2018 Montana Youth Hunt and General Opener (Pic Heavy)

Discussion in 'Deer Hunting' started by Monttrap04, Oct 22, 2018.

  1. Monttrap04

    Monttrap04 Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    140
    Joined:
    Nov 25, 2014
    I thought I would share a few pics from a trip I took with my wife and two oldest kids last week. We did a canoe based hunt in the central part of the state for three nights. The focus was on getting the kids bucks during the two day youth hunt but figured we would try to find my wife something on Saturday morning if the kids tagged out.

    On day one we drove 2.5 hours to leave a vehicle and trailer at the take out spot and then spent another hour on gravel getting back to our put in location. We were pretty full but tried to budget some space for game.

    [​IMG]

    Our campsite was an island about halfway between the put in and take out points. I had camped further upstream previously but wanted to try working some new country. The camping on the island was perfect and we quickly located a nice spot in some cottonwoods.

    [​IMG]

    After camp was in order we had some time before dark so my son and I climbed a ridge and did some glassing. We jumped a few does and a coyote on the way up but did didn't see any bucks from our vantage point. We found a few bighorns and were able to get a better look at some drainages that I had only seen from Google earth. We made a game plan for the next morning to work some country on the north side of the river and glass the south side whenever the terrain allowed. I was impressed with how well my son was getting around in the steep country and using his glasses.

    [​IMG]

    The next morning we were in the canoe and across the river just at light. We quickly found the group of does from the night before and found another group further downstream working back up from their morning drink at the river. There were no bucks that we could see but the terrain was such that I am rarely confident that we ever see all the animals in any particular herd.

    We decided to wait for those to drift back into some rougher country before we made a move. While waiting we spent some time glassing the south side of the river.

    [​IMG]

    Within a few minutes I found a couple groups of deer and caught the reflection of antler on a lone animal. I made a rookie mistake and didn't mark his location very well. When I went to get a better look he had moved and I could not pinpoint him again and was second guessing which finger ridge he was actually on. While I was kicking myself I happened to see another deer move into the sun about two thousand yards away, a young buck with a narrow willowy rack. While watching him a wide racked buck came up below him and then a smaller buck. The willowy buck stayed on a finger ridge and in sight for close to a half hour, the wide buck went to the south out of sight to presumably bed down, and the smaller buck went into a small drainage closer to us. We hoped to see where all three bedded and then would make a move but never could determine for sure where the small buck and the willowy buck bedded.

    My daughter is not picky at all so the willowy buck was plenty adequate for what she wanted to shoot and I am sure the wide buck would work for my son.

    We hopped back into the canoe and across the river. We had to cross an open sagebrush flat and kept our fingers crossed that the small buck had bedded in a spot that even if we did spook him he wouldn't bust the other two that we believed were bedded over the ridge.

    We got to the base of the ridge where we first found the bucks and decided to leave my wife and son near the bottom in a good vantage point to watch the bottom of the drainage should the bucks spook and decide to exit out the bottom. I would take my daughter on the north side of the ridge and pop over to where we expected the two bigger bucks to be, about 3/4 of the way up the hill. As I was positioning my son I felt the wind shift up my back and new we were risking disaster. I looked up the hill and the wide buck was on his feet.

    My son had his youth model .243 with shooting sticks but we also carried a 6mm-06 for them set up with a bipod in case they had a longer range opportunity. My son had shot the rifle quite a bit last summer and I was confident he could make it happen. I told him to get on the gun and ranged the buck at 320 just as he started to move off. I dialed for 350 and told him if he stopped to hammer him.

    [​IMG]

    I was watching through my binos when the deer slowed down for one last look down the hill. I didn't have time to say anything and the rifle barked. At the shot the deer humped, ran downhill and then turned back to the north. I told him to hit him again and the deer dropped and rolled several times before he was completely out of sight. I told my wife and son to stay there to make sure he didn't get up and ran back to my daughter to see if we could find the willowy buck.

    We moved quickly up the ridge but never saw them. They must have hoofed it into some rougher drainages to the east once the shooting started. After a little screwing around trying to determine which cut the buck fell into (everything looks different from the top, so I had to go back to the shooting location) I looked up and saw the buck wedged as tight as could be in the narrow spot of a cut.

    [​IMG]

    The first shot had connected with his shoulder and vitals and I am sure would have killed him had we given him a bit more time. The follow up shot was in the neck and I am sure that is what made him drop so quickly and roll.

