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November 2017


Ultimate Guide to Rattling Bucks Hunting Mountain Whitetails Late Season Elk Tips The Key To Successful Shooting... HSM Ammunition Made in Stevensville MT. Available at your local retailer.


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Ultimate Guide To RATTLING BUCKS By Mike Hanback

Photo: ©brm1949|

T he next few weeks are best for rattling. This advice might help you bring a buck to your horns:

Deer Science: Dr. Mick Hellickson, one of the top deer scientists in America, conducted a three-year project on whitetail behavior and antler rattling on a 10,000 acre ranch in South Texas. The deer population was healthy and the buck:doe ratio was near 1:1. His researchers rattled in two-man teams during all three phases of the rut each November and December. When a buck came in, they noted the time, weather, etc., and videotaped each deer so later they could estimate its age and rack score. I mention that Mick’s research was conducted more than a decade ago, which has been a good thing for me. It has allowed me to compare and analyze the study’s key points against my field notes and observations as I’ve hunted and rattled across America these last years. Read on and you will see that my real-world hunting pretty much jibes with Mick’s findings, with minor variations here and there. When to Rattle: Over the three-year period, the researchers rattled 171 times at different locations and pulled in 111 bucks. A response rate of 65 percent is impressive, but the best info is found inside the numbers.

Mick says, “The peak of the rut is by far the best time to rattle in the most bucks, the most numbers.” During the wild days, when frenzied bucks troll and/or chase, 65 bucks responded to 60 rattling sequences—a 108 percent response rate. Sometimes two or three bucks charged or circled into their rattles. On two occasions, eight different bucks responded.

While you might certainly rattle in a big deer that is feeling his oats and rutting early, say around October 20, I believe your chances are much better if you wait to rattle until November 1, and then keep it up until just before Thanksgiving. This way you don’t burn out your best spots and stands before most testosterone-addled bucks get in the mood to hear your fights and come in. For years I have shouted to anyone who would listen that the first 10 days of the post-rut (late November into early December in most areas) are one of the best times to rattle up a big buck. The post-rut is when Hellickson’s crew rattled up the most mature animals. Of the 29 bucks that responded to 51 rattling sequences during this phase, 10 were 5½ years old, and another 10 were 3 ½ to 4 ½. Easy lesson: Don’t give up on your rattling too soon! Time to Rattle: You’ll have your best luck in the mornings. This has played out so many times for me in recent years that I rarely carry my horns in the afternoon anymore. And the science confirms it. Sixty of 111 bucks (67 percent) that the researchers banged in came to the horns between 7:30 and 10:30 a.m. Cool days with 75 percent cloud cover and little or low wind speed were best. How to Rattle: “If you aren’t exhausted after a sequence, you didn’t rattle hard enough,” said Hellickson. He and his crew rattled aggressively 85 times and attracted 81 bucks. Their 86 shorter, quieter sequences pulled in only 30. The length of a rattling session didn’t matter much. Both one- and three-minute volleys lured an equal number of bucks. This jibes with my hunting, because I rarely spar the horns or rattle lightly anymore. I used to, but horn sparring and tinkling never seemed to work for me. Besides, the fun of it is to go out in the rut, bang and grind the heck out of the horns, bust and rake some brush, and then wait quietly in anticipation of what might happen. Expectations: As compared to the Texas ranch where Mick did his work, the private or public ground you and I hunt will hold fewer mature bucks, and likely the buck:doe ratio won’t be so good. Still, use the research as a guide to rattle on. Climb into a tree stand or sit hidden on a ridge on a cool, still morning from early November on, and keep trying it through the first week of December. Don’t rattle every day, just select days when the weather is right and the bucks are rutting. Whack the horns, lay them down, keep still and scan the woods. Oh yeah, have your bow or gun ready, a big buck might just be coming. Rattle Setup Tips: An hour or so after sunrise, move toward thick-cover areas where you know or think bucks hide out and rattle…. Always approach and set up from downwind before you crack the horns…. Set up on a downwind edge of cover where you are hidden, but where you can see well…. Sit on a low ridge, bank or similar vantage (but don’t skyline); during the Texas rattling study, researchers in towers saw every buck that came to the horns, while rattlers on flat ground were lucky to see half the bucks. Get elevated…. Sit with the rising sun and good cover behind you…. Make sure you can see reasonably well to either side downwind, as many bucks circle with the wind to try and sniff out the fighters. Carry a wind-checker and test the breeze often. If it starts to swirl and turn bad as the sun heats up the ground— very common–back out and move to a better setup. Best Rattling Horns: I’ve tried a variety of real and synthetic horns, and most of the rattle bags and gadgets. Any one of them will work if you catch a rutting buck in the right mood to respond. But I like the real antlers of a 130- to 140-class buck, which to me have just the right mass and heft to feel good and sound good. Saw off the brow tines and wear leather gloves to keep from mashing fingers.

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Spot and Stalk Mule Deer Hunting Tactics By Zach Lazzari SNS Outfitter & Guides

The open country nature of western mule deer means

you are often forced into careful stalking scenarios during both archery and rifle seasons. Spot and stalk mule deer hunting is extremely visual and will truly test your patience. The experience is thrilling, especially when you creep within range and create a shot opportunity. Find and Observe Glass, glass and glass some more. Before you start a stalk, find your deer. The first few hours of daylight and the last few hours of daylight are critical. Hit it hard early and late to find your deer. Once you locate a shooter, ignore your instinct to rush into a stalk. Spend some time observing and get a grip on the situation. You should look at where the deer is headed and how he is moving before starting a stalk. Play the Wind and Terrain Check the wind and position yourself safely to avoid detection. Then spend some time checking the terrain. Look for obstacles that will conceal your movements and provide cover. If the buck is moving, you will need to create an angle and stalk to a point where he is going rather than where you first see him. Ideally, you will wait until the buck beds down and stalk into the bed location. Avoid the Does Are there any does or other animals between you and the buck? Does will give you away in a heartbeat and blow the buck off his bed. Rabbits and other wildlife will also alert him to your presence. Look for a clear path where you can make a stalk while avoiding other wildlife in the area. Stay Low and Go Slow The best camo on the market won’t help if you rush. Get off the skyline and move extremely slowly. Some stalks can take hours. Remain low to the ground and take advantage of any cover available and creep forward. If you’re trying to get within bow range, wear soft clothes and quiet shoes. Some hunters will even wear socks while stalking to remain silent. I like basic athletic shoes that are flexible and have a rubber sole. The closer you get, the more sensitive the situation. Slow down as much as possible as you approach shooting range. Rushing at this point will likely blow your cover. Look at the ground and plan every foot and hand placement to avoid crunching sticks and making noise. Look for soft dirt and take it one slow step at a time. SNS Outfitter and Guides offers mule deer hunts in Wyoming and Montana. For information call 307-266-4229.

6 | Hunting & Fishing News

November Fishing Strategies Both wade fishing

Netting a late Fall Rainbow. Photo courtesy Montana Angler

NOVEMBER FISHING IN MONTANA By Brian McGeehan Montana Angler Call 406-522-9854 or

November fly fishing in Montana is a bit of a wildcard.

The fishing is typically very good, but the weather is unpredictable. The threat of cold weather deters many folks from planning trips in November, but it is a very underutilized month for fishing and should be on the radar of more anglers. I tend to do quite a bit of fishing in November as the guide season is coming to an end and I have a chance to do some fishing on my own. November is a great month to target big fish, which is usually my M.O. when trout fishing. In fact, the largest trout I’ve ever taken in Montana, a Brown of over 26”, was caught during the last week of November several years ago. Another thing that I love about November fishing is that the crowds are very sparse. Many of the locals are in the mountains chasing Elk and the visiting tourists have mostly disappeared.

and float fishing are productive, but I prefer wade fishing during November. I will often choose short floats so that I am able to make frequent stops to wade and work water. The trout’s metabolism is slowing as water temperature drops, so getting multiple drifts in likely spots is key. The other advantage to wading or doing short floats is that you have the option to head to the truck quickly if the weather takes a turn. Nymphing is far and away the most effective method to catch trout during November. While you can pick up a handful of fish on streamers and might see a few fish rising to BWO’s or Midges, nymphing is going to be the mainstay. Fly selection is pretty simple during the late fall. I usually fish a two nymph rig with a big/small setup. For my “big” or “lead fly,” a Girdle Bug is tough to beat. I generally choose this fly in #8 or #10, a bit smaller than I use earlier in the season. For my small fly, I will usually choose a Beatis or Midge imitation, #16 or #18. Good choices include a Pheasant Tail, Zebra Midge, or Lightning Bug. While fly selection is certainly important, I find that water selection and your drift are the main factors to your success. As the water cools in November, the fish begin to move into their winter lies: slow, deep water. The Brown Trout will be spawning, so they will be found in shallower rifles at times. You should not bother fish that are actively spawning, but sometimes Rainbows and other Browns will stack up in the rifles behind the redds. Trout tend to become concentrated this time of year, so if you catch one chances are there are more holding in that same spot. This is another example of why I prefer wading in late Fall. It is important to adjust your leader length and weight to each run that you fish. The fish are not going to be willing to move very far to eat your fly, so it’s important to get your fly down to eye level with the trout. Once you find the right combination of flies and leader set-up, fishing is often very productive.

