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August 2017

Teamwork: Calling Elk With A Partner Fall Run Browns On The Madison River

Summer Backpacking - Prep For The Hunting Season 5 Tactics For Early Season Antelope Success

The Key To Successful Shooting... HSM Ammunition Made in Stevensville MT. Available at your local retailer.


Fall Run Browns On The Madison River By Brian McGeehan Montana Angler call 406-522-9854 or

Fof orBrown myself and many other local anglers, Montana’s fall run Trout is the most anticipated event of the year.

Large, lake dwelling trout begin moving into the river systems during late September and October and are accessible to fly anglers during this pre-spawn period. Productive fishing will last as long as the weather (or in some cases, regulations) allows, usually sometime in mid-November. This is far and away my favorite time to guide and fish in Montana, and having a shot at these big lake run bruisers is the main reason why. While there are a myriad of places to catch a big fall Brown Trout in Montana, the Madison River ranks at or near the top of the list. With 3 lakes along its course, Hebgen, Quake, and Ennis, the Madison offers 3 different runs within a close distance of each other, significantly more variety than you will find elsewhere. The Madison has options to both float and wade, as well as to fish streamers or nymphs. Additionally, the Madison has a fall run of Rainbow Trout as well, giving the angler more shots at large trout. While some general rules and guidelines apply, each run of fish on the Madison is different, and learning and applying these nuances is what makes this type of fishing so much fun.

Techniques for Fall Run Fishing

No matter which section of the Madison you choose to fish, the techniques will be similar. Fishing for these migratory trout is a nymph and streamer game, as they are not inclined to feed on the surface. You will want to beef up your tackle for this kind of fishing. When fishing from a boat, I prefer a 9ft 6wt or 7wt rod, and employ a sink tip when fishing streamers. When wade fishing, I have converted to using a two handed switch rod in an 11’4” 7wt. Long popular with steelhead fishermen, these 2 handed rods are quickly catching on with trout anglers. The longer rod allows for easy roll casting and mending, as well as the ability to use longer leaders and more weight. You can also employ various sink tips to swing streamers or wet flies, which is a very popular technique for Steelhead in the Pacific Northwest. While a two handed rod is by no means a necessity for fishing the Madison, it is a fast growing segment of the fly fishing market and one that I have found very useful. A 6wt rod between 9 and 10 feet will work just fine for wade fishing. For flys, it is hard to beat a stonefly nymph trailed by a small mayfly when fishing under an indicator. Choose dark, drab patterns that mimic a Blue Winged Olive nymph. Stoneflys are effective in a wide range of colors so don’t be afraid to experiment. Egg flies can be effective as well, especially late in the season when some fish have already moved onto the redds and there are natural eggs in the system. Soft hackle flies, such as a soft hackle Pheasant Tail or soft hackle Hare’s Ear are also good bets and can be fished on a dead drift of swing. For streamers, I like large articulated patterns if I am going to be stripping them out of the boat. If I am going to swing streamers, I’ll choose a string leech or intruder style of fly. A nice male Brown starting to show his fall colors

Regardless of the technique chosen, the key to catching these migratory trout is identifying where they will be holding in the river. Since these fish are used to living in a lake environment, the slowest, deepest runs you can find will be a good place to start. These deep, slow buckets are an ideal place to nymph fish, especially at the heads of the run where the water begins to slow and deepen. The most important thing in nymph fishing is getting your flies down in front of the fish. If you are not bumping the bottom and getting snagged up occasionally, you are not fishing deep enough. You will want to find a comfortable balance between leader length and the amount of weight you are fishing. I typically use a 10ft leader when nymphing in the fall, whereas in the summer my nymphing leaders are only about 8ft. Swinging streamers is most effective in shallower runs or at the tails of pools, where the water picks up some speed and isn’t quite so deep. Steelhead fishermen will tell you that they look for water about the same speed as your average walking pace when they are looking to swing flies. If you are going to strip streamers out of a boat, concentrate on structure along the bank as well as ledges where the water transitions from shallow to deep.

Fishing the Madison Fall Run: Yellowstone National Park

The Yellowstone Park section of the Madison is the most popular area for fishing the fall run because it gets the highest number of fish that move into the river. Both Browns and Rainbows begin to push out of Hebgen Lake in late September (continued on page 16)

4 | Hunting & Fishing News

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across the US, but the functions are also perfect for accessing that perfect lake, or planning a multi-day float down a winding river. Below we list off the most useful functions onXmaps provides anglers and how they will help turn HUNT by onXmaps into your new favorite fishing App. Public and Private Land Data - This is a great asset to anyone fishing from the bank. Knowing who owns the property gives you the ability to find the best way to access a good looking stretch of water. Just turn on the Public/Private Parcel Data Layer and check to see if you can cross a stretch of land, to get to the section of water you want to fish. If you do find a piece of private property between you and an irresistible section of water, check out the landowner information and ask for permission to cross onto your new fishing hole. Fishing Access Sites - Add the Points of Interest Layer and find all fishing access sites for the water you’re looking to fish. Fishing access sites and boat launch sites will appear on your screen so you can plan your trip accordingly. This is great for anyone looking for a day trip, or for finding put-ins and take-outs for multi-day floats. River Stage Forecast - If you want to check on the river levels, before you head out to fish, add this layer. Tap and hold the circular icon and it will bring up a link to the site with levels for your river, flood stages, historic highs and more. If you know the best water level needed to fish your river, the Stage Forecast Layer is an essential piece of gear for your tackle box. Roads - You can’t fish a new stretch of water if you don’t know how to get there. The USA Roads Layer shows you everything from major highways to logging roads, so you can navigate to new fishing water anywhere in the country. Aerial Imagery - This is a great scouting tool, giving you an updated idea of what your river, lake, or creek looks like. Use it to study river bends, or plan your trek from the truck to the river. You can also use Topography, or the USGS Contour Layer to understand how steep your route to the water is. USA Trails and Mileage - If the route to your new fishing hole starts at a trailhead, the USA Trails Layer will show you the exact path of the trail and even break down the mileage, so you know exactly how far you’ve gone.

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The entire contents is © 2017, all rights reserved. May not be reproduced without prior consent. The material and information printed is from various sources from which there can be no warranty or responsibility by Big Sky Outdoor News & Adventure, Inc. Nor does the printed material necessarily express the views of Big Sky Outdoor News & Adventure, Inc. All photo & editorial submissions become the property of Big Sky Outdoor News & Adventure, Inc. to use or not use at their discretion. Volume 14 Issue 3 Cover Photo: Paul Tessier|shutterstock Proudly printed at Allegra - Helena, Montana 406.449.2847

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Originally published at

O ver the last few years, backpack hunting has steadily increased in popularity with more hunters trying to live

out of their packs and hunt the backcountry. Perhaps, it’s because of the appeal of having a truly wild hunt. For me, it’s because backpack hunting offers the ultimate adventure. It’s just you, your backpack and your weapon in a stretch of wilderness as you fend for yourself and, hopefully, fill your tag. Intimidation is what initially kept me from diving into this type of adventure. After a while, though, I felt the pull of the backcountry and wanted to get my feet wet. Through the years that followed, acquiring gear and learning a new way of hunting, I realized something: The very thing that made me stay away from backpack hunting in my early days was the same thing now that captures me and leaves me wanting more. Hard work, grit, and dedication are the rewards that come with this style of hunting -- and they are the best kind of rewards. Because of the growing popularity of this type of hunting, I thought it would be useful to unpack the complications and discuss how easy it is to get started in backpack hunting. Sometimes we over complicate new things because we lack knowledge on the subject. I know I did when I first started backpack hunting. Trying to “crack the code” on how things are done was something that consumed me. Not anymore.


So, your interest in backpack hunting is growing and you’ve decided that you want to give it a try. The first thing to consider is what kind of gear you’ll need to get started. This is where all of the options can become overwhelming, especially if you are used to truck camping. Keep in mind that backpacking should be viewed as a separate entity when you compare the two.

There are four main gear items that you’ll need:

• Backpack (obviously)

• Tent or shelter

• Sleeping bag or quilt

• Sleeping pad


Your backpack is obviously the big kahuna of your backcountry system. It’s what is going to haul everything you need and, with any luck, bring out a hefty load of meat for your effort. Because of that, it’s imperative that you get a backpack that is both capable of hauling heavy loads and, most importantly, fits you. There are plenty of backpack fitting videos out there that you can check out. If you are still unsure, consider actually getting fitted at a local backpacking shop. If you don’t have one in reach, than reach out to people on forums with expertise in this area. Also, many of the companies that manufacture the backpacks are willing to help you out. When it comes to how big of a backpack to get, a good rule of thumb is 1,000 cubic inches per day. That doesn’t mean that you need a different backpack for a two-day trip versus a three-day trip. Select a size that will reflect the duration for most of your trips. If you tend to go out for three to five-day hunts, than a pack that carries about 5,000 cubic inches should work well. Remember that this is just a rule of thumb. There are plenty of experienced backpack hunters who can get seven days out of a 5,000 to 6,000 cubic inch pack. Everyone’s setup is different.



The tent or shelter topic is largely based upon personal preference. I myself prefer the enclosed space of a lightweight backpacking tent. That might be because I live in Arizona among rattlesnakes, scorpions and chiggers (they are murder). I don’t really consider a floorless option for that reason. However, if you live somewhere where these things aren’t an issue or are just a lot braver than I am, a floorless shelter could be a great option. Another route is running a bivy sack. Bivys are a lightweight, simple option for those who are only looking for a place to sleep and that’s it. The thing that I don’t like about a bivy is if it starts raining, you’re stuck in your bivy until it stops. That is, unless you want your sleeping bag to get wet. (continued on page 42)

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If a public-land hunt for pronghorn interests you begin planning now. It’s doable, affordable and success is within your reach. One of the great elements of a public-land pronghorn hunt is the fact you don’t have to pack miles into the backcountry to find success. That equals a fairly stress-free hunt, but you still have to make a plan because of the public element. Begin by researching units with quality animals, a high success of drawing licenses and ample public land. Look for units with at least 25 percent

or more of the area in accessible public ownership to avoid checkerboard hunting. The big players include the Bureau of Land Management, the National Forest Service and state-owned land.

