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First Timer - Learning how to Prepare for a Fall Hunting Season

 
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Old 05-25-2013, 09:20 PM
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First Timer - Learning how to Prepare for a Fall Hunting Season

Since this is my first time ever, venturing in to the world of hunting. I understand there is much I need to learn.
First is the type of firearm necessary, learning to handle, shoot accurately & cleaning of the rifle.
I am in the process of doing all of this in preparation for this coming Fall hunting Season.
The next issue I decided I need to learn is everything I can about the habits of the game animals I will be hunting this year. Mainly Mule Deer & Whitetail Deer, although I did purchase a general Elk license just in case I happen upon a reliable shot while out hunting.
I began my search, starting with what Food sources each of these game animals have at their disposal during this time of the year. My thought being, rather than driving out in to the vast Public lands available here in Montana and finding a suitable spot to sit and wait. My chances would be greatly improved if the spot I selected contained an abundant food source, accessible
water source as well as the cover they use in both foraging and where they bed down.
I came upon many web sites which detail the various food sources and explained the habits of each game animal.
Now it is a matter of spending the summer, seeking out sites where all or most of these conditions are in good supply.
I am sure most of you already know these issues but, I would like to post them in this article and, hopefully get some good advice as to how best to locate these plants, bedding sites and cover areas.

Here is what I found so far:

USDA.gov PLANT Database See a list of the plants in my state
(Use the above database to identify each plant listed below)

Habitat Management Suggestions for White-tailed deer in Montana

"Whitetail habitat on each side of the Continental Divide differs greatly in vegetative character. East of the Divide, whitetails are usually associated with deciduous vegetation growing on bottomlands along drainageways, often close to agriculture. Bottomland habitat generally consists of riparian vegetation that included ash, box-elder, cottonwood, willow and associated shrubs, forbs and grasses. White-tailed deer in Montana occupy varied habitats and thus eat a wide variety of forage foods - the leaves, needles, succulent stems, fruits and nuts - from shrubs, forbs, domestic crops and grasses. Choice foods attract deer and maintain vigorous health and reproduction. Fair foods are somewhat deficient, but usually sufficient to maintain life through critical periods of the year.
East of the Divide, whitetails prefer chokecherry, serviceberry, skunkbrush sumac, snowberry, cottonwood and dogwood. Other browse species occurring in their diet include hawthorn, rose, green rabbitbrush, greasewood, buffaloberry and several species of sagebrush."

Montana Field Guide: White-tailed Deer

Deer Hunting Public Land

Habitat Management Suggestions for Mule deer in Montana

"Mule deer in Montana occupy varied habitats and thus eat a wide variety of forage foods - the leaves, needles, succulent stems, fruits and nuts - from trees, shrubs, forbs, domestic crops and grasses. Choice foods attract deer and maintain vigorous health and reproduction. Fair foods are somewhat deficient, but usually sufficient to maintain life through critical periods of the year.
Choice Foods: "Grasses and grain crops - the green forage of bluegrass, bromegrass, cheatgrass, needlegrass, timothy, oats, rye and wheat are attractive whenever available in late fall, winter and early spring. The grains of barley, corn, oats, rye and wheat are also choice foods. The tender leaves and stems of forbs, including alfalfa, bluebells, burnet, cloves, dandelion, hawksbeard, wild lettuce, mulesear, onion, sweetclover, trefoil and yellowbell; new-growth leaves and twigs of shrubs, including bitterbrush, buckwheat, ceanothus (redstem and snowbrush), cherry, dogwood, elderberry, mountain ash, mountain mahogany, sagebrush, serviceberry and willow. Tree foods include the tender leaves and fruits of apple, chokecherry, and crabapple; and the green and freshly-fallen leaves of aspen, some species of mushrooms and lichens are choice foods.
Fair Foods: "Tender growth of grasses and sedges, including Idaho fescue, tall fescue, needle-and-thread and wheatgrasses. New growth of forbs, including aster, balsamroot, biscuitroot, cinquifoil, sticky geranium, wild sunflower and violet. Tender leaves, semi-woody stems, and fruits or berries of shrubs and trees, including cottonwood, currant, Douglas-fir, huckleberry,
juniper, maple, mockorange, ninebark, Oregon grape, plum, rabbitbrush, raspberry, rose, snowberry, smooth sumac, skunkbush sumac and thimbleberry.
Almost without exception, low deer populations can be traced directly to an insufficient quantity or poor quality of food. The Rocky Mountain mule deer inhibits open woodlands, rangeland, rugged canyons and mountains, and rolling sagebrush country containing an adequate supply of food plants, interspersed with an escape cover of moderate to heavy timber, aspen groves, brushy draws, coulees and river breaks. In western Montana, mule deer summer at the higher elevations, then migrate to the lower levels to escape the deep snows. Woodland habitat in mountainous mule deer range usually accumulates deep snow in the late fall and winter, and deer must migrate into foothills and lower rangelands for winter forage."

