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Montana hunt 2017: 3 deer with 3 different military weapons (and some grouse)

Six-GunSix-Gun Senior MemberPosts: 8,155 Senior Member
If I've learned anything about Montana over the years, it's that it's just too easy to get it done. There is a boatload of opportunity to kill deer in this state, and getting a nice representative of what you’re after requires nothing but some research and a little bit of patience.

This year, I decided to add some challenge to the adventure. It was not going to be about getting a nice buck like the previous year. This time, I not only wanted to blood three rifles in three different chamberings that I've never previously used on big game, I wanted to do so using relatively short range capabilities. So, I brought along the following weapons that saw military use across three different centuries:

1) 1700's - Early Lancaster Pennsylvania longrifle using patched, .50 caliber lead round balls and FFFg black powder (max effective range ~70 yards)

2) 1800's - Winchester 1892 chambered in .45 Colt firing my home cast 250 gr. bullets (max effective range ~100 yards)

3) 1900's - AR-15 chambered in 6x45, shooting 85 gr. HPBT GameKings (max effective range ~220 yards)


Each hunt was special in its own way and created lots of great memories. I also had the additional challenge of guiding a new deer hunter to filling his two tags while trying to fill all three of mine, but if there was any place where it could be done, it was here.

.50 cal flintlock hunt
I was drawn for a mulie doe tag coming into this trip. Conveniently, I spotted one on BLM land in a perfect position to put on a stalk. She was feeding in a meadow with a hill base providing perfect stalking cover. Even better, there was a heavily used game trail running over the hill just a few feet up, providing a clearing through the grass and a great shooting rest.

The only minor issue I faced was that I had lost my FFFFg priming powder from my priming tool a night earlier due to the feeding tube unscrewing itself. Thankfully, I had already tested the gun using the same FFFg powder as used in the main charge and was confident I could get reliable ignition. So, off I went to give it a go.

I made my move, crawling up to the game trail on the hill and closing the gap to just 52 yards. Undetected, I carefully eased the flintlock over the clear opening and pulled the hammer to full cock. A quick squeeze of the set trigger had me ready to fire.

At the shot, an enormous smoke cloud billowed out, obscuring the deer. Strangely, she ran toward me, and I had no clue if the hit was good. She got about 20 yards away, stopped, and looked over her shoulder back to where I shot at her. A few more seconds went by and she tumbled backwards. Score!

My doe from the exit wound side:

The entrance wound was blocked by hair. I swirled it around the hole, so you can make out where the ball hit:


.45 Colt lever gun hunt

Another hunter from my group came along with me after we spotted a pair of whitetail does at the top of a ravine. We both had whitetail doe tags and decided to go in. As it turned out, the deer were on the far side of the ravine and there was no easy or fast way to get closer. I decided to let him shoot with his .300 WSM and get my chance later. He shot and dropped his doe at 200 yards.

As the other hunter gutted his deer, I decided to explore the ravine and see what else was in or around it. Within 10 minutes, I saw a 6-point whitetail buck entering the ravine just a couple of hundred yards away. That offered a good chance to fill my general deer tag. I waited for the buck to get behind some heavy brush in the trough and quickly moved to a hole in the trees facing the game trail that I presumed he would follow. I was banking on him taking the easy way up...and he did.

As soon as the buck got into the hole I was facing, I bleated loudly and got him to stop. The iron sights were now set at the proper holdover for the shot. I fired, and the bullet closed the 82 yard gap at a slow, 1,250 fps pace, quartering right into his chest. I came down off of recoil in time to see the buck drop and tumble into the ravine. My first batch of custom cast bullets got the job done.



AR-15 hunt

My last task for the trip was to finally fill the whitetail doe tag that I missed out on filling earlier in the hunt. That left the AR-15 in 6x45 as the weapon of choice for the job. I drove past a familiar canyon that held whitetails and saw a group of young does before I even made it to my intended hunting spot. I parked the truck, chambered a round, and put on a stalk to the canyon's edge.