Don’t overlook Montana’s Block Management program either that opens private land to public, walk-in access. In my opinion the best units include large swaths of country off limits to motor vehicles. Even though pronghorn prefer to lounge in open country they’ll dive into canyons and hide on the edge of timber once hunting pressure peaks. Many areas of pronghorn country have scattered timber interspersed with high prairie. Pronghorns there have no aversion to hiding out in timbered openings at a slightly higher elevation. A solid goal is to find two or three blocks of country that don’t have roads in at least two square miles or more of their interior. The majority of Americans are out of shape, 70 percent according to government data, so you simply need to push past the out-of-breath crowd and you’ll find a pronghorn presence. Next, invest in maps. Utilize programs like ScoutLook Weather that utilizes Google Earth for its mapping capabilities. You will also want to invest in apps for your smartphone or GPS like OnXMaps which provides land ownership details. This combination allows you to scout from home via satellite images and maps, plus scout on the go with topographical and landowner specifics for optimum use of hunting time.

Knowing the borders keeps you away from trespassing charges and in pronghorns. The West is a mishmash of ownership and although it can be frustrating to navigate, it can also be helpful for success. As you scout look for public lands that border private. Use satellite imagery to locate agricultural holdings such as alfalfa fields. Circular irrigation pivots are a dead giveaway. Pronghorn often move between public and private for browsing opportunities. That noted, nutrition and water influence pronghorn movement as much as hunting pressure. Primarily browsers, pronghorn nip at sagebrush, forbs and other vegetation overlooked by domestic livestock that graze public allotments. Even so it pays to query public-land managers to locate public land in a rotational rest program. During that discussion ask land managers about consistent water sources. You likely noted these on maps, but it pays to confirm if they are still producing, even in drought events that are commonplace in pronghorn country. Pronghorns require daily water, three to four quarts per day, and research reveals that pronghorns rarely venture further than four miles from a reliable source. That source could be a spring, a reservoir, a creek or even a livestock water tank. Find one of these in an arid zone and you will find pronghorn. Once hunting season arrives you can use a variety of strategies, especially during archery season, to tag a pronghorn. Be ready with multiple backup plans. Start with finding a reliable water source and staking a ground blind near it on the downwind side. Pronghorn water throughout the day, but you’ll often get an opportunity right at sunrise. Pronghorn rarely wander at night and because of that they require a drink at daylight. Bring along a good binocular, spot roaming bucks. Once you have a buck in your sights utilize terrain and a downwind advance to stalk in close for a shot. Donning open-country camouflage like Mossy Oak Brush doesn’t hurt your chances either. Finally, pack along a pronghorn decoy and then don a Be The Decoy pronghorn hat. Pronghorn are not breeding yet in August, but they are socially curious and may walk over to greet a faux pronghorn visitor. Your decoy will attract and you wearing the hat create a distraction long enough for you to draw your Mathews bow. Public-land pronghorn hunting is one of the easiest big game hunts to plan, plus it’s affordable. And luckily you have access to the second highest population of pronghorn in North America right here in Montana.

Mark Kayser with a pronghorn shot at a waterhole. ©Mark Kayser





Photo by: Terry Reed

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H istorically, trolling structure come mid-summer was “big picture thinking” in that we chose long contours and

consistent break lines where we could put lures behind the boat and go. Because of the amount of line behind the boat, we needed room to work for trolling to be effective. Large flats and or a long consistent contour line was a perfect candidate for trolling crankbaits. Big spots were perfect for trolling along with situations whenever fish were scattered or suspended.

Over the past few years however, I find myself trolling small tight locations that I would never have dared before by using the bow mount trolling motor in conjunction with heavy snap weights that fish below the boat down into water as deep as forty feet. Don’t have a name for it… Don’t know what other people are calling it but I can tell you that this trolling system is deadly effective and is changing the way I fish deep structure come mid-summer. Trolling strategies come midsummer continue to evolve in part because of the advancements in GPS mapping. Better contour maps and faster processors enable more precise boat control. I started running the Garmin GPS Map 7410 this season which has an incredibly fast plotter. Regardless of what unit you run, a nice feature for fishing a specific feature on a piece of structure is the color option that allows you to highlight a specific depth range. This in conjunction with using the bow mount trolling motor to pull the boat versus pushing from the rear with a kicker motor allows the boat to turn sharper where all you essentially have to do is trace the contour by watching your plotter. Pulling the boat versus pushing the boat allows you to turn the boat sharp and follow extremely tight contours at faster speeds. Regardless of how good of boat control you have however, if there is a lot of line behind the boat whether you are long lining deep diving crankbaits or using lead core, the lures are way behind the boat and don’t necessarily take the same path that the boat takes. The heavy snap weight system allows you to put the lures right below the boat so that the lures stick right to the contour as you trace it. The key for this system to work extremely well is to use enough weight. I will often use five to six-ounce snap weights. The whole system is fast in that I can get a couple of rods out into twenty-five feet of water as an example in a mere handful of seconds whereas letting out lead core would take several seconds. On most inland water where there aren’t any zebra mussels, the lead between the lure and the snap weight only needs to be a rod length which speeds up the set-up time even more dramatically. When you can get away with the shorter lead, a simple fixed option like a three-way swivel can be used in conjunction with a large crankbait snap where one end of the snap is attached to the weight and the other end is attached to the three-way swivel. When the water is extremely clear or where there are zebra mussels, it seems like the fish dictate that you have a longer lead and monofilament is often necessary. Mille Lacs is in interesting case study in that I used to run a braided leader behind my lead core but now I catch more fish by running a longer mono leader.

The entire snap weight structure program is simple. Drop down until you hit the bottom and crank up line until you can feel the crankbait vibrating. If you are marking fish higher off the bottom, simply crank up the weight higher off the bottom. The lure essentially runs about the same depth as the snap weight when using the shorter lead.

The advantage of this system is that you can fish through locations fast and turn around faster after you find fish.

We often find ourselves just doing a figure 8 over a school of fish where we can go over the fish and immediately turn back around to go through them again. Irregular contours can be followed extremely effectively and because the setup time is so fast, anglers can troll much smaller and tighter locations. Whereas a traditional trolling speed might range around two miles per hour, what I find with the snap weights is that a slightly slower trolling speed can be extremely effective where I often move at about a mile and a half an hour but what happens is that the lures speed up and stall with every turn. Because you don’t have a prop turning at the back of the boat and because of the sharp angle the line takes below the boat, we can run rods off the bow of the boat and out the back of the boat when we run four lines, much like how you would run bottom bouncers and spinners when trolling with the bow mount. If you do have to troll against the waves or across the waves where the bow mount struggles to hold, you can also use the kicker motor for forward propulsion and simply steer with the bow mount but I often find that under most conditions, I can pull the boat for a long amount of time at a mile and a half an hour with most twenty-four and thirty-six volt trolling motors. Where this system has been productive for me is deep rock structure when the fish will tightly hold on one specific ledge or depth range. Following the sharp edges of reefs or deep primary points is simple and fast. Equally effective on both reservoirs and natural lakes, the simplicity and efficiency of this trolling system can enable you to catch more walleye this season.

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Trolling crankbaits using the bow mount trolling motor in conjunction with heavy four to five ounce snap weights is a deadly tactic for incredible boat control while trolling deep structure.

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Spinner rigs are deadly weapons for catching walleyes as summer marches on. These fish-catching combinations of beads, blades and hooks work wonders when you need to cover water hunting for fish scattered along various edges such as depth changes, deep weedlines and transitional areas where different types of bottom meet.

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Spinner rigs also excel for fishing other late-summer hotspots such as large feeding flats and weedtops where hungry ’eyes are ambushing prey. Baiting options vary, but Lindy pro Mike Christensen often prefers a juicy nightcrawler on a two-hook setup like Little Joe’s time-tested Crawler Harness, especially during insect hatches. When threading a crawler on the hooks, the veteran Mille Lacs Lake guide runs the lead hook through the very tip of the nose, so the bait doesn’t spin. Then he rigs the second hook so there is a bow in the harness line, not the nightcrawler. Many fishermen toss crawlers after the tail gets nipped off by a small perch or walleye, but not Christensen. In fact, he often pinches off part of the posterior himself. “Trimming the tail releases extra scent into the water, and moves the end of the bait closer to the trailing hook,” he said, noting that both benefits boost your odds of hooking up with more late-summer walleyes on every trip.

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Fall Run Browns On The Madison River (continued from page 4)

and will be in the river until the YNP season closes on the first Sunday in November. Yellowstone Park does not allow float fishing, so this is strictly a wade fishery. Both nymphing under an indicator and streamers are popular and effective techniques here. The fall run is about evenly split between Browns and Rainbows, with the average fish going between 16” and 20”, with a fair number up to 22”. The Madison in Yellowstone Park is a broad, shallow river so the most challenging aspect of this fishery is locating the runs that hold fish, which sometimes can be miles apart. The most popular area, by far, is a group of deep runs located just Typical fall Brown in Yellowstone Park inside the Park boundary known as the Barnes Pools. This area is reached via a dirt road that is located just inside the parks west entrance at West Yellowstone, MT. The dirt track splits before reaching the river, providing access to the upper and lower pools. Immediately upstream is another nice area, known as Cable Car Run, followed by miles of shallow, unproductive water. The river begins to deepen again towards its headwaters at Madison Junction, and you can spot productive runs from the car as the road closely parallels the river here. There are some sneaky spots here and there that hold fish, and that is the reward for the adventurous angler who takes the time to learn the fishery.