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November Fishing Destinations While most rivers

are at least decent options in November, some are definitely better than others. Tailwaters and spring creeks are great bets because the water temperature will be a few degrees warmer than many freestone rivers. When it’s cold out, a few degrees can make a big difference. Swift, shallow rivers can still fish well, but good November spots can be spread far apart. Yellowstone National Park closes to fishing on the first Sunday of November, but all of the Montana rivers remain open throughout the month. Madison River Both the Upper and Lower Madison are good bets in November. I give a slight edge to the Lower Madison because the gradient is less and the water is usually a few degrees warmer. The Upper Madison is a very swift river, so plan on spending your time looking for the slower, deeper runs. On the Lower the fish do stack up in the deep holes, but there are still plenty of fish in the rifles and around the weedbeds. Crayfish are always a good bet on the Lower along with mayfly nymphs. Another section of the Madison worth checking out in November is between Hebgen Dam and Quake Lake. There are a few real bruisers that live in Quake and move into the river each fall. East Gallatin River The East Gallatin is a slow, meandering river with lots of deep holes, making it a great November option. The East is too small to float, so all fishing is done by wading. The East has an abundant population of Blue Winged Olive’s, so a Pheasant Tail nymph is a good choice. Come prepared with dry flys just in case, especially on cloudy days. The fish in the East tend to pod up when there is a hatch, so if you see bugs on the water but no fish rising, keep moving and you will likely find a group of Rainbows feeding on the surface.




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UP YOUR POWER-UP YOUR GAME A nice November Brown. Photo courtesy Montana Angler.

Paradise Valley Spring Creeks (Depuy’s, Armstrong’s, Nelson’s)

With consistent water temperatures year round, the spring creeks are great November options. The rates this time of year are dropped to $40/day, so this is a great time to experience the creeks. Some larger Brown Trout move into the creeks from the Yellowstone to spawn, so this is an opportunity to catch a large fish in a small stream. Egg patterns can be very effective in the rifles below where the browns are spawning. The spring creeks are the best bet for November dry fly fishing, so make sure to be prepared with some Blue Winged Olives in #18 and #20. Midges hatch on the creeks 365 days a year so be on the lookout for them as well. Ruby River The Ruby is a small tailwater fishery that can be very productive in November. The majority of the trout in the Ruby are Browns, so they tend to get colored up and aggressive in the Fall. Just be sure not to bother spawning fish or walk on redds. The Ruby is often weedy and discolored during the summer, so November is a good time to explore over there. Streamer fishing can be very good; I tend to choose smaller patterns rather than big articulated stuff. For nymphs, small, bright, flashy patterns can be productive, with red being a good color.



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MULE DEER RUT By Dave Loescher Originally published at

Photo credit Shutterstock

E very year it seems that mule deer hunters are divided into two camps: the early season high country velvet

enthusiasts and the late season hunters with hopes of capturing the excitement of the peak rut. Each hunting extreme has its distinct advantages and disadvantages. Although the early season high country craze is hitting its stride in popularity (thanks to growing swarms of ambitious hunters wanting to become known as backcountry experts), the late season rut hunts will always be the most coveted of mule deer seasons.


Late season rut hunts find otherwise cagey bucks letting down their defensive instincts. This is the time when bucks are clearly most vulnerable as well as most active in daylight hours. This short period of intensive rut activity averages roughly ten days and has become the reason for many hunters to amass double-digit bonus points in an effort to get one chance to hunt large, swollen necked bucks void of their wits.

THE MYTH OF COLD WEATHER Cold weather increases deer movement, but it’s not the pure driver of the rut.

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10 | Hunting & Fishing News

“If the weather is cold, then the rut will be on fire!” This is the statement heard over and over every year. Most hunters do not realize that the cold temperatures are not what starts or drives the mule deer rut. Cold weather is beneficial to keeping deer on their feet and on the move, making them easier to spot. Hunting active deer is always more exciting than lethargic deer hidden in shady, cool places. Yet, contrary to popular belief, the cold weather is not what kicks off the rut.


The truth is that the photoperiod is the driver of the rut. Photoperiodism is defined as the physiological reaction of organisms to the length of day or night. In other words, the length of daylight experienced over a 24 hour period. This is the primary factor in determining the breeding season at a given latitude. Near the equator, where length of day doesn’t vary much, fawns can be dropped in any month of the year. At latitudes like ours in the West, photoperiod follows the same pattern year after year and the rut is triggered at about the same time.

Amount of daylight in 24 hour period (‘16) State

Northern Arizona Southern Arizona

Month Oct Oct Nov Nov Dec Dec Jan 15 31 15 30 15 31 15 11.1 10.6 10.1





11.3 10.8 10.4 10.1 10.0 10.0 10.2


11.1 10.4







10.8 10.0







10.7 9.8






Based on the chart above, you can see the variance in peak rut dates based on the photoperiod.

OTHER FACTORS AFFECTING THE TIMING OF THE RUT Nutrition can also affect the timing of the rut.

The condition of the habitat in terms of feed and water will greatly impact not only the timing of the rut, but the intensity of the rut as well. Poor nutrition and intense drought can cause the rut to begin later. Conversely, a good feed year can push the rut earlier. In times of severe drought, it is not uncommon for does to shorten or miss their cycle and focus on finding feed to stay alive. This is a rare situation, but can happen on occasion.


When the stars align and you find yourself in the field during the peak of the rut, the anticipation is high. Bucks are easily found either with does or moving from group to group. Bucks abandon their wits and put on one of the most awesome behavioral displays of the year. Bucks chase away bucks, spar with other bucks for dominance, run after does and stand with their noses held high with the occasional lip curl while smelling the surrounding air. It is an awesome behavior to observe, especially with a tag in your pocket.


Mule deer average 202 to 210 days for gestation. Gestation is defined as the length of time a bred doe carries a fawn before giving birth.


In the mountain states of Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, northern Utah, northern Colorado and northern Nevada, the Rocky Mountain mule deer generally have the peak fawning period during the first week of June. If you start with June 7 and count backwards 205 days for gestation, that would place the peak rut dates in the mountain states during the week surrounding November 14. As a general rule, the mule deer fawning period is later as you travel south...If a doe is not bred, she will be receptive again roughly 30 days later. (continued on page 26)

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a significant investment in vacation time and money. That’s why it’s critical to make sure you’re prepared.

A late season elk hunt brings in a new set of requirements in terms of the cold and potential for nasty weather. Clothing that is appropriate for the conditions and of quality construction will allow you to stay focused on the hunt and not distracted by a technical difficulty.

Here are three tips on dressing for a late season Montana elk hunt: Photo courtesy Lazy J Bar O Outfitters

Dress in Layers The first rule when dressing for the Montana high country

is to dress in layers. The weather can change rapidly and may vary drastically. Dressing in several layers allows you to adapt to the conditions at any moment. For example, instead of a heavily insulated parka, consider packing the combination of a fleece layer and a down under your lightweight, waterproof rain jacket. Now your insulation and waterproof layers can be mixed and matched separately for varying conditions. Be Weight Conscious Next, it is important to ensure the weight of your clothing is realistic for wearing and carrying around at altitude. In fact, this goes for all of your gear. When hiking at high altitude, heavy gear will wear you down quickly. Most manufacturers these days produce clothing that has high warmth-to-weight ratio. Unless you’re not straying far from base camp, look into some of these newer, lightweight garments. For example, jackets with a waterproof or windproof laminate tend to be very warm for their weight. And when it comes to insulation, nothing offers a warmth-to-weight ratio like high quality goose down. Pay Attention to Materials Third, consider the types of fabrics. When selecting clothing for your hunt, high-tech, synthetic fabrics or merino wool are now the standards. Nothing is heavier or more uncomfortable than a wet pair of jeans, and cotton quickly loses its thermal properties when wet. Avoid cotton garments like the plague. For base layers and insulating layers, merino wool is an outstanding choice. Quality merino is comfortable, doesn’t stink even after days in the field, it manages moisture and dries quickly. Look to companies like First Lite who produce high quality merino products. For insulating layers, synthetic fleece jackets or merino wool sweaters are ideal for mild weather. When things turn nasty, down is the ticket. But remember that not all down is created equal. Down that’s 700-fill or better will be lighter and pack smaller for the same amount of warmth. In outerwear, you truly get what you pay for. High quality outerwear will be able to stand up to the elements, while still being breathable, lightweight and packable. We recommend rain gear with a 3-layer construction and a waterproof, breathable membrane like Cocona 37.5 or Gore-Tex. These systems offer the best combination of durability, weather resistance, breathability and light weight. While high-end rain gear will cost twice as much as some alternatives, it will last longer and perform much better. For information on wilderness elk hunting adventures with Lazy J Bar O Outfitters, please visit or call 406-932-5687.

