Mule Deer, Elk and Western Big Game Hunting -

"Montana Muley Success"
Written by Dana Davis

Backcountry Fun
Anyone who knows me will say that Dana loves to hunt. And in the same breath, would probably say, "He will tell you it is all about the story."

This year I met up with my good friend, Kevin Larson in Billings, Montana. We had decided to hunt mule deer in the southeastern region of the state which is known for its decent populations and good genetics. Our goal for this year was to hunt bucks in the 170 class or better. Kevin and I share common interests and views on many levels which makes us great hunting partners. Based on past experience in this area, we hoped to find many deer and locate bucks competing for the right to pass their genetics on to the next generation.

On our first day, we planned to hunt an area where Kevin had been given a tip that bucks of the caliber we were looking for had been spotted in the recent past. Based on that information, we decided to give it a go. We were up at 5:00 a.m., had breakfast and were off in the truck before light. Our plan was to cover the top of a number of ridges and glass the bottoms as deer feed their way back to their bedding areas. Our first day consisted of a lot of hiking and glassing, but very few deer. Most of the deer we did encounter were mountain whitetail does, which were bedding in groves of willows in the valleys and a few pockets of mule deer does with forked horned bucks in tow. I did manage to see one nice 3x3 muley which seemed to be hanging with a little whitetail buck along the edge of a cut hay field. Later that day, we hunted in an area a little further away, once again seeing very few deer.

At camp, we discussed our days experience and decided to revisit the area where we had seen all the whitetail does that day. Kevin had a doe tag and wanted to harvest one with his .223. The next morning went off without a hitch. We arrived at the treed canyon just as the sun was coming up. Climbing the 350 or so yards to the top of the ridge, we immediately saw the 3x3 muley I had seen the day before. He was still following the little whitetail buck. They were accompanied by a number of whitetail does, which were feeding along the clear cut just on the other side of an open field. Kevin and I posted up on a fence line to give him a nice steady rest and waited for a clean shot to present itself. It should be mentioned that Kevin is shooting open sights and wanted the shot to be within 100 yards. Not fifteen minutes went by and Kevin spotted a doe to our right and made a good shot to down the doe.

We decided after taking care of the doe, to return to camp and relocated based on our lack of seeing many deer in the immediate area. Hoping to better our luck, we moved 40 miles to the southeast. We traveled to a huge canyon where I had harvested a nice buck the previous year. On our way up the main draw to the canyon, we jumped a group of ten does followed by two young 3x3 bucks and one heavy mature 4x4. After glassing him, we decided he was nice, but was not what we were looking for, so we left the group alone and moved out quietly as not to disturb them.

As we made our way into the canyon, our hopes were high. We had seen a number of deer in the area the year prior and it was perfect mule deer habitat…consisting of scrub, grasses, and browse. We made our way carefully, keeping well concealed and the wind in our face.
Settling into a good lookout spot, glassing became the name of the game. Kevin eventually decided to move to another vantage point, while I remained. In those next hours of glassing I never saw a thing move. Being a Montanan, I am accustomed to glassing hard, because you just never know when that next pass over a patch of buck brush is going to uncover the buck you have been looking for all day. However, when the sun went down, Kevin returned and he had only seen a few does higher in the canyon.

On our way back to camp, we discussed what to do the next day. We decided to venture further south, along the Wyoming border and see what we could find. That next morning did not play out any differently…we were just not seeing deer. As we pondered, I told Kevin I would like to go back up the draw we had hunted the night before. I decided to locate the heavy 4x4 we had looked over, and if he presented a shot I would take him.

That evening we returned to the draw. As we made our way up through the sagebrush and prairie grass, we located does filtering out of a deep wash. As the does feed out into the open, one of the young three points that had accompanied them the previous day worked his way up to the lip of the wash. As he stood on the top, he looked back in our direction as bucks do to look over his surroundings. Suddenly, he moved quickly to the side as the heavy 4x4 made his way up from the bottom. The 4x4 carried himself in an aggressive manner, communicating to the younger buck that the does were his. As he approached the top of the wash, he turned broadside and paused.

Kevin stated, "Well, there he is. Are you going to take him"?

As I glassed him, I asked Kevin to hit him with his rangefinder.

"225 yards", Kevin replied.

I got myself set up on a solid rest. As I shouldered my .300 WSM and rested my Nikon 3x9 pro-staff scope over the bucks left shoulder, he turned his head in my direction. It was then that I got a good look at his heavy rack and knew that I was going to take him. I rested the crosshairs on his vitals, took a deep breath, relaxed and jerked the trigger.

Over the report of the rifle I could here Kevin say, "I can't believe you missed." I peered back through the scope and the buck never moved. However, I did do a great job of getting the groups of doe's attention and they were off like a shot. The 4x4 soon followed.

Kevin just shook his head and simply said, "There he goes."

Well I was not going to let him get away. I took a knee, re-shouldered my rifle, and caught up with the buck in my scope as he was lumbering away at full gate. Resting my crosshairs on his midline, I lead him approximately ten feet and squeezed the trigger. My Nosler bullet hit its mark, directly behind the buck's right shoulder and he went down.

We were pleasantly surprised upon approaching my buck that he did not ground shrink. He was heavier than we had thought with plenty of character. His right side had a sticker off his G4, bladed, almost palmated main beams, and both sides had bladed eyeguards.

My life has been spent in Montana and the country within its borders. My ties are to my family, friends and to the land; all which define me. Hunting is my vehicle to refreshing my sense of the world, while uncovering new places and building strong bonds with those most important to me. When it is all said and done, I would tell you, "It's about the story."

Click-a-Pic ... Details & Bigger Photos

Click-a-Pic ... Details & Bigger Photos

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