’s been a pretty good first day… We got an early start and made breakfast burritos with some pre-made eggs and sausage. We grabbed our mugs of tea or coffee and headed out.
We have come to Hell Creek both times as there is a nice campsite, launching area and we have gotten a pretty good feel for where we will have success fishing in some of the nearby coves. The roads getting here are better than last year, but 30 miles of washboard gravel road tends to wreak a little havoc. As we clean layers of dust off gear or tighten bolts and screws, the phrase “welcome to Hell Creek” has been bantered between us all. As we were heading out on the water this morning we discussed which area we wanted to try and both Bob and Kevin were anxious to get back into the cove where they caught some really nice Small Mouth Bass last year. We motor our way back and see the familiar landmarks and settle in to troll our way up this finger of Fort Peck.
The first fish in the boat is a medium Bass from Bob. Three more follow, increasing in size, from both guys and ending in one smaller one from Bob. Amongst them, Kevin caught a Crappie that wasn’t a keeper. Kevin keeps saying he knows there’s a big Pike in there as he watches big blips come across the fish finder. And he proves himself right as his line starts zinging along, the tip of the rod curving down to the water. He’s super excited and we all jump into action, grabbing nets and moving other fishing poles. Kevin is reeling hard and this fish is just taking off with his line, while Crystal is trying to maneuver the boat to allow Kevin to get this guy on the boat. Kevin works the fish close to the surface and we catch sight of that big, angular Pike head and I can’t help but exclaim “He’s gorgeous!” which causes the fish to panic and dive down. Kevin gets him to the surface twice more before we get him in the net. Thankfully Mr. Pike had taken a roll or two and was wrapped securely in Kevin’s 8# line. Bob nets him up and Kevin goes into celebration mode. It’s a super decent fish. He weighs in at 11 lb 5 oz and is 38” long. There’s a lot of teasing about bigger fish that everyone else has caught. But really, it’s a nice catch.
As the bite dies down, we head into shore to replenish supplies and clean fish so we will be ready to head out for the evening.
We head out for an evening of fishing as the sun beats down. I don’t know what the temperature is, but the forecast for this week is a high of 105°F and it’s HOT. Last year we didn’t bring swimming clothes, but this year we are ready. After fishing for a short time and not seeing a lot of response from the fish, Kevin decides to change into his swim trunks. We all politely avert our eyes, but Kevin has a wardrobe malfunction and can’t get his balance, we all start laughing as we hear him struggle which causes him to crack up. A boat that had been further away is drawing closer and jokes about them being traumatized by his bare, white bum start flying around. Crystal is standing at the back of the boat watching to see if Kevin needs help and I glance up at her and realize that there’s a very clear, miniature view of the front of the boat in the reflection of her sunglasses. “I can’t look at you, or towards the front!” I say. By this time we are incapacitated with laughter and Kevin sounds like he is starting to panic. Crystal goes to the front and I guess they get Kevin sorted out because we hear a splash and he’s in the water. After he gets cooled off, we try a couple of other spots to fish and end up with just a small Bass that we don’t keep.
Saturday Fish Count:
Bob: 2 Small Mouth Bass
Kevin: 2 Small Mouth Bass
Crystal: 1 Small Mouth Bass
On Sunday, I took a little writer’s retreat and relaxed at camp. Everyone else went out but only caught a few super small fish and didn’t keep any.
Sunday night was gorgeous, we went out around 7pm and the water was cobalt blue with reflections of a lavender sunset to the west.
We pulled into a cove and saw fish jumping, which always seems like a good sign. The Red-winged blackbirds were calling to one another and huge dragonflies were hovering over the water. Kevin caught a barely keepable Walleye early on. We were trolling around and suddenly Crystal says “Is that a snake?!” We all rush to look and instead of a snake, see a monster of a Pike with another fish in it’s mouth, breaking the surface of the water as he attempted to get his meal down his gullet. We watched him as he made an appearance on both sides of the boat and saw one more flip of his long body further away and he was gone. We didn’t figure we would catch that guy, since he had just eaten, but we were now hoping for a big Pike in this cove. Crystal caught a little Perch and Kevin caught a dinky Walleye.
We were trolling around a flooded area and Bob had on an orange spinner as he casted in between snags. Suddenly he had a fish on and after working a few minutes got a nice Pike on the boat. It was a nice way to end a slower day.
Monday rolled around nice and hot again, with 99° F in the shade at 2pm. We got a later start and headed out at 7:30am. We had some nice cloud cover to start but it blew off pretty quick, although there was just enough of a breeze to keep from sweltering on the boat. Crystal brought along a floating tube and cooled off on that and we took a swimming break as well.
Crystal caught a Walleye on a Perch colored Colorado blade. Kevin caught a Walleye and a Perch that he threw back.
