Tag Archives: hunting

A Successful Plan Built in Brotherhood

One sign that you are getting better at hunting, is when your plans start ending successfully instead of watching deer run off. Twenty-something years ago, my little Brother Spence invited me to come along on a deer hunt with some friends. It was the beginning of a crazy addiction filled with challenges and adventure, and every year since, we do it again. Several things have changed quite a bit since that fateful first hunt together, we’re both a bit rounder in the middle, and we both have less hair, but we sure have gotten better at killing deer and elk. Todays story is about hunting plans, and how years of hunting and hard work can turn into valuable achievement and happy memories.


My Brothers and I
You may have gathered by now that I’m not much of a trophy hunter, of course I’d love to shoot a monster but I’m more about having a good time and involving loved ones and friends than anything else. To me, any animal that presents a challenge and a delicious reward that we can share is a trophy. The practice of hunting, year after year, shot after shot, and stalk after stalk, has sharpened all of us.

An adventure from long ago
Spence and I have shared adventures our whole lives, but today was an especially sweet one. It was the final day of the deer hunt here in our home state of Utah, and Spence still had an uncut tag, and had yet to point his gun at anything. Our plan was to take advantage of an active snow storm that had moved in overnight, the weather always brings out the deer. Experience told me we wouldn’t be able to see much of anything way up high, the thick and fluffy snow fall was building fast. So instead, we decided to hunt the foothills of the mountains.

The snow was still falling, as shooting light came and passed. We hadn’t seen more than a few tracks, but one set of tracks that we’d cut was clearly a buck and he was headed the right direction. We looked as hard as we could through binos, searching every crevasse and brush patch. The patience that comes with age and experience seems to let you know when to take your time, and when you need to hurry. We kept moving to avail ourselves of different angles of the mountain above us. I knew it was only a matter of time before we spotted something, and sure enough, after about 30 minutes of glassing, we finally picked two does out. They were working around in some very deep brush, the six-hundred yards between us made glassing them difficult through the thick snow falling all around us. I could tell there was another deer in the brush behind them, I told Spence that it had to be a buck. Spence is used to me aggressively proposing suggestions as facts, the poor kid has had to listen to me his whole life so I’m sure he has grown accustomed to just nodding in agreement as a response. But after putting my spotting scope on the third deer, I could clearly see antlers. I told Spence if he wanted a last day of the hunt deer, then this was it. The brush and snow obscured the buck from good viewing, but I could tell he had at least three points on his left side. My Brother is more of a trophy hunter than I, but I figured if he knew it wasn’t some fork from this past spring it would get him a little more excited.

He grabbed his rifle, and found a good spot to setup on the buck. But after several minutes of looking, he couldn’t find the buck in the deep snowy brush. We watched the does make their way to a thicket, and caught a glimpse of him as he followed them into what looked like a very small shelf on a very steep and rocky hillside. We continued to watch, hoping for them to come out into one of the few openings, but after twenty and then thirty minutes passed we could see one of the does bedded down. We watched patiently as the snow slowed its fall, watching fervently to see if they were going to move, or spend the day there.

It was probably near eight-o’clock by this point, and we were confident these deer were not planning on moving. So like many times before, we started to devise a plan. The terrain the deer had bedded in was extremely steep, and if it wasn’t shoulder deep thick brush, it was loose and slippery scree in long slides down the mountain. The steep slope ran north/south, and we were looking east up the precipitous grade. There was another high point about halfway to the deer on the north side of them, that would give a commanding view of the area were they lay bedded. The plan that we came up with, was for him to climb slowly and covertly to that high spot, after which I would make a wide loop far to their south. This would put the deer almost squarely between us, I could then slowly sneak close enough to them, and like every mule deer, they would smell or hear me and try to sneak away not knowing that Spence lay waiting for exactly that.
We split up, after going over the plan to ensure we both had it down. I waited til he was about halfway to his new hide, and then started my climb. There was a ridge spine that ran uphill, about a hundred yards south of the deer’s thicket, I decided to stay on the other side as long as possible in order to avoid detection.

The thick brush and rock was hard to keep quiet in as I climbed, every branch I grabbed to steady myself would drop snow down my neck. But I pushed on, my plan was to actually get above the deer, so that I would have a better view of them should they bust. Experience has also showed me that if you don’t put in the work, its almost as though you disrupt the balance of nature, and success is hard-won. There was about a fifteen-minute window where I couldn’t see the thicket, or my brother. But I finally hit the elevation I wanted, and made my way north over the ridge spine, and towards a rock outcropping that would give me the perfect view. I quietly snuck to the rock, testing every step. I wasn’t sure how close I was just yet, so barely breathing and with all four points of contact I climbed onto the wet rock, the snow having melted off, and just recently stopped falling from the grey sky.


