For the hunters that made the trip to Ekalaka, Montana to join J&J Guide Service in the field--the 2016 archery and rifle seasons were incredible! We saw healthy populations of deer, antelope and elk as the relatively easy winter weather over the last few years really helped in fawn and calf production. Many does dropped twin fawns which increased the overall population quickly and ensures the upcoming years will see healthy population numbers.
Rick & Jeanine, Mike & Kelly, LeRoy & Jennifer, Rich & Sue, Danny & Kathy and even Bailey want to thank you all for making the 2016 hunting season one to remember!
September means the start of several archery seasons in Montana. Unfortunately, this year we had many applicants who did not draw their elk permits. Next elk season should be a busy one for J&J Guide Service as we anticipate more clients will draw the required permits--we will be chasing bull elk in full force! As usual, the archery deer hunt was exciting and our hunters had some good success. Todd R. and Rick W. were first up with guides Danny and Leroy--they were able to each get an arrow off. Todd had an opportunity to make a play on a B&C whitetail and closed the distance to 40 yards after making an exciting stalk. From a cliff edge, Rick connected on an 18 yard shot from straight above on a heavy-horned Mule buck. On the final day of his season, Todd was able to pull off four stalks on four different big mule bucks! Though he didn’t connect with a buck this time—he had a few encounters and headed home with a heap of found shed antlers.
Spot and stalk hunting for deer with a bow is as exciting as hunting gets and can test the skills and nerves of even the most seasoned hunters. Do not be afraid to go toe-to-toe with archery equipment for any of the species we offer hunts on--they are all incredibly exhilarating! Our success rates are always good and the experiences will never be forgotten; it’s a challenging and rewarding hunt--one you will want to do again and again.
The antelope rifle season was up next; it turned out to be another fantastic hunt for our clients! Kevin and Shelley H. (an amazing husband and wife hunting duo) made the long trip from Oregon and were hunting with J&J Guide Service for their 7th time! Shelley made short work of a nice buck on the 1st morning of the season: after spotting a good buck from a long way off, a nice stalk and set up (after bouncing between two hills for a solid position on the doe-seeking buck), Shelley dispatched him with one perfect shot from 160 yards out. Shelley has a nice habit of folding big bucks!
The following day, Kevin got a great buck: after spotting a heavy-horned kingpin surrounded by does from over a mile off, guide Danny, Kevin, and Shelley relocated for a mile-long stalk through very little sage cover and a shallow drainage. Finally, as Shelley amassed a collection of shed mule buck antlers and began filming the hunt with her phone, Kevin and Danny strategically bumped does slowly from around the buck until he was the last animal standing at 100 yards. The buck, confidently following the lead doe, finally showed from behind the only cover for the hunters (a two foot tall mound) and presented broadside. The rest of the work was on Kevin as he put three solid rounds into a seemingly invincible beast—the buck was easily one of the heaviest bucks seen all season.
With guide Leroy, Damon K. and his young son Sawyer K. knocked down two good antelope bucks on day one—a really impressive accomplishment considering this was the pair’s first western big game hunt together! They enjoyed it so much that they immediately booked a deer hunt for 2017—Sawyer is going to be an accomplished hunter and trapper in very short order.
Rifle Deer Season
The entire rifle season saw warmer than normal temperatures which we anticipated would have a negative impact on overall hunting success……boy, were we wrong!
Greg M. from Texas got us going early when he toppled a giant mule deer buck just minutes after the season opened—the buck was much too nice to ignore! The heavy, wide typical buck was Greg’s first western hunt and he came through in a big way. Steve C. and his son Kyle were with us last year and harvested two good whitetail bucks during a furious 2015 whitetail rut. Returning this year, they had their sights set on mule deer: Kyle tagged out early on a heavy 4x4 with brows in hellish terrain while Steve hunted hard all week and finally connected on the last day of his hunt on a gorgeous mule buck!
We had two more returning hunters in camp, Jerry G. and Reza R. who were after big whitetails. The tandem both took nice mule bucks in 2014 and wanted to take a crack at wary western variety of whitetail: lots of great bucks were spotted and stalked but we just couldn’t quite seal the deal with several close encounters. The two hunters set up on places like Castle Rocks, T-Rex, Golden Knob, White Rocks, Lou’s Lump and Chimney Rock. Each was rewarded with the sighting of several great bucks and we are hoping they will come back and give it another try--I know they still see those giant bucks in their dreams (or maybe in their nightmares)!
It is any elk hunter’s dream come true to apply for a 799-20 rifle elk permit and successfully draw it! That’s exactly what happened for Ron C.: guide Leroy, Ron and hunting partner Arlen did not let us down as Ron took down a magnificent 360” warrior bull elk after a day-long setup over the bull and his harem. Ron also filled the deer portion of his big game combo license. Arlen S. scored on a nice buck as well! Ron and Arlen took on the gigantic chore of butchering and processing on their own for the pleasure and satisfaction. These two hunted with us in 2015 and are now planning to hunt with J&J until they can no longer physically do it (we’re looking forward to so much more fun in the field)!
