Montana Whitetail Deer Hunting Report 12-1-2016

This Montana whitetail deer hunting report is brought to you by Linehan Outfitting Company located in the far northwest corner of Montana.  This Montana whitetail deer hunting report provides tips, news, and conditions throughout the year and is updated from time to time.

For now consider this report a recap of our 2016 season here at Linehan Outfitting Company.  Without doubt, this was one of the best seasons we’ve had, period.  The local whitetail deer herd has expanded over the last several years due primarily to good moisture in the spring, summer, fall, and unusually light winters.  Big snow and harsh winters have the most impact on our local game populations and with two light winters in 2014 and 2015, the whitetail deer were extremely heavy and healthy.

Additionally, the buck to doe ratio improved a great deal as well.  This season there were many days when the LOC guides saw more bucks than does.  That was not the case just three years ago.  The difference was easy to notice and return guests were thrilled to have the option to pass on smaller bucks early in their hunts.  To that end, almost every LOC guest this season could have had success and filled a tag if they wanted to.  But we are always pleased when guests decide to let small bucks walk and stay the course in hopes of shooting a big whitetail buck.  If you shoot the small ones, they never have a chance to get big.  It’s as simple as that.

The whitetail deer rut activity was tremendous this season as well.  With an improved buck to do ratio, there is more competition between bucks to find does in estrus.  That means more chasing, more searching and ultimately having bucks spend more time on their feet during daylight hours.  This was evident especially during the last later half of November.

The whitetail deer bucks and does here in our area were heavier in body weight than we’ve noticed in many years.  All guests constantly commented on how solid the deer looked and how big bodied even the young animals appear at the moment.  This bodes very well for next season.  As I write, there is still very little snow here.  We’re hoping it stays that way through most of December which will allow the bucks to beef up on calories and replace depleted body fat lost during the rut.  If you can get bucks through December and allow them to gain substantial body mass, they are obviously much more likely to survive a harsh winter in the event 2017 proves to be one.

For now, it’s all good on the local Montana whitetail deer herd here in the northwest corner of that state.  Again, provided we don’t have a big, gnarly winter, the health of the herd should be great again in 2017.

LOC guest Andrew C. gets it done here at Linehan Outfitting Company
LOC guest Andrew C. gets it done here at Linehan Outfitting Company

 

 


Grouse Hunting-Holding The Line

From New England to Michigan and across to Montana grouse hunting is all about being in the bush.  Grouse covers are particularly thick and sometimes difficult to navigate.  Terrain, varying degrees of vegetation, and topography influence your line of travel through the woods.  If you’re hunting with one or more people in your party, safety, and to that end staying in line and executing proper choreography during your hunt, is absolute.  One wrong turn by anyone and, well…someone could end up getting Cheney’d.  Here are three strategies to help you and your hunting partners stay in line and stay safe on your next outing.

  1. Choose a quarterback for your hunt.  Have a look at the area you intend to hunt on a map or gps and assign one person to take charge and choreograph the effort.  By allowing one person the take charge on an agreed upon hunt strategy, you minimize the possibility of someone going rogue and ending up in front of the guns.
  2. Regardless of whether you’re the quarterback or not, communicate vocally and frequently with your hunting partners.  Every minute or two everyone in the party should call out to the person immediately next to them to assure everyone is still on line.  If you have several people in your party, it’s best to call out to the person next to you and then have everyone else call out down the line as well.  There’s no such thing as too much communication in a thick grouse cover.
  3. Be aware of the different paces each of you employ while traveling through the cover.   Experience and physical health certainly influence your partners’ pace.  Size up the group dynamic in the first two or three hundred yards and have everyone adjust accordingly.  Be decisive and thoughtful about accommodating your partners’ abilities.
  4. Use a fixed point to help you stay on line.  Topography or vegetation obstructions are the number one reason the line breaks down while grouse hunting.  One small hill, or one patch of blowdown that someone encounters can send them inadvertently right in front of other guns.  Every one hundred yards or so and based on your quarterback’s direction, choose a tree, a stump, anything, and head straight for that point.  Look up occasionally, maintain good and true direction, and do not deviate.  When grouse hunting compasses and gps help to this end but it’s far easier to look up occasionally and maintain a bearing on a big, lone pine tree than it is to constantly have to check something hanging around your neck or in your pocket.  I learned very early from an old New Hampshire grouse hunter to go through obstructions whenever possible, and not around them provided you weren’t compromising any safety rules.
  5. If the line breaks down and someone is lagging behind or you notice someone out in front, stop the hunt and any shooting immediately.  Regardless of what’s going on, and even if you’re into the mother lode of ruffed grouse and your dog is locked up on point or flushing birds from underfoot, this is obviously one of the worst case scenarios and make no exceptions to this rule.  It’s only a little bird…and hunting is definitely not bigger than life.

Staying in line while hunting grouse is an absolute.  By keeping these five common sense approaches and strategies in mind while hunting dense grouse covers, you will find it easier to maintain direction and heading which will make for a better and more safer hunt in the end.

