Mule Deer, Elk and Western Big Game Hunting -

203" Ruttin' Montana Muley
By Russ Held

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I had been scouting since mid-August, looking for a good buck to chase during the archery season here in Montana. All of my hunting is done on public land and has been since I was a kid, as I was born and raised in Montana.

I found a few decent bucks in different areas, but with the blue tongue and harsh winters the past couple of years they were few and far between. I had my eyes set on a good buck that was in that 180 inch class, but couldn't seal the deal during archery season so as the rifle season came around he seemed to have disappeared. Come to find out, the reason I couldn't find him was due to the fact someone else had killed him. So I was off to round up another one to go after.

It was the second to last week of the season here in Montana and the temperatures were starting to drop and the bucks were just beginning to rut. I knew that with all the does in the area, that there was a good chance of a buck coming in to take care of them. I left early that morning with my girlfriend in hopes of finding a solid buck. We began hiking over the first ridge and then the next, continually glassing every draw, but only finding little young bucks.

It was about noon when we sat down for a quick bite and to glass some areas when I noticed some tracks in the snow on the far ridge. We hiked over to check them out and one of them was a huge track and was sunk into the ground about an inch. I told my girlfriend this is definitely a big mature deer, so let's follow them and see if we can get an eye on him. After four hours of hiking and numerous miles later, we peaked over the top of a ridge and I couldn't believe what was standing out in a stubble field with twenty seven does. I knew I was running out of shooting light and with no cover between him and I it was now or never. I ranged him at 514 yards and that is well within range of my Winchester Coyote Outback 300WSM topped with a Vortex Viper PST 6-24. I settled in for the shot, but with his mind on the does he wouldn't stop moving. Finally, after fifteen minutes or so he paused to catch his breath and I squeezed the shot off. The buck didn't jump or hunch up or even act like he was hit. A doe came by and he started to chase her when his legs gave out and he piled up twenty feet from where he stood.

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Knowing it was a good buck with the image of huge front forks in my mind, I couldn't wait to get down there and see just exactly what I had. The closer I got, the more I realized there was definitely no ground shrinkage .... he was getting bigger! I looked at my girlfriend and all I could say was FINALLY!!! We got him home and his carcass weight was 263lbs and he scores 203 1/8". A true giant that I will probably never top in my lifetime.

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