    It took a while for everyone else to make the climb up but after some early lunch and pics we got it loaded up and headed back to camp and the ice chest.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    With one good buck down on opening morning I felt a lot of the pressure leave. My kids are good about not having to shoot something but I want them to be successful and always feel pressure as the guide to give them as full of an experience as I can.

    We decided to go back to the north side of the river for an "easy" evening hunt, hoping to get to a vantage point and see if any of the deer we saw in the morning would drift back down the drainage toward us and into range.

    [​IMG]

    If everything were working according to plan my daughter would have nice 200 yard shot in open country. Something she is very capable of with her little 7mm-08 Ruger Frontier. We glassed and waited but nothing came down the drainage. I found a couple of bucks on the south side of the river that we planned to hunt the next day if nothing came to pass that night.

    About fourty minutes before the end of shooting light I decided to take my daughter over a couple ridges to see if anything was moving down the drainage but just hadn't made it down far enough. We made it over a ridge and jumped a small group of does that were just above us about 75 yards in some scattered junipers and rocks. I couldn't see them all so I squawked on a predator call to see if I could get them to stop and maybe get a better head count. When I did my kids looked down the drainage and noticed a group of deer a couple hundred yards below us and moving out. I saw a flash of antler on what looked like a younger three point.

    They were running uphill so we took off in a sprint to try to get to high ground in hopes of catching them in an open enough area for a shot. At one point they cleared within 150 yards of us but didn't give us enough time for a stable shot. I pushed my daughter into climbing one more hill and caught the herd moving away at about 250 yards. By the time she caught up to me the herd was going over the ridge at 300 yards. She got on the 6mm-06 which I had already dialed to 300 and told her to make sure she was shooting at the buck if she decided to shoot. There were only a few minutes of legal light left and the deer were now very high and in very steep ground.

    I was trying to find the buck in my binos when I heard her say "there is the buck, he's stoppi..." BOOM! WHOP!

    Through my glasses I never saw the shot but saw the buck go over the ridge and out of sight. He was looking healthier than I would have liked and honestly couldn't say if he was even hit. If we hadn't heard the impact I would have bet she missed. I even started to question what I had heard. Could it have just been the bullet hitting gumbo clay? Could it have been the acoustics of the canyon?

    I took off across some sketchy ground and got to the ridge he went over just as it was getting too dark to see. I found tracks but no blood. Not sure if he was hit or how hard, I didn't want to risk bumping him out of the area so we backed out.

    This was one of those times that I hate about hunting. The whole way back to the group I had to think about what lead up to the shot. In the rush to get my daughter in position to shoot I had effectively created a situation where a winded 15 year old had seconds to connect on an animal at 300 yards from a less than ideal shooting position, in failing light, in terrain that is not just difficult but that can be legitimately dangerous (especially at night). I did not have eyes on the deer when she shot and should absolutely have told her not to shoot. If we wounded and failed to recover the deer or recovered it during the heat of the day and lost the meat I knew that it was all on me and had failed as the guide. Those are thoughts that make for long nights waiting to start the recovery effort.

    When we made it back to my wife (about a half mile) she said she heard the shot and then heard the whop. That made my heart sink as I was positive the deer was hit and was sick at the thought of a wounded animal either suffering through the night or possibly spoiling in some hellhole that would be difficult to find.

    The next morning I let everyone sleep a little longer so we didn't have to be in the steep country until it was light enough for safe hiking. We said a prayer for assistance with the recovery and then my son and I went to the ridge the buck went over and I sent my wife and daughter up the bottom of the main drainage on the chance he ran downhill and made it down the valley a ways.

    In good light there was still no blood so I just kept working across the steep hillside where the majority of the tracks went and was looking down in hopes of seeing some tracks peel off from the group, or some part of the animal, or possibly jump the buck from his bed. If he ran he would likely run downhill to my daughter where I hoped she could finish the job.

    As it turned out it was a non-issue. I made it about 75 yards across the hillside and saw the buck piled up against a rock 50 yards down the hill. He had ran less than 100 yards from the initial shot and just died. There was no signs of prolonged struggle at all. I still felt like a moron for creating the situation but I was a relieved moron :)

    My wife and daughter worked there way up from the bottom and found out that they REALLY don't like steep ground. In fact, my daughter informed me that she was a prairie hunter from now on :)

    [​IMG]

    When they worked down to the deer for them it was a mix of relief that they had found the buck and dread with the realization that it had to come out the way they came up.

    [​IMG]

    My daughter is allergic to deer hair so her brother helped hold it up for her. I am not sure what is up with the head scarf but don't think she has converted to Islam.