Fishing the Madison Fall Run: Between the Lakes

In local angling parlance, “Between the Lakes” refers to the short section of the Madison River between Hebgen Dam and the head of Quake Lake. Quake was formed in August of 1959 when a huge earthquake triggered a massive landslide that blocked the Madison River, killing 28 people in the process. Dead trees break the surface to this day, an eerie reminder of the power of nature. Though it’s barely two miles long, this stretch holds an extraordinary number of fish due to the fertile tailwater environment and close proximity to the lake. However, the population is greatly skewed towards Rainbow Trout, so this section sees the fewest number of fall run Browns. Though much fewer in number, this section holds the biggest Browns in the river. In the spring of 2013, a dead Brown that measured 38” and weighed 35lbs was found in the area and several fish over 30” have been caught in the last few years. While your odds of catching a fish this size are astronomically low, it is a good feeling knowing you are fishing water with such potential. Realistically, you can expect good numbers of Rainbows in the 14”-17” class, with Browns up to 22”. Between the Lakes is a swift, boulder strewn run that is best suited to nymph fishing. In addition to the flies discussed above, classic tailwater patterns like a Ray Charles or Scud are worth a try in this section. While this water doesn’t look anything like the Missouri or Bighorn, the same types of fly patterns will work. The key water type to look for here is the slack water on the backsides of current obstructions such as rocks or islands. (continued on page 23)

16 | Hunting & Fishing News

17-HFN-aug-bridgerRidge.pdf 1 3/2/2017 3:20:14 PM


By Zach Lazzari Lazy J Bar O Outfitters

H unting season is a ways off but that doesn’t mean you should be home on the couch. Strap on a backpack and

head for the hills to explore your hunting area. Besides the obvious benefit of getting outside and having fun, you will gain an advantage for the coming hunting season.



Wear your hunting boots, pack and bring most of the gear you will carry during your hunt. Obviously you can leave the game bags behind and throw in a fishing rod but try to keep the weight somewhat relevant. You can break-in and test new equipment while refining the contents of your pack on summer treks. Look for opportunities to shed weight and cut out unnecessary equipment as well. Keeping your pack light during the fall makes it much easier to tack on a few extra miles and push hard throughout the hunt. Use your summer trips as a training exercise. Build up the mileage gradually and get your legs working. Doing a few day hikes in advance is a good way to gauge your current condition. It’s easy to push too hard on your first trip and end up with an injury. Take the time to stretch, rest and recover. Training takes some time and you can build momentum over the course of a few trips while supplementing with workouts between. You know that feeling that you should be hunting that obscure little patch of ground you found on the topo that looks promising but hard to reach? Then you decide it’s too risky to burn that energy and time during your hunt. Summer is the perfect opportunity to take a look and scout. You may not even find animals in the area during the summer but you can scout water and food sources that provide refuge and security during hunting season. Take your trip off the trail and scout new drainages. Also keep your eyes peeled for sheds, old rubs and signs of rut from the previous season. C









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Hunting & Fishing News | 17



Photo credit: Luke Griffiths - Out West Outdoors

By Luke Griffiths Originally published at

Itwocarefully dissected the 20 yards that lay ahead of me, and precisely took each step. Cautiously, I placed my foot between twigs and shifted my weight, feeling small pebbles through my wool socks. The cool, steady breeze in my face

carried the pungent odor of elk. With my heart pounding, I focused on regulating my breathing and slowly stalked forward. My destination, a small rock outcropping that overlooked a bench below, felt hours away. The bull that I had been chasing for five days stood feeding there, still out of sight. Keeping a low profile, I finally reached the rock and peered over the edge. I felt the thermal current coming up the ridge into my face and the late morning sun on the back of my neck as I scanned for elk. Within seconds, I spotted him, still feeding and unaware of my presence. I took a moment to admire him through my binoculars and tried to calm my excitement. I took a yardage reading, found a solid rest and settled my crosshairs. While looking through the scope, I reflected on the time that I spent at the range, and what I had learned in practice. Breathe. Squeeze. The report of my rifle echoed off the rimrock and filled the canyon. The bull was down. I chambered another round and watched him though the scope as a surge of adrenaline and emotion overcame me. As I picked my way down the ridge to where he lay, I considered what I had achieved. With an over-the-counter tag on public land, I had harvested a respectable bull in remote country. I was persistent in my pursuit, constantly battling doubt as well as the wit of a creature who called this rugged place home and I had caught him off guard. As a hunter, this is what I work for all year. Upon reaching the downed bull, I was awestruck. The size and beauty of this animal and what he represented to me was overwhelming. I knelt beside him, my hand on his back and thanked the Lord for what he had provided. A wave of conflicting emotions of joy and sadness overcame me. The sense of accomplishment coupled with the loss of life is present at the end of every successful hunt. This magnificent and pure animal lived wild and free and I was the one to end his life. I set up my tripod and put my camera on a timer and took some photos to commemorate the experience. In the pictures, I am smiling on the outside, on the inside I am both happy and feel for the animal’s life I just took. I spent the rest of the day and half of the night deboning and packing out meat. When I finally crawled into my sleeping bag, the events of the day ran on a loop in my head as I drifted off to sleep. As hunters, we must respect the animals that we pursue. As stewards of wild game, we follow an ethical code and devote time and money to the preservation of species. With recent events such as the Cecil the Lion fiasco comes a great deal of negative publicity for hunting. Social media gives people a unique opportunity to speak their minds in ambiguity and many hunters are feeling the wrath for posting “trophy” photos. Death threats and suggestions of suicide are common themes expressed by anti-hunters. People who do not understand hunting assume that those who hunt enjoy killing and inflicting pain; that hunting “for sport” exists merely because those who hunt are barbaric. They are quick to paint us as cruel and bloodthirsty sadists who take joy in killing. For most hunters, this could not be further from the truth. We have great admiration and respect for the animals that we pursue. The act of killing an animal is a somber experience, yet we find joy in the pursuit and in the culmination of hard work and preparation. It is a paradox that is difficult to explain to those who have not experienced it. The time and effort is invested with the goal of killing an animal, but the real reward is found in the experience as a whole. The added reward of wholesome meat for the table, and the knowledge that it was earned honestly, cannot be found in any grocery store. Hunters are often criticized for smiling in a photo with a dead animal by those who do not understand the process. The “grip and grin” photo is probably the most prominent trophy photo. “Why are they smiling?” For those who have never experienced it, this is a reasonable question and one that is difficult to explain. Most hunters will agree that the joy and the smile are not a result of taking a life and displaying dominance, but rather something deeper. I do not hunt because I enjoy killing. I hunt for the places it takes me and to take an active role in the natural process. I hunt because I am a predator by nature; it’s in my blood. Throughout nature, living things die in order to sustain other living things. I take pride in the harvest. Yes, it is easier to go to the store and pay for meat that someone else killed, but the animal still had to die in order for it to sustain someone. I have the utmost respect for the wild and free animals that I pursue. They are majestic, and have “more freedom than I will ever have,” but “I take that life if I can, with regret as well as joy, and with the sure knowledge that nature’s way of fang and claw and starvation are a far crueler fate than I bestow.” Death begets life, and I take joy in living the hard way.

18 | Hunting & Fishing News

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Bugs on the Bitterroot

Outfitting Montana Anglers for 100 Years

Say Hello to Success: Where to Catch the Fish this Month

The heat is on, and so are the hoppers. The Bitterroot River is offering some of the best hopper fishing around through August. Since mid-July, anglers have been fishing terrestrials with success all the way up and down the river. It’s classic run-rip pool water with lots of pasture land around. Look for more action in the slower water and less in the riffles right now. Fishing tactics: Bigger sized bug patterns will do you well right now in light brown and green colors. Small spinners will also pick up trout in rainbow and brown trout colors. Mepps or Rapalas fished in the deeper holes towards dusk is most effective now.

Summertime fishing offers up anglers a chance to fish for

some of Montana’s biggest fish. Deep running walleye, weed seeking northern pike, big bruiser brown trout and feisty smallmouth bass will all be fishing well as we close out the summer. You’ll want to get out early and stay as late as you can on the water for the best fishing hours now. Camping and fishing is a phenomenal way to spend quality time outdoors, and it gets no better than here in Montana! Here are a few spots for you to consider in August. MONTANA PRE-SPAWN BROWN TROUT RIVERS: Trout anglers have a lot to look forward to in August. The Madison, Bighorn, Missouri, and the Marias Rivers will all start to see plenty of hard-hitting action for pre-spawn brown trout here in Montana. Madison River: The upper Madison from McAtee to Varney on Hwy. 287 will be fishing well as long as the water temps stay down. Hopper fishing and nymphs will catch big browns holing up on the banks or hanging behind the normal eddies. Bighorn River: For the best fishing right now on the Bighorn, fish early morning and late evening from the FAS at Two Leggins, located 6.5 miles south of Hardin to Yellowtail Dam Afterbay. Fishing tactics include: Floating a nymph below a strike indicator, twitching a muted-pattern Rapala for big fish, and spoons and spinners in deeper runs or when you fish the Bighorn at night for both rainbows and big brown trout. Marias River: The best trout fishing will be found in the first 10 miles or so below Tiber Dam. Below the dam, large brown trout can be found in fair numbers, averaging over 3 pounds and with some fish approaching 10 pounds. Flies of choice include: Minnow imitations and not surprisingly, the river runs through prime hopper country, especially now in mid-summer. Panther Martins can also pick up large browns in the deeper pools of the river. The Marias turns into a warm water fishery about 12 miles below Tiber Dam. While some large brown trout can still be found, anglers will start catching walleye, northern pike, smallmouth bass, and even a catfish or shovelnose sturgeon in these stretches of the river. The best access is at the Loma Bridge FAS, 10 miles north of Fort Benton off of Hwy. 87.

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3 Hopper Tips for Summer and Early Fall Trout Grasshopper imitations draw exciting action and provide excellent opportunities to catch big brown trout from Rocky Mountain streams during the fall. Here’s how to ignite the best bites with hopper flies. Twitch and pause - Don’t just dead drift a grasshopper fly. Dance it on top with short, sharp strips to imitate a disoriented insect and then let the fly drift. Read the bank - Trout learn the areas where terrestrial insects tend to find themselves afloat. Search for high grass on the bank and consider wind direction and current lanes to figure out where the trout are apt to be lined up to watch for a floating buffet. Trail an ant - Double up your offerings and appeal to fish that aren’t necessarily looking up by trailing a buoy-ant hopper with a small wet ant pattern, and watch your hopper like a strike indicator for any unusual bobs or weaves.