I could now see my Brother, a mere 230 yards away. He had setup behind a rock, which gave him a solid shooting rest, as well as some obscurity should the deer look his way. I sat there stinking, as hard as I could, hoping they would catch my scent on the breeze. But the wind had changed direction, and was moving uphill fast enough that they’d never catch my drift. I had snuck into inside seventy-yards from where the three deer lay on the shelf, and the steep incline of the hill made them feel even closer. So I did what every deer hunter does when things get tough and not going your way, I started rolling rocks. Small rocks, that I pitched into the trees near the deer, hoping the repetitive noise would make them uncomfortable enough to get up.

By this time, Spence was freezing in his cold and wet hiding spot. Watching me toss rocks from high above. At one point one of the does stood up, which triggered an exciting rush as perhaps it was about to go down. But it would take a few more minutes of rock rolling before the two does would finally appear, and stepped out of the thicket. My perspective wouldn’t let me see them, but Spence watched quietly through his Vortex Razor as the does slowly moved a dozen yards into the open. After about ten minutes, the buck stood up. He had been laying right next to the does but hidden from sight, but he moved slowly, in the direction of the does. He finally cleared out of the thicket, and stood quartered away, just below the thicket of trees. It was his last move, Spence had been waiting patiently with a hot chamber, and now he pressed the trigger as crosshair met ribcage.

Several hundred yards away, I stood oblivious to all the happenings below. Standing on my rock trying to stink and be conspicuous. The clouds had just begun to burn off, and the sun was peaking through. The silence of a snowy mountain was soothing, but suddenly cut short. The report of Spence’s .260 Remington was unlike any shot Ive ever heard, the blast suppressed by his Thunderbeast suppressor. The sound I heard was amazing, it sounded like a ricocheting 22lr mixed with a rising whistle sound, and of course, at the end was the THWAP! Sounds like a baseball bat swung hard into a wet roll of carpet. Upon hearing the sound, I perked up, and saw the two does bounding off through the steep brush south of the thicket. Just as I got my glass up, I saw the buck bounce into view, and no sooner had I seen him, he keeled over and toppled down the hill, sliding nearly a hundred yards down the steep hillside directly below me. I may have heard a victory call from down the hill, as we both quickly headed for the downed buck.




As we arrived at the buck, I couldn’t get over how handsome he looked. He actually looked like a younger version of the buck I shot the year before, perhaps his offspring. Spence sat down next to his buck, and soaked it up. The sun was now full on shining, and we sat on the steep hill digging our heels in to keep from sliding down. It was a beautiful moment, and we couldn’t have been happier with how our plan worked out.


We had a little discussion about how things seem to have worked out, and how it would have been nice to have all this experience on that first hunt long ago. But isn’t that the beauty of hunting? So much of what we learn, is taught by sacrifice, and loss. The one that got away seems to be the toughest lesson of all. Until we eventually get to the point that we actually let one go by choice instead of him getting away unscathed because we weren’t good enough. The experiences that got us to where we stood, are in their own way a trophy, and one I love to share whether it be here in words or around a campfire waiting for the next hunt to start.

We drug the deer down the mountain towards the truck, where we took some more pictures, before heading to a champions breakfast. The only thing better than making good memories like these, is making them with loved ones. Sometimes the best planned hunt, is being with the right people. I’m thankful I got to be there, but even more thankful for that invite twenty years ago.

CBM

Pronghorns and Prodigy Hunting

If you’ve followed me for very long at all, you must know by now that hunting is my greatest passion. Its become a way of life around my house, and sharing it with loved ones brings me the greatest satisfaction. That said, the hunting lifestyle doesn’t always enjoy the positive public reflection it once did. A great fear of mine is the loss of our hunting opportunities due to the growing anti-hunting sentiment around the world.
I have worked diligently over the years to effect what I think is the silver bullet to that argument; getting more new hunters addicted to this incredibly rewarding lifestyle.

Today’s story is about my latest efforts, and how patience and love created both a new hunter, and a whole new family bond.

Watch the video at the end of this article

Pre-season practice

Last year I convinced my wife to get her hunters safety, she grew up in a non-hunting family and environment which made it unnecessary. She made short work of the class, and last fall was her first time to ever go hunting with me carrying a rifle and a tag in her pocket. Unfortunately she never got a shot despite her valiant effort and hard work.

Fast forward to September 2020, and again we prepared for The hunt. This year she was lucky enough to draw a pair of Wyoming doe antelope tags, one of my favorite hunts precisely for new hunters like her.
We prepared all the gear we would need, and set out well before sunrise to get into a good position to spot animals as the sun came up.
Typically from experience, Pronghorn (their proper name) aren’t hard to find in Wyoming, they tend to begin activity after sunrise, keeping their sharp eyes on anything that moves on the wide open plains they inhabit.
After looking over several rolling brush covered valleys, we spotted a small group of antelope on the edge of the next rise. Trying to cover distance quietly and quickly can be a challenge with a new hunter, but Mrs. Coldboremiracle was keen to follow and do all the right things. We soon found ourselves on a windswept rise, looking in the direction the antelope had gone. The wind howled and gusted as we glassed the area, we quickly picked out the bright white sides of the herd. The smaller group had just joined a larger one, probably twenty-five animals. A few bucks, does, and a bunch of fawns.
We hunkered down, out of sight, even though they were nearly half a mile away they would easily spot us and sprint into the next county if we weren’t careful. We surveyed the whole area, and decided to try and put a stalk on the large group. Normally that many eyeballs is not a great choice to try and put a sneak on, but we had a line of cedar trees between us. We discussed the other options, and the idea of using the trees for concealment to get closer seemed like the best option.

