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DIY Hunt Part II

Russ Van Orman

The first part of my DIY hunt in Southwest Montana was successful. I had harvested a bull elk on the fourth day of my two week hunt. It wasn’t the biggest bull by trophy standards, however, it was 4 X 5 that I had spotted and stalked myself.

For the second week of my hunt, I was fortunate that my wife, Lori, decided to join me. The weather had been sunny when I picked her up at the airport Friday morning. However, as we crossed the divide headed back to Dillon the temperature stated to plummet and snow flurries were in the air. Pulling into the cabin at the Goose Down Ranch, the temperature gauge on my truck read 10 degrees. That Montana Sunsetwas twenty degrees lower than what it had been when I had left early that morning.

Dan and Shannon Keller were our hosts for the second part of the DIY hunt. They stopped by and greeted us once we were unpacked. I had stayed at The Goose Down two years prior as well. Dan and Shannon are both avid hunters and went out of their way to help us locate game. As you will recall, for the first part of the hunt I had stayed at Gary and Mary Williams’ Fishing Cabin. Fortunately for me, for both the first and second weeks of my hunt I stayed in two great cabins with great hosts.

I was excited as we ate dinner. This was the first time Lori had joined me on a Montana hunt. “Boy, the cold air will make deer move,” I said. “Sure, but if it is this cold now, how cold will it be at 5 in the morning? Lori asked. “Probably colder, but we will dress warm,” I quickly replied.

My wife and I were invited to the Williams’ ranch to hunt deer. I had made arrangements the day before that we would be at the ranch around 6 a.m. That morning after breakfast, we brushed the snow off the truck and climbed in. The temperature gauge read minus 15 degrees and the truck groaned as I started it up. The tires squeaked against the cold newly fallen snow as I slipped it into four wheel drive.

It was snowing heavily as I traveled south on I-15 with the headlights making shadows on the falling snow.  Parking my truck next to the barn, we quickly got out and put on our coats and fanny packs. We walked through the snow to the Williams’ house. The light was already on and Gary and his family friend, Robin, Whitetail buckwere waiting for us. Robin helps Gary and Mary throughout the winter and was a great help in bringing my elk out on an ATV during the first part of my DIY hunt.

“Well, Russ you like this snow?” asked Gary after introductions were made. “I sure do, it will make the deer easier to see,” I replied. “Robin, it is time to do your thing,” Gary said. Robin was going to try and drive the deer to us by walking along the creek bottom while Lori and I climbed up an ATV trail that sat behind the Williams’ barn. “Robin, it will take a good 30 to 45 minutes for us to climb the hill and find a place to sit,” I said. “That sounds good. It will take me at least that to start walking the creek bottom back towards the ranch,” she replied.

“Lori, just follow me,” I whispered as we headed up the trail. The snow puffed up around our boots as we silently climbed the hill. We stopped about half way to catch our breath. I could see from the expression on her face that she was as excited as I was to be there. The snow started to come down harder as we reached the top. It was just starting to get light as we sat down, back to back, and started scanning the rocks and field below us.

“See anything?” I whispered. “No,” she whispered back. We sat there in silence and scanned the area with our binoculars as the darkness gave way to the snowy landscape. From our rocky stand, I could see into the valley below. Suddenly, a shadow appeared in the distance. Through my Leupold binoculars, I could make out the shape of a deer. I quickly switched the binoculars to a 17 power to get a better look. It was a buck which was limping slightly as it headed up the hill towards us.

“Lori, do you see the deer,” I whispered. She didn’t answer. I could make out the deer through the snow flurries; it definitely was a buck.  The buck limped along until it was about 100 yards away then stopped broadside. I could see it was injured. With the snow coming down and the temperatures dropping, the buck wouldn’t make through the winter. I put the Savage Weather Warrior to my shoulder and sighted in then slowly squeezed the trigger.  “Boom,” the 300 WSM found its mark. The buck dropped in its tracks.

“What did you shoot?” Lori asked.  “A buck; it is lying over in the snow. I thought you saw him,” I replied. “Wow, let’s go look,” Lori exclaimed.  “We should wait a few minutes to make sure he is dead,” I said.  We were both excited as we watched the buck in the snow. The deer didn’t move, so we stood up and walked over to it.

He wasn’t the large Montana Whitetail that I had been planning on shooting, but it was still very exciting sharing this adventure Montana Whitetailwith my wife.  I field dressed the buck and we proudly headed back to the truck with the deer in tow. Robin and the Williams’ were excited about my success too and congratulations were made all the way around.

My DIY hunt ended after 8 days. It had been very successful; a bull elk, a deer and a new hunting buddy in Lori. We donated the buck to the Montana food bank and will never forget our mutual adventure.