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Big Sky


OPENING DAY BUCKS Five Overlooked Big Buck Honey Holes


Understanding SCRAPES & RUBS


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when the best time to shoot a big buck is? The answer I always give is the month of October during the pre-rut. Now some of you may argue this, and the only reason I say that is because this is the time of year I have always had the best success. Somewhere down the line, the stigma of the dreaded “October Lull” has struck such a cord with hunters that many won’t even venture into the whitetail woods this time of year. I say don’t fear it but embrace it and you may very well take that trophy you are so eagerly yearning for. For those of you who have spent some time in your stand in October you know what I’m talking about when I say this time of year the woods explode with buck activity. They are rubbing trees, making scrapes, sparing with one another, and beginning to wander around in hopes of

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truly magical about being in the stand in November during the peak of the rut, never knowing what is going to happen next as these big bruisers, blinded by love, chase does all over the countryside. One thing that happens during this time though is what I like to refer to as “shacked up” this is when that big buck has won the heart of that special doe and they essentially “shack up” to breed. When this happens they may not move around much at all if any, and it can last for a few days before he leaves her to begin the search for another hot doe. As I have said before there is a lot of activity going on in October. Bucks begin rubbing trees and making scrapes as they stake claim to their territory and to show that they are ready to breed any receptive does. This can pay off (continued on page 40) ON THE

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Successful Hunters Know Where To Go MFWP


ontana Fish, Wildlife & Parks officials say the most successful hunters are those who know where to go to hunt. “Hunting involves more than a valid license and being a good shot,” said Quentin Kujala, FWP’s wildlife section chief. “Most successful hunters make a study of the big game species they hunt and of its habitat.” Kujala said hunters need to scout out areas well in advance. That way they know where the game is located, how it moves and whether they need permission from a landowner to access them. “Maps are a critically important tool for hunters,” Kujala said. “Today’s electronic access to maps makes it quicker and easier to identify landownership.” Many counties have landownership maps available, or go to the Montana Cadastral Mapping website at Montana Cadastral Mapping Program to view and download maps. These maps work similar to Google or Bing maps. Kujala said there are also landowners who grant access to hunters who have done their homework and who ask for permission to hunt by personally contacting them. “Hunters who research what they are doing tend to get more of a welcome from landowners too,” he said. Kujala also said that with the relative ease of hunting on Block Management parcels, some hunters may not hunt public lands or obtain landowner access—which creates opportunities for other hunters willing to do the research. Hunters can obtain assistance with access issues on the Hunter’s Tool Kit, under Hunter Access on the FWP website at Here FWP provides a Directory of Montana Maps with a county by county listing of landownership maps available, and state and federal land management maps. For an FWP-sponsored private landownership map resource, go to the GIS page at Kujala said he is also aware that in some areas those who outfit elk and deer hunts will allow hunters’ access for antelope hunting or antlerless white-tailed deer hunting at least part of the season. Steps that Kujala recommends for a successful and enjoyable hunting season include: researching the situation in advance, talking to other hunters and to landowners, putting together a plan for the season, and getting out for face-to-face meetings with landowners to request access before the season begins.


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There’s nothing particularly mysterious about hunting big deer. They

numbers have increased as deer migrated uphill to find water, succulent feed and plenty of space. They’ll be in the high country until snow pushes them down.

But you can shorten the search by focusing your hunting on the most productive habitat for older white-tailed and mule deer. And those places are highly dependent on local conditions, regional weather trends, and even the nuances of geography. In a nutshell, they’re very specific hidey-holes where bucks have found all the elements needed to live, and live long.

3. Haystack Mule Deer It’s also true that the lowest country around holds some of the biggest muley bucks. Especially this year, as whitetail numbers have been diminished by EHD, mule deer are only too happy to fill the vacuum. Look for trophy-class bucks in the evening feeding into irrigated alfalfa, fresh stands of dryland winter wheat and specialty crops like the Yellowstone River’s sugar beets.

are wherever you find them.

Here are five places to being your search for this year’s whopper Montana bucks:

4. River Breaks While elk hunting in the Missouri River 1. Eastern Montana Prairie Streams Breaks this fall, I was amazed to find Everyone has heard by now of the good numbers of mule deer, especially extensive die-off of whitetails from EHD considering that there are relatively (epizootic hemorrhagic disease) along few deer in the traditionally productive northeastern Montana’s Milk River adobe hills and badlands farther out in Valley down the Missouri and the prairie. Last winter was almost Yellowstone rivers and even along major universally awful for Montana’s wildlife, tributaries such as the Powder, Judith and and in the country around the Missouri Musselshell. The reports are real. Herds River and Fort Peck Reservoir, the only along the main drainages are toast for mule deer that survived were the ones this year. But many whitetails along that headed for the roughest country secondary tributaries escaped the full above the river. They’re still there. Ditto brunt of the disease, and these are the the rough country above the places you should look for mature bucks. Yellowstone, the lower Musselshell and the lower Judith rivers. Luckily, there’s an abundance of public land along these tributaries. Think 5. Urban Fringes Beaver Creek north of Wibaux, Of course, the most consistent place McDonald Creek east of Grassrange, to find mule deer over the last decade the forks of the Judith that head in the has been the urban refuges in Helena, Little Belt Mountains, and Beaver Creek Missoula, Fort Benton, Billings Heights south of Havre and Chinook. and other incorporated municipalities that offer safety, food and relative 2. Alpine Meadows tolerance from human occupants. These If you live in western Montana, you areas are still rich in deer, but the experienced a full month of forest fires, problem is you can’t legally hunt them smoke and scorching heat. So did your inside the city limits, where densities deer. Mule deer found escape from the sweltering conditions by heading uphill. are highest. Still, if you’re looking for an older age-class deer, it’s hard to beat There’s always been decent numbers these metropolitan bucks. The secret is of older bucks in the high country of the Pintlars, Highlands, Tobacco Roots, getting access to land on the city limits, where you can legally hunt a well-fed, Bridgers and other ranges of western Montana. But this year those mule deer trophy-class buck.




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Safely And Effectively Remove Your Elk Ivories COURTESY STUDIO PANDORA


he safest and best way to remove ivories is to use a small pocketknife. Push the blade between the gum and the ivory and cut the gum deeply all the way around. Slice the gum from the bottom of the tooth down to the jaw line (vertically) in a few places.

similar. Place the 2x2 against the side of the tooth, and hit the opposite side of the 2x2 with a hammer to loosen the tooth from the jaw. (If you are removing the ivories on location, use a thick, short branch, and rock, and complete the same steps.)

away from direct sunlight. For the best results to keep the natural beauty of the ivory, avoid the following, as it will ruin the ivories and make them unsuitable for jewelry making. *Never spray or soak ivories in chemicals such as bleach, peroxide, etc. to clean. *Never soak the ivories in tobacco or coffee. *Never boil in water.

When the ivory appears to be loose, use your fingertips to hold the ivory firmly from the top, twist and pull out

If you are removing the ivories at home, use a 2x2 or something

Cut or scrape away the large chunks of excess gum but avoid scraping the ivory that is exposed. Keep in mind that it doesn’t have to be cleaned perfectly. Avoid putting the ivories in a zip lock or plastic bag, as this will cause the gum on the ivory to rot and create an unpleasant smell. After returning home, bury the ivories in table salt for a couple of days. This will cure the gum and remove any moisture. Proceed with air-drying in a little dish for a couple more days,

When removing ivories, never use pliers, or any similar tool, as this will put deep scratches and chips on the ivories. Although the ivories can still be used in jewelry, they will have visible, permanent damage. After the ivories have dried, avoid storing them in direct sunlight or UV light, as this can fade the coloring. Following this process will ensure your ivories can be made into a beautiful piece of jewelry for you or your loved one. For more information on elk ivory removal or elk ivory jewelry options, contact: Studio Pandora Custom Jewelry Design or visit their website at



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Imade n August of 1863, Christopher Spencer his way to the White House with a rifle in hand. The gun he had invented was significantly different from traditional rifles of the time that could only be fired once before having to be reloaded. On an August afternoon in 1863, Christopher Spencer made his way to the White House with a rifle in hand.

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The Evolution Of The American Hunting Rifle


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The gun he was carrying, and which he had invented, was significantly different from traditional rifles of the time that could only be fired once before having to be reloaded. The new Spencer Repeating rifle could be loaded with seven cartridges in a tubular magazine and featured a lever under the trigger. When the lever was pushed down and then brought back up, the spent casing of the round that was fired was ejected and a new round was automatically fed into the chamber. Upon arriving at the White House, Spencer, President Lincoln and a naval aide walked over to a small park near the Treasury Building where the aide set up a makeshift pine board target so that Lincoln could test the new rifle himself. Repeatedly hitting the target, Lincoln was impressed with the accuracy, rapid-fire and multi-shot capabilities of the Spencer and immediately recommended the rifle to the Army. Soon tens of thousands of Spencer rifles were being delivered to Union troops. While the Spencer Repeating Arms Company foundered after the war, lever-action rifles, notably those produced by the Winchester Repeating Arms Company, became tremendously popular rifles among pioneers, hunters and homesteaders for the very same reasons they were popular among the troops in the Civil War. More compact, lighter, and easier to handle, they offered the owner quick and multiple shots before reloading. One of President Theodore Roosevelt’s favorite hunting rifles was a Winchester lever-action Model 1895. If the anti-gun movement had been active in the late 19th century, they may well have labeled such rapid-fire, high capacity magazine rifles as the “assault weapons” of their day. And it would have been as inaccurate then as it is today to label a civilian sporting rifle an “assault weapon.” For well over a century, many of our most popular sporting rifles have directly

evolved from a service rifle of a particular era. Battlefield requirements in a rifle such as accuracy, ruggedness, reliability and fast follow-up shots are features equally sought by hunters and target shooters. The bolt-action centerfire rifle, for many decades America’s classic deer hunting rifle, is a descendent of the First World War battle rifle, the 1903 Springfield. The bolt-action of the Springfield offered smooth and rapid cycling of the action and allowed for the use of a more powerful cartridge, the .30/06, accurate at ranges out to 1000 yards. More than a hundred years later, the .30/06 remains as America’s most popular big game hunting cartridge. The first semi-automatic (one shot per pull of the trigger) U.S. service rifle, the Springfield .30 M-1, popularly known as the Garand, saw service initially in the Second World War. Not long after the war, a wide range of semi-automatic hunting rifles as well as semi-automatic shotguns were developed by sporting arms manufacturers and have gained widespread popularity among both hunters and clay target shooters. Today, the AR-15 looks like the M-16 service rifle that first saw combat in Vietnam. To be sure, the AR-15 does not look like a traditional sporting rifle. Neither, in their time, did the Spencer or the Springfield. What the AR-15 does look like is the latest iteration of a modern rifle that employs advanced technology and ergonomic design to produce an exceptionally reliable, rugged and accurate sporting rifle. Produced in different configurations and chambered in a variety of calibers, AR-type rifles not only can be used for, indeed are exceptionally well suited to, many types of hunting, precision target shooting as well as personal protection. In recent years, AR-type rifles have become among the most popular sporting rifles sold in the United States. While AR-type rifles do look different, they function the same way as models of semi automatic rifles and shotguns (one shot per pull of the trigger) that have been in the sporting marketplace for many decades. From the Kentucky rifle to the most modern sporting arm, accuracy has always been the hallmark of the American rifle. Accuracy should too be the hallmark of any firearms debate.





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• 9




The Future Of Montana’s

Big Game Animals Is InYour Hands! There’s never been a more important time for YOU to FIGHT for your hunting and fishing rights. Complete this application today and Join Montana Sportsmen for Fish & Wildlife! Name: Address: City:

ENSURE YOUR HUNTING F FUTURE! UTURE! When you join, know your membership dollars are working for you and others in Montana.

hunting and shooting sports. The challenge of hunting elk in Colorado is not just for men. I asked Sabrina to write a story about her first hunting experience as a way to assist the readers in understanding the challenges and enthusiasm which accompany that first hunt experience. Follow along as Sabrina talks about her first hunt. -Jim Bulger My first big game hunt of my life was with my best friend, Trina, in 2010. We both had cow tags for Game Management Units 21, 30 and 31 during the third season. Trina had been big game hunting before and therefore knew the ropes of hunting. As for the gear, thanks to Trina, we had everything we needed. Anything I forgot to bring she had already packed for both of us. We were able to layer our clothing appropriately to the point that it kept us warm in the cold mornings and then we would need to shed layers in the afternoon. We stayed in a cabin close to our hunting units and brought plenty of food and water for the week. We even brought extra gas since we knew we would not be near a town with a gas station for the majority of the time. We were exceptionally prepared. One thing we needed help with was the weather.




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By Sabrina Schnelker, Courtesy CDW

During the first part of the week, it was relatively warm for November with highs around 40 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit during the day. There was not any moisture and the elk already had pressure from the previous hunting seasons. The elk did not have a good enough reason to come down to lower elevations because of the warm weather. We would have hiked up to them but unfortunately they were mostly on private property. Each year, it normally takes quite a bit of snow and cold weather to move the elk down on to the public land in this area. By Wednesday of third season, the cold and snow started to come in. Unfortunately, the several inches of snow we received was not deep enough to push the elk down to lower elevations but it was enough to make the roads horribly sloppy. The very first day of our hunt we found a cow but not the one listed on our licenses. It was a moo cow and it was stuck in a fence. They are not the brightest creatures in the world and somehow had gotten its back legs stuck in the fence. It was obvious that it had been there a while because there was hair stuck to the fence in clumps. Even though we were eager to get to our destination to start hunting, we could not let the cow suffer no matter how few brain cells they have. So Trina and I tried to stretch out the fence and encourage the cow to head in the correct

direction. We knew if she got free on the wrong side then we may have another problem on our hands. Especially since she did not realize that we were helping her. She was not in the greatest of moods and we thought we might be chased by an animal that could crush us easily. Luckily, after a few minutes of working with the fence she was able to free herself and went in the right direction. I think Trina and I were lucky that everything ended up okay. Our hearts were pumping a little bit harder than we expected due to the cows disposition. Just one more memory we will have from our hunting trip together! Once we made it to our hunting spot, we started scouring the dark timber for elk but the elk sign (scat) was about a day old. We could tell this by the dryness of the scat and in some areas there was frost on the scat but not snow. We knew when the last snowfall was so that helped to determine the freshness. While hiking in the timber, we discovered something we should have brought with us. Trina and I split up at one point in time and could not find each other again. We both had the truck, known as Big Red, marked as a way point in our GPS units but we did not discuss when and where to meet before we split up. After scouring the timber for

Photo Bill Velarde, CDW a while and not finding Trina or any elk, I decided to head back to Big Red. About 15 minutes later here comes Trina. She is hot from hiking in the warm weather and frustrated that she could not find me or any elk for that matter. It is still a little funny when I think about it! Yet another lesson learned, make sure you have some way to communicate when you split up. Hand held radios will be my choice next hunting season. (continued next page)



On Sunday of third season, we decided to take a different approach in the dark timber. We had information from some bull hunters that a specific block of dark timber had a few cows in it earlier in the morning. So we decided one of us would sit at the top of the dark timber. The other person would circle around to the bottom and then would head up through the timber toward the stationary person to push out any animals. I was ready for the hike so I volunteered to make the trek down to the bottom of the dark timber. It was an excellent idea but unfortunately there was not any elk in the timber.

a cow in my freezer right now.

