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DECEMBER 2009 www.outdoorsmontana.com

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DECEMBER 2009

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Small Spreads For Overworked Geese BY NEAL COTE

T

AUTHOR BRODIE SWISHER WITH WHITETAIL

Late Season Whitetail Hunting BY BRODIE SWISHER

A

s we make our way to the end of the year, it’s hard to believe another hunting season has come and nearly gone again. Time does indeed fly when you’re chasing big game in Montana! However, ample deer hunting opportunity awaits those who didn’t quite get their fix. Or for anyone interested in putting a little more meat in the freezer. The late season can be a tough time to be in the woods. Temperatures tend to be at the lowest point of the year, making your time in the treestand or groundblind a test of endurance. However, for those willing to tough it out, the late season can provide some of the most exciting hunting of the year. As they do a number of times throughout the hunting season, deer travel patterns can change quickly in the late season. The month of November was spent watching big bucks run into and out of our lives as they anxiously searched for receptive does. The rut can be a tough time to count on any consistency in the herd. But when the late season rolls around, deer tend to settle down in to a more patternable routine. Those big bucks transition from sex-drive to survival mode as they once again focus on food sources. As for the Post Rut phase, you will often find the big bucks somewhat scarce once again. But you can bet if they come across a hot doe, they’ll come alive. Watch for the bucks that are back on their feet and looking for does to be making signs near doe bedding areas. Look for those scrapes that have been neglected to once again become active. This particular phase leaves a pretty small window of opportunity, so if you find the sign of an active buck, you need to make your move quickly.

A Second Rut??? There tends to be an ongoing debate amongst deer hunters as to the validity of the “second rut.” The bottom line is, not all does are the same. Remember, you have does of varying ages out there and they won’t all cycle at the same time. You’ll have the early-does that may come into estrus and are bred as early as mid-October, but this isn’t the norm. More often, the does are bred in mid-November. However, keep in mind, any unbred does will likely cycle again in another 28 days following their initial estrous cycle. Younger does and fawns will often cycle late as well. I watched a buck mount a doe fawn in the middle of January a couple seasons ago. The buck showed no interest in the fawn’s mother that was standing at the edge of the field watching the show. I would assume the mother-doe had been bred a month or two earlier and that her late bloomer daughterdoe had just reached her first cycle. As previously mentioned, any buck that gets a whiff of a hot doe…be it November, December, or January…will be on the prowl.

ired of hauling every goose decoy you and your hunting partners can manage out into the field for little or no return when those Canadas pick the spread apart? Five six and even ten dozen plus decoys and still the birds just won’t finish, it is enough to drive you mad. Not to mention the 4AM wake up call so you can actually get all of them set up, blinds mudded and brushed all before the first flocks catches you not quite ready. I have a solution that will make your life a ton easier and will get you more late season honkers, LESS IS MORE! Try a smaller, more realistic set up.] The beauty of small setups is the ease of mobility and adjustment. If the weather changes, or the geese alter their flight plans, you can pick up and leave or change your spread quickly. To control their descent, geese always land into the wind. They also tend to move into the wind once on the ground. It’s not unusual for the wind to switch, especially after the sun rises and the warming air causes thermal shifts. In these situations, repositioning 300 or more decoys is a huge task, especially when geese are on the horizon. With the help of just one partner, moving 20 to 30 decoys takes only a few minutes. Controlling the landing zone of the geese for an all out in-your-face experience is another benefit of a small setup. A basic half-moon or hook shaped layout creates the perfect landing zone. Such an opening allows sociable geese to land in the middle as they descend into the wind. By downsizing to three or four dozen decoys, you can compress the landing zone into an “x-marks-the-spot” location. In contrast, a spread that consists of 14 plus dozen decoys enlarges the landing opportunities for incoming geese and could put the birds out of range for the blind.

The B-Tag Option

Ample opportunities await the bowhunter that is willing to invest in the purchase of Deer B licenses. What is the Deer B license? “A deer B license is usually a license for antlerless mule deer or white-tailed deer, depending on the license type and hunting district. The deer B license allows you to kill a deer in addition to the deer you could harvest with your deer A license. There is no particular order in which the A and B licenses must be purchased or (continued on Page 34)

PHOTO COURTESY NEAL COTE

Whether migrants or residents, Canada geese get wise to hunters’ tricks over the course of the season, especially by the time they’ve have been shot at a few times over large spreads. Fooling the eyes of the older geese in a flock with five or more dozen decoys is more problematic in late season. It’s less difficult when there are only 30 or so decoys to manage. ADDING MOTION TO THE MIX Motion can magnify the impact of a small setup on Canadas and make it more believable to wary geese. Flagging decoys are the choice of most veteran waterfowlers. Decoy flags are cloth silhouettes of geese attached to a stick that can be waved up and down beside the blind to simulate a landing goose’s flapping wings. This tactic can pull sightseeing geese in to a spread from very great distances. Also add ground level flapping to emulate a bird stretching its wings. Most full body decoys on the market allow for the decoys to move in the slightest of winds. If you have Bigfoots, you might add some Avery full bodies as they are all equiped with motion stakes. Use some of your Bigfoots without their feet, placing them right on the ground to imitate resting birds. TONE DOWN YOUR CALLING As for calling, too much goose talk by callers can convey the wrong message to incoming birds. The new arrivals might be inclined to believe that all the loud, nonstop calling indicates the geese on the ground are preparing to depart. The fewer calls you make, the less chance you have of making a mistake. I call until I get the attention of the geese, then I cluck and moan to them as they get closer. Once they’re on final approach and heading toward me, (continued on page 9)


DECEMBER 2009

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Contents 6. Conservation Corner 7. Calling All Screamers 8. RMEF Great Elk Tour 10. The Twenty Year Caribou 12. FWP Extends Comment Period For Blackfoot River 13. Fly Tying Corner 14. Montana Fishing Report 16. Reflections On The Ice 18. Late Season Roosters 20. Photo Page 22.. Notes From The Captain 24. Hunting & Conservation News 28. News From Rocky Mountain States 32. Calendar Of Events 35. Snowmobiling 37. New Tactics For Coyote Hunting

HAPPY HOLIDAYS

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The entire contents is © 2009, all rights reserved. May not be reproduced without prior consent. The material and information printed is from various sources from which there can be no warranty or responsibility by Big Sky Outdoor News & Adventure. Nor does the printed material necessarily express the views of Big Sky Outdoor News & Adventure. VOLUME 6 Issue 10

BIG SKY OUTDOOR NEWS & ADVENTURE

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As One Season Ends Another Begins As the big game season here in Thousands of people read each month, and Montana comes to a close, you’ll probably we would like to publish your thoughts. ask yourself where the time has gone. 2009 has definitely been a year of uncertainty in our country. There are, however, some things you can usually count on, and one is your passion for the outdoors in this beautiful territory we call Big Sky Country. The fishing season this year has been great and will continue to be going into 2010. Salmon and steelhead runs are in very good shape and with no real drought this summer. Most of our streams and lakes are in very good shape. The early winter months should be outstanding for fishing. This year’s hunting season has been sub par so far. As I write this in midNovember, there has been no real snowfall in our state to really push the elk into areas that expose them to hunters. One of the most talked about hunts this season had to do with our first wolf management season. Hats off to MFWP as well as the State of Idaho for beginning to manage the wolf numbers and build confidence so that we can get our elk and deer numbers in certain areas back to where they should be. There is still a lot that needs to be done. With common sense and continued management things should start to improve. That’s my opinion. What’s yours? E-mail us at bigskyoutdoornews@yahoo. com to express your views.

Log on or write in. Address as “My opinion.” The end of the year signals many banquets for hunting and conservation groups across the state. A very good way to get involved with the outdoors is by attending these functions in your area. These fund raising events help to generate dollars that will come back to local areas and help create better opportunities for you and I in the future, and they are a lot of fun! If you can’t attend, please join a conservation group. SCI, NRA, RMEF, MDF, Pheasants Forever, are just a few that come to mind. Enjoy your time with family and friends this holiday season. Get out and do some fishing or hunting this month. The opportunities are still plenty this time of the year. With the close of 2009, we would like to thank you for taking the time to read Big Sky Outdoor News & Adventure. It is with tremendous appreciation that we thank our advertisers, who without their monthly support, we could not bring you this publicaion. Please let them know, when you can, that you saw their advertisement in Big Sky Outdoor News & Adventure, and support the advertisers that you see in this publication when possible. They like to hear from our readers. Happy holidays; Rick Haggery, Editor

DECEMBER 2009

Conservation Corner: Pheasants BROUGHT TO YOU BY THE MONTANA PHEASANTS FOREVER

W

ith the first real breath of winter, pheasants begin to drift toward thicker cover. If shelter belts, wetlands, idle grass areas, and crop fields are properly located, the pheasant need not move far to find protection. Ideally these cover types should be located within 0.2 miles of each other. The farther the bird has to travel, the worse the winter habitat. While pheasants are finding the winter cover they require, the outdoor temperatures have fallen below the bird’s thermo-neutral zone. That is, they can no longer simply ruffle their feathers to stay warm....they have to start eating more food. In fact, they consume 33 percent more food in November than they did in October. This increased food intake is used to both stay warm and to produce body fat (for insulation and energy storage). While you and I can put on a coat or just stay indoors to stay warm, the birds have only one set of clothing and must eat more. Not only is the pheasant forced to use this increase energy intake to insure current survival through warmth, it must eat enough extra to insure future survival through fat production. These fat reserves though will prove beneficial when the first blizzard arrives. The availability of certain foods has changed since last summer, and pheasants must change their food habits to meet their higher energy needs. The waste grains of summer have sprouted, rotted, or been plowed under. Grains like barley, wheat, and oats now constitute only 3 percent of the pheasant’s diet. The use of these grains is replaced by corn, since it is harvested from October to December. In fact corn attains its highest use in December when it is 77 percent of the bird’s diet. At this time, when birds need more energy to survive, a corn diet has a third more metabolic energy than a small grain diet. To learn more visit: www.montanapf.org.

ooking for a gift that keeps on giving? How about Montana Pheasants Forever’s 2-Guns-A-Week raffle. There’s just one month left to purchase tickets for the raffle which offers a chance at winning 104 firearms in 2010 and supports Pheasants Forever’s wildlife habitat mission in Big Sky Country. Tickets for the raffle, which is being supported by Don’s in Lewistown, are on sale now for $50 each. A maximum of 3,000 tickets will be sold, or one gun for every 29 tickets sold, and 100 percent of the proceeds will support Pheasants Forever’s conservation efforts in Montana. The impressive gun list, valued at approximately $70,000, includes firearms by Weatherby, Benelli, Browning, Remington, Ruger and more retailing in the $700 to $1,500 range. Winning ticket numbers will be placed back into the pool of tickets, so by purchasing just one ticket, you’ll have a chance for all 104 firearms! Tickets for the Montana Pheasants Forever 2-Guns-A-Week raffle are available through your local Montana Pheasants Forever chapter or by sending $50 per ticket (payable to Pheasants Forever) to P.O. Box 2157, Missoula, MT 59806. For questions regarding the raffle, contact Jon Lee at (406)721-9919 or via e-mail Jon@MontanaPF.org. For more details and the complete gun list, contact log onto www.MontanaPF.org. Each week starting January 4, 2010, there will be two gun drawings for the Montana 2-Guns-A-Week raffle. Winners will be posted the Monday of each week at www.MontanaPF.org. Proceeds will support Pheasants Forever programs, including wildlife habitat development, land acquisitions and youth and education programs. “We’re excited to give folks a chance at 104 guns in 52 weeks, a raffle ticket at the cost of just 48 cents per week,” said Jon Lee, Pheasants Forever National Board member and a longtime Montana Pheasants Forever supporter, “But we’re even more excited to see their support for wildlife habitat in this state. The success of the first raffle is due solely to those who are committed to benefitting upland birds and other wildlife in this state, and that support has created another fun opportunity.” Since the first Montana chapter of Pheasants Forever formed in 1987, the state’s 18 chapters and 2,000 members have raised and spent over $2.3 million to complete over 950 habitat projects, conserving, restoring and enhancing over 32,500 Montana acres for pheasants and other wildlife.


DECEMBER 2009

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Calling All Screamers: Enter The Super Bowl Of Elk Calling

I

f you’re a screamer, bugler, grunter or chuckler, you may have what it takes to win the Super Bowl of elk calling, March 4-7, 2010, in Reno, Nev. Competition is open to the public in the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation/Leupold 2010 World Elk Calling Championships. The event will be held as part of the annual RMEF Elk Camp & Hunting, Fishing and Outdoor Expo at the Reno/Sparks Convention Center. Featured in recent years by The New York Times and CBS Sunday Morning, the competition will return to Reno following a 2009 stint in Fort Worth, Texas. “We’re searching for the world’s best elk callers and we think Reno may be the place to find them,” said Beth Shipley,

RMEF special events director, who has been involved with the World Elk Calling Championships for 15 years. “No experience is necessary to enter and compete in the prelims, although many serious callers have already qualified for the finals by competing in regional competitions held around the country over the past several months. So, if you’re thinking of entering, start practicing now!” An RMEF video featuring the natural elk sounds that competitors will be asked to mimic is at www.rmef.org/ NewsandMedia/Videos/BullElkSounds. htm. Competitors must be registered by 5:00 p.m. on Thurs., March 4. Registration forms and rules are available at www.rmef.org. Entry fees are $10 for Pee Wee (age 10 and under) and Youth (age 11-17) divisions, $35 for Natural Voice (no calling devices allowed), Women’s and Men’s, and $100 for Professional (sponsored competitors). Entry fees also provide contest participants with admission to the expo. Cash and prizes will be awarded for first- through third-place in all six divisions. Preliminary rounds of

competition begin Fri., March 6, at 9:00 a.m. Finals begin Sat., March 7, at 9:00 a.m., followed by awards and crowning of 2010 world champions. Judges include naturalists, hunters and former elk calling champions. A just-for-fun team competition also will be held. Up to three callers can work together in a comedy skit simulating interactions between bulls, cows and calves. Winners are chosen by the audience. There is no registration fee for the team event. Spectator seating for the elk calling championships is included with daily admission to the expo: $12 per person or $25 per family, and free for kids 5 and under. Along with the RMEF/Leupold 2010 World Elk Calling Championships, the expo will fill the Reno/Sparks Convention Center with elk hunting seminars, displays of record elk, kids’ activities, auctions and an exhibit hall filled with art, gear, firearms and outfitted hunting and fishing opportunities. It’s all a showcase and fundraiser for one of the nation’s premier conservation organizations. The Elk Foundation recently topped 5.6 million acres of elk habitat conserved or enhanced.

