Hunting and Fishing 2018
As a MTWW hunter in 2017 with Best of the Bulls outfitting, I had the privilege to return with the Best of the Bulls and lead a hunt with four MTWW’s. The year was filled with plenty of rain filling the watering holes deep into the Bull Mountains, and the burned over area of 2017 was plentiful with tall grass and more than enough feed throughout the hill country. The temperatures were mild with little precipitation. This made for a much harder hunt for the WW’s.
On Oct. 31st the MTWW’s hunters filtered into the lodge leased by Bob who owns Best of the Bulls. We were all welcomed by staff, starting with the cooks who prepared a huge feast of a home cooked dinner with all the fixings, desert and an amazing cake welcoming the hunters. There was so much food we could have ate leftovers for the entire 4 day hunt. The cooks continued to spoil us at every meal from snacks early in the mornings before the hunt to a large brunch after we returned to the lodge. Dinners at the end of the day were beyond amazing every night.
As the hunters were visiting and getting to know one another, those of us who served in Iraq together got caught up on the years past, remembering our time together during OIF III. Before the hunters could start their hunting the following day some gear was needed. Dean Murray who works for Scheels in Billings was able to put together a gift package for each hunter which was donated by Scheels to show their appreciation for these four guys and their sacrifices. The package included Vortex Binoculars, Binocular case, and a couple of knives for skinning/deboning, an electric sharpener and a few other smaller items for the guys to add to their packs.
Day one of the hunt Josh Beckette and Justin Moschelle went with a guide Jeff to look for some cow or spike elk. I rode along with Brian Canich, Kelly Nieskins and Bob the guide/owner. We were able to spot a large herd of elk near the edge of a tree line. It was crisp this morning and multiple bull elk were bugling even though it was November and cows mewing. This was awesome for the 3 of us to hear and take in. We attempted to cut the elk off as they entered the tree line and head for property we did not have access to. We were unsuccessful at intercepting the herd and had to listen to the bugles fade away as they moved deeper into the woods.
The first evening the hunters split into the same groups then were dropped off at different ground blinds in hopes that a trophy Mule Deer or Whitetail would show up. I sat with Kelly this night as we watched does and small bucks show up and feed further into the fields. We could see the ground blind Brian was in and watched a really nice whitetail buck feed toward him. Hoping he would get a shot we watched the buck as well as other deer near our blind. Kelly then spotted a Mule Deer buck, and got positioned to ensure this was a buck he wanted to harvest. Kelly took a couple shots with the 2nd dropping the buck in its tracks and the two of us laughing and in disbelief of how crazy things got for a minute. We then gathered up our gear and walked to that nice buck. We never did hear a shot from Brian and later found out he was unable to take a shot at the Whitetail due to vegetation in his way. The evening hunt also consisted of Justin being able to harvest his first whitetail ever, being a good buck and his first whitetail he was pretty happy with the outcome.
Day two’s morning hunt was as day one with us looking for elk and the 3 of us hunting with guide Bubba as Bob was capping out the bucks from the previous evening. I was able to spot a loan elk over a mile away so Bubba took Brian to a good location and cow called it within shooting range. This is where we noticed that it was a small calf and Brian made the decision not to shoot. Going into the evening hunt Brian and Josh were hunting with Jeff. They were able to spot some animals but nothing they would like to take.
Bubba had myself, Justine and Kelly in the hopes we could spot some elk coming out to feed and make a move on them. With about 15 minutes before the end of shooting time we spotted a loan elk near the tree line from the first day. We decided to make a move and skirted the farmland taking cover behind sporadic trees as well as some hills along the drainage. We covered 800 to 1000 yds. to get within just over 200. Justin was ready to take aim as Kelly was going to back him up. With the sun setting we determined this elk was a spike and could be taken. Unfortunately Justin took some shots and was unsuccessful at harvesting this elk. The backup plan also failed due to a juniper blocking any chance at Kelly having a clear line of site.
Day 3 began on a Saturday so other hunters were headed to adjacent public land which we hoped would be good to push animals out toward us, but was also a concern that all the activity would spook the animals further away from the farms and ranches we were hunting. The groups were set up the same as the evening before as we drove up a road and bumped into some other hunters that actually had permission to where we were hunting. These individuals spotted a few head of elk and asked if we would like to join them in a stalk on them. Bubba took Kelly while Justin and I stayed in the truck as to not have too many moving parts making noise and scaring the elk away. Justin and I waited anxiously in the truck then we heard a shot then another and a couple more. We sat and waited, unable to see the elk or any of the hunters. Then over the ridge comes Kelly and Bubba, with an elk on the ground we were all jacked up on the excitement. After some pictures and getting her loaded up we returned to the lodge to find out that Josh was successful on taking a long shot on a cow
Another hunter not associated with MTWW was hunting for a Bull and was successful this day as well which opened up more access for these guys to pursue deer and elk in that area. So during the evening the groups were once again the same. Brian and Josh were able to both tag out with Brian taking a nice mule deer buck and Josh taking a big unique whitetail buck. Not being with them during the hunt I don’t have the details but they were both very excited on what they got and worked together to get their deer.
Day 4 began with Josh and Kelly tagged out so Brian went with Bubba as Justin and I went with Bob. We tried spotting some elk in a couple places to no success then drove up a road to another location. As Justin spotted two elk, he got out to take aim and with all of the excitement of the elk right there he saw they are both bull elk which are not legal without a special permit in this unit. Still the excitement of seeing them was great. The morning produced nothing further and we returned to the lodge and decided to call it the end of the hunt since the two remaining hunters had 4 to 6 hours of driving home in front of them. Bob with his mild manner and generosity offered Brian a chance to come back once the elk become more abundant in the area. I have not heard if he has made a trip back to get his cow or not.
A huge thank you to the ladies who did the cooking, the guides of Best of the Bulls who made it all happen; Bubba and Jeff, Greg all his coordinating and owner/guide Bob. Great company from the other hunters in camp and their success of a fine bull. Also a huge thank you the Scheels of Billings and Dean Murray, Sheryl and Mike Goffena, the owners of the lodge, and a large portion of the land we hunted, as well as Sheryl’s awesome cake welcoming us.
Thank you for letting me share this hunt with these guys!