Milk River Magic Part II


Milk River Magic Part II
By Michael Waddell, Compiled By Nino Bosaz


Hunters Names: Michael Waddell hunted with and worked the camera with Jon LaCorte from Nikon Optics. Outdoor writer/photographer Ian McMurchy, hunted with cameraman Mike McKinsey. NRA writer Scott Maier hunted with cameraman John Tate. Bill Jordan hunted with cameraman Mark Womack.

Game Hunting: Western Whitetail

Where Hunting: Northeast Montana near the Milk River on leased land. Hunting Method: Rifle hunting with Thompson Center Encores of various calibers.  Phase of Season: It was opening weekend of the rifle season. Deer were still hitting the food sources really hard--Alfalfa on the riverbottoms. Deer were starting to get more into the rut. Buck aggressive activity was on the rise. There was a little bit of chasing. But the deer were fairly patternable. In fact we started hunting some of the same bucks we were chasing during our bowhunting in the area earlier on in the season.

Dates Hunted: October 26th to October 31st

Wind Direction & Weather Conditions: The weather was perfect. It was cold, spitting snow when we arrived. Ideal conditions.

Stand Locations: Jordan took his buck out of a hay-bale ground blind. McMurchy also hunted from ground blinds near Alfalfa. LaCorte and I hunted from fixed-position stands, and Maier busted his buck out of a Trax America ladder stand. All stand locations were on the edges of fields.

Trophy Notes: Body-wise the deer taken were fairly big, some 230 pounds dressed. Probably all the bucks taken on this hunt were 4 Ω-years old or better. Every body made really good shots on their respective bucks.

LaCorte’s buck: A main-frame 10-pointer with a really white rack. Nice and wide, heavy beams. Mid 140s.

McMurchy’s buck: A solid, clean-racked eight-point that will probably score 135 or so.

Maier’s buck: Chocolate horned nine-point that was probably in the 4 Ω-year-old range. 140-class buck.

Jordan’s buck: A heavy, narrow-racked 10-point. It had real chocolate-colored horns. This was a huge-bodied deer that we all figured had to be about 7 Ω-years old. This deer scored easily in the 140s.

Nikon Sport Optics' Jon LaCorte didn't have to wait long for this Montana "big shot" to show its bright rack! LaCorte and Waddell were still pulling gear into their stands when the field they were hunting started filling up with deer.

Bill's buck was in the 7 1/2-year-old range. Look at the mass! Here, he is pictured with cameraman Mark Womack.

Hunter's Specialties' Matt Morrett with a nice buck he arrowed during the last week of bow. This Milk River buck was caught coming into an Alfalfa field. The 130-inch deer was taken on an evening post with cameraman J.R. Edge.

Game Seen & Observations:
This was the first and only rifle hunt we did in Montana. We went in on Saturday, Opening day, October 26th and hunted through Halloween, October 31st.

We saw tons of deer every afternoon. We were averaging seeing 50 to 100 deer per sit. The first morning we all went out scouting with the cameras. We all saw a lot of deer, especially ones that we were all interested in taking.

That afternoon, Jon LaCorte and I went to the stand we call the “Bill Winke’ stand. We were hunting a buck we called “Whitey’ because he had a really white rack. The deer got that nickname when we were hunting him during bow season. We weren’t on stand for 10 minutes when these two does came out followed by a couple of small bucks. Then Whitey came out into the open. At 70 yards, Jon shoots “em. It was just a classic “in-the-bag’ easy hunt. We were shocked at how easy it all came together.

That same afternoon Maier and Tate didn’t see a whole lot, but three days later they ended up shooting a really nice main-frame nine-pointer that scored well into the 140s. And actually, all of the bucks killed on this trip were in the 140s. Maier took this buck with a really neat, old lever-action rifle at some 200 yards. This hunt came out really great on video.

The second afternoon that we were there, Bill Jordan killed a really big 10-pointer that he had been hunting during the bow season. Ian McMurchy had the toughest hunt out of everybody. He hunted every day and had several close calls on two different big bucks, but just couldn’t quite get things to work. Finally on the last morning of our stay there, Ian killed a nice eight-point.

Basically this was one of those hunts where we just went in there and slammed “em.

A Funny Footnote: One special note about prolific outdoor writer/photographer Ian McMurchy. He’s really into guns and ballistics as many of you probably already know due to his hundreds of published works. He’s fanatical about shooting firearms, and shooting them from long ranges. One early afternoon he and his cameraman went to a safe area to see what the Thompson Center Encore could really do. Ian was target-shooting rocks at 400 and 500 yards away. He’s so into guns some of the guys wondered which he’d prefer doing--shooting deer or shooting rocks? Ha, ha, ha! McMurchy is a very talented outdoor writer and photographer. Team Realtree was glad to have him at camp as well as the rest of the crew.

