The sun slowly rose above the eastern Montana prairie; its golden rays chasing away the inky blue night sky. The air was still and warm. Before the day is over it would be 89 degrees-another beautiful October day in Montana. A great day to hunt Antelope!
This hunt story starts last year. After spending almost 4 years as a widower, last December I married a widow from Oklahoma, my Lady Jane.
As luck would have it, in the marriage I also gained a son-law who is an outfitter. Brett Landwehr operates Landwehr Outfitters out of Jordon Montana. I have actually known Brett for over 15 years. We hunted gophers and rock chucks together when we lived in Sunburst, Montana. Last spring Brett suggested that I put in for Antelope and Elk drawings around Jordon. He offered to take me hunting, if I got drawn, as long as I was willing to work around his schedule-paying clients first. No problem!!! , I got drawn for Antelope and not the Elk.
For this hunt I decide to use my Voere Titan K-15. This gun is a 308 Norma Magnum and wears a Leupold 4x12 variable scope. I was given this gun as a sales incentive when I worked for KDF. It is fully loaded with pillar bedding, fancy French walnut stock, 26 inch hammer forged barrel and of course the famous (infamous) KDF muzzle brake. At KDF we had a guarantee that these guns with the pillar bedding would shoot 3 shots under ½” and 5 shots less than 1”. This particular gun was known for putting all 5 shots under ½”, when I did my part. I have taken a lot of game with this gun including a number of Wyoming Antelope. I had last sighted the gun in using Sierra .308, 165 grain SP boat-tails to strike 3 inches high at 100 yards. The gun was then verified it to hit center at 300 yard. I had last used the gun in 1999. I took the rifle out of the safe, wiped it down, punched the bore, grabbed the old partial box of ammo and headed to the range.
I put up my target at 100 yards, rested the gun on the sand bags and fired 3 shots. It was a bit difficult to see the target as the range is built facing east. Shooting at 8 in the morning in Montana in early October puts you looking straight into the rising sun. After firing I walked down range to check the target. Humm, 3 shots, three inches high, spread horizontally about 2 inches. That kind of group is usually shooter error. I walked back to the firing line. As I walked back I was thinking about my shooting. When I got to the shooting bench I noticed the front lens of my scope looked odd. The front lens was covered in 16 years of accumulated dust. I had forgot to clean the scope when I got the gun out of the safe.
I cleaned the scope and sat back down behind the gun and fired 3 more shots. I walked down range again and checked the group-3 shots, 3 inches high-all three touching-the gun still shoots. We only have 200 yards available on the club range and there is 10 inch gong set up at that range. When I got back to the bench, I aimed dead center at the gong and fired 3 shots and was rewarded with three clangs. Time to go hunting!
The day before the hunt we drove the 340 miles from Cut Bank to Jordan. We got a late start and the last 100 miles was driven in the dark-the scariest 100 miles I have driven in years. No the roads weren’t scary; Montana has some of the best roads in the nation. After dark the roads were covered with Deer. Montana Highway Department keeps the weeds and grass along the road mowed. This promotes growth and fresh growth attracts Deer. There were hundreds of Deer, everywhere. They were mostly doe herds but a good number of bucks, mostly small and young. There were some bigger Deer and one monster I would have not swerved to miss. This part of Montana has a lot of game. It has been a long time since I have seen this much roadside game. My wife screamed the whole way!!!
The next morning after admiring the sunrise, Brett and I load up and headed out of town to one of the ranches he hunts. Along the way we saw a few hunters heading out on to the prairie and a number of Antelope herds. It looked like a grand start to the 2015 Montana Antelope Season.
We arrived at the ranch and parked by the barn. On the prairie before us we could see a number of Antelope herds, with the closest about a mile out. As we sat there looking things over it was very obvious that one animal in the closest herd stood out from the others. We could see his horns from over a mile away. When we looked through the binoculars we could see a couple of other bucks, but this one animal had far greater mass than the others. Brett said that this was the animal he had picked out for me.
I sat there and tried to figure out how to approach the animals. There was a low rolling ridge directly in front of us that extend out and beyond the animals. The only problem this would take us directly up wind from the herd. The Antelope were also feeding in an old large flat formerly irrigated hay field that was surrounded low dikes. While on a close in approach the dikes would give us cover, getting from one dike to another would leave us completely exposed.
Brett said he knew an easy way to get to the animal. We would walk about a ¼ mile in the opposite direction to the other side of the homestead and drop down into an old creek bed and work our way over to the hay fields. Our approach would be totally out of sight and down wind. Brett said as we worked our way out to the animals, they would drift down to where the creek came up by the fields.
This is what you pay the Guide for, knowledge of the animals’ patterns and knowledge of the terrain. I had to rein myself in and listen to my guide. It’s his job.
We crossed the farmstead and started slowly down the creek bed. Right here I need to point something out. About the three weeks before the hunt, I started having shortness of breath, minor chest pain and clamminess. I had spent a night in the hospital and had a treadmill test. I had been to a Cardiologist in Oklahoma City and was scheduled for a heart catheterization in three weeks. The Cardiologist, a hunter himself, was aware I was going on this hunt and did not advise against it. More importantly Brett was aware of it. As we traveled down the creek bottom Brett kept the pace down and constantly checked on me.
