I really think a persons first hunt out west should be antelope. An antelope hunt will be low stress and not too difficult. You entire group will take antelope home and have enough time to enjoy a guys trip. Your chances of 100% success and satisfaction with mule deer is much lower unless you are paying for some decent private land. Mule deer can definitely be had on public but it is simply a more demanding hunt. I would look into a combination mule deer/antelope hunt if you are dead set on the deer. Again it will allow you a higher chance of everyone at least harvesting one animal.... I would do that in Wyoming simply due to draw odds.
Hilltop, that had been our plan, WY pronghorn for a first hunt, and do that in 2015, but October of that year is already filling up and looks like it won't work (sister in law getting married and a conference in Hawaii). We had been considering MT because of basically all the "opportunity" as others have noted. We are not looking for a trophy hunt at all for now, and may never really look for that in MT in terms of LE draw. We started this year to build points in WY and UT for deer in terms of looking for a draw down the road for a chance at a "trophy" type hunt. I was thinking MT deer as an alternative that we can pursue in November, that allows for some flexibilty both in terms of dates and area to hunt. SE MT also seems like the terrain would not be as challenging as some more rugged mulie hunts.
We are all relatively young (32-33 in 2015) and have hunted big game since we were kids, so going home without an animal is fine. The potential to enjoy the western scenery, see game and work on our western hunting skills is what the intention would be. Big picture wise our long term western hunting plans are primarily for deer, with the occasional pronghorn or elk hunt every few years so that made me lean more toward a deer hunt for next year over PH.
Our point building and draw strategy does not involve MT, but we basically had it on the list as a place to hunt the years when draw hunts didn't happen or we didn't want to draw a deer, PH or Elk tag in WY or UT. So, getting to know an area and start to learn a region/district would be important there if it is a place we will frequent and try to wring some value out of.
GH247, thanks for the tip on the MT PH tag idea, other than fronting the money, putting in for PH close to or in R7 sounds like a good idea. Probably lean away from that for 2015 to focus on one thing, but if we get familiary with an area and can shoot deer that definately makes sense. I really like how long the MT season is. All but one in our small group bowhunt as well so MT offers lots of flexibility for deer.
How is the PH hunting in Region 7? It looks like the 700-20 license is good throughout region 7 for PH. Is that right? Season ends November 10, so if we are wanting to hunt deer later in November, we would be looking at two trips. The first week and a half of November would catch the end of PH season and be in deer season, but be right during our MN firearm season. It sounds like deer rut activity in SE MT is going to be better later in Nov than the first 10 days.
Decisions. Maybe we will go back to a WY PH hunt, but we are all way more interested in deer. If the hunt is half as fun as the planning, its going to be a blast.
"Now two flags fly above my land that really sum up how I fee. One is the colors that fly high and proud The red, the white, the blue. The other one's got a rattlesnake With a simple statement made "Don't tread on me" is what it says and I'll take that to my grave. Because this is me. I'm proud to be American and strong in my beliefs. And I've said it before but I'll say it again 'Cause my family's always fought and died to save this land. And a country boy is all I'll ever be."
My father, brothers and I have been Mule deer hunting in Montana in '08, '10, and '12 and we will be going back again this fall. We usually just apply for general tags and then go to large tracts of Block Management or Federal Lands (BLM or Forest Service) in Eastern Montana. I can't speak for WY Antelope or MT antelope for that matter(would be awesome but no one else in my group seems to want to go), but Montana Mulies are truly a blast! You will have fun no matter which one you choose!