PDA

View Full Version : Montana mule deer genetics are still out there!



mt-mike
03-31-2013, 09:24 AM
I've had a little trouble getting my first new thread posted properly. Had to have the administrator delete a couple of my first tries. I'm a new participant in this forum but actually I've been a member for a year and a half. I thought this posting would be a good way to introduce myself and show that mule deer are one of my main passions. I've hunted a lot of years but I'm still looking for that monster mule deer and having a lot of fun trying. Hopefully, this post will help some of you to really rev up for next years mule deer season!

Beginning of April, a great time to be out fishing here in Montana. I’ve been doing some of that. But, like most of you, I’ve also been busy applying for hunting tags both here in Montana and a few other states as well. Maybe it has been the application process that has gotten my mind on mule deer. Montana is not well known for really big mule deer bucks. Because of that notion I’ve been preoccupied for a number of years now with the need to hunt places like Colorado, Wyoming’s Greys River country, Alberta and most recently Nevada. These places are great for big trophy bucks and I will continue applying for tags in all of them. However, Montana has and I believe still can produce some high quality mule deer bucks despite the fact that there are many more hunters out there, access is tougher, droughts are hard on them, and we have been hunting them hard right thru the rut.

I just recently realized that I know of five bucks that are world class in most people’s book which were taken between the 1960’s and early 2000’s within a radius of 25-miles from where I live near Helena Montana. Four of the five were taken on public land DIY style. The fifth one which I picked up in 1966 was taken by an unknown hunter. I am assuming it was taken near the place where I found it which is a combination of public and private land. But land where anyone could hunt, especially in those days.

I’ll start with the buck I found in 1966. In those days and the years between the late 1940’s and the mid 60’s horns and antlers were not held in such high esteem or valued by hunters the way we value them today. Consequently, it was not uncommon to hear about someone taking a 6-point bull elk and loping its head off to bring home only the meat and maybe the teeth. Likewise, big bucks were killed for meat and their heads were left in the field. Another thing hunters did was bring out the head or antlers and show them off a little then simply throw them on to the pile of antlers out back. Where they weathered and got chewed on by rodents, etc. Wasted away!

During the fall of 1966 I was riding with my friend in his Willys jeep when we stumbled into an old abandoned falling down cabin with a 6-feet high stack of antlers in back. There were elk and deer antlers and sheds. They were all old and faded out white. I spotted the left horn of this buck way down in the stack. Dug him out just because we were interested in seeing just how big he was. He was huge. I kept him and made an effort to re-color the antlers. I still have him today. Took him off the wall and cleaned the antlers up to take these pictures. 35” total width – 213” gross score - 27” main beams.

http://i1354.photobucket.com/albums/q686/Mt-mike/Eastmans%20Forum/IMG_2537_zps34b7ea1b.jpg

About that same time (1966) my good friend and hunting buddy was hunting in November after a snow storm with some of his relatives and came on this next buck with a bunch of does. He has a broken main beam on his left side and yet still manages to score 204 3/8” gross in 2012. His antlers have 10-points on the right and 9 on the left side. He is 34 1/8" wide and his right G-2 is 18 0/8”. We estimate that approximately 6” was broken off the main beam.

69-inches of combined spread!
http://i1354.photobucket.com/albums/q686/Mt-mike/Eastmans%20Forum/IMG_2530_zps022fa228.jpg

In 1968 when I was just starting out self teaching myself taxidermy a hunter from Helena brought in an unbelievably BIG mule deer for me to mount. This buck was so tall it didn’t look wide. The tape measure however, read 29 ½- inches wide! The basic typical score was an unbelievable 203 0/8” gross (green). With 23 5/8” of non-typical points including a 14” drop tine, he scored 226 5/8” gross non-typical (green).
http://i1354.photobucket.com/albums/q686/Mt-mike/Eastmans%20Forum/scan0002_zps89891ac4.jpg

