Campfire Talk Part 17 with Larry Weishuhn

26 November 2012

“Larry, I think you should consider hunting mule deer in eastern Montana, lots of deer, but also some really good bucks.  I book for an operation that Denny Ferrar has hunted several times and he’s taken some really good bucks and he’s told me of seeing some other great deer.” commented Jim McCarthy with Jim McCarthy Adventures.  As I’ve mentioned in the past here, Jim is an old friend.  He and I have shared hunting camps from just below the Arctic Circle in Alaska to Namibia in southern Africa, as well as many destinations in between. “Spoke with Denny about that operation earlier today.  Sounds like a place I’d really like to go.  I’ve hunted whitetails in Montana, but never have gone after mule deer there.  Sounds like a perfect place to do an episode of my new Trailing the Hunter’s Moon show.  Is it too late to apply for a deer license?”  I asked. “Matter of fact it is, but there are some left over licenses and if you hurry you should be able to get a license.  However you may have to buy a license for both deer and elk.”  Jim replied. Later that afternoon I was on the phone to Tom Christiansen the outfitter I would be hunting with and querying him about licenses, hunt dates and hunt availability.  Yes, he did have a hunt left and yes, he’d steer me in the right direction for a license.  And if at all possible he wanted me in eastern Montana on the 14th of November.  After that we talked a bit about how he hunted, what was a reasonable expectations deer, and accommodations while on the hunt. With all taken care of, a Montana license in hand Blake Barnett my shows’ producer and executive cameraman and I headed toward the eastern part of that state right after a winter storm known as Brutus had passed through the area we were to hunt, dumping better than a foot of snow on the hunting area. Picked up at the airport, we headed to where Blake and I would be staying for several days.  Along the way we noticed deep snow and even deeper snow drifts.  “Got you set up to stay at Sherry Evans’ home.  She’ll cook for ya’ll and has the reputation of being a great cook!” said Tom Christiansen. “She’s that and better!” chimed in Denny Ferrar who had been there the past few days with clients he had booked, who had taken some really nice and interesting mule deer as well as a couple of great whitetails as well.  “By the way I shot a really nice buck early this morning.  So essentially you’ve got the entire property to yourself.” “Have to tell you,” said Tom, “some of the places I hoped to hunt you, we’re not going to be able to get to.  Snow drifts are simply far too deep.  We tried one approach yesterday afternoon and got bad stuck!  Had to pull our vehicle out of a really deep drift.  Just no way to get into it.  Closest we were able to get to that ranch was about five miles.  Really wanted you to hunt that ranch, but we’ve got some other really great areas to hunt.” After stowing our gear in Ms. Sherry’s home I grabbed my rifle and headed to a make-shift shooting bench, a pile of old tires that worked perfectly.  Denny carried a target toward a small bank.  I watched through my Zeiss RF binoculars.  When he reached 100 yards I stopped him, where he set up the target. When he returned I pulled a single 130 grain Interlock .270 Winchester round from my Hornady American Whitetail ammo box.  I slid it into the Ruger American Rifle I had been hunting with lately; positioned the rifle on the pile of old tires and then peered through the Zeiss Duralyt scope and after pushing the tang safety to the “fire” position gently tugged the trigger.  The bullet struck the target right where I hoped it would, about 1 1/2 inches high.  With that sight-in I knew I was in good shape shooting out to about 300 yards.  But with that said, I’ll tell you, I am NOT into long range shooting.  To me that’s not really hunting.  Hunting means trying to get as close as possible! Sighted-in we made a quick tour around a small portion of the hunting area and in so doing, saw numerous mule deer and whitetails including more than a hand full of most interesting bucks After a great meal, watching a couple of shows on the Sportsman Channel, I headed to bed, tired from having started my day at 2 am that morning.  Sleep came easily... Breakfast and off to the hunt, just about the time it turned light enough to see.  We’d be hunting from the time we left “camp”.  Hunting amounted to driving ranch and pasture roads, stopping to glass distant deer with my Zeiss binos and spotting scope.  About the time the sun should have risen above the horizon (it was cloudy), we spotted a buck high on a ridge above an old one-room school house.  A quick check through my spotting scope confirmed the buck was a really good buck with extremely deep and long back split tines and considerable mass.  