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hunting deer in central montana

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TasunkaWitko View Drop Down
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aka The Gipper

Joined: 10 June 2003
Location: Chinook Montana
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    Posted: 15 June 2003 at 17:11

the two principal towns in central and north central montana are havre (in the north, pronounced so that it rhymes with HAVE HER) and lewistown (in the center, NOT named after lewis and clark) either of these towns makes a great base for hunting deer in central montana, and this is what i have found to work out here....

there are plenty of both species of deer. if you are looking for mulies, i would recommend trying to stalk the fields that have been harvested and also to the high plains and sagebrush. this happens to be pretty much the same habitat as the pronghorns so enjoy the view! the whitetails generally spend more time in the creek bottoms and the alfalfa fields, but this is not always the case....you will a lot of times find mulies in whitetail habitat, and not as often you will find whiteys in mulie habitat......the deer eat alfalfa and some grain, which makes them taste great! in my opinion, better than corn-fed....

in cottonwood-lined riverbeds, i have mostly seen whitetails up here, every often a few mule deer, but this is more the exception than the rule. the big whitetail bucks, like the mulies, seem to be off on their own during hunting season (prob off with some doe perhaps?) the biggest ones i have seen have been in the brush, not the trees, but i have never seen too many big whitetail bucks during hunting season, so don't take my word for it on that one.....

as far as mulies go, if they are not standing or lying by themselves along the sides of the coulees, then i tend to see them in herds... or it will be a nice buck with a 3 or 4 does and a younger buck....the group tends to run off and one usually trails behind, for what reason i do not know, (just out of practical rifle range, of course...lol....) and then when the group is safely gone it turns and runs too.....the absolute best mulie hunting in this part of montana comes not on the sage (although that is certainly good) but in the coulees. i am not sure if you are familiar with the term coulee, but if you aren't it is much easier to see one or two than to try to have it explained to you......

the best comparison would be a miniature valley, a cut in the land made either by runoff from high ground to low ground or by small creeks AND THEIR TRIBUTARIES coursing through the plains, whether those tribs are running or dry makes no difference, the important thing is the cuts in the land running down to a larger central carved out by runoff or a small creek. (to all of you who know what i am trying to say, did i paint a decent picture?)

the critical thing about these coulees is this: in the valley where the creek or dry creek is (coulee) there is a lot of brush, and working up the side cuts (also coulees, albeit smaller) there is a lot of brush. when you get to the tops of these coulees you will find grazing land or farmland, where the deer eat. the coulees are where they bed down during the day. at any given time of any given day you can walk these coulees and see them just laying there looking at you...either that or they will be standing along up the hills. during the fall they must know what is going on, because if you are not quiet they will run off, but in the summer you can almost smack them in the ass with your cap.

the whitetails will mostly be in the brush of the big coulee made by the creek, and the mulies will mostly be in the brush of the little coulees going up the sides. this is not a hard and fast rule, as i said you will find them in each other's territory. the best way to do this is to walk down the side of the branch coulees toward from the main creek. i recommend being on the "out" side of the coulee so that if they do jump up and run they will do so toward the main creek and ahead of you, which will give you a decent chance to get a shot. if you are on the "in" side, they will probably charge up the hill and out of view. if there are two of you you can each walk down a side. if you are working the main creek (these are usually dry by fall) one on each side works great. i have found that if you pause every 70 yards or so for a few seconds, you will sometimes scare up a whitetail which otherwise would have sat still and waited for you to walk by. tossing a rock or something into the brush now and then has been known to flush a few out too.

aside from the grass, the only vegetation is brush which my dad could name but which i simply call brush. there are a few cottonwoods and willows, MAYBE an occasional aspen-like tree, but they are few and far between and in my opinion are not really a factor unless you get in the area of a good wet running creek or river such as the milk river near havre and chinook. do not overlook any patch of brush, no matter how small or low to the ground it seems! the biggest whitetail buck i ever saw sprang up from a patch which i would have thought too small and to short to cover a gopher. four years ago my dad shot a buck which actually crawled (CRAWLED!) through a very expansive patch of brush that was only as high as my shins, trying to get away in the last seconds before the lung shot killed it. we literally had to look for it and i don't mind admitting that we would have been looking for quite a while except for the fact that i heard one leg scraping against the brush (less than knee-high!) as it literally exhaled its last breath. tracking would have been difficult because the brush was not crushed, and the blood fell to the ground to be canopied by the brush. from what i could tell, the buck went totally unseen from the spot where it dropped 75 yards to the spot where it gave up the ghost. and once it dropped i had absoultely no way of knowing which direction it went. my dad, who has been hunting a hell of a lot longer than i have and was in the army and who has tracked deer for miles just for the challenge of it, could not find it. the only way i found it was by luck! of course we would have found it eventually, but it would have taken a while. the moral of the story is that these animals can hide, and are good at it. they will get down on their bellies and shinny around like snakes. i didn't believe it either until i saw it!...don't overlook anything, cause they can be anywhere!