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RMEF

Show hours: Thurs., March 4, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.; Fri., March 5, 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.; Sat., March 6, 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.; and Sun., March 7, 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. About the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation: Snowy peaks, dark timber basins and grassy meadows. RMEF is leading an elk country initiative that has conserved or enhanced habitat on over 5.6 million acres—a land area equivalent to a swath three miles wide and stretching along the entire Continental Divide from Canada to Mexico. RMEF also works to open, secure and improve public access for hunting, fishing and other recreation. Get involved at www.rmef.org or 800-CALL ELK.


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DECEMBER 2009

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• 9

Small Spreads For Overworked Geese (continued form page 4) I shut up and watch. If they begin to stray a bit I’ll cluck and double cluck just enough to line them up, but for the most part, I let them do the talking. Besides, I’m not trying to decoy large flocks, I’m more interested in decoying smaller groups of a dozen birds or less. If you shoot into a huge flock of 50 or so birds, and say get five or six, you will have to face forty plus educated birds the next time. Small groups are easier to decoy and less wary. There are fewer geese to become paranoid. THE STANDARD LATE SEASON SPREAD Toward the end of the season, it’s hard to fool the oldest and wisest geese, which have survived several seasons in heavily hunted areas. While many hunters believe huge field spreads are most appealing to smart geese, I believe that smaller decoy spreads draw the wariest birds best. That’s what I go with wherever local Canadas predominate. From fields near NinePipes by Ronan to Fresno Resevoir by Havre, to the Bitterroot Valley, I have bee consistently successful. It seams like almost very one is now putting out huge spreads for Canadas late in the season, especially on

private property where they can literally have hundreds of decoys and can leave them out overnight. Smart geese learn that big spreads are dangerous, so they shy away from them. I like to move often to different hunting locations and put out only a few decoys, never more than a dozen to thirty. A field set of about fifteen to thirty decoys is perfect, because it’s easy for three hunters to carry to a hunting spot. Plus, messing up decoy placement is harder to do with a small amount of decoys. The spread should be set rather loosely, allowing for plenty of landing holes for incoming birds. Geese rarely try to land in the biggest group of decoys. Position your blinds off to the side of the spread, so birds landing into the wind are not looking directly into the faces of hunters. You’ll need just enough decoys to grab the attention of most local flocks. More than that and you’ll begin to lose control and mobility of the setup. If you use any less, passing geese might not feel secure enough to land. I like to mix different types of Canada decoys. Shells, full-bodied decoys and silhouettes all add realism to a spread. The majority of the decoys should be in the resting or feeding mode, with a few scattered sentries

among them. Put them in a high spot in the field or wherever they can see far in all directions. Or if facing strong winds, just the opposite, in the lower spots out of the brunt of the wind. NO WIND SPREAD This is a more narrow and oval shaped spread that I favor when there is little or no wind. It’s difficult to direct where the geese land due to a lack of wind. Bunched decoys help put approaching geese exactly where you want them over the spread. Two vitally important aspects of this spread are family groups of goose decoys positioned in straight lines just downwind of your hide, with sentry, resting and feeder decoys positioned properly. Ducks will work into this spread, too, provided there are fairly large landing holes. All sentry and feeding decoys should be positioned facing the wind. Be sure available food in the field is in the upper end of the spread, with head-down feeder decoys massed there. These finish the deal, drawing geese that want to land short of the feeders, where open holes in the decoy spread are located within shotgun range of the blind.

BITTER COLD SPREAD This spreads most notable feature is a large number of decoys emulate resting and sleeping geese. Take many of your full body resters and set them right on the ground with the legs folded up. Bunch them up tight. Add about a dozen sleeper shells, Then set several sentry decoys on the fringes, suggesting to incoming birds that this is a guarded place. A large landing area downwind of the blinds is the important element in this set. Geese always try to keep themselves in a spot where another goose is between it and danger, especially late in the season or during cold weather. The Sleeper decoys tell incoming birds that most of the geese on the ground are full from feeding in the field. This is an important communication, showing that there’s plenty of feed in the area. Whether they’re late-season birds or we just go through a period with no cold fronts and no new pushes of birds and we’re stuck hunting the same birds for weeks, it’s time to get creative. Scout refuges or private land holding birds and mimic their behavior. Pay attention to how live birds are laying out and duplicate that. A lot of times if you set your spread just like the birds looked yesterday, right where they were, that smaller spread will give you some of the best shoots of the season.


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DECEMBER 2009

JENNIFER MARSHALL WITH CARIBOU

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On Friday morning we met with the guide service for a briefing and then east of Helena to eventually all over Mon- dropped our gear off to be weighed. By tana, Jennifer learned how to hunt and fell early afternoon we were airborne on a 3+ hour flight towards Schefferville and arin love with one of our oldest heritages. rived there just before dark and took buses Like most of us she couldn’t to the float plane hub were we would wait until the next fall when opening leave first thing the next morning on Sepday would approach. And over 20 years tember 26th Saturday. ago in the midst of hunting fever, she Our first encounter with weather visualized a dream of one day going on was when we woke up on Saturday a caribou hunt to the far north with her morning. A two to three hour delay father. getting out of Schefferville, which After hunting deer in the impacted Saturday’s hunting. We divided mountains east of Townsend, taking our gear and figured out what groups Muley’s in the southeast foothills of would fly in which of 4 Otters available. Montana, going “cowboy up” in the Just over another 3 hour flight mountains and taking an elk with one north of Schefferville into camp 32 on Lac shot, and dropping three dandy whitetail Arbeque where we would live for the next bucks with a slug shotgun, she still had week plus. Our first evening was spent the caribou waiting in her sights. settling in to camp. The next day the After 20 years, and well, five 27th of September, Sunday brought good straight days of miserable rainy cold weather and we were off on our first real days and hard long hikes across swampy caribou hunt. We prepared for our first and sponge like ground with strong and hunt and climbed aboard the float plane cold blowing wet winds and constant and taxied the lake and were soon up and intermittent storms, traveling 3 miles in the air flying over seemingly endless in 2 foot waves on a freezing lake in a small 12 foot v-bottom boat, and a couple small lakes that dotted the swampy landscape below us. Flying yet further days later dropping off a steep rocky north looking for caribou for another two hill several hundred yards and crawling hours, approximately 50+ miles north east the rest of the sneak on hands and knees of camp, we located caribou and set down 200 yards through a bog, she FINALLY on a lake to begin the first hunt. realized her dream. Honestly, I’m not During the day we had several sure what was longer, the 20 years, or the five days after we finally arrived to camp caribou encounters, some nice bulls where spotted during the day. Jennifer’s brother Lac Arbeque in Northern Quebec. Steven shot the first bull around noon And here is how our hunt time. We had a group of 5 hunters and 2 went…. guides and the pilot stayed with the plane. We touched down in Montreal th Steven’s bull was a double shovel and on September 24 Thursday evening and decent bez with good tops and a nice relaxed and readied our gear for the next (continued on page 27) morning’s departure north.


DECEMBER 2009

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BIG SKY OUTDOOR NEWS & ADVENTURE • 11

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12 • BIG SKY OUTDOOR NEWS & ADVENTURE

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isheries surveys this year indicate rainbow and brown trout numbers are up in the Missouri River between Holter Dam and Cascade. State biologists this fall found 3,458 rainbow trout greater than 10 inches long near the town of Craig on the Missouri. The long-term average for that section is 2,917. “The rainbows in the Craig section were remarkably high quality,” says Grant Grisak, Fish Wildlife and Parks fisheries biologist. “About 85% of the rainbows were 15 inches and larger, and fish in the 18 inch length group alone represented 24% of the total population.” The largest rainbow sampled was 4.8 pounds. In the Pelican Point section, just upstream from the town of Cascade, rainbows were estimated at 1,577 per mile, which is higher than the long-term average of 1,494. Grisak said: “64% of the rainbows in the population were 15 inches and larger.” Brown trout populations in the river were also up. The spring estimate of brown trout in the Craig section was 584 per mile in the Craig section; the long-term average there is 578. In the Pelican Point section spring browns were estimated at 611 per mile higher than the long-term average of 358. Brown trout populations are sampled in the spring and rainbow populations are sampled in the fall. During late summer and early fall, Missouri River anglers reported good fly-fishing for larger rainbows, which Grisak says, is consistent with the number of large rainbows observed during the population estimates. Anglers also reported many brown trout in the Craig section, which is likely a result of unusually cooler weather in early October causing browns to swim upstream and start their spawning run about a month earlier than normal, said Grisak.

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FWPs is extending the public comment period through Dec. 16, 2009 on a draft recreation management plan and environmental assessment (EA) for the Blackfoot River. “The Blackfoot River is important to a lot of people, and we’re finding that we continue to get a lot of good questions and input even as the end of the original 30-day public comment period draws to a close,” says Lee Bastian, FWP’s Region 2 State Parks Supervisor in Missoula. “We decided to extend the comment period for another month so that we are able to engage everyone that is interested.” The draft Blackfoot River management plan and EA address several key issues identified by a citizen advisory committee, FWP staff and public input. The primary proposals include continuing to manage for high volume summer use downstream from Whitaker Bridge; management actions to address congestion on the water in the upper sections of the river; restricting camping to designated locations in high-use reaches of the river and exploring opportunities for overnight float trips; and a permit allocation system that could be used in the future if conditions become undesirable on certain stretches of the river. The public is invited to review and comment on the 59-page draft plan and EA any time by 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2009. Copies of the plan and EA are available online at fwp.mt.gov . Click “Blackfoot River Plan.” Copies are also available from the Missoula and Helena FWP offices, or by calling 406-542-5562. Comments may be submitted in writing at the Web site listed above, via e-mail to blackfootcomments@mt.gov , or mail written comments to: Blackfoot River Plan; Montana FWP, 3201 Spurgin Road; Missoula, MT 59804. The draft management plan, which builds upon work established in the 9-year old Blackfoot River Recreation Management Direction, is based in part on the recommendations of the River Recreation Advisory for Tomorrow (DRAFT) citizen advisory committee. The 25-member committee was appointed to represent the interests of private floaters and anglers, the outfitting industry, private landowners, and the various agencies that play a role in managing recreation. The final plan will be based on public comments, the results of the EA, and input from staff.


DECEMBER 2009

ON-LINE AT WWW.OUTDOORSMONTANA.COM •

BIG SKY OUTDOOR NEWS & ADVENTURE • 13

BIG SKY

OUTDOOR NEWS Fly Tying Corner: Spent Wing Caddis ROBERT BATES OF FEDERATED FLY FISHERS

O

h No not another caddis pattern!!!! Yes, and there are good reasons for it. Caddisflies are among the most abundant of insects with about 7,000 species worldwide (1,200 species in North America). They can tolerate water that is not pristine, and fish like to eat them. Sizes range from micro-caddis 1/8th-inch long to monsters 1-1/2 inches long. Fortunately the angler doesn’t have to imitate all of them. There are a lot of browns, tans and olives among them, with a few other colors. They all have about the same shape. Depending on the species and water they will hatch from April to November and from early morning to late evening. In many waters the evening time is the most exciting. Clouds of caddis might be seen hovering over fence posts, bushes, or animals. They look like smoke over the bush or post. One evening when I was fishing the Missouri River in Montana the light suddenly became noticeably dimmer. I think that I became a handy place for the caddis to hover. This pattern was tied by Koichi Kawai from the Hatch Finders Flyshop in Livingston. It is a pattern that works great on many streams around Livingston. Spent is in the name of the pattern so it is intended to look and act like a caddis that has fallen into the water. If the fish follow the normal rules they want a drag free float. Short casts with a floating line let you control the line better. Even as the line is in the air you can mend the it with a reach cast to give you a longer float. After the line is on the water give it a quick flip with the wrist to remove any belly that forms. If the fish don’t hit a drag free fly, jiggle it a little. Materials & Equipment: Hook: Mustad R50, size 16 Rib: Monothread yellow Wing: CDC, brown

Thread: Brown, 16/0 Body: Goose biot, tan Thorax: Fly Right or Scintilla, brown

CDC is short for Cul de Canard. These feathers from around the preen gland of a duck are used for dry, wet and nymph patterns. CDC has tremendous movement and makes any fly look alive. Step 1: Put thread on the shank, tie in the rib and wind thread rearward to bend. Step 2: Attach biot by the tip at bend of hook with the long part of the biot pointing rearward. The pattern calls for a smooth body so tie it in with the notch down. This notch was formed when the biot was pulled off of the wing quill. Wrap the biot smoothly forward to a point about two eye widths back from the eye and secure. Counter wrap rib forward, secure and trim excess. Step 3: Match the tips of at least four CDC feathers. Tie them in with tips forward, to make a wing that is a little longer than the hook shank. Step 4: Divide the CDC tips so there is at least two feathers on each side. Wind the thread through them with a figure eight to keep them divided and in a horizontal position to simulate a spent wing insect. Step 5: Put a little dubbing on the thread and figure eight it around and between the wings. Bring the rearward pointing CDC forward and secure it at the eye. Whip finish between the CDC and the eye. Trim excess CDC. ENJOY!

