Hunting Season: finding the perfect deer

In Montana, hunting is a very popular sport.  It may be a relatively short season of the year, but the game in our state is excellent year-round. There are many options as far as game animals go, but the current season is deer and elk hunting.

There are many techniques that can be used for hunting, but my personal favorite, I almost exclusively use, is hiking and tracking. For me, hunting is two sports combined: hiking and shooting. On most excursions, I only partake in the first of those — I hike around while carrying a gun, on the chance I see an animal, I have the option to shoot.

At the beginning of the season, I begin with elk hunting — hiking in snowy forests at higher altitudes, and finding little or no game. As the end of the season approaches, it becomes time to start expeditions primarily in hopes of shooting an animal to bring home.

A couple years ago, I had a season where elk hunting did not work out.  After a couple weekends of spotting nothing, it was time to settle for a deer. Although there is plenty of deer hunting in western Montana, I chose to take a trip to an area near Big Sandy, Mont., a small town just northeast of Great Falls, and close to the White Cliffs of the Missouri river. In the area I was hunting, there are coulees that cut up to otherwise flat land.

On the particular day, it was quite windy and the deer were shy. Come late afternoon, I still had sighted only a couple deer, as they were ducking down over a ridge. As I was hiking across a particular coulee, a car drove up a road on the ridge directly ahead of me, the area I was going to hunt.  I stopped hiking and waited for the car to pass, frustrated because the deer were already skittish and the car driving through certainly did not help.

As I was waiting, I looked down the ravine. There I saw a big four point buck laying down, looking straight up at me only about fifty yards away. I had been standing there for 10 minutes before seeing it. Without hesitating, I turned, took a knee, aimed, fired and shot the deer in the chest with my .270 caliber rifle.  As usual, the deer immediately jumped up and started running, but only covered about fifty yards before dropping.  After cleaning it, the deer was easy to drag to the road nearby and was a great end to the season.

Here in Montana, getting started hunting not difficult simply because we have many stores that carry hunting equipment. There are two essential items for hunting: a tag for the animal you are hunting and an appropriate firearm.

Near Bozeman there are many places to hunt. However, assure you are not on someone’s land without invitation, or in any area designated as a no shooting zone. In addition, be sure you have checked all the regulations for the area, including the official start time of the day you are hunting and which animals can be shot. Be safe, and have a good time.

Tags are relatively easy to obtain for most animals, and can be purchased at most sporting goods stores or Walmart. For residents, a general deer tag is only $16, however for non-residents the price is significantly higher.

For the second part, there are various guns made for different purposes. For deer or elk, I would recommend a .270, .30-06 or .308 rifle with a scope (I like 3-9x zoom). For birds of almost any variety, a shotgun can be used. My preference is a simple Remington 870 12-gauge.