Trout fishermen are going Mad over the Madison River. The only thing groups can agree on is that no one wants to be told what to do. The guides and outfitters want to make money, the shuttle drivers want to make money, Ennis businesses and trout shops want to make money, and fly fishermen from around the world want to spend money. “Money” is also a common connection.

Public fisheries are paid for by the public. The fish are public property, and the resource is managed based upon public input and agencies paid with public funding. It does not seem fair when private entities get to make money off what is a valuable resource for all of us.

The groups that pay for the resource’s management, regulation, and protections should have the voice. Fishing licenses, management stamps, fees, and contributions pay the bills that build the fishing accesses. Recreational tubers, floaters, and users that pay nothing, crowd, trash, vandalize, impact and abuse our “public” places but contribute no money to support them. What a sweet deal. Just look at the Lower Madison River during the summer.

What makes us the “Maddest” is that what is truly at risk is the fishery itself. Too much pressure ensures that the resource will be lost. How much fishing pressure is too much? Do we have to wait until the bottom falls out before we act? Trout Unlimited says to follow the Science. They will not take a side until the data is all in. Maybe they need to be renamed “Trout Limited”. In the meantime, fishermen are getting madder.

A recent yearlong FWP survey has surfaced.

               70% of interviewed Madison River anglers are non-residents

               Only 18% of anglers were from Gallatin County, MT.

               Most non-resident and non-commercial use are between Hebgen Lake and Lyons Bridge

               50% of Madison Commercial floating is between Lyons Bridge and Ennis.

               21% of non-resident Madison anglers are from California, Utah, and Colorado

               25% of interviewed anglers were first time visitors to the Madison River

               70% of interviewed anglers felt the fishing was “acceptable”.

               55% of interviewed anglers said that the number of floaters, between Lyons and Ennis is unacceptable.

               70% of interviewed anglers felt the number of fishermen on the river is unacceptable.

Did anyone ask about the fish? How many guided trips come from out of state? Do fishermen understand proper Catch and Release techniques? Could Guides become better stewards of the resource through education and training? Should experienced guides have input into how fishing is better protected? Should some stretches be managed as Guided trips only?  Is it time to exclude spin fishing from the fishery? Have cell phones, photography, and action cams become a liability to fish survival? Should a Fish Safety/ Resource Training Course be required before fishermen are allowed to fish?

Madison River veterans have historically seen the fishery change. Like it or not, the trout numbers are down. Catch and Release mortality is up. During an evening Caddis hatch, back in the 80’s and early 90’s, 30 trout heads would be rising behind every rock in the river. Today, you may see 6. Big trout are fewer, and trout without hook scars are rare. Numbers are down from 30 years ago but up from 1995.

In 1995, Whirling’s Disease was introduced into the river through illegal stocking, dirty boats and boots, and lack of attention. 90% of adult Rainbow trout disappeared. Brown trout, which are also non-native are immune to the disease and survived. What were thousands of trout per mile declined to hundreds. It takes 3-4 years to grow a 14-15-inch trout. Recovery takes time.

Fly fishing quality or “acceptable fishing” are based on what you are used to. Nonresident fishermen generally come from areas where only stocked, seasonal fish are the choice. Their local fisheries are already stressed, crowded, and overfished. Montana at its worst is more “Acceptable” to this audience.

Without a quality population of fish, the fishery will become a boat ride, floating, and fishing, but rarely catching. For many, drifting down the Madison is a glorious celebration of nature. The wildlife, vistas, water, and experience are exceptional. Many guests will be satisfied. For fly fishermen, the lack of fish will not make this fishery “inviting”. Just look at the once awesome Bighorn River. This fishery has also traveled the same path. Overfishing, inconsistent water flows, poor reproduction, disease, and mishandling of fish has made this once famous fishery far less.

The FWP has a big and important job to do. New legislation is on the way. Crowds are not just Commercial. It seems that local examples, and history, are not enough evidence. Dollars dictate decisions. Trout Unlimited is still waiting for data.

Even if they do it right, someone will still be Mad!

Montana Grant

For more Montana Grant, find him supporting fisheries at

Taking risks and trying new things are how we learn. We will never get our limit of knowledge in our lifetime. The best lessons are learned through trial and error. Big mistakes mean big opportunities to grow. To become a successful outdoorsman, we need to embrace the adventure, failure, and challenges.

Here are 10 things well learned learned that will help you become a better outdoorsman and person:

#1. Attitude is important!