During the entire week, we only saw one cow elk that we could shoot and it was running at full speed. Trina and I were driving to a new location to hike in and see if we could find some elk. We were driving past a section of timber we had scoured the day before. The cow raced out of the woods and crossed in front of us at about 100 yards. I got out of the vehicle, loaded my rifle and took aim but the cow was still at a full sprint. Trina whistled and got the cow to stop in its tracks for a mere two seconds. The brush around me was high enough that I knew I could not sit down to shoot because I would not be able to see the cow. I tried to steady my rifle while standing but I could not get my scope to settle on it. The two seconds were up. The cow figured out it was in danger and off it ran onto private property. This was a great learning experience for me. If I had dropped to one knee and supported my elbow on the other knee I would have

Preparation for your hunt and bringing the correct gear is essential. Elk can be difficult to hunt depending on the time of year, location and weather conditions. Even in the worst conditions, your best preparation can help you be successful every time. We already learned the mistake I made by not dropping to my knee. A great way to prepare mentally is

The rest of the week we spent battling the weather. The snow started coming in but was not enough to move the elk down in elevation. It was cold enough to snow but still warm enough that the roads became very sloppy. We spent a day on ATV’s trying to access some steep terrain. Saw a lot of tracks and scat but nothing fresh. We spent another day sliding through the mud in Big Red. We had to put the chains on her and work our way out of the mud slide. Trina and I were just as muddy as Big Red when we were done!


to think of scenarios and how you would react. Imagine yourself in my shoes and what would you have done differently? I am a small woman so for me to shoot standing up is not going to be the most effective way to hunt. This would also be applicable for youth hunters. The smaller you are the more support you will need in order to shoot accurately. Practice shooting from different positions and think about what you may need to shoot over or around brush and trees. In my case, the brush was too high to shoot from a sitting position but short enough that I could have shot from a knee. Hindsight is 20/20! Think about where you are and where you could shoot towards safely. When you move to a new area to hunt be observant and think of scenarios of where the elk could be and how you would react. Also think about where the elk will be once you shoot it. Is it in an area that you can access easily and get it back to a vehicle or ATV without too many problems? All in all, the hunt was an awesome experience and a great way to spend time with my best friend. We saw two white ermines, mountain lions tracks, bobcat prints, elk scat and beds and plenty of deer we could have shot if we had the proper licenses. I cannot wait to get back out there and experience it all over again. There are many things I learned from hunting with Trina. Take the experience of an amateur hunter and learn from my mistakes. I know I did!

• 11

Improve Your Accuracy With A RipPod

No More Wide Shot Patterns! The RipPod is a carbon fiber monopod, light but extremely strong. It attaches to your rifle, shotgun, bow or camera with a revolutionary magnetic attachment that is both quick and secure. The RipPod can be used for target practice and hunting to dramatically improve accuracy. Many hunters have come to realize the multiple benefits of a walking/shooting stick in the field. The number one concern of beginning hunters whether adult or youth, is physically being able to hold the bow or rifle steady while learning to aim and take the shot. The RipPod securely attached to the rifle or bow, virtually eliminates this concern. Beginning archers can also be aided in the same manner by attaining accuracy and becoming more confident archers in less time. In addition, accomplished archers will be able to shoot at greater distances, experiencing less muscle fatigue while holding their bows steady for longer shots. Available at




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Fly Tying Corner: The Gold Ribbed Hare’s Ear Nymph By Bob Bates,


ly tiers like to talk about their delicate dry and emerger fly patterns. However, when they get serious the Gold Ribbed Hare’s Ear Nymph usually shows up as one of their favorite flies. It is an all purpose nymph. Its various sizes can imitate nymphs from large dragonflies to tiny mayflies. Probably most people consider it a mayfly nymph imitation. Floating, sink tip and full sinking lines may be used to present it to willing (or hopefully willing) trout. As for retrieves, use any and all you can think of. Also you can suspend it from a strike indicator. It can be used in lakes, ponds, creeks, streams or rivers THE MATERIALS ARE LISTED IN THE ORDER THEY ARE PLACED ON THE HOOK.

Future Fisheries Improvement Program Projects Funded MFWP T he Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks diversions, improved upstream fish passage through road crossings, Commission has approved more than $325,000 in funding for 12 Future Fisheries Improvement Program projects recommended by a 14-member citizen panel. Project sponsors and other partners will contribute another $720,000 in matching funds.

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Applications for the next regular round of funding are due December 1. Anyone with a good restoration project that benefits wild fish is eligible to apply. Applicants are encouraged to work with local FWP fisheries biologists to plan the projects. Application forms and additional information on the Future Fisheries Improvement Program are available on FWP’s web page at

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Hook: Mustad 3609B, 9671, 9672; Tiemco 5262, 3761, 200R or other nymph hooks, sizes 6-22 Weight: Optional, 8-12 wraps lead-free wire Thread: Black 3/0 to 12/0 Tail: Pheasant tail fibers, hare’s mask guard hairs, tuft of hare’s mask fur, Red Fox squirrel tail, partridge hackle fibers, brown hackle fibers or none Rib: Gold tinsel, fine oval tinsel or fine gold wire Abdomen: Dubbed hare’s ear/mask Wingcase: Pheasant tail fibers, bronze turkey tail or wing, gray goose or duck, white tip turkey tail, peacock herl or pearlescent Flashabou Thorax: Dubbed hare’s ear/mask Legs: Rough dubbing or picked out guard hairs TYING STEPS 1. Smash the barb, and put hook into vise by the bend. (The pictured fly was tied years ago before catch and release was widely practiced.) 2. If weight is desired, put several wraps of lead-free wire on front part of hook (thorax area). Wrap thread on shank and secure wire. 3. Select several pheasant tail fibers, and use them to make a gap length tail. 4. Tie on gold tinsel or wire. 5. Now we come to the dubbin’ material. Packaged hare’s ear mixes are available, but the best fur is from real hair’s masks, with ears, imported from Europe. Trim all fur, except the light colored fluffy fur, off the mask and ears. Mix it in a blender, and store in a moth proof container. (If you use your partner’s blender be sure to wash it out before putting it away.) 6. Use your favorite dubbing technique; I use a dubbing loop on large flies. Put a thin layer of dubbing on your thread, and compact it into a thin fuzzy noodle. Always roll the noodle in the same direction. A little dubbing wax on the thread helps. Wind dubbed body forward. It is OK if the dubbed body extends well into the thorax to provide a base for the thorax. 7. Spiral rib forward (about 5 turns), secure and trim. 8. Position thread between 2/5ths to 1/3rd shank length back from the eye. Cut a segment of pheasant tail fibers wide enough to cover thorax, and attach it on top of body with tips pointing rearward. Have the dull side up. 9. Roll more dubbing onto your thread, and wrap a thorax that is thicker than the abdomen. Leave space at the eye to finish the head. 10. Bring wingcase forward, secure and trim excess. 11. Build a neat head, and whip finish. A drop of head cement on the thread windings will secure them against those mean fish that will hit your fly. For legs, pick out a few guard hairs from the thorax with a bodkin.








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Fishing for Largemouth Bass in Southeastern Montana MFWP exceptions. Nevertheless, here’s a couT he sun, peeking over stately buttes in pleof fairly reliable environmental factors eastern Montana, pulses and glows sending shimmering shafts of reflected sunlight from the surface of the reservoir. The heavy scent of sage carried by delicate currents of moving air lingers in the early morning air. Only a special breed of recreationist ventures to this remote area of prairie country at this hour - sunrise worshippers, bird watchers and bass anglers. At this early hour, two bass anglers walk down to the edge of the large reservoir, unlimber their fly rods and rig up with bass poppers. One angler turns to his fishing companion and says, “Here’s a sporty fish that gives you all the fight you want and one that’s a challenge to hook. What more could you ask of a fish?” Admittedly, a fair number of eastern Montanans think walleyes, catfish, paplefish and trout are “top shelf” and as traditional as apple pie, corn on the coband firecrackers on the Fourth of July. Lately, though, more and more eastern Montanans are now realizing that the largemouth bass is also as American as the hamburger and as sporting as the Merriam’s Turkey That the largemouth bass is one of our finest game fish need not be argued. He is prolific, hits artificial lures with gusto, fights strenuously with intermittent spectacular jumps and grows to a large size. Here is a stubborn fighter, strong and unyielding, and one definitely worth pursuing. Temperature and Light: Fortunately, bass fishing is not an exact science. If it were, it wouldn’t be much of a sport or much fun. As all fishermen must discover eventually, there are many factors which affect the way bass behave and feed. But there is so little consistency in the cause and effect that it is nearly impossible to make any reliable rule that will not soon be ripled with

that you should know a little bit about.

Temperature: Bass, like all fish, are cold blooded, which means that their body temperature is always the same as the water in which they swim. Light: It is a well established fact that bass hate bright light. When the sun is bright, bass have little choice but to find relief by seeking deeper, darker water areas or finding some sort of cover to shade them. If you like to fish for bass on the surface, a bright sunshiny day will probably not be your best bet. The deeper the sun penetrates the water, the deeper the bass will go. And, the deeper they go, the tougher they are to catch. For some reason, young bass are not so much affected by the sun. But the lunkers, the ones fishermen want, are. It has long been known that bass bite best just before or after a storm. Protected from the sun by cloud cover, the big bass are free to roam the shallows in search of food. Fishing Tips: Spawning occurs when water temperatures reach 60°F. Bass build and actively defend nests. Largemouths are very aggressive at this time and may strike at almost anything that moves near them. Males guard the nest and fiercely protect the newly hatched fry. Try your luck with largemouths in the spring and fall, with the best fishing in the morning and late evening. During summer, lunkers seek haven in the deeper, cooler waters, so fishing is often better at night. Bass generally lurk near some kind of cover - shady spots under weed beds, over. hanging trees, logs, brush, stumps, rocks and rocky points. The cardinal rule in bass fishing is caution. A sloppy or noisy approach will scare wary bass away. Fishing methods vary with season and water conditions.


• 13




Say Hello To Success: Where to chase the Fish this Month Brought to you by

Fall fishing in Montana. Does it get

fish all day long. This river is well known for it’s big population of large brown trout. Try fishing big yellow streamers for these fish. The Big Hole river is not far from here, and both rivers are flowing well and should keep you active all day long with anxious trout ready to go. The fall hatches on both of these rivers will keep the bugs in the air and the fish rising

any better than that? October will be an excellent time to be on any lake or stream. Water levels are perfect and cooler temps will get the fish feeding more as the days get shorter. Cold temperatures at night and cooler mornings make for the best chance to land the trophy fish of a lifetime. Whatever your favorite fish, now is the time to fish in Montana. Let’s take a look at what you can expect at some area waters near you.


Rock Creek offers up some great fishing here this month, and is a superb area to do a fall cast and blast day trip. October Caddis, Blue Winged Olives and Mahaganies are present now and the dry fly fishing can be an exceptional when you are in the right spot at the right time. The river also gets a run of spawning browns from the Clark Fork river. Nymphing or fishing streamers can be most effective when it comes to catching these migrating fish. A San Juan worm and an egg pattern are a good combination under your strike indicator. Brown, yellow and ginger colors work well this time of the year.

BLACKFOOT RIVER The Blackfoot comes into it’s own in the fall. The autumn scenery is unmatched and the bugling of a big bull elk in the foohills will make you wish you had a bow in hand. But the amazing fishing should keep you on the river. When the days shorten and the weather gets cooler, it’s streamer time on the Blackfoot, and as spawning time nears, the river population of brown trout get territorial and aggressive. Along with browns, the chances of catching a trophy rainbow trout are high. The Blackfoot river is often overlooked as it’s off the beaten path a bit, but the fishing can be magnificent. The mid-day dry flying can produce. Try BWO’s, Mahoganies, and October Caddis to start. The fish will be fat from gorging all summer, and should give you a good fight.

FLATHEAD LAKE Cameron with a great catch!


The “Root” will be fishing strong. In addition to good hatches of BWO’s, Mahogany Duns and Hecubas, the streamer fishing can be dynamite on cool, overcast days. Strip Cone Head Buggers, Zonkers and Double Bunnies work well. Cast around log jams or tight against the bank and big fish should follow. If you aren’t above putting a strike indicator and a split shot on your leader this would be a good time to start nymphing with glow bugs. These colorful balls of yarn can produce trout from now through winter and into spring. If you are in Hamilton, stop by Bob Ward & Sons for gear and information or give them a call at 363-6204.


A trip to Dillon this fall will do the body and mind good. Large quantities of big fish call the Beaverhead home. Clark Canyon Reservoir had another good year for water build-up and the river’s trout populations have benefitted. Consistent flows of cool water from the dam have really improved bug populations and the fish are very healthy and big. The Beaverhead will see outstanding BWO hatches all month and the nymphing with Scuds, Flashback Pheasant Tails, Lightening Bugs, San Juan worms and more will pick up

October is the month that lake trout will start to move into more shallow water looking to spawn. This makes for some of the best fishing of the year for these mammoth trout. Try the old standbys like Country Miles, Krocodiles, or other heavy spoons from the shore or boat. Vertical fishing with Bucktail jigs, Lead A Gators or Crippled Herring work well. By the end of the month the lake whitefish should start to gather in Polson Bay, where jigging with Rattle D Zastors, Buckshot spoons, Kastmasters and Ready-To-Go whitefish rigs will bring success.

UPPER MADISON RIVER Southwestern Montana requires us to be prepared for just about anything this time of the year, especially big browns and if you don’t mind hiking up a stream, you’ll usually find complete solitude. Nothing but the sound of the river and maybe if you’re lucky the sound of a rutting bull bugling in the background. Tiny fall Baetis Mayflies along with aggressive fish chasing streamers will be the gear of choice here most days. Keep in mind that the worse the weather, the better for dry fly fishing during Baetis times which will be from around noon until 5 or 6 pm. Reynold’s Pass downstream to below 3 Dollar Bridge is prime water right now, and some of the best Baetis activity you will find anywhere! Target pockets of slow moving water. Streamer fishing is always great in this area. Float the section from Ruby Creek down and you should find big browns eager to bite.


The Big Hole should be primed for an exceptional fall season. The river is in great shape and if there is a river ever designed to throw big streamers, this is it. Traditional patterns work well. For variety, try a large articulated pattern. Baetis activity will be stunning all month, so throw streamers early and late and fish risers through the afternoon.