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Montana Fishing Report

DECEMBER 2009

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Western Montana Fishing Report

RYAN ONGLEY

Brought To You By Missoula

Southwest Montana Fishing Report Brought To You By Bozeman

BY CHRIS MADSEN, (406) 523-9000 e-mail: fishing-115@live.com

B

ig game season is coming to an end, the Griz are once again primed for a long play off run, and as I write this month’s fishing report there is more of a chance of rain than snow. Can it really be December? A dry, temperate November has stalled the start of ice fishing season this year, and by the time you read this, unless there has been a severe change in our long term forecast, it will still be stalled. Hopefully by Christmas just about all of our water should be hard and the shacks and augers can come out of storage. If ice fishing isn’t your bag, most of our rivers will still offer some good opportunities for trout and whitefish, weather allowing. First, let’s look at some good early season ice fishing options GEORGETOWN LAKE: In western Montana, the first ice and often the best fishing occurs on Georgetown. While the ice has formed a thin layer along the shore line and in some of the bays it will take a longer run of cold weather to make the ice safe for fishing. Most anglers will fish small jigs like Rat Finkees, Nuclear Ants and rocker jigs, tipped with maggots. For added flash try removing the hook from a Swedish Pimple or Kastmaster and running your jig as a dropper about six inches below the spoon. The flashing spoon will entice the fish in close, where they usually won’t be able to resist the tasty morsel suspended below. Generally the bite is best early in the morning, and usual hotspots are Piney point, Rainbow point, Denton’s point or the Sunnyside area. CLEARWATER LAKES CHAIN: The Clearwater lakes will usually start to fish a couple of weeks after Georgetown, first up high on Rainy and Alva, and a bit later on the lower lakes like Salmon, Seeley and Harper’s. There is a lot of water to fish up here, and quite a few species to hunt. For trout, try Rainy, Placid, Harpers or Alva.

BY RYAN ONGLEY (406) 586-0100 Waiting For The Ice! Jigging Swedish Pimples, Buckshots or small jigs tipped with maggots is the preferred technique. Sometimes a plain jig head with a chunk of night crawler is all you need. Placid is also home to a good population of Kokanee, which are scrappy fighters on light tackle and readily take a glow hook tipped with a maggot or corn. If pike are your quarry, Salmon and Seeley have gained quite a reputation in recent years for kicking out some decent specimens through the ice. These toothy denizens are usually taken either by fishing dead smelt or herring on a tip-up, or jigging airplane jigs or Jigging Raps. Either way, dragging ten pounds of angry, slimy, toothy pike through a hole in the ice is world-class sport any way you slice it. BROWNS LAKE: While not the numbers fishery that Georgetown is, there isn’t a better place to catch big trout through the ice than Browns. Brown’s lake experts jealously guard their favorite baits and hotspots, but the observant angler will find that the time it takes to get the hang of things up here is well worth the effort. Try small spoons like Swedish pimple and Buckshots, or Jigging Raps for best success. Baiting with maggots or a bit of night crawler is generally a good idea as well. Carry lots of colors and sizes, and try different combinations until you hit on the right one. Don’t forget to set up a tip up. It may take some time to get it right, but you will be rewarded by trout that are often measured in pounds instead of inches. FLATHEAD LAKE: Flathead will rarely

freeze much in December, and fishing is often as good as it gets here. Lake trout cruise very near the shorelines this time of year, and can be caught from the boat or even from shore by the enterprising angler. Cast heavy spoons like Country Miles, Bomber Slabs and Kastmasters, and cover as much water around drop-offs, ledges and shoreline structure as possible. Even though the white fish bite never got going this year, fishing for them in December can be excellent as well, as these fish prepare to head downriver or up the Flathead River to spawn. Fish can be caught from the boat, or off of Polson Bridge itself. Jigging spoons, grubs or whitefish flies tipped with maggots will be the best way to fill the smoker one last time. AREA RIVERS: Our local rivers will still fish very well at times throughout the month. Ideally, pick a day when the air temperature is above freezing, and fish the warmest part of the day. Concentrate your efforts on holding water that is slower than what you would fish in the summer, and fish more deliberately as well, as trout won’t move a long ways to eat in water this cold, so precise drifts will be key. Often times a number of drifts through the same spot are necessary to coax a fish to bite. Expect most of the action to be subsurface, but you can do surprisingly well some times nymphing San Juan Worms, glo bugs and small bead head nymphs. The bite will not generally last very long, but a couple of hours standing in thirty four degree water is generally enough to take the edge off your fishing jones.

D

ecember is here and it won’t be long until our lakes are iced up and the ice shelters will be out. But in the mean time our rivers do stay mostly clear of ice all winter which gives hardcore anglers plenty of possibilities throughout the winter months. Tactics will be very similar for all of our area rivers throughout winter. As the days get shorter and shorter and water temps get colder, the trout will seek out winter holds. Usually deeper slower runs and pools are good bets. The trouts metabolisms will slow and they will not chase far for food. So nymphing will be the name of the game from here on out until spring thaws us back out. Getting right on the bottom is the name of the game. San Juans, Egg patterns, Stonefly Nymphs, and midge pupae are all must have patterns throughout the winter months. Dead drifting streamers and sculpin patterns with a light twitch or in tandem with a smaller nymph are also great combos. Our area tailwaters are all tailor made for winter fishing also. With stable water temps year round the fish below these dams remain most active through the winter and offer some fine fishing. Let’s look at some good destinations for the cure for cabin fever.


DECEMBER 2009

UPPER MADISON RIVER: The stretch of river between Hebgen and Quake Lakes as well as the Reynold’s Pass and $3.00 Bridge accesses are prime spots for winter fishing. With great pools and runs and ample pocket water, there are limitless holds for the trout. And on calmer warmer days you can experience some fantastic dry fly fishing during midge emergences. The road to down to $3.00 does close as of the 1st of December so be prepared for a short hike. Snow shoes or cross country skis can come in handy once there is a good amount of snow accumulated in the Madison Valley. There is also some very good water down below Varney Bridge with a short hike. LOWER MADISON RIVER: This stretch of water fishes well most winters. Midge activity can bring about opportunities for the dry fly angler and it’s close to town. So if the weather gets too nasty shelter isn’t far away.

JESSE FLYNN

North Central Montana Fishing Report Brought To You By Helena

BY JESSE FLYNN (406) 457-7200 e-mail: fishing167helena@yahoo.com

CANYON FERRY: December usually contains a loll in fishing as anglers have winterized boats and are now working out all the kinks in ice fishing gear; patiently awaiting fishable ice. But if you insist, I would be below the dam either bumping jigs or back trolling crank baits. I was thinking the other day of taking planer boards down below the dam(s) any one will do and hooking it up to a crank bait or any bait for that matter. I’ll bet a gold or silver #5-7 original floating

ON-LINE AT WWW.OUTDOORSMONTANA.COM • Nymphing can be superb in the pools and runs just below the dam. GALLATIN RIVER: Winter is my favorite season on the Gallatin. The trout are willing most days and aren’t hard to find. They will stack up in those deeper pools and are always willing to chomp down on a mid afternoon treat. I love the stretch through the Valley where the trees can shelter you from the harsh winds and it’s as peaceful as can be. DEPUY’S , ARMSTRONGS, AND NELSON’S SPRING CREEKS: The spring creeks of Paradise Valley can offer some fine fishing throughout winter and especially on windless days. Winter rates are in effect so it’s very affordable and most days you can get on without booking a reservation. Consistent nymphing and good midge hatches abound. Layer up and have some fun this winter.

rapala would do just fine or maybe even a Berkley frenzy will do the trick. Bring both a right and left planer board because most are side specific. A planer board will allow you to fish so much further into the center of the river column than ever before. Try it out, you may have found a new way of enticing the big one. HAUSER LAKE: Rainbow fishing is very good between White Sandy and York Bridge. Rainbows are also being caught at the Causeway Bridge from shore on night crawlers. Sucker or smelt meat is also very favorable for trout this time of year. A couple of buddies were out the other night fishing the Causeway and they couldn’t get them to hit anything artificial so they resorted to sucker meat and began producing fish. Once again, down below the dam is a great place to be this time of year. Use the same tactics that I discussed in Canyon Ferry’s report. HOLTER LAKE: Rainbow fishing was fishing well, while trolling rapalas in 10 to 15 feet of water between Split Rock and the Dam. But as most of you have put the boats away for the winter; rainbows are being caught from shore at Departure Point and Log Gulch on worms. Walleye fishing has slowed down considerably, that is until fishable ice hits. Good ice typically comes around the New Year but let’s pray that it comes a little earlier this year. Remember, when preparing for ice fishing this winter, all the lakes in the immediate vicinity of Helena allow anglers to fish 6 poles at once. Whether they be tip ups or ice rod and reel. Ice fishing is certainly a fun winter hobby that can get the entire family out of the house and into an ice house. Dress warm and have fun! REGULATING RESERVOIR: We will see what this ice fishing season will bring!! As many of you know it was a tough year for the Regulating Reservoir.

BIG SKY OUTDOOR NEWS & ADVENTURE • 15

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nother active fall season is passing. The winter season is well underway. Charlie and I are once again sitting in front of a hole in the thick lake ice that is just a stone throw away from my back porch. As I replace the maggots on my small jig, because a very feisty 8 inch bluegill has destroyed the previous presentation, I can’t help but reflect on the past year’s events. I drop my tandem jig and maggot rig back down the hole. It is about 17 feet deep in this spot but I lower the rig just six. When it is this cold the lake is warmer and has more oxygen closer to the top. The very small movements I put on the rig are interrupted on the drop and I set the hook. A good sized perch this time. After he is removed and dropped into the snow I tell Charlie to be “Nice!” Charlie knows that if he wants to stay out with me he has to settle for only licking the fish’s slime coat and must not bite off his head which is what he would do in a second if he were to take charge. Did I mention Charlie is my dog? I repeat the previous baiting ritual and wonder what will bite next it seems every species in this lake is vulnerable to these little larval flies. I’ve heard it’s because they resemble plankton that is present in most lakes and the biologist in me wants to know more but is over ridden by the results oriented fisherman in me who would rather fish than read this particular day. As I drop my rig down the hole, my mind begins again to wander. This is one of the few times I can’t help but think about the past year as well as future possibilities. The only thing grounding me in the moment is the very small tug of a pan fish inhaling my maggots every few minutes. Reflections of a very amazing and successful year flood my brain. An odd feeling for a retired Airborne Ranger who has spent the bulk of his adult life doing things he will have to make lifelong amends for. The changes that I have managed to make (only with tons of help and understanding from others) have been drastic and unimaginable to the Travis of a year ago. For one thing I define success by my relationships and how much I care for others. Relationships like the one I now have with my daughter and best ice fishing buddy Ali Jo who is starting a career with the Navy which terrifies me. This time last year we were making some old guys cuss at the amount of trout we were pulling out of this same section of frozen lake (using frozen Krill from the pet shop). I want her back. (Is this how my mother felt?) I am also amazed that I have managed to stay sober for over a year now. It feels like an eternity, but not because I have been miserable,

quite the opposite in fact. It feels like I

BY TRAVIS DEBOER

have lived a lifetime in the last year, a good and blessed lifetime. -Tug--Another fat bluegill with a thick slime

coat for Chuck to lick off, Nice!Pride is still an unsettling feeling for me, but I can’t help it I love my family, they appear to love me back (another strange feeling), work is going well, and my clients are catching fish and making some nice memories. Pretty impressive since my job is an activity I was not even sure I would be able to do in recovery. What’s truly amazing is that my new way of life has not only made it possible, but has helped me to excel beyond what I could have imagined. I think it’s because I am now spending more time living “in” and focusing “on” the moment at hand (usually). My clients are generally none the wiser with regards to my sobriety. I simply tell them I am their designated driver and that it is their vacation and they should enjoy themselves. Which they should! (After all I can’t make them self conscious because of my “condition”). Besides I think I am goofy enough these days, they usually don’t even make a second offer as the day continues. Between the odd sense of humor and occasional but constant contact between my drift boat and river rocks, I am pretty sure they think I’m sneaking drinks any way. Thank God for my clients, they are great people. My very dismal world view has faded away in their presence. The good in people is easy for me to see these days and for that I have these strangers to thank (beautiful). I truly hope it is in the cards for me to do this job for a very long time. -Tug--Back in the moment thanks to a 9 inch paper-mouth! Cool! A few kisses from Charlie and then into my silly red bucket you beautiful and tasty little critter. Where did this bucket come from anyway? When it’s full I know I have an hour of filleting ahead of me and some good eats. Looks like room for one more. Charlie is shivering but I’m sure he can last another couple minutes. Poor old dog what would I ever do without you?As the chilly winter air hugs my body and I watch this little creature face not only its demise but Charlie’s flailing tongue, I can’t help but wonder about how I will face my own end when the time comes. I feel like today I would go laughing and hope that will be the case when it counts. -Tug--Trout this time and it goes right back. It’s not that kind of party today.“Lets go home Chuck” I say to my aging buddy “that’s enough for one day.” He tries to pick the crappy he was just licking out of the bucket and I assure him “I better carry it” as we make our way home.


