Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Goat Hunting

They don't call 'em speed goats cuz they're slow...

I finished up work with a pretty stellar day on the river Monday and then headed down to Alder, MT to chase antelope. It's archery season right now for deer, elk and antelope and I drew a tag for the Ruby Valley. I figured I'd try a couple days of bow-hunting to see if I could close the distance on a nice antelope buck. I've never antelope hunted so I really didn't know what I was getting into. The tag is still good for the rifle season so I wasn't going to put too many expectations on these couple days either.

Antelope seem to be most active mid-morning and since they're in rut right now, they were doing a lot of chasing. It's amazing how much ground these guys can cover in such a short time. Even without being spooked, they can be in one draw just kind of chilling one second and then one will get some bug up it's ass and he chases either a hot doe or another buck into the next county.

About noon a group of 6 or 7 does and a big buck did finally bed down near the top of a draw. There was a tree line about a hundred yards above them and then a few sparse junipers dispersed along the draw. I got above them and started the sneak.

I crouched, slid on my ass and belly crawled to about 70 yards from that buck and about 30 yards from the does. I'm not sure what happened but before I could get any closer, the buck stood up and looked directly at me...busted.

I was actually kind of feeling good about even getting that close so I grabbed some lunch and rested up a bit for the evening hunt. The plan was to check out a coulee where I had seen some good whitetails scouting a few weeks ago.

An hour and a half before sunset, I grabbed my gear and headed out. Before I could even start the truck the flood gates opened up and the clouds began gushing. The wind was blowing about 40 mph; then the hail and then lightening with deafening thunder. I drove to the coulee and parked and waited for a few minutes thinking the storm would blow over--no such luck. I stepped out of the truck, grabbed a stool and headed for the coulee trying to keep my hood pulled over my face to shield myself a little from the side-ways rain.

I sat for about ten minutes before thinking, "This is absolute bull-shit. There isn't a deer out there that's going to move in this crap."

A minute later and about 30 seconds before I bagged it, I caught something out of the corner of my eye. Two bucks came from the ridge behind me and stopped dead in their tracks when they saw my truck. I had parked pretty close to the coulee thinking they would walk down the bottom past me and I would see them before they got to the truck. These guys came from behind me and got down hill and down wind before I saw them.

They caught my scent and bolted. "That was kind of cool," I thought. I knew there were a couple more the last time I scouted this coulee so I positioned myself to face up the coulee and directly into the gale-force wind. Sure enough, two more bucks came running down the coulee right for me.

The first was just a little guy and when he got 10 yards away, directly across the coulee from me, he put on the breaks and looked directly at me. The second buck stopped about 20 yards up the coulee to try to figure out what was going on. With all the wind and hail and rain, I'm not sure they got a good look at me; plus I was standing next to a juniper. They were obviously on a mission to get down to the hay fields below so the second buck began moving again. I didn't even consider what the first buck was doing as I drew back my bow.

At about 15 yards the buck stopped and turned and I released the arrow. It thwacked hard into the mud as the arrow went over the buck's back. He startled and ran right at me.

I had the juniper between us when I shot so I knew he wasn't going to run me over. He crossed not more than two feet behind me and as he sailed by. I knew he wasn't hit because there wasn't a wound and at that distance I know I would have seen something. I walked up to where he was standing when I shot and found my arrow--no sign of a hit so now soaking wet and a little shaken up myself, I headed back to my truck.

I went back in there the next morning and saw those same deer and a couple more coming back up the draw. The little guy came within 15 yards again but with an incredibly unfavorable wind, he busted me and flanked me and the bigger bucks followed. They never got closer than 50 yards and with tensions high, it just wasn't in the cards to take a shot.

I'll be back on the river chasing trout tomorrow. We had a couple tough days last week but with the weather changing and how good Monday was, I'm thinking the fishing will again, be epic. Looking forward to it and looking forward to all that fall has to offer in the Big Sky Country.

Keep 'em where they live...

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