How to Locate Mule Deer

Montana Field Guide: Mule Deer

Habitat Management Suggestions for Elk in Montana

"Elk prefer native bunchgrasses for winter forage; however, they will feed on other grasses, sedges, forbs and shrubs. On browse ranges of western Montana, as much as 90 percent of the winter diet and 50 percent of the summer diet may consist of browse species. Habitat used by elk in the state is classified as browse range and grassland range on the basis of winter food availability.
Browse ranges predominate in the heavily forested regions of western Montana, with a gradual transition in plant communities from western browse ranges to east slope grassland ranges.
Choice foods of browse ranges are willow, redstem ceanothus, mountain maple, serviceberry, chokecherry and sedges. The preferred species occur in greatest quantity on burned-over lands where the forest canopy is sparse or absent.
Choice forage species of grasslands include Idaho fescue, bluebunch wheatgrass, western wheatgrass, Sandberg bluegrass and rough fescue. Woodland habitat in mountainous elk range usually accumulates deep snow in the late fall and winter and elk must migrate into the foothills and lower rangelands for winter forage."

Elk Hunting Montana: Finding Success on the Best Public Lands By Jack Ballard

Montana Field Guide: Elk

2,360 acres of Montana elk habitat opened
05/08/13 -- "The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation teamed up with a collaboration of groups to acquire an additional 2,360 acres of land within Montana's Tenderfoot Creek drainage to protect wildlife habitat and ensure public access."

~@~

I am hopeful that those of you who have experience will add your opinions and advice to this thread. It's one thing to sit alone, reading information on a screen or in a book. It is quite another thing to actually have experience in finding these Food Source out in the wild. At the very beginning of this thread, I presented:
USDA.gov PLANT Database See a list of the plants in my state
(Use the above database to identify each plant listed below)

Its one thing to see a picture and, quite another to actually know how to go about searching out these plants in the wild, on Pubic Lands. If you have experience in locating these food sources, perhaps by their being associated with other plants or landmarks, it would be very helpful.
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Old 06-03-2013, 03:05 AM
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Re: First Timer - Learning how to Prepare for a Fall Hunting Season

If you have a friend who hunts, ask him to take you out hunting and teach you. If you don't know anyone who would be willing to take you out and teach you the basics, it might be worth it to hire a professional hunting guide and learn as much from him as you can on your first hunt.
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Old 06-04-2013, 12:06 AM
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Re: First Timer - Learning how to Prepare for a Fall Hunting Season

Quote:
Originally Posted by nateisw View Post
If you have a friend who hunts, ask him to take you out hunting and teach you. If you don't know anyone who would be willing to take you out and teach you the basics, it might be worth it to hire a professional hunting guide and learn as much from him as you can on your first hunt.
Good advice.

Game animal habits change seasonally and are locally driven, especially during rut and hunting season which sometimes coincide. In Montana, private land is by far the best opportunity because it is usually very controlled and game animals consider it a refuge.
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Old 06-06-2013, 03:55 PM
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Join Date: Sep 2011
Location: NW Montana
Posts: 260
Re: First Timer - Learning how to Prepare for a Fall Hunting Season

throw away the books
get a compass
hunt near the top -not the top
of the north side of the ridge
the dark side we call it
that's where the animals will be
hunt into the wind
or don't hunt there
go somewhere else you can
take no more than 3 steps at a time
the view changes with each step
the sound or sight of continuous movement
will cause you to never see any game
look for parts of animals -not whole animals
no sudden moves -no talk
if your going slow enough -you'll see game
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Old 07-01-2013, 10:26 AM
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Location: Wisconsin
Posts: 123
Re: First Timer - Learning how to Prepare for a Fall Hunting Season

Gun handling & safety is paramount. You have to mind the wind or any breeze/thermals.

Most game hunting calls for zero movement or noise once in position. You also want MINIMAL noise or quick movements as you move. Then when game is spotted & you decide to shoot, move 'turkey slow'.
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Old 07-01-2013, 01:58 PM
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Re: First Timer - Learning how to Prepare for a Fall Hunting Season

This will be an interesting thread I'm sure.......

My first hunt consisted of me in my Carhartts and cheap rubber boots and a borrowed 30-06. You can spend a fortune on gear and guns but IMO, it's the experience that counts. Harvesting an animal is an added bonus, not a requirement. I never go on a hunt expecting to bring home an animal.

I've been on many hunts where, other than fouling my rifle, I never fired a single shot. I took lots of pictures (a good camera is almost a necessity). Those hunts were still fun and still an adventure and I enjoyed each and every one.

Also, IMO, a successful hunter learns from other hunters and personal experience. Books are nice (especially ones on proper meat preparation and field butchering an anima) but the real knowledge comes from other experienced hunters and just getting out there and doing it.
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Old 07-03-2013, 07:59 PM
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Re: First Timer - Learning how to Prepare for a Fall Hunting Season

Quote:
Originally Posted by nateisw View Post
If you have a friend who hunts, ask him to take you out hunting and teach you. If you don't know anyone who would be willing to take you out and teach you the basics, it might be worth it to hire a professional hunting guide and learn as much from him as you can on your first hunt.
I have friends who already said they would teach me what I need to know once I get my equipment together and practice shooting until I am able to make a humane one-shot kill. I'm certain they want to see me put in the effort before they take time out of their busy lives to teach me how best to hunt.
They have offered to take me with them when they go but, I have many more days of free time than they will have and would like to try hunting on my own.
As for hiring a guide, first I can't afford to pay thousands of dollars to go hunting with a guide. Second, two of my friends are professional guides but, naturally they will be busy during hunting season.

Thank you for the advice though.
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