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HUNTING & FISHING MONTANA

October 2018

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OCTOBER HUNT TIPS DEER, ELK, ANTELOPE

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OCTOBER HUNT TIPS

7 Tips for Success

By Mike Hanback www.mikehanback.com www.bigdeerblog.com

Use these tips to increase your odds of tagging a buck this October

S

• pot an 8-point hog the first weeks of October and you know he has set up his fall core area in your woods. He’ll likely hang out within 400 acres or less until he begins to expand his range and hunt for does around Halloween. • Say it’s a humid...evening and you’re watching a trail near a field. Stand up in your tree stand and nock an arrow those last 15 minutes of shooting light. A buck or a bachelor’s group that didn’t move all day might jog past you toward the feed. Listen for them Author Mike Hanback with a Wyoming Mule Deer Buck Photo courtesy Mike Hanback churning back in the woods, and be ready for a quick shot. • The best two days to hunt are after a cold front blows through and drops the temperature 20 or 30 degrees. The blast kick-starts bucks to feed and sniff does. Be out there. • Say you sit in a stand and can see three or four different trails that dump into an alfalfa or clover field. On the trail where the first does show up is where you’ll see 80 percent of the deer that evening. • I don’t rattle until Halloween (my field research shows that too much racket too early spooks more bucks than it brings in). But I grunt sharply at every buck to coax or turn him into bow range. • On ridges and flats where you found the most acorns in late September and early October is where you’ll find the first and most scrapes around the 20th. • Expect good to great deer movement around the new moon...through the first quarter...especially if it’s cool to cold. After a string of dark nights, horny bucks should prowl for the first estrus does. Start hunting the mornings now as much as the evenings.

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REPLACEABLE VS. FIXED BLADE KNIVES By Josh Kirchner Originally published at www.goHUNT.com Pretty cool, right? These things definitely save both time and weight. Another advantage of this knife is that they are oftentimes much more lightweight than their big brother: the fixed blade knife. On top of that, they are extremely sharp— almost scary sharp in some instances. I remember skinning my first bear and literally almost cutting my thumb off with one of these. I had to wrap my thumb in a game bag and kept on truckin’! Fixed blade or expandable blade knife? Which style is right for you? Photo credit Lorenzo Sartini

hen I was knee high to a grasshopper, W my dad gave me my first pocket knife. It was a little knife made by Old Timer.

I cherished that thing as a child and still do to this day. That was my first pocket knife. Years after that, I got my first “big boy” knife. It was another Old Timer, but, this time, it was a fixed blade skinning knife with a slick leather sheath. I remember feeling like it was a symbol of me becoming a young man. Maybe some of you have similar memories. Fast forward to today and I can say I have been through more than a few knives over the years. With hunting and my endless pursuit of backpack hunting, I’m always on the lookout for the best knife for the field. It seems like there are two main options these days. One is the revolutionary invention of the replaceable blade knife and the other? The tried and true fixed blade knives. Each of them has their advantages and disadvantages. It’s the battle of the knives. Who will win? REPLACEABLE BLADE KNIVES

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6 | Hunting & Fishing News

Havalon Piranta replaceable blade knife doing work on a mule deer. Photo credit Lorenzo Sartini

Let’s start this discussion off with the newer of the two. Replaceable blade knives are definitely something to consider if you are in the market for a hunting knife. There are various companies that offer these types of knives (Havalon and Tyto) and they are all good in their own right. Why would you want one of these though? Replaceable blade knives eliminate the need to ever sharpen a knife in the field again. These are pre-sharpened blades that detach and attach to the main body of the knife. Whenever your blade gets dull, pop that blade off, and replace it with a new one. No sharpening involved and back to skinning.

Punching a tag with a Tyto 1.1 replaceable blade knife. Photo credit Brady Miller

WHAT’S NOT TO LIKE ABOUT A REPLACEABLE BLADE KNIFE? So, what are the downsides? They are lightweight, super sharp, and you never have to sharpen them. They sound perfect, right? I will agree that they are a great tool and I have been through a few myself. However, they have some downsides. The durability of the blade is the first thing that comes to mind. Of course, durability will vary between companies, but, from what I have seen, these replaceable blades have a tendency to break. In the end, that isn’t a big deal because you can throw another blade on...if you have another one to spare at the time. If you don’t, you might be screwed and will have to ask your friend to borrow his/hers. Because of the durability issue, you might have an issue when it comes to working on heavy joints as you work through an animal. I found this to be slightly annoying and felt like I was sort of tiptoeing around, trying not to break the blade in the process. Another downfall is that you have to keep buying replacement blades as time goes on. The more animals you run through and blades you break, the more blades you need to buy. While the blades are relatively inexpensive, I can see how some might get sick of having to do this. The last thing is really personal and that is the sharpness. Some of these blades are surgical sharp. Because of that, you need to be incredibly careful to not cut yourself and, I can assure you, it is very easy to do so with these. Advantages • Ultralight • No need to sharpen • Super sharp • Usually pretty affordable


Disadvantages • Not as durable (blades might break) • Have to keep purchasing blades after you purchase the knife • Mega sharp so be very careful • Not as much backbone to work through joints and such • Harder to clean FIXED BLADE KNIVES Fixed blade knives are the tried and true. This type of knife has been skinning Photo credit Josh Kirchner and quartering up game since before you or I were in existence. There is something nice about a good fixed blade knife in your hand. Between the grip, how the knife feels overall and the craftsmanship behind many of these, it’s hard to argue against them. In fact, I recently switched to a fixed blade knife this year and love it. I have loved not only using it, but I also really like the look of it with its slick wood handle and killer looking blade in a beautiful leather sheath. It is a knife of beauty. But how does it work compared to the replaceable blade knife? Well, I’ve got to say: I am impressed. The reason I went with a replaceable blade was so that I didn’t have to worry about sharpening the knife in the field and the weight. With this knife, I ran through a whole black bear and never had to sharpen it once. This will probably vary between knives, but this one worked fantastically. I also really enjoyed having the peace of mind when running through the joints and not worrying about the blade breaking. As for the weight? This particular knife actually weighs less than the replaceable model I was using. Also, it felt more like I was using a tool, rather than a gadget.

WHAT’S NOT TO LIKE ABOUT A FIXED BLADE KNIFE? After all of those positives, surely there are no negatives. I mean, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? Well, as good as the fixed blade sounds, they still have a few downsides. The first is pretty obvious: having to sharpen the knife. I did say that I didn’t have to sharpen the one I was using, but that was that particular knife. With other knives and different steels, it is going to vary. That knife is pretty pricey, which brings me to the next downside. You are going to pay more for a good fixed blade knife; however, you are going to pay for any type of craftsmanship and I am a firm believer in the phrase “you get what you pay for.” Another area of fault is going to be the weight and size of some of these. Now, this might not pertain to you, but if you are weight conscious, a fixed blade might not be for you. Like I said above, though, there are some lightweight options becoming available, but will be a bit more pricey. Advantages • A work of art and usually great craftsmanship • Durable blade • Easy to clean • More backbone behind the knife to work through joints and such Disadvantages • Higher price point • Have to sharpen, which means carrying a sharpener • Oftentimes are heavier and bigger overall • If for some reason this blade does break, there is no popping the blade off and putting on a new one...

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8 | Hunting & Fishing News

FORECAST Destination: SOUTHWEST MONTANA From the Pintler Mountains on the west side of the region to the Absaroka Beartooth, southwest Montana is defined by high mountain rugged country and an abundance of public land. Big game thrives here, particularly elk. In general, hunter success last year was average or above. Typically, elk hunter success during the general season improves dramatically with snow, which gets elk moving and makes them easier to track. South of Butte - from Mount Haggin to the Big Hole Valley elk numbers are robust and consistent with last year’s numbers, according to FWP Region 3 wildlife biologists. South of Bozeman and in the Bridgers, elk numbers are strong although elk distribution can be challenging to hunters. Hunter numbers have increased, including during archery seasons, so hunter crowding can be an issue, according to Region 3 biologist Julie Cunningham. For the Livingston area, elk and mule deer numbers are very good -- above population objectives in most units, according to Region 3 biologist Karen Loveless. Antelope were hit hard by the tough winter and numbers are down, consistent with districts to the east in Region 5. Access north of Livingston is similar to the Townsend area in that there is very little public access, including during the general and shoulder seasons. So even though there are over-thecounter antlerless licenses, hunters should secure access ahead of time. South of Livingston, there is good access to forest service land but little access on the low elevation public lands so hunters have to work a little bit to get to the public land elk opportunities. South of Helena elk numbers are also strong. HDs 390 and 391, which are both well over objective, both have some form of a shoulder season (hunters should check the regulations for dates and for what licenses are valid). Elk in those two districts are also found largely on private lands, so hunters should work on securing access to private land early, said FWP biologist Adam Grove. There was a regulation change this year as well in HD 380 that allows hunters to harvest spike or antlerless elk the first three-weeks of the general rifle season off National Forest land in the designated north and south portions of HD 380 only (again hunters need to check their regulations).


Around Helena, elk hunting is largely weather dependent, said FWP biologist Jenny Sika. If we get snow during hunting season, elk hunter success increases. If not, hunters have to work harder and success drops. But in general elk numbers are good throughout the area. Surveys showed slight growth in elk population across the Gravelly Elk Management Unit relative to 2017, returning the population to just above management objective. As usual, hunters should expect to encounter a lot of other hunters in this area during the initial two weeks of the general rifle season, and snow accumulation will most influence elk distribution and hunter success. Hunters should be aware that grizzly bear conflicts continue to increase across the Gravelly, Centennial, Snowcrest and Greenhorn mountains. This year has been particularly bad in regard to livestock depredations. Hunters hunting in the Gravelly Elk Management Unit are encouraged to take proper bear-safety precautions while hunting and camping in this area. Although no conflicts have been documented to date, public reports of grizzly bears in the Tobacco Root Mountains are increasing, as well. Hunters are encouraged to be bear aware in this area. Area closures of Forest Service land in the Gravelly Mountains, resulting from ongoing wildfires, are expected to last into the archery season. Hunters should inquire with the Madison Ranger District regarding closures prior to travelling to the Gravelly Mountains. Some hunting districts in southwest Montana have elk shoulder seasons. These antlerless-only seasons are focused on private land and are typically outside of the general big game season. Hunters interested in shoulder seasons should make sure they read and understand the regulations because each hunting district is different. And, as always, hunters must get permission to hunt private land.