               Hunt, fish, and live your life with a positive attitude. Every cast is an opportunity for a bite, every hunt could lead to a big buck, and life is supposed to fun. I expect a bite on every cast. If you don’t, what’s the point? If you think the fish won’t bite or the deer won’t move, and that life is miserable, you will always be right and unhappy. Lighten up and enjoy what life throws at you.

#2. Be a Student of the Sport!

               Old dogs can always learn new tricks. If someone else is catching more fish than you, introduce yourself and ask some questions. Make new friends and take every opportunity to learn. Today’s shows, seminars, readings, and clubs are great ways to network and keep up with the best new tips and gear. “The most important things that we learn in life are the things we learn after we already know everything!”

#3. Be Comfortable!

               If you only trek outdoors on the “nice days”, you will miss out on most of the best hunting and fishing. Today’s quality fabrics and clothing offer incredible comfort and function. You don’t have to wear the same boots from 30 years ago. Treat yourself to some new gear! If you are cold, hungry, hot, or just uncomfortable, you will not be attentive to your trek, hunt or cast. Hand and toe warmers are a godsend. Under Armor-type constrictive garments wick away moisture, support your joints, and improve circulation. Lightweight tree stands have swivel seats and shooting rails! New boats are equipped with all sorts of comfort features that are worth the investment. If you are not comfortable, you will not be motivated.

#4. Move more and Eat less!

               Staying in shape becomes tougher with age. It is easy to find excuses to stay home. All of us fight the battle of weight and staying in shape. Fitness memberships help but hunting and fishing can be a workout too.  It is important to move and exercise when hunting and fishing to promote flexibility and muscle strength. A trout stream or mountain ridge is a lot more exciting and beautiful than a gym. Attack your sport within your limits and enjoy. You also have the chance to bring home a meal and a story or two. Lazy Boy chairs are for lazy boys and not sportsmen!

#5. Stay True to the Limits and Rules!

               Anyone can be a cheater, poacher, or thief. They are lazy, greedy, and brainless. Sportsmen follow the rules and take pride in what they accomplish. Telling truthful stories about great hunting and fishing trips are part of the celebration. It is always easier to remember the truth. These exciting and honest moments change a person in so many ways. Kids who get into trouble need to learn how to hunt and fish. The rules, limits, guidelines, and laws define right and wrong. Out of control kids don’t know what limits and rules are. Sports are a great way to teach them. Poachers know the rules but choose to ignore them.

#6. Safety First!

               Always anticipate what may go wrong. Be prepared for the worst case scenarios and you will stay safer. Outdoor sports happen in dangerous environs. Storms, bears, snakes, bees, insects, cuts, bruises, and accidents can happen in a second. We don’t need to fear them, we just need to be aware and prepared for them. An updated and modern first aid kit is a must. Life vests, modern gear, and newer weapons offer better safety features. CPR and First Aid classes are important.

#7. Teach Others the Sport!

               The greatest outdoorsmen show others the way. Being a Pathfinder is more important than ever. Men are an important part of our children’s lives. Many single-parent “Soccer Moms” were never taught the hunting and fishing heritage. They want their kids to be active and involve them in what they know. Teaching others how to enjoy the outdoors is the best assessment of the kind of sportsman you are. Nature, fishing rods, and hunting are great daycare alternatives. They teach patience, respect, and are great fun.

#8. Change it up!

               Do the opposite of what is expected, to reap huge results. Use a big fly during a midge hatch, fish downstream instead of up, try a new spot, be creative and unique! I once used a HUGE Joe’s Hopper to fly fish the Henry’s Fork. This technical river required skill, fine tippets, and perfect presentation. Everyone was fishing with tiny dry flies so I went BIG! I was catching so many huge trout that a fisherman called the game warden on me! They thought the “kid” was using bait. If you do what everyone else is doing, you can expect the same results.

#9. Fish and hunt for fun!

               Don’t measure the success of the trip on the filled limits or tags. The true bounty is with the adventure, memories, and experiences. Plan to have a great day no matter what happens. You will discover that you are more anxious and excited about every aspect of the day. The rest will take care of itself. Most of us will never catch enough fish or critters. We will never adventure outdoors enough.

I once called in 5 bugling bull elk for a client in a single morning. Every bull was huge and offered a bow shot within 20 yards. He missed every shot because he was so excited. This experienced worldwide unfilled tag hunter had the best hunt of his life and his tip proved it.

#10. Celebrate the Sport!

               Every year we get one less hunting and fishing opening day. We never thought about that when we are younger but….embrace every opportunity and friend as you share the outdoors. Great hunting and fishing buddies are harder to find than a good wife, husband, or partner. Enjoying nature is better with a buddy. It is also safer. As our population grows, more impact will continue on our natural resources. The more folks that celebrate and, love nature, will help to protect and conserve it. Celebrate, share, and teach others to appreciate and enjoy our outdoor legacy.