Flathead Lake - Whitefish, Mackinaw, Perch

Every year, the Lake Superior whitefish begin their annual voyage up the big lake, getting ready to make the fall run up the Flathead River to their spawning grounds. But before they do, they fatten up on the perch fry that are found in weedy areas near shallow bays. The perch fry need these weeds to hide from hungry predator fish. Anglers should find exceptional fishing around Elmo Bay, Big Arm Bay, the point off of Woods Bay, and in “The Delta” around the mouth of the Flathead River. Whitefish are strong, feisty fish and limits are liberal.


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20 | Hunting & Fishing News

Anything that resembles a perch will catch these fish. There are always a few mackinaw in the mix, as they are feeding on the whitefish that are feeding on the perch. An excellent example of the fishing food chain at work!

Hungry Horse Reservoir Big trout continue to draw Northwest Montana anglers, thanks to a growing number of fishable species. Westslope cutthroat trout or a bull trout can be caught now in the reservoir. Bull trout are usually caught incidentally while fishing for cutthroats. Fishing tactics: Cutthroat trout can be caught now using 1/4 oz. Kamlooper spoons in yellow and gold or Thomas Cyclones in gold and red colors. Panther Martin spinners are also a good lure in these waters. Good trout action is found in the crossover area near the upper end of the reservoir. These fish use the upper end as a staging area prior to running up the Flathead’s South Fork. The mouths of Graves Creek and Lost Johnny Creek are good bets for cutts. Be sure to check fishing regs and daily limits for both of these fish species.

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Fresno Reservoir: Walleye The whole lake will be fishing good for walleye as we head into the heat of summer. Most fish will come from 20 to 25 feet of water. The key is to find schools of bait fish. Fishing tactics: Bottom-bouncing a spinner and crawler combo during the early part of the day or running crankbaits in the evenings has proven most effective, as area anglers have yielded walleye mostly in the 1-1/2 to 5 lb. range. Vertical jigging in weedy areas is not a bad bet either. Nelson Reservoir: Walleye The mosquitoes are out in force, but so are the walleye right now on Nelson. Fishing tactics: Crankbaiting silver/black and silver Rapalas trolled in around 10 to 15 feet of water around the lake shore should prove effective. Your number two option should be bottom-bouncing with a worm harness. Lower Yellowstone River Look for good smallmouth bass fishing on the Lower Yellowstone River. Most of the smallmouth bass here are caught where the mouth of the Tongue River goes into the Yellowstone west of Miles City. Fishing tactics: Jigs and minnows, Rapalas or a fly rod will take smallmouth bass during the summer. Focus your fishing near rocky structures for bass trying to stay cool during the summer heat. Fishing after dark or early in the morning is key. Topwater buzz-baits can also be effective on the bass right now.


Steelhead runs - The early season A-run steelhead from the Clearwater River are joined by the Grand Ronde, Snake and Salmon runs. Most of the action will be the first 2 or 3 miles of the Clearwater near Lewiston. Access to the river is easy for shore anglers. Fishing tactics: Bright colors on dark days and dark colors on sunny, bright days. One of the best rigs is a 10 lb. test with 8 lb. test leader, 5 feet long, 3/16 solid core lead (1-1/2 to 2 inches), to a size 12 or 14 chartreuse or red Corky above a No. 2 barbless hook. As the summer days shift into fall the bigger fish will start to set in on these systems.


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Fall Run Browns On The Madison River (continued from page 16)

While there are a few nice deep holes, don’t get stuck on the depth of the water too much. It’s such a swift section of river, finding water that is the right speed becomes paramount, even though migratory fish typically gravitate towards slower, deeper water. This entire section of river is basically roadside, so it is quite easy to scope out and pick a good spot. This section of river is open year round, so it is a good option in November after Yellowstone Park closes. The run here starts a bit later than the other two sections as well.

Fishing The Madison Fall Run: Varney Bridge to Ennis Lake

This big Brown was caught in the float section in late September

If you are interested in fishing out of a drift boat, then the section of river from Varney Bridge down to the town of Ennis is where you want to be. From town down to Ennis Lake, the river is restricted to wade fishing only. Access here is tough as the river is in a bit of a willow jungle, so the preferred strategy is to use a boat to move from hole to hole, which is allowed as long as you exit the boat before you start fishing. Fish will start pushing into this section in mid-late September, and by mid-October will be dispersed throughout the river quite a ways upstream. The number of fish here is somewhere between Yellowstone Park (the most) and Between the Lakes (the least). Pressure is less here as well, given the necessity of a boat to reach much of the fishing. When float fishing from Varney to Ennis, I prefer to strip large streamers with a sinking line. The river twists and turns through the willows here at a pretty good clip, so the rapid fire nature of streamer fishing suits it quite nicely. You can certainly nymph fish here, but even so I like to choose a small streamer as my point fly even though I will be dead drifting it under the indicator. The fast current will impart action on the fly and it makes having a perfect dead drift less important. The river braids quite extensively here, so a skilled oarsman with local knowledge is important, as some channels contain logjams, dams, and other obstructions. I like to nymph fish down below Ennis, as again this section is restricted to wade fishing only. This section, known locally as “The Channels”, has even more islands and side channels than the Varney to Ennis stretch. The river is typically shallow here, with the deep runs getting most of the attention. There are plenty of sneaky spots to be found. As such, it takes a long time to learn this section well. Another interesting aspect of floating The Channels is that the boat ramp you use to take out is actually on Ennis Lake, requiring you to row almost a mile across the lake. It’s wise to check a wind forecast before committing. If you want to wade fish, the best access is the Valley Garden Fishing Access Site, which is just downstream from town. It’s kind of a jungle in there, but you can hike both upstream and down.



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2017 Deer Update: How Are Mule Deer Doing? By Mike Hanback

At the 2017 North American Deer Summit last week, Jim Heffelfinger of the Arizona Game and Fish Department reported on the status of the mule deer across the American West.

Mule deer went through tough times in the 1990s, and populations declined in many areas. More than 20 years later most people still think mule deer numbers are down, “but actually there’s good news,” said Jim. “Mule deer populations have been trending up, and are stable or increasing slightly in most states.” Jim pointed to Utah, Idaho and California as bright spots, with herds on the slight rise. But he did acknowledge that the winter of 2016 was brutal in parts of Colorado, Wyoming and Montana, where there should be a “little dip” in deer numbers this year. In the West, mule deer face unique challenges, such as expanded housing, energy and road development in herds’ migration routes and wintering areas; limited and changing water supplies; and changes in habitat and food sources. Major predators of the mule deer are the coyote (on fawns) and mountain lion. Jim is particularly positive about the herds and the number of big, mature bucks in his home state of Arizona. “The big bucks are here in any given year.” Arizona manages their mule deer so conservatively—drawing a tag is tough—that there are always big deer on public ground. Also expect lots of huge public-land bucks this fall next door in New Mexico, where again pulling a tag is the biggest challenge.

2017 Whitetail Report: How Are The Deer Doing? I recently returned from the 2017 North American Deer Summit, a two-day event where the top deer biologists and scientists in the nation gather to discuss the health of our herds and the future of hunting. First on the agenda: How are whitetail deer doing across the U.S.?

QDMA biologist Kip Adams kicked off the discussion with some good news. After several tough years (2011-2014) when winters were harsh in some regions and big outbreaks of EHD killed substantial numbers of deer in other areas, things are looking up for America’s most popular and widespread game animal. Kip pointed out that the buck harvest is up 4% (hunters in America shoot some 2.7 million bucks every fall). Furthermore, the percentage of bucks 3.5 years of older in the harvest has never been higher. It took a while but hunters as a whole have finally embraced the idea of letting small bucks walk in hopes that they will have the opportunity to shoot a mature, big-racked deer next season or the next. “I’ve been monitoring this issue for many years, and hunters’ attitudes on letting young bucks grow have definitely changed,” said Kip. Also, 10-15 years ago, if a state wanted to implement antler restrictions in order to save immature bucks, hunters would scream. Today, more hunters than ever, a strong majority, support antler restrictions that let 1- and 2-year-old bucks walk and grow. But there are threats to deer herds and deer hunting, including predators and lack of access to good land for hunting. But it all pales to the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease. CWD, which has now been documented in more than 20 states, is a contagious neurological disease that affects deer. It causes a spongy degeneration of the brains of infected animals resulting in emaciation, abnormal behavior (drooling and stumbling), loss of bodily functions and ultimately death. A large portion of the 2-day deer summit was devoted to the CWD threat, and I’ll cover that more in future blogs. But here’s the most disturbing thing. Consider that CWD has been documented in both mule deer and whitetails in Wyoming for at least 40 years. For those 4 decades the deer herds survived and grew in many locations, causing some people to be skeptical of the CWD threat. Consider me one of those early skeptics. I have hunted in Wyoming many times, and on every hunt, I have been amazed at the number of deer I have seen. Some of the strongest herds in America. How could there be so many deer out here if CWD is such a big deal? Studies from CWD-prevalent areas in Wyoming the last couple of years have shown noticeable drops in deer numbers, perhaps 18% in places. This is the first time that CWD has been directly linked to population declines. The big worry as CWD spreads across the country: Once herds are infected with CWD, maybe it takes several decades for substantial numbers of deer to start dying and populations to diminish? There are still many questions and a lot to be studied and learned about CWD, but Kip Adams and all the other scientists at the summit echoed the same sentiment: CWD is the biggest threat to deer and deer hunting in 2017 and maybe ever. All hunters must get engaged on this issue and be informed. CWD aside for now, the outlook for the upcoming season is good across North America. “For the most part, last winter was fairly mild in most areas, and we’ve have lots of moisture this spring,” said Kip. “The 2017 hunting season is setting up to be a good one.”