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Hunting & Fishing News | 13

Big Deer’s 2017 Moon-Rut Hunting Guide

By Mike Hanback

2017 rut moon phases: Full November 4…last quarter November 10…new November 18…first quarter November 26


2017 Moon-Rut Hunting Guide As I have said time and again...on BIG DEER TV, I am neither a scientist nor an astronomer. But I am a whitetail hunter and have been doing it for 40 years, more than 30 of those professionally. I’m also a moon fanatic. Over the years I figure I’ve spent between 880 and 1,000 days in a deer stand in November, during every imaginable moon phase and all waxing and waning days.



My journal notes and personal observations say that there is definitely something to the November moon and how it impacts the movements of rutting whitetails.

My 2017 predictions: I like the way this November’s moon sets up. For starters it exposes the seeking phase of the pre-rut, when bucks start to prowl and expand their range for the first hot does. Halloween into the first week of November is a good time to bowhunt in any season. This year, with the moon waxing toward full–91% visible on November 1 to 100% bright on November 4-5–the hunting should be especially good. If you hunt that first week of November, keep in mind that deer movement will be best near food sources in the afternoons. If a cold front sweeps into your hunt area that week, better yet. During the full moon week of Nov. 4-11, the best buck movement will shift to the mornings. While it flies in the face of what many scientists and hunters believe, I love hunting a full moon in early November because in my experience, the deer rut hard all day. You’re apt to see a shooter on his feet at 8:00 a.m.…11:00 a.m.…2:00 p.m…. any day this week, so hang on stand as long as you can.

For vacation-planning purposes: If the land you’ll hunt has crop fields and food plots, I’d suggest you hunt the first 5 days of November. Hunt stands near the feed and focus on the afternoons. A stand on a slightly elevated ridge 100-200 yards off a corn or bean field would be a hotspot either afternoon or morning. If the land is mostly woods with mast and greenery for deer food, think about hunting a little later, say November 5-12. Historically, if you check the record books, these are the very best days in any year to kill a monster buck. Set your stands back in the woods along trails and travel funnels—especially those with smoking-fresh scrapes–and hunt bucks seeking to hook up with does near bedding areas in the mornings. Again, if you can hack it, stay on a deep-cover stand all day. I expect some giants to fall from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. during the big moon November 5-10. Buck movement and rutting activity will vary some according to local conditions and weather, but for the very best chance to shoot a giant I say hunt sometime in the Nov. 2-12 window. But go when you can. You still have a decent shot into the new moon of November 17-18, though in most places the best rut will begin to slow down. If at all possible hunt ground with minimal or no pressure, which I know is difficult. But even moderate human intrusion can turn mature bucks nocturnal and blow up your moon opportunity. Hunt hard and safe, and good luck.

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Hunting & Fishing News | 15

ONLY ONE WEEK TO HUNT ELK? HERE’S HOW TO BREAK IT DOWN By Randy Newberg Originally published at

Imainly end up with a lot of tags in units I’ve never been to because this is what I have to do to get enough

tags for the Fresh Tracks TV show. Yet, unfamiliarity can add a level of challenge that we don’t typically have to face when hunting units in our own backyards. Because I cannot rely on dumb luck, I have to do everything I can to make the most of the days I have. Once I am done in a certain unit, we load up and are off to the next hunt, repeating the process week after week.


In most seasons, half of our hunts take place in areas we had never previously hunted. I’ve developed a system I use for these types of hunts. It’s not only a system for finding elk, but also a strategy for implementing that system once I arrive at the hunting area. I seldom get to hunt the same season, same unit, same time period, same weapon type, year after year. Being forced to hunt elk in so many different situations in so many different seasons and environments forces Photo credit Randy Newberg and me to approach it a certain way. One of the most important ways to prepare is completing some pre-hunt planning. Here is why that works for me.


For me, cyber-scouting is a major asset. I only have five days to get there, get some encounters on film, and, hopefully, fill a tag. I can’t afford to show up and spend the time just walking around. The “walk around and see what happens” strategy depends too much on luck and happenstance. Before I get there, I have called people who might be helpful: officers with both the Department of Natural Resources or U.S. Forest Service as well as any locals I might be able to contact to gain insider information. The Hunt Talk Forum is a great resource as long as you ask in the proper manner. Most of the time my calls and emails are not about where to go, but rather where not to waste my time. Wasted

time is the biggest reason guys don’t find elk. Eliminate as much of the unit as possible before you get there and your time in the hills will be far better spent. I also utilize the INSIDER Unit Profiles and Filtering 2.0 to gain information on finding new hunting areas, herd information, weather, public land percentage and terrain. Here is my day-by-day process once I get in the field. You will see how pre-scouting from home plays such an important part in my strategy. (continued on page 21)


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Hunting & Fishing News | 17



Sept. 22 nd


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Tuesday through Sunday: Friday, Saturday, and Sunday are for the contests, bonus amounts, and tagged fish. Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday will be for bonus amounts and tagged fish only and New: Six $50 lottery drawings, and if you turn in live lake trout to the tagging boat you will receive tickets for a special lottery drawing for two $500 prizes (1)-$10,000 & (3) $5,000 & (5) $1000 + over 6,000 $100 to $500 tagged lake trout Top ten angler prizes - pick your best 15/24-days count on Friday through Sunday Captains $250-(4 prizes), Smallest lake trout $250-(2 prizes), Largest lake trout-$500 - see rules for entries Top lady anglers $300, $200, $100 - $100-totals used Youth anglers - (17-13) 1st-$200, 2nd-$150, 3rd-$75, 4-5th-$50 (12 & under) 1st-$100, 2nd-$75, 3rd-$50 will also be entered in the lottery drawing Weekend Prizes-$300 and $200 will be announced each week Golden Angler Award (70 & older) $200 & $100 Bucket Competition - (3 days-see rules for dates) - weigh in your 4 heaviest lake trout under 30” Yeti Cooler ticket: 1 for every 10 entries Tuesday through Sunday. Last Day: $300, $200, $100 PLUS heaviest lake trout under 30” - 1st $200, 2nd $100 BONUSES: Your total at the end of the 45 days determines bonus. See for complete rules All boats have to be inspected for AIS.

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Sockeye Return Slightly Exceeds Expectations, But Second-Lowest In A Decade By Roger Phillips, Idaho Fish & Game In a challenging year for salmon and steelhead returns,