The best outdoorsmen are the ones that can excite and teach others how to be their best. That is what the Outdoor legacy and heritage is really about!

Hunt and fish with pride!

Montana Grant

For more Montana Grant, visit his blog at

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Its time to begin again! Every year there is an ending point and a point to start anew. Hunters call it “New Deer Year”!

Oh no what can a Deer Hunter do? Except for some late season doe hunts, private hunts, or maybe a crop depredation hunt, Deer Season has ended. The next time we get to hunt is maybe for Sheds, or Spring Turkey, but that’s months away.

First, unpack and reorganize. Wash your bloody, dirty, scent covered clothes in a non-scent detergent. Dry them using a scent free Foil Ball instead of a dryer sheet. Examine them for any tears, broken zippers, popped buttons, or damage. Make all the repairs and fold them. Place the clothes in a sealable, scent free storage tub and label.

As you are going through your equipment and gear, make a list of any needs. Maybe you lost a glove or hat. The boots have a few too many miles on them. Your arrows have all been used too many times and need new fletching, or a new set. The rifle scope needs an upgrade, or lenses cleaned. Perhaps the sling swivels need to be replaced. Keep a clip board handy to make your possible list. The goal is to be ready, organized, and well equipped for the new deer season.

 Hunting Buddies are a special gift. Start looking for some New Deer Hunt Buddies, if needed. Reinforce your bonds with your current friends.As we travel through a lifetime of hunting seasons, great Buddies will come and go. You need to maintain and support these precious relationships, or you will be hunting alone. To have a friend, you need t be a friend.

Clean you rifles and guns. An annual inspection and overhaul are always a great idea. Use the good bore cleaner, and the new cleaning brush, that was in your Christmas stocking, now check out every screw, and fitting. Use dummy ammo to recycle through the action. Treat the leather slings with some conditioner, then store them properly back into your gun safe or cases.

Send out the “Thank You “cards to the landowners that allowed access to their property. A simple card will help keep the gate open for next season. Sending a fruit basket or maybe a stick of Deer Bologna are thoughtful. I usually make a gift that the landowner will display every day of the year. Take a silhouette goose decoy and paint the landowners name on it. Place it at the end of their driveway with a note on the back from you. When it gets old and faded, make a new one. I have also made a timber deer from logs. Place it in their garden but their front door. Hang a note around its neck saying thank you. It is the thought that counts.

Plan a Party! Get your hunting Buddies together in the next few months for an annual hunting gathering. Take all the cell phone pictures and videos and organize a slide show. Add some Power Point effects and present last years greatest hunting highlights! Have everyone bring their favorite deer recipe for the buffet. Think about giving some fun awards to each buddy. The more the merrier. Biggest Buck, Smallest Buck, Best Story, Worst Excuse, etc. Maybe have some grab bag gifts. We al have gear we never use, old NRA membership gifts, or unused gift cards. Silly gifts are fun too.

Respect your past trophies! Get the step ladder out and recondition your past trophy mounts. They get dusty on the wall. Brush the cobwebs off the hair, clean the antlers, and perform any maintenance. Build a frame around the mounts, if they do not have a display board on them. This simple look trims the mount nicely. Trophy mounts are not about bragging, they are about memories and memorials. It is how we show respect, and never forget the gifts and adventure of the hunt.

Start dreaming and planning for the New Deer Season. Where will you hunt? How will you change your plan or strategy? When will you start scouting? Is there any maintenance or repairs needed for a hunting stand or blind? Does the landowner need any help repairing fencing or planting trees or…?

We only have so many hunting seasons in our lives. New hunters are immortal, and rarely think about this. As we age, the joints and muscles get stiffer, our bodies slow down, and fellow hunters fall by the trailside. Getting up before daylight is tougher, more coffee is required, our pants get smaller, and, well you know the rest.

Keep your body healthy and in shape. This can’t be done with a pill or overnight. An exercise routine that is properly implemented over months is required. Consider your diet, and other habits that may impact your future hunting performance.

Deer Season never really ends. It just morphs into new and exciting ways to enjoy it. Use your new optics to monitor the deer herds. Take some video or pictures with that new cell phone. Start breaking in that new pair of hunting boots. Hunt for sheds along the edges of your deer areas.

Deer hunters never count sheep at night. We count bucks jumping over a fence or log. The sight of antlers moving across a field, or through the forest never fail to excite us.

Hunt harder, hunt harder!