In 1979 I took my young brother-in-law out to get his first deer. We were sitting eating our lunch when a huge buck walked out in front of us. He stopped quartering away and looking back at us right in the middle of a patch of snow. We had both grabbed our rifles. I didn’t even put my binoc’s on him when I said my famous quote, “If you aren’t going to shoot I will.” He shot. I caped the buck, cut off the skull cap and quartered him. We hauled out 206-pounds of buck after coming back up the mountain with our backpacks. This buck grossed 188” Typical with 6 or 8-inches of non-typical points to boot.
http://i1354.photobucket.com/albums/q686/Mt-mike/Eastmans%20Forum/deer017_zps2e21167e.jpg

The fifth buck is very similar to the one with the broken main beam shown above and its from the same hunting unit. It scores over 200” gross non-typical and was taken by some friends in 2004.
5370

Ikeepitcold
03-31-2013, 09:25 AM
Looks good Mike! Welcome and those are some real great bucks!

hvfd21walker
03-31-2013, 10:02 AM
Nice post. Welcome to the forum.

tdub24
04-01-2013, 09:07 AM
Awesome bucks, thanks for sharing and welcome to the forum!

Backcountry Stalker
04-01-2013, 12:16 PM
Man! what I would do for a first buck like that! Welcome mt mike

RUTTIN
04-01-2013, 12:21 PM
Great looking deer, welcome aboard!

sjsmallfield
04-01-2013, 06:00 PM
That is one hell of an intro Mike. Thanks for sharing and welcome to the forum.

Muleys 24/7
04-01-2013, 07:18 PM
Some nice bucks:cool:

nwwa huner
04-01-2013, 09:33 PM
Those bucks are sweet!!!!

BossBrott
04-03-2013, 07:03 AM
Those are a couple great bucks. Congrats on the fine trophies, and more to come. Steve

medtech10
04-08-2013, 03:02 PM
Since I am also from MT, and have been hunting public land in the state for the last 18 years, I wanted to put my two cents in. I agree with MT Mike that the genetics are still out there in MT; thanks to some rough backcountry, private landowners that manage their deer, and a few limited entry areas that are managed correctly. I hunt as hard as anyone out there, ofter spending 3-7 days out with my camp on my back. I have hunted just about everywhere in the state from the "Bob", the eastern MT plains/breaks, Mission mtns backcountry, the heavily wooded western part of the state, and the decimated southwestern corner of the state.

Its sad what has happened and continues to happen to the mule deer in MT. I remember when I use to hunt the Custer National Forest in eastern MT and would see 20-30 bucks per day, and would see hundreds of does/fawns. I was there last year in the peak of the rut (Thanksgiving week) and I was blown away by the amount of hunters first of all, the extremely low numbers of bucks, and the even sadder number of does/fawns that I saw. When I use to hunt in the Bob Marshall Wilderness I never saw overwhelming amounts of deer, but I used to see at least 30-50% more than I do now, hunting the same areas at the same times of the year. I grew up in Southwestern MT (Dillon) and the mule deer numbers there are so sad (except for Lima Peaks unit because its limited entry) that I wouldn't even consider harvesting a mule deer in that area for fear that it was the last living one around (again except for private land where folks like me can't hunt)!!! What is even sadder is that the Montana FWP has barely cut down the doe/fawn tags (not unlimited anymore), they are still allowing unlimited hunting for 6 full weeks with about half of it during the rut, and the horrible drought we've been experiencing isn't helping matters either. To top it all off, the commission has now moved the hunting season back a week so that even more of the UNLIMITED hunting pressure is in the peak of the rut. These poor deer on public land don't stand a chance and will never get to express the genetics that they carry!!!!

I'm not saying that the FWP needs to micro-manage mule deer like they do in other states like CO, WY (for non-residents), or NV, and I don't pretend to be a wildlife biologist, but I can see from my own hunting experiences that something needs to change!!! If we would just stop the unlimited deer hunting before the rut, like they do in several units in North-Central MT, I think it would really help. I also don't think that shooting literally 1000's of doe/fawns is helping any either!!!

