Montana Archery Season Almost Here

Montana hunting country – a preview of fall colors.

I’d like to share some news from my first grouse hunts of the year, but deadlines mean that this week’s column has to be written and submitted well before I take my first walk across the mountainsides. So, I could suggest that you imagine my coming back to camp after a morning hunt with limits of dusky grouse.

Unfortunately, imagination often works better than reality.

In any case, I hope to have a story or two for next week’s column.

If you’re looking for hunting stories, or want to share stories, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks has established a Facebook page for people who want to share stories, My Montana Hunt. It’s a place for people to share their experiences, photos and discuss any and all things related to hunting.

Actually, there are a number of hunting groups on Facebook. I’ve been following several the last few years, mostly to do with upland bird hunting, fly-fishing, and even one for fans of 28 gauge shotguns.

I figure that if enough of us fill Facebook with stories and photos about hunting and fishing, there won’t be enough space for Russian political propaganda.

The deer and elk archery seasons open this Saturday, September 7, across Montana. I won’t be part of it as my frame of mind is that any hunting that doesn’t involve carrying a shotgun and following a dog across the countryside is kind of pointless.

I have messed around a bit with archery over the years, including a long ago junior high shop project in which I built a longbow. I don’t recall what kind of wood I used but I had a long stave, and the technique was to use a drawknife and whittle away on the wood until it looked like a bow.

I’d work on it every day in shop class and take it to the teacher who’d suggest, “You’d better even it off some more on one end.” Then the next time, he’d say I had to whittle more off the other end. By the time it finally passed inspection, the bow didn’t have much power left.

Still, for four or five years, until it broke, I had a lot of fun with that bow. Even if it wasn’t a powerful bow, it sent arrows off with authority and pretty good accuracy. I don’t know, and never will know, whether it had enough power to send an arrow through a deer or elk, but I do recall skewering a blackbird or two.

For those people who will be pursuing deer and elk with archery equipment, be prepared to deal with success. That means dealing with a large animal in potentially hot weather.

The fact of death is that from the moment it happens, decomposition begins.

From the hunter’s standpoint, the challenge is to delay and maybe even stop the process, and that means cooling things off.

Two parts of anatomy are working against the lucky hunter: the hide and the skeleton. The hide, with a heavy coat of hair, insulates the meat from cooling. The bones hold heat, warming the surrounding flesh.

So, the well-prepared early season hunter should be prepared to skin the critter as soon as possible to let heat escape. Take a large ice chest along in your hunting vehicle filled with, what else, ice. Fill the body cavity with ice to get things cooling off as quickly as possible. If you don’t do your own processing, get the carcass to a wild game processor as quickly as possible, where it can hang in a walk-in cooler. If you do your own processing, you have extra challenges, assuming you don’t have your own walk-in cooler.

Best of luck to our archery hunting friends. Chasing big game with a bow and arrow is a big challenge, with low rates of success. Still, archery elk hunters often have the advantage being able to call in trophy-sized bull elk. Rifle hunters seldom have that experience, as the rut is over by late October.

Have fun and if you have success, take care of that animal.

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