Great buck...problem was he was high on a ridge where he had full view of all below, which meant getting closer than the 1,200 yards that separated us was nearly impossible. We looked at several possible approaches, but found fault and problems in each of them.   Finally the buck and does fed over the ridge and disappeared.  We made a fast walk move, covering the one thousand plus yards in record time.  After catching my breath we eased to the top of the ridge expecting to see our buck there. He wasn’t there, nor were any of the does we had feed over the ridge.  We spent about a half hour glassing each and very nook and cedar bush in hopes of relocating the buck and his harem.  But it wasn’t to be.  We walked an additional two or three miles to cover other canyons that adjoined the one we hunted.  There we saw numerous deer, but not the one we hunted. We really didn’t want to give up on the buck, but finally decided we needed to, since he had apparently totally given us the “slip”. I won’t bore you with another similar stalk for another big buck or even a third big buck. Late that afternoon we spotted a large herd of mule deer on a wide open field, as we glassed them we spotted an extremely tall and massive 5 x 5 “pushing” a couple of the does.  There was no way to make an approach but a direct one.  We took off walking toward the herd a long way away at a rapid pace, which I can tell you wasn’t that much fun walking through knee deep snow.  We were however able to almost approach within  reasonable rifle range the buck and his harem.  At about 330 yards Blake said, “We’re still much farther away than we need to be, but we’re about to run out of camera light, if you’re going to try him, you better set up here and shoot.”  With that I essentially threw myself on the snow into a prone shooting position while at the same time taking off my brown felt hat to use as a rest. As I did the buck took off running to our right, while the does ran to the left. I watched back and forth as the does ran to within less than 200 yards of us where the stopped to look in our direction.  The buck, he totally left the does and was quickly departing, running rather than stotting!  We watched as the finally disappeared into a nearby canyon about three quarters of a mile away. Over supper that night we told many tales of big stags bested and lost. Next morning we made another attempt at the deep back forked buck.  Again he eluded us!  Then on to another area where we spotted a likely looking buck about a mile and a half away.  After reviewing numerous options as to approach him, we decided to come in on him from behind and over a long ridge. Again to not bore you with details, we made the approach, belly crawled to the edge of the ridge and peered over.  No deer, then we moved and spotted some does, but not our buck, a deep forked front and back deer with extremely good mass.  We made several moves and then spotted the buck chasing a doe around the edge of a coulee.  We made a quick run to try to get ahead of him.  A quarter of a mile farther down the ridge I again belly crawled to the edge and peered into the side valley.  There he stood, broadside less than 200 yards away.  Before making the crawl forward I had told Blake to tell me when he felt he had sufficient footage and then simply say shoot.... I lay there the Duralyt’s crosshairs planed on the buck’s shoulder.  All I needed to do to claim my buck was to tug the trigger.  But all I heard was “Don’t shoot, I can get on him!”  A few moments later the buck was again chasing does and pushed them around the edge of the next header. We again made a fast run to cut him off, and then watched as he and his harem of eight to 10 does ran out into the undulating prairie far below us, far away below us. We decided to follow the buck and does, and did.  In the process of trying to stalk this buck within less than 300 yards we walked no less than 10 to 12 mile.  Our last late evening approach was one where the buck was bedded on a tall pinnacle, and right above him stood a “sentry” doe where she could see any and all things. When the buck moved down, we made a fast move to cut the distance, but when we got to where the buck should have been.  But he wasn’t.  Again it seemed like the deer we stalked simply crawled in a hole and pulled the snow cover over them! So it went with several more stalks on sizable double forked mule deer bucks.... I will tell you I did take a really nice 4 x 5 mature buck.  But to see how we finally got that one, you’re going to have to watch my “Trailing the Hunter’s Moon” show this coming summer. About the time you read this I’ll be in New Mexico once again hunting mule deer.  After that the Nature Blinds gang and I are headed to South Texas’s famed Brush Country in search of one of their famed “Muy Grandes”.  Then it’s off to Mexico, Sonora to be exact where I’ll pursue desert bighorn sheep, desert mule deer and Coues whitetail... Hope you’re having your best hunting season ever!!!