The Yellowstone and Gardiner rivers in the Northeast corner of the Park will offer up some tremendous fall trout fishing. The annual spawning runs of brown trout are active on most of these SW Montana rivers and now is the time to be here fishing. Big rainbows lurk here too. Fall tactics call for getting to the stream early using streamers, soft hackles, traditional nymphing and dry fly tactics. Be sure to match the hatch. Size down to #20 or #22. Pheasant Tail nymphs and other Baetis patterns will catch fish. Copper Johns in #14-#18 in various colors. For streamers in the fall try larger articulated patterns such as the Galloup’s Sex Dungeon and Zoo Cougars. Also carry a good selection of Buggers, Zonkers, Minnow and Sculpin imitations. The Lamar, Soda Butte and Slough Creek areas will be fishing good as well with emergences of fall Baetis and Drakes.

CANYONFERRYRESERVOIR Canyon Ferry is deep and wide and fishing well here in October. The trout and walleye are active and the water is perfect. Try trolling deep diving cranks such as Deep Tail Dancers by Rapala for big fish. Also try dead drifting a worm attached to slow death hooks. Trout and walleye love the intense helicopter motion this presents. Fish the bays and drop-offs for the best activity. For day-to-day updates on the reservoir give Kim’s Marina a call at (406) 475-3723.


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Try drop shotting minnow imitations along weeded lines to pull the fish from their cover. A crawdad imitation is another little secret that will get fish to bite. Trolling crank baits and jigging are sure to catch hungry fish. Try slowing down your presentation to the fish, almost to a standstill, and see if this helps to pick up more fish. Tip everything you can with a nightcrawler, and you should see good results. Boat activity will slow down in October making for some pretty peaceful mornings and evenings on the lake.

HOLTER LAKE The rainbow trout fishing should continue to be excellent here in October. Try trolling Cowbells tipped with a nightcrawler around Split Rock and just above the dam. Fish early mornings in around 25 to 30’ of water for best results. If that is slow, move to 15 - 18’ of water and see if this helps. Walleye fish around Cottonwood Creek, Split Rock and any shallow bays you can find. Chartreuse jigs or bottom bouncers in 15’ of water in the evenings before dark also seem to work well for walleye. Again, this is the time of year to be drop shotting and fishing with minnow patterns. Another tip: if the fish are not biting within the first fifteen minute of where you are fishing, move!

NOXON RESERVOIR October and Noxon. What an awesome place to be. Tall mountains surround this big body of water and in the month of October expect big fish to be landed. The bass fishing will continue to be exceptional here. Fish the many weeded shorelines and inlets for bass and big northern pike. Perch like colors work well in the fall. Spinner baits in chartreuse, green, white and even red will catch the eye of a big toothy predator laying in the weeds here. Hold on tight when these pike attack, as they are known to fight hard and will resist once they get near your boat. For bass, fish with the same color patterns as mentioned earlier close to the shore and you should have plenty of action in around 8 to 14’ of water along weed beds and deep drop off water areas. If you haven’t been to Noxon Reservoir for some fishing, by all means, get up and fish it. For daily conditions give John at the Lakeside Motel a call at 888-827-4458. Jennifer Marshall of Helena





Snagging Kokanee through October is open here. If you can master the action you will catch a fish or two. Vertical jigging a spoon will work well here. Try early morning for best results for trout. If you are in the Helena area stop by Bob Ward & Sons for gear and updates or call (406) 443-2138.

SEELEY & SALMON LAKES Boat activity will be minimal now at Seeley Lake, and this will help you pick up some great fishing. Expect the northern pike bite to be strong, as they will start to feed aggressively as winter nears. Try casting a Rapala Husky Jerk #14 near weeded edges and sloughs, or spinner baits in chartreuse. The trout bite will also pick up in the fall. Troll for rainbows along shorelines.


Okay, so you’ve been pondering whether to take the long trip to Fort Peck Reservoir. Well, right now is the time to go, before cold temperatures come in for the winter. Big water creates big fish and Fort Peck is loaded with big walleye, northern pike, lake trout, bass, and a lot of other fish species. “The fishing has been truly exceptional for northerns this summer and will continue into fall. The bass bite is doing great as well,” reports Rock Creek Marina (406) 485-2560. Clint at Hell Creek Marina reports lots of happy fishermen coming off the water. “Plenty of action for northerns and aggressive bass as well,” he states. Call Clint at (406) 557-2345. “Not many people fishing right now,” reports Mary Beth Kibler, “but those who are, are doing very well and should be great fishing this fall.”

Book EARLY for BEST RATES and DATES! Check us out @ 208-476-3791

Fishing The Clearwater In The Fall is usually perfect in the mornings, afternoons are cool so that you can fish all day if you want and once the evening rolls around it’s “go time.” Jeff states. “When you fish in late November and December the steelhead fishing is truly remarkable, but then again, the weather can be anywhere from in the 60s and then dip into the 20s and 30s, as we experienced last year.”

CLEARWATER RIVER, ID “Idaho’s fall steelhead run is upon us and with the recent dam counts at Bonneville Dam, (over 100,000 steelhead have crossed Bonneville headed for the Clearwater), the “B” run is supposed to get a run that mimics last year’s run or maybe even better,” says Jeff from Jarrett’s Guide Service, “and last year was a very good year on the Clearwater.” Fall conditions could not get much better and the fishing will continue to get better as the days drift by and into the winter months. We had reports in early September that 2,500 to 4,000 steelhead a day were coming into the Snake river. The fall chinook salmon season runs through October on the Snake and Clearwater rivers. Salmon anglers may keep six adult fall chinook daily and must be 24 inches or more in length. Only chinook with a clipped adipose fin may be kept. Tight lines.

• 15

As everyone knows being in the outdoors

this time of the year is truly magical, and fishing on one of Idaho’s Jewel Rivers, the Clearwater river is truly an amazing experience. Known for it’s famous “B” run of Steelhead starting in the fall and fishing well into December, and into the New Year. “We expect this fall to be excellent fishing” says Jeff Jarrett, owner of Jarrett’s Guide Service. We spent some time talking to Jeff about fishing the Clearwater, and here’s what he had to say. I asked Jeff why fish the Clearwater in the early fall instead of the winter run? “One reason is the fish are very feisty from being fresh out of the ocean and are very aggressive as well. The weather

“It’s all good,” states Jeff, “It’s just a matter of preference for each person I guess.” I asked Jeff about the best time to fish for Salmon, and he said, “Normally our spring salmon season opens in late April and can run through July. The best time to fish is from early May to mid June or so,” says Jeff. “As soon as the snow melts away and the water is in good shape.” “We have been getting good runs since 1995 and expect this upcoming season to be great,” he says. “These trips book fast, normally, so if you are interested in fall fishing, you should call soon,” he says. If you have never fished this area, and would like to experience some of the absolute best fishing in the West, give Jeff a call at (208) 476-3791. A day out fishing here will be an everlasting experience, and the knowledge that you gain fishing with an experienced guide is priceless.





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detection. Then you should be ready to crawl the final few hundred yards to get close enough for a shot.

H unters lucky enough to draw a pronghorn tag in face a unique adventure that requires a different set of strategies than those used for hunting deer or elk.

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Compared to deer or elk, pronghorn are easier to locate. They roam wide-open rangeland rather than woodlands or steep mountains; they travel in large visible herds; and they do not hide in thick vegetation. But that doesn’t mean they’re easy to hunt. Pronghorn evolved with keen eyesight and the ability to outrun predators. The vision of a pronghorn compares to a human looking through 8X binoculars. Pronghorns’ ability to quickly burst into a sprint of over 60 miles per hour helps them to stay out of range of even expert marksmen. So what can a hunter do to increase the odds of bagging one of these magnificent unique game animals? The three major strategies are stalking, ambush and flagging. Stalking an animal with the vision of a pronghorn on the open range can be an exercise in frustration. If it is said that deer and elk hunters must be patient, pronghorn hunters must learn to be REALLY patient. A stalk may include crawling on your belly for an hour only to have the animals spook and quickly move a half-mile away. Experts estimate that only one out of five stalks gets the hunter close enough for a shot. A hunter who sees the animals before being seen gains a huge advantage. That means avoiding ridge tops and hills. Pronghorn can spot objects on a ridgeline at great distances. It is also important to consider wind direction to avoid sending a foreign odor in the direction of a pronghorn. Winds tend to change direction less frequently on the wide-open prairie. But for hunters, avoiding being seen by a pronghorn is most important. Sometimes it takes hours of hard work to get within range. The initial part of a stalk requires a hunter to move through draws and along the back sides of ridges to avoid

Be prepared to crawl through yucca, sagebrush, cactus and cow pies. Some hunters sew leather patches on the knees of their pants and on the elbows of their jackets for added protection against rocks and sharp objects. Crawling through an open field can be exhausting. If you are lucky enough to get close without being spotted, take the time to catch your breath and steady yourself before the shot. Some hunters prefer to wait for pronghorns to come to them. Waterholes and fence lines are the best places to wait in ambush. But waiting also requires great patience. Pronghorns alternate between feeding grounds and watering holes at varying times of the day. But it’s unpredictable how and when pronghorns move. Fence lines are good places to wait because although pronghorns have the ability to leap fences, they generally do not jump over unless they are really pushed. They prefer to crawl under or find a way around fences. One reason biologists believe pronghorns don’t like to jump is because their powerful back legs have the capacity to leap, but their front knees are not suited for the impact of landing. Searching for a place where pronghorn go under a fence can put a hunter in a great position to wait in ambush. This requires advance scouting to find crossing locations and good hiding places. Some pronghorns can also react with curiosity to shiny things and moving objects that draw attention. “Flagging” is the technique of trying to pique a pronghorn’s curiosity and getting the animal to come to you. The concept behind flagging apparently originated when early settlers were crossing the plains and noticed that antelope readily approached covered wagons. After you spot an animal, walk back and forth in an adjacent downwind draw while hoisting a white handkerchief on a stick. Curious animals will approach right away. If they don’t, they probably won’t come in at all. Some people have tried sitting still with a flag flapping in the wind above them. But stationary objects tend to go unnoticed. (continued on page 19)




• 17



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Anything Can Happen When Bowhunting Elk For The First Time

here is elk hunting and then there is elk hunting. In my humble opinion if elk hunting doesn’t feel like the most extreme hunting experience you’ve ever had then you may be doing it wrong. But there are folks who would perhaps argue that there are even more extreme hunting challenges to be had in this world, that is, if you have the resources to pursue them. This last elk season my mother AKA -“mom” (who, even at the height of 5 foot 3 inches, is by far the toughest member of our family) and stepfather AKA -“Art” (who resembles some sort of experimental genetic hybrid between a grizzly bear and a hells angel) decided to, finally, come elk hunting at the “Guerilla Camp”. It is worth noting that as a small boy growing up in Libby, Montana it was my mother who took me into the outdoors instilling me at an early age with what would prove to be a life-altering obsession. Though, admittedly, it was a challenge for me to understand at first why she would want to throw string at the water in pursuit of trout rather than catch the elusive and much more interesting leopard frogs that abounded in those streams. It took a few years to figure that out, but eventually, I came around. Both my mother and stepfather are avid and accomplished hunters whose hunting adventures have taken them around the world, but bow hunting elk is, somehow, something they had neglected to do. I had heard so many impressive stories illustrating how extreme and intimidating the wildlife in Africa is, and how dangerous this critter is or that critter was. I was, needless to say, very impressed with these stories and very happy that these two people, who I care so much about, survived these life threatening experiences to return home safely, let alone to finally bless me with their expert presence for this archery elk hunt. I did worry a little bit that bow hunting elk might be a little mundane for such accomplished adventure seekers and decided that I would just do my best to make sure they got the best impression possible with regard to pursuing elk with their *“slightly crazy” ex special-ops son. (*A descriptive my therapist chooses to use, hopefully, she will excuse me for the addition of “slightly”). Upon their arrival, it immediately became evident that Art and my mother had done their homework. They had in their arsenal everything from cow calls, bugles, new packs, to the kind of exclusive know-how that can only be attained from recording and watching every elk hunting program the outdoor channel has to offer on their DVR in the months prior. We excitedly discussed the use of decoys, types of calls and various other strategies to be used in the days to follow. Art’s confidence was inspiring to say the least; this giant of a man oozed the kind of “machismo” that could motivate a lesser man to storm a foreign beach on a suicide mission! As a man who firmly believes that confidence is the biggest factor in accomplishing anything challenging in life,

I was ecstatic to have such worthy hunting partners to work with. I couldn’t help but feel a little intimidated and a little sorry for the poor elk that were so obviously outmatched. In fact, the very next morning we were blessed with an opportunity for these battle proven warriors to display their “war faces” when we called in a fairly large satellite bull. Their highly unorthodox and deadly effective “war faces” consisted of widening their eyes to roughly 6 inches in diameter (I’m assuming to, somehow, better focus as well as to heighten their alertness) followed by the impressive ability to drain their faces entirely of any sort of color all the while trembling slightly, which I can only assume was to precisely match the movement of the fall leaves in the breeze. Even during my time as an Army Ranger I had never witnessed perfect execution of such advanced battle tactics and ice cold nerve control. I knew at this point that I was in the presence of greatness and that I should probably pay attention because school was quite obviously going to be in session the duration of their stay. It was easy to see by their failure to shoot or even react, aside from the obvious display of super human camouflage and alertness abilities, that the 5 by 6 bull was just too small for them to even consider harvesting. I knew at that moment that I was going to have to seriously consider “bumping up my game” if I were going to run with dogs as big as these. I asked Art what he thought of his first bull elk coming in to a call, hoping in vain for just a small “atta boy”. Instead he simply uttered the words “I had him at thirty” in a low and very shaky tone. I took this shakiness as an attempt to cover his disgust with not only the size of the bull, but with my calling abilities coupled with the fact that it was nowhere near as intimate of an encounter as he had hoped to achieve. In an attempt to hide any amateur behavior, I stepped off the distance at which this bull was actually standing, when nobody was looking. I measured closer to fifteen yards. It was easy for me to see that this obvious exaggeration was a stone cold killer’s way of sparing my feelings while at the same time suggesting that I “cowboy up” a little and get them in for an even closer look. In the next few days I am ashamed to admit that I had countless opportunities to redeem my guiding abilities. Something I desperately wanted to do, but it was becoming more and more obvious that I was the weakest player on this team. Art and my mother even began to take pity on me and tried to boost my ego by taking a few shots at elk which they obviously botched on purpose, apparently, not wanting to actually harvest a bull unless it was going to score deep into the record books. I do not pretend to be the quickest monkey in the woods, but it hurt my feelings a little because I saw right through their obvious ploy. On the second to last day of their stay I had all but given up, (continued page 30)





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Contact information: Mailing address: Custer National Forest 2378 US Highway 212 Ashland, MT 59003 Phone: 406-784-2344 Fax: 406-784-2596 Web: Directions: Red Shale Campground is 6 miles southeast of Ashland on US Highway 212.


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How To Hunt Pronghorns (continued from page 16) Shot selection is extremely important. Pronghorn present a small target. At a weight of just over 100 pounds, the vital target area is about the size of a small plate. Shots tend to be longer for pronghorn than other big game animals, especially on windy days when the animals are more alert. The average pronghorn hunter should know the capabilities of his or her rifle. A scope is essential.