Bob caught a Pike that was about 5 lbs and 32” on a yellow and orange Colorado blade on a bottom bouncer with a worm.
It started to get hotter and the fishing died down so we headed in to take a break for mid-day.
Bob: 1 Pike
Kevin: 1 Walleye, 1 Perch
Crystal: 1 Walleye
This was the hottest day of the trip, at 102 ° F. So we took a break from fishing in the evening and did some housekeeping around the camp and some napping. This was a serious napping day, especially since we had splurged on a campsite with electricity the day before and we had a/c in the camper.
4th of July – ‘Merica… Bob & Katrina’s Anniversary
We woke up extra early and got out on the lake at 6am in hopes of getting some time out fishing before it got too warm since it was so hot the day before. We pulled up to the first spot, hoping to land on the fish and get going. After a few minutes, Bob was able to pull up a small mouth bass. This fish was his first of the day and seemed like a good start. After a few minutes, there was not much biting and we moved to another spot. Kevin caught a perch that he threw back and then a fairly decent Crappie using a Gulp Alive minnow on a jigging head. Kevin was frustrated because he was getting bites but not getting anything hooked, so he decided to keep the Crappie. But shortly after he caught a real nice Walleye. I finally hooked into a little Bass that I threw back in the drink.
I probably would have caught more fish, but I got a little caught up in the relaxing part of fishing and didn’t spend quite as much time with my line in the water as I could have. Anyway, since I finally caught a fish, I decided I needed a break and sat down on the back edge of the boat to drink my tea. Bob was messing around with getting a lure from Kevin in the front and as he came back he dropped it and it clattered on the bottom of the boat. He asked if I could help him out and I turned around to see him kneeling down on one knee to get it. Right off, I knew he was up to something. He handed a big, shiny, lure up to me and I suspiciously took it. Looking at it more closely, I realized it had fancy engraving across the front of it. I looked at it more closely and read “Marry me, but this time in Ireland.”
And I figured that would be fine, so I said “Sure.” Actually I told him he was crazy and then I said sure. Which is a bit of a joke because I don’t do great with things that involve emotions and when he proposed 14 years ago I didn’t say “Yes!” and cry and get all scream-y like they do in the romantic movies. I said “Sure.” I always explain now that it’s really a good thing because it meant I was sure. So that was fun.
After awhile things calmed down and we went back to fishing and Kevin caught a Pike. We could see a lot of big Pike in the shallows, feeding on minnows and other fish. We continued fishing without catching anything worth mentioning and decided to head in until it cooled off a bit.
We got back out on the water at a little after 5pm. It was a beautiful last evening of our trip. There was a cool breeze and some decent cloud cover which made for a pastel sunset. We had a Bald Eagle that was hanging out in the cove we were in and we got a chance to observe him which was pretty neat, especially as it was the 4th of July. He flew to a couple different vantage points, at one time giving some geese a heart attack. We also saw mule deer coming down to drink at the water’s edge. Kevin caught another Pike and two walleye and I caught my second fish of the trip, a Bass. Back at shore, Kevin showed us some good tips on how to cut up fish and we will get some video up soon (hopefully).
Bob and Kevin went out for a short time while Crystal slept in (she’s 9 months pregnant so it was totally warranted). I got up at 5:30am and went looking for toads to draw in my Nature Journal. We had caught a few last year and I was hoping to find one this year too. I didn’t find one, so I had to settle with a cool feather and my new bluebird friend. Crystal woke up after awhile and we relaxed at camp and drank some coffee. The guys showed back up shortly with two walleye, a drum and a Bass from Kevin. Bob had caught a Bass and a Gold Eye that he threw back. Then we broke up camp and said good-bye to Fort Peck for another year.
Alright, thank you to those that made it all the way to the end of this mega-post. For those of you still interested, I am going to add a few more random pictures and fill you in on some lure information.
*some affiliate links included
Fishing Gear We Used:
Bottom Bouncing with Worm Harness: Kevin and Crystal had made up a bunch of the worm harnesses so I don’t have a link for you. We are going to learn how to make them and do them as a handicraft (think life skills) in our homeschool, so I will get a tutorial up for you.
“The Ambassador” (Not the actual name, but a name it had previously earned for helping Kevin bridge the gap between this world and the underwater one) Kevin caught a little of everything with this guy. It’s actually a Perch colored jointed shad from Rapala.
Berkley Gulp Alive Minnows: These were pretty hot for us. We used them on a jigging head and had pretty good success with these. Maybe the most success out of everything we tried. Bob has a little container of liquid that comes with some of them and it adds a scent to the bait, so maybe that helped too.