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Mule deer population surveys indicate varied trends across Region 3. Near Townsend, mule deer numbers continue to rebound from recent lows. Across much of south-central Region 3, mule deer populations showed increase for the fifth consecutive year and are approximately three times higher than the recent low point observed in 2013. Population surveys indicate higher white-tailed deer populations across the southern portion of Region 3 than the past three years. However, the majority of white-tailed deer are distributed within valley bottoms that are mostly privately owned. Hunters will need to obtain landowner permission for most white-tailed deer hunting. FWP recommends seeking permission well in advance of the hunting season and prior to livestock producers returning stock from summer pasture. Public land white-tailed deer harvest opportunity does exist but is less abundant and may require hunter-research to identify. Antelope surveys of hunting districts 320 and 321 showed increased populations. As a result, license quotas for Hunting District 320 were increased. This will likely result in a few more hunters afield in this district. License quotas remained the same for hunting districts 321 and 330. Antelope hunter participation will be greatest during the initial weekend of the season. Hunters seeking less competition in the field are encouraged to hunt after the opening weekend. (continued on page 30)

Hunting & Fishing News | 9


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4 Tips To Remember On An Antelope Hunt By Ryan McSparran Photo courtesy Ryan McSparran

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ntelope are notoriously cagey animals with excellent A vision. Approaching them across open country can be extremely challenging. Antelope are also one of the most difficult animals to judge in the field, making it especially difficult to locate a buck with serious trophy potential. When it comes to hunting the pronghorn, one of North America’s most unique animals, here are a few important tips to keep in mind. 1. Antelope Rely on Their Vision Unlike hunting deer or elk, a pronghorn’s first line of defense is not its nose. The greatest obstacle to getting within range of an antelope is not being seen. Antelope rely on their eyesight and their speed as their primary defenses. Noise and wind are usually lesser factors when putting a stalk on a mature antelope buck. You can often get away with having the wind at your back. And since many antelope live in places with lots of ranch and oil field activity, human noise may not bother them. But if they catch you approaching on foot, even at long distances, they may not stick around. 2. Carefully Plan The Stalk Knowing that antelope rely heavily on their vision, it is important to plan your stalk with an approach that keeps you out of their line of sight until you’re within range. In most areas, antelope aren’t bothered by vehicle traffic. So use any available road system to find the best starting point. Just don’t open the truck doors until you’re out of sight. The terrain in pronghorn country may look flat at first glance. But when you look closely, you’ll notice that even a shallow creek bed or subtle rise is enough to provide cover. Use any advantage you can find to stalk within range. In some situations, you might even have to get down on your hands and knees. 3. Be Prepared for Long Shots Hunting skittish animals in wide-open country can often lead to long shots. You don’t have to be a long distance marksman. But you should be comfortable with your rifle out to 300 yards. Always do your best to close the distance. But in many situations, being able to shoot reliably at these distances will provide an advantage. Ideally, you should be practicing with your rifle year round, not just in the weeks leading up to your hunt. Of course this isn’t unique to antelope hunting. No matter what game you’re pursuing, practice with your weapon should be a high priority. Be comfortable with your rifle and know exactly what to expect at 300 yards or beyond. 4. Stay Persistent on a Big Buck Antelope hunting can be frustrating, especially when you blow a stalk or when you just can’t seem to get within range. But like any other hunt, success is often about persistence. It’s important to know that when hunting antelope, a blown stalk doesn’t mean the game is over. You can often get on that same buck again for multiple stalks if necessary. If you get busted, an antelope will quickly put some distance between you an him. Reaching speeds of 55 miles per hour, it doesn’t take long. But as soon as he’s out of sight, they often settle back down. Keep after it, and you may eventually catch him in a vulnerable position. For information about Arizona hunting with Antler Canyon Outfitters, please explore their website, or contact them online at www.antlercanyonoutfitters.com. You can also call Toby at 928-205-8911.

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In our August issue, we published “Missoula’s Clark Fork - Urban Angling At Its Best”. Please note: Mullan Heights river access is via the Russell Street Bridge to the east of Mullan Heights condominiums. It’s a short (about a quarter mile) walk on the exposed riverbed (during low water). Mullan Heights is a privately owned condominium.

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huntingfishingnews@yahoo.com www.huntingfishingnews.net The entire contents is © 2018, 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 this 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 15 Issue 4 Cover Photo: Twildlife|dreamstime.com

12 | Hunting & Fishing News

JIG TIPS FOR WALLEYE By Jason Mitchell www.jasonmitchelloutdoors.com

he incredible, edible jig. Walleye anglers love jigs T because not only are jigs fun to fish but this presentation is also extremely versatile. All season, any season, chances

are you can use a jig presentation in some fashion to catch fish. If you were to poll a hundred walleye anglers, there is a good chance that a high percentage would cite that a jig is a favorite way to catch fish. The hands on feeling of holding the rod and feeling the bite, the subsequent hook set… jig fishing is a very intimate presentation. While we can argue that a jig might not be the absolute best presentation every single day, we can argue that a jig is the one presentation that will still catch fish most days from ice out to freeze up and jigs particularly shine in the fall.

More than any other factor, the location dictates the presentation. Jigs are precise and exact. Perfect for probing the spot on the spot. Compared to trolling crankbaits with planer boards, which is broad and sweeping to break down a large spot, jigs excel for sitting over the top of fish, but you can also cast and drag jigs to give you more versatility. Whenever conditions or structure forces fish to bunch up versus spread out, jigs can be a top presentation. The beauty of using a jig to catch walleye is simply the versatility. If there is a mistake we all make when fishing jigs, that mistake would be simply not wrapping our heads around all the different ways we can use a jig to be successful. Simply getting in a rut where we think there is one way to use a jig and that’s it. Really great walleye anglers are versatile and really great jig anglers are versatile in that they have not only seen enough to know or recall different methods or attitudes when jig fishing but are also versatile enough to implement and adapt. Think of an old black and white television set where you had to turn a knob to turn the channels. The more channels you have, the more likely you are to find something that will work. Don’t be a one or two channel jig angler. Force yourself to become more versatile. There is often a sense of touch required to catch fish on jigs. What always amazed me from my years as a guide was just how one style or certain touch would catch fish some days while other things simply didn’t work. Here is another eye opener… the angler with the most expensive graphite jigging rod didn’t always catch the most fish. To get better at catching fish with jigs, we have to attempt to wrap our heads around all of the variables. I am going to give you some examples I have seen on the water. Let’s take the rod and line along with the weight of the jig. Imagine a very high-quality graphite rod spooled up with eight-pound braid. This set up would be extremely sensitive. I personally love a six and a half to seven medium to medium heavy fast action rod for a lot of jig fishing and I often like to use braid for the extra connection on the hook set and for the sensitivity. There are times however where this combination can be too sensitive. There are times where six or eight-pound monofilament makes the presentation more subtle and there are times where the fish simply feel resistance too soon. Mono gives a jig a different glide through the water. If you are missing fish or not


getting bit using braid, switch to mono. I often catch way more fish on tough bites using mono. If you are getting thumped with mono and just not getting a hook into fish where the fish are coming unbuttoned after a few cranks, try switching up to braid. Some anglers try to argue that one type of line is better than the other, but you will be a much better angler if you are comfortable fishing with both. If you encounter bites that are just mushy where the fish are just hanging on, I often increase my batting average by using a lighter rod. A lighter tip is also often necessary if you have to swim or crawl lighter jigs through shallow water where the rod simply loads up when a fish is hanging on. I have encountered weird bites before where anglers using less sensitive rods and mono actually out fished anglers because the fish seemed to hang onto the jig and simply choked up on the jig more as it was pulled away. Understand when you need the sensitivity and also recognize situations where you need the jig to glide through the water or simply drag the fish a short distance before the rod will load up. Snap jigging a jig back to the boat with mono will have a much different action than braid and not so surprisingly, the fish are just there. When you pick up line and snap again, you will feel the fish. While not always necessary, I am a big believer in using a fluorocarbon leader when fishing with braid. Fluorocarbon typically is much more invisible under water. Light colored braids in particular are often highly visible underwater and I do believe there are times when highly visible lines underwater do reduce bites. Consider this… fish have debris floating by them constantly and if you have a three-inch piece of grass on your jig, you probably won’t get bit. Fish get tuned into ignoring debris like leaves, weeds and other debris that is drifting through the water. You can also make braid much less visible underwater by simply taking a permanent Sharpie and coloring your line black on two feet of line next to the jig. What I like about using a fluorocarbon leader is the abrasion resistance for fishing rocks, clam beds or toothy fish encounters like pike. I also like how fluorocarbon will cinch up on the jig eye better, so I can better control where my knot is at. If you are pitching or casting jigs especially, high vis mono or braid can make detecting some bites much easier because you can watch for the line to jump. From my experiences, high vis mono disappears fairly well under water while high vis braid often has a lot of contrast in the water and is highly visible.