Northwest Montana ruffed grouse
Northwest Montana ruffed grouse

Montana Grouse Hunting Report 8-13-2016

This Montana grouse hunting report is brought to you by Linehan Outfitting Company and provides current conditions and information surrounding northwest Montana grouse hunting.

Back in June it became very obvious that we’re at least going to have a perfectly good population of grouse here in northwest Montana.  Ruffed grouse could be heard drumming everywhere we went in the woods and spruce grouse were very visible along two track road edges in thicker parts of the forest as males navigated the breeding season.  At higher elevations, the ump, ump, ump pulsing of blue grouse males calling for the attention of females was also prevelant and now we’re seeing hens and young of the year of all species in super numbers.

Additionally, early in the spring it was also evident that many holdover birds had made it through the winter.  Once again we had a very light winter here in northwest Montana and to have a substantial population of two year old birds added to the mix is always a bonus!

LOC bird dogs Gracie, Maisy and Maggie are all staying in great shape and have been out for long runs in the evening throughout the summer.  August is running fast and the opening of grouse season here in Montana on September 1 is just about two weeks away.

LOC bird dogs Gracie, Maisy, and Maggie paying close attention.  Photo by Brian Grossenbacher.
LOC bird dogs Gracie, Maisy, and Maggie paying close attention. Photo by Brian Grossenbacher.

 


Montana Wolf Hunting Report 8-13-2016

This Montana wolf hunting report is brought to you by Linehan Outfitting Company and provides current information and conditions about wolf hunting here in the northwest corner of Montana.

This past winter we once again had a pretty good measure of success on wolves.  At the moment, we’re running over 50% opportunity since Montana opened the wolf hunt a few years ago.  This winter we managed to knock down a mature 95 lbs male who came running in with four other animals.  We had some misses and should have had at least two more animals on the ground but misses are part of hunting as well.

We are not overrun by wolves here in our area.  We have perfectly balanced population and from what we can tell, the populations seems to be holding steady and not necessarily exploding like it has in other areas of the state.  To that end, it looks like we’ll have a balanced population to hunt again this season.

Wolves are pretty quiet during the summer.  Life is easy, traveling and hunting is easy, and wolves are happy to take it easy.

Our wolf hunts are all about tracking, monitoring movement of wolves, and then setting up and calling.  Calling wolves often begins by howling which helps locate animals.  Wolves are very gregarious and will often how back which obviously helps us determine if they are close.  If we get an answer, we often then switch to a predator call and try to get them to come looking for a meal.

Average shots while wolf hunting are between 100-200 yards.  Most of the time when wolves come in they are moving fairly quickly and or at least loping along and they can show up in numbers or as individuals as well.

It’s summer right now but we’re always thinking about the hunting season here.  Stand by for more information and give a call anytime if you have questions.

http://www.fishmontana.com

 

 


5 Montana Wolf Hunting Tips

These 5 Montana wolf hunting tips are brought to you by Linehan Outfitting Company and hopefully provi knowledge and useful information that will help you become more successful in the field.

Montana opened it’s wolf hunting season a few years ago.  Wolf populations are now very healthy and balanced across the state and hunting for these awesome trophies is becoming more popular.  But nobody would argue that wolves are the hardest big game animal to harvest in the lower forty-eight states and some would argue the hardest big game animal to harvest in North America.  Wolf hunting is all about calling and Montana does allow the use of electronic calls.

Wolves are awesome and intelligent, big travelers, very vocal, and above all gregarious and curious.  They are territorial to a degree while maintaining a structured pack and social dynamic.  By keeping these characteristics in mind, you can start to learn more about how wolves can be more successfully hunted.

Here are five tips to help you hunt wolves more successfully.

  1. Hunt fresh sign.  Snow helps to this degree but a pack of wolves will leave sign and tracks if they are spending time in a certain area.
  2. Cover ground.  Don’t hit the same area over and over again.  Wolves travel.  They may be in one area for a day and then gone the next.
  3.  Call at night to help pattern their travel circuit.  By getting out at night and calling you can often get answers.  This will obviously help determine where to start your first calling session at first light.
  4. Position your call behind you.  By positioning your call behind you, you will often gain the advantage of having approaching animals focus on the call and inadvertently make the mistake of not sensing where you are located.
  5. Wear appropriate camo, be patient, sit still, and watch downwind as well.  Wolves will often come without having made a sound and from downwind like all other game.  Be ready and be steady.

Wolves are an awesome trophy species to hunt.  By keeping these wolf hunting tips in mind, you just might increase your chances of success.

