Montana 2020

shawn_in_MA

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We went to Montana in 2018...see thread here https://huntingchat.net/threads/our-montana-adventure.53319/
https://huntingchat.net/threads/our-montana-adventure.53319/

We decided after that trip that we would return in 2020. We kept planning and purchasing our preference points along the way. We drew our NR Deer combo licenses as expected this Spring.
As the hunt got closer and we kept an eye on the weather we knew we were in for a totally different hunt than last time. This year we would start the hunt with 10" of snow on the ground and temps of NEGATIVE 8 degrees for a low, warming up to 72 degrees by the end of the week!!!! Our first setback came when we went to pick up the rental and they informed us that the 4x4 truck we had rented was totaled the day before in the snowstorm and we could have a 2wd truck or a big 4wd SUV...neither of which was acceptable. We found another company that had a 4x4 truck and we were back in business and on the road. It was snowing and windy for our trip from the airport to where we were hunting but we made it without issue.

Day 1 was cold and windy with occasional snow squalls. We started in the area that Shawn and I had tagged out in 2018. Shawn saw 1 nice 2X3 but decided not to shoot him this early in the trip. Wendy and I found a beautiful glassing knob and sat for a few hours without seeing any deer. Around 9:30 I caught a deer in my binos and then another and another. All together there were 5 deer that I could see and I could tell that 3 of them were bucks from 900yds away. I broke out the spotter and saw that 2 of them were shooters with a big 4X4 and a little smaller 4x4 in the group. We made a move to close the distance but lost the deer down in the timber. I looked up on the ridge and saw that 4 of the deer including the 2 biggest bucks were feeding up on the ridge above where they were before. The only problem was that we could not close the distance any more and they were still 520yds away. I got a good rest on my pack, dialed the scope for the distance and looked at the sight picture...it was pretty damn good. I thought long and hard about shooting but just couldn't do it. It was just too far. After 10 minutes the biggest buck walked up and over the ridge and out of my life. The others milled around for another 10 minutes before heading the same way. I took a picture of the smaller 4X4, 2X3 and big doe through the spotting scope.
We were frozen and had a long walk out of the drainage back towards the truck. We got to where Shawn was going to pick us up and I started glassing the area around there. I located 5 does and another shooter buck just as Shawn was pulling up. The buck disappeared into a fold in the landscape. We hopped in the truck to warm up and eat a sandwich. We made a mistake here...we really should have stuck around and went after that deer as it wasn't all that far and he was on public ground...but instead we left the area to go check out some new country.
That afternoon we hunted a new area and it was OK at best. We ended the deer seeing over 20 deer in the woods including 3 shooter bucks plus a ton more on private property.
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shawn_in_MA

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Day 2 was COLD -8 for a low and 14 for a high. We went back to the same glassing knob looking for the big 4X4. Shawn sat and glassed near where we saw the shooter buck that we didn't go after. After a couple hours of glassing I looked back on the same ridg as the day before and saw the same 3 deer that are in the picture above in the same spot...but the big boy wasn't with them. They didn't feed around as long this time before they went in the same direction as the day before. We also saw a BIG 6x6 Elk which was cool. I marked the approximate location on OnX and we headed out to meet up with Shawn. He had seen a big coyote and a shooter buck but the buck had come in behind him and was high tailing it the other way by the time he saw it. We decided to go around the backside of where the deer on the ridge had disappeared to at least check out the area and hopefully find them again. We split up and worked our way in to the general area. I peeked over a ridge and down below me I saw deer, lots of deer. I moved 20 yds up to a big blowdown to use as cover and a rest. It was a shitshow from here on. I saw at least 10 deer milling around. There were 3 different bucks in the group that we hadn't seen before including a different big 4x4. I got a range of 325-350yds depending on which deer I was ranging. Dialed the scope, cranked it up to 10x, OK now which buck is the one I'm looking for. Crap...grab the binos and look again...oh there he is, put the binos down, take off gloves. Why is my sight picture all screwy...Oh take off back pack, OK that's better, Crap which deer is it now, back to the binos, oh there he is, back to the scope. Adjust rest, control breathing, safety off. Crap now he's facing me. Crap now the does are getting my wind, now they are all walking...in other words I screwed up and didn't get a shot off. I was not going to rush a shot, but I should have had enough time to get one off even with the chaos.
Fortunately, they weren't too spooked. I had Shawn come setup where I was and I went North to where Wendy was. We went a little further North and found the deer again. They were still all milling around at 350yds but this time they were a little more nervous. There were actually 15 deer in the group. I was never able to get a good rest and neither was Wendy before they moved around the hill. It was a long dejecting walk out of there. We hoped they would stay in the area but would give them a day off to calm back down.
That night we went to a different area. We saw 3 different bucks and 7 does. Shawn saw 34 deer, most were on private though. I think we saw over 60 deer in the woods that day and at least another 125 while driving out on private property.
 

shawn_in_MA

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Day 3 We went to an area we had hunted before. We ran into a few other hunters and all the area funneled down to the same basin and we ended up all looking in the same area...we got out of there and checked out a few new spots and saw a bunch of antelope along the way e.jpg
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h1.jpg . We found an area that was loaded with tracks for the afternoon. It looked more like whitetail country than mule deer country. I think we saw 20ish deer in the woods that day including a couple small mule deer and whitetail bucks and one basket racked 8pt whitetail. We also saw a nice bull run across the road in front of us as last light was fading.
 