When vertically jigging, especially when you are snap jigging… tying a small barrel swivel about two feet above your jig will save a lot of twist in your line which can become a big deal especially when using lighter six or eight-pound monofilament. I can’t tell you how many times I simply used too light of a jig and that mentality cost me fish. There are several reasons why using too light of a jig can be a major mistake. Catching fish so often is simply making adjustments and finding fish. If you error on the side of too light, you have to fish much slower and you simply can’t cover as much water. As anglers, we get brain washed into believing we will catch way more fish if we lighten up our jig, but I have seen way too many scenarios where that wasn’t the case. Particularly when fishing below the boat over structure or fishing in current, I have the mentality now to use the heaviest jig I can get away with. With the advent of tungsten now entering the walleye scene, I have fallen in love with the Clam Pro Tackle Drop Tg Series of tungsten jigs as these jigs fish heavy, make louder bottom contact and are much more sensitive than traditional lead. Versatility however is the name of the game. (continued on page 16)

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Pronghorn Pumpkin Beer Chili By Lindsey Bartosh a 12 Gauge Girl www.huntingandcooking.com Ingredients: 1 Large Onion, Chopped 3 Cloves Garlic, Minced 1 Bottle Pumpkin Ale Beer 1 Can Pureed Pumpkin 2 Tablespoons Chili Powder 1 Tablespoon Cumin 1 Tablespoon Oregano 1 Tablespoon Coriander 1 Tablespoon Salt 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce 2 Tablespoons Tomato Paste 1 Tablespoon Hot Sauce (Optional) 1 to 2 teaspoons cinnamon 1 to 2 teaspoons nutmeg 1 28 Oz Can Crushed Tomatoes 3 Large Bell Peppers (Any Color) 3 Cans Beans (Black, Kidney, Pinto, Navy, Chili, etc) 1 Tablespoon Oil (Olive, Vegetable, Canola, etc) 1 Pound Ground Pronghorn, Deer, or Elk Meat

Photo courtesy Montana Angler

October Fly Fishing In Montana By Montana Angler For a guided fly fishing trip call 406-522-9854 or www.montanaangler.com ctober fly fishing in Montana often produces our biggest O trout of the year. Large browns are preparing to spawn and are much more aggressive than normal. The big trout

are also moving upriver and we get several spawning runs of huge trout that run out of lakes such as Canyon Ferry, Ennis and Hebgen into fisheries like the Madison River. October also sees much lighter fishing pressure than any other part of the traditional fishing season: locals are out hunting and tourist season is winding down. The best way to target the big fish is to use the big uglies under the water. Fishing large streamers such as nymphs trailed by a smaller baetis emerger is very effective. On cloudy days, stripping large streamers can be very productive. Cloudy and rainy days also produce great dry fly opportunities over prolific baetis hatches. These mayflies are often called blue winged olives and hatch in great abundance on stormy days bringing nearly every trout in the river to the surface. Watch a video here: https://youtu.be/gpOargx0Oog

Instructions: In a large skillet over medium high heat, add oil. To heated oil, add chopped onions and garlic. Cook for two to three minutes. Add chopped bell peppers and cook additional two to three minutes. Add ground pronghorn and cook until browned, five to seven minutes. Turn heat up to high, and pour in entire bottle of pumpkin ale. Let cook for a minute and stir to break browned bits from bottom of pan. Turn pan to low and set aside. To a large crockpot, add remaining ingredients. Add meat and pepper mixture to crock pot. Stir. Set crock pot to low for six to eight hours. Enjoy with toppings such as shredded cheese, sour cream, diced onions.

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JIG TIPS FOR WALLEYE

(continued from page 13)

Photo courtesy Jason Mitchell

When swimming or dragging jigs, lightening up the jig can pay huge dividends whenever you are fishing at an angle, casting or getting bogged down with debris, weeds or slime. Go up or down in jig weight and don’t be stubborn. Most days, catching fish on jigs is all about feel and so often if there is one variable that greatly changes the presentation, it is simply how much line you have out. If there is another angler in the boat that is cleaning your clock, watch the obvious like rod stroke and speed but also look at the angle in which the line is from the rod tip to the water and match that angle. That is a quick adjustment that usually solves most problems.

Particularly in the fall, jig fishing is often straight up and down over deeper structure. Typically, as you crawl around the spot, trust your electronics and remember to fish for fish versus simply fishing the spot. Crawl up, down and around until you mark fish. As you crawl, remember that the jig is typically at an angle away from the boat. If there is a fish right below your transducer and the jig is somewhere else, fight to get vertical. I often find that I simply catch way more fish if I simply reel up and drop back down right on top of fish that are on the screen. This confidence in your electronics will greatly improve your catch rate with a jig. You can not only target fish and put the jig right on them but also target bigger fish. Remember that bigger fish simply make a much thicker mark. Length of the mark is simply determined by how long the fish is in the cone angle, not how long the fish is. The reel up and drop tactic also makes your jig much more visible to fish as they often see it coming down and if it hits the bottom, it is going to make more noise after dropping from further up. This quickly gets your presentation in front of the fish. When you mark a fish you want to catch, either hover while back trolling or use the spot lock on the bow mount trolling motor to stop your momentum and get vertical. Fall fishing typically develops a lot of classic fall patterns where we find fish on deep structure like rock bars, reefs and saddles that often have a hard bottom. Jigs and fall walleye have been a staple for years and not much has changed in that regard. What has changed is GPS mapping, rod blank technology, line and of course additional tools like tungsten and spot locking features. Catching walleye with jigs in the fall is nothing new but many of the new tools can greatly increase your success if you gain confidence with them and know how to use them.

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2018 Fort Peck Reservoir Chinook Salmon Stocking And Fishing Outlook

MFWP

ontana Fish, Wildlife and Parks M reports some exciting news…Chinook salmon are

biting at Ft. Peck Reservoir! Casual and hardcore salmon fisherman have been waiting to hear whether salmon will be showing up this year, especially after the slower 2017 season. Interest in this unique fishery continues to grow and numerous social media outlets have been quick to alert anglers of the improving salmon bite in recent weeks. Boats rigged with downriggers have been flocking to the dam area in search of the prized Chinook (or king) salmon. Salmon were first introduced into Ft. Peck Reservoir in 1983. Due to the abundance of their preferred forage fish, cisco, salmon have shown excellent growth, with males maturing in two to four years and females in three to four years. This is the only Chinook fishery in Montana, so anglers travel from near and far in hopes of hooking up with these fresh water titans. Heath Headley, Ft. Peck Fisheries Biologist for FWP, hints that the salmon fishing forecast for this summer looks promising based on numbers of salmon released in 2017 (345,386). Strong numbers of salmon released, abundant cisco (the primary forage item for chinook salmon), and a productive reservoir environment should benefit hatchery salmon survival. Abundant cisco can also act as a buffer

FWP intern Wyatt Pickens was able to catch a nice salmon on Fort Peck Reservoir in July. Photo Credit Steve Dalbey

to predation from walleye and northern pike. Higher reservoir elevations also provide an increased amount of coldwater habitat, key to salmon survival. Biologists generally don’t get much insight into the survival of these small salmon until they reach larger sizes and are caught in sampling gear. However, in 2017 staff observed small 8-10 inch salmon during the 2017 summer/fall sampling surveys. In addition, anglers reported catching a few as well. This is a promising sign that stocking efforts and good survival are leading to a potential strong year class. Early indications are that a good portion of the salmon caught in 2018 are smaller, younger aged fish. Specifically, 2-year-old males also known as “jacks” that should average about 5 pounds. Males typically mature earlier than females; and the high abundance of food has also been shown to lead to faster growth and maturity. Male salmon typically mature at 2-3 years while female salmon mature at 3-4 years of age in Fort Peck Reservoir. Anglers may recall a similar pattern back in 2015 when good numbers of 2-year old males were caught when similar environmental and biological conditions were very favorable for growth and survival. That year class was present in the system for an additional two years providing angling opportunities and eggs for future stocking efforts. It’s still too early to tell, but based on observations thus far, things look encouraging for the upcoming years. Finally, in 2018, FWP released 377,534 Chinook salmon into Fort Peck Reservoir. This is the third largest stocking of chinook salmon since the program began back in 1983 and was largely due to a successful egg collection and above average hatching success. Female salmon collected in the fall of 2017 were larger than average and carried more eggs. Additionally, egg size was larger than average which has been shown to lead to better hatching success.

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MADISON RIVER FLY FISHING: 5 TIPS FOR THE FALL By Montana Angler For a guided fly fishing trip call 406-522-9854 or www.montanaangler.com adison river fly fishing is possibly at its best in October. M The river is nearly empty as tourists have gone home and many locals are in the woods hunting. This is also a

time of the year when some of the largest trout of the year are landing including a few fish each year in the 28-30” class. Dry fly fishing can also be great. Here are 5 good tips for fishing the Madison in the fall. 1) TRY THE LOWER RIVER Although the Upper Madison near Ennis is the most famous part of the river, the Lower Madison from the Warm Springs access to Three Forks is also a great fishery. Trout numbers are highest near the exit of Bear Trap Canyon and this is also the section that gets the most angling pressure. In the fall, fishing pressure is very light despite the great fishing. Because this section is too warm to fish for most of the summer, it doesn’t get the same publicity that the more famous upper river does. Despite its lack of fame, it produces some of the largest trout in the river. 2) FISH BAD WEATHER Your best chance at catching a truly monster trout is on cloudy, rainy and snowy days. Big browns hate bright light and often feed after dark on bright sunny days. When the weather turns sour the big boys go on the feed. This is the time to pull giant streamers and swing for the fences. The baetis hatch also comes off very thick so don’t forget about the great dry fly fishing. 3) FISH HOPPERS Just because it is October doesn’t mean you should put your hopper box away. October often produces some gorgeous weather and on nice sunny days in early October the hopper fishing can be awesome. 4) FISH BEES Bees and hornets get a little punch drunk in early October as winter is fast approaching. The insects slow down and frequently stumble into the water. I recently saw over a hundred honey bees staggering around the bank of a small stream that I was fishing and saw several in the water. A yellow double humpy is a good imitation. Fishing the bee on a warm October day can be very productive on the Madison. 5) FISH THE MAIN RUNS Remember that the big browns are on the move so they will be working their way through the main runs vs. little side channels. Working large main runs with big nymphs trailed by beads is a very effective way to hang a fish of a lifetime.

