Hunting public land in Western Montana comes with its own unique set of challenges- beyond the non-stop rain and very few encounters with deer, on this hunt myself and my good friend Jim Brennan were also faced with growing numbers of predators including grizzly bears, wolves and other hunters.
Jim arrived a full 5 days before me to scout and try his luck at filling his deer tag without luck. By my third day on the hunt, we had encountered a single mule deer buck in a whitetail only area and a plethora of hunters. The weather did not want to cooperate with rain and drizzle pretty much non-stop. But that morning, our luck began to change and the bucks began to respond the rattling of horns, slipping into our location silently.
The bucks that came in were young, but we were glad to see the change in the rut begin to take place. After our morning hunt, we located a decent herd of elk and with a bull tag in hand, I parted ways with Jim in order to go take a good look at the herd in the event a legal bull was present while Jim stayed true to his course and pursuit of a whitetail buck.
Patience and persistence the only two things you can control as a hunter- both paid off for Jim that night. A full 8 days of hunting public land had finally paid off when Jim was able to rattle in a mature whitetail buck that rattled into 50 yards. It was one hard earned mountain buck and a great hunt between the two of us.
With many thanks, heavy packs were the theme of the night as we packed the old buck off the mountain.
The next morning, I connected with my good friend Ty Stubblefield of Backcountry Hunters and Angles to take his 15 year old daughter Hunter out. We both had a buck and bull elk tags in hand and with countless miles of closed roads, there was no shortage of terrain for us to cover in search of our game.
The only way to get around the mountains in this area is with quads. Yeah, the ones attached to your legs. It was a great day on the mountain. I took some of the techniques that Jim had taught me and applied them to our hunt. As luck would have it, we were able to rattle in a spike whitetail buck. Unfortunately, it was not the buck we were looking for but, Hunter and her dad Ty had their first experience at rattling in a whitetail buck.
Towards the end of the day we spotted a herd of elk roughly two miles away- it was our last hope of finding a bull elk so we went for it. It took everything we had to make it up the mountain and within shooting distance of the herd but we did it. Unfortunately, our effort was for naught as there was not a legal bull to be found in the herd. Our walk out was a triumphant one. Although we had not filled a tag, we had some great encounters with both whitetail and elk and made some great memories afield.
The next day Ty, Hunter and I were joined by our other good friend and Shoot N The Bull Podcast co-host Josh Keller. We searched high and low finding only one mule deer buck and again the buck was in a whitetail only area. Lady luck just wasn’t on our side but we saw some beautiful country along the way. The highest peaks and valley low of Western Montana and some beautiful wildlife along the way including bull moose and bighorn sheep.
After 7 days, it was time for me to make my way home. I devised a plan to make a short morning hunt on my way home in an area that Jim and I had spotted some whitetail deer.
Arriving on the mountain in the dark, I was runner up to another group of hunters that had beat me to the same spot. I had a decision to make- I either hung it up and went home or I continued with my plan and hunted not knowing where the other hunters had ventured. With a never quit attitude, I stayed my course and hunted.
After 7 days of public land hunting, I was able to connect on a DIY, solo buck. I could not have been more thrilled. When it comes to successful big game hunting it comes down to having a great team and although I was solo when I harvested my buck, Jim Kinsey and Jana Waller had sent me in a direction to find deer and allowed me to crash their house and second, Jim Brennan taught me the skills necessary to be a successful spot and stalk whitetail hunter.
I wish that my buddies Ty, Josh and Hunter could have been there but they did offer to come help pack my buck off the mountain. Fortunately, I had Kruger in the truck a few miles away and was able to successfully pack the buck off the mountain in two short trips with his help.
Heavy packs. Just the way I like em'. This is the second buck Kruger and I packed out that week. There is no greater feeling than this.