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No Deer On This Property

PhotoBy Marcus McDowell 

-- On Sept. 12, 2006, I was blessed with a beautiful baby girl, Mikayli Rose. Mikayli was the first child for me and my wife, Mallory. Spending quality time with family became my top priority.

Mallory and I are avid bow and rifle hunters and fishing partners. Since she knows how much I enjoy being in the outdoors, she was very understanding about me pursuing my dreams of harvesting an elk and a deer. In October of 2006, we went on a trip with her parents to the eastern flatlands of Montana to hunt antelope. I was fortunate enough to take my first antelope while Mallory stayed back at camp and took care of Mikayli.

We hunted a lot during bow season for elk and deer but were unsuccessful. When rifle season opened, we took every opportunity we could to harvest an elk or a deer. Mallory's brother, Forrest, called me at work just before lunch and told me about a nice 140-class whitetail he had seen while out scouting a farmer's ranch just the week before. I called Mallory and told her I was heading down toward camp to ask permission to hunt on this landowner's property. She was to head down the next day to spend the night at camp with Forrest and me. As I hesitated to leave work that afternoon, I knew that the rut was in full swing, so I finally asked to take some personal leave that I had been stockpiling for the next year's hunting season. Forrest and I met and took off for the hunting camp.

On the way, we decided to take a drive to a ranch that occasionally holds elk in the thick timber patches. With not a lot of time before dark, we glassed and made our way to the ranch we would be asking to hunt on. As we approached the ranch house, we knew we were in for some good whitetail hunting. We knocked on the door and asked the rancher if it would be okay to make some pushes in the creek bottom and hunt for whitetails on his property. He gave us a blank stare, almost as if he thought we were insane.

He said to us with a grimace, "Boys, there ain't no deer on my property, but go ahead if you'd like."

Forrest has been hunting all his life, and with the help of his dad, mom, and Mallory, has taught me most everything I know about hunting. The best thing they every taught me was that most ranch owners overlook the quality of wildlife they are blessed with.

We drove the jeep up one a mountain, and Forrest dropped me off. I walked down and sat on a sagebrush hillside toward the end of the creek bottom near the ranch's fence line. Forrest went back and parked near the beginning of the large creek bottom filled with nice thickets where the deer like to bed.

I glassed the fields and the creek. After about 15 minutes, I saw two deer that Forrest spooked on his way in to the creek bottom. As I watched them trounce away, I spotted a group of eight deer just past the creek bottom in the ranch's hayfield. I saw antlers but couldn't quite tell if it was a shooter buck. After Forrest made his way back to me, we decided we only had time to make a stalk on the buck in the hayfield, crossing our fingers it was a shooter.

We pressed our way through the creek bottom, trying to find a good spot to cross. We had out heads down and were trying to sneak our way through the thickets when a buck ran across the creek. Before we could get the crosshairs on him, the buck was across the fence and on the adjacent ranch.

All we could do was hope that he might come back for the does. Forrest and I set up on a little hill just to the west of the fence line. After about a half hour with no sight of the big buck, we decided to keep with our plan and hunt the buck with the does in the hayfield.

With only about an hour of good light before the sun was to set, we hiked back to the jeep. We took the jeep to the next hayfield over and noticed a coulee running up to the field. If we could make it to the coulee, all we had to do was crawl up the bank through the sage brush and set up for a shot. The deer were bedded, so we decided to give it a try.

As we were walking and keeping low enough so the deer couldn't see us, we must have kicked up a dozen huns or so. As we approached the coulee we kicked up another group of huns, which made the deer uneasy. We crawled up the bank through the sage and caught a glimpse of the buck. The deer were standing now, probably from the commotion of the birds. We put the scope on him, and it turned out to be a beautiful 4-pointer (Western count) with nice tines.

I wasn't about to be picky at this point of the season. Just being able to get a shot at a nice deer was all I could ask for. I put out the bi-pods on my Remington .300 WSM, and got ready for a shot. Forrest gave me the okay once the buck turned broadside, so I put the crosshairs just past the shoulder and squeezed the trigger. I heard a thud, and looked at Forrest. All I could see was excitement. I knew then that I just harvested a nice whitetail.

With the orange sunset as the background, the buck couldn't have looked better for our pictures. We snapped about 15 photos and loaded the buck into the trailer.

On the way back to the camper, we stopped where I had just enough cell service to phone Mallory and tell her the good news. She was just as excited as I was, knowing that we had a quality buck, and, better yet, food until next season. She arrived at camp later that night with baby Mikayli, or "Tuke" as I call her. We shared the success of the harvest together and enjoyed a night at camp. It was the best feeling in the world to have my wonderful wife and the most beautiful baby in Montana at camp with me that night.

Some day Mikayli will be join Mallory and me in the outdoors, and I will be able to tell her stories of when she was at camp with us when she was only two months old.

The next Monday, my father-in-law and mother-in-law took off for the ranch to see if they could find the big boy. They set up on a hill and rattled. Not more than 15 minutes later, they spotted the big buck jumping fences, running directly to their setup. My mother-in-law was able to harvest the 130-class buck with one nice shot.

I'm grateful to my new family for letting me join them on all of their hunting and fishing outings. I am truly grateful. Thank you, Mallory. You are the best wife in the world, and I look forward to sharing more hunting success with you in the future, hopefully with "Tuke" by our sides.

Marcus McDowell
Helena, Montana

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