Friday, November 18, 2011

Hunting, Elk, Deer and Mountain Lions

One nice thing about Montana is its long hunting season.  It gives people who live here the chance to fill their tags, and their freezers.  For us, it meant going after a whitetail doe to fill my husband's doe tag and look for bull elk to fill our elk tags.

If you've never hunted, you're probably thinking it's easy.  It's not.  For years we'd go out hunting in Colorado and come home with nothing.  Not because we were lousy hunters, but because the game in Colorado was so pressured.  Here in Montana, the game isn't as pressured, but they can still be pretty cagey.

Most of our hunting had originally been blind dumb luck.  Now, we're familiar with certain areas and patterns the deer take, so we can put ourselves in the place where the animals are and hopefully bring home a deer.  Even so, it's still guesswork.  For example, we know that certain deer take certain trails at certain times of the day.  But even this isn't perfect, and we could find nothing in the same location.

We had filled our antlered deer tags, but my husband had an antlerless tag for whitetail.  Tough when you live in an area populated by two different deer species.  Whitetail are smaller deer with antlers that branch upward from a single beam.  They have smaller ears and tails that flip up like a white flag when startled or alarmed.  Mule deer have large ears, white butts and ropey tails.  Our whitetails tend to be red; our muleys are usually gray.  Now imagine, if you would, trying to identify the sex and species of deer from several hundred yards away in low light conditions.

So, we were getting ready to hunt our way out as the noon hour approached and I saw three whitetail does standing looking at us in a place where we usually see mule deer.  My husband took several shots and somehow managed to put all rounds in the same deer.  They all were lethal shots but the deer was just tough.  She managed to keep going even with a femoral and carotid artery hit.  She proved to be very fat-- the fattest deer I've ever seen.  Even the tanner mentioned how fat she was.

One of the surprising things this year has been seeing mountain lion tracks all over the place.  We've seen lots of coyote tracks -- they seem to be following the roads, but seldom mountain lions.  I've seen at least three distinct sized tracks in different areas.  The cats are definitely huge here, and definitely hunting.

We now have three deer in the freezer which is better than no deer in the freezer.  Now, onto hunt elk!

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