The weapon of choice that day was my 257 Blackjack custom, a SAUM based wildcat shooting the Blackjack Bullets 131 grain Ace. It is a ballistic gem, providing extremely flat trajectories, and ignores the wind as much as any bullet can.

With rifle in her hands, we snuck down into a wash and towards the line of trees. Stopping to look at the herd every few steps to see if we’d been spotted yet. I breathed a sigh of relief as we finally made it behind the first tree, giving us the concealment the open prairie would not. The wind continued to gust, it felt like anywhere between 10 and 25 miles per hour. The noise of the wind gave us plenty of sound cover, all we had to do was stay out of sight within the trees as we worked towards a spot we could get a good shot.
We worked our way south, with the wind blowing hard in our faces. After about four hundred yards of sneaking, the trees began to thin, and we could see the herd slightly above us and four-hundred-fifty yards away. After confirming that we had not been detected, we crawled around to the shady side of the last small cedar that would give us cover. While I watched through the spotter, She crawled out onto her belly on the soft grey dirt behind the Blackjack. With the distance confirmed, and everything in position it was time to get noisy.

The sixth-sense that animals have must have been working hard that morning. First one, then several others looked straight at us, perhaps having seen some of our final movements. Their body language was concerned, but not spooked. So we focused our attention on a mature doe who stood out from the group. She was quickly obscured by the group however, a challenging aspect of these animals. They ball up in a group making it difficult To get a clean shot.
We ended up having to shift focus to another doe, who stepped slightly out of the group facing the opposite direction. It had only been maybe thirty or forty-seconds since we got into position, but the buck in the group began herding them towards the next rise. Clearly they knew something was up, I told Mrs. Miracle that it was now or never. The buck was moving towards her at the back of the group to push them over the hill and out of sight. So with her heart pounding and the wind whistling by, she pressed the trigger.
The 257 Blackjack runs just over 3200 feet per second, its blistering speed matches its flat trajectory. The 131 grain Ace zipped through the doe in less than half a second, with over 2300 pounds of energy, the bullet was probably still dry as it hit the powdered dirt behind her.
The whole herd scattered from the impact, but our doe had been pointed the opposite direction from the rest. She ran about fifty-yards, before she slowed down, and began to stumble. She laid down and her head swayed before keeling over in the dry prickly brush. The rest of the herd stood in the distance, apparently waiting for her to catch up.
Back at our shooting position it was all smiles and excitement, we quickly packed up and began the walk towards our prize.

The Ace had passed just behind the shoulders, perhaps a little higher than one might recommend, but it worked out to be perfect. It passed through without even touching a bone, so almost zero meat was lost from the shot, a perfect double lung shot.

We took pictures, and savored the moment before cleaning her up, and transporting her back to the truck. I remember on several occasions during the stalk, as well as in the final moment before the shot, I had to remind myself that this was a new hunter. The perspective of a new hunter is not the same as an old hand, it requires a little bit of discipline.

Keeping the moment fun, and trying to suspend the pressure as much as you can, will make the experience more fun for those that are new to it. Keeping calm is tough for me, I get wound up pretty tight in the heat of a hunt. But I found that staying calm, and ensuring that she was comfortable and ready made it a better experience for everyone.
As we returned home with her prize, we spoke about it. She is already excited for our Mule Deer hunt that starts in a few weeks, and next years antelope hunt. It is possible, that I’ve hooked her for life now, all according to my plan…

-CBM

Pit Boss Build Specs
-Remington 700 SA
-Proof Research Carbon 7.5 Twist 25 cal 24″
-US Optics Foundation 25X JVCR
-IOTA Carbon Fiber Stock
-Hawkins Precision Bottom Metal SA AI
-Trigger Tech Diamond Flat Shoe
-Blackjack Bullets 131 Grain Ace
-Machine Work done at ES-Tactical

Speed, Cutters, and a Flash of Hooks

The fresh smell of smoke was hanging in the cool but dry air, but the early morning chill wasn’t enough to keep the sweat from running down my brow. I struggled to focus through the eyepiece of my spotting scope, breathing heavily and feeling the hard pumping of my heart.
And there he was, walking slowly along a line of the last green vegetation in the valley. He seldom held still, he hadn’t stopped since sunrise, I whispered quietly out the distance as my voice pounded in unison with my heart. His dark black horns stood out from the bright white of his rump as the sun just now reached him.
The safety was off, and my little Brother rested his finger on the trigger as the buck stopped for the last time to survey the dry desert landscape.


