Tag Archives: Hunting Stories

Montana Shoulder Season

First of all, sorry it has been awhile, but I’m ready to tell some great stories of the fun which was had during the 2017 hunting season.

First hunt of the year –  Montana Elk shoulder season

I wasn’t able to go out with my father in law in Lewistown the 15th of August as I was out of town on vacation with family.  This was a trip we had been planning for a few years. However, the plan was to get out there the first weekend back and attempt to get out there and take another elk and put it in to the freezer.

The first thing which helped out is my father in law taking the time to get out in the field and find the elk and pattern their habits.  We know from prior years, this state section of land is particularly green during this point in the year and the elk tend to be out there in the morning.  They then move up after being spooked and cross a private section which does allow hunting – but only to certain people before the regular bow season opens.  My father in law did ask and we had permission to hunt this area.

Earlier in the week when the shoulder season opened, they were able to get 5 elk out of the area in short order.  We were hoping they would still be around during the weekend hunt.

Friday night was met with expectation and worry – excitement to start the next season, but the worry the elk had moved on to another area to try and find feed.  What would usually have been a 7 hour night turned in to 4.5.

The alarm woke me up with a jolt.  I stirred my wife out of bed (she really doesn’t like the early mornings, but is willing to go for the food hunting provides).  We made our way out and got dressed and ready for the day.  My father in law met us in the addition and then we loaded up.

We got to the area where the elk were way before sunrise, but to our dismay another vehicle was on the road before us.  We decided to hang back and hopefully they wouldn’t scare the elk out of the area.

When it was just about light, we moved up and started glassing.  From where the elk had previously been, they were further up the draw.  Seeing 300 elk in a group is a very rare thing, but is very inspiring.

As we were getting close, the truck which drove through the area came back, completely missing the elk to our right.  We moved out of the vehicle to the edge of the bench and set up for a shot.

It was early, but legal shooting light.  We watched as the elk were crossing the fence and trying to pick out one separated from the group so Katrina could get a shot.  One finally separated about 300 yards out and Katrina steadied herself and took a shot.  I saw the dirt under the elk fly and knew it was a clean miss.

The elk then started up the draw and we knew where they were going from prior years experience they were going to move around and be in the crossing valley soon.  We moved back up to the truck and drove around.

As soon as we moved away from the vehicle.  I felt we were getting close.  Splitting up from the group I had moved up the draw and prepared where I thought I would see the elk.  Then I heard a shot.  I only heard one so I knew the elk was down.

In the stillness after the shot, I could hear some cows mewing out in front of me.  Checking the wind again I moved to where I had the wind in my favor and pressed on.  As I came up to the open field I glassed both directions and gave out a small cow call.  I heard the cows respond and decided I needed to get to the other side of the field.

I ran across the field (only about 100 yards or so and came up to the first tree.  I could see the last of a couple of cows moving in to the trees and I called again to try and stop them.  They didn’t stop and kept feeding in to the trees.

Knowing the area also played well in to my next move.  I figured if I could get through the trees faster then they could I would be ready for them in the next lane which should offer up a shot.  I took off through the trees and when I came out the other side, I noticed the legs of the elk coming about 15 yards back in to the trees.  I had beat them to the opening!

I snuck forward to the best tree which would offer a good shot, loaded my shell into the chamber, and waited.  It didn’t take long for the first cow to step in to the opening ahead of me at 25 yards.  However, the second cow was behind her and so I had to wait for them to clear and as soon as she did, I let my 30.06 ring out.  She reared up and fell over.  In that instant another 25 head of elk busted through the trees, one nearly running me over.

I pulled out my tag and put it on my elk and then went to find Henry and Katrina.  I got to them just as they were done dressing her elk and so I helped them get it to the pickup, a measly tenth of a mile.  

We then loaded back up the cart and took it in to my elk.  .3 of a mile away from the road.  We dressed out my elk and got it cut in half and got the back end out to the truck.

Katrina stayed behind for the last load and Henry and I went in for the front half.  It took us only 18 minutes to get back to the truck with the front half!  We were excited the season was off to a great start.  2 elk in the freezer to start us off.  On to the freezer we went.

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

courtney-with-bull-e

Photo Credit: Courtney Hill