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The ideal situation for any hunter is to get a shot when the animal is standing still. Don’t try to shoot a pronghorn that is running. Archers and muzzleloaders face even greater challenges. Most successful archers use blinds or decoys or both. Blinds are best used around water holes or known crossings along fence lines. A blind should be set up at least one week before planning to hunt to give the animals a chance to become accustomed to it. Decoys cut in the shape of a pronghorn outline have been known to

attract aggressive bucks that want to chase challengers out of their territories. Some bow hunters use decoys large enough to hide behind. But decoys also attract other hunters and are not recommended for use during rifle seasons for safety reasons. Since the time of Lewis and Clark, early settlers called pronghorns “antelope.” Pronghorns, however, are a unique species found only in North America. Their historic range is west of the Mississippi River from southern Canada to central Mexico. Biologists estimate there were 30-40 million pronghorn in North America prior to European settlement. By the 1920’s, there were fewer than 40,000. Hunting laws and sound wildlife management practices helped pronghorn rebound.




out in are easier to find. I like using a three way swivel with one swivel attached to 6 inches of 20 pound test monofilament line connected to a bell sinker. The other end swivel will have 10 pound test monofilament 24-30 inches long with a single hook. I sometimes will put a red or green bead in front of the hook. I then string a full night crawler on the hook and fish on the bottom.

Fishing With The Captain Mark Ward

O ctober is the month that most sportsman and women wait for all year long. This year, it is a month that no less than 4 hunting seasons will open. The last one of these seasons will be the big game general rifle season for deer and elk on October 22. While hunting is on the minds for most, there will be less crowded lakes and rivers for anglers. This year the weather conditions and spring and summer run-off combined to delay the good river fishing and even some lake fishing. The rivers started to get fishable around mid-July and traditional seasonal bites that normally happen for walleyes and northern pike in the lakes were also delayed until later in the summer and fished well late into the summer. Many days in October are just perfect for fishing. The high temperatures in the daytime are usually in the 70’s with light winds. On top of that there are many choices of where anglers can enjoy a day of fishing. One of my two favorite places for a day trip from my house is the lower Flathead River for smallmouth bass and northern pike. The river flow is low and the holes that the fish hang

The other body of water is Holter Reservoir north of Helena. I troll around Cottonwood Creek for rainbow trout. When the water starts to cool down with the fall temperatures the bigger trout start to come up and feed in shallower water. There has been a time when I caught all my 4-5 pound trout in no less than 9 feet of water with a depth of around 50 feet. Troll an orange or black or gold colored rapala around 1.7 to 2 miles per hour. Canyon Ferry and Hauser Reservoir offer some great trout fishing too! Clark Canyon Reservoir is also a good fall fishing reservoir. The trout in Clark Canyon just south of Dillon can range in the 8 to 10 pound class. Flathead Lake trout fishing is also very good in October. It is the time of the year that the lake trout get in their spawning mode and go into the shallower rocky shorelines. Many anglers like to troll or pitch jigs into 20 or so feet of water. They use light tackle and the chances of pickup up a bigger “Mac” on light tackle is good. If you want to try and catch some lake whitefish then October is the time, and the upper Flathead River is the place to fish for the spawning whitefish. Anglers can fish for these 2-5 pound fighters from boat or from shore. There is no question fall is the time for hunters in Montana, but anglers will also find it is a great time to catch fish and enjoy less crowded lakes and rivers too!

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




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Veteran Trapper on Front Lines of Delta Waterfowl’s Low-grass Research Delta Waterfowl waterlogged his traps are accessible only by ATV or on foot. As Carter drives he verbally foreshadows every bump in the road (some are completely washed out, impassable serpentine groves cut by torrential downpours), a running commentary that occasionally veers into his life as a trapper and his work for Delta. “Do I think trapping helps the ducks? Yes I do. I really believe it has,” says Carter. “You have to get’em hatched for ‘em to have a chance.”

Depending on the day, Carter’s scent can

Few trappers are more qualified to get ducks off the nest and on the wing than Carter, who has made his living as a trapper since he quit high school. Carter’s face creases with a wry smile when he tells the story.

“I’ve gotten some quizzical looks over the years because apparently I don’t always have that downy-fresh smell,” said the good-natured 53-year-old North Dakota native, who has been a trapper for Delta Waterfowl since 2002. “The good news is that I seem to always get to the front of the check-out line in the grocery store. Perks of the job you could say.”

“I wasn’t doing well in school because I didn’t want to be there—I just wasn’t paying attention and I wasn’t doing my work,” he said. “One day I got called to the principal’s office and there was my father.”

pucker your nostrils, perhaps even burn them like napalm in the morning. After all, he who works with skunks sometimes gets sprayed.

Carter is on the front lines of Delta’s ongoing predator management research in low-grass areas. Delta began trapping sites in both North Dakota and Manitoba following research that showed duck production in areas with abundant nesting cover produced at population-expanding levels without managing predators. In landscapes with limited nesting cover and chronically low duck production, preliminary research results indicate managing predators can significantly increase nest success. Enter Carter, whose job, in effect, is to bring balance to a prairie landscape replete with mammalian predators, many with a particular taste for duck eggs and nesting hens. On a sun-splashed summer day recently, Carter drove parts of his six-square-mile trap block, some of which are so

Carter adjusts himself in the front seat of his truck, his eyes tucked behind black sunglasses, a toothpick anchored in the side of his mouth. His smile broadens; he’s clearly satisfied as he continues the story. “They basically said there’s no use in me being there, and I agreed,” he said. “Then they asked me what I planned on doing with my life.” “I’m going to trap,” Carter said proudly. They laughed. Carter wasn’t amused. “I will prove you wrong,” he told them. “And you know what? I have.” Carter said “there were trappers everywhere” when he began in earnest in the early 1970s. That’s when gas, he noted, was about 45 cents a gallon. Today, Carter is a relic of bygone era, and gas prices hover near $4 a gallon. “There are only a handful of trappers out here now, it’s really a lost art,” he says. “It used to be so competitive and so secretive. It was very hush-hush back when I started. But now no one wants to do the work because

it’s so hard and the market is just not there.”

one, can do a lot of damage—to property and duck nests.”

At its core, trapping is about ideas—ideas honed over years of trial and error. Carter takes immense pride in the “sets” he’s designed to lure furbearers into his traps, although he’s loathe to give details. “Some things just aren’t for sale,” he says.

The raccoon discussion gets Carter in the mood to talk about his favorite set. He has created what he calls a near-perfect recipe for luring raccoons. It starts with the Lil’ Grizz Get’rz, a dog-proof coon trap.

But Carter can’t resist. He opens a small jar of beaver caster, a common trapping lure, and sticks it under the nose of his passenger, whose eyes spontaneously water. Its concentrated, pungent odor can, to the uninitiated, turn your stomach upside-down and inside-out. “I love the smell,” he says with delight. “I could put it on my pancakes.”

To entice the nest-marauder, Carter uses salted sardines and marshmallows. The spoil-free salted sardines provide the smell and the marshmallows appeal to the raccoon’s apparent sweet tooth. “The first marshmallow on top of the trap they get for free, and the second one, on the trigger, costs them,” he says, noting he sometimes coats the marshmallows with chocolate frosting. “It’s one of the best concoctions I’ve ever come up with.”

Asked what his favorite trap set is, Carter, a self-taught man of steel, mulls the question as he turns right onto yet another lonesome gravel road. Carter knows every homestead and landowner in these parts, many of whom he’s courted and worked with as part of his Delta work. “The easy part of the job is trapping,” he says. “Keeping landowners happy and content can be a little more challenging.” Carter says he’s occasionally approached by landowners who have nuisance predator problems, especially raccoons destroying their property, and his willingness to help smooths relationships for his Delta work. “More and more are seeing the value of what we do,” he says. “It’s getting better every year we’re out here. I enjoy helping out; raccoons, for

As the mid-afternoon nears, Carter has nearly completed checking his trap block. Driving on a minimum maintenance road, he turns into a road approach, where, just yards away, one of his traps killed a skunk the day before. “Boy you can really smell him, he was a dandy,” Carter says. “In years past I’d collect the skunk essence and sell it to a guy in Georgia who makes hunting lures and cover scents.” But there are hazards to that job, like accidentally nicking the essence sack with a knife and getting nailed with a projectile of green skunk slime. “I’ve done it before, and I’ve stunk for days,” he says. “I’ll tell you what; women aren’t big fans of skunk essence.” Especially when they’re downwind of Dennis Carter.

Dennis Carter at work.




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FWP Commission Sets Final Waterfowl Season Dates MFWP The Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks

Commission has set the late season migratory bird hunting season dates for ducks, geese, swans, and coots. Federal survey results show that habitat conditions and population numbers are generally very good for migratory birds— all duck numbers are 35 percent above the long-term average, with mallard numbers 22 percent above the long-term average, and pintail numbers up 26 percent from last year. Here are the 2011 waterfowl hunting season dates: Central Flyway Youth Waterfowl Season: Sept. 24-25. Duck, Coot and Tundra Swan (500 permits only) Season: Oct.1–Jan. 5. Ducks: Daily bag limit of six ducks or mergansers, possession limit twice the daily limit. Daily bag limited to no more than five mallards, no more than two of which may be hens; two redheads, two scaup, two hooded mergansers, three wood ducks, two pintails, and one canvasback. Coots: 15 daily, the possession limit is twice the daily limit. Goose Season: Oct. 1–Jan. 13. Dark Geese: Daily limit of four, the possession limit is twice the daily limit. White Geese: Daily limit of six, the possession limit is twice the daily limit. Falconry Ducks and coots: Sept. 21–Jan. 5. Geese: Oct.1–Jan. 13.

School Trust Lands And Hunters, Anglers And Trappers MFWP

Pacific Flyway Youth Waterfowl Season: Sept. 24-25. Scaup Season: Oct.1–Dec. 23. General Waterfowl Season: Oct. 1–Jan. 13.

chool trust lands offer some outstanding opportunities for Montana hunters, but the rules for using them differ from most other public lands in the state.

Ducks: Daily bag limit of seven ducks or mergansers, possession limit twice daily limit. Daily bag limited to no more than two hen mallards, two pintails, two redheads, one canvasback, and three scaup.

School trust lands are special places set aside for a special purpose—to generate revenue for public institutions, including public education. Montana’s 5.2 million acres of state school trust lands are managed by the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation.

Coots: The limit is 25 daily and in possession. Goose Season: Oct. 1–Jan. 13. Dark Geese: Daily limit of four, the possession limit is twice the daily limit. White Geese: Daily limit of six, the possession limit is twice the daily limit. Swan (500 permits only) Season: Oct. 15–Dec. 1. Falconry: Ducks, coots, and geese: Oct. 1–Jan. 13. For more information on Montana’s 2011 waterfowl hunting, including how to find a good hunting spot, go to the waterfowl hunting guide on the FWP website at—and click on the hunt planner.

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Hunters and anglers pay a $2 access fee included in the cost of a conservation license for recreation on legally accessible state trust lands open to recreation. Trappers must also possess a “Special Recreational Use License” available at no charge from DNRC offices. This license may have additional land use terms and conditions. State school trust lands are generally sections 16 and 36 of each township, though they may be consolidated into larger blocks in some areas. For a detailed set of land use rules, contact the nearest DNRC office. DNRC use rules include: -Camping is permitted at designated camp areas for 14 days. Only two consecutive days of camping are permitted at

undesignated sites 200 feet from an authorized access point. -All roads on state school trust lands are closed unless designated as open. Open motor vehicle use is generally restricted to federal, state and regularly maintained county roads, or roads designated as open by DNRC. Off-road use is strictly prohibited. -All parking must be within 50 feet of a “customary access point.” Of course, you can also park on a federal, state or county road when it is legal under local traffic rules. -Open campfires are restricted to designated campgrounds. Some FWP managed Block Management and wildlife management areas include state school trust lands. In these cases, Block Management or WMA rules apply. Maps that show designated roads on state school trust lands are available at U.S. Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service offices. An informational brochure on state land use rules is also available at all FWP and DNRC offices; for an online version, go to http://dnrc. on the DNRC website. For questions, contact DNRC Recreational Use Coordinator Dan Dobler at (406) 444-9726, or contact your local DNRC office.

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SCI Fights for Hunting Rights Before Congress SAFARI CLUB INTERNATIONAL

On behalf of millions of sportsmen

and women across America, Safari Club International’s (SCI) Director of Hunter Advocacy Melissa Simpson testified Friday, September 09, 2011, before the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands of the House Natural Resources Committee. The testimony was in support of H.R. 1444 and H.R. 2834, both of which would require that hunting and fishing activities be included in all management plans set forth by federal agencies for publicly owned lands. “Sportsmen and women have been advocating for years that hunting and fishing should be recognized as a recreational priority in every land and resource management plan,” Simpson said. “This legislation has become necessary due to anti-hunting radicals that are attempting to use the courts to limit public land hunting opportunities and sever the link between hunting and conservation. These bills are drafted in the spirit of the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act which recognized the importance of hunting on Wildlife Refuges and passed with overwhelming bipartisan support.” SCI believes that federal lands should be managed for multiple-use. H.R. 1444 and H.R. 2834 would require that hunting be included in all land management plans established by the Department of the Interior and the Department of Agriculture. “SCI applauds those members of Congress who have introduced and support these bills and all other legislation that helps to safeguard our hunting heritage,” Simpson continued. “We look forward to working with the Natural Resources Committee to pass this important legislation as we continue our fight to protect the freedom to hunt.”

Stimson Forestlands Conservation Project MFWP

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks

(FWP) will be sponsoring public open houses in both Libby and Troy to obtain preliminary public input on the proposed 28,000-acre Stimson Forest Conservation Easement Project. The meetings will run from 5 -7:30pm and will take place on October 3 in Libby at the First Montana Bank meeting room and on October 4 in the Troy High School Library. The proposed 28,000-acre conservation easement would be purchased below appraised value by FWP using funding from a variety of sources including a recently awarded $4.0 million grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Habitat Conservation Plan Program. The proposed conservation easement to be held by FWP would help maintain current land uses on these private lands by restricting development and other activities not compatible with continued forest management. FWP will take public scoping comments through November 4. Please contact Gael Bissell at (406) 751-4580 or email to


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When Deer Move - You Better Follow By S. L. Merriam

E very year I speak with sad-faced Montana hunters that lament about the lack of success in their hunting area. They had hunted in this place with their father the last 20 years but over the last three years, hunting success had dropped to zero. What this says is that the habitat has changed but their hunting habits have not!

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Setup for the Tailgater Portable HDTV System is easy. After connecting your devices as instructed in the User’s Guide and Quick Reference Guide, you simply follow the on-screen instructions. The Tailgater will automatically find the satellite orbital locations for your DISH Network programming. When you’re done watching, simply power down the Tailgater and receiver, disconnect the cables, and take your system with you. Because it’s portable and lightweight, it’s easy to carry from one outdoor activity to the next. The Tailgater Portable HDTV System will only operate in the 48 contiguous United States. Features include: -Supports both HD and SD programming -Display resolutions: 480i, 480p, 720p, 1080i -Portable and lightweight with built-in ergonomic handle -Compact to fit any space -Weather-resistant cover -Integrated security bracket Plus, only DISH Network offers Pay-as-you-go, so whether you’re a diehard football fan from September-January or a dedicated camper from May-August, you only pay for the months you use.