Watch the video at the end of the story
We had been preparing for this hunt for the last couple weeks, prepping gear, scoping out the terrain. It was early September, and the August sun had beaten nearly every plant in Utah’s West Desert into dry submission. The raging wildfires across the west had yellowed the skies and stained the sunlight.
It was the opening morning of the buck Pronghorn Antelope hunt that my Brother had beaten me to in the draw. We had spent the night listening to the distant howling of coyotes while poking at the fire.

We had spent the previous afternoon watching the inhabitants of this parched valley, several good bucks, as well as a bunch of lesser bucks roamed around.

To us their wandering seems aimless, but surely there is a reason to their constant motion. One of the several good bucks we had seen made his way to an area with a few trees and sand dunes just before night fall. And as the morning broke, we watched the dunes for signs of life.
Within minutes of observable light, we spotted one of his does standing. And as the next few minutes passed, several more appeared. As I had hoped, it was only a matter of time before he too appeared from his sandy bed.

Despite my Brothers shooting prowess, we decided to close the distance, mainly because we could. With rifle, binos, and the spotting scope, we dashed in the most covered direction towards a high point between us and the group of antelope. But perhaps to challenge our stalk, just as we reached our predetermined position, they worked over the hill.
We kicked into high gear and moved as quick as possible another six hundred yards to the top of the hill they previously occupied. Knowing they could easily make a half a mile without even having been spooked, we wanted to get them back in sight before they made it too far away.
Time passes excruciatingly slow, when your prey is out of sight. This can cloud your judgement when cresting the next hill, so we took our time, slowly glassing to make sure that we saw them before they saw us.

When we did spot them, they had made it nearly four-hundred and fifty yards further. As usual, the buck was at the back keeping the ladies moving. It was time to turn up the heat on this hunt, my Brother quickly found a good shooting position while I steadied the spotter and ranged the buck. He worked his way away from us moving to our left, as I whispered the range to my Brother. He had just chambered a round in his custom Remington, a 23” Bartlein barrel that had been chambered in 260 Remington. With Hornady 140 grain BTHP match bullets we had hand-loaded just a day prior. The rifle sat in a KRG Whiskey 3 chassis, and wore a Vortex Gen 1 Razor for a scope.
His finger rested on the Trigger Tech shoe, and we all held our stifled breathing as the buck stopped and checked his surroundings. It was a perfect broadside shot, I barely breathed as I focused hard through the spotter.
Everything came together perfectly as the trigger broke, and the near silent desert was suddenly woken by the crack of the bullet. We watched as the bullet impacted the buck, passed through, and hit the dirt behind him making a puff of grey dust envelop him as he slowly reared back. He stumbled a step or two, then made a brave effort to run forward, his offside leg clearly broken. The terrain between us quickly blocked him from our view as he ran.

The impact of the bullet

We both felt the shot was good, and confident he was down just out of sight. The suppressed report of the rifle had startled the rest of the antelope, who now stood attentive to the actions of their patriarch. We watched for a few minutes to ensure he didn’t appear elsewhere, and the attitude of the does told us everything we needed to know, they stood motionless, fixated on the last known position of the buck. They watched curiously, as if waiting for him, even as we began to close the distance, they watched on.
We quietly approached the spot we’d last seen him, and looked for blood and sign. To our delight, none of it was necessary. The buck had hardly made it 50 yards, and he left a crimson trail against the moon-like dirt.
From the first sight, it was clear he had succumbed to the acute shot, hitting him low in the brisket and destroying his heart.
We quietly approached the beautiful animal, giving both space and time for the reverence due at such a moment.

We accessed the results of the shot, and took pictures. There was an overwhelming sense of satisfaction, that we had done right by this beautiful buck.

We played the deadly game of predator and prey, and we had won. And his demise had been judicious and quick, sparing him the suffering that is the fate of many natural casualties.

Above: what was left of the heart Below: impact and exit wounds


We cleaned him up, and took him back to camp. He was skinned and prepped to be butchered after some time in the fridge. The meat harvested will surely be turned into various meals, and tasty projects that we will remember for years to come.

The next hunt for us is just days away, we’ll do it all over again. Time to resharpen knives, oil a few bolts, and re-stock my pack, the next hunt will be savored every bit the same.
-CBM

Why you should try waterfowl hunting

If you weren’t lucky enough to be raised in a hunting family, getting started can be a little bit intimidating. One great way to get your feet wet, is with a little waterfowl hunting. We’ll discuss some of the progressive ways you can experience a good hunt, and by the end you’ll know what I mean by wet feet.

Ducks and geese were my first hunting addiction, it didn’t take long to get hooked on wing-shooting these high speed birds. If you like shooting shotguns at all, then shooting ducks is an incredible and fun challenge. They come in from any direction, at speeds varying from almost a hover to so fast you just hear them zip by as the wind whistles through their feathers.
Waterfowl hunting can be done all over the country, you probably are a lot closer to a marsh than you think. And though you might think it requires chest-waders and expensive equipment and outerwear, you can actually have a great time just hiding in the tall grass in earth toned clothes.