24 | Hunting & Fishing News

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If you are interested in joining MDF volunteers to help with this important project, please contact Chad Klinkenborg, MDF Regional Director, at (406) 570-4271 or

BOOTS ON THE GROUND This summer, the Mule Deer Foundation (MDF) is working in conjunction with the US Fish & Wildlife Service on an ongoing fence removal project in the UL Bend area of the Charles M. Russell (CMR) National Wildlife Refuge. The two organizations are joining forces to remove more than 100 miles of unused, woven-wire fencing that poses a threat to the abundance of wildlife that inhabit the area. Elimination of such barriers will reduce injury and mortality of yearling mule deer, elk, and pronghorn antelope while promoting herd congregation and movement through several winter migration areas. The project is also expected to reduce young abandonment and decrease susceptibility to predation. With help from volunteers across Montana, the MDF Prairie Ghost Chapter was successful in removing 22 miles of unused woven-wire fencing in 2016. This summer, the Chapter will shoot to remove an additional 26 miles of fencing.

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What you take as shooting fact – may be to find out if you’ve been duped by these long-standing false truths. Then, go tell your friends and look smart.

• The effect of wind on your bullet down range has more impact than the wind at your muzzle. Right?

Incorrect. Ok, before you start throwing your tomatoes, we’ll admit, the effect of wind on bullets is one of the hottest and most debated shooting topics – even by true experts. We’ll also admit this myth may not be entirely debunked. Now, I’m going to ask you to think of it like this. With most things attempted in life, it’s best to get off to a good start. This goes for your bullet too. The wind at your muzzle will be the first to affect your bullet – and will essentially point your bullet right or left. By doing this, your bullet is now essentially on an un-intended vector. Barring being blocked by an obstruction – and therefore giving you a false reading – the wind at your location is the most critical. Will the wind it encounters through it’s time of flight effect it? Certainly – but not as much as what’s happening at your shooting position.

• The lower your scope-over-bore height, the better for accurate long-range shooting. Right?

Incorrect. Take this example: Nobody complains about their custom rifle in an XLR chassis costing $5,000 (plus) dollars with a scope-over-bore height of 2.5 in. Why? Because it’s a hell-of-an-accurate and extremely effective long-range set up. In fact, no matter what a person spends, scope-over-bore height has little impact on accuracy/down-range performance at longer distances. Now, depending on the rifle, it may have a dramatic effect on cheek weld, comfort and optimal sight picture, (which could impact shooter performance) but that is completely unrelated. Also of worthy note, scope-over-bore height should be accounted for in short-range scenarios (under 50 yards), due to the more dramatic angular relationship between the bore and the optic. When we compared two identical 6.5 Creedmoor setups using a ballistic calculator (the only difference being scope-over-bore heights of 1.7 in. versus 2.7 in.), here’s what we came up with. At 1000 yards (a distance where any deficiencies should be greatly exaggerated), the rifle with the higher scope-over-bore height required 9.13 mils of adjustment to deliver its payload on target. Interestingly .25 mils less than the rifle with the lower scope-over-bore height. One could argue the rifle with the scope mounted higher performed slightly better. Bam! Myth busted.

• I need a large diameter scope tube to let in more light for better light transmission at dawn and dusk. Right?

Incorrect. Although it seems intuitive, a larger tube diameter has virtually nothing to do with light transmission. Sorry. However, it does serve a very distinct and important purpose. All things being equal, the amount of total travel a scope has is bigly determined by the scope’s tube diameter. In order for a riflescope’s windage and elevation to adjust, the internal erector assembly needs room to move within the main tube. More room to move equates to more travel. More travel allows you to dial more adjustment for longer shots.


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Hunting & Fishing News | 31




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N O S A E S LY R A E R O F S IC T C 5 TA ANTELOPE SUCCESS Photo credit David Fennell

By Sean Evenson

Originally published at

Iyett seems like forever since the end of the spring turkey season, the itch to get back out is in full force...I know many of

us are eager to get out there! A few years ago, I began looking for ways to decrease the wait as well as extend the upcoming hunting season. What better way to do it than plan a hunt in the Wild West and try to sink an arrow in a speedgoat! With eight power vision and legs that can turn and burn at the drop of a hat, hunting antelope can be both exciting and frustrating at the same time. To ease the burden and help you put your tag on an early season trophy, here are five surefire antelope tactics:


A good waterhole is the ticket for early season antelope success. In order to increase the odds on a good antelope buck, pay particular attention to the weather. If your schedule allows it, try to be flexible. Look ahead and schedule your hunt based on the midday highs. Hot temperatures almost ensure that the buck you are looking for takes a much needed break at a nearby waterhole. During a 2013 ...antelope hunt, with temperatures reaching the mid 80s, all but one of my kills was over water.


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Antelope buck in the rut pushing herd of does. Photo David Fennell

Not all waterholes are created equal. If time permits, get there early and scout in order to find the popular waterhole. Antelope are creatures of habit and will visit the same waterhole day in and day out. If you find a good buck hitting a certain waterhole, set up shop. There is a good chance that the buck will be back the following day. When he shows up, you’ll be ready and waiting.


Locate the popular waterhole by finding the food. In both 2013 and 2015, the hot waterhole was the one nearest the food. Not to say other waterholes weren’t good because they certainly were, but the waterhole that stood out was near the food. On our hunt, the waterhole surrounded by alfalfa was the hot spot. Not to mention that there was a field of oats nearby, too! At any point in the day, if you looked out into the alfalfa or oat field, there was antelope and the closest waterhole was the honey hole!


Waterholes may be the preferred method for hunting early season antelope, but don’t be afraid to abandon them for a favored food source, especially when the weather turns. Two years ago in Wyoming, I killed a dominant buck in the morning after popping up a ground blind next to a hay bale in the middle of an alfalfa field. The weather had cooled and, after scouting for an evening, I realized that it would only be a matter of time before this buck strolled by with his harem of does. I arrowed him at 60 yards immediately following a chase on an unwilling doe!


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Photo David Fennell

The vastness of western terrain makes it seem as if antelope just walk around aimlessly. Believe it or not, they too have their favorite trails leading to their preferred waterholes and food sources. It’s amazing to see the cattle-like trails leading through the sage. Not only is this information helpful for deciding how and where to set up your blind on a particular waterhole, but it is also very useful to know which travel routes are heavily used, especially for that occasion when the weather turns cool or hunting pressure changes their ritual visits to water. Find a tree, an old shed, or even a stack of tires along a heavily used trail leading to food. Whatever the obstruction may be, set up on the ground or in a blind and get ready to send a carbon missile at an unsuspecting antelope on the way to feed. During the three years I’ve hunted antelope, I have encountered everything from high temperatures to cool temperatures, clear skies to storms, and scarce water to plentiful. Each situation requires a different tactic to help tip the scales in your favor. When you are out in the field, be observant and learn everything you can about your quarry. When the weather throws you a curveball, think outside the box and utilize the information at hand to ensure success on an early season antelope buck!

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TEAMWORK: CALLING ELK WITH A PARTNER By Zach Lazzari Lazy J Bar O Outfitters

W orking as a team during elk season is an excellent tactic. Multiple callers can strategically manipulate bulls within shooting range. The key to successful team calling lies in having a great strategy before you start sounding off bugles and cow calls.

Locate First

Before you head out and start calling off, make a rigid plan. Begin by locating bulls that are already bugling or are visible through your glass. This means working hard around sunrise and sunset. When you are not locating bulls, have only one caller send out a locate bugle. Use this sparingly and wait for a response. Once you have one or more players within calling range, it’s time to build a strategy.

Shooters Role

The shooter should always focus on finding a shooting lane with good cover. Look at the landscape and work into a position that puts you between the bull and your partner. Cutting off the route is critical to prevent the bull from moving directly to your partner rather than the shooting position. Sit around 50 yards ahead of your partner and conceal yourself well. Keep a cow call handy to stop the bull and a bugle just in case the bull is spooky and you want to challenge. Your partner will however dominate the conversation while you focus on the shot.

Partners Role

Wait until your shooter is positioned and hidden. You get to handle all of the calling and your exact approach should be a combination of reading the other bull and using your most effective calling style. I like to challenge and cut off the bull with my own bugles. Other callers prefer a less aggressive approach. Make sure you are positioned to play the wind and hidden from view. Keep your glass handy and work your calling sequence until you hear from the shooter. Do not rush and do not leave your position until the shooter signals. Sometimes a bull will go silent but still move in your direction. Give the shooter time and sit tight when this happens. At Lazy J Bar O Outfitters, they offer elk hunts in remote and rugged wilderness areas in the Bob Marshall Wilderness and in Southwest Montana. With both remote spike camp and lodge accommodations, they can help you plan the ideal elk hunting adventure. Contact them for more information at 406-932-5687 or

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mature bucks in varied habitats across America. These are places where you might slip in and have a good chance of seeing and quite possibly getting a shot at a big deer, even if you’ve not had a lot of time to scout this summer. Search for these terrains and structures on an aerial map; if you’ve hunted a ground for several years, think back to where a few of these spots are located. Ditch It One morning in Montana, I froze as an 8-pointer trotted toward me through the woods. He was moving fast, trying to get back to his bed along the Milk River before the sun got too high. Something flashed behind him—a 10-pointer pushing 150 was bringing up the rear! The woods were flat as a pool table and pretty open, but I wasn’t too worried, even though I was eyeballing the impressive pair from ground zero. The bucks stepped into the ditch in front of me and disappeared. I drew my bow and stepped out from behind my hiding tree. When the 8-pointer popped out on my side, I ran an arrow through his lungs at 16 steps. Why didn’t I wait for the 10-point giant you ask? Well, the 8-pointer was a P&Y buck, and I never pass a bow shot at a P&Y buck. Since that day, a good-sized ditch, old creek bed or dry irrigation canal that runs through a woodlot is one of my favorite bow setups. Many times I have watched bucks get down in the trenches and maneuver though the woods. You might get a shot by hunting on either end of the runway. If you walk and scout the entire length of a ditch you will find at least 2 points where trails come together and funnel across it, and those are also killer spots for a set. I actually like the crossings better than the ends on days when the wind is right. End Runs Loggers bulldoze windrows of trees and logs alongside new access roads and clear-cuts in the woods. Clearing pastures, farmers often pile logs or brush along edges of the timber. These are linear structures that you should look for. Deer can’t walk through the barriers, so they skirt them on either end. Check the ends for trails curling around, like you would do with the ditches we talked about. Set up where the sign is good and the wind is right. Ah, but once in a while deer can walk through a wind row. Scout along a line of piled-up trees or brush and look for a hole or gap in the middle of it. If deer are sneaking through there, you’ll see their tracks. My friend and TV star Mark Drury killed one of his biggest bow bucks ever—190 class —by hunting near a brush-row chute like this. Point of Timber One of the easiest spots to find on an aerial map is a good-size point of timber tucked in the “S Curve” of a snaking river or large stream. I hunted such a spot on the Mouse River in North Dakota once, and while I didn’t kill a buck, I spent a week watching deer use this habitat. I was close two times, but never could get a shot.If there’s good cover in the point of timber and little pressure in the area, you can bet some bucks will bed deep in there by the water and filter in and out on several trails. (continued on page 41)