Tim N. and son Scott both wrapped their tags around nice mule deer bucks after making good shots under pressure. Tim made a really nice play on an early-rutting buck after a chaotic stalk and Scott hammered a beautiful, wide 4x4 from a high cliff-line above the buck (Scott, Tim and guide Danny packed the heavy prize out on their backs). Last but not least, brothers James, Paul and Mark E. entertained and fed the camp as they prepared snacks and appetizers for the group and told stories that made us all roar with laughter! They also proved good hunters as they took down two (nearly three) great bucks as well! Two weeks of memorable hunting in the books.
The east coast was well represented in week #3 as we had a group of four from New York and a group of four from Maryland. Anthony C., Lenny C. and Leonard C. all scored on mule deer bucks using their skills honed in New York from past years of hard hunting. The New York boys proved to be tough as nails as well as great shots as they logged 9 miles of hunting and dragging deer one of the days afield. Rene S. hunted hard right until the end but never connected with the buck he was after. The New York crew proved patience and experience lead to successful days in Montana.
The Maryland crew showed their hunting prowess as they all connected on great bucks! Jeremiah K., Pat M., Dave W. and Sonny V. all had a great experience and are booked for an upcoming hunt with J&J! Sonny came out of the gates running with a nice shot on a solid first mule buck. Pat wasn’t far behind after a long stalk on a huge 4x4 and a great shot on the bedded buck. Next, Danny, Jeremiah and Pat hid out in a small swale above a drainage coming out of the hills to intercept a mule buck they had spotted days earlier—Jeremiah had to play it cool until almost the last moment of light for the day until the wary warrior finally made his way to the edge of the drainage toward a field. Jeremiah did the rest and grounded the high-flying rut machine with a superb shot. Dave rounded out Team Maryland’s successful week by downing a high-antlered buck on a nice shot with Leroy! For anyone interested in a Sika deer hunt in Maryland: please contact me and I will give you Jeremiah Ks contact information as he operates a successful outfit there. After listening to him describe the hunting it sure sounds like an exciting adventure for one of the least talked about game animals in the States!
Wow! What a week! We had 6 hunters in camp and all six punched tags! Don S. from Texas got things off to a quick start by dropping a nice Mule buck on opening morning and then headed straight on to a dove hunt in his home state! Doug A., from Alaska (and everywhere else) followed up with a great buck of his own. Doug spotted a very cool, heavy, ace-of-spades shaped buck (high and tight at the tips of his driftwood antlers) and made a tough stalk on the tucked-away rutting buck. Kevin G. and Sonny G. from CA hunted hard and each scored on great bucks……a whitetail for Kevin and a mule deer for Sonny. The boys also found a hauled out a heavy 6x6 elk shed from the deep timber!
Jim L. and his son Rob were here from Wisconsin looking for mule deer bucks: Jim made a beautiful shot on a mulie with guide Rick’s rifle set up for a slightly longer shots. Rob and guide Rich were fortunate to cross paths with “Mr. Stickers” after several attempts and with one well-placed bullet took a 172” trophy whitetail of a lifetime!
With the rut in full swing the action was fast and furious!! 5 hunters knocked down five great bucks in short order: Robert L. scored on his first morning afield. After climbing around a high butte top with walls and crevices packed with mule bucks and does, Robert and guide Rich finally spotted the buck they were after and a happy hunter hammered his target from high overhead. Terry R. harvested a great mule deer buck which he told us was exactly why he came to Montana and J&J. Guide Danny and Terry were prepared to hunt hard for the 5-day season in order to bag a giant—day one saw rutting bucks running circles around the pair; they were wrapped up after a great shot on an epic 4x4 with deep forks and brows early on morning two!
Kevin S. and his wife Bonnie were with J&J on what they said was “a trip of a lifetime”. I don’t think, in even their wildest dreams, things would turn out like they did as the duo each dropped big mule deer: Bonnie and guide Leroy sat patiently in the cold and wind for one chance at a long-off buck. Bonnie’s marksmanship didn’t fail the duo. Kevin hunted long and hard for his first mule buck in a deep, deer-filled draw. Fred K. was in for a real surprise when his guide rattled in a magnificent whitetail buck to within 40 yards! One shot and Fred was a very happy hunter!!
It was decided late last year that something needed to be done with some of the old mature bucks that were on the downslide on our leases so we implemented a management buck hunt. It worked out perfectly as 5 hunters took out five cull bucks!! With a price of about half of a trophy hunt this will be something that we hope to fill year after year. A special thanks to Terry G., Sandy L., Owen L., Jake H. and Jon H. for spending Thanksgiving with us at J&J Guide Service……..what a fantastic family of hunters they have!
The team at J&J Guide Service would like to sincerely thank you all for making 2016 such a successful and memorable year. We look forward to 2017 and beyond, hoping you will all come and join us in the field again to pursue some beautiful trophy big game animals in one of the most magnificent landscapes imaginable. Thanks again!