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The Missouri River flowing through the Missouri Headwaters State Park in Three Forks, Montana ©Leigh Anne Meeks | Dreamstime.com

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

ven though many anglers have switched over to hunting E for the fall season, October can be an excellent month to catch fish as days get shorter, water temperatures cool and the trout, walleye and other big-game fish will move closer to the shorelines to feed, giving anglers the perfect opportunity to catch a lot of fish. As storms arrive, fish become less weary and more eager to gorge on feeders. Below, we’ve highlighted some of our favorite spots to fish in Montana. Musselshell River - Central Montana boasts a river that is home to some trophy browns that rarely see a fly. Locals say the Musselshell River has large trout that can be taken from the river in it’s upper stretches, near Martinsdale downstream to the Hwy. 191 Bridge near Harlowton using streamers and nymphs and fishing them along the undercut banks, downed timber and into the deeper pools. Although the river itself is narrow and shallow, there are plenty of brown trout to keep you busy. Rig up with an olive or black streamer or small spinners for good action. Access is best around Selkirk FAS, Two Dot Road Access Site or hit the Hwy. 191 Bridge Access. All of these areas have good fish holding, but as with any search for trophy browns, the further you hike away from access points, the better your chances of finding something special. Added bonus - Deadman’s Basin is right down the road where you can fish one of the states only muskie fishing destinations. MONTANA WHITEFISH - October is the month for whitefish catching in Montana. Here are a few of the top spots to haul in these tasty fish. Madison River - You will find whitefish in the Madison in slower, deeper pools. Top fly gear will include the beadheaded

Prince nymph as well as pheasant tails. Small green colored lures will also pick up these fish. Missouri River - The Mountain whitefish should be hitting well into October. A small fly like a caddis with a maggot or two is a good choice now. One of the best spots to target the fish will be within a mile upstream of the Wolf Creek Bridge area where you will find them in slack waters. Fresno Reservoir - The tailwater below Fresno is an exceptional spot and the area is untapped, as hardly anyone fishes for whitefish here. You can catch 2 or 3 pounders using minnows and worms. Flathead River - Along the Flathead River from Columbia Falls to the Old Steel Bridge area, anglers line the banks sacking up Lake Superior whitefish that spawn from October well into November. Fish the deeper holes bouncing green colored jigs along the gravelly bottoms or a Kastmasters in green for these scrappy fish, some up to 4 pounds. SMALLMOUTH BASS Yellowstone River - A surprisingly good fishery for smallmouth bass is on the Yellowstone between Hysham and Forsyth, within sight of Interstate 94. Smallies in this rocky stretch of the river grow to around 4 pounds, though solid 2 pounders are more common. You’ll need to bounce 4-inch curl-tail grubs on jig heads along the rocky shorelines or finesse a worm among the cracks and ledges of the rocks. They will be in “attack” mode once they see your bait floating. Fishing blades will also pull bass from their hiding spots, so don’t hesitate to try a spinnerbait - white, black and chartreuse are usually pretty effective in the fall. YELLOW PERCH Holter Lake - Cooling waters will perk up the fish bite in and around scenic Holter Lake near Helena. Schools of big yellow perch hug the bottom in open water, usually between 10 and 25’ deep. Use your electronics to locate gradually sloping bottoms and mid-lake reefs with scattered submerged weeds. Make repeated drifts, slowly dragging a jig/worm combo along the bottom. Target areas include the Oxbow and Split Rock. These tasty morsels are abundant and can be fun to catch here. Added bonus - browns, rainbows and walleye. CHINOOK SALMON - WALLEYE Fort Peck Lake - As we head later into fall, you will find good opportunity for chinook salmon fishing on this big lake. 16 to 20 pounders can be caught around the face of the dam by trolling big fluttering spoons like a flasher and squid off a downrigger at 80 to 100’. You want to mimic cisco, so your color choice should be iridescent blue and silver trolling at 1.8 to 2 mph. Marina Bay should be a ground zero for salmon. Walleye hunters will be pleased with good fall fishing as well. Simply rig up with a beadhead jig and a leech or worm at target depths of around 25 to 40’. As the lake cools off, running crankbaits will become more effective. Try a 6 to 8 inch crank that mimics a cisco with some white and red around the gills. A Rapala glass minnow is a good option. Added bonus - great northern pike, yellow perch, smallmouth bass and lake trout fishing.

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BROWN TROUT Beaverhead River - Southwest Montana’s Beaverhead River will continue biting into the fall, when even larger fish come out to play. Fly fishers can toss out a number of effective flies right now including San Juans, elk hairs caddis, streamers, and hoppers. For bait anglers, night crawlers fished off the bottom or small spinners like a Panther Martin with a gold blade and a black body will catch rainbows as well as browns. It’s phenomenal scenery and exceptional fishing. NORTHERN PIKE Seeley and Salmon Lakes - Northern pike will start to feed aggressively now as we head into the colder months, especially in these smaller mountain lakes. This is a great time to take a trophy caliber fish. They will engulf lures and flies with heart-stopping strikes. Try casting Rapala Husky Jerks, spoons, or white, black and chartreuse colored spinnerbaits. These predator fish will be feeding on the kokanee salmon that start to school up now and spawn. Anything that mimics a 6-8” koke - silver/black is a good choice. WALLEYE Canyon Ferry Reservoir - The bigger walleye that are in this lake located east of Helena will start to head for the shallows now as cooler water temperatures set in. Good fishing should be around the Hole in the Wall and other bay inlets on the south side of the reservoir. Worms on the Lindy Rig with bottom bouncers will pick up walleye in a variety of sizes, and by mid to late October will be at their heaviest size of the year. These walleye should follow the same general pattern until the first ice of the season, which is usually not until late December.

IDAHO FISHING NEWS

Wild Steelhead Return Exceeded Expectations Because Of Unusually Small B-Runs Last Fall Idaho Fish and Game Idaho “B” run fish are famous for their large size, but not all achieve it Last year’s Idaho steelhead run received a lot of attention for the wrong reason. It was a low run year, and Fish and Game biologists did not initially see as many fish back as they would have liked, but they were pleasantly surprised in the spring... The low return focused the attention and concerns of fisheries managers and anglers alike. But data from last fall also suggested the return of wild “B-runs” wasn’t as low as window counts estimated, and information gathered during spring in spawning streams confirmed it. The run wasn’t great by any stretch, but not catastrophic, either... Even with the boost in B-runs compared to the window counts, it was still a low return for wild steelhead. But it’s good to know there were more wild steelhead spawning than reported last fall. The final estimate of steelhead spawning in all of Idaho’s wild steelhead drainages will come out later this year after all the fish are aged and the genetic analysis is completed. It is too early to know how this year’s run will be because steelhead are currently leaving the ocean, and only a small number of early fish have reached Idaho. But Idaho’s wild steelhead have seen hard times before, and while Fish and Game expects improved future returns, its likely their resilience will be tested.

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12 Power Vortex Razor HD Binoculars on Tripod All photo credits Brady Miller

ARE 12 POWER BINOCULARS THE ULTIMATE GLASSING SETUP?

By Brady Miller Originally published at www.goHUNT.com ast year, I outlined why carrying multiple optics are essential for locating more mule deer. In that article, I outlined the pros and cons of certain optic setups while, at the same time, staying consistent with the importance of carrying at least two or, even, three pairs of optics. If you need a refresher, you can check out that article here https://www.gohunt.com/read/skills/why-carrying-multipleoptics-are-essential-for-locating-more-deer#gs.xlqJXJ4 . A few things have changed in my glassing setup since that article. Those optic systems worked great for me— phenomenal actually—and I’m sure you know by now that I’m a gear junkie through and through. But, at the same time, I’m always looking to gain an edge on a hunt. Prior to 2017, I had become accustomed to carrying everything and the kitchen sink when it came to optics... Fast forward to 2018, after a full season of experimenting. I was hesitant on this new setup at first because, in the past, the more optics seemed better for the type of hunts I was doing. After more than one season of testing, I truly believe that I have finally found the system that minimizes weight, yet doesn’t sacrifice on power and clarity. THE ULTIMATE BACKCOUNTRY BINOCULAR POWER After more than a full season behind this new setup, I feel like 12 power binoculars are the way to go for any backcountry type hunt. By backcountry, I’m referring to any hunt where you are looking to save weight. This could be a grueling weekend hunt where you’re planning on leaving work at 5 p.m. on a Friday, driving through the night and then hiking at 2 a.m. to beat the morning sunrise, to a hunt that encompasses seven to nine days in the mountains of Colorado. Then at the same time, I feel like these are a huge advantage on more relaxing hunts like day trips from a hotel. The pros of 12 power binoculars By running this setup, I’ve been able to cut roughly 3.25 pounds (53.06 oz) from my backpack. I switched from running my 15x56 binos, 10x42 binos and a spotting scope to just the 12x50 binos and spotting scope. These weight savings are definitely felt after a few days of hiking.

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Hand holding with the 12s 12s are still a great binocular for hand holding. During the 2017 season, I ran my 12s in a medium size Marsupial Bino Harness. They fit just fine and actually are even a little lighter than the Zeiss Victory SF 10x42s I had been running in the past. (continued on page 32)


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October

By Alex Comstock Founder of www.whitetaildna.com

he month of October is finally upon us. For a deer hunter, T October can mean a number of things. There’s the “October Lull” which gets a lot of publicity, and there’s the fact that mature bucks don’t move a ton. But as the month goes on, and rubs and scrapes start appearing, our psyche can go from low to high with the impending rut nearing. I find the month of October to be quite an interesting one. There are hunters that claim it can be the best time to put down a mature buck, and others who say hunting is a waste of a time.

