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Fall 2011 Newsletter

Volume 3 Number 4
 

Big Montana Mule Deer

John Gibbs, Heartland Hunters Pro Staff

I've been mule deer hunting in Montana for 21 years. The past 14 years I've hunted with Bill and Mark Perkins of Perkins Outfitters, www.perkinsoutfitters.comBill has several great ranches totaling several hundred square miles. He takes a limited number of hunters and with this much territory over hunting is not an issue. The terrain ranges from the Powder River bottoms to some rugged piney hills. In between you will find open prairies and sage brush cuts and draws. There is an abundance of quality whitetails, mule deer and antelope.


This year Bill's son Mark was my guide. Opening morning of the 2011 deer season found us glassing the sage brush and grassy flats trying to locate a big buck heading back up into the hills to bed. We were seeing some nice bucks but nothing I was interested in harvesting. Around 9am we spotted two bucks that had just crossed onto the neighbor's property. They both looked respectable so we got the spotting scope out to take a better look. The back buck had extra points and very good mass. We eventually pegged him as a 7x7. He was a neat buck, one that I would consider harvesting if he wasn't on the neighbor's property.

The rest of the day was spent glassing a lot of country. We saw several hundred antelope, 10 coyotes and around 20 mule deer bucks. Our thoughts kept going back to the 7x7 we had spotted in the morning. We decided to get to that area the next morning at sunrise to see if we could find him feeding on our side of the fence.

Mark picked me up at the hotel in Miles City at 0 dark 30 and we were off to the ranch. We timed things just right and were only a few miles from where we had spotted the buck as daylight was breaking. We started glassing and within about 30 minutes we spotted our buck over 1000 yards away.

The good news was that he was at least a half mile from the property line. We watched him feeding on a grassy flat for about 10 minutes before he wandered out of sight into a deep cut in the terrain.

We weren't sure where he was headed, but we could see all of the surrounding area and we were sure he couldn't leave the area without us seeing him. We decided to put a stalk on him and see if we could get a good shot. Our plan was to stay down wind of him and try to get up in the hills above him. We were hoping that we could locate him from a high point and also be able to continue to watch the surrounding area in case he tried to slip by us. Not knowing where he was, we had to be on alert just in case we jumped him.

We started our slow walk to get to a better vantage point. I was concerned that we had walked several hundred yards past him when Mark spotted the buck. He was bedded on a cut bank about 200 yards below us. Unfortunately, he wasn’t offering us a good shot. Over the next half hour we made four attempts to get in position to take a good shot while trying not spook the buck. Finally on our fourth attempt we had him broadside in front of us at 132 yards. I got my bi-pods down and peeked over the top of the hill. I slowly got into position to make the shot. As I put the scope on the deer’s vitals he was staring right at me. The thought most of us have had at one time or another jumped into my head, please don’t bolt before I get this shot off. I squeezed the trigger of my 300 win mag and his head hit the ground. There would be no tracking job with this buck.

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Aoudad Hunt with Hidden Creek Outfitters and Bill Perry

This is a 2 on 1 guided hunt in West Texas for free ranging Aoudad (Barbary sheep). This hunt will be on a very remote private ranch. All meals and accommodations are provided. Species also included will be javelina, coyotes and quail. Hunt dates are 1/17 – 1/20, Hunters will arrive after 12:00 pm on 1/16 and depart before 12:00 pm on 1/21, Closest airport: El Paso, TX. License: Non Residence Five Day Special Hunting License $48.00 goto www.texasaoudad.com

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First and Finest

Steve Bemke, Heartland Hunters Pro Staff

 

I looked down at the temperature gauge in my truck as I made my way west traveling through southern Kansas, 100?. A few minutes later, 102?. I had left my home in eastern Missouri earlier that morning, where the first break in the record heat all summer was anticipated. 105?; something is wrong with my temperature gauge, this can’t be right. A short time later, I stopped for gas and was blasted by the heat when I stepped out of my truck.

I had driven into the hottest day of the year in Kansas on my way to Logan, New Mexico for my first ever antelope hunt. After staying the night in a much welcomed air-conditioned motel, I made my way to New Mexico in what seemed like a matter of minutes that next day. After a quick bite to eat, I met up with my guides that afternoon and made my way to camp.

