Tag Archives: Montana Outdoorsman

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.

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

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