DECEMBER 2009

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had never seen such wild roosters in my life, not the easy pheasant hunting in early October where you pushed a field and the birds held right at the edge of the field, it was more like a track meet with shotguns. Closing the door on truck caused the end of the wheat field, nearly one hundred yards away, to explode with gray and brown wings. The early morning crunch, or the late afternoon slop of a misplaced step on rapidly disappearing snow resulted in cattail potholes exploding like remote triggered Claymore mines, birds flying every direction and alarm signals being crowed, alerting every other bird for miles around. It was tough, in fact the toughest hunting in my life. Thirty and forty yard shots were the norm as roosters streaked away in blurs, rarely providing a chance at a crossing shot under forty yards. Thus this is what you need to be prepared for as you head out for your next pheasant hunt!

DECEMBER 2009

BACK TO BASICS Hunters can greatly improve their success by understanding the ring neck’s daily movement pattern. Cover that typically holds lots of pheasants in morning and evening, for instance, may hold only a straggler or two in midday. Although movement patterns vary in different habitat types, they’re fairly consistent in a given area, barring bad weather or exceptionally heavy hunting pressure. The most common scenario is as follows: Just after sunrise, pheasants fly or walk out of their roosting cover, stopping to pick up gravel on the way to their morning feeding area, which is usually some type of crop field. After feeding for an hour or two, they move to loafing cover, such as the grassy fringe of a crop field, or they return to their roosting cover. They go out to feed again about an hour before sunset, then settle back into roosting cover for the night. In most cases, daily movements take place within a surprisingly small area, usually no more than one-half mile in diameter. In some habitats, however, ring necks move even less than that. For instance, they may stay in a standing wheat field all day, because there’s plenty of food and ground cover. Similarly, they may stay in their roosting area all day, if there are enough weed seeds to provide adequate food. A period of extreme cold or a heavy snow may keep the birds holding tight in dense cover for several days. Heavy dew, however, will keep birds out of the grass. On a warm winter day, they often stay out all day long, scratching for food. When hunting pressure is very heavy, they spend more time in thick cover than they otherwise would. WHAT TO LOOK FOR Many veteran pheasant hunters would rather hunt in late season than fight the early-season crowds. Although the birds “wise up” in a hurry, you can still

have good success in late season if you have a plan: •Look for wetlands and other very dense cover areas. As the season progresses, birds seek heavier and heavier cover. •Try to find offbeat spots, such as a small clump of trees and brush in the middle of a section. Most hunters are not willing to walk this far to work a small piece of cover, so these spots sometimes load up with birds. • Check any road ditches with dense cover, such as cattails or Russian Olives. Ditches give the birds easy access to the gravel needed to grind food in their gizzard. • Work grassy ditches, sloughs or other brushy cover adjacent to newly harvested crop fields. If you watch as a wheat field is being cut, for instance, you’ll often see birds flying into these areas right behind the harvester. • Keep noise to a minimum. Pheasants rely heavily on their hearing to detect danger and will often flush hundreds of yards ahead if you slam your car door or yell at your hunting partner or dog. The birds get jumpier as the season progresses. Noise is not as big a problem on windy days making them perfect for sneeking up on jumpy birds. • For long-range shots often required in late season, use a modified or full-choke shotgun with high brass, size 4, 5 or 6 shot. Remember that some areas require Steel or Non Toxic shot. Size 3 and 2 should be perfect for these heavy feathered birds. •Try to drive manageable strips, no more than two hundred yards wide. It’s very difficult to pin birds down in a huge field, no matter how many hunters in your party. •Small parties can work big crop fields by concentrating on edge rows, always pushing them toward the corners. •Don’t attempt to hunt a row crop or stubble field unless you have posters at the end, preferably at intervals of no more than 60 yards. Blockers must remain silent and as inconspicuous as possible, so as not to alert the birds. Otherwise, they may flush prematurely.

•Blockers and drivers should know exactly where each other are, this can be really hard in tall cover. If you are not sure where your partners are, do not shoot at birds unless you are 100 percent sure of what is behind them. If there is any question, let the bird go to the blockers. •Drivers should walk into the wind, this way, the birds are less likely to hear them coming, and dogs can pick up scent more easily. A favorable wind also helps you and the dogs hear running pheasants. •Position drivers at 15- to 20-yard intervals, and make sure the middle drivers stay a little behind the outer drivers; this way, the birds usually funnel toward the middle. Drivers should zigzag a little to keep the birds from stopping or doubling back. lf there is thick cover adjacent to the field, include it in your drive. •Be alert when drivers approach blockers, birds running down the rows will be trapped near the end and many may flush at once. Again never shoot at birds flying low over the field where there could be a dog or another hunter in the line of fire. •Flushers generally work best in open crop fields; pointers may have difficulty pinning the birds down. In cut fields, however, birds often hold under fallen leaves and stalks, where pointers can pin them down more easily. OTHER PLACES TO CHECK The first challenge is finding pheasants. The two things to look for are an accessible food source and good cover. Generally pheasants will “migrate” to the areas that provide these two key ingredients in the most abundance. In many situations, if you see a few birds around a piece of thick cover or food source, there are many more pheasants in the same area. Although this may appear to make the hunting easier, in fact it makes it even more difficult. Similar to the challenge of fooling a large flock of ducks or geese to commit to a decoy spread, large groups of pheasants can be difficult to outwit. They find strength in numbers, when one bird decides (continued on page 31)


DECEMBER 2009

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BIG SKY OUTDOOR NEWS & ADVENTURE • 19

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DECEMBER 2009

Notes From The Captain Mark Ward

H

unting and fishing in Montana! There is no better feeling than to have bagged an elk or caught a nice big fish. Outdoor sportsmen and women have always carried a camera to help preserve that special moment with a picture. It’s a memory you can enjoy for a lifetime. I used to carry one those disposal cameras in the glove box of my boat and pickup. It usually stayed there until it had no pictures left to shoot. Then I would get the film developed and normally had two copies made of each photo – one for the person that was with me on the trip and one copy for me. Then I bought a digital camera equipped with a card that would hold a lot more pictures. The digital camera was more convenient in a couple of ways. I could download the images to my computer then print out only the ones that I wished to print. I also could e-mail any of those pictures for my family and friends to enjoy the next day. Now with the help of my son Harry, I have stepped up my outdoor photo opportunities another notch. A couple of months ago Harry talked me into buying a digital camera that would also take digital movies. On select trips, we take the Canon digital camcorder and record bits and pieces of the trip and then we download the footage into the computer and Harry edits our trip into a three-to-five-minute movie.

He then downloads it to YouTube.com for the whole world to see. We also have created a video library on our web site www. montanaoutdoor,com. So far, we have produced videos on our trips to Flathead Lake when we trout fished, Fort Peck Reservoir walleye and northern pike fishing, goose hunting, antelope hunting, deer bowhunting, and pheasant hunting at Wolf Point. The good news is just about anybody can do these things. The even better news is the cost of a digital camera is relatively low. Most home computers come with editing software that will enable you to produce your own movie after you download it from your camera. The trick is to find someone while you are hunting to sacrifice shooting a shotgun, rifle or bow to shooting footage for your very own “Outdoor Adventure Movie.” Taking digital pictures and movies is easy and has become very popular. Magazines, newspapers and web sites continually run photo contests throughout the year and award folks with neat prizes like cameras, binoculars, and GPS units. So you could even be rewarded for your photo efforts. You might want to check out the photo contest we are running right now in conjunction with Vanns. com One word of advice: when you shop for your camera, make sure you choose the one that fits your lifestyle, budget and the memories you seek.

Mark Ward is known as the Captain of the Montana Outdoor Radio Show heard statewide every Saturday from 6am - 8am. Log onto www.montanaoutdoor.com to find a radio station in your area. You can also read his weekly column in the Thursday Missoulian Outdoor section.


DECEMBER 2009

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BIG SKY OUTDOOR NEWS & ADVENTURE • 23

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Private Land/ Public Wildlife Council Meets Dec. 8-9 In Helena MFWP T

he Private Land/Public Wildlife Council will meet on Dec. 8-9 in Helena at the Red Lion Colonial Inn & Suites, 2301 Colonial Drive, to discuss hunting and fishing access and other issues. Council members will meet Tuesday, Dec. 8, beginning at 1 p.m. to adopt operating rules, determine priorities, and discuss issues related to their charge. The meeting continues on Wednesday, Dec. 9 from 8-11:30 a.m. The 15-member council, made up of landowners, outfitters, hunters, anglers, legislators, and an FWP Commissioner, is appointed by the Governor and charged with reviewing FWP hunting and fishing access programs, offering recommendations to help achieve program goals, and addressing issues related to private land and public wildlife. Members of the public are invited to attend the meeting and observe council proceedings. A public comment period is scheduled Dec. 8 at 4:30 p.m. For more information about the PL/PW Council, contact Alan Charles, FWP Coordinator of Landowner/Sportsman Relations, at: 406-444-3798, or by e-mail: acharles@mt.gov . Or, visit the FWP Web site at fwp.mt.gov on the Hunting page under hunter access.

New Opportunity For Upland Bird Nonresident Hunters Habitat MFWP The MFWPs Commission Opportunities has tentatively adopted a new rule for the sale of nonresident big game combination Expand Ron Selden MFWP licenses that increases opportunities for resident and nonresident family members to hunt together. The new rule implements HB 585 passed during the 2009 legislative session to help promote the state’s hunting heritage. It makes an additional 500 nonresident deer and elk and 500 nonresident deer combination licenses available to former Montana residents with family members who reside in the state and hunt here. The license fee would be the same as similar nonresident combination licenses obtained through the annual drawing. “Nonresident applicants for these licenses must be sponsored by a family member with a valid Montana hunting license who will accompany them in the field on the hunt,” said Hank Worsech, FWP licensing Bureau Chief. Worsech said if more applications are received for the license than there are licenses available, a drawing would be conducted to issue the licenses and any unsuccessful applicants would be placed in the appropriate general nonresident combination license drawing. The proposed deadline to apply for the license would be March 15, 2010. For details on the new rule, go to the FWP Web site at fwp.mt.gov under Public Notices. Public comment on the wording of the new rule will be accepted through Dec. 4 by e-mail to: hworsech@mt.gov , or via mail to: Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, Licensing Division, PO Box 200701, Helena, MT 59620-0701. The FWP Commission is scheduled to make the new rule final at its meeting Dec. 10, 2009.

A

new state habitat enhancement program is providing eastern Montana landowners incentives to extend their participation in the Conservation Reserve Program, a federal offering that in part improves wildlife habitat. Through the Upland Game Bird Habitat Enhancement Program, MFWPs recently funded five new projects located in Carbon, Garfield, Hill, and McCone counties. The new habitat program provided additional incentives to landowners to extend their CRP agreements, enhance enrolled acres in a manner more productive to pheasants and other game birds, and to open those lands to upland game bird hunting. Nearly 2,000 CRP acres have been enrolled in 3- or 5-year contracts under the Upland Game Bird Habitat Enhancement Program. Two of the five projects are located on 2009 Block Management Areas, which offer public hunting access to private lands. Upland game bird hunters must abide by Block Management Area requirements. For specific information about these Block Management Area use rules, refer to the Region 1-5 Hunting Access Guide, available from any FWP regional or Helena headquarters office or upon request at the FWP Web site (http://fwp. mt.gov/hunting/hunteraccess/blockman). The remaining three projects offer an additional 1,000 acres of walk-in upland game bird hunting. Each project area is marked with special signs.

Man Shoots Grizzly In Self Defense in the Cabinet Mountains MFWP

O

n November 2, 2009, a Troy resident was hunting mule deer on Dad Peak in the Cabinet Mountains when he spotted 2 grizzly bears in the trees approximately 50 yards ahead of him. He alerted the bears to his presence by yelling and waving his gun. When the bears came in the direction of his noises, he realized there were three grizzly bears, one larger and two slightly smaller. When he yelled again, hoping they would run off, the larger bear charged and the hunter shot the bear at approximately 25 yards. The hunter left the area, hiking out approximately 6 miles, and immediately reported the incident to FWP. The following morning the hunter returned to the site with FWP Game Wardens Phil Kilbreath and Tom Chianelli, accompanied by FWP Grizzly Bear Specialist Kim Annis, to investigate the scene and were able to confirm the hunter’s account of events. The hunter was very disappointed he had to shoot the bear, but he feared for his life. FWP law enforcement is ruling this as a justifiable self-defense shooting. Warden Captain Lee Anderson stated, “I’m glad the hunter was not injured and I commend him for his quick response to inform us of the situation and assistance in returning to the site”. The bear killed was an adult female grizzly bear and DNA analysis will be performed to determine the identity of the bear. The other 2 bears the hunter saw are presumed to be her yearling young and were no longer in the immediate vicinity of where the adult female was killed.


DECEMBER 2009

ON-LINE AT WWW.OUTDOORSMONTANA.COM •

BIG SKY OUTDOOR NEWS & ADVENTURE • 25

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FWP’s Foys Bend Property To Open To Limited Public Hunting For Waterfowl and Upland Game MFWP

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Wildlife & Parks’ recently acquired 245-acre Foys Bend Fisheries Conservation Area east of Kalispell will be open to limited permission-only public hunting of upland game bird and waterfowl through the end of their respective seasons, based on standard Montana hunting regulations.

M O O N P H A S E S

CRAIG Hunters should come to the FWP office in Kalispell to sign up on a first-come-firstserved basis. Hunter numbers are restricted to one party of no more than four people per day, and any one individual may access the property as a hunter or a party member only one day/week and not on consecutive days. For more information, contact FWP at 752-5501. D E C E M B E R 2 0 0 9

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rivate pond owners who have 10-year-old fish-stocking permits must renew them by Feb. 28, 2010. Montana law requires fish-stocking permits to be renewed every 10 years. Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks administers pond fish-stocking permits and sends renewal notices to affected pond owners. Permits that are not renewed become inactive. Renewals cost $10. Those with pond-stocking permits who do not receive a renewal form in the mail should contact Nancy Podolinsky at 406-444-7319, or by email at npodolinsky@mt.gov . Completed fish-stocking permit renewal forms must be returned to the appropriate FWP regional office.