    I carried the bulk of the meat but my son insisted on helping so I gave him the backstraps and I took the four quarters and the head. By the time we were back to the canoe my wife and daughter were mentally and physically exhausted so we had a lazy afternoon around camp before my son and I went out to do some coyote calling.

    [​IMG]

    We crossed to the north side and went upstream towards some bigger canyons and a prairie dog town. We made a few stands with no response whatsoever. I let my son do all the calling and I was somewhat surprised at how he sounded. I don't know if he sounds good or bad but I realized he sounds just like I do. It is kinda surprising what they pick up on without ever saying a word.

    Generally, I would put him facing into the wind and then I would go back over the hill and guard the backdoor. Solid strategy but no takers.

    [​IMG]

    On our last stand we got the attention of a group of mulies that hung out about 600 yards from me. There was one decent four point in the group and the terrain was easy so I was excited to get my wife into position the next day. There is a group of guys that every year camp about 3/4 mile upstream from where the buck was. I figured in the morning we could get high and hopefully find the buck before they did or let them push deer our way.

    We canoed back to camp in the dark and played cards till bedtime.

    [​IMG]

    The next morning we were approaching the high spot that I had hoped to spend the morning glassing from. As we were getting there, a doe and fawn came through a saddle directly in front of us at full speed and didn't see us till they were within 50 yards. We got to the saddle and saw a coyote working in the valley below, well within range of our calling stand from the night before. That is insulting but explained the does behavior.

    We climbed to our vantage point and hear a shot ring out to the west towards the other camp. Shortly after we heard another than saw a hunter a few ridges over. My wife kept asking if I thought they killed "her" buck. While we were discussing that possibility three bucks come boiling over the ridge in our direction from about 500-600 yards away. They went into a coulee and a doe came running out directly towards us at 250 yards. If the bucks follow they will end up 200 yards away in open easy country.

    They don't follow the doe and instead pop up on a ridge 350 yards away and walk casually up the ridge toward some rougher ground. I ask her if she wants the young 4x4 at the end and I can tell she is nervous about the terrain. I told her if she is nervous about the recovery to not shoot as she obviously doesn't want him bad enough. After the rodeo the previous couple days I did not want someone shooting a deer in a situation they weren't 100% comfortable. She passed, the deer went over the ridge, we all relaxed. Life was good.

    We decided to wait a while longer and see what else got spooked up by the other hunters. We had budgeted to hunt until 10:00 and then go break camp for the float out and drive home. After another 20-30 minutes of waiting I saw a group of does appear on a ridge to our south. It looked to be about the same size herd as what had been with "her" buck the night before. While watching them I look to the right and see something odd in a brush patch we had been watching all morning. I focus my binos and see a nice buck staring back at as.

    I set up the 6mm-06, range it at 425 yards, dial and have my wife get into a prone position.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    The deer is quartering towards us slightly and aware of our presence but not sure what to think. I ask if she is calm and she says she is. I tell here to let him have it whenever she is ready. When the 105 Berger made contact the deer hit the ground immediately and rolled. I saw some dust and some kicking and watched him roll further into a brushy coulee and then nothing. We wait a few minutes to make sure he doesn't come out and then keep the coulee in sight all the way from the shooting position to the coulee. I went up high to cover any exits and look for the animal and they went directly to where we expected to find him.

    He hadn't moved from where we last saw him roll and he was stone dead by the time my wife got up to him.

    [​IMG]

    To watch my wife shoot a nice buck at 425 yards was pretty neat. To have two of my kids there to witness it also made it even better.

    We were ahead of schedule and the buck was in a good position so I let my son do most of the knife work as we broke it down and loaded it into backpacks for the hike back to the canoe.

    The hike back was mostly level and uneventful which was a relief compared to the last two pack outs :)

    [​IMG]

    Once back to camp we got things squared away and took a pic with all three bucks before doing the final break down and loading for the float out.

    [​IMG]

    We were heavy coming out and I wasn't nearly as stable as I would have liked. My wife suggested we buy a jet boat next time. I suggested the lack of stability adds to the adventure of the trip. She disagreed. We may compromise and get a jet boat later.

    [​IMG]

    It was a tremendous blessing to spend this kind of time in beautiful country with people that I love the most. My wife is a camera nazi and we ended up with some pics that I never would have taken the time to get. Pretty fun to have a photographer present to document the trip. The weather was perfect and everyone truly seemed to enjoy themselves. When I took my kids on this trip a couple years ago I did most of the work. On this trip everyone shared the load and my son in particular wanted to be involved in all aspects from the scouting to the prep to the knife work to the packing out. Those are proud dad moments.