I know… it’s summer. But if you know me, I tend to be a day late and a dollar short. So you are going to have to take what you can get and not read Turkey hunting stories in the right season. It’s still a good story. 😉
This was my first year Turkey hunting and I have to admit I was feeling a little down-hearted about going out the second time after my initial experience. The first time around, we got to the spot where we thought the turkeys might be and heard them gobble right at daybreak so we hustled through a small ravine and up the other bank and got set up to be ready for them. They were talking quite a bit but I couldn’t see them. Suddenly I caught a glimpse of movement up in a pine tree and realized it was a big Tom. He was thumping and gobbling as he stood up on a big branch. I turned to my dad who was sitting behind me and pointing up, I quietly said. “They’re up in the tree!” He nodded his understanding and went on watching and calling. Well, now my first realization here should have been “dad can’t hear very well, maybe you should clarify.” But instead I assumed that since he didn’t react, I wasn’t able to shoot him out of the tree. Bob was back around on my left with a number of trees between us and I couldn’t see him to make him aware of it, so there I sat, for about a half hour, enjoying my view of this big ol’ Tom dragging feathers and gobbling away.
Suddenly the flock flew down out of the trees and went down the ravine away from us. We called and tried to bring them back, but they just took off out of there. We chased ’em all around the country and saw them a couple more times, but never close enough to get a shot. Turkeys are fast!
Finally when we were in the pickup, heading home, Bob was saying something about how he thought there must have been one big Tom on the ground because he could hear him stomping heavy, or something like that. So I chime in to explain that he was doing it in the tree. Bob kind of turns to me funny and says “You mean you could see him?” And I was like “Yeah, I was watching him the whole time.” And both Bob and Dad exclaim “Why didn’t you shoot him?” Well, you all know why by now. So lesson learned, you can shoot a turkey out of a tree if you choose to. I think some people prefer not to, but it’s not illegal.
Okay, so I wasn’t feeling super confident in my ability to get close to a turkey, but Bob dragged me out of bed at 4am anyway so I figured I would give it a try. If nothing else, it was a beautiful morning. We were hunting on a ranch that I had gone to a few times as a kid when my mom was doing some calving for them. I loved going with her, we would get there around 10pm and check cows, then nap in a camper before going back out again after a bit. We would listen to the overnight talk radio while we checked cows, it’s a good memory for me…
Anyway, I digress, turkeys. We walked past a dam and bellowing cows up to a stand of pine and quaker trees and started to hear the turkeys gobble. We thought about setting up near some brush but decided to push up a little further. We hunkered down in some dead fall and dad set up his hen decoy where the coulee came down in front of us.
We sat and called for awhile when all of a sudden we heard a funky sound (not 70’s music, just a weird sound…) We all looked at each other in confusion but we couldn’t see what was making the sound. Well a few minutes later, a muley doe crossed the upper part of the coulee and she was on high alert. She was the one making the crazy noise, sort of a whistly, nasal, snort, bark… I don’t know if she had a fawn down where we were, or what, but she couldn’t figure out what we were, but knew something was up. She crossed back and forth three times trying to sort us out and we figured that her alarm call pushed the turkeys up over the top of the hill because we couldn’t hear them any more. We sat a little longer and I did some arts and crafts with some pine needles and updated my facebook. (I no longer have the facebook app on my phone, because obviously I have a problem.) Then we decided to go looking for turkeys. It was starting to feel like that first trip out…
So we ramble up over the hill and sort of meander around the top of it when dad catches sight of a hen. He starts calling and we hustle along. Dad informs me that I need to walk further away from the edge of a hill so I can see over the edge but only my head shows to anything down below (learned something new…)
I was in the front and all of a sudden I see a Tom. He saw us, but didn’t know he should be worried yet. He had his head up and was looking intently my way, and pretty as a picture, right in front of me was a pine tree with a broken branch right at shoulder level. I set the barrel of my gun on it, got a bead on him, let my breath out, pulled the trigger and WHAM! I flew backwards! Well, maybe not that bad… But, son-of-a-gun! That gun kicked! Good thing I had it seated in my shoulder. For some reason, I didn’t think a shotgun with turkey shot would pack a punch like that. Oh yeah… You want to know if I got the turkey. I did. One shot to the noggin and he was done.
Bob tried to get a shot with his bow, but the other turkeys were taking off pretty fast. He said later he should have grabbed my shotgun rather than trying to get a shot with his bow on the run. But you don’t always think of that in the heat of the moment.
We tagged my Tom and I hefted him up to carry back to the truck. We meandered a little in hopes of running across the flock again, but they had cleared out.
Today I have this week’s recipes and meal ideas (scroll down for those), plus I wanted to share with you a nifty food storage container that we are trying out. The containers are called Fitpacker Meal Prep Containers. They are made specifically to help you eat healthier by preparing healthy meals to eat at a later time.