LOC guests Aaron A. and Travis F with Montana trophy wolf
LOC guests Aaron A. and Travis F with Montana trophy wolf

 

 

 

 


MONTANA GROUSE HUNTING REPORT 4-26-2015

It’s official! Ruffed grouse are drumming here in northwest Montana. First thing this morning we heard the unmistakable sound so appreciated by grouse hunters across the country. Conditions could not be better for birds this year. With a mild winter and plenty of food were expecting terrific numbers of grouse this season. LOC bird dogs Gracie and Maisy are finding birds each day and presently there are lots of two year old birds available for breeding. But immediately, it’s still nap time for Maisy…

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Montana Bird Hunting Report 3-1-2015

HUNT YOUR DOGS EVEN IF YOU CAN’T SHOOT BIRDS

It’s been a mild winter here in northwest Montana and the grouse population is in good shape. With light snow pack, holdover birds are healthy, able to move about with little stress, and finding plenty of food. Linehan Outfitting Company bird dogs Gracie and Maisy are finding several birds each afternoon on southern slopes and hillsides.

Seasonal game closures shouldn’t prevent you from hunting. It’s important to keep bird dogs in shape throughout the year and getting your dogs out in the winter under different conditions also helps challenge them. The learning curve can be steep and that’s exactly what you want. Additionally, hunting your dogs during the off-season keeps their mental attitude in shape as well. It helps keep them inspired and helps them avoid the off-season slumps sometimes associated with long periods of non-hunting.

It’s often said that the reward for flushing dogs and retrievers is the bird in their mouth. But that’s only half of it. Working hard, finding a bird, and ultimately getting a close flush are just as much a reward for any solid dog.

And obviously for pointing dogs, the same principles apply. During the off-season it matters not if you’re knocking birds down. What matters is that they’re on the ground, doing what they love most which is pointing birds.

Hunting dogs during the off-season also keeps you and your dogs working as a team. Let’s face it, most of us aren’t professional dog trainers. We need constant improvement in the handling department. The other day I thought my golden retriever Gracie was chasing a bunny and I tried to call her off. Actually, she was working two birds that had split and both were determined not to fly what with sparse winter foliage. I was witnessing behavior I’d never seen from an experienced seven year old ruffed grouse hunting machine. And that day I learned the lesson. She doesn’t chase bunnies. She never has.

Just because you can’t shoot birds doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty of hunting to be had. Get out there during the off-season and get those dogs on the ground.

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Montana Whitetail Deer Report 2-16-2015

2015 WHITETAIL SEASON EXPECTED TO BE BEST IN YEARS!

It’s been an extraordinarily mild winter here at Linehan Outfitting Company in northwest Montana.  To date we’ve had very little snow and above average temperatures.  What does this mean?  It means that winter kill on the local whitetail deer and elk herd will be minimal.

Local Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks data have also shown that the whitetail herd has been growing the past five years.  And LOC guides would have to agree.  Tim and guides Sean McAfee, Ben Valentine, and Jeremy Smith all report seeing more deer each day this past season than they have in a long time.  And more importantly, more mature bucks.

It’s mid-February and there’s very little snow on the ground.  Whitetails have not even really had to drop move into traditional winter range since there’s food everywhere.  The deer are also thick and very healthy due to available winger forage.  All this bodes well for an exciting 2015 season full of big, mature whitetail bucks.

#montanawhitetaildeerhunting  #whitetaildeerhunting #montanahunting

LOC guest Paul A. with a big Montana whitetail buck.
LOC guest Paul A. with a big Montana whitetail buck.

 


Montana Grouse Hunting Report 12-14-2014

The 2014 grouse season here in northwest Montana proved to one of the most prolific in some time. Good numbers of ruffed, spruce, and blue grouse were found across all habitat types. In years of high population densities it’s not uncommon for birds to spill over into less than perfect habitat and that was the case as well. LOC gun dogs Gracie and Maisy hunted hard and well and pointed, flushed, and retrieved lots of birds. The season average for flushes ended at 3.5 per hour. So far the early winter has proven to be particularly mild so birds are still eating well due to lack of snow and plenty of available food at the moment. Stay tuned for more reports throughout the winter and especially in the spring when birds start drumming.

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Northwest Montana Whitetail Deer Report 10-24-2014

Average Daytime Temperature:  40-50 degrees

Weather:  partly cloudy skies

Moisture Content:  recent showers have made for wet ground

Herd Condition:  good to excellent

General season opening day is right around the corner here at Linehan Outfitting Company in northwest Montana and whitetail populations are once again strong.  Local FWP biologists are maintaining herd growth again due to a moderate winter with little or no substantial winter kill.  To that end, this spring’s fawn recruitment was very good.

Buck to doe ratio seems to be about average for the state.  We had been seeing a few 4-5 year old deer through the early summer and are still seeing younger bucks each day.

While it’s nearly impossible to forecast weather for the entire season, the NOAA website is suggesting that mild conditions will prevail for much of November.  But who really knows?  We could be hunting in sub-zero conditions 48 hours from now.  For the most part expect wet mornings what with high moisture content and dew this time of year and daytime temps in the 40’s.  There is always a chance of showers or precipitation this time of year also.  Be sure to pack at least a waterproof shell every day.

 

LOC guide Jeremy Smith and guest with a great northwest Montana whitetail deer.
LOC guide Jeremy Smith and guest with a great northwest Montana whitetail deer.