shawn_in_MA

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Side bar....The entire time it had been warming up, the road conditions were getting BAD first snow, then compacted snow, then ice, then mud...especially seeing we were out in the National Forest and BLM service roads in a rental truck with no jack, no tow straps, no shovel, no tire chains etc. Shawn is a logger and drives in the woods 365 days a year...it's a good thing he was driving, cause I certainly would have put us off the road, into a ditch, or off a cliff on a lot of occasions. Hell Wendy got out of the truck and walked down a lot of the hills. We took our time, we did what we could, and we made it work. It really did limit where we could go, fortunately it seemed we were the only ones dumb or stupid enough to go in where we had found the bucks...at least there wasn't a lot of hunting pressure LOL.
 

shawn_in_MA

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Day 4 We went back in where we found the bucks on day 1 and 2 with a new plan. After scouring OnX I found another ridge that would make a good glassing location for the 3 of us to look into different areas and be within shooting range of a lot of the deer we had been seeing. It was a slow morning and we saw maybe 10 does and skips from the glassing knob. We made a move in early afternoon glassing at the lookout point heading to check out a different area. Wendy saw them before Shawn and I. Deer! Bucks! I looked over and saw a BIG buck and a real nice 4x4. Wendy and Shawn both got their rifles on the deer. I know SHawn could have dropped the big one while Wendy was trying to get settled and find the deer in her scope. Shawn said which one do you want...naturally her answer was "The big one!!" She couldn't actually tell which one was which...she said "The one on the Left"...Shawn dejectedly said OK as that was both the big one and the one in the open. A few more seconds went by and he said to her"You gotta shoot, they are about to screw out of here" Wendy shot and her buck crumpled,,,dead in it's tracks. Shawn's buck whirled into the big buck as it was falling then turned the other way. Shawn took a shot but didn't touch him. We walked by Wendy's buck and made sure it was dead then followed up Shawn's to make sure it was a clean miss.
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shawn_in_MA

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Day 5 We had decided to go back out to the glassing point. We had landed on a big group of does/skips/little bucks...it was just a matter of time before a big buck would show up to check on them...or so we hoped. We drove a little farther down the road than we had been and found quite a few other deer. It ate up some time but the deer were still out on their feet. We changed plans and went different directions out to some new glassing areas. Shawn saw a whole herd of elk with a big bull. We saw 7-8 does and small bucks. For the afternoon we went back to our glassing point. We saw a bunch more deer in there in the afternoon but no good bucks. We had to leave the glassing point a little early due to the road conditions. By the time we got out to the blacktop it was dark. This was another 60 plus deer day with multiple little bucks and doe/skips. I resigned myself at this point. We only had the next morning left to hunt and it would be hard to get a buck down, get it processed and frozen, before it was time to head to the airport the following morning.
The following morning was uneventful...I think we saw 40ish deer by noon when we called it quits. Shawn passed up a little forkhorn that we had seen 3 or 4 times and had nicknamed "Meat". We spent the afternoon drinking beers on the gazebo where we stayed watching kids Trick or Treat in the 72 degrees temps. It was a great trip, lots more memories made. We could have all filled our buck tags every day we were out there with little bucks. The big ones just got away from me and Shawn this time.
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VTHunter08

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Great write up! sounds like a solid trip! quite a buck wendy shot!
 

shawn_in_MA

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Thanks for the write up, sounds like a great time. Are you guys planning another trip in the future?
Yes. We have been building antelope and mule deer tags in WY and also bought elk point in WY this year. The mule deer and antelope will be DIY but the elk will most likely be guided but that's a ways off
 

Mainewoods

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Nice report Shawn, and glad that you guys are able to get out west this year. For Montana, do you buy the preference points, or bonus points? I've got preference points building in CO, WY and MT, and we will hunt elk in CO next fall.
 

shawn_in_MA

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Nice report Shawn, and glad that you guys are able to get out west this year. For Montana, do you buy the preference points, or bonus points? I've got preference points building in CO, WY and MT, and we will hunt elk in CO next fall.
We buy preference points for NR Deer Combo licenses...those sell out every year. We could probably draw with just 1 preference point but when we have 2 we are guaranteed to draw on the year we want to go. The bonus points in MT are for limited entry tag areas.
 

Big D

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That looks like a fun trip. A lot of action. What is with all the dead trees? Fire or beetles? Nice mulie.
 

Mainewoods

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We buy preference points for NR Deer Combo licenses...those sell out every year. We could probably draw with just 1 preference point but when we have 2 we are guaranteed to draw on the year we want to go. The bonus points in MT are for limited entry tag areas.
Next year we'll go for a draw tag in CO for elk as a group. If we don't get it, then we'll hunt one of the OTC rifle seasons, and I'm pretty sure we are driving out next year. Wyoming in 2022 for general elk season hopefully.
 

Junebugg2.0

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Looks like an unbelievable trip. Amazing country and a beautiful buck!
 




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