The Fitpacker Original are the perfect size for individual meals (28oz.) and we have been using them for lunches and dinner on the go. There is also the option to get the Fitpacker Duo which has two compartments or the larger Fitpacker XL (38oz.) containers to accommodate a variety of meal types.
We have been using these containers for about a month and a half and they really help simplify things. They stack up really nicely, so I can store them neatly in a cooler bag when we will be eating supper in town and I love how sleek and simple they look when they are all lined up and ready to go. I don’t just use these containers when we are away from home either, they are also great for setting up snacks for the kids (sliced fruit and veggies) or pre-making my own lunch so that I don’t end up making poor choices because I am in a hurry and just grab whatever is quick. Another big plus for me it that they are made in the USA. Fitpacker containers are also BPA free, easy to clean and freezer, dishwasher and microwave safe.
Specially contracted with a USA manufacturer to provide the most dense and highest quality plastic container they have ever made.
I was a little worried that the lid would leak when we packed up foods with liquids, but the lip on the tray and a well-fitting lid keep liquids from spilling out.
They are a great tool to have around for meal prep and it makes it easier to make healthy choices when you have your meals all ready to go.
The lids fit so well, that sometimes they are difficult to remove.
*Fitpacker graciously sent us the Fitpacker Original containers in order that we could provide this review.
This Week’s Recipes:
Okay, this post is getting a little long, so I am going to keep the recipe information basic this week. But if you need some ideas on how to use the fish and game you have in your freezer, here you go!
Hamburger Salad– This is SO good, we use a little bit of cheese and this salad tastes like a Big Mac. We used Elk burger for this one.
Honey Soy Salmon You can’t go wrong with a Pioneer Woman recipe… This was easy and delicious. We had a problem with our rice (let’s just say, we had some uninvited guests) so I nixed the rice in this recipe and went with some Dreamfields Spaghetti noodles. I spooned some of the sauce from the fish over the noodles and the kids went especially crazy for that.
Loaded Nachos Another Pioneer Woman recipe, you can use Blue Corn Chips if you are trying to steer clear of too many carbs. This was a fun meal for the day we had one of the kid’s friends over. We used Elk burger for this one as well.
Taco Skillet Oh, man… If you need a quick dinner, this is the one. Brown some burger, open a couple of cans and you are set. We ate this over a bed of lettuce with a dollop of sour cream.
Elk Loin steak with mashed potatoes and salad. I salted the thawed steak, fried it in the pan and then sliced it with the potatoes and salad on the side. No recipe needed. The Pioneer Woman does have a great tutorial for how to cook a steak if you need something like that. I don’t use the seasonings she recommends, just salt and pepper and I do cook our steak just a smidge more than she does, but she has some great pictures that will help you get a good idea of how to cook a great steak.
That’s it for this week! Let me know if you try some of these out, or if you have questions about the Fitpacker containers. And, as always, I would love to hear your meal suggestions.
Bob and I have recently been seeing information about hunting a large game animal called an Aoudad. And if you are anything like me, your first thought might be “What the heck is an Aoudad?” So of course I had to go online and look up information. And if you are anything like Bob, your first thought might have been “I don’t care what they are! How can I get on a hunt for an Aoudad?” Well in either case, I am going to save you some time and fill you in.
The Aoudad, or Barbary Sheep (although they are sometimes included in the goat genus Capra), are a wild, non-native species originally from Africa that were brought to Texas and New Mexico after soldiers stationed in Chad and the Barbary Coast of Northern Africa, during World War II, recognized the potential of the Aoudad as a game animal and had some shipped to the United States.
The Aoudad are a short haired,reddish-brown animal, with a mane of longer hair under their neck and front legs. Both the male and female have horns. They have flourished in the mountains of Texas and New Mexico due in part to their ability to obtain all hydration from the vegetation they consume and remain hydrated for long periods with little water.
Based on what I have read, they are super alert which makes for a challenging hunt. I imagine it would be like hunting antelope if they were still in the mountains.
So what makes these animals so intriguing for hunters?
In a lot of ways, a wild mountain sheep hunt is the least attainable big-game hunt on the continent for the everyday American outdoorsman or woman. It’s not so much the physical challenge, but the financial burden and the long odds of drawing a tag that push a sheep hunt out of reach for most.
And that’s why a wild aoudad hunt in West Texas might be one of the most underrated big-game trips out there. You get to glass, climb, feel your muscles ache, and hear your joints creak. And if you hunt hard and shoot well, you’ll likely come home with a very cool trophy and some great memories.