Idaho’s most endangered salmon fared a little better than expected with 157 of them trapped in the Sawtooth Basin this summer. “We are very pleased with this return given the estimate that only about 400 Idaho sockeye made it to Bonneville Dam this summer based on PIT tag estimates,” said Eric Johnson research fisheries biologist for Idaho Fish and Game. Biologists were concerned about so few fish crossing Bonneville in early summer, which is the first dam in the Columbia River, and whether they would complete the 900-mile migration from the Pacific that includes crossing through eight dams and climbing 6,500-feet elevation to the Sawtooth Basin. But Johnson said migration conditions were good for Idaho sockeye because rivers did not warm until most of the sockeye had already reached the Salmon River. Cool water from a higher-than-average snow pack helped their final leg from Lower Granite Dam about 30 miles downstream of Lewiston to the Sawtooth Basin. “This year, we observed higher-than-average conversion rates between Lower Granite Dam and the Sawtooth Basin,” Johnson said. The run is well-below last year’s return of 595 fish, and the second-lowest in a decade. The 10-year average is 690 sockeye trapped annually in the Sawtooth Basin, which ranged from a high of 1,579 to a low of 91. While recent sockeye runs are tiny compared with other salmon runs, they’re a vast improvement over the 1990s. When Idaho sockeye were listed in 1991 under the federal Endangered Species Act, only four adults returned to the Sawtooth Basin. The combined annual returns from 1991-99 was 23 fish, which included two years when no Idaho sockeye returned. Idaho has a three-prong strategy to recover sockeye. Adults returning from the ocean are collected annually in the Sawtooth Basin at Redfish Lake Creek and the nearby Sawtooth Fish Hatchery. Some of those returning adults are spawned in the hatchery, and others released to spawn naturally in Redfish Lake. Fish and Game also raises in captivity a small population of adult sockeye that are spawned to augment those returning from the ocean. Those three sources provided about 740,000 young sockeye that were released, or naturally migrated from Redfish Lake, during spring. Johnson said it’s still possible, but unlikely, more fish will return this fall. “We will operate the trap until around the first of October in hopes of getting another fish or two, but I would not be surprised if this is our final count for the year,” he said. 10-year sockeye returns to the Sawtooth Basin: 2017: 157 2016: 595 2015: 91 2014: 1,579 2013: 272 2012: 257 2011: 1,117 2010: 1,355 2009: 832 Photo by Roger Phillips/Idaho Fish and Game 2008: 646

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From my pre-scouting, I pinpoint 10 spots on a map that I think are very likely options. Each will have a different reason for being on the map, yet all will have several features in common, such as distance or topography, that will result in less pressure and, hopefully, a higher likelihood of elk. With that common thread of distance or topography, the variables are food sources, bedding cover, water, and what I anticipate the elks’ response will be to variables in weather. If it’s unseasonably warm, I need some spots that have dark timber. If it is colder than normal, I probably want some south or west facing areas marked on my map. I want 10 spots — all with a specific purpose and in anticipation of variable conditions. Having that many marks on my map gives me an average of two spots per day on a five day hunt. Most times, I don’t get to them all. Some I can cross off the list based on what I discovered while investigating some of the other spots. By the last two days, I want one to three spots remaining where I can dial it in with all my effort. With a hearty dose of good luck I usually have filled my tag within the first three days, but not always. In my schedule, I try to plan at least one day for scouting. I use that scouting day to figure out my strategy for the first morning. I then hunt according to that plan the next morning and assess the results. I seldom go back to camp for lunch or naps. That time is too valuable and is used to investigate the next pinpointed areas on my map that will be my afternoon/evening hunt. The afternoon/evening hunt is intended to find elk, but also help me eliminate more terrain. By that, I don’t only mean eliminating that particular area, but also eliminating similar areas that I may have on my map. The reason I like to go into new spots in the daylight, if at all possible, is that I can then mark them on my GPS and have that trail recorded in the event I find elk and need to come in before daylight the next morning. The night of the first day I assess what I have found. That determines what I do on day two. If I’ve found elk, I focus more on one of the first day’s locations. If no elk were found on day one, I go to some of my other spots and repeat the process on the second and third days. By the end of day three, I have eliminated most of the areas on my map and I am dialed in on no more than three specific spots that have the best potential for these last two days of the hunt. When I look at my map on the third night, I have crossed off most locations and have a few that are still in contention. I then use my last two days to hunt those spots with the best strategies I can think of. It’s hard to be that disciplined about it when you see your hunt days slowly ticking away, but having a plan and sticking to it gives you the confidence that it will work. Many guys hit the panic button by the end of day two if they do not have a plan. Or they just do not have the mental mindset to stick with a plan and then panic when the days are dwindling. By having a plan in place, sticking to that plan, and then working the plan all the way to the end, you will find a lot more elk. You will fill more tags. And if it’s a location that you can return and hunt each year, you will have done more homework than many of the locals.

Don’t pass the buck. This hunting season, don’t pass the buck on safety — it’s critical that we all follow some essential rules and precautions. Remember to always aim away from power poles, overhead power lines and transformers. Shooting any of these is illegal and could cause serious injury. And when you’re in the field, call 911 immediately if you see a downed power line or damaged equipment. Your attention could mean the difference between a good hunt and a bad situation.

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Hunting & Fishing News | 21

Say Hello To Success: Where to Chase the Fish This Month Brought to you by

November always seems to be a sort of fishing no-man’s

land here in Montana. Cool, windy days have left the fair-weather fishing days to all but a distant memory now, and with the general rifle hunting season in full swing, area waters are sitting isolated and lonely. But don’t be fooled, although the number of exceptional fishing options might be fewer, there is still some excellent fishing to be had this month if you know where to look. Open water action on most Montana rivers and reservoirs can produce “monsters” now. Northern pike, yellow perch, walleye and smallmouth bass will all be seeking food near the shorelines and creek inlets to fill up here in the late fall. Brown trout are moving up to the river inlets to spawn and will congregate around rocky shoreline structure. Big browns are notoriously aggressive this time of the year and will attack just about anything that moves. Confidence in the lures and baits you use paves the way for fall fishing success. So this month, we will take a look at a few key spots for good fishing as well as the gear that catches big fish. Brown trout: As brown trout begin their spawning period, these fish get very aggressive and will strike at almost anything they feel threatened by. Eggs will be floating on gravelly bottoms near the edges of the shore, and feeding fish will be trying to get at these morsels that are floating about. If you’re fly fishing, use streamers and nymphs, and fish along undercut banks, downed timber and in deep pools for good success. The best time to hit the water will be early in the morning and again towards evening, but as water temperatures begin to cool, you can expect big strikes pretty much any time during the day. Top fishing spots for November browns include: • Holter Lake • Madison River - below Hebgen • Bighorn River • Marias River - below the dam • Rock Creek - east of Missoula • Musselshell River • Beaverhead River Top gear for big browns includes: • Countdown Rapalas - rainbow trout or brown trout colors • Panther Martin - with a gold blade and a black/yellow body • Splitshot/nightcrawler - simple, but effective!

Photo ©digidream|

Yellowstone River

• Blue Foxes - 1/8 oz. size • Nymphs and streamers on the fly - egg sucking leech in black/green colors • Jig and a worm - tossed near the shorelines • Kit’s Tackle Marabou Jig, dark colors, plus a yellow perch and Walleye Fry Glass Minnow. Jig in 15 - 30 feet of water near the shorelines and weed beds • Krocodile Spoon - Overlooked as a brown trout catcher! • Kastmaster • Triple Teasers Northern pike: Bring your spinning rod and tackle if you’re going after big game in November. Cooling water and dying weeds will put all the toothy critters in a feeding mood, and the big, mean northern pike are at the top of the food chain in big reservoirs here in Montana. These brawny fish are feeding on a bit of everything they can now, so it’s pretty much just showing up for the dance for anglers who want to hit the water on cool, calm days. The exciting thing about fishing for pike now, is that you will usually get a mixed bag of fish that includes walleye, perch and bass as well, and all are great eating fish. Top fishing spots for November pike include: • Fort Peck Lake - Rock Creek, Hell Creek areas • Nelson Reservoir • Salmon/Seeley Lakes • Flathead Sloughs • Tiber Reservoir • Whitefish Lake Top gear for northern pike includes: • Crankbaits - perch and minnow colors • Live minnows - baited on a jighead fished in 12 to 18 feet of water near the shorelines • Spinnerbaits - white, black and chartreuse colors, tossed near the weed beds are sure to get some action! • Rapala Husky Jerks - in clear or perch colors, size No. 14 • Mepps Cyclops or Blue Fox spinners in blue/silver color • Reefrunner and Wally Divers - trolled in 8 - 20 feet of water • Rapala Shadrap - SR-9 in crawdad color • Smelt Smallmouth bass: Fall is an excellent time to catch these feisty, good-eating fish. Autumn bass will be hovering near the edges of weed beds, near boat docks, and under isolated cover looking for feeder fish. Slow-roll spinnerbaits and lures