Deer are always a moving target - literally. For an eastern hunter the changes are subtle but as timber matures and undergrowth becomes shaded out by a thick canopy, both cover and food disappear. Deer have no sentimental feelings towards a certain mountain or woodlot; when food disappears they move to better range or they starve. When a hunter persists in hunting such places, all he can do is hope for a miracle. Identifying the factors that cause deer to disappear must start with a hunter paying attention to changing food sources and locating the new ones. As summer browse dries up it becomes less appealing and forces deer to search for other foods. The new foods could be natural mast crops like acorns, apples, nuts, or man-made foods in agricultural fields. Finding winter wheat, which will sprout fresh green shoots during hunting season is a good place to start. Agricultural practices are one reason for today’s high deer population. Although suburban sprawl removes habitat, existing farmland remains very expensive making it less desirable for subdivisions. As farms continue to become more efficient in land use the habitat parcels they remove to add more tillable acres eventually increases deer food supply. You rarely hear of good farmland being converted to hardwoods or left to go wild unless the farm has been lost for financial reasons. Deer in agricultural areas will only migrate into the next available corn or bean field. As long as stream bottoms remain untilled there will always be escape cover amid today’s agricultural banquet.

Weather also determines deer movement. In many western locales deer migrate to lower country to reduce the effects of winter. Because they move, time spent hunting the high country, on deer summer range, insures there won’t be any deer when you arrive. As it gets colder deer expand their food search to find higher levels of protein and carbohydrates. Soybeans, being 30% protein, top both natural and planted crops while most other foods are similar to corn and weigh at about 7% protein. Protein utilization becomes a factor that changes deer feeding habits. Trees and bushes, with next spring’s buds, which are small but plentiful, provide up to 15% protein. Grass and other plants along roadsides stay green and healthy long after others dry up. Roadsides stay green because moisture drains to the edge from the crowned pavement. These roadside buffets receive extra water and stay green but often become dangerous food magnets along busy highways. Changing vegetative cover also determines movement. Standing corn provides cover during the summer but when a field ripens and is left standing, it becomes an excellent source of both food and cover. Ask mid-west hunters what happened last fall when rain delayed the corn harvest and the deer disappeared; they had no reason to leave the corn. States like Missouri suffered a significant reduction in their rifle harvest as warm temperatures and pouring rain reduced deer movement. Once the corn is picked however, the standing stubble remains an excellent food source and when a field lays adjacent to thick stream bottom cover; the combination creates a hot spot for an evening watch. Hunters that fail to respond to natural changes in the food, cover, and weather end up complaining about a lack of deer while hunters that move with the deer will have to sort through a lot of bucks before finding the one they want!




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Tips From Whitetails Unlimited: Understanding Scrapes and Rubs By Jeff Davis, Editor

U nderstanding Scrapes and Rubs can help you find deer in the fall

and increase your chances of success. This deer behavior is driven by elevated hormone levels as the days begin to shorten in August, September and October (depending on the part of the country where a deer lives). Information courtesy of Wildlife Research Center’s Scrape Hunting Booklet. Tip 1 A “scrape” is an area on the ground created by a buck as a signal to other deer. Scrapes range in size from a square foot to the size of a car hood. A scrape is typically positioned five feet below an overhanging branch. There may be just one scrape, or a series of scrapes created by a single buck. Tip 2 A scrape is made by a buck to mark territory to all of the deer in an area, bucks and does. Scent from saliva and the pre-orbital gland on the top of the head are deposited on the overhanging branch, and urine and glandular secretions may be deposited on the scrape. Other deer

analyze these scents, and often leave their own markings when visiting scrapes. Tip 3 An older buck will usually scrape more often than younger, less-dominant bucks, have larger scrapes and will typically start this activity earlier in the year. Dominant bucks will also be more vigilant in maintaining scrapes over time and will often maintain them after the peak breeding period. Preferred scrape areas tend to be used year after year. Tip 4 The sense of smell in a deer is much more sensitive than a human’s. The olfactory area of their brain is 1,000 times larger, there are many times more nasal receptors, and the nasal passage is eight times longer than ours. At a scrape, deer can tell doe urine from buck urine, when does are nearing estrus, and decipher dominant bucks from less-dominant bucks. Tip 5 An area with a lack of scrapes may

have an out of balance buck-to-doe ratio or age structure, with too many does providing for less competition for the available bucks. These bucks do not need to continually define their breeding territory. Tip 6 Rubs are areas of trees that are worked over by a buck’s antlers, and bark removal or defoliation occurs. Rubs are not where deer have removed their velvet (which happens earlier in the year), but are more of a “sparring partner,” where bucks release excess sexual frustration and energy and leave scent marking from glands on the head. Usually young males use small, whippy saplings and larger bucks use small trees. Tip 7 Scrapes are often found near transition zones, bedding areas, trails and corridors and can mark territory borders that are used by multiple bucks. For bigger bucks, look for scrapes that open first, are larger, clusters of multiple scrapes, and scrapes that are freshened repeatedly (many scrapes are freshened during the night).

Tip 8 After finding a good active scrape, you can make an your own scrape using artificial scents to make it appear that another buck is moving into an established territory. You will need to research and plan this well in advance of your hunt, and don’t overdo application of the scent. Remember, a deer’s sense of smell is much better than ours.




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Becoming A More Effective Waterfowl Hunter USFWS down a duck instantly. A well-placed shot D uring the early 1900’s, waterfowl provides a quick, humane kill. hunters were the leaders of this country’s

•Follow through with your shot. Keep the barrel moving after firing your shotgun. Learn to pull through the target. Allow more forward allowance (lead) than you think is necessary when a flock is passing by; many birds are not taken because hunters shoot behind the flock. Because of dwindling habitat, waterfowl •Do not shoot into the middle of a flock. numbers are under tremendous pressure. Often such shots wound adjacent birds. This makes it important for waterfowl On an incoming flight, select an isolated hunters to be as efficient as possible and bird, such as the last or highest bird, or a do everything in their power to ensure bird on the edge of the flock. that every duck or goose that is shot is • Do not shoot at birds flying away if retrieved. Improving hunting techniques they are beyond 30 yards. If the back of will not only help get good shots, but a bird is facing you, the bird’s vital organs increase the likelihood of lethal hits. are shielded by ribs and backbone, making it much more difficult to take that single, The Cooperative North American lethal shot. Shotgunning Education Program •Do not shoot through brush or trees. (CONSEP) provides the following tips •Know where your bird is going to fall. to assist hunters in becoming as effective Ideally, the waterfowl should fall in open and efficient as possible, and to reduce water where it is easier to retrieve. unretrieved losses. •Do not shoot at one bird while retrieving Tips for Successfully Bagging a Bird another, especially if the first bird has •Shoot within your personal maximum landed in dense cover. Take a mental shooting distance – no “sky busting.” snapshot of where the bird landed by Know the effective range of your shotgun lining up the spot with something on the and your own shooting skill. The average horizon or select a landmark such as a tree hunter is able to shoot successfully at a or an easily identifiable plant. Don’t erase target that is less than 25 yards away. Set that mental snapshot in the excitement of decoys in such a manner to bring the birds trying to bring down a second bird. in close. Set specific decoys so that they •Practice shooting with the ammunican be used as yardage markers. When tion that is appropriate for the type of birds are in the decoys, you know they are game you are hunting. Use appropriate within your effective range. Practice at a shotshell loads and chokes for various trap or skeet range is critical to determine distances and types of game. and improve your skill level. •Do not shoot duck loads at geese. Geese •Learn to estimate distances. require larger shot. Using ammunition Hunters can train themselves to accurately intended for ducks will only wound the estimate distance to a target by using geese. Generally, using larger shot is more the end of the shotgun barrel as a gauge lethal and causes fewer unretrieved losses. against the size of the bird, using •No more than two hunters should be landmarks in the field as reference points, shooting simultaneously. Fast shooters and tracking or following the target with and slow shooters can easily upset the gun barrel or finger. timing of their companions if multiple •Take your time — but not too much hunters are taking shots at the same time. time. Concentrate, fire the shot with a Two hunters should take turns shooting or steady hand and swing through smoothly. decide which hunter will take which bird. Pellets must penetrate a vital area to bring conservation movement. True to that tradition, waterfowlers are still ardent conservationists who care deeply about the birds they hunt – and the need to conserve is just as great today as it was a hundred years ago.

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Y ou’ve spent countless hours getting ready for turkey season. You have scouted a great location with plenty of gobblers, and you’ve practiced your calling. What about your turkey gun? There are some very important aspects of accurately shooting a turkey gun that need your attention before the season rolls around. After you’ve found a load that patterns well, one that puts over 100 pellets in a 10-inch circle at 40 yards, it’s time to fine tune. When you’re shooting a tight-patterning shotgun at a small target — like a gobbler’s head and neck — you have to be sure the core of the load is hitting precisely where you aim. Similar to shooting a rifle, changing loads from one brand to the next

can change the point of impact down range. Switching choke tubes can change point of impact, too. Here’s a simple checklist for getting the most out of your patterning sessions. When sighting-in and testing loads, use a steady rest. Wear your hunting clothes to make sure the gun fits the same way it does in the field. Try a few shots from a sitting position with the gun propped on your knee to make sure our eye — your rear sight — is lining up the same as it did from the shooting bench. If your turkey gun has bead sights, remember to press your face tight to the stock for every shot, keep the beads in perfect alignment, and your shooting eye focused on the front sight, which should slightly blur the target.






‘11 Antelope Season Hunting Outlook MFWP

True Love And Expert Flatlanders (continued from page 18) my ego bruised, humbled, and quite embarrassed at my abilities, I managed to motivate myself to go out for one last day of brutal lessons in humility. We hunted down a ridge and got a response to a cow call in the form of what sounded like a freight train busting through the woods at about sixty miles an hour straight towards our position. We were in a berry patch and the only cover for these guys to set up on were a couple of spruce trees about seven inches at the base and spaced about five feet apart. After inspecting each other’s “war faces” briefly, they expertly crouched down facing opposite directions behind the spruce. While doing my best to get a little bit away from their perfect ambush position so that I could call this bull past them, I prayed that this bull would be a “shooter” because it would most likely be my last shot at redemption. What came next was, I think, a look of annoyance from my mother. I’m not sure what annoyed her more the fact that this misbehaving bull decided instead of going around the only cover, (cover that was already occupied by her) that it would in its impatience go straight through said cover or the fact that its horns got stuck in the five foot space between the trees causing substantial commotion. One thing I did know was that this bull would probably be a shooter to an amateur like me, but I was confident at this point that my hunting partners would likely not be impressed by its meager 320 class antlers. It is worth noting that this bull had showed up to do one of two things, and judging by my mother’s “war face”, which seemed to be growing more and more intense, she had no intention of allowing this bull to do either. The wind must have picked up because they were both doing

the leaf mimicking shake at a slightly higher rate of speed. My mother’s annoyance seemed to peak when this rowdy bull finally freed its horns with some thrashing and stumbled out nearly stepping on her and drooling directly on her expensive hunting cap. God bless Arthur’s heart for trying one more time to make me feel a little better but it was much harder to make his botched shot look “real” at less than one yard from such a large target. He wholeheartedly tried to achieve this impressive feat however, all the while maintaining for my sake his cutting edge “war face”. The fact that he only drew his bow three or so inches and then fired the shot straight up into the air which landed only twenty feet up one of the trees and made it quite obvious to me he was just phoning in the deception at this point. My mother who was obviously fed up with the excessive drooling on her attire quickly got up and began to run, in the interest, I’m sure, of not getting her nice clothes any slimier. She stopped about ten yards away turned and tried to pretend like she too was going to shoot this bull. This however, was the turning point for me and I was starting to feel a little insulted with their charade. I was also a little embarrassed for the elk, which at this point trotted off, heartbroken and quite obviously in no danger from these super selective and vastly skilled trophy hunters. I began to regret all the extra work I had done during their trip, things like soaking there hunting clothes in expensive “cow elk-in estrus” urine while they got a little extra sleep. In fact, looking back, rather than appreciate the extra effort, all they did was complain that there was an unpleasant, strange odor that seemed to follow us everywhere. I swear, sometimes family can be a real pain in the butt!

A ntelope hunters are expected to have some good hunting opportunities in

Montana’s western and central counties, but antelope numbers are substantially down to the east in FWP Region 6 near Glasgow and FWP Region 7 near Miles City.

The antelope population has also declined in the eastern portion of FWP Region 5 near Billings. Summer antelope counts show that recruitment—reproduction and survival of fawns for a least a year—is well below the historic average for the third year in a row in FWP Region 5.

“In the west, antelope hunting will be similar to what hunters experienced last year, but hunters in the east will see fewer antelope in the north central and eastern portions of the state,” said Quentin Kujala, FWP wildlife management section supervisor. “Antelope numbers in southwestern Montana are slightly down, but overall the trend there in the past five years has been upward.”

FWP Region 6 In FWP Region 6, in response to high mortality last winter, FWP sharply reduced the number of pronghorn antelope licenses in many hunting districts. Antelope were especially hard hit last winter in hunting districts 630, 650, and 670. Overall, FWP Region 6’s antelope populations are 70 percent lower than last year.

“We are seeing the cumulative effect of two long, difficult winters in eastern Montana on the winter survival and recruitment of antelope,” said Kujala.

“In addition to winter mortality in FWP Region 6, many antelope migrated south of Fort Peck Reservoir when it was frozen and were unable to return when the reservoir ice thawed,” Kujala said. “On top of that, antelope spring fawn production was way down too.”

Here are some details: FWP Regions 2, 3 and 4 FWP biologists report that antelope numbers remain mostly good in FWP Region 2 in the Deer Lodge Valley and in FWP Region 3 in western Montana. In FWP Region 4 headquartered in Great Falls, antelope hunting is expected to be average at best. “The number of either sex antelope licenses and doe/fawn licenses available in FWP Region 4 is down this year in anticipation of some low fawn production” Kujala said. “The adult population is holding it’s own but the number of fawns born this year is down.” FWP Region 5 In FWP Region 5, antelope populations north and east of Billings continue to have low levels of recruitment. Since blue-tongue, a fatal virus spread by biting midges—moved through the area three years ago, summer census counts have shown 15-30 fawns per 100 adult antelope in the eastern half of FWP Region 5. “Under normal conditions we would expect to see 60-80 fawns per 100 adult antelope,” Kujala said. The number of tags available to hunters has been reduced substantially in three hunting districts to reflect the sagging population.

