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Montana Deer (and Turkey) Adventure 2016

Six-GunSix-Gun Posts: 8,155 Senior Member
Once again, it is November, and once again I find myself returning from a fantastic hunt in Montana.

The usual suspects - me and my buddies Frank and Rich - came along, as well a new member of the fold: our very own N454Casull, who drove over from Washington state to join the fun. Unfortunately, I’m still waiting on the pics of some of the animals to come in from the other hunters, but I’ll post and add them later.

Day 1: Bad News Care of the Airlines

No adventure is complete without a little drama, and mine came in the form of a delayed bag containing my tags, ammo, optics and hunting clothes. Rather than wait for the airline delivery to come in their own sweet time and potential lose two hunting days, N454Casull was kind enough to take me to the 2.5 hour trip to our hotel to check in so that we wouldn't lose our reservation, and then ANOTHER round-trip to the airport and back to collect my bags...from the follow-on flight that arrived at 11PM. :angry: Needless to say, we did NOT make it out for the morning hunt, and effectively had to turn the first day into a scouting day.

Day 2: Back in the Game

The next day was much better. All of us were armed with a general deer license (good for either buck or doe in either mule deer or whitetail species) and a whitetail B tag [antlerless tag]. We spread out across various parts of a previously productive 2.5-mile square of Montana State public land. I took to a bald knob in the center of the area and glassed a large bowl with my binos and spotting scope, while the others went into the some of the more wooded sections to do the same. Rich spotted a modest 8-point buck with a broken tine that technically rendered him a 7-point. While we all decided to pass on him early in the day when Rich showed us where he was bedded. When we came back and saw him bedded in the same spot, Frank decided it was just too easy and smoked the buck using his 7mm Rem mag Remington 700. The first deer for the hunt was down!


The following day, we went with a similar plan, with all of us spread out in various areas on the same state land block. Rich went back to the spot where he found Frank’s buck and had a whitetail doe move into virtually the exact same spot. Just before lunch time, the second deer was down and Rich was punching his whitetail B license with his .243 Remington 700!

[Pic of Rich’s doe coming]

The same morning that Rich killed his doe, I had glassed some good deer and turkey activity in a field below and behind my location on the state public land. I decided to sit that field in a dry creek bed for the evening hunt and see if something would come close. Sure enough, I had quite a few deer come through, but most were mule deer does and inferior bucks from both species, none of which interested me. But, in the last 20 minutes of daylight, a pair of whitetail does came in. The problem was that I was sitting right at the private/public boundary near a ranch, the same one whose owner gave us a hard time last season. I had to wait for the does to cross the invisible line using OnX mapping software as my truth data. However, the does spooked briefly to something that happened on the adjacent private ranch. They were technically well within range, but not legal to shoot at since they were still on the private land side of my field. Thankfully, they inched back to within 150 yards of me on the public side with ample daylight for a shot. I didn’t waste the opportunity, and filled my whitetail B tag with the same trusty .243 Win Tikka T3 and 100 gr. Sierra Pro Hunter bullet that I’ve used out West for several years now. Ironically, this was the first whitetail it had ever killed.


Then, the unthinkable happened: the same rancher who gave us a hard time last year came over to the kill site to check on us. Last year, after our run-in with him, we all mended fences and actually left on good terms. To my surprise, he not only recognized us right away, he said that he was extremely happy to see that we were shooting whitetail does since they were pushing his mule deer out. He proceeded to give us permission on his 11,000 acre ranch to shoot more whitetails as required to fill our remaining tags! We expressed our gratitude and made arrangements to get permission slips for the following day.
Accuracy: because white space between bullet holes drives me insane.


  • Six-GunSix-Gun Posts: 8,155 Senior Member
    Day 3: Crazy Stuff Happens

    The next morning after I dropped my doe, the temps were cooling and the rut was heating up. There was a notable uptick in buck chasing for both mulies and whitetails all over the place. We didn’t yet have our private land permission slips, so we went back on public land for the morning. That same field where I killed my doe really felt like the right place to be, so I decided to head there before daylight and see if a buck worth shooting would show up. However, I made a navigational error in the dark that proved critical in a good way. I thought I was sitting in the same dry creek bed that I sat the prior evening, but was actually about 100 yards short and in a different creek bed. This mistake ended up being the best thing that happened during my hunt.

    I was sitting there thinking that I’m again hugging the private/public boundary line and only legal for maybe 40 yards worth of my field on one side. That side just so happened to be where a beautiful 8-point whitetail sauntered along a dry creek bed tree line to my short-field side just as legal shooting hours opened up. I was pretty sure he wasn’t legal to shoot because I thought he was on private land but when I checked my phone something wasn’t making sense. I suddenly had much more room to work on the short-field side. A quick look up in the growing daylight and I realized that I was on the wrong creek bed and still had about 150 yards to work with!

