Category Archives: Hunting

Fair Chase? You Decide

This year I was blessed with the easiest buck I’ve ever killed. But was it fair chase? You decide.

2020 Buck, photo copyright Mike L. Raether 11/2020

Even though we have a five week general hunting season in Montana, I don’t usually start hunting deer until the whitetail rut, which around here is last two weeks of the season.

Early on the morning of November 18, just as first light was filtering across the sky, I was about to head out to my favorite hunting spot (about 10 minutes away), when in the dim dawn light I saw a herd of about 15 cow elk and calves bedded down in the pasture about 65 yards from my house.

As the light grew, they started getting up and heading out like they always do about first light. As I watched them I remembered that deer like to hang around elk sometimes, so I bundled up, got a cushion from the house, parked my butt on the little bench we have on our front deck, and lay my rifle across my lap. As I watched the edge of the timber across the pasture about 100 yards away, two pairs of does wander out of the timber about 75 yards apart, and began feeding at the edge of the pasture. I figured if those does weren’t already bred, a buck might show up to take care of business.

After an hour or so I came back in the house to get some work done in my home office, but I kept a close eye on the pasture all day. About 2:00 in the afternoon a fork horn showed up, but it wasn’t a good shot so I passed. I told my wife I was going to spend the last hour or so of the day out on the deck, and went back to my impromptu “hunting spot” about 4:30 P.M. A doe with a yearling appeared along the edge of the pasture, and I watched as mamma nursed her fawn. Afterword, they both wandered up into the trees, and I lost track of them.

Just a few minutes later a decent buck arrived, trailing the doe. I steadied my rifle on the deck railing and took him at 130 yards, broadside and just behind the shoulder. Bang-flop. He was a 3X4, but certainly not a monster; he was an older deer whose antlers were in decline. I shot him at 5:00 P.M. and by 7:00 P.M. he was gutted, hung, skinned, and I was sitting down to dinner! Not exactly fair chase, I suppose, but at 71 years of age I’m not getting any younger (I once tried grower younger instead of growing older, but it didn’t work).

This was one of the few deer I’ve brought home in one piece. Usually, it’s bone it out where it drops using the gutless method, and pack out the meat. Not this time. But was it fair chase? You decide, and leave a comment letting me know what you think.