We had traveled about a half mile down the creek bottom when Brett suddenly dropped to one knee and waved me down. He then signaled me to stay down and slowly move up beside him. He whispered in my ear and told me that there were 3 mule Deer feeding 40-50 yards ahead of us on the side of the creek bottom. We waited a few moments and saw the Deer feed up and over the bank, and out of sight. The Deer did not give the slightest indication we had alerted them and they did not bolt and alert the Antelope.
We continued moving cautiously up the creek bottom and soon came to where one of the old hay field dikes ran along the bank of the creek. Brett eased up the bank and peeked over the dike to check the animals and our progress. Here’s a tip for the client or when you are hunting with someone else, resist the urge to take a look yourself. Two people poking their heads up are more likely to be spotted than one. I don’t know how many people I have seen do this and wonder what spooked the animals. Brett move back down and said the animals were still feeding in the expected direction.
We moved another 200 yards down the creek bottom to an area where the creek had wash out a part of the dike. Brett checked this out and said we could move up the washout and along the dike and get to a shooting point. We moved along the dike and the last 25 yards crawled on our hands and knees to get into position. Brett eased up the side of the dike and looked for the Buck. Brett waved me up and said the buck was at 240 yards and asked if I was comfortable at that range. I said yes.
I crawled up the bank to get a good shooting position. I could see the buck standing on the dike across the field. Just as I moved into position the Buck moved a few steps. Directly in front of me, slightly to my left was a large corner post for a fence. From my position the buck stepped behind the post and was obscured. I started to wiggle a bit to the right when Brett stopped me and pointed off to our right. Several Antelope had drifted into view a couple hundred yards off and we were totally exposed to them. We froze!
We laid there about an hour—okay maybe five minutes, but it sure felt like an hour- waiting for my buck to step into view. Finally Brett saw him step down off the dike and out of sight. At the same time we saw the animals to our right go head down below the dike. We quickly slid down the dike so the animals could not see us if the looked up. Ahead of us about 10 yards was a low spot in the dike bank. We crawled on hands and knees to the low spot made by cattle crossing the dike. Brett took my rifle from me and low crawled through the low spot. I followed. On the other side of the dike the ground dropped away and down to the creek bottom.
We worked our way down to the creek and traveled another 200 yards around to a spot where again the creek bottom came up to the dike. Brett eased up the bank and checked, then waved me over. As I slid up the bank, Brett whispered, “straight ahead, 224 yards!” I eased up the bank, and slid my rifle out in front of me. I settled into a good prone position, placed the cross hairs right behind the shoulder of the buck, checked the wind, and slowly added pressure to the trigger… At the shot I saw the Buck nose dive into the ground, then heard the whack. The Buck kicked twice and never moved again.
We moved up on the Buck to confirm he was dead. It was obvious I had held a little bit too far forward and drilled right through both front shoulders. That was why he nosed dived when shot-his shoulders were broken. His horns were quite big and heavy. I could not put my fingers around the base. The right prong-cutter was broomed and the hook on the left horn was broken off. Still, it was obvious to me this was the biggest Antelope I had ever taken. Three hours after we left the house we were back. We measured the unbroken horn at 15 ¼ “.
Brett’s Uncle Carl from Tulsa, OK had drawn a non-resident Antelope tag and the day following my hunt, Brett and Carl went out for a morning hunt. The winds had come up and were blowing 20-40 mph that day. Karl wanted to go out anyway and Brett said he knew a ridge the Antelope liked to lay under to get out of the wind. 2 hours later Carl and Brett were back at the house with a nice buck. Carl’s buck had heavy. pretty heart shaped horns with long cutters that measured 14 ¼”.
While most of my hunting is self-guided, over the years I have hunted with guides/professional hunters. I have also guided a few clients myself. I have some idea how a guide should act and what a guide should do. Although this was not a paid guided hunt, this was a hunt at Brett’s “work place”. Quite frankly I have to rate Brett very highly as a guide. His knowledge of the game and his hunting skills are superb. He catered the stalk and hunt to my physical capabilities-limitations. He quickly, cleanly and efficiently field dressed my animal and transported it to the butcher. As an Outfitter he has excellent access to hunting properties. We stayed at his house where he accommodates his clients. His accommodations are clean and very comfortable. I know from our family gatherings that he is an excellent cook. When he visits us, we turn the kitchen over to him. I believe for small hunting parties he does do some cooking and larger groups he brings in a cook. If I were a paying customer I would most gladly book with him in the future. Sure hope he extends an invite for next year! I highly recommend if you are considering a Montana Big game hunt that you consider hunting with Brett. http://landwehroutfitters.com/
Brett can provide you with Antelope, Mule Deer and Elk hunts, as well as waterfowl, predator and prairie dog hunts. If you contact him, tell him I sent you.