    At that moment, I looked up and saw the buck start working into trees along the dry creek bed that I now knew was the one I sat the night before. Had I actually been in the place I intended, I never would’ve seen this buck! Regardless, I had to act extremely fast, as he was definitely headed for the private land. The moment he disappeared into the creek bed trees, I grabbed my gear and sprinted across the exposed field behind him, taking a wide route to minimize the chances of him hearing/seeing me with zero cover in the field. Now I was breathing heavy, but I had to get beyond that as the buck appeared with little room to spare on the other side of the trees. I had initially lasered the distance at 123 yards. It seemed a little close, but this buck looked big through the binos, so I didn’t question it.

    This time, I was using my Savage Weather Warrior in 7mm-08 with 140 gr. Barnes TTSX handloads and setup for the shot. I bleated at the buck to stop him and he obliged. I held just a couple of inches low to compensate for the relatively close range and that gun has a 200 yard zero. The shot rang out, and the deer bucked as if heart-shot. He ran only a handful of yards and then stopped roughly broadside. There I sat, quite proud of myself, certain that the buck was going down any second. Though the buck stopped and I was sure he was going down soon, I decided that it would only make sense to send another round to be sure he went down before he could make it to the private land. So, I lasered him again…

    263 yards???

    What? He couldn’t have gone that far. I lasered him once more, and again I got 263 yards. It didn’t make sense, but I held higher accordingly and fired. The buck dropped stone cold dead on the spot. Hmmm… This was all really strange. When I got to the buck in the now fully lit morning sky, it all made sense. A look back from his location provided the forensic answer: a thin veil of grass separated me and the buck at the initial laser reading, but it was too dark to see it at first light. That distance was roughly 123 yards, a full 140 yards short of the deer. I held *low* to accommodate the false range, which exacerbated an already short falling shot, and heaven knows what happened when that bullet got into the grass. As a result, the first shot was severely low and the buck had his front *foot* nearly severed from his leg. The second laser reading taken after the buck moved, cleared the grass and gave an accurate distance. Hence, the second shot was perfect and the deer went right down. Wow, that could’ve been bad on several levels, but it all just worked out perfectly. Just like that, in just a 14-hour period, I had gone from punching my first tag to being tagged out on deer.



    That night, we had obtained written permission from the rancher, and the other guys were able to set up on one of his fields. N454Casull was ready for the opportunity and made the most of it. As he described it, an 8-point buck came into the field and started walking right toward the position where he and Rich had set up. They talked for a bit and N454Casull decided that he would take this buck. The deer closed inside of 150 yards and hung there perfectly for a shot. One 300 WSM round later, the buck was down, and it was his first-ever whitetail!

    Accuracy: because white space between bullet holes drives me insane.
  • Six-GunSix-Gun Posts: 8,155 Senior Member
    Day 4: Finishing Up…sort of

    The morning hunt was going to be amazing. The cold temps built into a crescendo of snowfall that had the rut absolutely roaring. Bucks all over were heads-down sniffing and harassing does endlessly. Before we even got to our planned spot, N454 sighted a buck near a pile of haystacks on the ranch within an easy stalk from the road. There was a big buck bedded right next to the haystacks and a look through the binos confirmed he was a whitetail worth chasing. The next thing you know, the buck is on his feet and ready to fight another nearby buck. Rich was the only one of us left with a buck-legal tag, so he got out of the truck and I joined him as a second set of eyes. Before we knew it, we had worked a depressed field edge to within 23 yards of the target buck! Rich eased his gun up and sent another 100 gr. soft point at the buck’s shoulder just as he started to engage the opposing deer. The target buck lurched and his opponent fled for about 20 yards before THAT buck got distracted and started chasing a doe! This was nuts. Within a few moments, Rich’s buck hit the turf and was down for good. It ended up being the biggest buck of the hunt!


    Now, all that was needed to close out all of the big game tags for our group was a pair of whitetail does for Frank and N454. We stalked a few more fields and spotted some deer, but the chances we found for them were tough to engage over the large, open winter wheat. We bumped a few deer in the process and things just kept getting dorked up. Frank and I were now separated from Rich and N454 in an effort to raise a deer. Just when it seemed we exhausted all of our chances and were heading back to the truck, I spotted a doe uphill of us at just inside of 70 yards. I told Frank where to look and he got right on target. The 7mm Rem Mag hit its mark and the doe did a circle dance before going down a few seconds later. The autopsy revealed that the bullet completely severed the top of the heart from the aorta, and the blood spray on the snow went for a solid 10 yards+ beyond the deer.



    We had just one tag left to fill. It was time to get the last doe down and N454Casull was up. We drove just a little way down the road to a different winter wheat field, and it wasn’t long before we saw a herd of whitetails running. We started a long foot pursuit, moving the deer out of the drainage tree lines and into the open. It took a few approaches over a good distance to finally get a chance out in the open, but just as daylight was getting thin, N454 spotted a buck and his doe – two that we had bumped just a little while earlier – bedded down in the middle of a winter wheat field not far from the road.

    N454 had to wait a little bit for the deer to stand back up because the slightest depression in the field had their vitals completely covered. He set up his Bog Gear shooting sticks and waited for his chance. Finally, they got up, and the doe stood broadside. A few moments later, we heard the bullet strike and the doe went straight down.