While hunting Aoudad is less expensive than some hunts out there, right now it still is above our budget. So Bob and I were excited to find a group of guides from Terlingua, Texas who run a site called HUNTAOUDAD.COM and who regularly give away Aoudad ewe hunts as part of their management strategy and to build awareness about their organization. You can sign up to win a hunt on their website. They also have a great FAQ page that lays out the requirements for a hunt on their place.
It would be so exciting to win a hunt and get the chance to go after such a unique and challenging animal. I really like that the hunts are free range and fair chase so we wouldn’t be shooting an animal while it’s feeding at the hay mow. They also have a guide available for the extent of your hunt and you can decide how much or how little they help out.
What do you think? If you had the chance, would you hunt one of these critters?
Hey! We are adding a new aspect to the blog. Almost every week I will put together a post that includes recipes and links to meals we made during the week. Most of them will be centered around fish and wild game that we have harvested and will for the most part be low-carb, paleo-ish friendly. I think this will be really fun and I look forward to hearing what you all think. I will be figuring out how to make these recipes printer friendly as well.
I don’t have a full week this time, as we ate at a friend’s house and went out to dinner, but here’s what I do have.
Red Beans and Rice
*Unless you are lucky enough to have some smoked sausage made with game, this recipe does not include any wild game, but it’s tasty…
This is a recipe I found quite a few years ago. It’s pretty quick to put together because it uses smoked sausage and it’s nice and hearty. This is the original recipe, but I have made a few adjustments.
1.I don’t like how mushy it was from being in the crock-pot, so I saute the veggies and then add all of the ingredients to a soup pot and let it simmer for 30 min.
3. I add extra veggies and only put in two cans of beans to limit carbs. You could also (a)leave out the rice, (b)use a rice that fits the way you eat better (we use brown rice) and (c) just take a small portion to limit carbs also.
4. I substitute whatever polish sausage we decide on while looking at the store.
This recipe makes a nice, large amount and is great for breakfast or lunch for a few days or you could freeze it for a quick meal later.
Elk Loin Steak with Veggies
This is such an easy and tasty meal to make. Of course loin is a great cut, but we pretty much enjoy any cut of steak eaten this way, except for cubed steak which tends to be a bit tougher.
1-2 lb Elk Steak
Salt & Pepper (or your favorite seasoning)
Directions: Thaw steak and sprinkle with a generous amount of salt, let the steak sit for up to an hour, 10 minutes works too. I have used different spices and seasoning mixes, but I find that just a nicely salted steak, cooked well, is ideal.
Pre-heat a frying pan to med-high heat and lay those steaks on there. Depending on thickness, cook for 2-3 minutes per side. If the steak sticks to the pan, wait. It’s not ready yet. You want it to be seared and then it should release. Now flip! As this side cooks, all those yummy juices should come to the top. You want the juices on top to still be a little red and the outsides to be seared. A dry, overcooked steak=sadness. If you aren’t certain if it’s cooked right, take one steak out of the pan and cut it in half. It should be red, but the middle should not look raw. Red=yes, Raw=no.
Once the steak is cooked to perfection, pull them all out of the pan. Throw your steak on a plate, slice it up so it looks pretty and fill up the rest of your plate with veggies. We normally do salad. The night I made the steak in the picture, it was just the kids and I so we had raw carrots with ranch and potatoes. (ok! It was tater tots, but sometimes you do what you have to do to survive…)
I don’t have a picture for this final recipe, the lighting was horrible and I was missing a couple ingredients.
So, I think this was a good recipe… But the problem with fish is that, no matter what you do to it, it still tastes like fish. Now, I know fish is healthy and we have a lot of it, so I continue to eat it. But I don’t care for it. But Bob and our 4 yr old son, who both like fish, enjoyed this dish. So I think it must be okay.
We just wanted to take a moment to wish you all a Merry Christmas. We have only been writing here for a short time, but we are so thankful for the journey thus far and for all of you, our readers. We hope this holiday season is a blessed time for you and yours.
Well opening of rifle season was October 22nd and that marked the beginning of a week long “vacation” we take each year. As some of you know, we homeschool, and one of the perks of homeschooling is determining when you take vacations. A few years ago we started spending the entire first week of rifle season at my parent’s house in Lewistown, Montana. The first year, I packed up all of our school books and supplies and tried to do school while we were there. It was a flop. So now we just look forward to a week of visiting with family and hunting. My brother comes over from Washington and mom watches the kids some so I can go out and it’s a blast.
I decided I am going old-school and will set these up like a photo album and fill you in as we go. Do you remember photo albums people? That reminds me, I need to print pictures… I think I am behind by about seven years…
Anyhow, we started out the week by waking up early and heading out to some BLM land. We had heard that the elk bed down there and sometimes you can catch them there before they head back over to graze on the N Bar Ranch in the morning. Dad, Bob & I hiked up a large hill through the quaker trees and the underbrush in the semi-darkness while Jonas and my cousin-in-law, Raleigh hiked up a trail to the other side of the hill. We knew also that my dad’s cousin Benny’s boys, Aaron and Logan, were up there somewhere too and found out later they were up a ways more and were overlooking the next ridge.