$11,000 Reward In Grizzly Poaching MFWP State and federal officials have increased the reward in a grizzly poaching case on the Rocky Mountain Front to $11,000. “We’re still looking for leads,” says Mike Martin, Fish, Wildlife and Parks game warden captain. The large grizzly bear was shot in late July near Swift Dam Road west of Dupuyer. The carcass of the bear - one of Montana’s largest - was discovered Aug. 12. It had been dead for about one month. The bear was originally captured in 2007 as part of a population study. At the time he stood 7 and a half feet tall and weighed 765 pounds. When killed, the bear probably weighed more than 800 pounds. Anyone with information on the bear’s death should call 406-223-3873 (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) or Kuka at 750-3574, or 1-800-TIP-MONT.


26 • BIG SKY OUTDOOR NEWS & ADVENTURE

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Puma Wildcat Skinner Knife Recommended: Yes Highlights: Early October in Northeast Nebraska a hunting companion of mine and I had an opportunity to take two whitetails with our bows. Lady Luck smiled on us; we bagged a Doe and a two point Buck. We tracked one for a short distance, and shortly we had both. I was anxious to dress out any deer with the PUMA to find out if the knife would perform. It did. We made quick work of it with the PUMA Wildcat Stag skinner. We skinned up to the rib cage without puncture of the stomach and intestine. With minimum muscle, we cracked the rib cage and the pelvis. I were impressed at the ease of the process. I sharpened for the first time before butchering my buck. After two deer and cracking bones, any knife will need a good sharpening; it took less than a minute. The only drawback was making the initial puncture into the skin. This was due to the drop point, but once the puncture was made, it was easy sailing. The PUMA Wildcat skinner is a solid knife. Drawback...None so far. Recommend...The Wildcat Skinner continues to perform and we like the price. Rating...6 Point...Great Tester: Chase Gartner Suggested Retail: $159.99 Weatherby SA-08 12 ga. Shotgun Recommended: Yes Highlights: My first impression, was that the new Weatherby SA-08 is lightweight, weighing a mere 6 pounds. We are testing a 12 ga. 26-inch barrel in a Marsh Mimicry camo finish. The 3-inch chamber is plenty. However, a 3 1/2 inch would be my preference for geese and big greenheads, but 3-inch will fold them. The SA-08 offers a dual valve system, one for light loads, and the other for heavy. I continue using the light load valve with 2 3⁄4 inch 8 shot. I found out that you do not run light loads with the heavy load valve, because the shells will not eject. I have fired close to 100 rounds out of the SA-08 dusting blue rock. Very smooth. I scattered 66 of 75 the first time I shouldered the gun. Mixing up the direction of the clays is a challenge, but the SA-08 has excellent balance and moves to my shoulder easily. A beaded glow sight on the barrel will be a feature I may add. The gun is extremely easy to handle, and follow through on all types of tough shots was no sweat. While shooting blue rock two unsuspecting doves buzzed by and paid the ultimate price. Drawback...None so far. Rating...8 Point...Best Tester: Chase Gartner, Don Gartner Suggested Retail: $699.00 Recommend...We like the SA-08 and for the price it is a solid shotgun. Columbia’s Super Wader Widgeon Jacket

Recommended: Yes Highlights: Columbia’s Super Wader Widgeon jacket is without question the most expensive hunting apparel we have ever seen or tested. What makes any jacket worth $720.00 dollars? Let’s look at everything it offers. This is two jackets in one; the liner is 700 down fill, and reversible. The jacket is seam sealed and made of Columbia’s Omni-Tech, making it waterproof and breathable. The length is 25 inches long, perfect for waders. On each side of the zipper on the jacket is a quick loader tube for 20 or 12 ga. shells for fast reloading. In addition, the front offers twelve shotgun shell loops, six to a side. Each shoulder has a patch for traction in bad weather. Six front zippers for all your possible’s and a detachable storm hood with a ball cap brim. Innovative technology is the best description for the Super Wader Widgeon parka. It has it all. I have tested the parka a number of times Duck hunting in bitterly cold weather and warmer weather. This is a real piece of work. I will continue to wear as temperatures head south, but to date, I am impressed! Drawback...Expensive Rating...8 Point...Best Tester: All Suggested Retail: $720.00 Recommend...This is a superb parka and if you can afford it, you will be rewarded with years of quality water fowling.


DECEMBER 2009

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BIG SKY OUTDOOR NEWS & ADVENTURE • 27

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ROB MARSHALL WITH CARIBOU

The Twenty Year Caribou (continued from page 10) back scratcher on one side. Jennifer and I had a couple nice bulls come by us at 200 yards but they were not trophy class bulls. Our first day of herds of caribous traveling past us at close range was surreal and memorable. We made our way back to camp after almost a full day of hunting, with one nice trophy bull aboard. September 28th Monday morning, we wake up to a storm that has hit the entire region with driving rains and high winds. On Monday the rain stayed pretty constant and visibility was maybe a few hundred feet throughout the day. There was no flying due to low visibility and VFR rules applied. At times the ceiling dropped to 200 feet. At some point in the afternoon a few of us geared up for a hike north of the camp. We saw a small number of caribou, but no trophy class bulls. September 29th Tuesday early morning, the weather only got worse. Prior to first light the sound of the rain on our cabin increased and the winds picked up. It was very foggy and mist and rain kept us socked in tight. It never stopped raining as we entered the second day of constant driving rain. The weather forecast was for it to continue for 2 more days at least. According to our camp director and guides it had been several years since being kept down like this for 4 days or more. Again a few of us wanted to hunt and geared up for heavy wet weather. A guide and a pilot both wanted their caribou tags filled for meat. On Wednesday the 30th I was with a guide when we had a close encounter with several caribou and we filled 3 tags within 20 minutes not too far from camp in a down pour. Somebody once said “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning to dance in the rain.” We

danced around puddle after puddle, because it was raining and raining. We received a report that some camps north of us that had been there longer were actually getting ice and snow and some camps were getting over a foot of snow and running low on fuel and food. So at the moment, our camp was doing really well with plenty of food, drink and fuel. September 30th and no let up. The sound of the rain on the tin roof was becoming monotonous and the high winds continued. There were lots of naps and card playing. Folks from West Virginia, Idaho and Minnesota that were in camp with us, and the French-Canadian and Labrador locals all learned how to play euchre. The camp cooks were incredible and I gained 7 pounds back during the week. With having a warm cabin and a nice bathroom, a hot shower, a kitchen and great meals, it kept things somewhat comfortable for being in the middle of nowhere. Many conversations and even more hunting stories passed our time. I couldn’t imagine what those who where in tents north of us were going through, everything outside was just soaking wet, a giant wet sponge. October 1st and it’s still raining, and coming down steady. The winds have let up a little and though there are still two foot waves rolling on the lake the white caps have subsided. Our guide decides we can take a boat NE out of camp to the other end of the lake about 2-3 miles, and then trek into the foothills to find caribou movement the hard way. In a small Vbottom boat which was not the best ride in the world under those conditions, very cold in the low 30’s with blowing rain, we headed NE against the waves. Jennifer, Uncle Steve and I end up being the only ones to go from our cabin and we headed out with Medrick and Tommy.

We landed on a small sandy beach (not a whole lot of sand in this part of the world) and made our way across a large swamp, sinking at times a foot into the sponge like bog as we made our way. We finally reached the bottom of the ridge and started up out of the swamp covering. About a mile to the top, we started encountering caribou. Many close calls and several hundred caribou later there were no trophy class bulls, but many good sightings at less than 40 yards, and some good bulls, but just not good enough. A few hours later, the weather starts to improve and break a little as we head back, soaking wet and cold. With the winds down and the water calmer it makes the boat ride a little more tolerable. October 2nd, Friday morning, we wake to silence, no more rain, no more wind. Still low visibility but it’s starting to clear. At breakfast we are briefed by the camp director. Today is the day we were originally scheduled to fly back thru either Schefferville or Lac Pau and head to Montreal to go home. However, with the storms basically holding everyone down in all camps across northern Quebec from Leaf River to Labrador, there are logistic

JENNIFER MARSHALL

problems with too few planes and pilots to move everyone at once. So the decision is made for us to hunt two more days while priority hunters that had been here even longer than us by the time the storm hit, are to go out first. Since we are on a guaranteed hunt for 2 trophy bulls each, they want us to tag out if at all possible. Friday late morning it has cleared and visibility is above a few hundred feet and we are informed to gear up and make ready to head NE about 80+ miles. By early afternoon we are flying over several small herds and starting to get into a larger number of caribou. After flying over 100 miles NE and then crossing back south we start spotting several nice bulls and locate a lake to put down on just ahead of the movement. At this point in the trip since departing Helena, Jennifer and I have made 24 take offs and landings, with several more still to come. We head up the ridge away from the plane and cover close to 2 miles across the bog and swamps to the larger part of the herd movement. Again, several hundred (continued on page 36)


28 • BIG SKY OUTDOOR NEWS & ADVENTURE

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DECEMBER 2009

Rocky Mountain States $11,000 Reward In De Beque Bighorn Poaching Case Commission Nonresident Tag Extends Wolf Sales Start Seasons In Most December 1 Zones 2010 licenses, tags and Tonhe sale T he Idaho Fish and Game permits go at 12:01 a.m. MST, Commission on Thursday, November 19,

A CHEVRON EMPLOYEE SNAPPED A PHOTO OF THE RAM DAYS BEFORE IT WAS POACHED

T

hree energy companies are offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the conviction of the person or persons responsible for the poaching of a bighorn sheep ram north of De Beque. On Friday, Oct. 30, investigators with the Colorado Division of Wildlife were notified that a quarter-curl bighorn ram had been poached on private land. Information from people in the area and evidence collected at the scene indicate that the bighorn sheep ram was likely shot between Sunday, Oct. 25 and Tuesday, Oct. 27 by a single shot to the neck. The poacher made no attempt to salvage meat from the animal or to take the head or horns. “This is the worst kind of poaching case,” said Albert Romero, District Wildlife Manager for the De Beque district. “It appears that someone just shot and killed this animal for no reason at all.” Chevron, EnCana and Williams have committed a total of $10,000 to the Division of Wildlife reward fund for information that leads to a conviction in this case. Additionally, Operation Game Thief has offered a $1,000 reward and Colorado’s TIPS program may provide tipsters with a bighorn sheep hunting license in exchange for testimony in the case. The ram, which was part of the De Beque Canyon bighorn sheep herd, had recently wandered into the Kimball Creek area west of Roan Creek Road

(Garfield County Road 204). The ram was frequently seen and photographed by area residents and energy workers who travel the road up Kimball Creek. The ram carcass was discovered on private property owned by Chevron. Criminal charges in this case could include trespassing, illegal possession of wildlife, waste, felony willful destruction, and hunting in a closed unit. If convicted of all charges, the perpetrator in this case could face up to five years in jail and more than $100,000 in fines. Upon conviction the person would also face suspension of their hunting privileges in Colorado and 30 other states. Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep are the official state animal of Colorado and they appear on the seal of the Colorado Division of Wildlife. Anyone with information about this case is asked to contact Operation Game Thief at 877-265-6648. Callers wishing to remain anonymous can qualify for up to $1,000 in reward funds; however tipsters must be willing to testify to qualify for energy company reward funds or TIPS licenses. Operation Game Thief is a program that works with the Division of Wildlife to provide rewards for information in poaching cases. TIPS is a DOW program that provides hunting licenses or preference points for sportsmen who provide information in poaching cases.

extended wolf hunting seasons in all Idaho wolf zones not already closed to March 31. Harvest limits and other restrictions were not changed. The seasons would be extended to March 31 in the Panhandle, Palouse-Hells Canyon, Selway, Middle Fork, Salmon, Southern, and South Idaho zones, which had been set to close December 31. The seasons already were set to close March 31 in the Lolo and Sawtooth zones. Hunters will need a 2010 wolf tag, in addition to a 2010 hunting license for hunts after December 31. Idaho Department of Fish and Game set wolf harvest limits by 12 zones. The season closes in each zone when the limit for that zone is reached, or when the statewide limit of 220 wolves is reached. As of Thursday, November 19, the statewide harvest was 110. Wolf seasons already have closed in the Dworshak-Elk City wolf zone in north Idaho, the McCall-Weiser zone in west central Idaho, and the Upper Snake zone in eastern Idaho. Three zones are nearing the harvest limit. The Palouse-Hells Canyon zone is two short of the limit of five; the Southern Mountains, where the limit is 10, is three short; and the Middle Fork zone, with a limit of 17, is four short. Wolf hunters are reminded to check the harvest limit in the wolf hunting zones they intend to hunt. To find out whether a zone is open, call 877-872-3190. The Fish and Game wolf harvest Web page is updated less frequently, but provides a zone map and other useful information: http://fishandgame.idaho.gov/cms/hunt/wolf/quota.cfm. Hunters are required by state law to report within 24 hours of harvesting a wolf, and they must present the hide and skull to a Fish and Game conservation officer or regional office within five days.

