Going into the 2020 season, I had already made up my mind that I wanted to put my tag on a big, mature buck during the rut with my rifle. Having tagged out during archery season for the past few years, I was itching to hunt deer during the rut again in Montana. I really wanted to kill a mature buck that broke the 180” mark since my biggest bucks up to this point were solid high 70s deer I had taken with my bow. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy working full time, and only hunting on the weekends, but I was up for the challenge. Side note: Score really doesn’t matter to me in all seriousness, but I just enjoy targeting mature, old deer that are in their prime or past! And with that, given the right genetics, typically comes high-scoring deer. I had a solid archery season and was able to harvest an antelope and a nice 6 point bull. Once rifle season began, I was patiently waiting for late November, knowing that’s when the bigger bucks let their guard down and started chasing does.
Montana Deer Hunt - Day OneOn November 20th, my brother and I headed to Eastern MT to a new area we had never hunted. We got into deer right away, and passed a handful of great bucks, holding out for something special! This time of year is fun because for every doe you see, you know there’s a buck around. We spent the entire day walking ridges, glassing, and picking through bucks with high hopes of coming across a shooter. I was very close to pulling the trigger on a couple of different bucks. Luckily my brother can be pretty picky and talked me into holding out for something better - fortunately!
Montana Deer Hunt - Day Two
On the morning of Day 2, we put our glass to work. We picked apart the country while deer were still up and moving. Again, we saw some really nice bucks but still, nothing that gave us that “wow” factor. We decided to hit the ridges and turn up deer bedded in the steep cuts and breaks. There were a lot of thick covers, so we knew there were deer we weren’t seeing. We pounded ridges all day and covered a lot of country. During the last couple hours of light, we crested a ridge, and immediately saw what we had been looking for. There was a doe bedded in the cedars, with a buck right above her. Instantly I knew he was a shooter! I quickly set my rifle up and laid down prone, ranging him at 542 yards. I dialed my scope and waited for him to turn broadside as my brother was filming through the spotting scope, watching my shot. The buck turned and I made a great shot right behind his shoulder! I was so pumped!! Everything happened pretty fast, but I knew I had just taken my biggest deer to date! Walking up to him verified that! He definitely grew a little as I walked up to him, which doesn’t happen very often! He tapes out at 191 - 5/8”.
This hunt is definitely one that my brother and I will remember forever. There’s just something about targeting old, mature deer that I will look forward to every season!
My GearOn this hunt, it was low 20’s in the morning, getting up into the mid 40’s during the day. I was running the Kaibab 150 Merino Wool Long Sleeve as my base layer with the Lost Peak Ultralite Jacket [updated to Grid Lite Jacket - check out this article for more details] and Hardscrabble Vest in Summit. I keep my Ptarmigan 850 Ultra Down Jacket handy at all times so I can throw it on when I sit and glass for longer periods. For pants, I was running the Kodiak Late Season pants. I have been using Skre Gear for over 3 years now and it just flat out works! From 90-degree late summer archery hunts to chasing wolves in -20 degree Montana winters - I have always been prepared with Skre Gear!
To shop the items used during this hunt, make sure to check out the Early Season Bundle or for gear to fit any season check out the Extreme All Season Bundle.