In a few of the hardest hit hunting districts either-sex antelope licenses have been decreased by more than 90 percent. FWP anticipates issuing low numbers of licenses for the next few years to allow antelope populations to rebuild. “Very few individuals from the 2010 and 2011 fawn crops in Region 6 remain in these herds, according to our surveys,” Kujala said. “As a result, these two age classes will be making little or no contribution to the overall population for the duration of what might have been an eight to 10 year life expectancy.” FWP Region 7 In southeastern Montana, FWP Region 7, antelope numbers are 57 percent below the previous 10 year average. Winter survival was also severely impacted here by last winter’s harsh conditions. “Winter stress caused spring birth rates to be very low in FWP Region 7,” Kujala said. “The 2011 fawn to doe ratio in FWP Region 7 was 47 fawns per 100 does, compared to the long-term average of 73 fawns per 100 does.”




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Hunter Sight-In And Practice Tips By Mark Cousins, Hunter Education Coordinator, CDW various shooting positions that you will use Hunters should practice the various shooting bullet will be in the vital zone with this in the field. Hunters should always try to W hile hunting seasons come around positions while wearing their hunting center hold. The vital zone of an elk is once a year, proper hunting preparation is a use a solid, supported or braced shooting clothing and gear. Pack straps and heavy over 12 inches in diameter, which gives the year round activity. The off-season months should include hunting preparation and planning, equipment checks and maintenance, as well as practicing with your hunting gear and spending time at the range shooting. When it comes to shooting, spending time at the range practicing really can make you a much better shot and give you the confidence you need when you finally get to put the crosshairs on an elk. This article will take a look at some things that can really help get hunters properly prepared. Before heading to the range be sure and take the time to really check your firearm; sights or scope, scope bases and rings, sling swivels and the overall condition of the stock. Are all of the screws tight? Is the firearm clean? Make sure that the scope and crosshairs are level and that the sling is in good condition. If you have any concerns, be sure to take your rifle to a gunsmith and have it checked out before you expend a bunch of time and ammunition. Once you have your gear ready to go, it’s time to start practicing.

position in the field to help ensure good shot placement. Good shooting positions use skeletal support since bones don’t get shaky and tired like muscles do. Shooting sticks and bipods are great shooting tools and we’ll also take a look at them.

Some of your practice can be done at home. Before handling firearms in the home, always be absolutely certain that the firearms are unloaded and that no ammunition is in the same room where you are practicing! Once all the safety precautions are taken, you can begin practicing the

Prone is the most stable of the shooting positions and provides maximum support for the shooter. In the field, prone may not allow shooting over obstacles or brush and may be difficult in the snow.

Offhand or Standing is the least stable of the shooting positions and shouldn’t be used for shots at big game if it can be avoided. Kneeling is more stable and gives good skeletal support with the elbow supported by the knee. Kneeling is a great position to use in the field. Sitting allows both elbows to be supported by the knees which results in a very stable shooting platform. This is another great position for hunting shots.

coats can affect how the rifle fits and make some positions more difficult than others. Wearing a shooting shoulder pad can help make the rifle fit like it does when wearing heavy hunting clothing and has the great added benefit of reducing felt recoil, making range sessions much more fun. Know what works before you go! Shooting sticks and bipods help provide great support for hunting shots. It is important to practice with them before going hunting. If you install a bipod on your rifle, sight in with it attached to the rifle to be sure your point of impact doesn’t change. Once you are comfortable with the shooting positions and other gear, it’s time to head to the range and do some shooting from the different positions. At the range, hunters should do the initial sight in from the shooting bench. The “zero” or sight in range varies from hunter to hunter and the terrain they will be hunting in, but most tend to sight their rifles in for a zero range of around 200 yards, which means that the bullets will hit where the crosshairs are at 200 yards.. With most hunting calibers, the bullet will be about 1 1⁄2” to 2” high at 100 yards, dead on or zeroed at 200 yards and around 9” or so low at 300 yards. This allows a hunter to hold in the center of the vital zone on an elk from 100 yards to just over 200 yards and not worry about bullet drop as the

hunter some margin of error if they misjudge the range Once you have your rifle sighted in from the bench, the real hunting practice begins. Hunters need to practice shooting from actual field hunting positions such as sitting or kneeling, and from shooting sticks or bipods. Hunters should also practice on targets that prepare them for the field. Check out the hunting catalogs or go by the big sporting goods or archery shops and pick up some animal targets for even better range time. If you don’t have animal targets, pick up some bulls eye targets with a 10 to 12 inch bull’s-eye instead of the small rifle sight in targets so that you have an aiming area about the size of the vital zone. Using too small of an aiming point can lead to forcing the shot and makes the natural wobble you will experience look larger than it really is. Wobble – yes you will wobble when shooting from real hunting positions - it is natural and you must learn to accept it. By practicing, you will find out which shooting positions offers the best support and the least wobble. (continued on page 34)




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GPS: Don’t Be Lost In The Fog By Jeff Davis - Editor, Excerpt from Whitetails Unlimited B

eing lost. Its an awful feeling, starting as slight confusion, working through dread, anger and finally determination to figure out where you are and get to where you need to be. If only you had something that could tell you where you were, where you need to go, and provide you with some hot coffee. Except for the coffee, GPS is that something. Over the last two decades, the U.S. Dept. of Defense spent $12 billion (that’s billion, with a “B”) to place a series of satellites in orbit over the earth to provide the military with a precise location and navigation system. That same $12 billion satellite system, coupled with an inexpensive handheld receiver, now provides the average person with a simple, reliable method to get to a tree stand in the dark, return precisely to a hot spot on a lake and navigate on roads and highways. This is truly one of the high-tech wonders of our time. The Global Positioning Satellite system works when 24 satellites in geosynchronous orbit send out signals that are received by a GPS unit. The units themselves do not transmit anything, they just receive the low-power signals from the satellites and compare the tiny difference in time from when the signal is transmitted and when it is received. Signals from

at least three satellites are necessary to fix a position, and the more signals that are compared the faster and more accurate the location fix. START WITH THE BASICS: GPS units sold now have a map installed, and your location is displayed graphically on the small screen. You can zoom in or out on the map, displaying as little as 100 feet or as much as 1700 miles (showing whole continents). The installed map is pretty good, showing cities, towns, highways and major roads, lakes, rivers and streams, but not city streets or county roads. Learning to use the units can be both easy and difficult, if that makes any sense. I sat on the couch with the instruction manual and was totally confused and frustrated. The next day, I took my son and a couple of his buddies to some land where his friend’s dad bow hunts, and turned them loose. With only very basic instructions these three 13-year olds were off into the woods, returning less than an hour later with a detailed plotting of every hunting stand, including height above ground, major geographical feature (stream, hills, property boundaries), distance between stands, distance traveled and top speed that they traveled. The key, I learned, is that for many (continued on page 44)

A s every seasoned deer hunter knows, success comes in many forms. Closing a

tag on a trophy whitetail generally involves a healthy dose of good luck, but for hard-earned deer, it involves more. Hardcore hunters invest a great deal of time scouting, locating herds with good genetics, nurturing landowner relationships, familiarizing themselves with the landscape, learning and even keeping inventory of the deer in their area. But most importantly they hunt a lot! This mix of academia, public relations, determination, sacrifice, and commitment is an equation that I along with most other whitetail fanatics know all-to-well. For me, it began many years ago. A good friend, mentor, and well-known Alberta outdoorsman by the name of George Davidson, whom I’d met on a caribou hunt in the Northwest Territories, introduced me to a friend of his. Well aware of my passion for big whitetails and very familiar with a particular property, George knew that the area produced exceptional deer and wanted to see if I could connect with my bow. To fast forward a bit, over the past few years, I’ve managed to close the gap on many different bucks of which the largest would have scored well over the 190-inch mark. Truly magnificent, this area produces big deer year after year. Every year one of my hunters or I Myself have an opportunity at a deer over 150-inches on this particular property. By opportunity, I mean a buck

standing or walking within 30 yards of a tree stand or ground blind. This place is just that good. It’s a massive area and regardless of where I place my stands, there are always big bucks roaming about. In my opinion, if there is such a thing at all, this area epitomizes the idea of a big buck utopia. Although I’ve taken numerous Pope and Young bucks, my 2001 whitetail is my personal best with a bow. Although I hate to admit it, I screwed up on a comparable deer in 2002. At 20 yards, another 160-class buck caught me attempting to go to full draw. But again, that’s part of what I enjoy so much about bow hunting. In my mind, arrowing a trophy-class specimen of North America’s most challenging game animal is an incredible accomplishment. In Alberta, bow hunters enjoy an extended season, with the opportunity to hunt in September and October as well as the later November rut. With much of my time preoccupied setting stands for clients and guiding, I managed to get out a few times during the early season, but didn’t see anything that appealed to me. As the rut approached, I began to notice a pattern. Walking many traditional trails, there was one particular route that had larger-thanaverage rubs on it. Systematically marking territory, whatever buck was making the rubs was clearly a dominant deer. As the days progressed, during the latter part of October and on into November, (continued next page)




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Mt. Haggin Wildlife Management Area


ount Haggin Wildlife Management Area encompasses 56,151 acres. Hunting opportunities include archery and rifle hunting seasons for elk, mule deer, white-tailed deer, moose, antelope, black bear, and upland bird. Hunting is open to licensed hunters during open seasons. Antlerless elk permits and antlerless B-tags for deer are available through the statewide drawing.

Activities offered: Archery Bicycling Bird Watching Hunting Wildlife Viewing

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Contact information: MFWP 3201 Spurgin Road, Missoula, MT 59804 Phone: 406-542-5500 Email: Directions: Located approximately 10 miles south of Anaconda at the base of the Anaconda-Pintlar Mountains. Highway access along MT Highway 274. Main roads open summer and fall as weather permits. Portion open to snowmobiling. Big game winter range closed to motorized traffic from December 1 through May 15.

Legends Of Whitetail Learning (continued) I rediscovered a series of traditional scrapes that were reopened, and some were extraordinarily big. Over several years, I’d learned that although big buck activity may not be noticeable, the habitat is simply too good to pass up. Big deer live in those woods and that’s all there is to it. The one thing I found puzzling was the lack of quality feed nearby. Landscape parched from the second summer of intense drought, I was getting the feeling that deer numbers were down and that many had perhaps shifted to a better food source. But I still couldn’t pull myself away from the glaring rubs and scrapes.

Scheduled to bring hunters in the third week of November, I had the second week to myself. In my experience, rattling and calling works well during the pre- and peak rut periods from the middle of October to the middle of November. Monday the 11th would be my first outing of the week and, in turn be the beginning of an arduous string of will-testing days on stand. A harsh reality of hunting Alberta whitetails is that despite the quality of deer that reside throughout much of the province, we simply have lower deer densities – and that can translate to challenging days on stand.

Opting to gamble on the fact that the deer would likely utilize that particular area during the rut, I strategically hung three different stands. Two were placed in huge poplars and one in a spruce tree. Recognizing that all three were great ambush spots, my plan was to rotate from morning to evening and day-to-day so as not to burn any one spot out.

One of the first things I tell folks south of the border when they inquire about hunting Alberta is that we have some of the biggest deer in the world. That said our deer numbers are lower. On average, I expect to see anywhere from zero to 10 a day. This translates to about two every two hours on a good day. (continued on page 43)

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Venison With Wild Hunter Sight-In And Practice Tips Mushrooms In Tomato-wine Sauce You will also see that even with the

(continued from page 31)

Wendy VanDyk Evans, Marion, Ill. Courtesy National Wild Turkey Federation INGREDIENTS: 1 medium venison roast, cubed 1/2 cup all-purpose flour salt and pepper to taste 2 medium onions, coarsely chopped 3 tablespoon olive oil, divided 1-2 green bell peppers, cut in 1” pieces 2 cups mushrooms 2-3 cloves garlic, minced 8 ounce can of tomato sauce 1 (14.5 ounce) can of diced tomatoes 1-2 cubes beef bouillon 1 1/2 teaspoon minced fresh thyme 1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary 1/4 cup red wine

DIRECTIONS: Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large heavy skillet. Mix salt and pepper into flour and coat venison cubes with the mixture. Fry meat in oil until browned. Remove meat to plate. In same skillet, heat remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add mushrooms and cook, covered, over low heat for 5-10 minutes. Uncover and add garlic, onions, and green peppers. Cook until onions are transparent. Add tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, bouillon, herbs, wine, and browned venison. Cover and simmer 20 minutes or until meat is tender. Serve over egg noodles or rice, or with roasted potatoes. ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Serves 4-6 This recipe started out as a simple concoction of venison, tomato sauce, and onions that my father-in-law gave me when I married his deer-hunting son. Over the years we’ve added ingredients from our garden and our mushroom-hunting hikes, and it’s now one of our favorites!

wobble, you can still keep your shots within “minute of elk” or within the vital zone. The more you practice, the better prepared you will be when hunting season arrives! Some more tips: When you purchase ammo for sighting in, always get another box of the same ammo for hunting with. Too often, hunters grab a box for sighting in and then can’t find another box of the same ammo when they start packing for the hunting trip. Ammunition with different bullets and bullet weights won’t shoot the same.

Another great way to become a much better shot is to set up a practice hunting rifle that doesn’t have much, if any recoil, and is cheap to shoot. The best way to do this is to find a .22 long rifle, .22 magnum or a .17 caliber rimfire bolt action rifle and set it up like your big game hunting rifle. I have three practice rifles (had to, my daughter latched onto the first one and I didn’t get to shoot it anymore!) in .22 long rifle and .22 magnum that I use to practice with and to use when working with new hunters and youth. Practicing with a .22 rifle takes the recoil and blast out of the equation and lets the hunter really practice the basics of good sight picture, sight alignment, breath control, trigger press and good follow through. Using a .22 along with one of the many steel or polymer reactive targets on the market is a blast and you will find yourself doing much more practice than ever before. A decent little .22 bolt action rifle and a scope won’t set you back much more than 4 or 5 boxes of premium hunting ammo would, and you can shoot them for pennies a round. (continued on page 39)


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Outdoor Calendar Sponsored By C’Mon Inn Bozeman & Missoula Lodge Like Atmosphere With Resort Amenities BOZEMAN MISSOULA BRIDGER RAPTOR FESTIVAL: MISSOULAMAZE: OCTOBER 1 - 30 Even if you’re an expert at mazes, we guarantee OCTOBER 7 - 9

. The festival, which is free to the public, centers around an annual count each Fall of the largest known golden eagle migration in the United States. The Bridger Raptor Festival takes place at the Bridger Bowl ski area. Activities include a Wildlife Film Festival, interpretive programs with live raptors, nature walks and talks, face painting, storytelling, education and entertainment programs for people of all ages. Phone: 406-556-5672


This is an excellent afternoon family outing. There will be children’s activities in the dairy barn and refreshments will be offered. There will be a children’s carnival, warm up at the bonfire. The kids can come out and pick their own pumpkin and paint it and take it home with them. Hay rides are available and a variety of crafts for children. Held at the Grant-Kohrs Ranch.


Merchants on Main Street cook up exotic wild game dishes and serve their culinary delights in front of their shops. Held in downtown Ennis on Main Street.