We got set up under some trees in front of a meadow we thought they might come through as light broke. We almost immediately heard three shots further North of us and thinking that the elk might now get pushed down a coulee further that way, we relocated quickly. We continued to hear a shot here and there, but unfortunately, we didn’t get into the elk. Aaron and Logan(along with a couple other guys) had been able to see a herd of cows right below them once it was light and they shot a cow, which pushed the elk up Southwest of us, into a group of other hunters who shot their elk. We never did get to see them. Although once we were back at the truck and looked up the hill we had come down, we did see a large black bear run across a clearing and down into the trees.
We spent the rest of that day watching other hunters… Well that’s what it felt like. It was really crazy, being the first day of rifle season. Normally the guys go down to the river to hunt and they get way back into the backcountry where there aren’t so many people. But I didn’t have a tag for that area and they were trying to let me hunt without completely abandoning my mom with the kids so we were doing more local hunting. Thus all the people. It’s hard to not have fun when you get to drive around Montana and hang out with other hunters though. We spent awhile just watching all of the movement of hunters below us as we stood on a ridge and visited with Benny, his boys and the others who had been hunting with them. And we chased coyotes and saw lots of wildlife.
The next day we tried a different spot and ran into a whole lot of elk hanging out on private land which again was owned by the N Bar (it feels like they own everything over there now!). I hear they don’t let many people hunt on their place. But I am starting to think I need to call and ask for next year…
Well, that morning we didn’t have any luck with the elk so we decided to go back over by the colony to look for deer. We dropped off my brother, Jonas, at one end of the area we planned to hunt and we went to look up on the other end. He saw some does and a few small bucks but the one we were looking for wasn’t there. Jonas saw a few coyotes too so as we were driving to another spot dad wanted us to try we caught sight of one of the coyotes and gave chase.
So the guys did end up getting a shot at the coyote but it made it to a den and dodged inside. Dad and Jonas tried to figure out how to get the coyote out of it’s den and decided they didn’t want to stick their face down in there. They dug out the front so they could look in without having to get too close and found the coyote. Jonas decided to shoot him once more with the pistol and his front half disappeared into the den. He pulled the trigger and WHUMP… the sound reverberated from out of the den and Jonas came out shaking his head. As a result the coyote moved way to the back and we weren’t able to retrieve him, but on our way out we saw Logan and told him about it. By the time he got back there, the coyote had come out and was laying dead at the opening. Meh… At least I was able to glean some entertainment from the whole deal.
The next morning found us again looking at elk on the N Bar, I am serious, it’s everywhere… We were at their fence line looking back towards private land that we could hunt on the next day, but their family was hunting there over the weekend and we could go on after they had first chance. In between the private land was some BLM and we were hoping that the elk might get pushed up through there on their way to the N Bar. No luck.
We set up in a meadow that evening to wait for the elk to come back in to graze. Jonas and Dad went scouting around to see if they might run into them. I found a lot of pretty mushrooms and took some selfies. No elk.
Ok the days have all started running together in my memory at this point. So here’s the wrap-up. It was fun. We saw and did SO much that week. I am going to throw a couple more pictures at you including the one with the single critter I managed to harvest all week. Thanks for joining me on my trip down memory lane!
Oh, man I just love fall. I love the colors, the smell, the way the air feels… It just has a different energy from the rest of the year. So combine that with going out to look for Bob’s antelope and going Pheasant hunting for the first time and it makes for a great time!
First I want to tell you this story… I guess about 13 years ago I had said to my dad that I wanted to hunt pheasant so my dad was on the lookout for a shotgun for me. Well, while he and my mom were in Billings she had him stop at Shopko and he went to go look at guns and was eyeing a 20 gauge they had there for $230 but decided not to get it. So they get ready to leave and as he goes out the door, the blue light starts flashing and the voice over the loudspeaker announces that the Remington 20 gauge is on blue light special! Did you guys know they really did blue light specials? And I do want to know who controlled what went on special, maybe the guy at the gun counter who saw this fella looking at a particular gun? Anyway, dad goes back in there and the gun is on special so he goes ahead and buys it. Then when he gets home, there’s a rebate in one of his hunting magazines so he sends that in and get twenty bucks back. And now he’s got my gun. But unfortunately it didn’t get out much until now. And once you hear the rest of this, you might pity it even more!