At this point, it was as simple as putting the crosshairs on one of the does and squeezing the trigger. Interestingly enough, this doe was at exactly 82 yards, just like my lever gun buck. The bullet struck and the deer bolted about 40 yards before going down. The 85 gr. HPBT Sierra GameKing left a bullet-sized entrance hole and a dime-sized exit, completely penetrating and killing quickly. It was very cool to see that little projectile perform so well on big game.


Quest complete: without firing a single shot over 82 yards, I took 3 deer with 3 different rifles representing 3 different military eras. All of this in just 4 hunting days, several of which were spent concentrating on helping my buddy fill his tags. Oh, and he did just that. He filled a whitetail doe tag and scored his first mule deer buck.

Bonus round: sharp-tailed grouse!

Another thing I've learned about Montana is that you should NEVER show up without a shotgun. Last year I killed a big Merriam's turkey after my deer hunt because I had one handy. With this year's big game tags spent, I decided to go hit some draws where I had seen sharptails flush several times in the past. My new deer hunter friend came along for kicks and to see if he could also get a bird. A Montana deer combo license includes upland privileges, so why not give it a shot? We had no dog, but we had two good feet and two good bird guns. I loaded up the Benelli Super Black Eagle II with some Remington 2.75 inch #5 shells and headed to the public land where I saw the birds flushing.

Within 70 yards of walking along the first draw, I had my first bird down. At the end of that draw, me and my buddy watched in amazement as the biggest flock of sharptails I had ever seen flushed about 100 yards in front of us. I can't tell you how many we saw for sure, but we can say with conservative confidence that it was at least 60-70 birds. In my mind, there still had to be more on the ground, so we started heading toward where the big flock departed.

It didn't take long. Just 20 yards later, I spotted pair of grouse frozen still behind some sparse, calf-high grass about 4 yards apart. I told my friend to get ready to shoot the bird on the left when it flew, as it was on his side. We got a few steps closer and the birds flushed. When they did, the bird on his side immediately flew directly next to mine. I fired first, and when I did, I ended up doubling up and taking both birds down with one shot. I felt bad because I now had three birds and my buddy had none, but he was too excited to have witnessed a very rare upland bird double kill to be upset.

We continued through the grass toward a tall, somewhat steep knob that was capped with a few large rocks. When we got within a couple hundred yards of the knob, I noticed not one, but two different grouse playing lookout from the rocks and staring right at us. They weren't overly concerned yet, so we kept way wide of them and made a play to get behind them for a sneak attack. We got out of sight and slowly climbed the knob until we broke the top edge. At that moment, the first lookout bird flushed, but no others. Then, we got a shade higher and the front lookout bird flew, cuckling the whole way out. It was a long shot, but I led it by about 6 feet and dropped the grouse instantly, completing a 4-bird limit. I had never killed a sharp-tailed grouse before this day, but by some crazy miracle, I had just limited out. Talk about feeling grateful! It just added to the list of reasons why I love hunting Montana.


I love those weird "hair" feathers on their legs/feet:

Sadly, more birds flushed as we climbed a little further over the knob, but they were almost all on my side. My friend took two shots but missed both and never got a single bird. He was not too upset because he saw a LOT of activity for his first sharptail hunt. It was much better than sitting in the hotel room.

Oh, and a local fellow taught me how to tell a male sharptail from a female. They are a tough bird to sex unless you know what to look for. The male birds show a yellow feather tuft when you pull up on their eyebrow. The females don't have that. See below; the top bird is a female and the bottom bird, a male.


So, we leave tomorrow after another fantastic year out West. It went by so fast and we're actually cutting 5 planned days off of the trip because we tagged out so quickly. Everyone wants a little more time to get ready for Thanksgiving, but none of us regret the time we spent in this great state. We'll be doing it all again next year.
Accuracy: because white space between bullet holes drives me insane.


  • JayhawkerJayhawker Moderator Posts: 18,226 Senior Member
    Nicely done Luis..very nicely done.....
    Sharps Model 1874 - "The rifle that made the west safe for Winchester"
  • Jeff in TXJeff in TX Senior Member Posts: 2,521 Senior Member
    Well done and great write up!! :beer::worthy::worthy:
    Distance is not an issue, but the wind can make it interesting!