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he Thrive series disproves the theory that no single board can do several things well. It’s the perfect all-around shape for paddlers looking to mix it up with touring, fitness paddling, and light river running. Inflates up to a rock-hard 20 psi for performance that rivals a hard board, then folds up compactly when deflated for easy transport and storage. The Thrive SUP features the NRS proprietary Axis Technology™. Axis, an acrylic stiffening agent integrated in the deck, improves stiffness and performance without adding weight or making the board harder to roll up. Removable, interchangeable fins let you customize your setup and the ABS plastic fins absorb impacts without breaking. With 246 liters of air volume, the 5-inch-thick Thrive 10’3” provides optimal performance and stability for paddlers up to 200 pounds. Hook the included shoulder strap to the two webbing loops on the board’s sidewall to help carry your inflated SUP to the water over your shoulder. Includes a high-pressure pump for easy inflation, a pressure gauge, travel pack and repair kit. View a short video at

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Montana’s annual wolf report shows a minimum of 477 wolves were counted for 2016. This is down from 536 wolves counted in 2015, but doesn’t necessarily reflect a reduction in wolf numbers, but rather a reduction in counting effort. Included in this number is a minimum number of 50 breeding pairs. This compares to a minimum count of 32 breeding pairs in 2015, and 34 breeding pairs in 2014. “Though the minimum count is down, we’ve long held that these minimum counts are useful only in ensuring Montana’s wolf population stays above the federally-mandated minimum threshold. The minimum count is not a population count or an index or estimate of the total number of wolves,” said Bob Inman, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks carnivore and furbearer program chief. The actual wolf population in Montana is hard to pin down, but FWP employs another counting method that gets closer. The Patch Occupancy Model, or POM, incorporates data on territory and wolf pack sizes, along with hunter observations and known wolf locations to get to a more accurate estimation of wolf populations. The most recent POM estimate from 2014 was 892 wolves in Montana, about 61 percent higher than the minimum counts from that year. Data for 2015 and 2016 POM counts of Montana’s wolves are being compiled and will be analyzed this summer. The other benefit of the POM method is it’s a much cheaper undertaking since it incorporates data analysis rather than direct counting efforts. During the 2016/2017 wolf hunting and trapping season, 246 wolves were harvested – 163 by hunters and 83 by trappers. This is the highest harvest to date, but only 16 wolves higher than the 2013/2014 season. 2016 also saw 57 confirmed wolf livestock depredations – 52 cattle, five sheep. This is down from 64 in 2016. The recovery of the wolf in the northern Rockies remains one of the fastest endangered species comebacks on record and a real success story. Montana’s wolf population remains healthy, well distributed and genetically connected. In the mid-1990s, to hasten the overall pace of wolf recovery in the Northern Rockies, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released 66 wolves into Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho. FWP began monitoring the wolf population and managing livestock conflicts in 2004. After several court challenges wolves were successfully delisted in 2011. The delisting of wolves in 2011 allows Montana to manage wolves as it does any other game species, which is guided by state management plans, administrative rules and laws. To learn more about Montana’s wolf population and read the FWP 2016 Annual Wolf Report, visit FWP online at Click Montana Wolves.

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Department of Interior Announces Recovery and Delisting of Yellowstone Grizzly Population RMEF The U.S. Department of

Interior announced the recovery of the Yellowstone grizzly bear population as well as its Photo RMEF intent to remove federal protections and return management to state agencies. “The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation supports the delisting of grizzly bears,” said David Allen, RMEF president and CEO. “It’s been a long time coming and we think this is the appropriate move by Secretary Zinke and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.” The Yellowstone population rebounded from as few as 136 bears in 1975 to an estimated 700 today. Confirmed sightings of grizzlies are taking place in locations where they have not previously been seen for more than 100 years as they extend their range in the Northern Rockies. “This achievement stands as one of America’s great conservation successes; the culmination of decades of hard work and dedication on the part of the state, tribal, federal and private partners,” said U.S, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke. “As a Montanan, I’m proud of what we’ve achieved together.” The Yellowstone grizzly population meets all delisting criteria. These factors include not only the number and distribution of bears throughout the ecosystem, but also the quantity and quality of the habitat available and the states’ commitments to manage the population from now on in a manner that maintains its healthy and secure status. “We do caution everybody to manage their expectations about the potential of hunting grizzly bears. The reality is there will be very minimal hunting of grizzly bears for the next several years. Those who oppose the delisting are going to try and use ‘trophy hunting’ as a major obstacle and reason not to delist grizzly bears. It’s purely rhetoric and propaganda,” added Allen. The final rule, and the supporting documents, will publish in coming days in the Federal Register and the rule will take effect 30 days after publication.

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Bowhunting Whitetail:

5(continued GREAT STAND SPOTS from page 37) It’s a gamble on which trail to hang a stand, though as a rule I usually choose one where a buck moves to or from the cover with the daily wind in his nose. Set stands or blinds at least 300 yards from the water curve so as not to pressure the bedding area. Hunt for a buck coming out in the evening or going in at dawn. On Edge I love to bowhunt in woods tangled with brush and dotted with pines or cedars, because that is where the old boys hang out. But I never hang a tree stand where it’s too tight, where I can see only 30 yards or so in the cover. If your setup is too constricted, a 10-pointer is apt to pop up in arrow range without your seeing or hearing him. You might make a wrong move…he might look up and bust you…you might come unglued and shoot quickly and miss or hit him poorly… So, scout the heaviest cover in the timber and set a tree stand on a linear edge of it (there’s that word again, bucks naturally travel linear structure) where you can see a big deer coming for maybe 100 yards. That way, you can ease up your bow and make all the right moves as he closes in. What makes this setup so sweet is that since bucks travel an edge like this so much, you’ll find lots of major trails and fresh rubs and scrape lines to key on. Field Post A gnarly, grown-up pasture might be 60 acres, or a sprawling CRP field of 500 acres in the Midwest. Either habitat is a fantastic spot to hunt, especially in the rut when bucks cruise for does and drag the willing ones out there to breed. If you were rifle hunting, you’d just sit on a rise or in a tree stand where you could watch the cover for 300 yards or more (actually do that if you gun hunt later in the season). But with a bow, you naturally have to narrow it down. Get on a hill and glass a weed field for a wide swale running through it. I guarantee you bucks will travel that low ground, which hides them as they cut from one point of timber to the other, or from woods to a crop field. Go down in there and look for a major trail and see where and how it runs across the field. Hang a stand on either edge of the woods where the trail dumps in, or look for a little ambush spot along a trail out in the waist-high cover. There are often a lot of cedar trees in this type of habitat. Back into the low-growing branches and set up with the tree to your back for an awesome natural blind. Sometimes, if the cedar or pine trees are large, you can hack out a spot for a stand 15 or so feet up—great because you can watch pretty much the whole field and whack any buck that slinks by on the trail. Good luck.

Hunting & Fishing News | 41


Sleeping bag or quilt

Sleeping bags come in all different sizes and weights. The most common style of bag is the mummy bag. These do a great job of insulating your body heat, but can be a little constraining. There are also more rectangular shaped bags, which are going to be a lot more comfortable, but might also weigh more due to the additional fabric and take up more space in your pack. Another option is a quilt, which is literally what it sounds like. This particular quilt is designed with a footbox like a traditional mummy style sleeping bag. This option cuts down weight by not having a bottom portion to the bag. Backpacking quilt by Enlightened Equipment The reason behind this is when we lay on our sleeping bags, we are actually compressing the insulation; therefore, defeating the purpose of having it in the first place. Rather, the insulation underneath you should come from your sleeping pad (which is up next). Along with the decision of bag or quilt, you also have the option of down or synthetic. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. Here are a few: Down sleep systems Advantages Disadvantages • Lightweight • Pretty useless when wet • Extremely compressible • More expensive • Warmer than synthetic • Requires more maintenance for longevity

Synthetic sleep systems Advantages Disadvantages • Better in wet conditions • Generally weighs more • More affordable • Not as warm • Easier to maintain • Not as compressible


We are in the golden age of comfort for sleeping in the backcountry. There are a plethora of options for a great nights sleep on a backcountry hunt; some people like rollout pads and others prefer inflatable. Some of the favorites by backcountry hunters are Therm-A-Rest NeoAir Xlite and the Kymit Inertia models. Like everything else, there are lightweight options, heavier and possibly more comfortable options, and ones for early or late season hunting. More insights on sleep systems for the backcountry can be found here:

THE ADDITIONAL BIG THREE You can never go without these items.