    Just like that, our group had successfully filled 8 big game tags in just 3 full hunting days! N454 had to leave a little early, which sucked because just after he headed out, the landowner gave us permission to hunt turkeys and I just so happened to have a shotgun for us to share. Well, I guess we weren’t quite done. We bought our turkey tags and...





    Needless to say, we’ll be back next year…
    Accuracy: because white space between bullet holes drives me insane.
  • earlyearly Posts: 4,950 Senior Member
    That's quite a read. Better to shoot the buck in the foot than yourself. Especially one that nice.
    My thoughts are generally clear. My typing, not so much.
  • Six-GunSix-Gun Posts: 8,155 Senior Member
    cpj wrote: »
    Dude I'm still cracking up thinking about our conversation today.

    For those not in the know, cpj was able to hear a few tales from this hunt that are not suitable for all audiences. There is simply no price that can be put on witnessing such events first-hand. What has seen cannot be unseen...
    Accuracy: because white space between bullet holes drives me insane.
  • JeeperJeeper Posts: 2,954 Senior Member
    Amazing hunt!!! Thanks for the story and pics!!

    Wielding the Hammer of Thor first requires you to lift and carry the Hammer of Thor. - Bigslug
  • Ernie BishopErnie Bishop Posts: 8,566 Senior Member
    Thanks for sharing

    "The Un-Tactical"
  • Six-GunSix-Gun Posts: 8,155 Senior Member
    cpj wrote: »
    I'm still ROLLING.
    Even my wife was curious (yet disgusted) how "that" fit "there". I saw an amazon ad for that while surfing the web, started laughing again and had to tell her why I was crying laughing.

    It was one of the entertainingly horrifying things I've ever witnessed.
    Accuracy: because white space between bullet holes drives me insane.
  • JRLJRL Posts: 355 Member
    Great read... Thanks! I haven't hunted for years but felt like I was there while reading... Great pics too
  • jbohiojbohio Posts: 5,617 Senior Member
    What a great hunt! I'm jealous.
  • Six-GunSix-Gun Posts: 8,155 Senior Member
    Thanks and no problem, guys - it's my pleasure to share.

    As an epilogue, we're all getting fan/tail mounts on oak wood backers, and Rich and I are getting European mounts done with our bucks.


    No pic of the tail mount from the shop, but I found the walnut equivalent of the exact display at McKenzie Taxidermy's website:

    Accuracy: because white space between bullet holes drives me insane.
  • twatwa Posts: 2,245 Senior Member
    Great story and hunt, glad you decided on the follow up shot just in case....some of the strangest things happen! Congrats!
  • ZeeZee Posts: 28,177 Senior Member

    i dearly miss Montana.
    "To Hell with efficiency, it's performance we want!" - Elmer Keith
  • sakodudesakodude Posts: 4,796 Senior Member
    Great hunt and story to go with it. Spent some of my wayward youth in the Missoula area of Montana. Loved it there.

  • orchidmanorchidman Posts: 8,415 Senior Member
    That would have to be one of the most successful hunts that has been posted up here. ( 8 tags in 3 days of hunting and turkeys to boot!) You had better get a bigger cup cos by my reckoning, I think the one you have is full my friend.

    ( my next rifle is probably going to be a T3 in 243............with the bolt on the correct side lol).
    Still enjoying the trip of a lifetime and making the best of what I have.....
  • Six-GunSix-Gun Posts: 8,155 Senior Member
    Thanks again, guys. Montana is, simply put, amazing. I really envy you guys who got to spend your younger years in that place. With a set of good, fresh legs and some ambition, there's virtually no limit to what you can find in those mountains. It's one of the few places I've ever hunted where you have the luxury of passing on a LOT of animals before pulling the trigger, even on public land.

    Alec - that Tikka T3 .243 I used on this hunt (and quite a few previously) has quickly proven to be the most reliable and versatile medium game gun I own. You'll love it.
    Accuracy: because white space between bullet holes drives me insane.
  • Farm Boy DeuceFarm Boy Deuce Posts: 6,083 Senior Member
    Excellent work Louis. Thank you for sharing.
    I am afraid we forget sometime that the basic and simple things brings us the most pleasure.
    Dad 5-31-13
  • Six-GunSix-Gun Posts: 8,155 Senior Member
    Thanks, Farm Boy! It was a truly incredible trip.

    I should add that this trip was purposely set up on top of the rut after two years of hunting the early season out that way. We wanted a shot at bigger bucks and it worked out perfectly. I have never seen more intense rutting behavior in my life. After N454 shot his doe, the buck that was with her bailed out briefly, but then worked his way back to where all 4 of us were standing over the dead doe. I shot video of him as he approached to within 45 yards and got within 25 yards on a previous pass! I told the guys to load up in case the buck got violent. I thought that he was going to push us out of the way and hamp the carcass!
    Accuracy: because white space between bullet holes drives me insane.
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