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22 | Hunting & Fishing News

along the edges and what’s left of weed beds now. Be sure to cast along and around any boat docks, submerged trees and stumps. Top fishing spots for November smallmouth bass include: • Noxon Reservoir • Flathead River from Kerr Dam down to Noxon • Lake Mary Ronan • Thompson Lake Chains • Fort Peck Reservoir • Cabinet Gorge • Tongue River Reservoir • Yellowstone River (upper) Top gear for smallmouth bass includes: • Spinnerbaits - chartreuse, black, white • Jigs/worms • Soft plastic jerk baits - purple color works well • Flash-N-Glow in yellow - 1/0 hook baited with a nightcrawler • Shallow crankbaits Yellow perch: Cooling water temperatures don’t just affect the big fish, it also improves the perch bite here as we close out the year. A bucket full of yellow perch is a fantastic reward for any angler willing to get on the water to target these tasty fish. Dropping a jig tipped with a worm in the 15 to 30 foot depth will produce perch in November. Top fishing spots for November yellow perch include: • Holter Lake • Flathead Lake • Canyon Ferry Reservoir • Middle Thompson Lake • Lake Mary Ronan • Lower Stillwater Lake • Fort Peck Reservoir • Lake Frances Top gear for yellow perch includes: • Jig/worm combination • Minnows • Kit’s Tackle Walleye Fry and Yellow Perch Glass Minnows. Other great fishing prospects for November - whitefish, kokanee salmon, and lake trout. Top fishing spots for kokanee salmon include: • Ashley Lake • Bitterroot Lake • Deadman’s Basin • Flathead Lake • Georgetown Lake • Hauser Lake • Lake Koocanusa • Swan/Seeley/Salmon Lakes Top gear for kokanee salmon includes: • Small vertical jigs tipped with maggots/corn • Swedish Pimple • Shrimp oil/wax worms • Kastmaster Top fishing spots for lake trout include: • Fort Peck - near the dam or Haxby Point • Lake Koocanusa (Kamloops trout) • Flathead Lake Top gear for lake trout/macks includes: • Large wobbling spoons • Crankbaits - white, green or silver/black colors • Downriggers pulling flashers or squid • Kastermaster Top fishing spots for whitefish include: • Flathead River (above the lake) • Fresno Reservoir • Madison River • Missouri River Top gear for mountain whitefish includes: • Bead-head Prince Nymph • Soft tackle caddis with a maggot or two • Small minnows/night crawler piece • Kastmaster - small and green



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Hunting & Fishing News | 23


Mule deer rutting habits and patterns.

The mule deer rut is just around the corner and for you die-hard deer hunters out there, this is an excellent time to be in the woods. The innate desire to procreate turns weary old muley bucks into star-struck college boys; a scene to behold for sure. Photo period and temperature both play their part in the timing of the mule deer rut,

• A trophy mule deer buck can weigh more than a cow elk (over 300 lbs!) • Lack of eating and significantly increased activity can cause rutting bucks to lose up to 20% of their hoof weight during the rut

but you can almost always bank on the peak happening between November 10th and 25th. To find a buck during this time is simple: find the does. If you find a doe or a small group of does, post up and watch them from a distance as there is almost always a buck nearby.

• Mule deer have a 310-degree field of vision due to the position of their eyes • Like elk, and unlike whitetail deer, mule deer migrate annually following food and shelter • Mountain lions and coyotes are the main predators of mule deer • Mule deer can live up to 10 years in the wild and 25 years in captivity • Mule deer inhabit 15 US states, 3 Canadian provinces and Mexico • Mule deer are browsers and can eat a variety of shrubs, trees, grasses, legumes, and forbes

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(continued from page 11)

WHAT ABOUT THE PRE-RUT? Some avid mule deer hunters will argue and say that they would rather hunt

the beginning stages of the rut rather than the peak rut — and for good reason. These early stages of the rut are often referred to as the pre-rut among hunters. The pre-rut is usually the two-week period that is prior to the peak of the rut. During pre-rut, we find bucks cruising in search of does and moving carelessly about at otherwise inactive hours. This behavior makes bucks vulnerable. The other major advantage of the pre-rut is that bucks are rarely carrying broken racks because aggressive fighting has not yet started. The major risk to targeting the pre-rut is that not all bucks will be on the move. Some of the oldest bucks will continue to move very little until the first does actually begin to cycle into estrus. SELECTING YOUR SEASON TO FIT THE RUT The first step is to identify the typical rut week for the state/area you are considering. State agencies across the West have different approaches when it comes to setting season dates. Some states offer season dates that coincide with the peak of the rut. Montana is the overwhelming king when it comes to providing peak rut opportunity to rifle hunters. Nearly every hunt district in Montana will allow hunting during mid to late November. Another opportunity — and one of the most coveted — is with a Colorado fourth season rifle tag in a unit in the northern half of the state. The caution with the Colorado fourth rifle season is the short number of hunting days. At only five days in length, one severe storm can quickly cut your hunt in half. The mule deer in the southern units of Colorado rut later than the rest of the state and typically will not capture peak rut activity like the central and northern Colorado units. Idaho also provides some great rifle and muzzleloader peak rut opportunities. Peak rut rifle opportunities for mule deer are very limited in Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon and Wyoming. ARCHERY OPENS DOORS One of the most overlooked and hidden peak rut opportunities is buried in the archery seasons. Arguably, the best mule deer season in New Mexico is offered as a January archery season in both Units 2B and 2C. Although this season opens on January 1, it can still capture some late rut action and is capable of offering some of New Mexico’s best mule deer hunting. Nevada also has some very good rut seasons offered exclusively to archery hunters. Bowhunters should consider the late Nevada archery hunts in Unit 081, Unit group 071-079, 091, Unit group 101-109, and Unit 121. Utah also has a limited number of peak rut archery seasons offered. The limited entry archery season in the Dolores Triangle can find rut action. The extended archery seasons in the Ogden, Uintah Basin, Wasatch Front and West Cache units of Utah are all offered with seasons that include the entire month of November. Arizona and Idaho both have over-the-counter archery tags available that offer season dates that will allow you to hunt during the rut. Idaho late archery Arizona mule deer taken during the late over-the-counter in Unit 55 has produced some good bucks in recent years. archery season. Photo credit Big Chino Guide Service


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WHAT ABOUT MIGRATION? Most units across the

West have migratory mule deer herds. In many locations, this migration will coincide with some phase of the rut. The pre-rut is the most commonly found behavior among bucks as the migration is taking place. Regardless of the phase of the mule deer rut, when you combine migrating deer with bucks chasing does, you could be in for the time of your life. This scenario is exactly what most western hunters are trying to find. The 2016 dates for the third rifle deer season in Colorado provided this exact setting. With season dates of November 5 through 13 and a moon phase that...avoided a full moon, many units should have found migration and pre-rut taking place simultaneously. Early weather will still be needed to get the deer moving to lower ground, but I would suggest that those camping on preference points in Colorado should seriously consider cashing in the next few years. Watch for winter mortality prior to applying in April.


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Across the West, the large majority of mule deer hunters Photo credit take to the field in the month of October. Although some states like Montana have their general rifle mule deer seasons scheduled in November, most states (Utah, Colorado second rifle, Wyoming rifle, Nevada) have their high tag quota seasons scheduled for the month of October. According to Boone and Crockett, the month of November stands supreme for producing the highest scoring bucks since 1990. Taking this into consideration, it is evident that the majority of B&C qualifying bucks are harvested during pre-rut and rut behavior patterns.

Top 100 B&C typical and nontypical mule deer since 1990 Month Typical Nontypical August 0 1 September 12 1 October 27 6 November 29 25 December 9 42 January 7 6 February 0 1 Unknown* 16 17 *Boone and Crockett lists uknown months

IN SUMMARY If an exciting hunt and a chance for a

long haired cape on a hard horned muley is what you are after, then hunting the rut is your answer. Truly understanding the rut will help you to make this dream a reality.

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Hot and Tasty: Campfire Venison Stew By Robert Gate

Reprinted with permission from

For more please go to:

Y our deer is down, meat processed and now you want to enjoy it. Here is a great recipe for venison stew just perfect for a campfire cook-out. This is a real favorite of mine. I know you will like it too. And, if you are looking for something

a bit different, here is an article that tells you the best meats to smoke

Campfire Venison Stew Recipe Ingredients: Six slices of bacon One chopped onion Two chopped celery sticks One large chopped carrot One minced jalapeño, seeded Three minded garlic cloves One pound of venison, cubed

Two cans of drained kidney beans One tablespoon of Italian seasoning One can of roasted and diced tomatoes (28 ounces) 16 ounces of vegetable broth Salt and pepper Quarter cup of flour

Directions: Over coals, cook bacon on a camp stove until crispy. Crumble it and set aside Photo credit Robert Gate and for later. Use the bacon fat to cook the onion, carrot, jalapeño and celery (chop as desired), stirring often until it becomes soft. Remove the vegetables and set aside. In a pot, add the venison to the bacon fat and cook, stirring often until it has browned. Add the bacon and vegetables back into the pot and stir together. Add the kidney beans, seasoning, tomatoes and the broth and allow it to boil. Set the camp stove to the side of the coals, or turn down the heat. Cover the pot and let it simmer for about 45 minutes. Taste stew and season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in the flour and let it cook for another 10 to 15 minutes. Stir occasionally until the stew has thickened. Serve while it’s hot and enjoy! In Conclusion When it comes to creating the best camp dinner or a simple yet rich meal at home, you can never go wrong with venison. With this Campfire Venison Stew Recipe, you’ll have a meal fit for the outdoors, with an easy-to-follow recipe.