During the short trip to camp, my guide, Jerome and I, talked about the anticipated hunt that would begin the next day. I knew right from the start, I was going to have a good time, and Jerome and his brother James were going to be a lot of fun to hunt with. The temperature was 100? when I arrived. With higher than normal temps, along with an on going draught, conditions were going to be tough.

After setting up my tent and unpacking my gear, we piled into James’ truck with two other hunters in camp who had been hunting that day. One had already put down a 70 class antelope that morning and they were now looking to fill one more tag. Since I couldn’t hunt till the next day, this was a great opportunity for me to ride around and glass the 38,000 acre ranch and size up some antelope for the first time.

Over the course of few hours, we spotted three or four nice bucks in the 70 class range, that I would be thrilled to wrap a tag around. That night, after trading stories at camp and filling my stomach, I somehow slept better than I would have thought, as the anticipation of the following morning hunt ran heavily through my mind. Right about 4:30 A.M., a great horned owl perched in a near by tree called out eerily in the still morning air. The only other sound came from the near by windmill that creaked and moaned with each turn. An ideal alarm clock, and I was ready to go.

A little more than an hour later, we headed out with our guides in separate trucks with full stomachs, as the night steadily let go of its grasp of the coming morning. It didn’t take long, and right after first light, our other hunter in camp, pulled the trigger and wrapped his hands around a beautiful 82” antelope. Moments later, Jerome and I spotted one of the bigger bucks we had glassed the night before. We drove down the road a little ways and decided to make our move.

The buck was about 400 yards away. The terrain was relatively flat, and closing the distance would be a challenge. Using the terrain to our advantage, as best we could, we closed the distance to about 280 yards before the buck finally had enough, and slipped under the fence to the neighbors ranch.

Enjoying my first attempted stalk, I was neither, discouraged or concerned for that matter. I was already having the time of my life on my first antelope hunt. We continued to glass the ranch, as I was amazed at the number of antelope we glassed. We spotted a couple more really nice bucks that were either on the wrong side of the fence or just too far for a respectable stalk. So we added them to our or hit list, and would later return if we were unsuccessful in other areas of the ranch.

One of the prettiest bucks spied the night before was next on our list. We drove across the ranch to try and locate him, and the handful of does he was keeping company the night before. We eventually reached the top of a tall plateau that stretched a ways across the ranch surrounded by the valley below. This gave us a clear view of the surroundings, and a good opportunity to ambush the buck.

After a slow and deliberate walk around one edge of the ridge, he had finally reached the end. Jerome asked me to wait where I was, as he wanted to peer over a small finger at the end of the plateau that we could not yet see over. As he peered over the edge, he quickly motioned for me to hurry over.

Sure enough, he had spotted the does bedded about 250 yards below us. After a few minutes of glassing, Jerome spotted the buck. “There, under the cholla,” he said. “What the hell is a cholla?” I quickly responded. After a quick lesson on cacti, I quickly found the buck bedded beneath the cactus in question.

We inched to the edge of the ridge and quickly set up on the tripod. The does who had been watching us inquisitively, finally made a dash to our left, and soon after, the buck was on their heels.

I moved to the next opening between some yuccas, and the buck stopped broadside to find out what the commotion was bout. “207 yards,” Jerome whispered. Thump… Thump… Thump, my heart pounded, my cross hairs bounced over the buck’s vitals, my breath erratic, as the buck stared towards us.

I took a deep breath, held and squeezed the trigger. The buck tore off to the next county as Jerome advised I had shot high. “Were you shaking?” he asked. “A little,” I greatly understated. We quickly laughed off the miss, and on our walk back to the truck, I later admitted I was shaking like I was getting ready to shoot my first whitetail ever.

Excited about the encounter, and optimistic about getting another opportunity, I was ready to get back to glassing after a quick lunch. I would be lying though if I didn’t admit that I had in my head, my tagged should have been already filled.