    John 3: 1-21
  • bisleybisley Senior Member Posts: 10,815 Senior Member
    Grea hunt! :up:
  • ZeeZee Senior Member Posts: 27,916 Senior Member
    Jealous does not describe. Nor does envy.

    I miss Montana.

    Most excellently done.
    "To Hell with efficiency, it's performance we want!" - Elmer Keith
  • Diver43Diver43 Senior Member Posts: 12,442 Senior Member
    WOW Excellent
    Logistics cannot win a war, but its absence or inadequacy can cause defeat. FM100-5
  • NNNN Senior Member Posts: 25,200 Senior Member
  • earlyearly Senior Member Posts: 4,950 Senior Member
    Very cool!

    Would you hesitate to use the 50 PRB on elk?
    I'm nervous about it and use maxi-ball conicals instead.
    My thoughts are generally clear. My typing, not so much.
  • JerryBobCoJerryBobCo Senior Member Posts: 8,227 Senior Member
    Nice hunt, Luis.

    I have to say that you have piqued my curiosity about Montana deer hunting. I'm thinking seriously of making a trip up there next year or the year after. I may be asking you for advice soon.

    Anyone from Texas or from somewhere in between Texas and Montana want to do the same? Maybe we can get a group hunt going like the Colorado elk hunt from a few years back.

    Gun control laws make about as much sense as taking ex-lax to cure a cough.
  • shooter10mmshooter10mm Member Posts: 215 Member
    Sounds like an incredible time dude!! I miss living in MT sooo much!!
    "You miss 100% of the shots you do not take!"
    "As long as there's Lead in the air there's hope!
    " -- Ralph Adkinson(Daddy) The original Marlboro Man
  • BigslugBigslug Senior Member Posts: 9,592 Senior Member
    Nice Luis!:cool2:

    How big a powder charge on the .50?

    "Nothing is safe from stupid." - Zee
  • bullsi1911bullsi1911 Moderator Posts: 12,240 Senior Member
    Very nice hunts! Congrats!!!
    To make something simple is a thousand times more difficult than to make something complex.
    -Mikhail Kalashnikov
  • CaliFFLCaliFFL Senior Member Posts: 5,486 Senior Member
    Awesome hunt!
    When our governing officials dismiss due process as mere semantics, when they exercise powers they don’t have and ignore duties they actually bear, and when we let them get away with it, we have ceased to be our own rulers.

    Adam J. McCleod

  • Six-GunSix-Gun Senior Member Posts: 8,155 Senior Member
    Thanks, guys - it really was an incredible time. Purely from the self-issued challenge perspective and the fact that I scored my first ever sharptail grouse, it’s possibly the coolest hunt I've had since we started going to Montana.
    JerryBobCo wrote: »
    Nice hunt, Luis.

    I have to say that you have piqued my curiosity about Montana deer hunting. I'm thinking seriously of making a trip up there next year or the year after. I may be asking you for advice soon.

    Let me know as soon as possible if you decide to go next year. We can start going over the application process, which is fairly simple but still will be new to you, of course. Then I have some tools to recommend that will really open doors for opportunities all over the state depending on what you want to do and when. Lots of great options all over.
    Bigslug wrote: »
    Nice Luis!:cool2:

    How big a powder charge on the .50?

    Load info: home cast .490” pure lead ball with a .020” pre-lubed patch and 70 grains of Goex FFFg powder. Total penetration and very tolerable recoil.
    Accuracy: because white space between bullet holes drives me insane.
  • JayhawkerJayhawker Moderator Posts: 18,226 Senior Member
    early wrote: »
    Very cool!

    Would you hesitate to use the 50 PRB on elk?
    I'm nervous about it and use maxi-ball conicals instead.

    When you consider the mountain of elk and bison that have been killed with patched round balls when that was all that was available....I don't think there is too much to worry about. I killed my only elk (a young spike bull) with a .54 RB and he dropped like he'd been poleaxed...placement,placement,placement..
    Sharps Model 1874 - "The rifle that made the west safe for Winchester"
  • Six-GunSix-Gun Senior Member Posts: 8,155 Senior Member
    Wambli Ska wrote: »
    Good job buddy. Great hunts!