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After doing a little research on those who seem to always get it done, and combining that with my own knowledge, I’ve come up with three basic reasons you might not send an arrow through a mature buck over the next few weeks. 1. YOUR ATTITUDE This is where it all starts. If you go into something not believing in yourself, odds are you’re not going to make it happen. This is no different when it comes to hunting. Why I think attitude is so much more important in October is because of the negative connotation that is so often associated with the month. It’s easy to have a couple slow sits, and immediately blame the “October Lull” and then have a negative attitude. See what happens though when you have a negative attitude, is you start slipping on the little things. All of a sudden you’re not going the long way to the treestand, knowing you may bump a few deer. There’s nights when you’re down and end up leaving the stand five or ten minutes early. Maybe you’re not quite as careful or quiet when getting set up. All of these little things add up, and could reduce your chances of success. If you’ve got a good attitude, chances are you’ll pay attention to the small details that can more often than not determine the end result. Don’t let one or two bad sits bring you down. Magic can still happen during October. 2. YOU WON’T TRY ANYTHING NEW October is a time to get creative. If you want to put a buck down in the next month, doing the same old same old might not cut it. The most often complaint I hear about October is that bucks just don’t move during daylight. This simply just isn’t true. I’d agree with the sentiment that bucks may move less during daylight, but at some point in daylight they will get up to feed. Though they may not move nearly as far, which can lead you to believe they’re not getting up at all. Instead of focusing on the usual field edge, crop field,...think about changing up your tactics during this month. A quick scout may do you good in identifying food sources back in the cover, such as oaks dropping acorns, or being able to locate a scrape close to bedding. Something I’m doing this year more often that I’ve never really tried this time of the year is being more aggressive with run and gun setups. This can allow you to get closer to bedding and give you the ability to adjust on the fly. This won’t guarantee that you put a big buck on the ground, but it could get you a lot closer than if you went to that same stand that hasn’t produced during this time of the year in the past. 3. YOU WON’T HUNT THE RIGHT CONDITIONS The right weather conditions can make all of the difference during the whole hunting season, but during October, they can be increasingly important. Between life, and work, and whatever else could be thrown your way, it can be difficult to line up days that you can hunt with optimal weather. What I do is take the fifteen day forecast, and pick out the very best weather days. Whether it be a slight cold front, the right wind direction, you name it, if I know what days I want to hunt ahead of time, I can better plan to get out on those particular days. If you don’t hunt when conditions are perfect during October, odds of making it happen will be much worse. Depending on how many properties you have access to, and what your situation is, not hunting when the conditions are wrong can do you better than actually hunting. If you can go into a non-pressured area during prime weather conditions, October can still be a great time to tag a mature buck. CONCLUSION There’s no doubt about it, October can be a challenging month to knock down a mature buck. But don’t let the challenge scare you. Have a good attitude, be creative, and when those conditions line up - strike. You never know what could happen.


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GRAY (HUNGARIAN) PARTRIDGE While no formal surveys are conducted for huns in Montana, weather and habitat conditions suggest huns across the state will range from slightly above to below average this season, depending on the area of the state. Region 4 has seen good bird numbers in many areas but due to heavy rains and flooding we lost some production. Overall bird numbers in western parts of Region 4 are similar to last year. In Region 5, Hungarian partridge numbers are likely to be below average due to spring storms and the resulting poor hatch. In Region 6, partridge populations are always “spotty.” Based on incidental observations, partridge populations saw similar decreases to pheasants and sharp-tailed grouse last year. However, the good nesting and broodrearing conditions should help them recover similarly to the other species. In good habitats the outlook for huns is fair this year, but hunters may need to cover a lot of ground to find habitats favored by the species. A severe winter across most of the Region 7 most likely had an adverse impact on Hungarian partridges. Although Hungarian partridges occur throughout the region, their distribution tends to be spotty. The most robust populations of Huns can be found where there is a good interspersion of grain, alfalfa and rolling grassy hills or grass ways. Hunters can expect numbers of Hungarian partridge to range from poor to fair, depending on localized weather and habitat conditions. MOUNTAIN GROUSE Mountain grouse, including ruffed, spruce, and dusky (or blue) grouse, are fun to hunt and good to eat. The last few years have been good for these birds in FWP Regions 1 (northwestern Montana), 2 (western Montana), 3 (southwestern Montana) and parts of 4. In Region 5, Mountain grouse fared better than prairie birds throughout south central Montana this spring. Brood sizes for all mountain grouse species appear to be about average, so hunting opportunity likely will be similar to last year. Success of broods can vary from year to year, particularly with spring weather. Biologists in northwest Montana have seen good numbers of birds and broods through the summer. So, if you’re favorite spot had dry weather when grouse were hatching this year, you might see good numbers. If not, it could be a tough season. The nesting season in western Montana was unusually wet, which may have been hard on hatchlings. PHEASANTS Montana is experiencing a large decline in conservation reserve program acreage along the northern tier of the state, which may have an impact on hunting experiences in Regions 4 and 6. CRP is a program that pays landowners to remove environmentally sensitive land from agricultural production and plant species that improves environmental health and quality of bird habitat. (continued on page 46)

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Photo courtesy Project Upland

3 Things To Consider When Hunting Pheasants With A Dog Written By Anthony Ferro Project Upland www.projectupland.com o there you are. You’ve got your brand new Danner S boots lightly broken in and the newest Filson upland vest loaded with shells. You’ve broken down, cleaned and

reassembled your favorite field gun more times than it needs to be. And at your heel is an eager bird dog whining in anticipation. What’s left to do but put those thousands of dollars to use, load the truck, and hit the brush for some well deserved R&R? Here are three things you need to know about hunting pheasants with a dog. A Conditioned Dog Not Only Works Longer But Scents Better The first aspect we need to discuss is all the tasks before the season, like conditioning and achievements. Hunting pheasants isn’t exactly walking grounds for bobwhite. You had better be ready for a challenge. Let’s start with the most important aspect of the hunt: the dog. If you want your companion to be in tip-top shape, you better invest the time and energy into forming some sort of off-season conditioning program. You’d be doing your mate a disservice if you haven’t prepared them for hunting in the likes of thick CRP, heavy brush, tumbleweed, corn, milo, and sorghum fields. The more your dog is breathing through his nose, the more chance he’ll have of picking up the scent. And a bird dog with a scent steadied on the “birdie” makes for a steadied hunter ready for a clean shot! Consider it like sweat equity that pays for your dog’s health insurance plan. Dogs are like athletes and they need to be in shape—especially if they are putting on the heavy miles from a day chasing roosters. As an endurance athlete, you’ve got to have stamina and your muscles, tendons, joints and ligaments need to have a great range of motion. An off season training program is the best thing a handler can do to avoid a mid season hunting injury. But what about the handler? Although they are also going to be tested physically, it’s a lot harder to tell a human to get on a training program. Approach the CRP in whatever shape you deem fit for an all day hunt. That’s right folks, if you’re hunting public lands and your primary quarry is pheasant roosters, be prepared for an ALL DAY HUNT! Which brings us to the second aspect: mental fortitude. A countless number of beginners and rookie upland hunters are deterred when they learn that the real “KING” of game birds is not going to present an easy opportunity at harvest. In any given day chasing rooster, a hunter can expect to see twenty to fifty birds flush fifty to one hundred yards from him.

For no apparent reason. Or how about when the dog goes on point fifteen times in a twenty-five yard walk, because the birds are giving the hound the “Ol’ Rooster Shuffle?” And then to hear the cock cackle on the flush twenty yards behind you! It’s a mental chess match with these birds that, more often than not, the rooster wins! Be ready for the dogs to stop and lock up when the hens hold tight. That’s how the roosters buy enough time to slip out on foot from the side of the field! Prep your dog for the physical job and prep your mind for the chess game of a lifetime. Identifying Pheasant Habitat Once prepared in body and mind, it’s time to hit the dirt roads and start X’ing off land parcels in the public land access atlas. Field qualification and selection should always be first priority. There is nothing more frustrating for a novice upland hunter than walking fields all day without busting a single bird from shooting distance. What makes a worthy field, you might ask? Let’s try and identify three main ingredients—literally. First, we must identify a food source. Preferably it should be cut, but standing corn, milo, and sorghum are all great food sources for cock pheasant. If you can’t walk the field directly, find a street or field to walk nearby. When walking, pay attention to the amount of grasshoppers you see around. The hopper is a delicacy among all game birds. If you find hoppers, be ready to take the gun off safety! The second is water. Water is the nectar of life for all humans and all animals and, yes, all birds. Ponds, creeks, lakes, and pockets of field water are hot spots for bird habitation. The third ingredient is the actual habitat of the grounds and the quality of grass. You’ll often find CRP grass in the midwest, a popular mix of native grasses. Heavy grass cover is one of the things that allows these birds to be so elusive. It’s imperative they have cover to hide from all of mother nature’s predators—including your dog and two or three rounds of 5/6 shot! Field Management aka How You Approach Your Hunting Grounds The third and final aspect of hunting pheasants with a dog is field management....let’s focus on the obvious stuff: field management and walking strategies. If you have a dog, your job is to give him the best opportunity to catch scent until he tracks the bird to point and flush. Use the wind as your guiding compass in order to ensure the largest scent cones. Walk with the wind in your face. If you’re driving by a field you think is a worthy candidate, drive to the windy side of the field. Then drop the tailgate and give ’em hell! Now that the wind is in your favor, let’s march the edge of the field. Pheasant love to hang around field edges or in tree rows. These rows don’t just provide protection from predators, but offer shelter from high winds and other adverse weather conditions, too. No matter the size, after you’ve walked the edges of the field, make one last pass through the middle. It really works! There are a few other land quirks you’ll want to pay attention to along your journey that can provide a few extra opportunities at harvesting a bird. Look for field “bowls.” These bowls always hold birds down in them, keeping them out of the whipping wind of the western prairies. Much like the bowls, look for nice deep ditches. Stereotypes are made for a reason and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand the nickname “Ditch Parrot.” Don’t forget to have a loose trigger finger. Depending on who you’re talking to, accuracy and the ratio of shells shot to harvest may or may not matter. Take this advice to heart: MAKE IT RAIN!!! You can’t catch fish if your line isn’t in the water and you can’t drop pheasant out of the sky if your lead isn’t flying! Shoot safe, shoot often! Hunt hard, hunt safe, and fetch feathers.