After an hour or so of glassing different areas and another blown stalk, we made our way down the county highway where I soon spotted a lone doe feeding less than 200 yards off the road. We quickly pulled over to glass the area. After a several minutes of glassing, like a ghost, a buck appeared out of nowhere 150 yards or so away facing us. He looked at us inquisitively, and continued to feed along with the doe as I came to the conclusion, this was a buck I would be happy to take aim at. We drove down the highway to move ahead of the buck, but he began running with us, as if racing us down the road. He finally gave up and we turned into the ranch a little ways down, and drove around to the other side of the ridge where we observed him.

It didn’t take long and we spotted the buck grazing ahead of us at about 250 yards. We quickly set up and the buck continued casually along as it glanced our way. “280 yards,” Jerome relayed. I got a lot of jitters out after my initial miss earlier that day. I wasn’t sure if I was even going to attempt a shot, but I laid the cross hairs on him and relaxed as much as I could. The buck remained wary but calm. I took my time, and the cross hairs began to settle tighter and tighter on the buck’s vitals. “Aim for the top of the shoulder,” I heard and slowed my breathing.

Almost with out warning, my finger squeezed and the gun roared. I looked up to see the buck trotting away. Missed, I thought. I slammed in another round and found him in my scope again. Yet, when I located him, he was looking back my way with his chest painted in red. He turned and trotted another 30 yards, stumbled and fell over. I looked at my guides with astonishment. “I can’t believe that just happened!” I exhaled. After some hand shakes, I asked how far he was when I shot. “317 yards,” Jerome replied. If possible, the smile on my face grew, as this shot was over twice as far as any shot I had taken back home.

We approached the downed buck and I noticed horns sticking up, and I thought to myself, what nice looking animal. However, as Jerome approached, he grew even more excited. “ I think we underestimated this buck!” The closer we got, the bigger he got. The mass on this buck was substantial and gave the appearance of his horns being shorter in length. I stood over my fist antelope dazed and astonished.

Several pictures later, and a tattooed smile on my face, we arrived back at camp. After caping out the buck, we green scored the horns. Jerome looked at me at grinned, looked back down and shook his head, looked up again. “87 1/2 gross.” I didn’t believe him. It seemed to good to be true. After we measured again and confirmed, I was in disbelief. My first antelope hunt and I had taken what may be the only Boone & Crockett animal of my life.

In a day’s time, I took a ride on a roller coaster of events that ultimately made up one of the most amazing times I’ve spent hunting. From the scenery, to the vast number of antelope we glassed, to making a shot I will never forget; I was on my way back home with a hunt of a lifetime behind me, and a Boone and Crockett antelope in the back of my truck.

A special thanks to James and Jerome Provencio of Provencio Outdoor Adventures who made the whole experience possible. They truly have an outstanding, professional hunting operation and are a pleasure to hunt with. If you are interested in a hunt, you can contact James at 505-264-3534 or check out their web site at: Provenciooutdooradventures.com

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Hidden Creek

Mark Casper, Heartland Hunters Pro Staff

  

“I rode a elephant once, at the Kansas City Zoo one summer… long, long ago” was my response when Leonard asked me if I’d ever ridden a horse before. This was during my first riding lesson, just weeks before we saddled into a pickup truck for a 23 hour drive to North Western Wyoming.

The anticipation had been building for months. Preparation for so many new experiences, physically preparing for high altitude hunting in a remote camp only accessible by horse and pack train…wait…horses??

We started with the basics…how to saddle a horse, how to lead a horse, a proper tie off…things I would have never have considered as preparation for a 30 mile ride through the Shoshone National Forrest to Hidden Creek Camp… (HiddenCreekOutfitters.Com)

Thankfully Leonard was patient enough to spend time with Brett and I, giving us the saddle time and key fundamentals that made the commute in to camp a success.

We left St.Louis a little after 9AM on Monday the 28 th. Uncontrollable nervous excitement about what was to come, a trip out West for a archery Elk hunt in the most remote true thoroughfare wilderness camp in the lower 48.

70 miles outside of Powell Wyoming, lays Hidden Creek Outfitters, a stable and shed, home to horses, mules, saddles and packs. A truck full of gear was now being weighed and distributed in cross member mule pack’s for the ride in, just a few clicks away was the trailhead, only 4 hours to deer creek pass, the halfway point of the ride in to base camp.