Essential items Food Water Clothing


Food can be tricky when preparing for a backpack hunt. Before I started backpacking, I didn’t really pay close attention to what I ate throughout the day; however, having an adequate amount of calories is paramount on backpack hunts. On these trips,

you will be burning an unprecedented number of calories as you hike through various terrain with everything on your back. If you don’t have the fuel to keep going, then you simply won’t go. With that in mind, keep it simple. What foods do you like and what don’t you like? Popular backpacking food choices include freeze-dried meals, oatmeal and protein bars. They are popular because they are easy to prepare, which is a big convenience in the backcountry. Freeze-dried foods and oatmeal require the ability to boil water. You can do that by making a fire or using a convenient lightweight backpacking stove (which is the recommended method). Ultimately, what food you bring is up to you. Try to find the most nutrient dense, lightweight food that you can. I aim for 2,500 to 3,000 calories per day... A good way to figure out how much food to take on a backpack hunt is by keeping a log of what you eat (and how much) during day trips that you take into the mountains. Were you hungry the whole time? Were you satisfied? This is what I did in the beginning to get an idea about how much food I should actually pack for a full day. I usually pack each days worth of food into a gallon Ziploc bag. Here is an example of one days worth of food for me. Breakfast: Rolled oats with whey protein and raisins or Belvita breakfast biscuits with Justin’s Almond Butter Snack: Two types of bars (usually Larabar and ProBar) Lunch: Bagel with peanut butter and honey along with a protein bar Snack: Trail mix and a bar... Dinner: Homemade dehydrated bear chili or Mountain House along with Wilderness Athlete Hydrate and Recover drink



I select where to camp based upon where water is in a particular area. Sometimes water is not readily available in more arid environments. If that is the case, I will hike in and stash some water before a hunt. If you can’t do that, there are all sorts of different filters out there to choose from and they all do a good job. Styles include pump filters, squeeze filters and gravity filters. There is also the tried and true method of water purification tablets or drops, which is a very lightweight and minimalist approach, but an effective one nonetheless. I have these with me no matter what style of filter I am using because they are a great backup plan. If all else fails you can always boil your water. I’ve done this in a pinch, but, in all reality, I don’t want to sit there and boil every bit of water that I get before I drink it. You are either going to be blowing through too much fuel that you could use for cooking or wasting time starting fires when you could be out hunting.


Having the proper layering system will lend heavily to your comfort level and really could save your life. The more comfortable you are, the longer you will stay out there and the more efficient you will be. The distraction of being too cold, wet or hot for that matter is not something that you want to stress about. You want to focus at the task at hand and have a good hunt. (continued on page 44)

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What is a layering system?

A layering system is a collection of different pieces of clothing that all work together to keep you a happy hunter. Rain, shine, hot or cold—you’re prepared no matter what and ready for action. Maybe you’ve heard the term “layering system” thrown around from time to time, but don’t quite know what that is or how to go about building your own. You might have even dismissed the term because it sounds like mumbo jumbo that clothing manufactures use in their marketing. Whether it is or not is completely irrelevant because it is sound logic that works, which is exactly what you need in the backcountry. Top You are going to want a lightweight base layer (used to wick moisture from your skin), midweight layer (to add warmth and continue the moisture wicking), a soft shell insulation piece (insulates your body heat while drying out your lightweight and midweight layers) and rain gear to keep you dry. The decision between synthetic or merino wool is a personal choice. Merino wool will perform better in arid environments; synthetic will do better in moist ones. Bottom For pants, go with something that is going to aid in mobility, is abrasion resistant, and is obviously comfortable. Depending on the temperature, you might want to add a merino or synthetic base layer underneath your pants. Popular choices include a nylon blend (stretch) pant or a merino wool pant. Here is an example of what I would bring with me on an early season week long archery elk hunt: (All of these products are made from First Lite.) Llano (lightweight base layer) Chama Hoodie (midweight) Uncompahgre Puffy (insulation) Corrugate Guide Pant

Red Desert Boxers (two pairs) Mountain Athlete Triad Socks (two pairs) Fingerless gloves Vapor Stormlight Rain Jacket (Might get left in the truck pending a weather report) Boundary Stormtight Rain Pants (Might get left in truck pending a weather report) Your layering system is completely customizable to your location and your preferences, but that is a 30,000 foot view of a layering system. It is important to note that you only need one layering system for a hunt. You do not need to bring three pairs of pants and eight pairs of socks. You will be fine with something similar to what I’ve outlined above. I don’t care what clothing company you decide to buy your stuff from, just do your research and build your system.


I truly believe that the number one reason why a lot of people don’t actually go on a backpack hunt is fear of pulling the trigger and making it happen. It’s the mental game. Hiking off into the wilderness with nothing but what you have on your back can be intimidating and I certainly fell into that category. Thinking about everything as a whole and taking on a new adventure often left me sleeping at my truck. After making it happen and spending my first night on a backpack hunt, though, it all changed for me. The view that I had when I opened up my tent was nothing short of breathtaking and knowing that there were rutting Coues deer to be seen only a hop, skip and a jump away from my tent made it all the better. My biggest piece of advice beyond gear and food is to realize that backpack hunting is very possible for anyone willing to give it a shot. You are the only one holding yourself back. The complication of this stuff comes from our uncertainties, not from the thing itself. Go for it!

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MOA, Mils and Math – The Long Range Shooting Guide, Part 2


By Tom McHale

Ihitting f you want to save lots of time & ammo zeroing a rifle or a distant target, invest a little time to understand the concepts of MOA and mils.

In part one of the Long Range Shooting Guide, (published in July MT HFN), we made the astounding observation that gravity happens. The very picosecond that a bullet leaves the muzzle, it begins it’s slow and inevitable downward death spiral, ultimately ending in a collision with the ground – unless it hits something else first. Because of gravity, shooters need to account for bullet drop by “aiming up.” How much “up” depends on many things, but mainly the distance to the target. The farther away the target is, the more time elapses while the bullet is in flight, and the more time gravity has to push it towards the dirt. Let’s consider a real example. I’ve been testing a Masterpiece Arms BA Lite 6.5mm Creedmoor rifle. When it’s zeroed at 100 yards shooting some nifty hand loads with Hornady’s 140-grain ELD Match bullets, I can calculate the exact amount of bullet drop (or how much I have to aim “up”) for any given distance. At 800 yards, that bullet will drop 163.53 inches. That’s no big deal, right? All I have to do to hit the target is adjust my scope to the “163.53 inches for 800 yards” setting. Obviously, there is no such mark on the scope dial, so that’s where the concepts of minutes of angle and milliradians come into play. That are just standardized ways of accounting for bullet drop over any distance. Both minutes of angle (MOA) and milliradians (we’ll call them mils) are (more or less) angular measurements. They do the exact same thing but represent different measurements, sort of like yards and meters. Since they are angular measurements, they’re proportional. If a MOA or mil represents some amount of drop at 100 yards, it represents double that at 200 yards and triple that at 300 yards. We’re going to dive into the basic math for just a hot second. To understand the concepts of MOA and mils, it’s important to know the land from which they hail. A radian is a unit of distance around the perimeter of a circle. If you start nibbling your way around the very edge of a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, and you make it all the way around, you’ll have nibbled 6.28 radians of yummy goodness. If you take just one small bite from the edge, say about one-sixth, you’d have eaten about one radian of the edge. Now, imagine drawing a line from the center of your Reese’s to the start of the bite mark and another from the center to the end of the bite mark. Those two lines form an angle that forms one radian. So if a radian represents an angle of about 1/6th of a circle, a milliradian represents about 1/6,000th of a circle, or, to be exact, 1/6,280th of a circle. That’s a really small angle. In fact, if you draw two lines extending out 1,000 yards at that angle, they would only be 36 inches apart at the end. Hold that thought for a second while we define minutes of angle. A minute of angle is an angular measurement. It just represents a different amount. A circle has 360 degrees, right? Well, a “minute” is 1/60th of a degree, so there are

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MHF2017 21,600 (60 * 360) “minutes” in a full circle. A minute of angle (MOA) is also a really narrow angle, even smaller than the one represented by a milliradian. If you drew two 1,000 yard-long lines separated by a single minute of angle, they would diverge to just 10.4 inches apart at the very end. Whether we’re talking about minutes or mils, both are proportional measurements, so the number they represent changes in a constant fashion as distance increases. Just like going 100 miles per hour in your Bugatti Veyron gets you to Dunkin Donuts twice as fast as traveling 50 miles per hour, the distance represented by a minute or mil is double at 200 yards from what it was at 100. Going back to the real numbers, a mil represents 3.6 inches at 100 yards, so that one mil translates to 7.2 inches (2 * 3.6 inches) at 200 yards, and 10.8 inches (3 * 3.6 inches) at 300 yards. The same thing applies to minutes of angle. One MOA at 100 yards is 1.04 inches while at 200 yards it translates to 2.08 inches and 3.12 inches at 300 yards. (continued on page 50)

Both mils and MOA are “angular” measurements so they represent proportional distance relationships.

Hunting & Fishing News | 45


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CWD Testing, Monitoring Remains A Priority For FWP MFWP

C hronic wasting disease has yet to be discovered in Montana’s wild populations of deer, elk and moose, but as

the disease continues to expand to the north, south and east of the state, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Park officials believe it is only a matter of time before it is in Montana. FWP started testing for CWD in 1998 and that effort continues today, with specific attention given to high priority areas in southeast and northern Montana where confirmed cases of CWD are closest to the state’s borders. “We know it is important to continue our monitoring efforts the best we can,” said FWP Game Management Bureau Chief John Vore. “We know our greatest chance of containing the disease once it is detected will be finding it early.” CWD testing will ramp up this year, as FWP looks to find ways to sample more deer and elk in the high priority surveillance areas. Now people participating in the salvage permit process in high risk counties will be asked to retain and turn in the heads of whitetail, mule deer and elk that are picked up. The salvage permit allows people to salvage road kill animals and must be obtained within 24 hours of picking up a road killed animal. The permit is available online at The high-risk counties FWP is seeking heads from salvage road-killed deer and elk are: Sheridan, Treasure, Daniels, Valley, Toole, Phillips, Liberty, Blaine, Hill, Custer, Rosebud, Mussel Shell, Golden Valley, Yellowstone, Carter, Sweet Grass, Park, Stillwater, Big Horn, Powder River, Carbon, Granite, Roosevelt, Deer Lodge, and Silver Bow.