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2018 BIG GAME HUNTING FORECAST (continued from page 9)

Destination: NORTH CENTRAL MONTANA Last winter was tough and hunters in some areas in north central Montana may see fewer animals, but overall game populations remain strong. On the Rocky Mountain Front south of the Teton River, for example, overall numbers of mule deer continue to fair better than 20 years ago, said Brent Lonner, FWP wildlife biologist. However, there may be some gaps. “Given the difficult winter,” Lonner said, “fawn to doe ratios were low and hunters should expect to see a bit fewer spike bucks. But as long as last winter doesn’t become an annual trend this should not have an impact on long-term population trends.” The same holds true for mule deer in the Little Belt Mountains, said Jay Kolbe, FWP wildlife biologist in White Sulphur Springs: “Mule deer fawn survival and overall numbers were about average.” As for white-tailed deer, the winter seemed to have little overall effect. “Even after the strong winter,” Lonner said, “I observed record or near record numbers of whitetails in hunting districts 444, 422 and 450.” Fewer whitetails call the Little Belts home, but Kolbe said he is seeing twins and some triplets this year. For elk, the trend continues to be up. “Elk recruitment and production did not seem significantly affected by the winter,” Kolbe said. “Antler growth looks great this summer.” The same holds true along the Rocky Mountain Front. “Overall, observed numbers of elk in the Sun River herd are very similar to last year,” Lonner said. “Hunting regulations for elk in this area will remain nearly identical to last year with general opportunity being good, pending fall weather conditions.” Destination: SOUTH CENTRAL MONTANA The 2017-18 winter was tough on mule deer in south central Montana. Fawn recruitment was poor and adult mortality was elevated, resulting in low spring counts. In general harvest might be a bit lower than last year. Buck harvest continues to run well below average in the southwest part of the region, even though overall populations are only slightly below long-term average.

30 | Hunting & Fishing News

The area south of the Musselshell River and northwest of Billings is an exception, with mule deer numbers remaining above the long-term average. Despite low fawn recruitment following the 2017-18 winter, white-tailed deer numbers remain well above objective. Harvest is expected to be quite good again this year, particularly along the Musselshell River and Flatwillow Creek.

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Elk numbers remain high and above objective in all areas of south central Montana, except east of Billings where numbers are near objectives and the upper main Boulder River, where numbers are slightly below objective but stable. Along the north side of the Beartooth Mountains, elk numbers remain high despite some loss of calves during the 2017-18 winter. Shoulder seasons resulted in some shifts from the normal elk distribution in both the early and late season. Due to abundant precipitation this spring and early summer, the elk remain widely scattered and forage is abundant. Access is the limiting factor for elk harvest in all areas of south central Montana. The winter was tough on antelope throughout south central Montana. Fawn production this spring was below average. Antelope numbers remained strong in the hunting district northeast of Harlowton and between Harlowton and Columbus. However, other districts saw moderate declines. The hunting district south of the Yellowstone River between Columbus and Big Timber showed the most dramatic decline. The decline also was noticeable northeast of Roundup. Hunters should expect to cover more miles of country to find antelope than in the past couple of years. Range conditions are excellent, however, with ample spring and early summer precipitation throughout south central Montana. Assuming we have an “average” winter, the region should see good fawn production next spring.


Destination: NORTHWEST MONTANA In the northwest corner of Montana, the last two winters have brought harsh conditions and deep snowfall across much of the region, creating challenging conditions for recruitment of big game populations in some areas. The snowpack in many areas was above-average late into winter, making for difficult hunting conditions a year ago and low survival rates in some areas for elk calves and deer fawns. For elk, calf recruitment appears lower than previous years. In general, cow-to-calf ratios were observed to be lower this year in Hunting Districts 121, 140 and 150. This marks the second year of reduced calf recruitment in these districts. Northwest Montana is unique white-tailed deer country. While most of the state is dominated by mule deer, that’s not the case up here. White-tailed deer can be found from river bottoms and agriculture land to evergreen forests and high country. However, the last two winters have hurt fawn recruitment. The long, harsh winter and heavy snowpack across much of the region have resulted in some fawn and adult deer mortalities. Adult survival, even in severe winters, is generally good but based on the recruitment observed this year, the white-tailed deer population is likely down somewhat in some areas of northwest Montana. White-tailed deer numbers have been most impacted in the North Fork of the Flathead River in recent years and this year recruitment in the upper Swan was below average. The harvest is expected to be similar or decline slightly this fall. The overall harvest trend has increased since the 1970s. Mule deer counts in the region were hampered this spring by maintenance issues and availability of the survey helicopter. FWP staff struggled to identify age classes of deer observed but only 17 fawns per 100 adults were observed during a flight of the Fisher River, a common area for mule deer, but this likely underestimates the level of recruitment in the area.

Mule deer harvest has been on a decline in recent years. FWP has launched a multi-year research study of the population and its nutrition, habitat use and mortality rates in an attempt to better understand factors affecting mule deer populations in Northwestern Montana. Destination: WESTERN MONTANA Elk counts in western Montana were down slightly this spring, due to a combination of factors including a good harvest last hunting season and difficult conditions for counting elk during the annual flights. Numbers of brow-tined bull elk may be a bit lower this year than last because of recent hard winters coupled with a good bull harvest last fall. Once again, dry weather and fires in the region will contribute to more elk in irrigated crops on private land. Hunters hoping to participate in shoulder seasons this fall or winter should secure permission on private land now, and purchase an elk B-license now for private lands where B-licenses are valid. Look for the 002-00 regional B-license, new this year, and please read the regulations for your area carefully. White-tailed deer numbers have been on an upward trend, but last year’s hard winter—and two hard winters in a row in the western part of the region—have dampened fawn survival. So, the whitetail population is likely holding steady overall, rather than increasing. It’s a good sign that we’re still seeing twin fawns this summer. Dry weather and fires in the region will tend to concentrate deer, like elk, in irrigated crops on private land even more than usual. Opportunities to hunt mule deer are somewhat limited in western Montana. Many districts require the hunter to have obtained a permit or B-license through the statewide application process. Hunters with buck permits or hunters hunting in districts where a special permit is not required for a buck should plan to go high in the mountains to match their stamina with the biggest bucks. (continued on page 33)

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Hunting & Fishing News | 31


ARE 12 POWER BINOCULARS THE ULTIMATE GLASSING SETUP? (continued from page 22) The Vortex Razor HD 12x50s are 29.20 oz compared to 34.23 oz of the Zeiss. When hand holding these binoculars I enjoyed the extra magnification over the 10s I normally carried in my bino harness. I use the binos in my chest harness systems for a multitude of situations when making a stalk or quickly trying to assess stalking routes, animal movements while making a stalk, etc. Glassing off a tripod with the 12s 12s are still a game changer while glassing off a tripod. Yes, you are giving up some magnification when compared to 15s and, trust me, I loved glassing all day with my 15s. However, I had to ask myself if the weight and bulk were necessary when I carried 10s, 15s, and a spotter and if it made sense to drop down in bino power. Would it make me miss seeing any animals? RUNNING 12S CAN LEAD TO FINDING MORE DEER I actually believe that running 12s has lead to me spotting more deer. Crazy, right? Let me explain. When I ran 15s, I got really stubborn and decided to sit in glassing positions for a longer period of time and not move. I would just sit there and glass away with my 15s and spotting scope from that one position. By running 12s, I have found myself moving glassing locations more often. This was due to the slightly lower magnification in the 12s. However, what this enabled me to do is to get better angles on the terrain I was glassing. I could sit in one spot for two hours and see some deer, but, after you have picked over the terrain for a while, moving a few hundred yards made all

the difference in getting a new angle—a new view through the shadows where a big buck might be hiding. It was that moment where I realized that when I had 15s and a giant spotter, I started to rely on them too much like a crutch. Having the 12s gave me that middle ground power that forced me to move around, which then lead to me spotting way more deer. The cons of 12 power binoculars With all the pros I just listed, you might be asking yourself what cons could these binoculars actually have. Well, the only downfall that I can think of—and while that downfall is very minor-is the extra power at extremely close distances. This could become a burden if you are under 40 yards from an animal and you are trying to quickly locate them in some brush. Would more power be nice if you’re glassing large landscapes and/or Coues deer hunting? Sure. More can be better. But like everything, you might just have to personally try out both. 15s can be great if you’re hunting Coues deer and driving from glassing spot to glassing spot with an ATV and have minimum hiking, but again, could you get by with 12s and a spotter? ARE THEY WORTH THE SWITCH? The answer to that question lies in your future needs and what you currently own. If I was to do it all over again, I would purchase a pair of 12s and I would love carrying them in mountain situations when weight is of the essence. Then, at the same time, I would still enjoy running these on weekend hunts or even situations when I am hunting close to my truck or out of a hotel. The extra power doesn’t impede glassing with just your hands and maybe if you owned a pair of 12s you would finally see what you might have been missing after you mount them to a tripod. Whatever brand of optic you select, I know you will be one step closer to having an incredible hunt. And remember…you can’t hunt, what you can’t see.

