After all these years you finally decide this is the year to book that hunting trip out west, to Canada or perhaps Alaska. You decide on the animal and you know your budget. Now comes the hard part. How do you find a reputable outfitter that will provide an enjoyable hunt that will satisfy you? You can attend a local hunting show, you can read through magazines or you can surf online. Any of these methods will leave you with numerous outfitters to choose from. The risk involved comes from your need to trust what the outfitter tells you. A knowledgeable and reputable Hunting Consultant can eliminate this risk. Accurate information about a specific outfitter can be obtained through a combination of the Hunting Consultant personally hunting with the outfitter or relying on feedback from other hunters he has booked.
Keith Hartman, who owns and operates Adventures West, joined Huntguide.Com several years ago. He is an excellent Hunting Consultant who strives for the satisfaction of his hunting clients. Keith books for outfitters in several western states, Canada and Alaska. He specializes in finding affordable hunts with close to 100% success rates on the desired animal. He is very good at applying a client’s budget to a successful hunt. Due to information gained from other clients, Keith will be able to give you a detailed account on exact details of your hunt. This would include the type of terrain you will hunt, the approximate number of animals you will most likely see and a realistic expectation on the size of animal you should expect to harvest.
Keith has been with Huntguide.Com for many years. This would be the second hunt I would book with one of Keith’s outfitters. What made this hunt special was having Keith join me on the actual hunt. We met in the Billings Montana airport and it wasn’t long until we had the SUV rental loaded and were on our way to a tiny town in the southeastern corner of Montana named Alzada.
We arrived in camp around 7:00 pm. Once in camp I met Terry Weyer who would be my guide for the week. Also in camp was Neil Wells, a hunter from Georgia who like myself was after a whitetail buck. I was pleasantly surprised by the accommodations. I have to admit I had my reservations about booking a tent based hunt in Montana during late November. I was quick to learn that I had nothing to worry about. The tents were high quality with an enormous amount of room. The tent we stayed in was 16 feet wide by 24 feet long. Inside were 4 large comfortable cots, a picnic table and a heating unit fueled by propane. The tent had electrical outlets available via extension cords run from a near by ranch house. There was another tent, almost identical in size in which we ate our meals. As far as rating tent camps goes, I would definitely rate this one 4 star. It was by far the nicest tent camp I have ever stayed in.
The first morning Terry dropped off Neil at a strategically placed ground blind. Since I arrived in camp after dark, we both knew it would be a good idea to take a quick shot to make sure my rifle was still accurate. We spent the rest of the morning driving around and glassing the leases I would be hunting. The deer and antelope population in this area was phenomenal. By the time the morning ended, I saw well over 100 deer and two different herds of antelope. These animals were out on a clear warm day with temperatures in the 60’s and during the third week of the firearms season.
As we broke for lunch, Terry gave me a lot of valuable information about Hidden Valley Outfitters, the Outfitter I would be hunting with. The business is owned and operated by Tracy Weyer. They have been in business for 12 years. The operation is based in two different locations within Montana. The 3 leases that I would be hunting in the Alzada area were comprised of 32,000 acres. As I mentioned earlier, these leases are hunted via a first class tent camp. In eastern Montana near Wibaux, Hidden Valley Outfitters has an additional seven hunting leases totaling 100,000 acres. These hunts are based out of a full service lodge. Both destinations offer hunts for whitetail deer, mule deer, antelope and turkey. Both hunts include meals and 2 X 1 guiding. The whitetail, mule deer and antelope all are close to 100% success rates. Whitetail antlers average between 130 and 150 class, mule deer antlers average 22 – 24 inches in width and antelope horns average 12 to 14 inches in height.
As mid afternoon approached, Terry and I drove to a field bordered by a wooded creek bottom. Terry had spotted a nice 10-point buck here earlier in the week. As we approached the field, we saw several deer already feeding in the field. As the deer fed and moved away, I started to rattle. It wasn’t long before a nice 8-point buck came charging in to investigate. He closed the distance to within 60 yards. His spread was outside his ears and probably about 17 inches. The antlers had good height but lacked in mass. I guessed him to score in the low 120’s. I knew I could do better so I watched him feed into the wooded area. As the afternoon passed, I watched several other doe and a few more small bucks feed in the field.
That night we traded deer sighting stories over a hearty home cooked meal. Even though Neil didn’t fire a shot, he had a great day. In the morning, he so many deer that he didn’t bother to even count the doe. He saw between 10 and 15 different bucks in the morning. One was definitely a shooter but that particular buck never presented a clear shot. Keith also had a very enjoyable day. As he walked through the foothills, he and his guide were able to spot numerous doe and several small bucks. We all went to bed very anxious for the next day.