Getting started into water fowling can be done at your pace. If you have a shotgun capable of shooting non-toxic shot, your in business. Most waterfowl management areas require the use of non-toxic shot due to lead contamination in filter feeders.

Some of the best duck hunting spots are all on the water, but you can still have a great time hunting from walkable banks and shores. Decoys can help bring the birds in, but if you play your cards right you can shoot a limit by being in the right place at the right time. A good bird dog with an affinity for water could be an invaluable hunting partner in this case.
Shooting ducks and geese will turn you either into a crack shot, or a nutcase. Their aforementioned speed and agility make them a very challenging target.

I started out as a kid with a classic Remington 870 12 gauge, as have countless thousands. Hard to go wrong with something that simple and tested, but any good shotgun will do if it fits you.
Due to the typical wet and muddy conditions encountered when waterfowl hunting, it would be a good idea to use a gun with synthetic furniture like the Benelli Nova.
If goose hunting is to be part of your waterfowl adventure, then you may also want to consider a shotgun with a three or three and a half inch chamber. The added shot capacity can be helpful with bigger birds.
Whether you choose a pump shotgun, or a semi-auto like the Beretta A300 make sure you practice with it. One thing I love about shotgunning is that a lowly red-neck shooting his Grandad’s model 12 can out-shoot a millionaire with a twenty thousand dollar English double. So don’t fret if your gear doesn’t match the guys on the Duck’s Unlimited calendar.
As with most types of bird hunting, you can get into it as much or as little as you want. You might start by just walking down an irrigation canal wearing jeans and a jacket. Or you can go full Redhead with flat-bottomed boats, motorized decoys, and electronic calls. I would suggest wading into it slowly, and see what works for you. One of the best things you can do is to find a local group or club that can have you along, they can show you the tricks and nuances of your local marsh.
Keep in mind that waterfowl don’t mind the weather, and some of my absolute best days wing-shooting have been in completely miserable conditions. Wind, snow, and cold seem to produce the best hunting days in my neck of the Rockies. Hopefully you don’t have to endure the same just to try it out, but if Im going to go out, it’ll be in a winter storm.

Contrary to popular belief, ducks are edible. They can actually be done quite well if you spend the time to learn to prepare them. So you can add another feather in your cap by enjoying a meal you took from the sky into the kitchen.

Perhaps one of the best parts of waterfowl hunting is the camaraderie between friends and family. There is always plenty of time to talk, take friendly jabs at each others shooting, or tell old hunting stories.

So you might start out with a two-hundred dollar hand-me-down shotgun, and an old musty duck coat. But you could end up knee deep in muddy water with your very best friends, freezing together while discussing shot patterns, retriever breeds, and Pintail whistles, all while your clammy wet feet shiver from worn leaks in your favorite waders. If that sounds like fun to you, then you might need to try duck hunting.
-CBM

Triumph Favors the Prepared

I consider myself quite lucky when it comes to hunting, not only am I blessed to hunt frequently, but I’ve managed to become mildly proficient at it. This past season was a tough one when compared to the preceding decade, but perseverance and healthy bit of luck kept a special surprise for me waiting at the end.
I say it was a tough season, but to be more accurate, it was a season void of mule deer bucks. This came as surprise to most of us as it had been a wet year, with plenty of feed. And there seemed to be as many deer around as there always had been.

I spent several weeks scouting my traditional spots, trying to get a pattern established with them. But I was astonished with how few deer I saw, and nearly none of them were bucks, much less a good buck. So as October arrived, and friends, family and I began hunting, the outlook wasn’t too good.

Days passed before we even aimed a rifle at a buck, and even then it was nothing big enough to write home about. Everybody I spoke to both on and off the mountains described a very quiet and inactive hunt. Dad and I were lucky enough to get on to a small buck that found his way into the bed of the truck, but even after five days hunting, I could count every buck we’d seen on one hand. And not one of them was more than a fork.

