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"The Honey Hole Pays Off for Dana"
Photo provided by: Dana Davis

Dana Davis writes, "Fall, has a different meaning in different places. In civil parts of the country this means it is time to cut the grass one last time, put away the lawn chairs and barbque grills, and settle for inside entertainment like coffee shops and trips to the movies and malls. Here in rural Montana, it is a time to cut the third crop of alphalfa, stretch the last run of fence and prepare for hunting season. Golden grass and the dry smell of sage is the calling of fall in Montana, and if you live here then you will know what I mean, hunting season is like a national holiday, like Thanksgiving and Christmas and everyone in your town has a story that is better than the last one told. I am fortunate enough to call this place my home.

Due to the ruralness of my town you have the opportunity to hunt frequently and see numerous animals at a given time. And during the archery season I took time to scout and pursue game at my leisure. My adventures here in frontier Montana took me to new areas I had not seen and to old haunts where I had harvested game in times past. New areas are always challenging and can be frustrating, because you do not yet have a relationship with the land and the animals which reside there. I had a number of trips where I thought I would see many deer only to get skunked, trying to figure out what to do next.

After one of these fruitless adventures I was called by a good friend of mine. I had told him of my frustration so far this season and expressed an interest in hunting the Yellowstone River for Whitetail deer. Jon was game and we decided that we would float the river the following weekend with some other buddies of ours and exercise our luck on the islands.

On my drive to my home town of Billings my mind wandered through the hunts and deer that I had been on so far this year. I thought about the two big bucks I stalked within bow range only to have them jump a fence onto land I did not have premission to hunt. A droptine buck which I stalked for hours only to have him disappear into a wash. A very respectable 170 class buck which I passed on 80 yards away just out of bad judgement. And, I thought about the other outings where I saw nothing at all. Many of these trips were in new areas where I did not know the land or what to expect. I thought that I needed to hunt an area that I knew intimately and decided that I would visit a little secluded patch of ground that I have access to, a piece of ground that I have hunted for many years, a place where I have seen some very nice deer when the time is right. "The Honey Hole".

Many hunters have one, or are envious of someone who does. They are the product of countless hours in the field, and mind boggling time spent behind binoculars. These are areas where the individual knows where to find animals on any given occasion and if the timing is right, they just might have the opportunity to harvest deer worthy of their efforts.

When I arrived in Billings, I made a few phone calls. One was to my good friend Jon. I told him that I was going to visit my Honey Hole and that I would see him the next day for our trip on the river, if I was unsuccessful. I left the house and drove 20 minutes west, jumped out of the truck and made the 45 minute trek to a little treed ridge I had glassed from uncountable times in the past. I was immediately met by four does and one nice little buck who was just happy to have his female companionship without the aggressive presence of a mature buck to push him around. As I let them frolic in the pasture below, I began to glass the valley before me. Approximately one half mile away I spied upon twenty feeding does. Upon further investigation there was one nice buck in the crowd, and then another. They were posturing one another for dominence, the bigger more aggressive buck was protecting his herd, he would fend off one and then another would challenge. I had hit the jackpot, "The Honey Hole" looked like it might pay off.

After watching this activity for sometime I decided that I wanted to harvest this animal. More deer were filtering into the area and this would make for a challenging stalk with so many eyes on the look out, and very little cover to cut the distance. I made my way down to a little draw, where I was partly concealed. From past experiences in this area, I knew where I could move to and how to get within range with very little exposure. My quarry made his rounds doe to doe fending off intruders, while his herd fed calmly unaware of my presence.

I cut the distance to within 350 yards, which is a distance I feel very comfortable shooting within. And as I made my rest and prepared for the shot, this buck cut one of the does out of the herd and began pushing her right towards me. This was my lucky day. As the two courted and made their way in my direction, I sat patiently waiting for the right moment to squeeze the trigger and deliver a well placed shot into the vitals. A few minutes later they had cut the distance by 100 yards and walked right up the draw onto a flat directly in front of me. The cool part about this was that I had all the time in the world, I relaxed, placed the crosshair over the vitals and squeezed. The report of the rifle only alarmed the deer for a few minutes. I never moved after the shot, and I watched the deer relax again and return feeding.

After a short wait, I got up slowly and approached the buck. It was not the size of his antlers that I smirked from ear to ear over, it was the fact that I had taken a very good deer in an area that I had all but forgotten about, and all I had to do is visit my "Honey Hole". He did Score 156 BC, not bad.

So many times we think the grass is greener on the other side, bigger deer will be found in a new area. And all we have to do is visit areas we know and have hunted all of our lives."

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