Fresh off a fantastic, 6 day mule deer hunt in Montana's Missouri River Breaks, I'm unpacking gear, butchering venison and looking over photos from the trip.
Over the next few days I'll be sharing some of our experiences from the hunt here, on the MSJ blog.
On Sunday night I motored east to Billings to meet my Dad, who had flown in from Arizona for the hunt. This was to be his first big game hunt in Montana. We left my sister's house early Monday morning, stopping briefly in Grass Range for burgers, coffee and to top off the gas tank. My Dad soon got his first look at The Breaks as we descended into the river valley and crossed the mighty Mo via Fred Robinson Bridge. My old man liked the looks of the country: rough, scenic, and moderately timbered - perfect for hiking and glassing...the style of hunting that he enjoys most.
Our destination was Fourchette Bay on the north shore of Fort Peck Reservoir, this remote outpost would serve as our base camp for the hunt. After turning off the highway we navigated fifty miles of good dirt roads into Fourchette, driving through a seemingly endless sea of unspoiled Montana prairie in the process.
The plan was to meet my buddy Matt and his Dad at camp, they'd arrived the day prior and set up the wall tent - and perhaps even done a little hunting by now. As the road dropped to the campground and turned the corner, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the number of camps wasn't overwhelming (it can be a tent/trailer city here at times).
Although Matt and his Dad were out hunting, we quickly spotted camp and unloaded our gear. With a few hours of shooting light remaining, we decided to get out and have a look around. We drove a few miles from camp, parked and hiked along a large ridge with numerous finger ridges descending into deep creek bottoms on either side. Deer sign was everywhere and we soon got a look at our first muley of the trip - a young buck. Just before last light we spotted a sizable herd of deer feeding on an open slope just a couple of hundred yards from us. A good size buck was with the bunch, but in the low light we had trouble determining just how big he was and neither of us were itching to pull the trigger this early in the hunt.
It was an encouraging afternoon that indicated we could expect to see some rutting behavior from the bucks. As we pulled back into camp in the dark, the wall tent was glowing from lantern light and smoke was billowing from the chimney. Matt and Dave welcomed us and had a hearty meal of spaghetti in the works. After dinner we enjoyed a few libations as rain drops began to fall on the tent, leaving us wondering what tomorrow would bring.