Spend Friday trapshooting against professional sports legends. Then, on Saturday night, enjoy the Taste of Havre. Be a member of a sports legend’s team while hunting on some of Montana’s finest pheasant country during a hosted open hunt and contest hunt. Phone: 406-945-2458


Lewistown Gun Show is sponsored by Weapons Collectors Society of Montana. Food concessions will be by the Snowy Mountain Muzzleloaders. Each paid admission entitles you to chance on a door prize. Held at the Fergus County Fairgrounds.

you’ll get lost! We’ve enlarged the corn maze, added a bewildering triple spiral and a bridge/tunnel feature. Answer questions about local Western Montana rivers and aquatic life as you navigate the river of passageways. Come after dark for the Night Maze. That’s when the maze goes ‘clueless’ and we remove all the markers for the self-guided tours. 1010 Clements Road. Phone: 406-529-8324


Come to Seeley Lake for this spectacular two-day event to celebrate the arts and the alpine splendor of the turning tamaracks. The Western Larch trees, commonly known as Tamaracks, is the only species of coniferous trees that actually lose their needles annually to return in the spring. Arts and crafts show, Tour of the Arts, historical society event and various other activities. Maps available to walk, hike, bike or drive to see the best trees. Phone: 406-677-2880

Events To Support WILDLIFE DUCKS UNLIMITED 10/08/2011 Wolf Point/Poplar Banquet Gary Johnson 406-653-2310

MULE DEER FOUNDATION 10/15/2011 Miles City Miles City Chapter Jesse Schell 406-234-3801 ROCKY MOUNTAIN ELK FOUND. 10/01/2011 Helena Big Game Banquet Tracy Donaldson 406-475-9599 10/15/2011 Dillon Beaverhead Big Game Banquet Barb Nelson 406-293-3812 Ted Stosich 406-925-0535



After The Shot D

espite hunters’ best efforts and countless hours of practice at the range, the fact of hunting is wounding of game sometimes happens. Even with a good shot, animals can, and do, run off. And keep in mind, elk are large animals and they can be tough to take down. An important goal is to make a clean harvest. It’s why we practice year-round before the hunt. None of us want to see an animal suffer needlessly or have meat go to waste . In this lesson, we’ll talk about the proper steps to take to help you find your animal this fall after the shot. AFTER THE SHOT The seconds after you take your shot are critical to successfully finding the animal. A lot happens in those first few moments, and it’s an exciting time. The first thing to do is watch the animal’s reaction after the shot. An animal’s reaction can tell a great deal about where the shot hit the animal. Animals that are shot in the paunch – stomach or intestines – will typically run a short distance, then stop or start walking slowly. They will also have their head down and it will appear as though their bodies are hunched. Rarely will they run far before laying down. On this type of hit, it is best to be patient. Although the animal is hit, and hurt, it can get up and run off at the sound of approaching hunters.


• 35

By Justin Gindlesperger, Courtesy Colorado Division of Wildlife

Shots to the liver will result in reactions similar to a paunch shot, but the animal will most likely run out of sight instead of stopping after a short distance and walking off. Liver shots are lethal, but again, be patient. If not pushed too soon after the shot, the animal should be found dead close to where it was shot. A shot in the vitals – the heart & lungs – is very lethal and will result in an animal that runs off until it expires. Animals the size of elk may not elicit much reaction to a heart or lung shot, but look for anything out of the ordinary. An animal that sags in its front end as it runs off usually indicates a hit in the front portion of the animal. A shot to the spinal cord will knock the animal down, and if the spinal cord is severed, will paralyze the animal in that location. There won’t be much tracking to do, but a follow up shot is necessary. Hits to large bone structures can break the bone and knock the animal down, in the case of rifles. Arrows typically do not penetrate much past the broadhead when hitting a large bone. If a leg is broken, or a major bone is broken, the animal will show difficulty using that leg or part of their body. TAKING UP THE TRAIL It is very important to remember the location where the animal was when the shot was taken and the direction the

animal ran after the shot. It’s best to mark the location of the animal with something visible that is easy to see after starting out on the trail. Orange tape works well, just remember to take it down after the animal is found. Toilet paper also works well and will disintegrate in rain or snow. It is also a good idea to mark the locations of any subsequent sign. The trail will be easy to follow and returning to the last location of found sign will be simple. The most common type of sign is blood, but also look for hair, bone or other bodily fluids. But remember, an animal may not bleed right away if it is hit. Bullets and arrows don’t always pass the entire way through an animal. Also, hits high on the body of the animal may take time to bleed while the animal “fills up.” If no sign is visible at the initial location, begin following the trail of the animal. The beginning should be apparent by the presence of turned soil and tracks. Be careful not to walk directly on the animal’s trail to avoid disturbing any sign. The sign will still be present should there be a need to double-back on the trail. Blood that is bright colored means a hit in the vital area. The blood may also have tiny bubbles in it and look frothy. The blood trail should be easy to follow for this type of hit and the trail will get better the longer it goes.

Wounds to the liver generally bleed well, so there should be ample blood to follow. The blood from this type of hit will be dark-colored. A hit to the stomach, or paunch, will also result in dark-colored blood. The blood trail will be much more sparse than that of a liver shot. A good indication of a stomach hit is bits of food, or stomach and intestinal fluids, in the location of the hit or along the trail. HOW LONG SHOULD I WAIT AFTER THE SHOT? It is important to leave enough time for an animal to expire before taking up the trail and tracking it. Even with lethal shots, the animal needs enough time to bleed out and expire. Without bumping, or pushing, an animal will lie down and expire on its own. The generally accepted amount of time to wait after a lethal hit, such as a shot in the vitals, is 30 minutes. Although an animal hit in the vitals will continue to run until it does expire, 30 minutes will generally provide enough time for the animal to bleed out if the hit to the vitals was marginal (such as a single lung hit). A liver hit requires more time for the animal to expire, so allow at least four hours. It’s often better to wait up to six hours for these types of hits. (continued on page 37)







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After The Shot (continued from page 35) Although a hit to the liver is lethal, and the liver is made up of a lot of blood vessels, it takes a lot of time to bleed out. Starting the trail too early could bump the animal and make recovery more difficult. Up to 10 hours should be allotted for an animal hit in the paunch. If an animal is hit in the paunch late in the afternoon, mark the spot and determine the direction of travel, then return the following morning to take up the trail. The animal will most likely lie down shortly after the shot. It may get up several times before expiring, but will run at the sound of hunters approaching too soon after the shot. With sparse blood trails on these types of hits, it’s best to wait. WHAT IF I CAN’T FIND ANY MORE BLOOD? Depending on the type of hit, how the animal is traveling and the length of the trail, there are times when the blood is sparse, or the animal appears to stop bleeding. If you mark the locations of previous sign, you can go back to that last location and begin looking again. Once blood dries, it is harder to pick out. Don’t be afraid to turn over leaves, look on the back sides of plants or logs. If you’ve searched the trail for additional sign and it appears the blood trail stops altogether, there are several methods to search for additional sign. One involves concentric circles, and another a grid pattern, in the vicinity of the last spot of sign. Start at that location, then begin working outward looking

for additional sign, or the animal itself. Hopefully this will yield results and you can continue tracking. Or conversely, if either of these methods doesn’t work the next step is to go to most likely areas where an animal would go. It might also be time to pull out your topo maps and think of likely areas, or travel routes to these areas. FINAL THOUGHTS Remember that there are times when the above rules can be broken. One important factor is the weather. Rain may necessitate taking up a blood trail sooner after the shot because the rain can wash away any likely sign. On the other hand, snow makes tracking an animal much easier. But melting snow can erase the blood trail completely. There are no hard and fast rules about tracking games animals; however, there are a lot of variables. It is important to watch the animal as long as you can to try and determine if, and where, the animal was hit and what direction the animal is heading. Any abnormal behavior is a good indication that the animal was hit. For example, an animal that starts to veer off from the herd is probably hit. Tracking is full of anticipation as the animal may be found at any time. It is important to keep an eye on the surrounding landscape and be prepared for a follow up shot. If you take your time and interpret the sign left by the animal, you have a better chance of finding your animal this fall.




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based largely on scouting and patterning deer. Unless disturbed, they have fairly regular patterns, bedding and feeding in roughly the same areas. Savvy buck hunters are also scouting buck sign and hunting around scrapes and rub lines. The rubs sometimes show regular travel routes and the scrapes were set out to attract hot does. Once the first does start coming into estrus however, the rules of the game change. Hunters who want to be successful need to change their tactics a bit. First and foremost, forget about routines. Bucks that have been hanging in regular core areas and following fairly regular travel routes may disappear overnight. They could be five miles or more away the next morning. On the plus side, strange bucks you haven’t seen all fall suddenly start showing up. Target doe groups. That’s what rutting bucks do and so should you. The does will remain closer to home, and tend to stick to thicker cover. Hunt the fringes of doe bedding areas, particularly the downwind side. Those heavy cruiser bucks have learned how to save time by scent-checking areas frequented by does. Focus on travel routes. You can’t get into bedding areas without busting deer. And feeding routines get blown up during the rut. But bucks are on the move and will follow travel corridors that offer the best cover and the least resistance. Look especially along stream and river corridors and narrow strips of timber in agricultural areas. Hunt all day. This time of year bucks could be moving any time. In fact, ask most outfitters and they’ll tell you most of the really big bucks get killed between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., when most hunters are out of the woods.

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Grunt, rattle and smell. Calls and scents become especially effective during the rut. Research shows rattling is most effective in the morning, but can work any time of day. Aggressive grunts and growls, and mock scrapes may lure passing bucks out of hiding.




Tips For Hunting Mule Deer Colorado Parks & Wildlife

H unting mule deer is always challenging. Hunters can improve their success by understanding the habits of these critters. During the 2010 seasons, for all manners of take, about 78,000 hunters harvested 34,000 mule deer for a 44 percent success rate. It is estimated that Colorado is home to about 430,000 deer. In the mountains and foothills, mule deer don’t spend much time in heavy timber. They are primarily browsers and prefer aspen and forest edges where there are plenty of low shrubs, small trees, oak brush and varied vegetation types. Mule deer are most active at night and can often be found in meadow areas during low-light hours. During the day, they’ll bed down in protective cover.

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Hunter Sight-In And Practice Tips (continued from page 34)

evening. A slow stalk is recommended. Spend a lot of time scanning slowly with binoculars-a deer can appear at any time. Pay attention to the wind direction. If the wind is blowing in the direction you are moving, a deer will likely pick up your scent. Deer avoid going to creeks in daylight so there is no advantage to hunting near moving water sources during the day. One advantage mule deer give to hunters is their curiosity. When mule deer are spooked, they’ll often run a short distance then turn to determine if they are being pursued. That may give you one good chance for a shot.

In warm weather, look for deer along ridgelines where wind is consistent and helps to keep them cool.

A small amount of snow will get deer moving quickly out of high-altitude areas. Usually by late October migrating herds will move to winter range areas, even if there is no snow.

During the low-light hours of evening and morning, hunt in meadows at the edge of thick cover. If you see where they are feeding during times of low-light, it’s likely they’ll move into nearby timbered areas to rest for part of the day. Deer tend to move during the middle of the day toward the areas where they feed in the

Hunters should aim at the vital organ area which presents a small target--about the size of a dinner plate just behind the front quarter. Hunters, no matter how good they are at the range, should never try to make a head shot. Many animals are injured and die slowly because of attempted head shots.

When sighting in and practicing with your hunting rifle, you might notice that you are getting a bit of a flinch, jerking the trigger and anticipating the recoil. When this happens, grab your practice rifle and shoot a few groups without the recoil. It will really help your concentration and help prevent bad habits from forming. This is a handy trick I’ve shown to many a shooter at the range and it really helps. I like shooting some fairly big guns that have significant recoil and I use my practice rifles on a regular basis during range sessions to keep my basics solid – you can only take the recoil of so many .416 Taylor rounds before flinching sets in and the groups get bigger. Put a sling and bipod on the practice rifle, grab your shooting sticks and a couple hundred rounds of .22 and head out to the range – you will be better prepared than ever when hunting season rolls around. Good practice, and lots of it, will help make for a successful hunt! Hunt Safe






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The Stigma Of October (continued from page 4) big for you because this is the time when bucks are actively checking their scrapes and rub lines. The things I look for most in an area in the early part of October are rubs and scrapes. In the early parts of the season bucks typically don’t cover big areas of land, so if you find an area littered with rubs or scrapes near heavy brush or some kind of cover you can make a pretty good bet that you are either in or real close to the big guys bedroom. I then concentrate my efforts on these areas because they will frequently check them out and freshen them up in order to determine if there are any receptive does or intruding bucks in their area. You also need to remember big bucks are big for a reason, they are smart. Mature bucks don’t normally follow the trails used by does, fawns, and the younger bucks. Rubs and scrapes along a pretty defined deer trail is usually a sign that it is an immature buck making them. If you find scrapes or rub lines off the beaten path it is usually a sign that a mature deer has made them.

As the month of October progresses I change my tactics whereas the first half of the month I hunt near rubs and scrapes found off the well used trails, the last half of the month I turn to these well used trails. The bucks know where the does hang out and as the pre-rut nears its end the bucks begin to patrol their home areas looking for any does that may be ready to breed. If you know the trails the does use to move around, feed, bed, etc. you will have a very good chance of taking a nice buck. When it comes to hunting the early part of October I look for scrapes or a rub line when I find them I know that I have come far enough, any more encroachment on my part could possibly be disastrous to the outcome of my upcoming hunts. Generally deer are less weary at this point in the year they have had the rest of the winter and all of the spring and summer to become accustomed to not being chased around the woods by hunters. Therefore I have no problem

getting right there on the front doorstep or in the bedroom of a big buck, although you need to be careful doing this, too much stomping around and aimlessly wandering will drive that mature buck out of the area. Once I locate one of these areas I go no further I find a good tree, hang my stand, make sure I have a clear view of things and shooting lanes and I get out and leave the area alone until I am ready to hunt. When It comes time to hunt these stands I generally like to be in my stand an hour before legal shooting light at the very least, in an attempt to not spook deer and so that everything has time to settle down after you have gotten in the stand. Usually I find a few areas like this and I like to hunt one for about three days before I move to a new one so that I don’t make my presence so known in one area. Once the latter part of the month rolls around and I change to hunting the trails that the does, fawns, and smaller bucks use I look for feeding areas, bedding areas, and travel corridors.

Once I locate these areas I like to set up about 15 to 20 yards off the trails. If I locate a good area where the deer are exiting the timber and entering crop fields I like my stand placement to be about 50 yards into the timber from where the two habitat types meet and again set up 15 to 20 yards off the trail. These are the staging areas where the bucks are going to hang up in before they enter the fields. If I find a known bedding area I like to hang stands at a distance of 50 yards at the very least from the bedding area, on either side of it or each trail that leads to it and again I like to place them 15 to 20 yards off the trail. As October rolls around throw out your fear of the “October Lull” and hit the whitetail woods. You will find that there is an abundance of activity this time of year and with a little time and preparation you can be rewarded with the opportunity to harvest a very nice buck. Good luck and happy hunting.



