Montana 2011 - The HuntingPA.com Outdoor Community
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post #1 of 19 (permalink) Old 11-19-2011, 12:49 AM Thread Starter
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Montana 2011

The adventure is over. My first hunt outside of PA did not fill the freezer, but was an experience of a lifetime. My father and I headed to SW Montana for a 5 day Elk and Mule Deer hunt with Wilderness Connection in Gardiner MT. We hunted the Cinnabar Basin Area, which is the first stop for the migrating elk form Yellowstone Park. We saw many elk making their way to our area from Yellowstone through a neighboring ranch (no hunting) and prepared our week to intercept.

The first couple days focused on mule deer, the rut was in the early phases and large mountain bucks were starting to show-up. Day 3, after a 2.5 hour horseback ride then "still hunting" straight up for another 1.5 miles, I was able to get a shot a awesome 5x5 mulie. My 200 and 300 yard practice did not help for the 50 yard broadside shot, straight-down hill. First shot, miss, buck turns at me. Second shot, aim low in chest, hit. Buck turns and runs downhill. Finding bone at the scene and no blood was a bad sign. The snow was getting heavy and filling tracks quickly so I turned my guide loose, who was a 24 year old bully-goat. I caught up to him 2.5 miles later when the snow made it impossible for the tracking to continue. The only blood we found was when the deer laid down (which happened 5 times). From the time I shot to when we gave up it snowed 6"-8". Depression sets in. This lesson is forever burned into my memory, aiming low is not enough, very very low when zeroed at 200, shooting 50 yards.

Day 4, I was able to get into some elk. My guide and I dropped off my dad at ridge-line and continued to the top of a low peak (8500 ft). The bulging was in font of us 300, 250, and 200 yards. The wind was in our face and stalk was on. We settled in at 100 yards with cows even closer, glassing small bulls in and out of the timber. Saw two nice shooter at 100+ standing next to "No Trespassing ". I thought I was hunting in Chester County for a second. The herd was moving back the hay fields for afternoon feeding. An hour sooner we would have cut the herd off and pushed them back to our hunters. My guide and I backed out to try again tomorrow. However, tomorrow the would be a miss also, the elk moved back though during a "full moon" night into the next valley out of our area.

I my opinion this was a trip of a lifetime, it was everything I anticipated and more. The facilities and food were great. The comradery of guides and the other 5 hunters in camp made the down-time memorable.
We saw animals everyday, with one opportunity and a few "almosts". Plus, spending 5.5 days on the road with my dad sight seeing the mid-west, priceless.

Wilderness Connection, Inc. GPS N 45 06.934' x W 110 51.915'

Last day looking south into Gardiner

Electric Mountain north side of Yellowstone

The crew at supper, yes there is a TV

Guide John holding last year's 406" bull who didn't make it though the winter
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post #2 of 19 (permalink) Old 11-19-2011, 01:28 AM
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Re: Montana 2011

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post #3 of 19 (permalink) Old 11-19-2011, 03:00 PM
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Re: Montana 2011

Why didn't the guide concentrate on elk first?

Because when I went on my elk hunt the guide told us they would concentrate on everyone getting an elk first & then go after deer. But we wont pass up a deer if its real nice.

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post #4 of 19 (permalink) Old 11-19-2011, 09:54 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Montana 2011

Before the hunt started our outfitter/ranch owner gave us a "state of the union" on the animals being seen in the areas we were going to hunt. He explained that our goal was to hunt elk, however, seeing and harvesting a large mule deer buck would be greater. My choice of the word "focus" is a little misleading, the resident elk herd has been broken up by the previous 3 hunting groups and we were first in line for the large herds leaving Yellowstone. This did not mean there were not elk on the ranch, there were. We encountered small groups of cows and young bulls everyday, sometimes at 200yds or 800yds. Hunting the migrating elk from Yellowstone is primarily weather driven, the nastier the better. The details of this hunt, including timing, was explained to me in great detail by the rancher before I spent the money.
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post #5 of 19 (permalink) Old 11-20-2011, 12:45 AM
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Re: Montana 2011

Great area around Gardiner. Spent a week out there last year staying at the campgrounds in town.My cousin and her husband own the group of cabins by the campground. Hilltop Cottages. Electric Mountain is directly across from her kitchen window.

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post #6 of 19 (permalink) Old 11-20-2011, 01:26 AM
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Re: Montana 2011

I bet that is #6 John is holding in the last picture. #6 was the number on his ear tag. Was a big old bull that ruled Mammoth Hot Springs in the fall. I had watched him charge vehicles there a few years ago. Last year #6 was found dead around Gardiner, tangled up in a fence or something.
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post #7 of 19 (permalink) Old 11-20-2011, 12:54 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Montana 2011

I do not know if the bull had an ear tag, however, he did have some fence tangled around him. He was with two other bulls the same size, who appear to have made it. Apparently, last winter had record snows and cold temps.
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post #8 of 19 (permalink) Old 11-20-2011, 01:01 PM
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Re: Montana 2011

That's still a great story! Sounds like you still had a great time and a great experience! Thanks for sharing the story! N
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post #9 of 19 (permalink) Old 11-20-2011, 11:31 PM
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Re: Montana 2011

Just re-read the NPS press release from last winter when #6 was found. His rack scored 356".

Picture of #6

Great pics and post regarding your hunt. Love the area out there.
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post #10 of 19 (permalink) Old 11-21-2011, 12:08 AM Thread Starter
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Re: Montana 2011

The racks look close, but maybe not the same elk? I just read the press release for #6, he died in 2009. My picture is a winter of 2011 death. I did not see the score sheet, however, the rack will probably be at the Sportsman's Show this year.
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