Instead of flying home like most civilized human beings after a long trip away from home in Quebec, I decided to go straight to Montana. What’s there you ask? Powder River Outfitters and some giant mule deer!
Last year I was lucky enough to take my first mule deer ever, but I wanted to do it again with a bow. I also decided to step it up a notch and try it by spot n stalk hunting. This lowers your kill percentage but I figured if I were successful it would be that much sweeter. The first thing Ken my guide said to me is it usually takes at least eight stalks before one is successful, well I thought, we better get started then.
There are a couple good things about hunting mule deer in early September. #1- you have a chance at taking a buck still in velvet-something I’ve never done and #2 the bucks are in bachelor groups. That means when you find on big guy you’ll probably find his buddies in close proximity. Now this can be both good and bad. It allows you to pick out the biggest buck, but let me tell you the big guys didn’t get big by bedding off alone. They get right in the center of the group and obviously believe in the idea of safety in numbers.
Right away we spotted some great bucks, but what you need to find is a buck that you can get it. Many of them were bedded in areas that would be impossible to get to without blowing out other deer or getting busted prior to your arrival. Then as we were going to a new location we spotted a buck standing all by himself on a fence line. It seemed hard to believe that this nice buck was alone so we just waited and glassed, and it’s a good thing we did. The longer we watched the more bucks we picked out. There were at least 6 giant bucks all bedded together, but most importantly they were in a spot that I thought I could get to.
I strapped my bow on my back, grabbed my quiver, and started belly crawling. I picked out several points that I wanted to get to. The last point would bring me 20 yards from the bedded giants, but the trick would be getting there. The ground was extremely flat with one dip near their bedding area. I crawled through some tough terrain and got right to my spot. I ranged the bedded bucks and they were at eighteen-yards! Now I was getting nervous. How on earth was I suppose to get to full draw from my belly? I thought the weeds were a bit higher and I assumed I could draw from my knees. This was not the case.
I slowly got to my knees but I couldn’t get my bow drawn for the life of me. I panicked and stood up to draw and everything busted! I couldn’t believe it; I thought the hard part was done. I got to my spot, but I couldn’t close the deal.
Looking back I should have drawn in the dip and slowly walked over the hill at full draw, but everything is easier looking back. I understand it takes several stalks but this was hard to swallow. There were a couple bucks that would be pushing Boone & Crocket and now they were just a memory. Frustrated as I was, I knew I would do better next time, and most importantly I had learned a lot from that stalk. Next time they wouldn’t be so lucky.
After several long stalks we got within rifle range of a beautiful bear feeding. There was no way I could cut the distance before he hit the trees so I let my brother step up to the plate. He made a perfect shot and we had our first bear down later named ’’fluffy’’. These bear were coming straight from their dens so their fur was in tip-top condition and their behavior was fairly predictable. The bear needed to find green grass to get their digestive tracks started after their long hibernation. This meant there would be a short window when these huge boars may show themselves each evening.
When these bucks took off it looked like they would be running until dark. Boy was I wrong! About four hours later we were glassing a few hundred yards from where we saw them last and they all came flying out of an old barn. The entire group had only gone over the hill and bedded down in the shade. What a kick in the teeth!
3 days later, and several stalks down we came back to this same area and decided to glass the area before walking through. We spotted three bucks in a low swamp bedded by that same old barn. Two of the bucks were smaller, but one was a super high and thick mule deer. He was in a tough spot but we came up with a plan. I would use the hay bails to get close. I could keep them between the buck and me almost the entire way. This would also give me something to draw behind allowing me to step out at full draw. Sometimes plans work, sometimes they don’t…but this time everything came together. I stalked up on this big buck, got to full draw, and came out from behind the bail and made a forty-yard broadside shot. The feeling of accomplishment was overwhelming. Finally after several stocks, a lot of patience, and ultimately learning from my mistakes I had taken a great Montana mule deer.