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Photo courtesy Traditions Media

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NEW X-Stands from Avian-X help waterfowl field hunters set and pick up their decoy spreads faster than ever.

The field has been scouted; permission is obtained.

The birds have been patterned and a train wreck hunt is all but guaranteed. Phone calls are made and logistics discussed. The number one question? “What time do we meet?” It’s a drill that occurs countless times each waterfowl-hunting season. There are many tasks and details to attend to, not the least of which is setting up a spread of decoys well before dawn. Seems simple enough, right? Well, experienced hunters know better. Variables like frozen ground and diverse soil conditions, huge spreads and divergent decoy styles can result in a laborious task that takes hours. Too often, when the job is finally done, weary hunters often look and feel like they just finished a triathlon. It doesn’t have to be that way. Avian-X has been churning out the best waterfowl decoys since the premium brand debuted in 2011. Striking realism, unmatched durability and value are standard features, but Avian-X full-body decoys also include brilliantly designed motion stakes and retractable bases to simplify the otherwise time-intensive processes of setting out and picking up the spread. The retractable motion base of the AXP and AXF Honker full-body Canada goose decoys allows for easy set-up on any surface. The four-way motion stakes included with the field mallards, snows, specks and lesser Canadas are long enough to keep the decoy above shaggy crop stubble when necessary, and are durable enough to be pounded into compacted or frozen soil. While Avian-X nailed it with these decoy support systems, before the first Avian-X decoys were ever tossed into a trailer, Fred Zink and crew were already thinking of a better way to do it. They knew there was a need for an even speedier decoy set-up and takedown process for motion-style full-bodies, and what they came up with for 2017 sets the new standard for decoy-deployment speed and efficiency. The all-new X-Stand by Avian-X is a motion-decoy support system that holds any four full-body Avian-X duck or goose decoys that accept a stake. X-Stands can easily be

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Hunting & Fishing News | 29

How To Scout Forest Fires For Hunting Opportunities

Photo courtesy


... ccording to the National Inter-agency Fire Center, 2017 has seen over 7 million acres go up in smoke, across eight different Western states. The chaos and damage of wildfires may make a forest look like a moonscape, but with that devastation also comes opportunity for great hunting. Forest health is dependent on regular fires, as the ash and fire release nutrients into the soil, allowing for new life to rise from the ashes. The young generation of plants growing in burned areas provides high quality feed, attracting big game like deer and elk. Surrounded by the Rocky Mountains, we at onX curse wildfires all summer and enjoy their benefits during hunting season, which is where we found inspiration for our Historic Fire Layer. The layer helps you target old burns by representing the extent of the burn with red and orange, the year the burn took place and the name of the complex.

When fires do occur, ungulates like deer and elk take advantage of the high quality forage, which isn’t always readily available. Chad Bishop is the director of Wildlife Biology at the University of Montana and said feed is the primary reason deer and elk seek out burned areas. Bishop said after a fire rips through an area, all plant nutrients are released and put back into the ground. The nutrients, which were previously held in trees and any other hard to digest plants, are converted into easily digestible grasses and forbs. The transfer provides elk and deer with a quantity and quality of feed in one concentrated area and starts within a year’s time. The next set of plants to grow are smaller shrubs, which Bishop said also provide high quality forage, only surrounded by a thin bark.

According to Bishop, the edges of the burns are especially significant, because they provide an area of cover right next to an area of feed. He has even taken part in designed burns on public land to give elk and deer a nutritional incentive to stay out of public agricultural fields. It’s not as easy as finding a recent fire on your maps and hunting there, though. Bishop warns that not all burns make for good hunting opportunities, however. Wildfires in the prairie, he said, are more likely to become inundated with invasive weed species after fires and can choke out the necessary grasses and forbs.

Jack Ballard, author of Elk Hunting Montana and other books, likes to target burns between two and ten years old because it gives the area plenty of time to grow the high quality new forage that elk and deer gravitate to. Ballard said you may occasionally find same year burns, which can provide good hunting, but the burn has to happen mid-summer with plenty of early season moisture to jump start the regrowth. He also advises to pick your burns carefully, because high mountain fires tend to have rocky soils, which won’t grow new feed as well. While feed is the initial reason animals travel to a burn after five years, or so, the new growth will also provide good bedding and cover. Ballard said the size of a burn doesn’t matter either, as he often hunts a burn of only 40 acres, with great success. He advises hunting the timber along the edges of burns in the early mornings and late evenings as deer and elk travel from their bedding areas to feed. If you’re willing to work hard, finding an isolated burn deep within the mountains, or forest, can produce tremendous results. Most people avoid burns deep within the mountains because of all the downed timber they create, but the elk and deer have no problem moving through deadfall and find the scattered timber to be a safe haven. Use caution when traveling in these areas, though. While it may be the secret hunting spot you’ve been searching for, burned timber is unstable and may fall over during high winds.

Take advantage of forest fires near you by scouting with onX fire layers

onX team member Randy Newberg bases almost all his hunts around old forest fires. According to Newberg an old forest fire can be a productive hunting spot up to 15 years after the fire took place. He said high quality forage for deer and elk is usually isolated because of fire suppression techniques and forest fires make targeting high quality feed areas more accessible. Newberg said that while hunting burns is a great way to target game species, the real benefit is understanding the relationship between deer, elk and fire. “Once you start hunting fires, no burn will look the same,” he said. “You will start learning subtle nuances of burns and where elk prefer versus where mule deer prefer.” Newberg may be giving up some of his closest held secrets, but sees the new onX layer as a greater good for the hunting community. “It’s all about lowering hurdles to get more people out hunting,” he said. “When I’m in the ground, these secrets don’t do me any good anyway.”

Photo by: Steve McIntosh


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DISAPPEAR By Mark Kayser

Author, Mark Kayser with a buck found after it roamed. ©Mark Kayser

T he rut is a powerful addiction for mule deer bucks, but survival oftentimes trumps that desire, particularly for

mature deer that have been chased by a Chevy in years past. If your mule deer opportunities suddenly scream to a halt due to disappearing deer it’s time to launch a new plan. Here are some ideas to get you back in the game when mule deer disappear. Disappearing mule deer doesn’t always equal hunting pressure. It’s ingrained in mule deer DNA. They sometimes disappear simply due to their random nature. This randomness means you have to be ready for mule deer to spend time in openness one day and timber the next. They may expose themselves in the open as they enjoy the November rut or slink off to timber, or rough country when an army of orange appears on the horizon.

Mule deer bucks may roam for miles. They have a mission to visit surrounding herds of does in hopes of finding one in estrus. That’s different than a whitetail patrolling its homeland and although it appears as if a mule deer buck commands a harem, he’s really just a visitor.

Your first goal is to locate any and all hideouts mule deer may be using. Think like a whitetail hunter and scout for the thickest, roughest and most inaccessible areas in your hunting area. GPS programs like ONXHUNT ( are invaluable in these situations to determine landowner boundaries. Combine it with a useful hunting app on your smartphone such as ScoutLook Weather ( and you have a virtual hunting team at your disposal. MAP IT OUT One obvious benefit of an all-around hunting app is to have a complete weather station in the palm of your hand. You can pick your hunting days and keep in mind that bad weather oftentimes makes the average hunter stay at home. The real benefit of a quality hunting app is the ability to view your hunting area from above. ScoutLook Weather interfaces with Google Earth, but it