On the last day of the season, we had another patch of good luck. A very cold wind had brought in a snow flurried storm, dusting the entire mountain with a white coating. I know from experience that when the weather turns off bad, the hunting gets better. The tops of the mountains were enveloped in clouds, making it almost impossible to see more than a hundred yards or so. I determined that the foothills would be a better place to try, at least there we could see for half a mile or so, depending on the snowfall. As the early-morning darkness slowly turned to light, I found myself glassing everywhere I could make out through the falling snow. And before it was even quite shooting light, I spotted three deer feeding their way up through a grassy open area on the edge of a deep river ravine. Their dark bodies contrasted greatly with the all-white surrounding, I could tell immediately that one of them was a good buck.
The deer were eight hundred and fifty yards or so away, they were feeding quietly, so I decided to close the distance to somewhere that at least had a better place to shoot from than my current position. Anybody who has hunted Mule Deer knows how tricky they can be, and this guy was no exception. He must have either sensed our closing presence or perhaps caught sight of us as we snuck through the brush. When we reached the spot I had hoped to ambush him, they had gone into the deep river draw with its thickly wooded sides. I knew that the buck was likely to have either gone down the river towards the safety of civilization, a place I surely could not shoot at him. Or he went up the river, towards the safety of the brush-covered canyons that expand for hundreds of miles. I took a gamble, expecting that if he’s gone down, he’s likely already gone and we missed our chance. So we went up, towards the top of the ravine, slowly and quietly glassing the whole way. The snow continued to fall, and the wind picked up carrying wisps of snow from the trees where it had accumulated. I prepped for the shot I hoped was coming, though I had no idea where it would be.
The flying snow made my rangefinder almost useless, still I estimated the distances to various locations where the buck might come out. I laid flat on the snowy ground, hoping to avoid further detection by either the deer, or a large group of wild turkeys that foraged about sixty-yards uphill from us. I brushed the snow off the lens of my scope, knowing that any second I would need to see through it clearly.
As I laid glassing above the opposite side of the draw my eyes caught through the fog the unmistakeable image of a white deer butt, with a broad face beside it looking back directly at me. I knew it was him, and I immediately dropped my binoculars, and shouldered my rifle, I could see him through the falling snow. He was only a step or two away from disappearing into the brush permanently, he made his last mistake by looking back to see if I was there.
I knew that there was only seconds to shoot or lose him forever, I had estimated that treeline to be about 400 yds, and with no time to dial, I held four MOA just inside his right shoulder, hoping to cross his vitals diagonally. I pressed the trigger, and the shot broke.
Everything felt right, despite my rushed shot. Steady hold on him, good clean trigger pull, and I held a good hand, full of Blackjacks. My 25 Creedmoor is quite possibly the most predictable and flat shooting rifle I own, and I had a warm feeling that the buck had succumbed like many others, to the 131 Grain Ace.
After a grueling hike across that miserable little creek canyon, I closed in on the spot where I’d last seen him. The snow continued to fall as I quietly poked into the trees, prepared for another shot, I carried my rifle at the low ready. But the tension evaporated into excitement as my eyes picked out antlers just a few yards away, already built up with a white snowy coating.

The buck was the biggest deer I or anyone I know even saw during the whole hunt

The buck had only made it a leap or two before he collapsed, the shot had hit him perfectly. It entered at the back of his rib cage on his right side, it traversed him diagonally and exited left of the side of his neck. The Ace had cut his lung in half, and detached most of its pulmonary plumbing.

I was amazed at how quickly this season had turned from bust into bounty. The sun was just coming up, though you’d never see it through all the snowy storm clouds. We could get this buck back down to town, and be home for breakfast.
It was mostly luck, but triumph favors the prepared. Turning off during the hunt just isn’t an option for me, eyes, ears, and nose are always going. Familiarity and training with my gear all year long have paid off over and over, so that one chance you might get doesn’t go to waste. Be prepared, and embrace the high speed tunnel vision that is the mind of a predator within you, it’s there for a reason…

-CBM

The 2019 Late Season for Elk

Video at the bottom of article

Every winter, after the cold snow starts to build up in these Rocky Mountains, I get a bit of fever going. Not the kind of fever that normally comes with the cold season, this fever is far more profound. Its a fever born not from germs or microorganisms, but rather comes from my DNA. Like many of you I was born to hunt, and the knowledge that hunting season is around the corner fills me with excitement and a feverish desire to get after it. The late-season elk hunts in our state of Utah give a much-needed extension to this natural high, and its one we all seek out ever year. This year was certainly no exception.

My herd of elk is a small one, it consists mainly of cows and their offspring. There is usually a few yearling cows, and spikes as well, and even more infrequent are the occasional mature bulls that follow them onto the winter range. Every year they come back the same pass they did the year before, and miles away, hunched behind a spotting scope gnawing on a cheese stick you will find me. Usually, I have all my gear ready by the time they show up, and this year it was only a matter of hours before we were on them.

Both friends and family participate in this yearly ritual, and today it was me and a good friend who we’ll call “Russ”. We had seen part of the herd heading in the right direction the evening before, and this morning we returned to our glassing post to see if they were still there. I say the right direction meaning a place where we knew we could get a downed elk out without extreme difficulty, we made our way towards the small group as they fed through the snow.

A cold cloudy day for all of us

At seven thousand feet the air is thin and cold, and the fifteen to twenty mile an hour winds were not making it any better. We continued our stalk through the cold wind, knowing at least that it would cover both our sound and scent. We closed the distance to five hundred and twenty yards, any closer we would lose them with the rise of the hill. So we planted ourselves and set up our equipment, Russ was shooting a custom-built .260 Remington Ackley improved, on the end he had a Delta P Design 6.5 suppressor, and a Bushnell Elite Tactical scope mounted on top. In the magazine were a handful of Hornady 140 grain ELD-m handloads. Russ pushed his rifle up a snowy embankment pointing towards the elk herd, and I slid up to another spot, with my Desert Tech SRS A2 sitting in the saddle of my Precision Rifle Solutions tripod. I had been using the twenty-four inch 6.5 Creedmoor barrel in my rifle, and had very recently installed a new optic, the Riton Optics RT-S Mod 7 4-32 riflescope. I was shooting a new experimental lathe-turned solid bullet from Patriot Valley Arms, it is a 123 grain copper solid hollow point. Both of our rifles were shooting very close ballistic patterns, in fact, at the five-hundred and twenty yards we both dialed 2.2 MRAD of elevation, and with the wind blowing at a slight angle, we both held about .2 MRAD left wind. A wind call we would later rejoice over.

