Tag Archives: Montana

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

Save

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.

Save

Save

Spring Turkey Hunting in Montana

The Spring Gobbler season ran from April 9th to May 15th and Bob was able to get out a couple of times.  He hunted in Central Montana near where these amazing birds were first introduced into Montana in the Judith Mountains in 1954.  He’s sharing about one of those times today.

Waking up at 4:15 in the morning is hard when you are going to work or needing to start traveling, but for this morning it was easy.  Henry, my father in-law came in to the room to wake me up, but I had already had been up at 4 and was just waiting for him so I could get up, get dressed and head into the woods.

We drove about twenty minutes to pick up the 3rd man of our party, Henry’s cousin Benny.  As we pulled up to his house, he came out the door and we were on our way.

The hills we were hunting were only a couple of miles away on a dirt road, something familiar to those of us in Montana.  We all know that dirt roads lead to the best places.  The places where we are able to watch God’s beautiful creation and in privileged moments, harvest the animals he has provided.
As we pull up to the first spot, the anticipation is high as the previous week there had been turkeys around.  However, in the past week there was over 6 inches of snow in the area and it had only melted two days prior.  We let out a gobbler call that was given to me in a prior year turkey hunt by a very good friend ( Primos The Gobbler Shaker Call). We waited.  Nothing.  On to the next spot.Turkey tip 1

At the next location, as the sound of the third call died away, there was an answer down the coulee.  I grabbed my 12 gauge shotgun, the old sportsman 58 given to me by my dad and passed down from my grandfather.  Time to go.
Turkey tip 2
We started down the ridge, staying amongst the trees, to try to get ahead of the bird when further down the ridge we heard a couple of toms gobbling.  Since we had two tags in the party we moved down towards the two gobblers.

There was an open field below us.  We crossed the open part of the field by using a hill for cover to get to the edge of trees so we could see them coming.  During this whole time we were listening to the turkeys gobbling and the hens purring and yelping.

We set up the decoy behind Benny and myself.  Henry setting up behind the decoy.  We started calling.  The turkeys were in the trees beyond the open field.  With the yelps Henry was making on the box call and me with my mouth diaphragm,  they were coming.

Check out this podcast to learn more about calling Turkeys

This is where the story gets interesting.  We were calling for what seemed like forever (probably only about 15 minutes or so) and then all of the sudden, quiet.  The birds were not talking.  Then the woods around us erupted.  Coyotes, all around us.

As soon as we heard, we knew we had to go get close to the birds to get them started again.  We got up and left the decoy with Benny, who said he would stay and call just in case they decided to head up toward where we were calling earlier.

Henry and I moved back into the woods and walked along edge of the coulee.  When we were about 200 yards from where we last heard the turkeys, we yelped a couple of times.  Success!  A hen yelped back from the other side of the coulee.  Then ahead of us, the gobbles came.  They were talking again.

We moved forward trying to make it seem like we were trying to get together with the birds and then yelped again.  They answered back, much closer this time.

I moved down 10 yards in the opening leaning my back against the tree.  I also rested my elbow on my knee and my shotgun in a ready position.  Henry set up behind me about 10 yards against another tree to my right to pull the turkeys up the opening of the woods.

Turkey tip 3

Henry called again, a bit quieter this time and they answered about 100 yards away, down and back the other side of the coulee.  I signaled Henry to keep calling.  When I turned back I saw the two toms getting to the bottom of the coulee and then they started at a run, coming up the hill towards us!

When they hit about 50 yards away, they stopped and strutted.  Henry kept calling, in a soft yelp, but the toms were hung up.  That’s when we got some help.

What we didn’t realize is that along with the two toms,  there were three younger hens. They were following behind the toms, and when they hung up, the hens kept moving up the hill.  Not wanting to lose the hens, the toms reluctantly followed.

However, this presented with a unique problem. The hens are now in front of the toms.  Henry was calling lightly to keep the hens coming and keep them interested.  While coming up the hill, I moved, slowly to keep the shotgun trained on the toms.

The hens blocked a clear shot all the way, but then the tom in the back let out a gobble. At that instant one of the toms and the hens moved to my right and I let the shotgun ring out, harvesting the tom which was in the back, away from the others.

He flopped for only a couple of seconds and then he rested.  Henry and I got up and shook hands, knowing it was a good harvest and that we had done it right.

Turkey tip 4.jpg

We took some photos, met back up with Benny and took the best photo of the day.  Then Benny while taking the photo, looked at the clock and discovered that it was only 6:30 am.  We had only been out for about an hour and 45 minutes.  We took the bird roughly three quarters of a mile back to the truck and then drove to another couple of locations to try and get Benny his bird, to no avail.

We ended the morning hunt with coffee back at Benny’s house and after a bit, hit the road to finish getting the turkey processed.

After measuring the turkey had a 9 inch beard, and his Spurs were rubbed down to almost nothing.  A good bird to take.

Bob Turkey Benny Photo

Gear List:

12 Gauge shotgun – Remington sportsmanship 58
Size 4 bb’s – 2 3/4 inch shells from Estate
Vortex Optics Diamondback 10×42 Roof Prism Binocular
Primos The Gobbler Shaker Call
Made in Montana Box Call
Hunters Specialties Raspy Old Hen Premium Flex Diaphragm Calls

Things we did right:
Stayed out of sight until necessary
Moved on the birds to their last known location when they went quiet.
Moved slowly and set up where the caller is behind the shooter ready to go

Things done wrong:
Forgot the camera in my pack – would have made some great video.

 

Sources:

http://fwp.mt.gov/hunting/planahunt/huntingGuides/turkey/brochure.html

Save