    We had some highs and lows but we definitely finished on a high note and don't have anything to look back on that will sour the memory of the trip. Can't wait to do it all over again in the future with some of my younger kids.

    Thanks for coming along.


    Side Note:
    Since this is a long range hunting forum I will comment on the rifle we used to take all three bucks. It is a blueprinted Rem 700 stainless with a 1:9 Bartlein in a McMillan Stock with a Timney Trigger. Kirby Allen built the rifle for me a couple years ago and it shoots the 105 Berger very well up to around 3400 FPS but I choose to run it at around 3300. The scope is a Leupold VX5-HD 3-15x44 with the windplex reticle and zero-lock CDS.

    The rifle has taken around 10-12 head of big game the past couple seasons. It is a tremendous antelope rifle and obviously effective on deer. The scope tracks great and returns to zero. I dial regularly and check it on paper throughout the summer shooting season and it has always been spot on when brought back to zero.

    My only complaint with the setup (and this is primarily a bullet selection issue) is that on mule deer sized game exits are rare. Internal trauma is impressive (think broken shoulder blades and puree style vitals) but should a shot not damage something vital, recovery may be a challenge with no or minimal blood to follow.
     
    Last edited: Oct 23, 2018
  2. The Oregonian

    The Oregonian Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    788
    Joined:
    Jul 20, 2012
    Great write-up and pics. Congrats on a successful trip with your family...doesn’t get any better than that.
     
    Hand Skills and Monttrap04 like this.
  3. DKennedy951

    DKennedy951 Member

    Messages:
    15
    Joined:
    Aug 26, 2012
    Congratulations on a successful family hunt! Great write-up and pictures.
     
    Monttrap04 likes this.
  4. Country Bumpkin

    Country Bumpkin Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    199
    Joined:
    Sep 22, 2015
    Awesome.... just awesome. Well done, that’s a Dad/Husband Win for sure.

    I’m so close, my kids are almost 5 and 7, they are both chomping at the bit to be hunters. We shoot their crickets fairly often. I can’t wait for them to be of legal age.
     
    Monttrap04 likes this.
  5. bsfl

    bsfl Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    62
    Joined:
    Sep 22, 2017
    Great story, thanks for sharing. It makes me look forward to my kids being of age to participate more fully. Don’t want them growing up too quick but I enjoy reading these family stories to relate to more good times ahead.
     
    Monttrap04 likes this.
  6. Monttrap04

    Monttrap04 Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    140
    Joined:
    Nov 25, 2014
    They do grow up fast. I have four more kids after these two so I will be guiding youth hunts for a while :)
     
    Hand Skills likes this.
  7. Ckgworks

    Ckgworks Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    200
    Joined:
    Mar 6, 2018
    Love the story, and the success! I have 2 hunting this year, and 5 more coming as well. I think I get more enjoyment out of seeing them get their animals, than getting one myself......oh the frustration though.....we got 70 yards from a nice 5x5 bull during muzzleloader season this year, and my 12 year old daughter just couldn't get comfortably on him to shoot..... After he left, she said "that was awsome! Let's go find another one!" :confused:
     
    Hand Skills and Monttrap04 like this.
  8. BCinKS

    BCinKS Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    167
    Joined:
    Dec 23, 2006
    Wow , great write up! That is a dream hunt for most people. Congrats to the family.
     
    Monttrap04 likes this.
  9. elk creek

    elk creek Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    49
    Joined:
    Jun 28, 2015
    Wow! That was a great read,pictures were superb-thank you so much for sharing with us! There is nothing better than hunting trips with family. People like YOU are the reason and a perfect example of why and how we keep passing on our hunting heritage to our kids and generations to come. Thank you!
     
    Hand Skills and Monttrap04 like this.
  10. gillettehunter

    gillettehunter Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    667
    Joined:
    Jul 8, 2010
    Nice deer. Lots of good eating there. Congrats and well done.
    Bruce
     
    Monttrap04 likes this.
  11. Capt RB

    Capt RB Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    810
    Joined:
    Dec 1, 2014
    That's a great write up! Thank you for sharing it with us
     
    Monttrap04 likes this.
  12. Tyler25246

    Tyler25246 Member

    Messages:
    13
    Joined:
    Oct 26, 2018
    New to the forum, awesome post! I’m headed to Montana in about a week in search of a mule deer buck and a whitetail doe! I’m excited to say the least.
     
    Monttrap04 likes this.