Tag Archives: Hunting

Kat’s Spring Turkey Hunt

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.

Bob around the trees

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!

Wild Flowers
Saw some pretty flowers too.  Crocuses and Yellow Bells, my favorites!

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.

Turkey-on-road.jpg
Why did the turkey cross the road?  Because he knew we couldn’t shoot him…
Elk on the run.jpg
This was fun, we had this herd of elk cross in front of us on the way home.

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…

Ph Ranch at Sunrise.jpg

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.

Decoy in the coulee

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…

Pine needle bracelet

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.

Turkey
Bob has been instructed to tell me if I have weird hair next time…

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.

Packing Out

Wild Game Recipes & Meal Prep Container Review

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.

Hamburger Salad, Meal Prep

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.

Pros:

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. Red Beans & Rice, Meal Prep

Cons:

The lids fit so well, that sometimes they are difficult to remove.

Pricing:

Fitpacker containers are on sale right now so the price on the Original size ranges from $13.99 for 7 containers to $21.99 for 16 containers.

*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.

God bless!

-Katrina

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What the heck is an Aoudad?

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.

big_male_aoudad_on_rocks.jpg
Photo Credit: www.huntaoudad.com

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.

aoudad_herd_reverse
Photo Credit: www.huntaoudad.com

 

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 Outdoor Life,  Alex Robinson says:

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.

He goes on to share some good information and tips in this article.

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.

Aoudad hunt
Photo Credit: www.huntaoudad.com

 

What do you think?  If you had the chance, would you hunt one of these critters?

Credits:
https://gothunts.com/history-of-aoudad-in-texas/
http://www.outdoorlife.com/photos/gallery/2016/03/7-reasons-why-you-should-consider-wild-aoudad-hunt#page-6
www.huntaoudad.com

 

 

Antelope 2016

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.

Rife 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.

Montana Sunrise.jpg

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.”

Antelope Buck 2016 E

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.

Equipment Used:
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.

I Shot the Same Bull Twice In Six Days: My 2011 Bull Elk Bow Hunt

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

Antlers

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.

Elk Hunt 6x6

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Kevin’s First Archery Bull Elk

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.

Opening weekend

Elk Tines Imagery

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.

Dad with dead head e

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.

Bull Elk e.jpg

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.

Elk Selfies

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.

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2016 Fall Shoulder Season:Elk

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.

shoulder-season-text

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.

dad-with-cow

 

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.

Bob with Calf.jpg

 

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.

At least we had fun…

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.

No Elk.jpg
Here’s a nice picture of no elk.
Where's da elk.jpg
Where’s da elk at Benny?  (My dad is an ex-Hutterite, so make sure that’s the accent you read it in, ok?)

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.

Coyote.jpg
Anybody know this song?  Mom? “I’m wild and wooly and full of fleas, never been curried below the knees… I sit and howl on the lone prairie!  I’m a _(What’s the answer?) !”

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…

elk-way-over-there
Ok, over there in the middle of the side-hill… Do you see the herd of elk?  No?  That’s because my camera sucks.  If that bothers you, keep checking back, we have plans for a new camera and your continued support of the blog will help immensely!

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.

coyote-chasin
This is what it looks like inside the truck when dad is blaring across a stubble field trying to catch up with a coyote and we are being flung wildly in all directions.  (*Note: My dad is actually a great driver and at no point during this trip did he drive me over a steep cliff even when it felt like he might.)

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.

n-bar-fence-post
This here is an N Bar fence post.  In those trees back there were the elk.  We sat and listened to bulls bugle and cows mew for awhile as we watched them through the binoculars.  It was beautiful and exciting and frustrating…
turkeys
The next day when we got onto the previously mentioned private land, we saw lots of turkeys, prairie dogs, and the back end of elk running over the hill into inaccessible private land.  But it gave us a plan for the evening because at least we knew they were in there to graze at night.

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.

mushroom-collage

 

selfie

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!

one-shot-wonder
My  mama got this nice whitetail doe.  She was kindly pointing out that she got her with one shot so I could show my cousin Raleigh who did not get his deer with one shot.  Or two… We love you Raleigh!

 

Whitetail collage.jpg
Finally got something!  I got this nice whitetail buck on the last day we had to hunt.  I was really pleased with this guy.  He is a really nice size, antler-wise, for this area and he was a well-fed, big-bodied deer.  And it was a beautiful shot, if I do say so myself.  He never knew what hit him.  I made one shot and he just toppled down on himself.  When we gutted him we saw that the shot entirely disconnected his heart so I was really happy about that.

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Antelope and Pheasant Hunting

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.

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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…

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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.

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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.

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Looking back down the coulee

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

Montana Outdoors”woman” Courtney Hill

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 courtney-with-antler-pack-eintroducing 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. with-bull-eWe 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 youguys-with-packs-e 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.

~Courtney Hill

Billings, MT

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Photo Credit: Courtney Hill