in short, they can be anywhere, of course, but this is where i have seen the biggest percentage....and the more deer you find, the greater the chance of finding a big one.

your shots will be anywhere from 25 yards to over 300. the concensus is that your best bullet would probably be something similar to the sierra gameking or hornady interlock (165 grn soft point boat-tail, assuming that you are using a .308 or .30-06). as always, core-lokts and power-points take more deer than anything else. 150 grains is good, but the 165 will give you the edge in the event of a bad angle or some other unforseen event. similarly, i believe that the higher bc that comes with the boat-tail, combined with the higher section density provided by a larger-for-caliber bullet, will make up for any range estimation and assist you if you try a shot which is out toward the far range of your abilities. all of these added measures will also result in better down-range performance, including penetration and expansion. i do not use SSTs or ballistic tips, but if you do, i recommend that you get at least 165-grain, not 150. the heavier weight and sturdier construction should hold them together better, whereas the 150's MIGHT (i say might because i have never used them but have heard stories) blow up, acting like a varmint bullet. this is not a slam on the b-tips, it just means that i have very limited (read amsolutely none) experience with them and can only rely on what i have been told. what i have been told is that using slightly heavier bullets than you normally would for deer, you get excellent results. if you use light bullets for deer, you get catastrophe. to me, 150 grains is right there in the middle between light and heavy, and i prefer to err on the side of caution.

bring your longjohns, cause if it's hunting season, the mornings will be cold! usually by hunting season there is aleady snow on the tops of the mountains; makes the mountains pretty, but it sure lets you know summer is over, even if you are on the plains!! and bring your camera too, cause this is just about paradise!  it is a LONG way to the next ranch and even farther to the next town! i can't stress it enough, dress warm, but not bulky. dress in layers. take plenty of coffee or cocoa in a thermos and basic survival gear, including a gallon or two of water which can be used for drinking or for washing your hands after field-dressing. i always take a compass, but i have fair knowledge of how to use it. i also take several knives from penknives to a k-bar and an m4 bayonet, and at least 3 ways to make a fire. two or three separate first aid kits that when put together make a pretty well-stock emergency medpack. will i ever actually USE all (any) this crap? probably not, but i was a boy scout, and they taught us to be prepared. besides i have 4 kids who can haul it around for me. about the time the oldestwill leave home, the youngest will be just old enough to start hunting with me ;) make sure you ALWAYS have plenty of gas in the truck and leave the keys in it, under the seat or something, just in case. even if there are other people out there, no one will mess with it. and some food, any food...high in carbs and energy.

i ramble and ramble mostly because i am not sure where you are from, and don't have a clue what kind of terrain you are used to hunting. if i am giving you intel which you already know, i am sorry, but it certainly is important to know when hunting up here.

in the cottonwoods on the rivers and big creeks there sure are a lot of whitetails! then in the brushy tributary creeks and coulees you find all the mulies! go on top of the coulees and there are herds of antelope! follow the creeks into the hills and you get elk! past the hills into the mountains you get bears, moose, goats and sheep! GOD BLESSED MONTANA!

 



Edited by TasunkaWitko
TasunkaWitko - Chinook, Montana

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote d4570 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 31 March 2004 at 03:50
        Lewistown is Whitetail centrel!!!!!! If you go in to the breaks you get in to mulies. I dont hunt havre We do hunt near big sandy in the breaks.We hunt only on BLM, forest, or state lands.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote 24mod12 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 July 2007 at 18:01
When my sil worked as a grade control geologist at the Stillwater Mine in Nye,MT the miners asked him if he had a rifle,when he told them he had an SKS 7.62x39 they said it was great for whitetails and that's what they used,didn't destroy much meat.
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