We rode a faithful Tennessee Walker’s into camp, Seth and Howard, by name...sure footed and cautious stepping stallions yet not nearly as quick-stepped as the mules that led our pack train up to Deer Creek Pass. The first 4 hours of the trip were literally a blink; the thrill of the ride overtook the terrain which consisted of sleek dirt trails diligently cut into the mountain sides over years of pack trips into camp. Most of the trails were less then the width of our saddle’s, the one thing I hadn’t prepped for were the deep breath’s required when your livelihood depends on the sure step of a horse, looking over steep embankments of sheer rocky drop-off’s. I’ll never forget the emotion that ran through my body when I stepped off my horse at the halfway point….knees weak from the ride, energy dwindling as reality set in that we were only halfway to camp... I lost count of the creeks we forged over the next 4 hours…when we finally saw smoke whisping through the trees as we neared camp, it all became real. Night was setting in, we were in Elk Camp.

Hidden Creek Camp sets in a valley at about 8500 ft of elevation, a oblong flat tucked between First Creek and Hidden Creek. The flat housed several pack tents, a finely built horse pen and tack area, a cook tent, shower tent, makeshift fire providing fellowship and warmth. Just off of the to the edge of camp there was a tree house chock full of dry goods, well above black bear level that we ultimately found was the only structure that stayed in tact in the valley after the end of Elk season…Every stick, every canvas, cots and cook stove…had all been packed in beginning several weeks before our arrival. The camp jack, Clint, had spent the last 5 days in the mountains by himself, prepping for the season.

Reality set in, this was not a weekend deer hunt a few miles from home…this was true wilderness. No phones, no electricity…no facebook. It didn’take long to realize the logistics of the operation were more then I could have ever imagined, a finely tuned machine, ran by true professional outdoorsmen.

Day 1 – We had Bull elk bugling in our face… Bill had been open with us the night before we rode out, “Early archery season is tough in the thoroughfare” We were hunting day one, week one of the Wyoming archery opener. Much like spring turkey, dependencies in a archer’s success were greatly impacted by how vocal the elk are. The variable factor being wind, we knew we had a tough road ahead of us. The night before we left camp our guide (Nick), told the cook we would be up for breakfast at 4:30AM. We’d leave by foot to get to elevation long before daylight in hopes to get above the bedding elk. I’ll never forget watching the sun break the skyline after scrambling through steep bear stricken fallen timber to elevation. After a few cow calls, a bugle chuckle combo and our first bull elk let us know he had heard us loud and clear.

We didn’t close the deal day one but found ourselves in a scenario that would repeat itself several times over the next 6 days of the hunt… a bull elk would bugle a response, quick set-up…cameras rolling, arrow knocked, and swirling winds to bring it to a end. Our routine was mostly spot and stalk with the occasional quiet set/decoy in areas that had proven themselves in the past.

With each day that passed, appreciation for the logistics’ of the operation grew stronger. It’s a pretty amazing experience being surrounded by folks that literally live for breathing the mountain air. Outdoorsmen and conservationists, passionate about their career in the mountains, simply because of their love for the mountains

The last day of the hunt we made a decision to head back to First Creek… We’d spent the day prior there, and had a hot bull evade us from the plateau, one of the closest experiences we had to date. 4:30 AM briskly traversing the mountainside, trying to get to elevation, full confidence as we headed back in to the timber to close the deal. The morning light is slightly burning through the Eastern horizon as a low howl breaks the cool silence…wolves have moved in, and within seconds 4 more answer the good morning howl, just over the ridge from where we were standing. Words can’t describe the emotions…nature at its finest, another incredible experience in high country and somber acknowledgement that today, the final day would be one of the toughest hunts yet.

As the sun sank on the final day of the hunt, unfiltered instant replays of the week’s activity began to replay. The intent of this trip was to bring home an elk, but the reality is, that would have simply been icing on the cake. The experience was once in a lifetime, the memories will never be replaced…believe me, our coolers were full of more then I would have ever imagined as we hit the road on our long journey home.