Now for page two… (Anybody get that? Huh?) Well, anyhow Bob and I took our 4 yr old son, Robby, with us and piled in the truck with my dad and went looking for antelope at daylight.
We drove out towards Grass Range to hunt out at the Ayer’s Hutterite Colony and entered the first pasture. We soon realized we had picked the wrong day to hunt that area because it was the weekend that there were cattle buyers in town and a lot of the area rancher’s were gathering up calves to ship. So as we drove in we were met with cattle semi’s, bawling cattle and horses and riders on the move. We went ahead and checked the entire area that we had permission to hunt on, but the antelope had all been pushed out into the neighboring ranches.
Since we hadn’t had any luck with the antelope we decided to go home and change gear and get the dogs to go out Pheasant hunting. We loaded up with shotguns and Bob’s bow, just in case…
My dad hunts two Brittany Spaniels, Joe and Dex, that are eight and ten years old so they have a lot of experience. And we have a Brittany Spaniel/Golden Retriever cross we call CC. She is almost two and this was her first time out. We really should have had her out before and we have mostly worked with her on obedience training, but she has always been pretty keen on pointing so we were hoping she hadn’t lost some of that natural instinct.
As we got out of the truck,there were some Pheasant feathers on the ground and I showed them to CC and she got pretty excited and dad’s dogs started sweeping along, nose to the ground. We took off up along a draw with dad on one side and Bob and I on the other. Dad’s dog flushed a hen right away but we can only shoot roosters so we continued on. Our dog swept in and out of the long grass and brush, coming back to check in with us and then taking off again. I think she thought at first that we were just out for a nice walk when all of a sudden as she was running excitedly after a scent she surprised a hen that flew up right in front of her. She jumped up after it as it flew and then came back to us, running all out and you could see in her eyes that she knew what was up now. She became a bit more focused and followed dad’s dogs more closely as they scoured the bottom of the coulee. They scared up a few pheasant here and there and Bob and Dad got a few shots off with no luck.
On our way back down, we went through a hailed-out barley field and Dad scared up a coyote and a few more hens and Bob tried another shot at a rooster. But we didn’t actually take any down in that field.
We crossed the road to another stubble field that edged a small ravine and we came across quite a few more birds, but dad’s dogs were hunting a bit too far out and we weren’t able to get a shot. I was especially frustrated when I decided to move on and catch up to the guys and as I walked away the dogs got up two roosters out of the ravine where I had been standing.
Day was drawing to a close and we decided to drive down and check out one more spot when dad noticed some roosters in the field off the road. Bob hopped out and intended to let me try to get around where I could try a shot too but the birds started to take off and we didn’t get a chance at them. We drove just a bit further and there was another rooster. I hopped out and he flew up right in front of me. I pumped my gun, settled it into my shoulder, squeezed the trigger… and nothing. I left my safety on. ARG!!!
Well, after that we saw a bunch of pheasant head across the stubble field and down towards the ravine in a different area. We still had 40 minutes of hunting time left as you can hunt 30 minutes after sunset so we set off after them. As we came up to the edge we saw them all coast down into the bottom. We had left the dogs because we had hoped to sneak up on them a little bit so we stood looking down the steep hill as they disappeared into the long grass and brush in the bottom. Then we all started to meander down the slope. Pheasant flew up here and there and dad shot two roosters. I didn’t get a shot and Bob tried for a couple.
So, all in all, it wasn’t entirely successful but man was it fun. I loved tromping around with the dogs and the thrill of watching those beautiful birds fly up and hearing the whir of their wings. I can’t wait to get out again. And this time I am sure I will remember to flip my safety off.
I am so excited to share this story with you today! Courtney has a great way of telling her story and it’s an exciting hunt. I’ll turn you over to Courtney to hear what happens.
I grew up rifle hunting with my dad and my brother; I give my dad all the credit for introducing me to hunting and instilling in me a passion for being outdoors and soaking up God’s creation. I’m so grateful that he didn’t discount me as a daughter (hunter), and brought me along like a son. Some of my fondest memories are hunting trips with the two of them.
Another amazing man in my life, my husband, introduced me to the archery world. He spent the majority of his big game hunting carrying a bow, and if I wanted to be hunting with him I needed to pick up a new art. After one season of his hunting without me, I couldn’t handle the amazing stories—I had to try it out. I’ve been hooked ever since. There is NOTHING like a bull elk within 30, 20, even 10 yards of you, and his amazingly distinct bugle screaming in your face. I have had more close-up, pee-your-pants experiences with elk since I picked up the sport than I could ask for. It has been incredible.
September 3, 2016:
Our alarm went off at 3:30 am, opening morning. Maybe, just maybe, it was a little easier to get up this morning than other stupid-early-ones, simply because of opening morning excitement. But, we were still dragging. “You’re not gonna shoot a big bull elk laying in bed!” was always my husband’s line.