I don't want to make it sound like the mule deer hunting in MT is terrible, but it's a far cry from what it once was and an even farther cry from what I think it should be. Having harvested some great MT bucks (one 186" typical 4x4 and one 193" non-typical) I still believe its do able with some very hard hunting and patience. I do enjoy getting to hunt mule deer anywhere in the state, every year on a general tag, but I would be willing to have to apply like many states make you. I am thankful however that other states do care about their mule deer populations and manage them accordingly, and I'll continue to apply/hunt these states as long as they'll have me.

MSUcat61
04-08-2013, 11:33 PM
Since I am also from MT, and have been hunting public land in the state for the last 18 years, I wanted to put my two cents in. I agree with MT Mike that the genetics are still out there in MT; thanks to some rough backcountry, private landowners that manage their deer, and a few limited entry areas that are managed correctly. I hunt as hard as anyone out there, ofter spending 3-7 days out with my camp on my back. I have hunted just about everywhere in the state from the "Bob", the eastern MT plains/breaks, Mission mtns backcountry, the heavily wooded western part of the state, and the decimated southwestern corner of the state.

Its sad what has happened and continues to happen to the mule deer in MT. I remember when I use to hunt the Custer National Forest in eastern MT and would see 20-30 bucks per day, and would see hundreds of does/fawns. I was there last year in the peak of the rut (Thanksgiving week) and I was blown away by the amount of hunters first of all, the extremely low numbers of bucks, and the even sadder number of does/fawns that I saw. When I use to hunt in the Bob Marshall Wilderness I never saw overwhelming amounts of deer, but I used to see at least 30-50% more than I do now, hunting the same areas at the same times of the year. I grew up in Southwestern MT (Dillon) and the mule deer numbers there are so sad (except for Lima Peaks unit because its limited entry) that I wouldn't even consider harvesting a mule deer in that area for fear that it was the last living one around (again except for private land where folks like me can't hunt)!!! What is even sadder is that the Montana FWP has barely cut down the doe/fawn tags (not unlimited anymore), they are still allowing unlimited hunting for 6 full weeks with about half of it during the rut, and the horrible drought we've been experiencing isn't helping matters either. To top it all off, the commission has now moved the hunting season back a week so that even more of the UNLIMITED hunting pressure is in the peak of the rut. These poor deer on public land don't stand a chance and will never get to express the genetics that they carry!!!!

I'm not saying that the FWP needs to micro-manage mule deer like they do in other states like CO, WY (for non-residents), or NV, and I don't pretend to be a wildlife biologist, but I can see from my own hunting experiences that something needs to change!!! If we would just stop the unlimited deer hunting before the rut, like they do in several units in North-Central MT, I think it would really help. I also don't think that shooting literally 1000's of doe/fawns is helping any either!!!

I don't want to make it sound like the mule deer hunting in MT is terrible, but it's a far cry from what it once was and an even farther cry from what I think it should be. Having harvested some great MT bucks (one 186" typical 4x4 and one 193" non-typical) I still believe its do able with some very hard hunting and patience. I do enjoy getting to hunt mule deer anywhere in the state, every year on a general tag, but I would be willing to have to apply like many states make you. I am thankful however that other states do care about their mule deer populations and manage them accordingly, and I'll continue to apply/hunt these states as long as they'll have me.

Since FWP started introducing the Unlimited Mule Deer Buck by Permit Only in the units around Anaconda there has been a DRAMATIC improvement in the quality of bucks in those units in only a three or four year period. It used to be that every high school kid with a pick-up and rifle would shoot the first two-point buck they saw (full admission, myself included). But by forcing you to pick a unit, even though the tags are unlimited, it eliminated a ton of potential hunters in those units simply because the general tag was a better tag. It's amazing that in such a short amount of time, you can go from seeing just does in the alfalfa fields in the summers, to routinely seeing four-point bucks with those does. The units are by no means a destination hunt, but they are at least much improved from what they were.