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has many additional advantages such as a topographical overlay and the Save ScoutMarX feature to mark important finds. Mark entrance trails, food sources, rubs, bedding cover, vehicle location and your campsite. In addition to rough country you’ll want to scout for food sources. Neighboring hayfields, alfalfa bottoms and even irrigated crops can lure mule deer out that have disappeared. Your Garmin will help you determine if you can hunt that property or if you’ll have to set up an ambush on the public side. Nevertheless, at least you can monitor it for a travel pattern. Finally, if you’re hoping to meet up with a particular buck again that you scouted in the preseason, be ready for disappointment. That buck could show up again, but he could just as easily travel several miles and spend the season courting does in a different setting. Mule deer bucks may roam for miles. They have a mission to visit surrounding herds of does in hopes of finding one in estrus. That’s different than a whitetail patrolling its homeland and although it appears as if a mule deer buck commands a harem, he’s really just a visitor. A mature mule deer buck may just disappear overnight leaving a doe group home alone. That noted, don’t expect to return to the same area and encounter a buck you spied the day before. Unless a mule deer buck just located an estrus doe he may be on the road to probe another group of does on day two. There’s hope though. A new buck may show up out of nowhere at any time due to this wandering tendency. A buck you spied on private land may suddenly appear on a public-land tract. Fire away! TALK IT OUT To get the most insight about what’s happening in an area contact biologists and game wardens. The mule deer in the area you’re hunting may disappear with a reason and these officials may hold the answer. In some regions of western Montana mule deer may migrate from high elevations during the fall. Various research shows that mule deer do this on a schedule and data from Colorado indicates they oftentimes begin migrating on the same day each year. A biologist or game warden may have answers to that question. In addition to state officials be sure to reach out to other hunters in the area. Individuals you meet at convenience stores and trailheads may be able to shed light on your search. Are they seeing deer? Are they experiencing lots of hunting pressure? Have they been seeing deer at high or low elevation? Not only will these questions give you an idea if others are experiencing the same results as you, but you’ll be able to glean information on hunting pressure and if you possibly need to make a move to find deer that have disappeared. Even seeing numerous vehicles at trailheads give you clues that it’s time to find another location where deer may have moved because of too much hunting pressure. If you’re starting to get an idea of where deer may have moved or are hiding out, it’s time to return to the hunt. Try something new. HUNT IT OUT One characteristic of mule deer bucks is to visit groups of does instead of hanging with them all day long. When they find a herd they’ll stay on the fringe if they feel pressured and visit it at dawn, or dusk for breeding possibilities. If a doe is in estrus it’s a different story, but if the buck is just monitoring a herd he’s more apt to live on the fringe, not in a “Friends,” cozy setting. It’s not at all uncommon for mule deer to travel several miles from feed to refuge and bucks make that trek without hesitation. If they haven’t found an estrus doe during their nightly visit they could retreat to nearby cover and return again at dark. Steep side canyons, north-facing slopes covered in

pines or junipers, and tall sagebrush all could hide a buck waiting for darkness to veil its check for estrus does. If you’ve spotted a buck leaving or entering a herd zone after using an escape corridor you should scout the area for an intercept point. Look for elevated positions that give you an overview of the passageway, plus wind favorability for ambush benefit. Note all trails that a buck may use, plus the best cover nearby that a buck would likely use to hole up for the day. If bucks do slip by you and get into timber or badlands topography for the day it’s time for a still-hunt. Some habitats may be too thick for that approach, but if you can see 75 yards or further you may have a chance. Put the wind in your face and slowly move through these environments at the slow pace of Washington D. C. Glass ahead with your Nikons every few steps for flicking ears, glistening noses and twitching tails. This tactic also shines on river corridors, especially if you have the opportunity to hunt some of Montana’s prime riparian zones. Bucks often drop out of higher elevations to flee snow and look for does collecting on valley hayfields. Take a timber approach and still-hunt through thick bottoms looking for mule buck activity. Growing up in the crossover world of the Great Plains I routinely called mule deer into setups so don’t be afraid to rattle and grunt in thick cover, high or low. During a late rut hunt in eastern Montana my buddy and I lost track of a buck we had our sights set on. The country was pine forested with deep canyons. Instead of staying in the area we first spied him we expanded our search and to our surprise, we found him. He had also expanded his range and we caught him crossing back from a neighboring property. I didn’t hesitate when he hesitated on a far hillside and I ranged him at just shy of 300 yards...I settled my rifle and...ended his random nature.


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(406)549-1483 Hunting & Fishing News | 33


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34 | Hunting & Fishing News


The Diamondback® HP (High Performance) riflescopes offer a full-on array of high-performance features that discerning hunters are sure to appreciate-game animals, not so much. With a 4x zoom range, the Diamondback HPs offer highly versatile magnification configurations to suit a wide variety of firearms and shooting applications. Okay, it seems the buck does stop here. Vortex Diamondback HP See these and other Vortex Optics at the 2017 Montana Vortex Dealer of the Year

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Whitetails are most often associated with rolling hills and flat woodlands

Photo courtesy Zach Lazzari Lazy J Bar O

in Midwest, south and eastern United States. In Montana and other western states however, we find whitetails occupying a variety of different ecosystems, often overlapping with mule deer and elk. You have those who prefer the bottomlands, much like those in the Midwest and those who work up steep slopes and mountaintops. This is a guide to finding and shooting mountain whitetails.

Pole Lines Power lines are not attractive but they provide feeding lanes and migration corridors for deer. Powerlines also

traverse some very steep terrain in the west and they provide clearings in otherwise heavily timbered areas. You are not likely to cross a deer along the lines but they are great for walking and tracking. You can silently cruise along the openings until you cross fresh sign. Then you can jump into the woods or plan a blind/treestand setup.

Young Firs Find stands of young fir trees around waist to head high. These stands are common in areas where logging was prevalent in the past and re-seeding practices are in effect. Walk through the young fir stands and you are likely to see ample sign. The trees provide cover and deer love feeding and bedding in these zones. If you find young fir trees near an old burn, prepare to cross some deer.

Blowdowns Steep slopes lined with blowdowns are often associated with elk but they hold whitetails as well. The deer

use the blowdowns for protection while bedding and they feed along the lush north slopes. This makes them difficult to locate without a very quiet stalk or strategically located stand. Unlike their lowland cousins, these deer seem to move more and are difficult to pattern. Stalking these areas at a snail-like pace requires incredible patience but can turn up some nice bucks.

Draws You can almost always find sign and travel corridors in steep, timbered draws. You have water, cover, food and

travel lanes to feeding areas. Find the game trails, bring a saw to make shooting lanes and plan a tree stand or blind setup in these zones. Draws are difficult to stalk and playing the waiting game is your best bet. Early season game cameras can show you what’s moving through the draws and very few people will bush whack into these difficult zones. At Lazy J Bar O Outfitters, they offer remote mountain hunts in some of Montana’s most wild country. Their guided Montana hunts include elk, mule deer, whitetail deer, black bear and bighorn sheep. For more information, visit their website at or phone 406.932.5687

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Four Late Season Mule Deer Rut Tactics By Zach Lazzari

Photo courtesy SNS Outfitter and Guides

H unting the mule deer rut is beyond exciting when timed right. Rut hunts are not available in all states and it doesn’t happen on an exact schedule. November is rut season overall with a peak that varies based on the region. Wyoming and Montana are two of the primary states where rut opportunities exist. Many are limited draw or require outfitter access to privately leased ranches.

Here’s what to expect on a late season rut hunt. Prepare for the Weather

You might find yourself sweating in the sun or freezing in the snow. November is a month of major temperature swings and dressing in layers is critical. Pack clothes for the worst and shed them as needed. This is especially important for backcountry trips.

Expect to See Some Nice Bucks

Hunting the rut opens up some great opportunities. You may or may not pull the trigger but you are more likely to see some great animals. Watching them sniffing around, chasing does is exciting. You may see sparring and the bigger bucks that are typically very difficult to locate may cross your field of vision. The trick here is being patient and finding the right opportunity.

Rutting Bucks are Still Wary

While you may see more bucks, they are still very difficult to approach and stalk. Does are on the lookout for trouble and traveling in groups. They are quick to alert a buck when you make a wrong move. Make a game plan and look for more isolated does and small groupings. Fewer eyes increase your odds of making the stalk. While the bucks are motivated to breed, they will slip away for good if your presence is known.

Simple Tactics

Hunting mule deer can mean hours of glassing, following tracks in the snow and sitting on groups of does until a buck presents himself. Rattling is also effective when working through timbered areas that don’t have an open view. Horses are a major advantage for accessing high basins and hiring an outfitter means having comfortable camps on cold nights. Getting into the high country puts you in places where hunting pressure is low, especially during the later seasons. SNS Outfitter and Guides offers some incredible opportunities for hunting trophy deer during the rut in Wyoming and Montana. Call 307-266-4229 or visit

38 | Hunting & Fishing News

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Working The Heavy Timber By Zach Lazzari


hen you picture an ideal elk hunt, you might be glassing open parks and watching bulls move in and out of the timber, a few hundred yards away. This happens on some hunts but it may not be an every day occurrence. When they begin feeling hunting pressure during the general season here in Montana, the big bulls have a habit of dropping into heavy timber. You can be remote in the Bob Marshall Wilderness or off an easily accessed logging road and experience the same result when the pressure is put on the elk.

