Tag Archives: elk

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 flirting with 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. I didn’t have a cow permit, so all I could do was watch them. And 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 different 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.

Mineral County, Montana: An Outdoorsman’s Overview

I was stunned. It was abundantly more than I could ask or think.

When I arrived in heavily forested Mineral County in far Western Montana, one of the first things I did was spread out a USDA Forest Service map for the Superior Ranger District. As an outdoorsman, I wanted to learn about where I’d landed. What I discovered was an outdoorsman’s jaw dropper.

Bonanza Lake #1. Photo copyright by Mike L. Raether

First off, Mineral County is 87% publicly owned, and these public lands contain hundreds of miles of non motorized recreational trails. My new “back yard” was home to over 50 mountain lakes, most accessible only by trail and many with good to excellent trout fishing. All mine for the hiking.

And then there is the Clark Fork River with its many tributaries. The Clark Fork is big water that drains most of Western Montana. Although the Clark is overshadowed by the abundance of Montana’s blue ribbon trout waters, the Clark yields beautiful fish up to five pounds for those who learn how to fool ’em. The Clark’s tribs are fair to excellent fishing for brookies, cutts, ‘bows and sometimes big bull trout (be sure to check the regs).

Did I mention the hunting? No, not yet, but as some of you were wondering if I’d get there, here we go –

First, I have to deconstruct your thinking.

Montana in general is not the hunter’s paradise some make it out to be. There’s not a big game animal standing behind every tree or game birds flushing from every bush. Still, the hunting is pretty good, and there’s a certain romanticism connected with hunting in Montana. However, for sheer numbers, a hunter would be better off elsewhere.

But  back to Mineral County. I enjoy good hunting here and the proof is mounted on my walls. The hunting pressure is light if a hunter is willing to get back in the bush a quarter mile or so. Still, the mountains of Mineral County have been called “young men’s mountains” as they are steep and heavily forested. But a seasoned hunter knows that elk and deer don’t usually go straight up the mountain; they’re much smarter than that. They make trails. And a hunter who finds the game trails and uses them finds it much easier to get around the mountains. And he saves a lot of sweat and energy in the process.

Rivers, streams, mountains, lakes, trails, wildlife – yeah, I like it here. I also like sharing. By the way, how about sharing with me? What are your favorite things to do in the great outdoors? Or perhaps you have a question or suggestion?

But wait, there’s more! (I’m being facetious of course, but there really is more). I’m interested in your thoughts. You can reply, send me an email, and/or help design the new monthly newsletter –

God and the Great Outdoors

“The heavens are telling of the glory of God;

And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.

Day to day pours forth speech,

And night to night reveals knowledge.” (Ps 19:1-2, NASU)

Have you ever been awed by a sunrise, wonderstruck by a starry sky, astonished as you gazed from a mountain peak, or marveled at the ways of a river? If so, then you have heard from God. Each day’s sunrise speaks of God’s faithfulness, the night sky and the mountains remind us of His great power, and the flow of a stream in its channel testifies to God’s promised guidance of the Christian’s life.

 

Dipper Falls
Dipper Falls

Much can be learned about God by examining the world around us. Theologians call this, “General Revelation,” or the revealing evidence of God’s existence and what He is like through the things He has made. I call it pretty cool.

If you’re a Christian sportsman, then you know what I’m talking about. You can’t spend much time outdoors hunting, fishing, camping, or hiking before you start making the connection between what God has revealed about Himself in the Bible with what you experience in the great outdoors.

For example, a few years ago I was hunting elk. It was early morning, and I was hoping to catch elk passing by as I sat near a trail they used as they traveled from their night time feeding area to their daytime bedding site. The first animal that happened by wasn’t an elk, but that animal brought me a word from God.

It was a very nice whitetail buck, four points to each antler. I had a deer permit, but I hesitated to harvest the buck as I was afraid that the shot would spook any nearby elk. As I wondered what to do, the buck stopped and stood broadside, not thirty yards away. Easy shot. To shoot or not to shoot?

Finally I decided to take the buck, but at that very moment he flipped his tail and was gone. I’d waited too long. The opportunity was lost, gone as quickly as a popped balloon.

I began thinking of all the other opportunities I’d missed in life by waiting too long. And I thought of the story of Moses in Exodus 4:10-16. Because Moses hesitated, he lost a special opportunity.

At that point in my life I was struggling with an opportunity I thought God might be offering to me. But it required a huge step of faith, and I was hesitating. In all of this God was saying, “Stop hesitating. Move forward now or you’ll regret it, just like you just lost the opportunity to take that buck. The time to ‘tag’ My will is now.” I decided to move forward by faith, and it turned out to be the right decision.

If you’re a Christian sportsman you can probably relate. The Lord often speaks to us through outdoor experiences. If you love the Lord and love the great outdoors, I’d like to recommend something to you. For daily devotions centered around God and the outdoors, check out http://www.sportsmensdevotional.com/.

But wait, there’s more! I’m interested in your thoughts. You can send me an email, post a comment right here online and more –