    Thanks a lot! I love sharing these adventures with you guys.
    early wrote: »
    Very cool!

    Would you hesitate to use the 50 PRB on elk?
    I'm nervous about it and use maxi-ball conicals instead.

    What Jayhawker said. There is no doubt that a .50 cal or larger PRB will knock a large bull out of his boots. The penetration is surprising for being a dead soft and rapidly expanding projectile. Best of all, it kills the animal without killing you. Recoil on most flintlock/caplock PRB loads is a fraction of what you get with a modern big bore rifle cartridge.
    Accuracy: because white space between bullet holes drives me insane.
  • earlyearly Senior Member Posts: 4,950 Senior Member
    Food for thought guys:up:
    I'm running out of maxi-balls but have years worth of PRB's.
    My thoughts are generally clear. My typing, not so much.
  • HAWKENHAWKEN Senior Member Posts: 1,720 Senior Member
    Congratulations Luis, nicely done. I can see why top brass wants you to write for them because you do an excellent job. Thanks for the tip on sexting grouse, not that it matters as they taste the same, LOL When I hunted them in S. Dakota we found that they didn't sit as tight as pheasants, a 40 yard shot was not unusual........robin :applause:
    I don't often talk to people that voted for Obama, but when I do I order large fries!
    Life member of the American Legion, the VFW, the NRA and the Masonic Lodge, retired LEO
  • Six-GunSix-Gun Senior Member Posts: 8,155 Senior Member
    Thanks for the compliment, Robin. I really enjoy writing up these reports as it lets me relive the hunt again.

    The grouse that I shot must have had zero pressure this season as they held tight as ticks. In the case of my first bird, I caught its movement about 15 yards away before it froze up and demonstrated classic upland holding behavior. We got very close to it before it flushed. The pair I saw in the grass acted the same way. While the big flock flushed wild, the ones I shot were very hesitant to fly until we hit that high knob. It was quite a learning experience.
    Accuracy: because white space between bullet holes drives me insane.
  • ZeeZee Senior Member Posts: 27,916 Senior Member
    The available land in Montana is amazing. the lack of general pressure is as well.

    I enjoyed the ability to walk into the mountains and not see a soul for days.

    Came face to face with grizzly and cougar. Not many places that can happen on the same hunt.
    "To Hell with efficiency, it's performance we want!" - Elmer Keith
  • 1965Jeff1965Jeff Senior Member Posts: 1,650 Senior Member
    Great trip and hunts, thanks for sharing.

    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
  • JermanatorJermanator Senior Member Posts: 16,244 Senior Member
    That was a damn good hunt. It takes a lot of work and planning to make that look so smooth. Congratulations!
    Reason obeys itself; and ignorance submits to whatever is dictated to it.
    -Thomas Paine
  • Six-GunSix-Gun Senior Member Posts: 8,155 Senior Member
    Thanks again, guys. I wish everyone could get a chance to experience a hunt like this at some point in their life. As Zee stated, the abundance of publicly huntable land, abundance of animals and relatively low pressure makes Montana a great place to hunt.

    Jerm -

    I’ve actually come up with a personal rule set that has been my guide for successful Western hunts. It may seem obvious, but when I meet these, it tends to work out:

    1) Go to where the animals are

    2) Go to where the people aren’t

    3) Research your unit and talk to the biologists in your prescribed hunting unit well before opening day - scout and validate their info’s currency whenever possible

    4) Never discount info provided by those who have successfully hunted in your area

    5) Always pay attention to what other animals are present while you hunt - it can be the foundation of a successful future hunt

    The first two are almost equally important in my mind, but number 1 is king since you can’t do anything if what you are hunting doesn’t exist.

    The last one is what led me to that great grouse hunt. Two years in a row seeing flushes in the same spot was a big indicator that it worth trying.
    Accuracy: because white space between bullet holes drives me insane.
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