The next morning brought a big weather change from Mother Nature. The first stage of a cold front was moving through. The warm 60-degree sunny skies were replaced with cloudy skies, temperatures in mid 30’s, a rain sleet mixture and a strong northwest wind. We returned to the same area. I set up in a row of thick pine trees viewing a field and small wooded strip that provided the deer with covered access to the field. Despite the weather, deer movement was still excellent. As the morning passed, I saw 6 different whitetail bucks along with numerous doe. I was also surprised how many mule deer I saw feeding right beside the whitetails. As we worked our way back to the truck, we watched a good mule deer buck, probably 24 inches in width, feed in the field with several doe.
Successful Mule Deer Hunters the week
before I arived in camp
That evening we decided to try a new area. The cold front was now in full swing. The clouds were gone but colder temperatures settled in with wind gusts to 40 mph. With these factors in play, we thought it would be better to hunt a more isolated spot located in a wooded area. With the wind howling, I sat by a blow down tree that was located near a densely wooded river bottom. As the wind howled, cracking the tree branches all around me, I seriously doubted I would see a single deer. Much to my surprise, within minutes several doe and a small 8-point buck appeared. As it grew later in the afternoon, I continued to see deer. By end of day, I saw 6 different bucks and between 25 and 30 does. Given the conditions, I felt the evening hunt was pretty incredible. Again, we traded stories over dinner and went to bed very anxious for the next morning.
As we got ready the next morning, I had a feeling it would be a good day. Through the night, temperatures had plummeted into the mid teens. The fierce wind had subsided to a more manageable 10 – 15 mph north wind. Well before daylight, Terry drove me by ATV to a wooded area that completely circled a grassy field. Terry knew the area held many whitetail deer. As first light started to make the field edge viewable, I could see what looked to be a large deer feeding. As I glassed him, I could tell he was a mature buck with wide tall antlers. Still not enough light for my range finder to work, I knew the distance was at least 500 yards. I decided to let him feed back into the woods then move into a closer position. I thought a combination of grunting and rattling would be enough to lure him back out of the dense cover.
With the wind in my favor, I moved closer to the corner of the field where the buck was feeding. I spotted a large blow down tree that would serve as perfect cover. As I moved toward the blow down tree, other deer started to come out to feed. I managed to get in position without alerting any of the deer. What followed would be one of the most memorable mornings of whitetail hunting that I had ever experienced.
My original plan was to try a combination of rattling and grunting to lure the buck closer. I never got that chance. Deer kept appearing from every direction. Within five minutes, two other bucks appeared. I watched as the two 6 pointers began to spar. As they chased each other back into the woods, it wasn’t long before more deer appeared. Trying to glass all the deer looking for new bucks was enjoyable. Suddenly from the corner of the wood line, three different bucks appeared. The first was a 3 X 3 mule deer buck. The second was a nice 8-point whitetail buck but the third was much larger. As he stepped in the grassy field, I could see he was a good buck. He was a symmetrical 10-point with good mass and a spread just outside the ears. After watching him for several minutes, I figured he would score in the mid 130’s.
I knew he was a respectable buck for the area so I decided to take him. I waited for a good broadside shot. I new the distance was approximately 125 yards. I steadied the rifle on the blow down tree and squeezed off the shot. The buck jumped due to the impact of the bullet, ran about 10 yards and crashed to the ground. I was very pleased. He was definitely a mature Montana buck (photo above).
As I made the 25-minute walk to camp, I reflected on that morning. I arrived at my hunting spot at 6:45 am. I took my buck at 8:15am. Along with numerous doe, he was the 13th different buck I spotted within that 90-minute period. It truly was a morning I will never forget.
That evening, Neil experienced similar luck. Terry positioned him in a field that many whitetail deer visited each evening. Neil saw several doe and smaller bucks as he watched with his binoculars. Finally, as evening approached, a wide 9-point buck with a split brow-tine appeared. Neil watched the buck for a few minutes. He knew it was bigger than any buck he had ever taken in his home state of Georgia. He took a steady rest for his rifle and made the 150-yard shot. The buck dropped instantly. As you can see by the photo, Neil was also very happy with his deer.
The next morning would prove to be Keith’s turn. Each day Keith saw many mule deer doe with an average of 10 – 20 mule deer bucks per day. Keith is an excellent hunter who has hunted mule deer in many western states. He was holding out for a larger mule deer buck. Early in the morning, his guide spotted what looked to be a good buck nearly a mile away. With the wind being a big advantage, Keith was able to stalk within 70 yards of the buck. It was the biggest buck he had seen so far. Keith made the 70-yard shot killing the big buck instantly. Good mass and a 24-inch antler spread made this a mule deer Keith could be proud of.
Are you looking for a relaxing and enjoyable hunt? Do you want to see more deer each day than many eastern hunters see in a season? Do you want to hunt with a great outfitter with a proven record of success? If you have answered yes to all these questions, give Keith a call and tell him you want to hunt with Hidden Valley Outfitters. You will be glad you did!