Tuesday, December 1, except for the nonresident Selway B elk tags which go on sale at 10 a.m. MST. The sale of these popular tags is being delayed because many license vendors and Idaho Department of Fish and Game offices will not be open at midnight. By delaying the sale timing, hunters will have an equal opportunity to buy the tags. Nonresident hunters can buy their licenses and tags at Fish and Game offices, any license vendor, or by credit card by calling 1-800-554-8685. They can also buy them online at the Fish and Game Website at http://fishandgame.idaho.gov. Big game hunters can find more information on the sale and purchase of tags for residents and nonresidents on pages 94 - 96 of the Idaho 2009 Big Game Seasons rules booklet. Residents also can buy 2010 hunting licenses starting Tuesday, and they can buy a receipt for deer and elk tags, which don’t go on sale until after deer, elk and pronghorn controlled hunt drawings later in 2010. Hunters can redeem the receipt for a deer or elk tag after the controlled hunt drawings in July so those whose names were drawn don’t have to exchange their general season tags for controlled hunt tags at a Fish and Game office. Instead the controlled winners are simply issued a controlled hunt tag at any license vendor. The rest are issued general season tags.


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BIG SKY OUTDOOR NEWS & ADVENTURE • 29

Rocky Mountain States Major Big Game Hunting Changes Could Happen In 2011 The time of year when you can deer hunt and the general rifle bull elk hunt Poacher To Pay $30,030, Lose Hunting hunt deer and elk in Utah might change in on the same days. 2011. “This change would allow you to Some Utah deer hunting seasons hunt deer and elk at the same time,” Aoude & Trapping Privilege For 10 Years might change in 2011. says. “But you wouldn’t have to do that. Several months ago, the Utah and pronghorn carcasses in a draw on the If you wanted, you could obtain a deer C asper resident Timothy J. Wildlife Board directed the state’s wildlife property. Blajszczak determined two of permit to hunt during either the early or the Alme was ordered to pay $30,030 and has agency to: the mule deer appeared to have been killed -Give big game hunters more hunting options to choose from -Reduce crowding among hunters who are in the field The ideas the Division of Wildlife Resources has come up with wouldn’t be implemented until the 2011 hunts. But the changes are big enough that the DWR wants to get the ideas out now so there’s plenty of time for you to comment. Rules for the 2011 hunts will not be approved until November 2010. “The ideas we’ve come up with would give hunters some new options,” says Anis Aoude, big game coordinator for the DWR. The following are among the ideas the DWR is considering. GENERAL DEER AND ELK HUNTS Four major general-season deer and elk changes could occur in 2011: TWO GENERAL RIFLE DEER HUNTS The first idea would keep the number of general rifle buck deer permits the same as it is now (no more than 97,000 permits), but it would split Utah’s general rifle deer hunt into two hunts. Each hunt would be nine days long, just like the hunt is now, but hunters could choose to participate in an early hunt or a late hunt. The early hunt would be held at the start of October. The late hunt would happen at the end of October. Having two rifle deer hunts would reduce by half the number of hunters in the field at any one time. “You’d still be able to hunt the same number of days you can hunt now, but you’d have fewer hunters in the field with you,” Aoude says. “We think this change would make your rifle hunt even better.” HUNTING DEER AND ELK AT THE SAME TIME Another idea would let you hunt deer and elk at the same time. The DWR is considering holding the general rifle buck

late season, and also obtain an elk permit to hunt during the season when you’re not hunting deer. “This change wouldn’t take anything away from you. But it would give you another option you could take advantage of, if you wanted to.”

HOLD MUZZLELOADER DEER AND ELK HUNTS AT THE SAME TIME In addition to holding the rifle deer and elk hunts at the same time, the DWR is considering holding Utah’s general muzzleloader deer and muzzleloader elk hunts at the same time too. The general muzzleloader deer and elk season would be held in the middle of October, between the two rifle hunts. \ The DWR is also considering adding a second muzzleloader elk hunt a general any-bull elk hunt. That hunt would happen in mid November. SAME START DATES EVERY YEAR A third idea is to start all of Utah’s big game hunts on the same calendar days every year. For example, if Aug. 21 was chosen as the day to start the general archery elk hunt, the season would start on Aug. 21 every year, even if Aug. 21 didn’t fall on a Saturday. The only exception would be if a start date fell on a Sunday. Then the season would probably begin on the proceeding Saturday. “This idea would keep the season dates consistent from year to year,” Aoude says. LIMITED-ENTRY DEER AND ELK HUNTS The DWR also has two ideas for Utah’s limited-entry deer and elk hunts: DATES FOR LIMITED-ENTRY ELK HUNTS One idea would change the dates of the limited-entry elk hunts. It would also give archers first chance at the elk. Starting in 2011, biologists would like to start the limited-entry archery elk hunt in early September and end it in mid September. That’s when the elk are at the

lost his privilege to hunt or be in the field with anyone hunting for the next 10 years after poaching two mule deer near Lusk. On Nov. 23, 2008, Game Warden Shawn Blajszczak received a phone call from Wyoming Highway Patrol Trooper Andy Jackson concerning a possible poaching case. Trooper Jackson and fellow officer Karl Southam were investigating a traffic accident involving a guard rail and a pickup truck on Highway 89 near Alpine. They discovered that the bed of the pickup truck, a white 2008 Dodge, had a lot of blood and deer hair in it. A consented search of Alme’s residence revealed deer meat in the freezer, several sets of deer antlers and pronghorn horns in the garage and a number of deer

within the past week, while the other mule deer and the white-tailed deer were killed a few weeks earlier Alme was charged with the illegal killing of antlered big game animals without a license and during a closed season. He was also charged with shooting a big game animal from a vehicle and for hunting, shooting and killing wildlife from a highway. He was sentenced to two years suspended jail time, $22,000 in fines, $8,000 in restitution and $30 in court costs. He also forfeited the. 270 caliber Winchester rifle, which he used to poach the mule deer. In addition, he lost all trapping and hunting privileges for 10 years and cannot accompany any individual on any hunting venture during that time

peak of their breeding season. (The breeding season is also known as the rut. During the rut, elk are less wary because they’re focused on breeding. That makes it easier for hunters to take them.) After the limited-entry archery hunt ended in mid September, the limitedentry muzzleloader elk hunt would start the next day. Muzzleloader elk hunters would have the elk to themselves for four days. Then the limited-entry rifle hunt would also begin. Both the muzzleloader hunt and the rifle hunt would end on the same day in early October. “Because they use rifles, rifle hunters have a better chance at taking an elk than archery or muzzleloader hunters do,” Aoude says. “Even if we move limited-entry rifle hunters to the latter part of the rut, they’re still going to be successful,” he says. “But allowing archery hunters to hunt during the rut would really increase their success. And their success rate would probably still be lower than the success rate rifle hunters find during the rut.”

same time the general-season rifle buck deer hunt is held. The hunt on some limited-entry deer units would happen at the start of October. The hunt on other units would happen at the end of October. “Limited-entry deer hunts and general-season deer hunts are held on completely different units,” Aoude says. “Holding the hunts at the same time shouldn’t create any conflicts between limited-entry hunters and general-season hunters. They’d be hunting on separate units.”

HOLD THE GENERAL AND LIMITED-ENTRY RIFLE DEER HUNTS AT THE SAME TIME An additional idea is to hold the limited-entry rifle buck deer hunt at the

ONCE-IN-A-LIFETIME HUNTS BULL MOOSE SEASON Utah’s bull moose season is currently split into two hunts. The DWR is considering combining the two hunts into one hunt. The hunt would be held from late September to mid October. The bull moose change is the only once-in-a-lifetime species change the DWR is considering for 2011 “The ideas we have right now are a starting point to get our biologists and sportsmen talking about possible changes for 2011,” Aoude says. “We’re wide open to the suggestions hunters and other folks have.”


30 • BIG SKY OUTDOOR NEWS & ADVENTURE

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Late Season Roosters (continued from page 18) to flush it will almost always lead to the rest of the birds following them. Instead of relying on roosters flushing at your feet, most shots come with roosters flushing at least 35 yards in front of you....if you’re lucky. It is not unusual to watch the majority of birds flush 250 yards or more out of range. Most grass fields contain little pheasant food, so the ones near crop fields are likely to hold the most birds. Height and density of cover are also important. Tall, dense fields are much better than short, sparse ones. You can find birds in grass fields throughout the hunting season, as long as a heavy snowfall doesn’t flatten the cover too much and force pheasants into brushy cover, woodlots or wetlands. Pheasants usually fly out of grass fields within two hours after sunrise, then return in mid- to late morning, after they finish feeding. They normally fly out to feed again in late afternoon. Spend some time watching them with binoculars to get a better idea of their daily movement schedule. Dog work in grassy cover is best on humid days, because moist grass holds scent better than dry grass. But if the grass is too wet, pheasants won’t stay in it. A good flusher is especially important in hunting tall grass cover, where there is nothing to stop the birds from running and downed birds are notoriously hard to find.

Some pointers can learn to follow and relocate running birds, but others find it hard to pin them down; when they’re pointing, the bird is running ahead. With a big group of hunters, you can drive a large grass field much as you would a crop field. Start at one edge of the field, spread out at about 15-yard intervals and start walking. When you reach the end of the field, move over and take another swath in the opposite direction. Continue until the entire field has been covered. Blockers can be used, but are not as essential as in hunting crop fields; in the heavier cover, the birds are not as likely to run to the end of the field. Another effective way to hunt tall grass, especially for one or two hunters, is to start on the downwind side and follow your dog. Don’t try to tell the dog where to go, allow it to work out every scent trail. Make sure, however, to work the edges, especially those adjacent to crop fields. If you don’t have a dog, the only option is to hunt very slowly, stopping periodically to make the birds nervous. On a quiet day, you may be able to hear birds moving through the grass. HUNTING IN THE SNOW A heavy snow immediately changes the way pheasants behave, forcing you to modify your hunting tactics. You’ll no longer find birds in light cover,

such as grass fields, because snow mats down the vegetation. Instead, look for them in spots that offer secure overhead cover and protection from the wind, such as dense cattail marshes, brushy draws and woodlots. The first snowfall of the year makes birds nervous. Most of them have never seen snow and it seems to confuse them. You’ll often see them standing out in the open or scurrying across roads when the snow starts to fall. The birds frequently allow themselves to become snowed in beneath the cover. Sometimes they will stay in their hiding spots for a day or two after a snowstorm has subsided. But, in most cases, they come out to feed on the first calm, sunny day following a snowstorm. Although pheasants tend to be spookier when snow covers the ground, they’re more concentrated and easier to find than they were in early season, because there is much less usable feeding area and hiding cover. Birds congregate in areas where they can find food most easily. Sometimes a prime feeding area will attract birds from several sections of land. Watch for groups of feeding birds as you drive around. Look for feeding sign, such as ground scratchings, as you hunt. Be sure to work any brushy cover, such as willow clumps, crab apple thickets and shelter belts, near feeding areas.

Always look for fresh pheasant tracks to determine if birds are using an area. With a little practice, you’ll be able to distinguish the tracks of a rooster from those of a hen. A rooster’s tail usually leaves a drag mark in the snow. Following rooster tracks can be a productive hunting method, but only right after a snowfall. Otherwise, you won’t be able to determine if the tracks are fresh. Most hunters prefer to use flushing dogs in heavy snow. Birds hunkered down in a snow clump emit very little scent. A pointer, which relies mainly on air scent, may run right past the clump. A flusher on the other hand, which trails ground scent, will stick his nose into it. Many hunters make the mistake of dressing too warmly when hunting in snow. A heavy parka will cause you to sweat when you walk, and you’ll get colder than if you wore a lighter coat. Heavy felt pack boots also make your feet sweat, pick lightweight, insulated Gore-Tex boots to keep them warm and dry. When hunting in snow in late season, use a full- or modified-choke shotgun and size 4 or 5 shot, because the birds tend to flush wild. Some hunters even use 2 shot for extra distance. When birds get this spooky, it’s difficult to hunt alone successfully. If a partner approaches from the opposite direction, however, one of you will probably get some shooting. Good luck out there!!!