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32 | Hunting & Fishing News


2018 BIG GAME HUNTING FORECAST (continued from page 31)

An emerging opportunity for hunters in Region 2 is to hunt mule deer on private lands, where numbers generally are growing. Again, pay close attention to the regulations to make sure you are properly licensed to hunt mule deer. Antelope hunting is a minority sport in western Montana, where numbers have increased to about 400, following transplants by FWP to the Deer Lodge vicinity in the 1940s. Hunting is limited to a few hunters with permits obtained in the statewide drawing process. For more information on antelope, deer and elk numbers in western Montana, look online at the Region 2 Wildlife Quarterly, fwp.mt.gov/regions/r2/wildlifeQuarterly.html and at Region 2 headquarters in Missoula. Destination: SOUTHEAST MONTANA The badlands, farmland and rolling prairie of southeast Montana are home to a vast number of animals, including strong populations of mule and white-tailed deer, variable antelope numbers and a growing number of elk. Mule deer in the region recovered rapidly from their low point in 2012, and since 2016 remain at one of the higher densities seen in southeastern Montana since current surveys were initiated in the 1980s. Following back-to-back severe winters in 2009-10 and 2010-11, mule deer numbers bottomed out at 61 percent of long-term average. Spring 2018 surveys indicate populations are 29 percent above long-term average. “Drought conditions last summer, combined with a long, cold winter that stretched into late April contributed to some winter mortality,” said FWP biologist Melissa Foster. “Our spring surveys indicate that deer populations are about 11 percent below last year, but that’s not concerning because our deer population is still very strong. In just five years, we’ve gone from extremely low to extremely high deer numbers.” “The age structure of the population continues to improve,” Foster said. “Early in that recovery, the population was heavily skewed toward younger age classes; we had lots of yearlings, lots of 2-year-olds, but fewer mature deer. That’s perfectly natural. It’s a result of the boom in production following the population decline.” “With fewer mouths on the landscape, almost everyone enters winter in good body condition,” Foster explained. “They’re able to find winter browse and thermal cover, resources are essentially unlimited and fawn production and survival rates are extremely high.” Going into the 2018 hunting season, biologists expect that there will be strong cohorts of 3- to 5-year-old bucks on the landscape. Deer in the 6- to 8-year-old range will still be relatively few and far between, as these age classes would have survived as fawns or been born following the severe winters when fawn production and survival rates were low. The number of 5-year-olds this year should be modest, as they would have been born in 2013, a year with healthy fawn production but fairly low numbers of deer. Numbers of 3- and 4-year-olds will be better, and there will once again be high numbers of yearlings and 2-year-olds. Buck numbers as a whole are phenomenal; the region-wide average was 46 bucks:100 does following the 2017 hunting season. “We are still at a high point for deer numbers,” Foster said. “At 29 percent above the long-term average, habitat degradation is already beginning to occur. (continued on page 36)

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2018 BIG GAME HUNTING FORECAST

(continued from page 33) The drought last year means that deer entered winter with fewer fat reserves than prior years. Huge numbers of mouths on the landscape means that it will be more difficult for deer to find good winter browse and thermal cover.” Habitat is important, and high numbers of deer can have an effect. “Deer can and do have the ability to eat themselves out of house and home,” said John Ensign, FWP Region 7 wildlife manager. “When deer numbers are high like they are right now, they impact winter browse. As that browse component declines, so does the number of deer that the landscape can support.” “It’s counterintuitive,” Foster said. “But the best thing that we can do oftentimes to improve deer numbers is to harvest more deer.” Good harvests can mean better deer health through the winter and into spring because the habitat can better handle the pressure. This often equates to higher adult survival, as well as increased production, health and survival of fawns born the following spring. “The antlerless mule deer quota has been at 11,000 since 2017, which means there’s plenty of opportunity for hunters to fill their freezers while helping to maintain herd health,” Ensign said. Whitetail numbers have held steady in southeast Montana. Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD) outbreaks have been localized in scale and small in magnitude since 2012. Local hunters will recall the last major EHD outbreak in 2011, which caused heavy mortality in whitetails throughout many parts of Region 7.

Region-wide, whitetail buck numbers are also very strong at 67 bucks:100 does following last season. “We are at a good place right now with whitetail numbers,” Ensign said. “As deer densities increase, the risk of major EHD outbreaks increases. The disease is transmitted by a biting midge. When you get deer in close proximity, it’s an ideal situation for disease transmission.” “It’s impossible to stockpile wildlife, including whitetails,” he said. “Whether in the form of disease, drought or harsh winters, Mother Nature always intervenes.” Hunters who do their homework by scouting and visiting with private landowners should have success locating good areas to hunt whitetails. Antelope populations are variable across southeastern Montana. Herds in central and eastern Montana were hit hard by harsh winters in the late 2000s and early 2010s. The rate of recovery since then has been mixed in Region 7. Antelope numbers in the southeast corner of the state continue to be strong. During summer surveys, biologists observed more than six antelope per square mile in the southeast corner of the state, which transitioned to a little over three antelope per square mile in the more northerly portions of hunting district 705, and fewer than two antelope per square mile throughout the rest of Region 7. “The message here is that the extra windshield time to reach the southeast corner of Region 7 is absolutely worth it,” Foster said. “Hunters will find better densities and good public land opportunity in this remote portion of Region 7.” Summer production surveys indicate that southeast Montana antelope numbers have increased 89 percent from the low in 2012 to a recent peak in 2016 and have since leveled off. Despite a drought last year followed by a tough winter, fawn recruitment was robust this summer. Buck ratios are also strong at 59 bucks:100 does prior to this hunting season. (continued on page 38)


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2018 BIG GAME HUNTING FORECAST (continued from page 36)

©Phil Bird|depositphotos.com

FWP is offering more either-sex rifle licenses than in the previous few years, allowing more sportsmen to enjoy the opportunity provided by the current strong buck numbers. Doe-fawn licenses remain relatively low at 1,500, where they have been since 2016. Again, those wishing to harvest an antelope in Region 7, especially a doe or fawn, will have the greatest opportunity in the southern portion of the region. These are good times for elk hunters as Montana elk populations continue to be strong across most of the state. In many hunting districts, however, access to private lands can be difficult, which can affect hunting success given landownership patterns and distribution of elk. Even if you didn’t draw a special permit this year, remember that Montana offers numerous opportunities to hunt for elk with just a general hunting license.

The most recent winter surveys indicated that elk in southeast Montana are continuing moderate growth and gradual expansion into unoccupied available habitat. FWP biologists observed strong calf recruitment (53 per 100 cows) and an excellent composition of bulls (43 per 100 cows). The Missouri Breaks (Hunting District 700) and Custer Forest Elk Management Unit (HDs 702, 704, 705) remain the two “core” elk populations. Outside of these areas, elk numbers across the region are low, distribution is spotty and elk are primarily found on private land where public hunting access is limited. Bull hunting is by permit only in HDs 700, 702, 704, 705 and the far western portion of 701. In HD 703 and in the rest of 701, hunters can pursue either-sex elk with a general license. New as of the 2016 hunting season is the 007-00 B license. This license is valid for antlerless elk throughout Region 7. During the archery-only season it is valid on all land types, and during general rifle season it can be used on all lands except for the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge and the Custer National Forest. Beginning in 2018, the general elk license will now be valid for spike bull or antlerless elk in HDs 702, 704 and 705. Previously it was only valid for antlerless elk. This change provides more opportunity for sportsmen, reduces accidental harvest of spike bulls, and is not expected to have a measurable impact on bull numbers. See regulations to determine which lands the general elk license is valid for during the archery and general seasons. Additional antlerless opportunities exist in the region via a general and/or B-license, and hunters are encouraged to review the regulations for more details on those opportunities. It is important for hunters to note that there are no elk shoulder seasons in any of the hunting districts in Region 7.

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Winter mortality was variable across the region during the 2017-2018 winter with the highest impacts seen in localized areas around Malta and Havre. Although a long, tough winter was observed throughout the region, the eastern portion did not experience near the snow accumulation as seen throughout the western portion of the region in areas where near record snow depths and extreme cold temperatures were observed. White-tailed deer are on the increase across the region, but still just below average. Populations in the eastern part of the region in more of the prairie/cropland habitats are doing better than populations along the Milk and Missouri Rivers. Although whitetails are recovering in recent years, still expect lower deer numbers in areas along those rivers. This year, Region 6 will be one of the areas of focus for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) detection, so hunters in the northern districts will be asked to voluntarily provide deer heads at certain locations. Elk hunting opportunities in most areas in Region 6 are limited to licenses/permits awarded through special drawings. Those hunting districts where elk hunting is allowed on a general license are mostly areas with small and scattered elk populations and very limited elk hunting opportunity. Overall, survey results found elk numbers in the Missouri River Breaks were down from the last survey, while elk numbers in the Bears Paw herd were up from last year. Elk calf numbers in both herds were near average during the surveys, indicating typical winter mortality. Elk shoulder seasons will occur in northeast Montana from Dec. 15-Jan. 15. Hunters interested in participating in this hunting season will have had to already drawn a shoulder season license (License 696-00 or 699-00) to hunt during this shoulder season. General season elk licenses are not valid during the elk shoulder season in FWP Region 6. The Missouri Breaks shoulder season license (699-00) is not valid on the CMR Refuge. Make sure you’re familiar with the regulations for the area you plan on hunting. In general, antelope populations were negatively affected by this past winter, and in most cases populations remain below long-term averages. Antelope licenses are distributed through the drawing system. Major reductions in licenses were seen following the winter of 2010-11, however some increase in licenses have been seen since that time. Those who have drawn licenses should have a good opportunity to harvest an antelope. Fire danger is higher throughout the region leading into the fall, so please be careful while hunting and camping and avoid driving or parking in taller vegetation. Please also check all local fire restrictions prior to hunting.

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10 TIPS FOR USING A DEER DECOY

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f not used properly, decoys can hamper your chances of Iuseful getting a shot at a buck...Here are a few tips we’ve found over the years while using a Montana Decoy.