A special thanks to Bill Perry, Leonard Wolter and to the crew of Hidden Creek Outfitters: http://hiddencreekoutfitters.com/

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Missouri's Best Kept Secret

Leonard Wolter, Host, Hidden Creek Adventures TV

My early days of quail hunting were some of my best days of quail hunting in Missouri. Bird populations were high and the leasing of hunting land was not common practice. We could hunt an entire weekend on permissions without ever hitting the same farm twice. A limit of birds was expected every day, and at least one double was anticipated. It was during these great years of upland hunting that one day we stumbled over Missouri's best kept secret. Woodcock!

The American Woodcock, also known of as the Timberdoodle or Snipe. These beautiful little birds are both native to Missouri, and migratory to our state. What is truly amazing is the fact that many devout hunters are unaware of their existence. When in fact, I've had many recent fall hunts when it is far easier to find a timberdoodle than it is to find a bobwhite! I will admit that many people may not intentionally traverse the briar thickets and dense secondary wood thickets that these little birds inhabit, but I'm sure that there are many a bowhunter that has seen these long beaked bombers on their migratory flights just before dark. The next time you are sitting in your tree stand on the edge of that creek bottom thicket, at that last magical fifteen minutes of light, and you hear a high pitched whistling sound of wings look up. You will probably see this funny looking bird with a long bill and almost no tail. That, my friend, is a woodcock.

As aforementioned, woodcock are both indigenous to Missouri, and migrate through our state. In the spring, males they can be seen on moonlit nights performing their courtship flights. This is when the bachelors fly as high as 100 yards into the night sky and spiral back to the ground producing a distinctive sound as the air rushes through their wings. This wonderful phenomenon has been witnessed within the city limits of some of our largest metropolitan areas. I have on more than one occasion located the females very sparsely built nest on the ground. The females themselves are very well camouflaged as well as their eggs.

Although not necessary, I prefer to hunt woodcock with at dog. As with my normal motif, traveling the road less worn, in my early days of upland hunting I picked the bread of Springer Spaniel to be my companion. These wonderful little friends are of the flushing breeds as opposed to the more popular pointing breeds. Basically all that boils down to is that you need to keep up with them and be ready for a bird at all times.

In the northern states these dogs are extremely popular and considered a classic woodcock locater. Now don't get me wrong, any decent bird dog will be an asset in the pursuit of woodcock, but it is very hard to beat the determination of a Springer in the dense foliage these birds call home. I have been told that some dogs will not retrieve a woodcock. This has never been a problem for my Springers.

While I have shot woodcock in all areas of the state, most of my hunting has been done in the central area of Missouri north of the Missouri river. Typically I would like to have the history of a hard frost to eliminate some of the green vegetation before my first hunt. You will also want to venture out before the ground freezes hard due to the fact the timberdoodles are worm eaters and head south when the dirt gets too hard for their slender bills. Look for heavily overgrown fence rows in creek bottoms. Creek bottoms are great locations but the seemingly most important element is briars. Multiflower rose bushes. The thicker the thorns, the better. If I could pick my spot it would be a long drainage area moving into a creek bottom. Heavy briars in the middle of sapling willows surrounding the briars with soft ground underneath and green grass around the saplings.

Woodcock are not difficult birds to bring down. I often use a 28 gauge with #9 shot. Even if wounded they will usually drop and stay put. When flushed these birds typically have two different flight patterns. The first pattern is low and straight away. They aren’t hard to hit due to speed, but if they start dodging trees can become very difficult. The other typical flush is straight up in the air then suddenly straight forward. Don't shoot this flush on the rise. The bird is too close, and usually when you pull the trigger is when they switch to the forward flight. Wait until they change to their forward flight pattern and you will have an easy going away shot. When you get a flush stay on your toes, very often these fall birds stay in groups of two. They also hold very tight to the cover. Stop often when you are busting the brush. That can be all it takes to make them nervous enough to take flight.

When the maples start to turn and the frost is on the pumpkin, pull on your briar proof pants, don't forget eye protection, grab your shotgun and bust some brush. Why if you were in England hunting woodcock you would be considered elite. Here in Missouri just consider yourself special to have such a treasure.

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