Tag Archives: Shoulder Season

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.

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.


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.



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.