We met up with my brother, my other favorite hunting partner, and hit the road. We were teeming with excitement to see what the public land we had our eye on held for us this year. We had done our homework, and scouted plenty. Things seemed pretty promising, but once hunting season starts there are no promises. We have had incredible years out there, as well as flops.
We parked quite a distance from our goal coulee, checked our wind, and walked across a field. While walking in, Kyle (brother) spotted 5 bulls feeding in a field beyond the draw. We quickly made a plan and split up. Toby (husband) set-up with the cow decoy on one side of the coulee, and Kyle and I headed down in and up the other side. We split up, both hoping to intercept the bulls as they grazed out of the field. As I slowly side-hilled around a corner, I could hear 2 bulls fighting. It sounded super close, so I set up near a tree that was right off of an elk highway. My heart began to pump and I started to get nervous, as I felt the adrenaline rush through my body. I have had plenty of close encounters with bull elk, and my body involuntarily remembered and began to shake. I thought, “Am I going to be able to hold still enough to shoot?”
Within a minute of standing there, I heard something splashing through some water straight downhill from me. I looked down and spotted a spike bull, wading through the small puddle in the creek below and crossing to the other side. Soon another followed him. And another. I couldn’t believe it. Now what do I do? Stay where I hear 2 bulls sparring, and am hoping they will come? Or get down to the water? I decided the water was obviously where they were traveling, and as quickly and quietly as I could, snuck down over a small cliff and through a carpet of noisy pinecones. The whole time, I had to be mindful of the spikes across the canyon from me, and keep trees between their eyesight and my movement. I found a great little opening, pulled up my rangefinder, and found that I was still 60 yards from a shot to the other side of the water where they were coming out. Sixty is beyond my range, so I planned to try to get down a little lower. I glanced up to check my surroundings, and another bull (5 or 6 point) had busted me. He was standing above me (on the trail I had just left) staring me down. He quickly turned around and left, as quietly as he had snuck up on me. It constantly amazes me how quietly such a large animal with 4 hooves can move through a wooded area. A little bummed, I returned to my plan to move down. I reassessed my position: I was now 40 yards from the other side, which was perfect. I started to range spots around me, when something caught my eye off to the left. Another bull was quickly moving toward the water below me. It wasn’t moments after I saw him that he walked behind some bushes/trees, and I instinctively drew my bow (I’ve made the mistake of being busted with my draw too many times). This bull didn’t walk through the water, and made the deadly choice to walk my side of it, at 19 yards. As he crept into the open area in front of me, I let my arrow fly. He took off like a dart, and I immediately started cow calling with my diaphragm call. It was thick enough off to my right that I had no clue that he had stopped and looked toward the sound of my calling (Toby told me later), and then continued to move on. I was pumped, and nervous. I knew my shot was good, and I subconsciously heard the arrow hit; but your mind does funny things when adrenaline is pumping and you are by yourself. Where did I hit him? Did I hit him? I stood for a few minutes, and then headed uphill to meet up with Kyle.
He had had his own circus with bulls up above me, and thought at the sound of my wild calling that he had busted everything out. He was bummed. I was pumped. I quietly shared my tentative excitement. We devised a plan to let my bull be for a bit, and to meet up with Tob and head back to the truck.
Once there, we optimistically grabbed the pack frames and loaded up for a pack-out-trip. We decided to walk the draw from the east end of the public land, in hopes that if we jumped him he wouldn’t run off “huntable” land. I took the middle, and Kyle and Tob took either side of me as we worked the draw up toward the spot where I had shot. About 150 yards from where my arrow flew, I heard a cow call being used like a kazoo; Tob had spotted my bull, who was down and done-for. What a relief! I immediately gave the Lord thanks, and jumped in the air like a little girl. Last year, I was devastated after an amazing hunt and good shot left us tracking a bull for a night and a day. We never recovered him. Unless you have had that experience, you don’t even know how close to hanging up your bow it leaves you. So, my relief and excitement were beyond explanation! My first bull with a bow! We celebrated, went back to the spot where I shot him, and tried to “track him” back to where he was laying for fun. Using the gutless method, we cut out as much meat as we could and loaded up the pack frames. Thank goodness for those two men. It wasn’t mountain hunting, but it still wasn’t easy. We hiked up the cliffs of the draw (which was not fun), and then about 1 mile out to the truck; the guys both had about 100 lbs on their back, and I was sucking wind and proud with my antlers and all the non-quartered meat.
Once again, archery hunting did not disappoint. But this time, I have something in my freezer to prove the up-close excitement and experience.
Photo Credit: Courtney Hill
Experiencing the outdoors with family and friends in one of God's greatest places!