Opening Day

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I've got a pocket full of tags and a loose knit plan on how to fill them all. This Saturday, 130,000 fellow Montanans and I will begin our five week journey where we fall in love with Montana all over again. Fall in the high country, coulees & fields of Montana is about as close to heaven as you can get without meeting your maker.

I’ve already got days in the field chasing pronghorn & upland birds but nothing in the bag yet. I missed an easy shot on a dandy Pronghorn Buck. So long as all things come together again, he’ll be on public land or on Block Management. I swear these big boys know what’s open and what’s not. He’s been planted on two sections of private land; an island in a sea of state & Block Management. His herd is all over with a few smaller bucks thrown in the mix.

I watched him for hours last Friday. He bedded 350 yards from a piece of Block Management that I was signed in to. I waited until last light. He slipped over the hill and deeper into the island of private land. Such is life. The next day he was 130 yards off the county road as I drove in. Along with a 1.5 year old buck, he took off in the direction of state land. We swung down the road and the entire herd swept by us, hooked a hard left and hit the State land.

Finally, it happened. He was legal and the chase was on. We stalked the ¾ mile across the barely green winter wheat. If the herd acted like I’d hoped, they’d be at the bottom of the hill. They were. I dropped to my knees, lasered the herd at 240 yards.

Then, out of the corner of my eye, two towers of black shifted. There he was. I had him – dead to rights. He was watching me and partly obscured by a rise between us. The Leupold range finder showed 127 yards.

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I belly crawled a few more yards to get the right shot. He was exposed; watching me as I tried to calm down enough to get the crosshairs lined up. The shot went off and I saw the bullet smack the dirt directly between us, 5 feet off of where it was supposed to go. In my haste, I didn't account for the wind.

Colorful language ensued.

I’m hopeful this scenario replays itself for all of us,, but with a better outcome. As we all gather our gear, make that final trip to range, plan our hunts, research public land, block management areas or look for access to friendly ranches and farms, Montanans are partaking in more than just hunting.
Our economic engine gets a lot of juice from hunters. The money we spend in preparation of the hunt and during the hunt help local economies thrive even during down economic times. The threats to not only our traditions, but the very lands we rely on for our winter’s meat are many. Forces aligned to take away long seasons, abundant wildlife and ample opportunity never sleep.

While we all enjoy the next five weeks, remember that your opportunity doesn't come just during hunting season. We all have to stand up and fight for wildlife and for our ability to harvest it.

Good hunting! 

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Hellgate Hunters and Anglers
Our Mission is to conserve Montana's wildlife, wild places, and fair-chase hunting and fishing heritage.