While researching whitetail land to hunt near the Milk River, Tim Andrus took a turn towards mule deer. His muley is an impressive one to say the least!
photo courtesy tim andrus

The day of December 23rd finds most people at Christmas parties or doing last minute shopping. For most deer hunters the season is over unless you live in Texas or most southern states where their seasons extend into January. As for me here in western New York the hunting is over, or is it?

This is the time of year where I do a different kind of hunting where the season never closes. I spend hours on the phone and computer trying to access land in areas that consistently harbor big whitetails. If you pick up any deer magazine you’ll see the same states year after year in the spotlight (Kansas, Iowa, Montana, Illinois). Do you think it is a coincidence that the producers of the Monster Bucks Series return to the Milk River region of Montana year after year? I don’t think so.

This past December I began the task of finding some property in eastern Montana that would give me the option to hunt whitetails or mule deer. After a few calls and e-mails I realized that accessing ground on the Milk River was going to be tough unless I was willing to pay a high trespass fee. So at this time I dropped south to search the area of the Yellowstone River. And after a few more calls I made a contact with a landowner that owned 18,000 acres in the heart of the badlands in eastern Montana just off of the Yellowstone River. He was located near the city of Glendive and after speaking to him and getting the particulars on his spread of 28 square miles I had locked into the first week of November. He also informed me that his whitetails had been hit with an outbreak of E.H.D (nicknamed Blue Tongue) and the population was knocked down to some extent, but there was still an ample herd in his creek bottom. Other than that, I was set for my first hunt in 2002 and it wasn’t even Christmas 2001 yet.

"After darkness came and not much whitetail activity, except a few young bucks, I decided to switch gears and hunt for mule deer in the morning."
photo courtesy tim andrus



Fast forward to November 3rd 2002, and I’m riding around with the landowner learning the property borders and any other particulars of the mass of property that he owns. Prior to me being there I had done some long-range scouting using topo maps and aerial photos that I had acquired through I had a good idea where to start when I got there.

My first night I was set up for whitetails on a hay lot that bordered a small creek bottom. After darkness came and not much whitetail activity, except a few young bucks, I decided to switch gears and hunt for mule deer in the morning. I had remembered a large wheat stubble field up in the badlands that had brush choked coulees on each side and thought that might be a good place to start. The next morning I got up on top early to get in a good vantage point to hopefully get on a good buck before he reached the safety of those coulees. Right at first light I spotted a lone doe following a fence line that ran to the east of me. A few minutes later I spotted three bucks following the same fence line and one was a definite shooter.

After seeing this I had to drop back a little and circle around this big rock outcropping to get in a better position. Just as I placed my pack on the ground for a steady rest, the doe came into view. Perfect, so I thought. I waited for what seemed like hours, which was probably more like two minutes. Finally I couldn’t take it any longer so I took a peek. Wide open spaces was all I saw and after seeing nothing for a few minutes I decided to take action and see where they went. I soon saw a deep drainage ditch that ran out of the stubble field and into the coulee. As I got closer I would stop and glass then move ahead a few yards and do it again. Finally I reached the edge and saw no bucks, not even the lone doe. Then, without warning the bucks broke out of an area of scrub oaks right below me and took off down the coulee. I immediately saw my buck and tried to get a shot, but there was no way.



Luckily for me the trio of bucks came to an opening and the two smaller ones barreled right through, not the bigger one. He watched to see how they would fare running through the opening. Bad move for him, good move for me as the 300 Win. Mag. barked and the buck was down.

And man what a buck, a 5x7 rack that was just shy of 25 inches wide and nice and tall. He also had some character to him with a sticker coming off his left main beam and a split brow tine to boot. To me, he was a great first muley buck.

In closing, I went there with the thought of hopefully bringing home a big whitetail, but conditions didn’t warrant that and I had to switch to mule deer. That’s something you have to be open to when you have only a week to hunt. And remember always that, change can be good!—Tim Andrus, Team Realtree Prostaffer

About the author: Tim Andrus hails from western New York. He is a licensed New York State hunting guide and a member of the Team Realtree Prostaff. Andrus is also a member of the Scent-Lok Advisory Staff and a seminar speaker. His specialties include Do-it-yourself hunts in the Midwest and western states including Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, Montana Nebraska and others. Andrus’ very understanding wife is Anne. Their 4-year-old daughter Brooke is turning out to be Tim’s best hunting partner yet! “Whenever possible I take them with me to what shows I may be doing. Since my daughter’s birth in 1998 she has been with me on 4 hunts including this most recent mule deer hunt in Montana.