Well, this was it. This could very well be my last hunt in Montana for a long, long time. I had just returned from a month of guiding elk hunts in Colorado, and I was about to meet my brother and dad for their first mule deer adventure. We had a week to get a few deer on the ground, and then I had to get back to Bozeman to get my wife and daughter packed up for our move to Minnesota.
I had a lot to think about on the drive back from Colorado. It was a big year for my family, and my thoughts were flooded with all that had changed, and all that was about to change. In August, my wife and I made the decision to move back to our roots in Minnesota. We knew the day would come, but we weren’t quite ready to leave Montana and the relationships we had made. Still, we were expecting a new arrival in September, and wanted to raise our child close to famlily. Harper Madison was born September 3, 2015, and it was the most unbelievable experience of my life.
With the birth of my daughter fast approaching, life for me would change quite a bit. My last hunting season in Montana boiled down to one week with my dad and brother. And though it wasn’t my first mule deer hunt, I was excited, because this would be the first time for my dad and brother.
As my drive winded down, my excitement ramped up. I made my final stop at a local gas station where my dad and brother were waiting for me. I had never seen them so excited. We got to our spot, got our gear ready, and tried to get some rest.
The first morning was warm, but the wind was howling. We searched the landscape for any sign of movement, but didn’t see much. We decided to move, and I broke my dad and brother in with a seven mile first push. We decided to take a break for lunch when my brother spotted some movement in the distance. It was nice 4x4 that any one of us would have been happy to go home with. My dad was up first, so we got him into position. We were about 400 yards out, when a different buck – a nice buck – started to walk right toward us. He got to 150 yards, and BOOM!, the second buck went down with one shot. And just like that my dad had his first mule deer on the ground. We cut and quartered and got back to camp. One for three.
My brother Mike was up next. Looking at the map we noticed a road that would take us much closer to the spot we started seeing deer. So the next morning we got in the truck and started driving. We rounded a big hill and spotted a herd of deer. Four bucks and eight does, but they didn’t notice us because the bucks were rutting so hard. Mike slipped out of the truck to get a closer look. I got out too to help him if he decided to shoot. We saw that one of the bucks looked very respectable, and Mike took the shot. He couldn’t have placed the bullet in a better spot and the buck went down immediately. And just like that, Mike had his first mule deer on the ground. We were able to drag the buck to the truck and continue hunting. Two for three.
The trip was a success in my opinion. Seeing my brother and dad take their first mule deer was all I needed. But we did have one more tag to punch, and all the time in the world to do it. We made our way back to where my dad took his buck to see if we could get back on the bigger buck we’d seen the day before. We posted up and the hills started to come alive. There were deer everywhere! We didn’t spot anything worth pursuing for a while, but after about a half hour of glassing we spotted two bucks fighting. One of them looked like a mature deer. Without thinking, I ran and got in to 250 yards. I threw my pack down, settled in, and pulled the trigger. The first shot landed a bit back, but he presented another opportunity and I was able to drop him in his tracks. And just like that, I had my mule deer on the ground. Three for three.
The pack out was bittersweet. On one hand we had an amazing hunt that I wouldn’t trade for anything, but on the other I knew this was going to be my last Montana adventure for a long time. It was really hard to think about how everything was going to change. But that’s okay. I’ve realized you can’t be afraid of change, because it’s leading to a new beginning.