Muley Mocha

By Craig Ellenbolt
Montana, DIY, Public Land

Craig Ellenbolt - Muley MochaFebruary/March 2014 EHJ (Issue 141) - My year started out pretty rough. A few days before we had the grand opening of our coffee shop that my wife Carrie was going to run, our family got the devastating news that our 7-year-old-son Kaden had muscular dystrophy. With 21 years in the fire service and being a member of the International Association of Firefighters (IAFF) my family had always supported the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Now, one my own was plagued with this horrid genetic disease. My life was turned upside down.

The months of tests and appointments while we tried to find ways to keep a new coffee shop open were wearing on our entire family. Application periods came and went with no thought of applying for any hunts. But, when the Montana draw results showed a large number of surplus tags something just told me that I needed that hunt.

I asked my best friend Tracey Mickens, who I have known since high school, if he would go on the hunt with me. One small problem – by the time of the hunt he would be just 15 months on the mend from spinal fusion surgery.

The first few days of our hunt were looking like we made a bad decision, but when Tracey managed to kill his first mule deer buck things started looking up. The evening after Tracey killed his buck, we made a plan to try the area where I got my 180 buck two years prior. We hit the hills and got into the coulee with high hopes. That morning we saw zero deer and little sign. I was quite concerned, as this area historically holds a good amount of deer. I was at a loss for words. While heading back to camp midday, we decided to look at some new country closer to camp. Once we got there, it was early afternoon with the sun shining brightly. I walked to the top edge of the coulee and immediately started glassing.

Within minutes I found some bedded deer. There were seven does and a forkhorn. I walked to the next finger and spotted a doe bedded 75 yards below me. This was better.

The next morning the temps were finally down in the teens. I went right back to the same place I had seen the deer the day before. Just as daylight broke we immediately spotted a large herd of deer up top of the coulee in a field. The herd of deer had one great buck, but unfortunately he had one side broken off at the base. Once I got to the edge of the coulee, I sat and glassed for some time without seeing anything but a coyote. Immediately, I got mad, as this predator was probably the reason the deer left the coulee.

I headed down the finger to get closer to the coyote to maybe push him out, or even blow my hunt to get a shot at him. Once I got close to the bottom I noticed he had a cow backed into the base of a finger on the other side from me. The coyote was just sitting there barking like a domestic dog.

At that point it was me against him. I ranged him at just under 500 yards so I dropped down to the next finger to close the distance. At 400 yards, lying prone with my bipod, I had a perfectly solid rest. I squeezed a shot off and dropped the coyote.

I immediately started glassing to see if I had spooked deer and didn’t see any. I felt like it was worth my morning to save numerous deer and quite possibly this cow.

I decided to hit one ridge on the way back that gave me a great vantage point to glass a completely different portion of the coulee that I couldn’t see from top. I walked right past the black cow that was cornered and she just stared at me.

Craig Ellenbolt - Muley Mocha

For a full account of Craig's adventure, go to page 18 in the February/March 2014 issue of Eastmans' Hunting Journal.