Thursday, October 27, 2011

Hunting, Mule Deer and Tamaracks

Hunting season always starts on the Saturday when MileHiCon occurs, so I have to forgo the first day and a good portion of the second day of the hunt.  If you're a hunter, you know this is a bit disastrous as the animals are less stressed on the first day and then get more stressed after being shot at.  Luckily, here in Montana the rifle season is five weeks long, so you can take your time to fill your tag.

Most people here in Montana hunt for meat, and we're no exception.  Sure, you get those trophy hunters and whatnot, but it's illegal to waste meat and so any meat that isn't consumed goes to the food bank.  So, if you're looking for a big trophy buck, you have to eat it or donate it. 

So, I wasn't surprised when my husband got his first deer on the first day of the season.  He thought it was a doe (he had a whitetail doe tag and an either species tag for buck) and discovered it was a legal spiker (horns are straight without any branches) buck,so filled his buck tag. Spike bucks are yearlings, so they aren't as big as an older buck and aren't sexually mature, so they aren't full of testosterone, which makes meat "gamey" and tough if you believe the old timers.

The next several days while I was back from MileHiCon, we searched for my buck and my husband's doe.  We also looked for elk.  First day, we saw nothing.  Second day, we were tired and hunted around the house and up into state land.  We also tried an area we knew there were mule deer but they were cagey.

Third day, we decided to walk a trail we had seen plenty of tracks and poop.  Before we walked it, we looked into another area and I spied some mule deer about a mile away with my binoculars.  We raced over to see them crossing the road and found that they were all does and not huntable.  So, we went to the trail and walked.

Right now, Montana is gorgeous.  The tamaracks are in full color and the ground foliage is a brilliant red.  After a while, it became obvious that my boots had shrunk and were squeezing my feet.  So, I gimped along after more than an hour's walk and hobbled back into the jeep without anything.

Mule deer
That late afternoon, we decided to go back to the cagey mule deer.  We've tracked these deer last year and got a buck there before, so we drove to the area to find that the deer were already in the spot we expected.  They weren't as cagey and I suspect few people know their trails other than me and my husband.  So, when we saw a young forked buck, I shot and we had a big, fat mule deer.

We brought the deer home and dressed him out.  Heavy boy, despite being about two years or so.  The good news is that herd is so big and so healthy that it's unlikely losing a young buck will affect it and we'll be able to harvest more deer from that same herd for years, because they have the same pattern.  (Deer aren't bright).  My husband thinks he saw a bigger buck in the group, but he was so cagey, I suspect he got behind a tree.  It was tough as it was to shoot the one we got because he too was dodging among the does and even got behind some deadfall for a bit. 

So, that's our second buck.  Now to find a whitetail doe and some elk.

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