This was in northeast Montana’s Milk River Valley, an location recognized for making lots of whitetails, some of them wall-hangers. Even though my meals plot looked succulent and had all the wide variety of a supper-club salad bar, deer walked suitable previous it on their way to their preferred groceries: the irrigated alfalfa that dominates the valley’s agricultural ground.
That was my initial lesson in Western whitetail hunting: Do not rely on a single attractant. For the second lesson, I served as the skilled teacher. My buddy, a devoted deer hunter from my residence state of Missouri, showed up with his bow and a climbing stand. He stored his hunting garments in a scent-excluding tote and showered with perfume-totally free soap. He was genuinely perplexed when I jumped in my pickup wearing function-worn Carhartts and a sweaty ball cap, and invited him to come spot deer for the evening hunt.
We drove to a bluff overlooking the Milk, leaned back into sandstone rimrocks, and glassed the valley under. As soon as we saw a buck worth chasing emerge from a line of cottonwoods, we assessed the wind, drove down to the valley, and crawled into an irrigation ditch. With the wind in our face and our profiles low, we worked down the ditch till we intercepted the target buck. My buddy scooched into the side of the ditch and missed a 35-yard bow shot at a dandy four-point (which he kept referring to by its Eastern count: an eight-point).
He’d in no way hunted deer from the ground but appreciated the takeaway: Deer in wide-open nation adhere to predictable patterns but erratic routes, and so mobile hunters have an edge more than these in stands or blinds. Constant winds, normally from the west or northwest, are the invisible buddy of stalkers.
The steady expansion of whitetails out of Midwestern woodlands is an old story. They’re established in most riverbottoms of the West, share space with mule deer in CRP fields and dry prairie washes, and dominate reduce-elevation pine forests from the Black Hills to northwest Montana into eastern Washington. The tiny “gray ghost” of the Southwest, the Coues deer, is also a flavor of whitetail, but for the purposes of this story, we’re speaking about the bigger, far more common Eastern whitetail.
Hunting whitetails in the West can be a gentlemanly affair. Whitetails anyplace are nervous in the open, but out right here, since they are usually essential to come into fields to feed, deer emerge from cover toward evening, gorge properly into the evening, then go back to that cover to sleep for a great deal of the day. That behavior permits hunters to sleep in and get in location to intercept deer just prior to twilight. It also puts a premium on fantastic optics, which not only resolve detail across extended distances but also collect light for final-minute shots.
Optics are also important assets for hunting upland whitetails, which exist in low densities more than expansive nation. The most effective open-nation deer hunters I know park their pickups on vantages and use window-mounted spotting scopes to choose apart the landscape for hours. When they uncover a buck worth pursuing, they devote many days to patterning it prior to they uncover a way to get inside killing variety. That brings up a further truism of Western deer hunting: You will normally take longer shots right here, with a bow or a rifle, than you may possibly in tight-cover nation.
The final lesson for this semester: Western whitetails respond to calls far more readily than their Eastern cousins. Possibly it is since of the open spaces, but sound carries properly right here, and the percussive crash of rattling antlers or the bellicose grunt of a buck get in touch with can draw daylight whitetails out of cover for these hunters who do not cotton to sleeping in and hunting the final light of a Western evening.
Study Subsequent: Ladies Hunters Tagging Out in Nebraska’s Sandhills
Out of the ashes of Cabela’s, the outside retail giant that was bought by the even bigger Bass Pro Shops in 2017, comes a new line of outside gear that contains a backpack objective-constructed for deer hunters.
Nexgen Outfitters’ Whitetail Caddy Pack ($100) is a hybrid of a run-and-gun gear tote—with almost two,000 cubic inches of capacity—and a treestand workbench exterior flaps open to present straightforward access to calls, scents, bug repellent, or optics. A rapid-release buckle on the beefy manage strap clips more than limbs as significant as four inches in diameter.
The pack is out there in Realtree Timber camo pattern.