As we lay there freezing in the snow, we had to wait for a good shot. The low angle against the ridge made interference from brush and branches an issue, so we waited as the wind carried snow over our rifles and faces. The plan was to execute a command fire, both of us shooting in near unison to hit both animals before the rifle report ever reached them. Sounds easy enough, unless your trigger finger is freezing into a stiff hook while you wait. After a few long and shivery moments, we had two cows that offered us an acceptable shot. After loudly whispering back and forth about who was shooting at what, we counted down, fingers on triggers. In my mind, I decided it would be better to just shoot upon hearing the report of Russ’ rifle, so that’s what I did.
I was already pressing the trigger shoe on my SRS when I heard the rip of his 260 go off, so I finished my pull and sent the second round uphill towards the unsuspecting elk. Russ’ bullet found its mark perfectly, hitting just behind the left shoulder. She immediately lurched forward from the startling impact, while a few yards behind her, the second cow chewed bark from some of the brush. She may have seen the other cow leap forward, but it was too late. My bullet also impacted just behind her shoulder passing through her lungs and tapping her vertebrae as it passed by. This impact dropped her in her tracks, and she rolled down the steep and slippery slope. The first cow had just made it perhaps forty or fifty yards, both of us still trained on her with our rifles. And we watched as she stumbled, and tipped over, leaving a bright red blood trail through the pure white snow. It was over so fast, and yet my trigger finger was nearly frozen. I stowed it between my cheek and gum for a few minutes to bring back sensation.

Fresh lung blood blown across the brush

We stood up in the breeze and watched as the remainder of the small herd slowly worked away from us. High fives were exchanged, and even a hug from the excitement. The work, however, had just begun, I doubted we would be getting too much aid in our elk extraction. So we left everything we wouldn’t need and carried only the bare essentials like knives, warm clothes, some rope and a few snacks. The steep mountain and snow-covered ground made the going slow, but an hour or so later, we stood over one of the two elk. After investigating her injuries and condition, we triangulated the other elk’s location based off the tracks leaving the first. The other cow lay exactly where expected, and left us a good trail to find her with.

As we began the decent with our two prizes, the morning had given way to a beautiful and sunny midday. We took our time, rolling and sliding these two ladies down the hill, taking breaks as needed.

As the afternoon went on however the clouds came back in, and threatened to freeze over the whole mountain. As we sat reposed in the snow, I watched as Russ’ dark pants steamed in the sunlight. But as the clouds came over us, it was like an icy blanket, and we both watched as the steam from his pants quickly turned to frost before our eyes. It was time to move.

After another four or so hours, we made it back to the truck, where we were met by other good friends who helped load our prize. An incredible blessing to have good friends to help after such a labor intensive day.

We have shot several other elk this winter, the most common factor is good friends and solid relationships. Elk hunting seems to forge relationships between like minded hunters, the intensity of labor, and overwhelming obstacles seem to sort fair-weather friends from what I consider to be the finest group of dear friends. I consider myself lucky to have them.

-CBM


5 Tips For A Better Deer Hunt

I’ve been on a few deer hunts over the years, and nothing teaches you a lesson better than being unprepared. I’ve been through it before, and know how it can turn a good hunt into a mess. With that in mind lets go over a few things you can do to keep from learning things the hard way.

Preparation is key to having a successful hunt, its easy to remember the most obvious things such as camo, arrows, and your deer tag. But there’s more to hunting than just shooting the animal your after.

1. Prepare your equipment.
We’ve all seen someone show up with an un-zeroed rifle, no knife, or forgot their hunter orange. Besides having your standard checklist, it’s a good idea to have an equipment readiness checklist, not just a “do I have it” list.
Make sure your rifle is zeroed, and you have enough ammo, preferably all from the same lot. Check scope rings and action screws, any mechanical thing that could cause you issues in the field. And finally, make sure it all works properly. I always like to go test fire my hunting rifles just before the hunt, if not just to function test them, but also to foul the bore. I leave my barrels fouled before a hunt, I find they shoot more predictably that way. Make sure you have the tools necessary to service your equipment should it be needed.

2. Prepare for the kill
Sometimes we focus so hard on the hunt that we neglect prep for the kill. It may be counting chickens before the hatch, but good preparation for the kill shows diligence toward our goal. And being committed to the goal will help keep us in the right state of mind.
When I hunt antelope on the warm windy plains of Wyoming, I have a cooler full of ice ready to drop the carcass into.
I always carry several knives, rope, and other tools needed to properly care for a downed animal. Every precaution should be taken to ensure meat doesn’t spoil, and nothing gets wasted.
Depending on the terrain you hunt, you may want to have alternative strategies to extract your quarry such as handcarts, or sleds. You dont want to find yourself alone and five miles in, with a downed bull elk and nothing but your hands and money-maker to get him out.