Find Glassing Points

Glassing is often futile unless you can really find a nice vantage point. This means getting up high and looking back down across a drainage. Even in ideal glassing zones, you will struggle to see much outside small openings. Glass through the timber and look for anything off-color, movement and of course, anything that looks like antlers. You will often see just a small patch of the elk in timber.

Walk, Walk and Walk a Little More

When you can’t glass, start walking. Find a ridge line and walk until you cross tracks, rubs or scat. When you cross good sign, drop into the timber and start seeking out the trails. Move slow, glass the timber every 10 steps and really read the landscape. I have run right into elk while being careless and blowing out a bull is not a good feeling. When you are in heavy timber, be a complete predator and let your senses guide the course. Look for fresh scat, torn up ground and any sign that will point you in the right direction. When you are hunting pressured areas, stalking the steep slopes gets you away from people and is a fun way to hunt.

Dealing with Cows

Hunting after the rut is much different than during the rut. Archery season means cow calling, bugling and working groups of animals. When the rut ends, mature bulls ditch the cows. This is confusing when you are following fresh scat and tracks in an area full of scrapes and bull sign. If you are running into cows, consider moving to a new location because the bulls have moved out.


Unless you hear a bull calling early in the rifle season, lay off the calls. Post-rut hunting pressure makes silence a best practice strategy. Cow calling may draw a few cows but the bulls are avoiding them at this point. Unless you have a cow tag or don’t mind shooting a legal spike for meat, then pocket your calls and focus on glassing and tracking. At Lazy J Bar O Outfitters, they offer high-success wilderness elk hunting adventures in the Bob Marshall Wilderness Area and in the rugged wilderness of southwest Montana. From archery elk, to rifle hunts during the rut, to late season hunts for November bulls, this is some of the best general unit elk hunting anywhere in the Rockies! For information call 406.932.5687 or visit

40 | Hunting & Fishing News



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42 | Hunting & Fishing News

Don’t Let a Chill Come Over Your Shooting By Kyle Wintersteen

Y our shooting might have been stellar in October, but when the mercury dips, everything changes.

Don’t let fully plumed greenheads escape because your action froze or your recoil pad snagged your jacket. These tips will ensure your shooting doesn’t go as cold as a January breeze. Clean shotguns meticulously. Frigid conditions can cause built-up gunk to expand or freeze, leading pumps to run less smoothly and autoloaders to cease functioning entirely. Arguably the biggest key to a reliable late-season shotgun is the thorough removal of all carbon fouling, oil residue and debris such as grass, seeds or dirt. Go light on the lube. Apply the thinnest layer of synthetic lubricant you can to friction points along the action. Synthetic lubricants are less prone to freezing. Alternatively, you can run the shotgun without lubrication. That’s a tad harder on the gun, but it’ll function. Whatever you do, don’t go heavy on the gun oil. That’s an iced-up firing pin or action waiting to happen. Avoid condensation. If a shotgun is in a 70-degree home one moment and exposed to subzero temperatures the next, condensation will form and promptly freeze. That doesn’t bode well for reliability. If possible (and legal in your area), store your shotgun in a well-secured garage overnight before a cold-weather hunt. Pocket your shotshells. The slow-burning powders used in duck loads and other high-brass shotshells generate lower muzzle velocities in extreme cold. It’s generally a negligible decline — usually just a few dozen feet per second — but with steel, every bit of speed counts, and cold, dense air also saps pellet velocities. So, consider tucking your shells in a pocket during cold hunts and bumping up one shot size. Adjust your gun mount. Thick, gunstock-snagging jackets save a lot of ducks when temperatures plummet. When heavy clothing is required, it’s best to “push” the gun out in front of you a bit before bringing it back to your shoulder. It’s a less fluid motion than your normal mount, but it sure beats catching a recoil pad on your coat and watching your buddies shoot ducks.


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44 | Hunting & Fishing News

Mule Deer Foundation Cheers Sagebrush Restoration, Sportsmen’s Access Provisions In DOI Order Mule Deer Foundation

The Mule Deer Foundation

(MDF) applauded today’s Department of the Interior Secretarial Order focused on sportsmen’s issues and habitat conservation. Secretarial Order 3356 shows the department’s strong commitment to outdoor recreationists Photo courtesy MDF through increased access, improved opportunities for youth and disabled sportsmen, and partnerships with state and non-profit groups on wildlife habitat restoration projects. The order will expand collaborative habitat restoration efforts for sage grouse and mule deer in sagebrush country, a top priority of MDF’s. “We greatly appreciate Secretary Zinke’s support for sportsmen and wildlife conservation, and this Secretarial Order will continue his vision for the Department of the Interior’s efforts,” commented MDF President/CEO, Miles Moretti. “The order includes a provision to expedite sagebrush restoration for mule deer and sage grouse. This is important for the stewardship projects MDF and our partners are working on to clear encroaching junipers or revegetate sagebrush and native forbs on rangelands after devastating fires. We appreciate the department including this language and will work with them to move these efforts forward, along with Senators Hatch and Heinrich and Congressmen Stewart and Tipton who have introduced similar legislation in Congress.” The Secretarial Order focuses directives on three main themes: departmental actions that will improve recreational access; efforts aimed at recruitment, retention, and reactivation of hunters and anglers; and improving partnerships with state and local partners on wildlife management and recreation activities. Regarding access, the order calls for ensuring agency land management plans include or expand hunting, recreational shooting, and fishing. In addition, agencies will work with states and local partners to identify areas where an easement or acquisition from willing landowners will open areas with limited recreational access. “Federal public lands provide some of the best access for mule deer hunters, and we appreciate every effort to ensure that hunters have plenty of opportunities,” Moretti continued. “In addition, the order looks to work with partners to increase participation in traditional outdoor recreation activities. MDF’s M.U.L.E.Y. program is a great model for getting the next generation engaged in hunting and fishing and we hope to work with the department on these efforts.” A key component of the order entails increased cooperation with state fish and wildlife agencies as well as local partners such as MDF. This will ensure that partnerships are expanded between these like-minded agencies and organizations on collaborative efforts for wildlife management, habitat restoration, and recreational participation. MDF has been actively developing stewardship agreements with the department aimed at habitat restoration in mule deer country. This increased emphasis on collaboration along with the provision streamlining projects that create and restore sagebrush habitats will help fast track these efforts.

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46 | Hunting & Fishing News

By Steve Hickoff Yamaha Outdoors Tips

Thanksgiving dinner is always better with a wild bird on your table.


First, you have to find them. Lucky for us, wild turkeys are pretty messy and sometimes highly vocal, even in fall. Use your Yamaha ATV or Side-by-Side to travel between scouting locations. Listen for turkeys in the fall woods, especially as day dawns while still roosted. There’s often plenty of bird chatter then; even after fly-down as they regroup trying to find each other. Damp droppings say birds were there recently. Track size shows the sex and age of turkeys. Gobbler flocks put down large footprints, while autumn family groups might reflect a range of sizes depending on the hatch date that year. Many droppings, various tracks, and extensive scratchings indicate bigger turkey flocks. Less evidence reflects fewer numbers. Raked areas in the woods, especially along field edges or in food plots, often indicate autumn feeding zones. Mixed sets of new and old tracks say flocks use the area regularly. Dusting bowls are fresh if the soil is loose, and other sign in them or nearby is new. Old sign may indicate turkeys have left the area for other food sources. Now you’ll need to start over again until you make scouting contact once more.


Next, you have to make use of this information. Have you patterned fall turkeys that fly down and move to predictable feeding zones each day? If so, establish a blind somewhere between the roost and their preferred food sources. Get in there early, and wait for action to come to you. Call like lost turkeys with yelps and even kee-kee-runs after fly-down time and before they go to roost to pull intact groups into range. Curiosity will sometime lure the whole flock in. No luck? Separate the flocked-up birds. If you’ve scattered an autumn group, quickly study the terrain. Pick a calling setup that chances at drawing turkeys to you from many directions as they regroup. Then pick out a bird in range for your holiday table as it works back to your calls and setup. Do you serve wild turkey on your Thanksgiving table? Please let us know on the Yamaha Outdoors Facebook page:



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Montana Hunting & Fishing News - November 2017  
Montana Hunting & Fishing News - November 2017  

The complete November 2017 issue. The Ultimate Guide to Rattling Bucks, Spot and Stalk Mule Deer Hunting Tactics, The Science of the Mule...