Filson Life guest blogger, Tom Slaughter, is a year-round hunter – both a planner and an executer. Whether it’s traveling to Alaska, Colorado or Montana, this hunter is always prepared for the journey, especially when he has his Filson gear with him. In this post, Slaughter tells us about his planning process for an elk and mule hunt for the fall season.
I am a hunter year round. There is no off-season, only planning and execution. Generally, I spend January through March researching various species and hunt locations. March through June is dedicated to tag applications and more focused research. Between July and September, I finalize the hunt location and dates and start my packing list making sure I have all of the necessary gear. By October, I am ready to execute my plan and start packing, a process which takes several weeks. By this time, I am in full swing and prepared to go on my much anticipated hunt.
Although I do return to some hunting areas, sometimes I search for new places to hunt. I usually start this process in January while I'm still on a high from my last major hunt and eager to plan the next one. Whether targeting a specific species to hunt or a general location, I rely on word of mouth for some guidance. Sometimes, I even look to hunting TV programming to see where hunters are having success. This year, after learning that some of the best Mule deer hunting is in Eastern Montana, I planned a 10 day Mule Deer and Elk hunt with my dad.
By April, my dad was on board with a Montana hunt, but I still had quite a bit of legwork to do. I contacted the state biologist assigned to the specific region in eastern Montana. In my experience, people in these positions are well-informed, experienced, and provide tremendous insight that can make the difference between a successful hunt and a logistical disaster. The biologist offered me assistance with acquiring BLM charts, state land charts, etc. She also suggested that I cold call ranchers to try and get permission to hunt on private land. She was also very helpful in setting me up with BLM land for Elk and the phone numbers to the ranchers that she knows who grant permission. I will be hunting elk in the south central portion of Montana just north of Yellowstone National Park.
For the Mule deer hunting, I spent three evenings researching and compiled a list of 100+ ranches, 1 taxidermist, and 1 general store. After two evenings of cold calling, I had permission to hunt on 7 different ranches. I located each ranch on the charts and discussed the quality of the hunting at each ranch with the biologist. I made a "handshake" deal over the phone with one rancher who has 6,000 huntable acres. My father and I will be the only hunters during that week. His fee was exceptionally reasonable for a week of hunting permission and included use of the ranch house. Honestly, it was such a good deal, I was somewhat skeptical. I ended up calling the local motel and taxidermist to double-check the landowner's reputation and to see if the guy really had good Mulie hunting. They highly recommended him and were surprised that I was able to get in on his property due to the demand.
With my hunting area set, I needed to compile my packing list of rifle/ammo, clothing, etc. I start this process as early as possible so I can make any necessary purchases, mitigate costs, and be well prepared. Travelling via plane for hunts is very difficult due to the baggage constraints and mismanaging packing and exceeding the maximum baggage allowance can be costly. With my packing list ready, the planning season is complete and I am ready to start the execution phase.
Stay tuned for part two!