The other thing is that it changes the culture of what hunters take and what they pass. A buck that one would have been taken simply because it's the only buck you'll see in the area has turned into a passable buck because the hunter knows there are better bucks around. I even convinced my dad to pass on a non-typical 6x5 on our land a couple years ago simply because we knew there were better bucks around now and the buck had some growing to do. That wouldn't have really happened before they changed the regs. This seems like a good method that FWP could expand upon and still be received well with the hunting community in Montana. This has also increased the hunting pressure on whitetails which seems like a good thing to me.

medtech10
04-10-2013, 01:39 PM
You must have a couple biologists in your neck of the woods that have recognized that something needs to be done. I'm not sure if that management strategy is the right thing to do, but at least it is something! From reading your post it sounds like it is definitely helping there. I just feel like the mule deer management (which is NO management) in MT is so prehistoric it's embarrassing! Unlimited rut hunting for mule deer for nearly the entire rut is not management, it's a JOKE!!!!!

tttoadman
04-10-2013, 04:39 PM
I know my mind set has changed over the years. I think serious mule deer hunters today need to be willing to walk away at the end of the season with a tag in hand as opposed to just filling the tag with a marginal one. I was young once too, and took a few that I would never take today. Everybody has to get a few under their belt to get the passion going. I just hope that I can practice what I preach when the time comes.

My brother and I hunted Steens in Oregon last year, and got a couple good ones. During the short time we were there, we saw quite a few small bucks also. I saw a young 3 point that was pushing 25 wide, which gives me hope for the future there. The unfortunate thing we saw(heard) was the taking of small bucks even by out of state guys who burned 8 or 10 points to get there. I know its hard to avoid the excitement, but we need to try our best to start every day with an expectation and "try" not to settle for anything less.

The association with the people on this forum is truly an inspiration to hunt hard and hold out for the trophies that can be found. I think the most important thing is to know what kind of expectation is realistic for the aerea you are in.

I am just babbling now. i need to go back to work.

tdub24
04-11-2013, 07:42 AM
I agree ttoadman, here in NV I ate my tag last year. Then looking at the overall harvest stats here, there were 8,894 bucks taken last year. Of those, 5,814 bucks were 3 points or less. Thats 65% of the take being immature or young. Im curious to see what the quota numbers will be again this year. If NDOW decides to do the same outrageous numbers and the stats hold steady, there will not be any quality left in NV. Like you said, if folks could hold off shooting bambi and look for mature deer, the herd quality will not suffer. Yes you may end the season empty handed, but the future hunting quality will still be in take.

mt-mike
04-12-2013, 12:20 PM
I think that what you guys are expressing in this thread is what a lot of us are thinking about the management of mule deer. Here in Montana we got spoiled back in the 60’s, 70’s, etc. when we could have it all – i.e., the whole state to hunt, 5-weeks to hunt, lots of deer, not many hunters and so on. Well, it couldn’t last. Now there are too many hunters and not enough older age class bucks. Also, I think the mule deer is appreciated much more now-a-days as a top notch trophy animal, resulting in a higher percentage of us hunting selectively for the older bucks. There was a period back in the 1980’s when our Fish & Game professionals raised the issue of managing for quality with shorter seasons and limitations on areas a hunter could hunt bucks in a given year. Unfortunately, as I remember it, hunters expressed loud and clear they wanted to continue the 5-week seasons and have the ability to hunt statewide. Montana continued to manage for maximum opportunity and our quality continued to go down hill.

In more recent times our FWP has actually started a slow migration towards managing for quality with limited quotas, especially in certain areas with the available habitat and good genetics. Also, as has been mentioned, there are an increasing number of units to hunt mule deer bucks only if you commit to hunting them in that unit only. I think these changes are good. I encourage all of you with strong feelings about the quality of our mule deer population to let FWP know that you favor what they have done in this area and encourage further steps towards quality management in the future. My point in showing the tremendous potential in these areas where I like to hunt, is to stimulate more interest in reducing the pressure on our mule deer bucks so we can enjoy a balanced age structure in more of our deer herds and have a chance of seeing a buck like those in the pictures at the beginning of this thread.