32 • BIG SKY OUTDOOR NEWS & ADVENTURE

BIG SANDY CHRISTMAS PARADE AND STROLL: December 19

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DECEMBER 2009

Calendar Of Events

BOZEMAN COMMUNITY RACE SERIES - ALPINE & TELEMARK: January 9, 10, 16, 17, 23, 24

HAMILTON WINTER GUN SHOW: December 4 - 6

RACE: December 20

LINCOLN NEW YEAR SNOWMOBILE POKER RUN: January 1

MISSOULA FIRST NIGHT MISSOULA: December 31

One of the older gun shows in the state, running continuously for over 28 years. We stress guns, knives This race series is open to the general public of all ages. First Night Missoula is an annual community New The annual Big Sandy Christmas Stroll & Parade of and old west memorabilia and antiques. A family event. Intermediate and advanced skiers welcome. There are Year’s Eve celebration of the arts. Hundreds of Lights is a community wide celebration. This event is Held at the Senior Citizens Center on the corner of several age divisions for men and women. Medals are performing, visual and literary artists showcase their filled with shopping and open houses. Special events for Adirondac and North 4th in Hamilton. diverse talents in more than 100 events throughout all ages slated to highlight the stroll, breakfast with Santa awarded to placing finishers. Telemark events on Saturday, Phone: 406-633-2206 and Alpine GS races on Sundays. The entry fee is $10 per Missoula. This spirited, cultural celebration is open to for youngsters eight and under, free photos with Santa event. Everyone who enters is eligible to win great door the entire community and is alcohol and drug free. with each child photographed receiving a complimentary HAVRE Phone: 406-532-3240 or 8x10 colored photo courtesy of the chamber, a Christmas prizes at the awards ceremony, but you must be present to visit http://missoulacultural.org/firstnight candy-Christmas cookie baking and decorating contest, win. The Race Series will take place at Bridger Bowl Ski ICE FISHING DERBY: January 30 - 31 Area, 16 miles northeast of Bozeman on Highway 86. E-mail: mcc@missoulacultural.org Christmas wreath decorating contest and auction, and a The Ice Fishing Derby is a two-day family event. Phone: 406-586-1518 or visit www.bridgerbowl.com caroling hayride for kids old and young alike. The Havre Chamber Ag Committee fishing derby is E-mail: skitrip@bridgerbowl.com Phone: 406-378-2176 designed for participants to win cash, have fun, and SEELEY LAKE CHALLENGE E-mail: retigpub@itstriangle.com protect the fishery and raise scholarship funds. A BIATHLON: January 23 Montana fishing license is required. Under 13 years of Come out for this fun event! There’s something for age must be accompanied by an adult. Each hour there everyone here! BIG SKY BOZEMAN are cash prizes for the longest fish, for northern pike, Saturday - 9-11am registration RAILS UNDER THE STARS: GREAT ROCKIES SPORTSHOW: walleyes and trout categories and five tagged fish worth * 11am 1/2 hour mandatory safety class for all novices December 19 January 29 - 31 * 11:30am 2/2 hour mandatory safety class RUST is a nighttime rail event that features local and Held at the Gallatin Country Fairgrounds, 901 North Black $5,000 if caught. At the end of the derby a final prize * noon zero hour (sighting in) regional skiers and snowboarders who entertain the Phone: 406-580-3907 or visit http://greatrockiesshow.com paid in each category. Held on Beaver Creek Reservoir (Lower Lake) located in Beaver Creek Park, 15 miles * 1pm biathlons start crowd, showing off their newest tricks on the rails and E-mail: bill@greatrockiesshow.com south of Havre. Take 5th Avenue South - it turns into CLASSES: funboxes that are illuminated in the base area. After the Highway 234 which runs right to the park. * Experienced - Having done a biathlon ($25) fireworks show the crowd can visit parties held in the Phone: 406-265-4383 or visit www.havremt.com ski, shoot, ski shoot, ski (.22 caliber rifle, no scope) Mountain Mall. Big Sky Resort is located 45 miles south DILLON E-mail: chamberdesk@havremt.net Sprint distances of Bozeman on Hwy. 191 and 9 miles west on Hwy. 64. STAN SHAFER MEMORIAL ICE men - 10K ski - 10 targets (classic or skate) Phone: 406-995-5765 or visit www.bigskyresort.com FISHING DERBY: January 23 women - 7.5K ski - 10 targets (classic or skate) LEWISTOWN E-mail: chadjones@bigskyresort.com Fishing Derby is held every year at Clark Canyon Reservoir. * Novice - Never having done a biathlon ($20) POLAR RUN: December 5, 11, 18, 19 Proceeds go to benefit the Beaverhead Search and Rescue. Ride to the North Pole with Santa. Polar Runs departure ski, shoot, ski shoot, ski (.22 caliber rifle, no scope) BIGFORK This is an ice fishing derby with prizes for the biggest fish. * Kids Biathlon (54” tall - up to 16 yrs) ($5) 5:00 pm and 7:30 pm. Train boards one hour before ANNUAL FLATHEAD LAKE POLAR Mobile concessions on ice. Two progressive tagged fish, ski, shoot, ski shoot, ski (.22 caliber rifle, no scope) departure. The Charlie Russell Chew-Choo boarding BEAR PLUNGE: January 1 4-way split for largest trout and ling. Youth (12 years and Balloon targets, 1/4 mile ski loops site is located 10 miles northwest of Lewistown just The Polar Bear Plunge is at 2:00pm at the Raven Brew younger) two-way split for largest trout and ling. * Fun Biathlon past the Spring Creek Trestle. Drive north on Highway Pub in Woods Bay on Flathead Lake. It is a family event Held at the Clark Canyon Reservoir. 20 miles south of (2 people- one to ski, one to shoot or 1 person do it all) 191 for 2 miles, turn left on the Highway 426 for 8 to welcome the New Year with a chilling dip. Dillon, along Interstate 15 south. Phone: 406-683-4875 Held at the junction of Morrell Creek Road and Morrell miles. Phone: 406-535-5436 or visit Spectators are welcome. Bring your suit, towel, camera E-mail: hunterstaxidermy@hughes.net Falls Road. Phone: 406-677-2880 www.montanacharlierussellchewchoo.com and good humor. Costumes are encouraged. Parade is at or visit www.seeleylakechamber.com E-mail: lewchamb@midrivers.com 1:45pm from the Brewery. Phone: 406-837-2836 ESSEX E-mail: slchamber@blackfoot.net E-mail: axafca@yahoo.com KICK-OUT-THE-KINKS BENEFIT SKI

BILLINGS ANNUAL CHASE HAWKS MEMORIAL COWBOY GATHERIN’ DINNER, DANCE AND ROUGH STOCK RODEO: December 18 - 19 Chase Hawks Memorial Cowboy Gatherin’ features: Live Calcutta Auction, World Champion Cowboys, and dancing and dancing to a live band. Doors open @ 4:30, dinner @ 6:30, Calcutta @ 7:30pm, and dancing @ 9:00pm. Annual Rough Stock Rodeo on Saturday @ 7:30pm! Held at the Billings Hotel and Convention Center. Rough Stock Rodeo will be held at Metra Park. Phone: 406-248-9295 or visit www.chasehawks.com E-mail: info@chasehawks.com

BOZEMAN GUN AND HUNTING TROPHY SHOW: December 11 - 13

The Gun and Hunting Trophy Show offers hunting firearms, western collectibles, antiques, and western and wildlife art for sale or trade. Big game trophy displays and Boone and Crockett scoring by Fish, Wildlife and Parks are part of the show, which features 300 booths with collectors from across the United States. Held at the Gallatin County Fairgrounds. Phone: 406-580-5458

Compete in the 5K or 10K ski race benefit. Registration is from 10:30am to 12:00pm. Race starts at 1:00pm. Race entry fee is $10 per person. All proceeds go to the Middlefork Quick Response Unit. Special room rates are available at the Izaak Walton Inn. Phone: 406-888-5700 or visit http://izaakwaltoninn.com E-mail: stay@izaakwaltoninn.com

GREAT FALLS ANNUAL DROP AND SHOP FOR KIDS: December 12 - 13

The Annual Drop and Shop for Kids is at the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail Interpretive Center. While parents are busy preparing for the holidays, children in Grades K-5 enjoy three hours of activities and learning about aspects of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. The cost is $10.00 per child and $8.00 for each additional child in the same family which applies to the regular admission fee to the Interpretive Center. Phone: 406-727-8733 or visit www.fs.fed.us/r1/lewisclark/lcic E-mail: mailroom_r1_lewis_and_clark@fs.fed.us

Sign up at the Snow Warriors Clubhouse to ride a variety of Lincoln’s well groomed trails. Cash prizes are awarded for high and low poker hand and many door prizes are available as well. Lunch, coffee, cocoa and pop are available for a donation. With 250 miles of groomed trails and lots of play areas, Lincoln is a great place to ride. Most of the winter trails can be accessed by snowmobile right from town. Early and late season riders may need to trailer 3 to 6 miles from town. Once in Lincoln, turn north on Sucker Creek Rd, travel 3 miles to clubhouse. Phone: 406-362-4140 E-mail: mjparis@linctel.net

EVENTS TO SUPPORT WILDLIFE DUCKS UNLIMITED 12/05/09 Missoula Chapter Banquet Bretz RV & Marine Contact: John Dilatush (406) 830-3330

RMEF EVENTS

MARYSVILLE GREAT DIVIDE TORCHLIGHT PARADE 01/23/10 & FIREWORKS DISPLAY: December 31 Polson Night skiing for the public closes at 9:00pm. Anyone Mission Valley Big Game Banquet who wants to ski in the torch light parade gathers at the Contact: Kelly Kost (406) 644-3495

lift for the ride up. Children should bring flashlights, adults are given flares. Parade comes down the mountain from 9:30 to 10:00pm. Enjoy great view from restaurant and deck. When all paraders are down, there is a fireworks display. Phone: 406-449-3746 or visit www.greatdividemontana.com

02/06/10 Billings Beartooth Big Game Banquet Contact: Mike Baugh (406) 855-0324


DECEMBER 2009

ON-LINE AT WWW.OUTDOORSMONTANA.COM •

BIG SKY OUTDOOR NEWS & ADVENTURE • 33

Pheasants Forever

2-GUNS-A-WEEK RAFFLE Brought to you by the Montana Habitat Fund

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100% OF FUNDS GENERA GENERATED TED FROM THE RAFFLE WILL REMAIN IN MONTANA TO BE USED TO SUPPORT THE PHEASANTS FOREVER FOREVER MISSION (PUBLIC LAND ACQUISITIONS, HABITAT DEVELOPMENT, YOUTH EDUCATION, ETC ETC). ).

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NOW BEFORE THEY SELL OUT! ENDS JANUARY 4, 2010

Tickets Available from your local PF chapter or by sending $50 per ticket (payable to Pheasants Forever) to P.O. Box 2157 Missoula MT 59806. Visit www.montanapf.org for mail-in form. Phone Jon at (406) 721-9919 for more details. Prizes announced weekly include 2 of each: 1. Browning X-Bolt N/S 30-06 2. Tikka Wood/Blue 223 3. Remington 770 30-06 4. Beretta Xtrema 2 12/28 5. Remington 870 Express 12/26 3.5” 6. Stevens 200 25-06 7. Browning Silver Hunter 20/26 8. Sako A7 25-06 9. Savage 93R17BV 10. Browning X-Bolt N/S 270 11. NEF Pardner Pump 12 Gauge 12. Marlin XL-7 Blue/SYN 25-06 13. Beretta Urika 12/26 14. Tikka Wood/Blue 270 15. Remington 700 SPS 30-06 16. 10/22 RB 22 LR 17. Browning Silver Hunter 12/28 18. Sako A7 270 19. Remington 770 Youth 243 20. CZ-USA Ringneck 16/28 21. Savage 93R17 Camo Package 22. Weatherby Vanguard B/S 300 WSM 23. NEF Pardner Pump 12 Gauge 24. Remington 770 Youth 243 25 Sako A7 270 WSM 26. Browning Silver Hunter 20/26 27. Marlin XL-7 Blue/SYN 270 28. Beretta Xtrema 2 12/26 29. Stevens 200 243 30. Remington 700 SPS 223 31. CZ-USA Mallard 20 Gauge 32. Browning BPS 28/26 33. Ruger M-77 257 Roberts 34. Savage 93R17 Classic 35. Browning X-Bolt N/S 7-08 36. Remington 700 SPS 243 37. Sako A7 300 WSM 38. Weatherby Vanguard B/S 22-250 39. NEF Pardner Pump 12 Gauge 40. Tikka Wood/Blue 25-06 41. Remington 870 Express 12/26 3.5” 42. Browning BPS 12/28 43. Beretta Urika 12/28 44. Savage 25 LW 204 Ruger 45. Remington 770 30-06 46. Stevens 200 22-250 47. Browning Silver Hunter 12/28 48. Tikka Wood/Blue 300 WIN MAG 49. Browning X-Bolt N/S 243 50. Sako A7 243 51. CZ-USA Woodcock 12/26 52. Browning X-Bolt N/S 300 WIN

Every raffle ticket sold will be included. 104 separate drawings for the listed firearms (2 of each on the list). Each week starting 1/4/2010 there will be 2 drawings. Maximum of 3,000 tickets to be sold. You could win several guns on a single ticket!


34 • BIG SKY OUTDOOR NEWS & ADVENTURE

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DECEMBER 2009

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Late Season Whitetail Hunting (continued from Page 4) used. Most deer B license are available through the June 1st special drawing but some are available for purchase at License Providers, including FWP Online Licensing. A hunter may possess a total of only seven Deer B licenses in any combination.” (Montana Hunting Regulations – pg. 23) The river-bottoms and areas in and around Missoula and Ravalli counties are home to some great whitetail deer populations. While much of the land in these areas is private, prime hunting opportunities await the hunter willing to make the effort to secure hunting permission and to help landowners manage the buck-to-doe ratio on their land. The 260-10 tag is the B license of choice for these areas. According to the MT hunting regulations, the 260-10 license is an over-the-counter B license for hunting with archery equipment only. The tag is valid in HD’s 204, 240, 250, 260, 261, 270, and 283. Up to five 260-10 Antlerless White-tailed Deer B Licenses per hunter. Valid September 5th – January 15th. (See MT Hunting Regulations Pg. 45 for more information)

Deer hunting in the late season can either be feast or famine depending on your access to food sources preferred by the deer in your area. Find the food and you’ll find the deer. Stands placed along agriculture fields can be a prime perch to watch the action as deer pour into the fields to feed. Also, look for suitable stand locations on travel routes to and from feeding areas. These travel trails will be important as hunting pressure often causes deer to avoid showing up in the fields until after dark. The key to making smooth transitions through the changing seasons is to use your head. Think like a deer. What food is available, what particular food source are deer using right now, where are the bedding areas, and one of the most important, what trails and travel routes are deer taking to get from Point A to Point B? Stay mobile and ready to move at a moments notice and you’ll be on your way to some late season success. Brodie Swisher is a world champion game caller, outdoor writer, and seminar speaker. Check out his website at www.BroOutdoors.com.


DECEMBER 2009

ON-LINE AT WWW.OUTDOORSMONTANA.COM •

Snowmobiling At Kings Hill/Little Belts

BIG SKY OUTDOOR NEWS & ADVENTURE • 35

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SERVICES: Snowmobile sales and service, plus food and lodging in Great Falls, Lewistown and White Sulphur Springs. Snowmobile rentals and lunch are at Showdown. Fuel, food and lodging in Lewistown, Monarch and Neihart. Guided tours available. A large parking area, the Kings Hill Winter Recreation parking lot, is available on US Hwy 89, as well as other overflow parking in the area.

