I think anyone who hunted in Eastern Montana this fall can agree that deer numbers were down significantly again this year. Some locals have told me that where there were once 600 deer they were lucky to see 60 this season. The trend has been in a substantial downward spiral over the past five or six years. A vicious combination of disease (EHD), predation (cougars, coyotes and wolves) and overhunting during the rut has proven to have a very significant and adverse impact on the state’s largest deer herd.
But as we have seen in other states before, Wyoming included, when the deer numbers drop, the trophy quality often ticks up a little bit as a result. This year was certainly no exception to that rule. Rod Paschke and I and our 2013 EHJ hunt winner, Shawn Vickerman from Minnesota managed to put a lock on a big, wide 29-inch buck early in the season. For those of you who don’t hunt this area of the country much, in Eastern Montana a 29-inch rack-to-rack (no cheaters) mule deer is considered a toad.
Hunting bucks in October has it pros and cons. Although the hunting is much tougher than it usually would be later on during the rut, taking the first crack at pre-scouted bucks certainly has its merits. Having chosen to not hunt the rut this year, both Rod and I were a touch nervous at what we might find out in the sage country of Montana. But a few pre-season scouting trips paid off and the hunt winner made a perfect 205-yard shot on the buck as he stood up out of his bed to push a smaller buck out of his nest.
To catch up on the details of this exciting buck hunt, make sure you tune into the all new season of Eastmans’ Hunting TV on the Outdoor Channel starting on December 31.
See you there!