3.Backup gear, guns ammo, etc.
For many hunts, there is no second chance, always bring backup equipment.
I always bring at least two guns, and enough ammo for both of them to fight my way home if needs be. A broken firing pin could end a once in a lifetime hunt, bringing a second rifle (equally trained upon and prepared per step 1 above) could be a hunt-saver. Extra clothes, backpacks, cold-weather and rain gear can all be the last thread keeping you from folding.
Make sure you have two of everything that is vital to the hunt and your survival, some of us hunt in rugged country where things can go south pretty quick. And you can always count on one of your partners to be unprepared, so maybe have a backup for your backup too.

4. Prepare to make yourself comfortable
So many hunts can be miserable due to a lack of simple preparation. Things like a foam pad to sit on in the snow, or a mosquito net to keep from being eaten alive à la spring in Montana.
A good trekking pole could save your knees from exhaustion, and good boots are a must! As are a comfy pair of sneakers to change into back at camp.
It’s hard enough to hunt when you are tired, hungry, and cold. Spend the time preparing every little thing you can to be comfortable in the wild, if you aren’t successful in your hunt, at least be comfortable.

5. Prepare your body
I am terribly guilty of not doing this one, and I’m sure I’m not alone.
The exhaustive labor involved in hunting can tax the human body like few other things. Do yourself a favor and get the ham chassis in shape before the season starts.
Good nutrition and sleep have always been helpful to me during and prior to hunting season. And I usually find myself in the best shape of the year right at the end of my hunts.
I try and get plenty of hiking in, so my legs and back are ready for the rigors of pursuit.
Everybody’s body is different and needs its own care regimen prior to exerting the load of a big hunt. Find out what works best for you, whether its diet, exercise, or any other thing you can do to be in your best shape. It not only will make your hunt better, but it will also keep you safer in the wilderness.

Those of us who grew up in the Scouting program learned to be prepared. For at least this hunter, it is the best time of the year and deserves attention to detail preparing for every eventuality we may encounter.

-CBM

Mouse Hunting

Originally Posted October 2015

The morning was damp from overnight rain, a muggy feeling as I rolled out of bed this morning. An early workday, and I was not feeling it yet. I stumbled down the stairs toward the kitchen, and turned on the light. The silence of the early morning surrounded me. As I sat there in a sleepy stupor, thinking about the day’s events. I was startled, by the sound of a grocery sack rustling across the room. For a moment, I thought I saw a shadow of movement near bye. I went about the business of making my breakfast when from the corner of my eye, I saw him. In the blink of an eye, a small dark shadow shot across the kitchen floor. My jaw clenched as I wrapped my still cloudy mind around the situation. An intruder, with no respect for sovereignty, or private property, was now threatening the peace of my home. All I could think of is my wife and her reaction upon discovering this interloper. No comfort, no solace, and the screams and torment would go on for days. In just a few seconds, all these scenarios played out in my mind. And above all this, a sharp deadline loomed over my head. My co-worker who was to carpool with me, would be pulling into the driveway any moment…Time slowed, and I squinted my eyes. My instincts aligned, and I transformed. My true nature revealed. Almost as if he felt the challenge, this foul rodent confronted me. Showing no fear, he walked out into the open, our eyes again met. We stared at each other, studying the other’s movements, calculating. When he’d had enough, he scurried behind one of my wife’s plants. Like a professional predator, I sprang into action. I hastily descended to the basement and armed myself. In no time, I had returned again to the kitchen. In my hands, I held the equalizer. His speed was now matched by my marksmanship. My weapon of choice was my daughter’s Strawberry Shortcake issue Daisy air-rifle. My triumphant return to the kitchen was a deeply disturbing realization for my opponent. I could see his worried demeanor from a crossed the kitchen. As time ticked away, I knew I needed to make it count. Several times, he exposed himself, but with the patience of a trained killer. I waited for the perfect moment. As he showed himself for the last time, I drew aim, and began the long trigger pull. When the shot was released, the BB shot crossed the kitchen, under the table and between the legs of a chair. The wee mouse disappeared from view, only the cold sound of a BB rolling across the floor could be heard. I paused, my breath still held tight, and listened for a sign. A warm sense of satisfaction poured over me, as I heard a rustling sound. My prey had succumbed to my shot, and was now in the throes of death. I carefully drew near, weapon still on point, never yielding. He lay there, in a puddle of his own life-sustaining blood. One shot, to his little brain pan, had ended this standoff. I reveled in the moment, knowing that my family would wake soon, and know nothing of the fear, and the struggle.  I removed the offender, and cleaned up the mess. It was time to go to work, well, at least to my part-time job. My real job of course being a top predator.