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The Twenty Year Caribou (continued from page 27) caribou and some dandy bulls, just no trophy bulls can be located. We end up coming back across the bog and swamp to the ridge above the lake we landed on and the movement there had picked up. We have now spotted several bigger bulls with a couple possible trophy bulls headed our way. We are into the late afternoon and are starting to run out of time. Earlier in a location to the east of us Uncle Steve took a good trophy size bull. The guide and Steve were quartering this animal and heading back to our location. It’s now Friday late afternoon when first Jennifer spots a nice trophy bull, and then the guide and I see the trophy caribou headed in our direction. The guide takes Jennifer and me in the direction to head off the bull and get into position for a possible shot. We actually close the distance to 100 yards and the decision is made for me to shoot. This is a nice caribou bull with good tops. One shot and the bull travels only a few yards and goes down. I have taken a decent trophy bull with good tops, double shovel and small bez with back scratchers on both sides. This is a good representation of a Labrador caribou bull from this region. We spot a couple more bulls after quartering and capping my bull, but the guide insists they are not trophies. We head back to the plane to load up and go back to the camp. This was a good hunt. It’s October 3rd Saturday early morning and our last day to hunt. Five

hunters and we still have 7 trophy tags unfilled. We would head out this morning the earliest of all days we have hunted so far. Our game plan was to go in the direction we went yesterday as there was increasing movement in that area. After about 70+ miles and just over an hour, we were seeing many caribou and we spot several good bulls and one really good trophy bull. We set down on a lake nearby. This caribou bull has Jennifer’s name all over it. We head up the ridge away from the lake and quickly hit the top of the hill and have caribou streaming past us. We literally have to walk between the caribou to get on top to the point of the ridge. We are now glassing SW right above another smaller lake below and in front of us. On the next ridge over you can now see the large bull cresting the top and heading down into the field below. This field is about 600-700 yards out in front of us, above the small lake. As we wait for him and a couple other small bulls and several cows to slowly make their way across the field, he and another small bull and four cows bed down at 580 yards away. We are positioned on a rock outcrop right above the bedded caribou and the big trophy bull. The guide makes the decision to leave Bob (Jennifer’s dad) and me behind and take Jennifer on a sneak to get a better position and closer to have a shot on the bull when he stands back up. Jennifer and Medrick (the guide) head down the ridge to the right to walk across the swamp and skirt the lake and move

closer to the bull. All of this is in full view of Bob and I as we sit on the large rocks situated 500 yards above everything that is about to unfold. I am now videotaping the entire hunt from about 450 yards above them They have now dropped down the ridge and are making their way across the swamp, and the bull is laying quartering away from their movement. The sun is reflecting nicely off his tops and you can see this is definitely a trophy class bull. They have now made it out of the swamp and are coming into the field 250 yards away from the bedded caribou. There are four cows that bedded about 40 yards to the west of the two bulls. Medrick led the way with Jennifer right behind. As they came thru the bottom of the field, there were several bushes that were 2-3 feet high that covered the field and they moved slowly and quietly thru those bushes and stopped behind a small clump of pine trees, about 200 yards in front of the bulls. The wind was not exactly in their favor as it moved off to the SW, the caribou were more to the west. They were now less than 200 yards when Medrick decided they should start crawling. Hands and knees in the spongy wet bog, they carefully moved about 20 yards at a time. Somewhere about 100 yards away the cows in the back, which Medrick and Jennifer could not see, stood up and were nervously sniffing the air and staring directly in the direction of the two hunters. The bulls remained bedded but were now turning their heads east and alerted. Another move and Med and Jennifer are now within 75 yards and the cows are starting to nervously walk off, from my position above I thought Med and Jennifer could see this, but later I found out they never did see the cows. Another move and they are now approximately 60 yards out from the bedded bulls. The cows are now moving quickly out of the area and the bulls stand and are looking around. I can see hunter orange and not sure exactly what Jennifer is doing, and I can see the bulls plainly and the bigger bulls antlers still reflecting the morning sun. The big bull is quartered away looking at the cows that have now walked away quickly. The bull is offering no shot and time seems to be growing longer and longer. If the bigger bull starts walking away there will be no shot offered. The smaller bull walks past the bigger bull and behind him and the bigger bull turns perfect broadside to Jennifer, again time just seemed to take forever, nothing happening yet. Probably only a minute or two passed, but seemed like a half hour, and then - the bull dropped to the ground…………. Seconds later – finally the repeat of the rifle could be heard. One shot, and twenty years raced by, Jennifer had taken her trophy caribou bull with a successful sneak from 500 yards! Very nice tops and good mass on the main beams with a back scratcher and big thick bez on this old bull. This is a very nice trophy caribou that will look great on the wall and many memories that will come for years.

DECEMBER 2009

We hurried down the ridge and across the swamp to meet one happy hunter and a happy guide. We helped cap and quarter the caribou bull and head back across the swamp and back to the top of the ridge and had lunch. The whole time several more caribou could be seen moving directly above us and off to the east. We made plans to get back to the plane and fly to our last spot and an attempt to harvest our last caribou. Back on the plane and headed towards camp we actually put down less than 10 miles from camp and found what would end up being over a thousand caribou. Bob was yet to fill a tag and Uncle Steve wanted to tag out. Making it to the top of a ridge above the lake that we sat down in, we were quickly covered up with caribou that headed NE above us in two groups at 100 and 200 yards. One nice old bull, not the biggest trophy we were looking for, but with only an hour left Bob decided to harvest a wide old bull that had a great white main. The bull came out of a small ravine and Bob put him down. There was a similar nice bull with big bez and long main beams right behind that Uncle Steve ended up taking. The guides quartered those bulls as we moved forward a few hundred yards to glass for possible trophy bulls coming off the ridges In front of us to the west. Medrick had finished first and came back to take me north about a half of a mile to watch a movement coming off another ridge. We saw some nice bulls but nothing close to a trophy class. We had run out of time and were not going to take another caribou. As we headed back to the plane, we all watched to our west as the sun was setting. Several hundred caribou came off the ridge in front of us and were jumping into a lake to cross it. Watching that many caribou together swimming across the lake was something to behold – you would have had to be there – it truly was something amazing to watch. Now back in the Otter and flaps down we climbed up out of the lake and flew right above the big herd crossing below us, and headed back to camp. Looking back now, there were so many memories and moments those are amazing and will last a lifetime. Between 5 hunters in our cabin, we took 6 bulls, 3 of which were really good trophy representations from the Labrador herd. The other cabin with 6 hunters tagged out with 12 bulls, but several of those were smaller bulls. Because of being able to only effectively hunt less than 3 full days, and having 4 unfilled trophy tags, we get to come back to finish our trophy caribou hunt over the next couple years. We look forward to returning, and hopefully with good weather. I think Jennifer’s 20 year wait was truly satisfied when she finally held those large caribou bull antlers in her hands. Her smile was – priceless, while her dad was clearing his eyes to take more pictures of his daughter’s trophy caribou. I of course enjoyed every moment from behind the video recorder.


DECEMBER 2009

ON-LINE AT WWW.OUTDOORSMONTANA.COM •

BIG SKY OUTDOOR NEWS & ADVENTURE • 37

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New Tactics For Coyote Hunting Educated coyotes have your number? Try these tricks

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Hunting coyotes in December is a daunting task. The

•Call From Above: You don’t have to climb the tallest hill or perch on ridgetops, but you’ll kill more coyotes if you can see them approach your call. Find little humps or elevated side hills where you can see coyotes come in along dry washes, coulees and fence lines. •Pick Your Day: Coyotes are most active immediately following a prolonged cold snap. If you can get out on the first sunny day following a winter storm, you will see more coyotes out patrolling for food. Remember, they’ve been shut up just like you were, waiting out the storm, and their empty stomachs will make them relatively vulnerable to prey calls. •Hide Your Vehicle: Beginning coyote callers often don’t get far enough from roads. All the pickups that drove rural two-racks in November were shooting at coyotes, so predators associate engines with danger. Hide your vehicle in a fold of the prairie, or behind a screen of trees, and plan to walk up to a

predators have been on the receiving end of gunplay from every deer and elk hunter that encountered them over the last month. They will flare from every vehicle, and there are enough gut piles and weak and wounded ungulates on the landscape that coyotes don’t need to respond to your prey-in-distress imitation. But December can be a great time to call coyotes. The month’s winter weather generally makes coyotes go looking for food, and their fur is still prime. Plus, young coyotes are seeking new territory, so they tend to be visible and vulnerable even in the middle of the day. If you can pick your day, cover some ground and invest some sweat equity in hiking away from well-traveled roads, you’ll pick off more than your share of coyotes this month.

BY ANDREW MCKEAN

quarter mile to call to off-road coyotes. •Just Call: Here in the West, we can afford to make several stands in a single day. We have the room. So plan to spend no more than 20-25 minutes on each calling stand, then move to the next one. If you spend all your time trying to find a perfect place to call—where the wind is in your face, the sun at your back and you can see coyotes approach—you’ll kill only half as many coyotes as the guys who run and gun, calling from a dozen or more stands in a good day. Change Up Your Call: About 90 percent of the coyote calls are some sort of rabbit in distress. That’s solid, since cottontails and jackrabbits comprise a big percentage of coyotes’ diets. But every coyote that has responded to a bunny-in-trouble call and been shot at will remember the sound. Add some variety—electronic calls have dozens of sound clips ranging from fawn bleats to woodpecker-in-distress calls to crows—and you’ll pull in educated predators


38 • BIG SKY OUTDOOR NEWS & ADVENTURE

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Sagebrush News: The 20’s Plenty... . ..an idea I bought into many moons lock, stock and barrel. Lighter, faster handling guns, and as turned out plenty deadly for both upland birds and waterfowl at moderate range, which for me translates to 35 yards or less; beyond which I learned the hard way to simply pass.

THANKS TO THE DENSE AND DEADLY PATTERNS MODERN 20 -GAUGE 3-INCH MAGNUM NONTOXIC SHOT LOADS DELIVER PHEASANTS ARE NO LONGER SAFE EVEN WAY OUT THERE AT, SAY, 40 YARDS OR SO.

So you can imagine my delight when the 3-inch-20 loads first hit the streets. Hyped by the ammo makers as “everything a 2 3⁄4”-12 is and more” I couldn’t wait to surprise the next way out there rooster or, dare I say it? 45-yard goose! Alas, the surprise was on me, as mostly what I got were long range misses, or worse, cripples. Thank God for the dog. Subsequent proving on the pattern board revealed what I suspected (and yes after the fact is not the time). Blown patterns, some with holes big enough to...well, ruffle nary a feather. One major brand tested actually put just 5 lead shot in a turkey’s head (paper) at 40 yards! Needless to say I trashed the 3-inch-20s and penciled out the 20 as a long-range feather duster altogether. Then a couple years ago, while on pheasant safari in eastern Montana , a friend handed me some 3-inch-20 non-toxics. “Give ‘em a try you might be surprised.” I did and I was, this time pleasantly so...Deadly fits. However, later testing revealed all 3-inch non-toxics are not created equal. While some loads averaged 80-85 % pattern densities at 40 yards using improved modified choke tubes, others failed miserably and of those most kicked like a mad mule. At the time the why of this escaped me but as with solving most puzzles these days the answer lay but a few mouse clicks away.

DECEMBER 2009

Space constraints prohibit an in depth discussion but the simplified version is this: Stick to loads containing hard non-toxic shot—steel and HEVI-Shot are examples. It seems soft non-toxics (lead too) are subject to deforming badly and thus blown patterns. In fixed-breech guns (doubles, over/unders) loads containing 1 1⁄4 ounce shot and velocities in excess of 1250 fps. kick the proverbial you know what out of you...beware. Leaning on the extensive research of one Tom Roster I’ve now settled on moderate 20 ga. magnum buffered loads containing 1 oz.-1 1/8 oz. of hard non-toxic shot at muzzle velocities in the 12-1300 fps range. Such loads have proven to provide dense and thus deadly patterns at distances heretofore unheard of (by me). P.S. The downside to all of this is cost; high-end 3-inch non-toxics are not cheap, regardless the gauge but, worse, not all manufacturers offer their best stuff in 20-gauge. But if you happen to roll your own Roster’s worked out effective 3-inch non-toxic loads for both upland and waterfowl using readily available components that won’t break the bank. Like my friend said, try ‘em you might be surprised. Chuck is a freelance write and photographer, fly-fishing guide and avid upland gamebird hunter. To check out his articles, books, blogs, photos and more go to www.chuckngalerobbins.com.


DECEMBER 2009

ON-LINE AT WWW.OUTDOORSMONTANA.COM •

BIG SKY OUTDOOR NEWS & ADVENTURE • 39

PREDATOR HUNTERS, WE HEARD YOUR CALL. LOUD & CLEAR AVAILABLE AT: BOB WARD & SONS -Bozeman -Butte -Hamilton -Helena -Missoula CAPITAL SPORTS -Helena

And we answered with our new Coyote Special riflescope to give you exactly what youʼve been asking for. Engineered through real-world experience with an all-new BDC Predator Hunting reticle that will radically cut target acquisition time as well as allow for easy tracking on moving coyotes.

Coyote Special 4.5-14X40 and Coyote Special 3-9x40 Your choice of power range with 92% light transmission, 1/4 MOA adjustments and two unique camo patterns.


40 • BIG SKY OUTDOOR NEWS & ADVENTURE

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DECEMBER 2009

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Big Sky Outdoor News & Adventure - December 2009  

Outdoor News for Montana and Rocky Mountain States. Hunting, fishing, hiking, camping and more.

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