46 | Hunting & Fishing News

CWD is a progressive, fatal disease affecting the central nervous system of mule deer, white-tailed deer, elk and moose. It is part of a group of diseases called Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies. Infectious, abnormal proteins called “prions” accumulate in an animal’s brain, causing a spongy appearance to the tissue visible only under a microscope. The only documented cases of CWD in Montana were in captive animals at a game farm in Philipsburg in 1999; however, CWD has been detected in free-ranging populations in 21 other states and two Canadian provinces – some very near the border with Montana. In fact, it has been detected in all the states or provinces with which Montana shares a border, except for Idaho and British Columbia. Though there is no evidence CWD is transmissible to humans, it is recommended to never ingest meat from animals that appear to be sick or are known to be CWD positive. If hunters harvest an animal that appears to be sick, the best thing to do is contact FWP and have the animal inspected. In other parts of the country, wildlife management agencies have dealt with CWD for years. In Wyoming, officials are beginning to see population declines in infected mule deer herds due to the high prevalence of the disease. One of the challenges with CWD is that infecting prions stay viable for a long time in both animals and in the environment. So as more animals become infected, the environment they inhabit becomes more infected, making control much more difficult. FWP has compiled more than 17,000 postmortem samples from free-ranging deer, elk and moose – all of which were negative. There is no non-invasive, reliable test for live animals. Unfortunately, federal funding for testing was cut back in 2012, so the agency now limits sampling to high-risk areas or symptomatic animals. Mule deer are the preferred test subject because they are the most susceptible, and bucks are twice as likely to test positive for CWD. As always, landowners, hunters and the general public are encouraged to report animals they see in the wild that appear sick to their nearest FWP personnel. Animals exhibiting symptoms of CWD are often emaciated, drooling, disoriented with a weird gait, and have their head and ears hung low. Contributing heads from salvaged road-kill will greatly increase the samples that FWP collects as hundreds of these animals are picked up each year. Heads may be turned into FWP regional offices, area resource offices or by calling your local biologist or game warden. Some tools are already in place to try to combat the disease, such as a ban on full carcasses or certain carcass parts being brought into Montana from areas with CWD, new legislation that bans cover scents produced in CWD positive states, and a ban on feeding deer, which causes them to congregate. The state also does not relocate cervids from one area to another, nor does it rehabilitate and release them back into the wild because of CWD concerns. Additionally, FWP is updating its response plan and has enlisted the help of a citizen advisory panel. Members on the panel represent a broad interest of hunters, livestock producers and wildlife enthusiasts. The revised plan will be submitted to the Fish and Wildlife Commission for endorsement later this year... For more information on CWD in Montana, look online at Click on the Fish and Wildlife tab, then on Disease and Research and then Chronic Wasting Disease...

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W hat was the last goal you set when it comes to hunting? Did you achieve that goal? If not, why didn’t you? If you did achieve it, how were you able to? I asked myself these same questions, and it led to me to examine a few things in particular that revolve around goal setting.

People love to set goals every season. I’d venture to guess that most hunters have some type of goal going into a given deer season. Some goals may be lofty, some may be small. Either way, I’m going to make another assumption, and guess that a lot of goals are either forgotten about, not achieved, or not pursued to the fullest.

Something that I want to start doing, and I think others should to, is to make goals be more important. If you set a goal, write it down, and work your tail off to make it happen. There are fundamental differences between setting goals and achieving them, and the people that are able to consistently accomplish those goals usually know how much harder they can be than people think.

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HOW DO I KNOW WHAT TO SET AS A GOAL? The beautiful thing about a goal, is that it can literally be anything when it comes to deer hunting. It doesn’t necessarily just have to be an end goal either, such as shooting said buck. I like to set what I think of as incremental goals, or goals that will help me reach my end target. Setting goals is the easy part. But, once you set something as a goal, don’t forget about it. Make it happen.

HOW ARE YOU GOING TO ACHIEVE YOUR GOAL? If you look back on your deer hunting “career”, when have you achieved goals, and when have you failed? When I do this, I feel as though there are a few commonalities that surface among my achievements.

Attention To Detail:

Paying attention to the small details can often make or break whether or not you succeed. Whether your goal is to shoot a pope and young buck, or even to have more encounters, paying attention to the small details can help make that happen. One of my goals for 2017 will be to harvest a buck that I’ve been hunting for a couple years now. I know that there is a zero chance of that happening if I don’t pay attention to every little detail.

A Desire To Succeed: This may be the most important ingredient to achieving your goals. In my mind, it’s simple. Don’t set a goal if you only kind of want something to happen. Just like anything else in life, you set a goal because it’s something you desire. If you truly desire something to happen, you’ll be much more driven along the way.

An Ability To Adapt:

There is going to undoubtedly be things that happen that are out of your control throughout a year. This is where being able to adapt comes in to play a huge role. For example, last season I set a goal of harvesting a buck I called “Shaq.” He was the most mature buck I knew of, and presented a great challenge. Opening day of rifle season, he was shot. I adapted by transitioning my goal to harvesting a mature buck that I thought was 4 years old or older. Ultimately, I succeeded, and I credit that to adapting to what I was presented.


The term grinding seems to have become quite prevalent and popular these days. I hear of a lot of people that are “grinding” year round. Doing some whitetail work every few weeks for an hour and taking a snapchat video claiming you’re out grinding in the off-season isn’t going to get you very far. When I think of grinding, it’s putting your head down, and working until you succeed. One thing I’ve learned in the few short years of being a hardcore deer hunter is that nothing replaces the work you put in. After all, what you put in should be what you get out of it.


48 | Hunting & Fishing News

These were only a few of the ways to help you achieve a goal, but my objective with this...was to get you to reflect on past goals, and how you can achieve future goals. I think setting goals is a great way to keep you motivated, and striving towards something throughout the year. I highly encourage setting them, and don’t let anything stop you from accomplishing them!

What are your goals for this year?...

MOA, Mils and Math – The Long Range Shooting Guide, Part 2

(continued from page 45)

Now we have a way to standardize scope adjustments for distance. Since it’s impractical for scope makers to put marks like “163.53 inches for 800 yards” on the turrets, they instead put markings measured in either minutes of angle or milliradians. With some simple math, we can figure out exactly how many MOA or mils will translate to that 163.53 inches and adjust a scope accordingly. Sticking with our example of wanting to hit that 800-yard target and accounting for 163.53 inches of bullet drop, let’s do the long walk through the math to calculate how many MOA that is. To keep things simple, we’ll round a bit, and assume that one minute of angle is 10 inches at 1,000 yards instead of 10.4 inches. Since all of this is proportional, then one MOA is 8 inches at 800 yards because every 100 yards is one MOA. We need to adjust for 163.53 inches of drop, so that would be 20.44 sets of eight-inch increments (163.53 / 8) or 20.44 minutes of angle. Since most scopes have turrets with minute of angle marks, we should be able to dial right up to 20.5 and hit the target.

For minutes of angle you can use this direct formula: Minutes of Angle = Correction in inches / Range to target in hundreds of yards In our example, the calculation would be this: Minutes of Angle = 165.53 / 8 = 20.44 If we want to be extra precise, we can skip the rounding and use the exact minute of angle measurement into the math and use this: Minutes of Angle = (Correction in inches * .96) / Range to target in hundreds of yards. The .96 factor accounts for the fact that a MOA is 1.04 inches instead of an even one inch. If we want to use milliradians instead of minutes of angle, the logic is exactly the same although the units are different.

This Masterpiece Arms BA Lite PCR rifle chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor is built for long range shooting use. Photo:

Mils = (Correction in yards * 1,000) / Yards to target Using the same example, our correction is 163.53 inches, or 4.54 yards (163.53 inches divided by 36 inches per yard), so the equation looks like this: Mils = (4.54 yards * 1,000) / 800 yards = 5.675 mils If our scope uses milliradian units on the dial, we’d spin to the closest setting to 5.675. Based on some completely unscientific research on the universe of scopes, it seems that the vast majority use turrets with 1/4 MOA markings. Simply put, that means that each click of a dial makes a 1/4 minute of angle adjustment in where the bullet hits. Even more simply put, since four clicks would be one MOA, then four clicks would make a one-inch adjustment at 100 yards. Stated differently, every click moves the impact point 1/4 of an inch when shooting at 100 yards. If you are 3/4 of an inch off bullseye, then adjust three clicks. If you’re two inches away, adjust eight clicks (two inches / 1/4 inch per click). There are also scopes that use milliradian clicks, and most of those seem to use .1 mil click adjustments. Each time you turn one click, you’re adjusting 1/10th of a mil, or .36 inches at 100 yards. That’s because a full mil represents 3.6 inches at 100 yards. We’ve been talking about spinning the turrets, but all of this works exactly the same if you choose to hold over using the markings in your scope reticle. While there are 22 billion scope reticle designs, the one thing they all have in common is that the manufacturer documents somewhere the distance between the various markings on the scope. If your scope has hash marks on the vertical reticle line that are one MOA apart, you can just hold over by the required number of MOA for your shot rather than going to the trouble of moving turrets. For this reason, it really pays to know the reticle marks in your scope. This ability to hold over with precision is why mil-dot reticles are so popular. When the marks in your view are one mil apart, you can very quickly adjust for a shot at any distance once you determine how many mils of adjustment you need to make. Here we’ve been focusing mainly on bullet drop to describe the whole concept of minutes and mils, but the exact same concepts apply to sideways movement too. Whether your target is moving or the wind is blowing you need to account for sideways movement at any given range. If you want to save lots of time and ammo zeroing a rifle or increasing your odds of hitting a distant target, invest a little time to understand the concepts of MOA and mils. Just knowing the 100-yard numbers of 1.04 inches per MOA and 3.6 inches per mil will take you a long way if you can do some quick math in the field. Better yet, memorize your reticle patterns and markings, so you know exactly what all the hash marks indicate. Next time, we’ll get into more discussion on reticles and tools you can use to estimate range and bullet drop adjustment.

50 | Hunting & Fishing News

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Montana Hunting & Fishing News - August 2017  
Montana Hunting & Fishing News - August 2017  

The complete August 2017 issue. Teamwork: Calling Elk With a Partner, Fall Run Browns on the Madison River, Montana Public Land Pronghorns...