If You Have It, Use It How many hands would it take to count the hunting equipment you’ve purchased over the years that is sitting in the closet collecting dust?... If you purchase a deer decoy from Montana Decoy, try it out. You never know when that buck of a lifetime wants to come closer to investigate. Right Decoy, Right Time Be sure you’re using the right decoy for the right phase of the season. Pre rut is probably not the best time to use Estrus Betty though she works well during the peak. Before the chase begins, use The Freshman, which will entice other bucks to come check him out, maybe spar a little. Dreamy Doe works well throughout the entire season, adding a certain comfort level when other deer see that a mature doe is hanging around. Location Proper placement of the decoy is vital to success. Make sure it’s close enough for a shot, but not so close that it might expose your location when you move or by giving away your scent. Remember that bucks are likely going to stalk up to another buck head on while they’d approach a doe from the rear. Appropriate Calls Periodic grunting and/or snort wheezing, even rattling, will help grab the attention of deer within earshot. Once they come in to see what the commotion is about, the decoy will help seal the deal. Add Movement If you find yourself on a stalk, but the buck you’re after isn’t paying attention to the decoy, add some movement by raising it up and down. Most dominant bucks won’t stand for a fork horn trying to invade their territory. Once the buck commits, stake the decoy and get ready. Use It As A Shield This, too, pertains to stalking, but can also be a useful tactic when walking into a food plot where deer are already feeding. The ultra-realistic feature of the decoy provides great cover for stalking, hiding and preparing for the shot. Know When To Draw After you’re set up has worked perfectly and a dream buck is stalking in to your decoy, be prepared to draw... Proper Scent Deer have excellent noses. Utilizing estrus during the rut to entice that sense of smell is a great way to draw in bucks that you might not have otherwise seen. Remember that using doe estrus outside of the rut is unnatural and will only hurt your chances. During the pre rut, try buck urine, making it appear that The Freshman is trying to establish himself as the dominant deer in the area. Also, take care to wash away any human scent by scrubbing the decoy with scentless soap and even covering it with pine needles for a day or so. Bedded Pose When using Dream Team, place Dreamy Doe in a bedded position as if the buck decoy has claimed her as his own. This is a great combination to use during peak rut. As we’ve mentioned, this just won’t sit well with a dominant buck. Light calling works well here though placement is paramount. The Herd A great post rut tactic that conveys safety in numbers. A mature whitetail buck doesn’t make it through multiple seasons by being careless. Instead, he exudes ultimate caution and a herd of deer...will make him feel more comfortable about going to feed. Plus, bucks haven’t thought about much else other than does over the last few weeks and are looking to recharge on whatever food sources they can find... Watch here https://youtu.be/Kv67nhqI4xQ


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After The Shot-Breaking Down And Packing Out Your Elk By Zach Lazzari Lazy J Bar O Outfitters www.lazyjbaro.com

Y ou put in the hours, hiked the steep hills and made a great shot. Everything came together and you have a bull elk down. Not many things

compare to that feeling of success. After the tag is punched and a few photos are taken, the work begins. Breaking down and packing out an elk is a serious chore, especially when you are deep in the backcountry. Hunting with a guide and horse-packer makes things much easier...Having multiple hands to help means the meat gets dried, cooled and transported to safety quickly. In the warmer weather of archery season, getting the Photo courtesy Zach Lazzari meat cooled down is especially important. Gutting vs Gutless Method There are two theories here. Using the gutless method is fantastic. It’s clean, efficient and fast. Going gutless with multiple helpers can have your bull broken into quarters in short order. Gutting the animal however is also a good route as it pulls a ton of heat away from the meat. It also makes organ retrieval easier. Ultimately, the method is a matter of preference and comfort. I personally like going gutless for elk. Protect Your Meat Do everything necessary to safely transport every ounce of meat home. In warm weather, rub the meat with citric acid to repel insects while discouraging bacteria. Place your quarters in game bags, debone if you have a long pack out. The bones are very heavy and deboning can make a huge difference if you are packing a long distance with little or no help. Hang your meat in the shade to encourage air-flow while maintaining a cool temperature. Hang them high in bear country and store meat well away from the leftover carcass. Pack it Out There is a method to the madness of packing an elk out on foot. First, avoid the temptation to overload your pack. Take an assessment of the distance and difficulty of the route. Walking relatively even terrain means you can carry more. Steep terrain calls for less weight. Know your capabilities and keep in mind the fact that several trips are in order. One great method for packing out involves short shuttle trips. Say you have a three mile hike out. Load up a quarter and hike it one and a half miles out. Hang it and return for the next quarter. Continue running these shuttles until you are finished. The distance does not change and the shorter legs aide recovery while preventing burn out. Home Stretch When your elk has safely reached the truck, it’s time to really cool it down. I will place the quarters in trash bags and lay them on ice in plastic storage tubs for the drive home. This gets the meat temperature down and has everything ready to hang and eventually process. Icing everything is important during the early archery season. In late rifle, it’s typically plenty cold and there may even be snow to pack around the meat. Make a judgment call based on the outside temperature. For information on a guided trip with Lazy J Bar O Outfitters call 406-932-5687 or visit www.lazyjbaro.com

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Deer Tenderloin Eggs Benedict with a Tarragon Béarnaise Sauce By Lindsey Bartosh

a 12 Gauge Girl www.huntingandcooking.com

Ingredients: 2 deer steaks (your choice of cut, but I used tenderloin!) 4 eggs 4 slices of sourdough bread 1 beefsteak tomato For Tarragon Béarnaise Sauce 2 sticks (or 1 cup) butter, melted and still warm 3 egg yolks 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar 1 minced shallot 1 tablespoon minced fresh tarragon salt and pepper to taste Instructions: For the deer steaks Photo courtesy Lindsey Bartosh Preheat a large skillet to medium-high heat and season the deer steak with salt and pepper. Place the steak in the preheated pan. Cook the steak to medium-rare. The time will depend on the thickness of the steak. For these steaks, which were between an inch and two inches thick, I cooked each side for four minutes. Remove the steak from the heat and light tent in tin foil, allowing the steak to properly rest. For the Tarragon Béarnaise Melt the two sticks of butter and let cool slightly. You don’t want the butter bubbling hot, but you want it to still be warm. Place the egg yolks in a blender and pulse a few times to break them up. With the blender running, add the white wine vinegar and mix for a few seconds. With the blender running, slowly stream in the warm butter. Once all the butter is added, continue to blend for a minute. Add the fresh tarragon, and salt and pepper. Blend for another minute. Keep the sauce warm with the lid on the blender. For poached eggs In a large pot, bring to a light boil about three cups of water. Once the pot is gently boiling, use a large spoon to create a whirlpool in the water. With the water spinning, drop the cracked eggs, one at a time, into the pot. Allow the eggs to cook for two to two and half minutes. Remove using a slotted spoon For the Benedict Brush the sourdough bread slices lightly with olive oil and toast on a griddle until golden brown. Place a tomato slice on the toasted bread. Pile on a few slices of deer steak. Gently rest the poached egg to the stack. Cover generously with tarragon Béarnaise sauce. Enjoy!


2018 Upland Gamebird Forecast

(continued from page 27) In Region 5, pheasant crow counts this spring in the Clarks Fork valley indicated that over-winter survival was not too good. Pheasant harvest will likely be somewhat lower this fall than in past years. Along the Yellowstone and Musselshell valleys, spring pheasant counts were similar to last year and hunting harvest will be decided by how well young-of-the-year survived spring storms. In Region 6, pheasant adult numbers, according to spring crowing counts, show quite a bit of variability across the region. The west end of the region, including Hill, Blaine and a portion of Chouteau counties, indicate numbers at 40 to 50 percent below long-term average (LTA) in those areas. Phillips county is above LTA, while Valley and McCone counties are 10 to 24 percent below. The northeast corner, including Daniels, Sheridan, Roosevelt and portions of Richland and Dawson counties, indicate numbers at average to 10 percent below average. Pheasant distribution will vary across portions of each county, and most birds will be found in optimal habitat including river-bottoms, riparian areas and other moist areas that produce adequate cover. Harsh winter conditions resulted in low overwinter survival. However, peak hatch for pheasants occurs around mid-June, which corresponded with regular, favorable moisture events in Southeast Montana. Overall, pheasant hunting in Region 7 should be fair to poor this fall depending on local conditions. The moisture levels this year have provided birds with vast areas of cover and have also made agricultural lands productive, which will aid birds throughout their lifecycle...

SHARP-TAILED GROUSE In Region 5, sharp-tailed grouse numbers are likely to be below average due to spring storms and the resulting poor hatch. In Region 6, sharp-tailed grouse adult numbers are 25 to 40 percent below the LTA across the region where surveys are conducted. Sharp-tailed grouse distribution may vary dramatically across the region, and the greatest numbers will be found in optimal habitat. In the central part of the state in Region 4, things look about average. Similar to sage grouse, sharp-tailed grouse found favorable nesting conditions in Region 7. While sharp-tailed grouse are found across the region, localized weather events such as hail storms may have had an impact on some populations. Like other species of game birds, sharptails depend heavily on native and introduced forbs on range and agricultural lands to raise their broods. Hunters who do their homework prior to the season and come with their boots broken in and their dogs conditioned should enjoy success chasing upland birds this season.

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Montana Hunting & Fishing News - October 2018  

Montana Big Game Hunting Forecast, Upland Bird Primer, October Hunt Tips - Deer, Elk, Antelope, Madison River Fall Fly Fishing, Jig Tips For...

Montana Hunting & Fishing News - October 2018  

Montana Big Game Hunting Forecast, Upland Bird Primer, October Hunt Tips - Deer, Elk, Antelope, Madison River Fall Fly Fishing, Jig Tips For...