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who have been watching the weather won’t be surprised that Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks officials expect eastern Montana’s pheasant numbers to be well below average this fall. If there is a bright spot for pheasants, it’s southwest Montana, where pheasant numbers are expected to improve over last year back to near average.

The most severe winter conditions, including prolonged, deep snow, occurred east of a line that runs from north of Shelby to the southeast corner of the state—a vast area. Winter gave way to spring, which didn’t bring reprieve. “In eastern Montana, spring precipitation patterns in many counties suggest that game bird nests were likely inundated and abandoned by late May,” said Rick Northrup, Game Bird Coordinator with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, “Unfortunately, those chicks that may have hatched in late May likely succumbed to the extreme, prolonged moisture and cold.” Northrup said hunters may also be impacted by the loss of lands enrolled in the federal Conservation Reserve Program. “In the past 22 years, Montana has enjoyed

a 50-100 percent increase in pheasant harvest, largely as a result of CRP,” Northrup said. “Montana still has over 2.7 million acres enrolled, but enrolled lands continue to decline as farms go back into grain production.” In southeast Montana, anticipate pheasant abundance to be down from last year, particularly in peripheral areas that lack good winter cover. Along Montana’s Hi-Line region, pheasant numbers are expected to be well below average, and bird numbers in south central Montana should be similar to last year. If there is a bright spot for pheasants, it’s southwest Montana, where pheasant numbers are expected to improve over last year back to near average. Season Dates: Oct. 8 - Jan. 1, 2012 Daily Bag Limit: 3 Possession Limit: 9

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season, you will have your work cut out for you with this year’s forecast of plentiful waterfowl. To avoid a case of “false identity,” here are some helpful reminders. The members of the diving duck clan vary from predominantly light gray to dark gray with heads that range in color from rusty brown to iridescent greenish/bluish. We’re talking here, for example, about the canvasback, redhead, and two species of scaup. They’re pretty good to eat, especially the canvasback that during the days of the market hunters, were known as “King Can,” being the biggest and most sought after bird to sell to the table. Most diving ducks—think here of buffleheads, goldeneyes and mergansers, are typically big water ducks you’ll find on rivers or large areas of open water such as Freezeout Lake, Bowdoin Lake, Flathead Lake, Hebgen and Ennis Reservoirs, among other waters. If you like to hunt small marshes or secluded wetlands, you are likely to see teal, shoveler, gadwall, wigeon, wood ducks, hooded mergansers, the ever-present mallard, and the exceedingly uncommon pintail. All are good dinner table fare. Most teal and pintails tend to vacate Montana’s wetlands in the early fall. That means less acumen for duck identification is required

or more of Montana’s duck harvest. In mallard hunting the challenge is just to tell male from female, as females sometimes come with a penalty if you shoot too many. The biggest duck in the air most days, mallards are not only common but one of the most recognizable ducks in Montana. If you see a typically lone duck checking you out from an altitude so high it could be a bug overhead, it is without doubt a pintail. Long-necked and sleek, the pintail takes its time to get even six gun ranges away. Remember to keep track of the regulations and the number of pintails you bag a day. Bag limits can vary significantly year to year depending on the nation-wide pintail population. To the other extreme, if the duck is alone, part of a pair, or in a small swarm of 5 to ten and has buzzed you a few feet off the water, you’ve just encountered teal. In Montana, teal come in three varieties: the green-winged, blue-winged, or the cinnamon. These speedsters will flip, roll and zoom off into the next county in a way that distinguishes them from all others. So what of the gadwall, the shoveler, the wigeon, the wood duck, and the remaining miscellany of the duck clan? (continued next page)



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Legends of Whitetail Learning (continued from page 33) Well, suffice it to say, as the week progressed, I rattled in two respectable bucks; one was a 140-class buck and the other would have scored in the 125 range – Both came running to within 15 yards, but I was really hoping to get a crack at the elusive buck making all of the massive rubs and scrapes. Out of six days, I went three without even seeing a deer! Almost unheard of, I began to second-guess not only my ability but the wisdom in setting up near what I thought was incredible rub and scrape line activity. By the end of the week, I was completely baffled. Unsure which stand to sit, I opted for one strategically nestled in a heavily wooded spruce bluff. Academically, the stand was in a perfect location. A perfect morning stand, it offered a 30-yard shot opportunity in almost all directions and was in an ideal staging area for deer to mingle as they funneled off the field to the south. After a number of non-eventful days, I’ll admit it was a chore responding to my early morning alarm. The prospect of rolling out of a warm bed with the very real possibility of repeating another frustrating day on stand was less than appealing. But one thing I know for certain is that you can’t shoot a buck with your eyes shut, and snoring doesn’t help much either! So gathering my gear, donning my camo and hopping in my cold truck, I repeated my morning ritual arriving on site about an hour before legal light. Making my way through the dark, I proceeded to my stand. Taking about 30 minutes to walk in, I took extra care not to get overheated. By the time I settled on stand, there was about a half hour remaining until legal light. In over 20 years of hunting, I’ve learned that the first few minutes of legal light can be dynamite for rattling and calling. Feeling that my luck had to change soon, I took advantage of those precious first minutes of the day - but to no avail. Puzzled by the silence, all that could be heard

was the odd bird and a few squirrels that seemed less than enthusiastic about my presence. Over the following hour and a half, I continued to grunt call and rattle every half hour. Nearly falling asleep, it was around 10:00 a.m. that I heard rustling behind my stand. I quickly stood up and carefully turned to face the tree in hopes of glimpsing whatever was making the commotion. Adrenaline coursing through my system, I was elated to see a doe and fawn briskly walking through the timber. Headed straight for me, I wondered why they were in such a hurry. All I could hope for was that a buck would be trailing behind. Then it happened – just 80 yards further to the east, I saw a massive body ghosting through the timber. Although not what I would call hot on their trail, there was a buck. And not just any buck mind you, this was a great buck. Even though everything happened so quickly, I remember immediately recognizing this as a 170-class deer and thinking he had more points on his left than his right antler. Regardless, anyone would be a fool to pass him up! The only problem was that he was beginning to veer off course. Originally following in the doe and fawn’s tracks, he was now starting to angle off in another direction. Thankfully, I had the Primos “Can” with me. Quickly tilting and rolling it in my hand, the doe estrus bleat immediately captured his attention. Now alert to something he wanted, the buck approached in curiosity. At 50 yards I drew my bow. Centering the 30-yard pin on his chest, I followed him through the trees until a clear shot was evident. Then, as I grunt-called, he slowed and I released. The arrow instantaneously struck with a loud “whack”. By all appearances I’d hit him well, but I wasn’t sure. Straining to listen for a crash, I thought I heard him go down. Waiting 20 minutes, I slowly gathered my gear and got down from the tree stand. Anxious to check my arrow and the blood trail, I made my way over the point of impact.

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Blood was evident, but it wasn’t as good as I’d hoped for. “Could I have hit him in the shoulder?” I remember thinking to myself. Following the trail for about 40 yards, I decided it would be best to wait a few hours. And let me tell you, those were some of the toughest hours I’ve ever had to endure. I know patience is a virtue, but when it comes to big whitetails, hours can seem like days. Several hours passed and as I proceeded to follow sporadic droplets of blood, I became less optimistic that I’d find him. With archery tackle, a clean kill is generally found under 100 yards. Now standing approximately 200 yards from the tree stand, I had a sickening feeling that I would never find my buck. Then, as if things couldn’t get worse, the blood trail disappeared altogether. Standing silent for quite some time, I didn’t know what to do next. There wasn’t enough snow on the ground to follow tracks and any evidence of my deer had simply vanished! Then, as I turned to proceed down another trail, movement caught my eye. There, not 20 yards away was my buck, and he was trying to get up! Quickly nocking another arrow, I took careful aim and put a finishing shot into him. Again, this all transpired so fast, that it took a moment to realize the significance of the moment. Despite the imperfection of the chain of events, my newfound trophy was down for the count. Upon further inspection I had indeed struck him square in the shoulder with my first arrow. Weighing over 400 pounds, he was solid muscle. Taking a moment to sit down beside this incredible animal, I thanked God for both the privilege and the opportunity to retrieve him. Now able to hold the antlers and evaluate them up close, I realized that although he was a monster, he would likely not make the 170 mark. Bitter sweet, this exceptional whitetail is now proudly displayed in my trophy room and is a reminder of the opportunity awaiting anyone wanting to hunt impressive Alberta whitetails.

Know What You Are Hunting (continued) The wood duck is a secretive bird, typically hanging out in wooded areas. In most parts of Montana, wooded stream banks, wooded wetlands, and wooded ditch banks are where wood ducks can be found. Wood ducks are mast eaters—in Montana that means Russian olive berries. Where the berries fall into the water or on shores with overhanging Russian olive bushes, you’re likely to find the medium-sized wood duck. To hunt woodies, go early in the season as cold weather and subsequent freeze up sends them on their way to Texas. The northern shoveler is an all too common duck that flies around looking like it’s carrying a grocery list in its bill. Most duck hunters aren’t impressed. They say the shoveler requires a host of spices and condiments to be edible. Shovelers filter floating foods from standing water. Gadwalls are another of the basic brown ducks. While the males turn a stunning mottled grey color in winter, to Montana’s early season hunters they look mostly like a small version of the hen mallard. Watch for a telltale patch of white with black and possibly rust on the upper surface of the back of the wing as they are the only duck with this marking. While they resemble mallards, they’re less wary and approach decoys more readily with or without calling. Some hunters like them, but virtually every one would pass up a shot at a gadwall if a mallard could be taken from the same flock. The American wigeon is similar in size and habitat preference. When fully decked out for the breeding season, males have a distinctive white breast, a green stripe through their eye, white on top of the head, a generous smattering of reddish brown on their sides. But wait, hold on.... all of these details assume good light, light behind the hunter and on the duck, good vision (on the part of the hunter, not the duck), close proximity (forget public hunting areas by the second day of the season), and so on. These conditions rarely exist in a real ducking hunting situation. So what is a hunter to do? Montana FWP and other wildlife agencies and organizations offer waterfowl guide books.

Perfect your identification skills by spending a lot of time outdoors in all seasons, observing ducks.




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GPS: Don’t Be Lost In The Fog (continued from page 32) features you need to be moving. Most functions are fairly intuitive, and as you walk and watch the display you can see how they work. Using the manual to answer specific questions I quickly worked my way through the different screens. As I used the unit I discovered other features, returned to the manuals with specific question and gradually learned what GPS can do. You do not need an advanced degree to learn how to use these units, but you do need some patience. The best way to master these devices is to just use them. One thing I learned right away is that these units can eat up a lot of batteries. They run on two standard AAs, with a claimed life of up to 14 hours of constant use. That means that a long road trip, a full day in the woods or if you leave the unit turned on overnight you will pretty much use a set of batteries. Also, if you use the backlight screen a lot at night the battery life will be reduced. There is an accessory cable to plug into a car cigarette lighter, which works well, and they can run on rechargeable batteries. However you power the unit, always have several sets of replacement batteries readily available. WAYPOINTS ARE THE KEY: The key to making GPS useful are “waypoints.” A waypoint is simply a point you indicate and then save in the GPS unit. They can be set as you are actually at the location

or programmed in ahead of time. The waypoints can be named or numbered and given a symbol, and the unit can then use the waypoints for calculations. Last deer season my son and I were hunting on a piece of land for the first time, and arrived too late to properly scout the area. Before sunrise of opening day I placed a waypoint where we parked the car, set the GPS to track our movements and followed the landowner into the woods. Following a trail, we arrived at a stand and I set another waypoint. As we moved to different stands I placed additional waypoints. By ourselves early the next morning we had no problem navigating into position in complete darkness. Waypoints can also be programmed in ahead of time. If you know where you are going, if you can determine latitude and longitude of your destination, or if you use accessory map software you can place the waypoint before you leave home. I will place a waypoint at (or as close as I can estimate) my driving destination, and the GPS can then continuously calculate distance remaining to destination, estimated time of arrival, speed, miles traveled, elapsed time, bearing, heading, and several different compass displays, on different types of screens in your choice of digital or analog displays. You can even set the unit to make a sound when you reach your destination. Screens you do not use can be turned off, if desired.

COOL FEATURES: There are a number of features that may or may not be useful to you, but are impressive nonetheless. These will vary among manufactures and specific models. There is an additional menu of items to select from. I found several things to be very useful, including the sun and moon rising and setting calculator, which will give you the correct times and moon phase for any location on earth, for any date. Planning a trip in Alaska nine months from now? Put in the location and date and the information appears. There is also a function that will calculate peak hunting and fishing times, also for any location and date. One compass screen shows an analog compass and your travel azimuth, as well as speed and distance traveled. You can also get a screen with a digital readout of bearing, heading, speed and distance traveled. A third screen can give you this same digital information, but with a graphic depiction of a road, and your deviation from the most direct route to your destination.

many of the 24 GPS satellites are above the horizon, which ones your unit is receiving a signal from, and the strength of the signal. Reception is best outside, with a clear view of the sky. Reception is more difficult indoors, in a car or outdoors if there is thick tree cover or other obstacles blocking your view of the sky. If you don’t have good signals you can move to a better location. You need at least three satellites for the unit to work properly. A large, easy to read indicator of battery power is also on this screen. MAP SOFTWARE: To fully utilize these devices you will need the accessory map software. This will allow you connect the GPS unit to a computer and then load detailed maps from a compact disk into the GPS unit. Cost of the software and connecting cable is in the $50 – $100 range.

Each GPS unit has a memory limit for these maps, but I found that even with the smallest amount of memory fairly large maps can be accommodated. The most expensive unit required the purchase and installation of an accessory memory chip A different screen provides information for before maps can be loaded into it. Be sure ground travel (Federal regulations prohibit to check on the memory capacity before using GPS units any time on commercial purchasing a GPS aircraft) with an analog speedometer THE BOTTOM LINE: The three units I and digital displays of heading, distance, used are rugged, reliable and waterproof. All elapsed time, time of arrival and trip stood up to extensive use in a wide variety odometer. of climates and conditions. For the complete There is a screen that will show you how article visit




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The sixth season of the Club’s television series is now showing on the Outdoor Channel. New episodes will be on display airing three times a week through the end of December. The anchor airtime will again be Sunday mornings at 10 a.m. with two other weekly airings on Friday at 12 p.m. and Sunday at 3:30 p.m. All times are Eastern. If you have been a fan of the first five seasons, you won’t be disappointed as the Boone and Crockett Club continues to deliver award winning topics and episodes. In 2010 the series won Best Conservation Series from the Outdoor Channel and a bronze Telly Award for programing excellence.




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Big Sky Outdoor News & Adventure - October 2011  

Outdoor publication with hunting, fishing, hiking, camping, and more. Featuring Montana and the Rocky Mountain States

Big Sky Outdoor News & Adventure - October 2011  

Outdoor publication with hunting, fishing, hiking, camping, and more. Featuring Montana and the Rocky Mountain States