Montana Grant

For more Montana Grant, hunt him up at

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Hunting has a heritage of sharing the bounty of nature. Preparing meals from the harvest is always a great way to show love for family and friends. Anyone can cook a ham, turkey, roast or food from the grocery store. Preparing food that you gathered from hunting is a more special gift.

Hunting means time, patience, expense, skill, persistence, and dedication. After the arrow leaves the bow or the trigger is pulled, the real work begins. Butchering, packaging, storing, and preparing the meat is even more intimate and personal. Cooking a holiday meal that includes your deer is priceless and is a true gift from a hunter’s heart.

Here are a few dinner ideas for you to enjoy this holiday.

               DEER CHESAPEAKE

This recipe celebrated the annual deer camp for my deer hunting Brothers in Western Maryland. We served last years deer meat to nourish our bodies for the new season. The corn bread was always a nice addition. Rarely were there any leftovers.

Brown the following in a large iron kettle;

               2 lbs. of cubed meat, ¾ lb. of diced onion, ¼ clove of garlic, 5 tbsp. of olive oil. For a camp or big group, grow the ingredients accordingly.

When the browning is complete, add the following;

               ½ tbsp. of dry mustard, 2 tbsp. of paprika, dash of red pepper, ¼ cup of brown sugar, ½ cup of Worcestershire Sauce, 1 tbsp. of apple cider vinegar, 1 cup of ketchup and 3 cups of water.

Simmer for 2 hours. Longer is fine. Leftovers, if there are any, are always a treat. I prefer the meal thicker. You can add flour to make it so. You want the recipe to be more like a sauce than a soup.

Serve over egg noodles and enjoy together with this “Southern Corn Bread” recipe:

Southern Corn Bread

Mix the following;

               1 cup white flour, 1 cup yellow ground cornmeal, ½ cup of sugar, ½ stick of melted butter, 1 tbsp. of baking powder, 2 eggs and 1 cup of milk. Bake in a 9-inch baking dish at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Before serving, use a fork to make holes in the top then pour honey over the cooked cornbread.

It just doesn’t get any better.


Butterfly chops are made from the deer loin. Cut a thick, 2-inch filet mignon, then cut it almost in half. Fold the steak open to make it like a butterfly. Now marinade the steak in equal parts olive oil, cheapo red wine and some Montreal Steak seasoning. Allow it to marinate for a few hours or overnight. This basic marinade is perfect for all wild big game. Place the steaks on a hot grill for a few minutes, then flip. Don’t overcook. These cuts are best when warmed up and rare. Serve immediately or eat off the grill. You will not need a sauce or any other spice.


2-3 pounds of deer steaks, about an inch thick. ½ cup of flour, 2 tsp. salt, ¼ tsp. pepper, 1-2 tbsp. butter, 2-3 tbsp. olive oil, 3 tbsp. chopped onion, brown sugar, ketchup, basil, ¼ cup beef stock or broth.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Trim the steaks into serving sized pieces and tenderize with a mallet. Dip the steaks into the mixture of flour, salt and pepper. Brown the steaks in the olive oil. Arrange the browned steaks in a baking dish. Top each steak with a bit of butter, ketchup, and brown sugar. Add stock to the drippings in the fry pan and add to the baking dish. Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove foil, add a bit more water or stock., if meat seems too dry. Bake another 15 minutes. You can bake your potatoes at the same time.


Cut prime steaks into 1-2-inch sized cubes. Trim any fat or silver skin. Marinate the cubes ahead of time using the same marinade described in the Venison Chops recipe. Heat the fondue pot with olive oil. Serve this dish with some side bowls of your favorite steak sauces. When ready to cook, remove the raw meat cubes from the marinate. Use a fondue fork to stab a chunk of deer meat and add to the hot oil. It will cook quickly, so remove when it is right for you. Dip into a sauce and enjoy! Quick, simple, interactive, and a delicacy. You can use this with any wild big game.

Cooking is way to show family and friends respect, and love. These deer recipes are different and have been shared in our family for years. I hope that they bring your family and friends closer together as they have done for mine.

Hunt hard, hunt harder, and share the bounty!

Montana Grant

For more Montana Grant, find him cooking at

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After hours and days trying to fill your tag, the moment of truth finally arrives. You see the target, raise your weapon and BANG, you missed! What the heck?

First, you are not the first! Many hunters have had their “Missed Moments”! What is important, is to accept ownership and make this a learning moment. Hunters are human, and we must learn from our mistakes. Wasting this learning moment is a wasted opportunity to improve.

I have known some hunters that still have the original box of shells that they bought with their rifle. A few rounds went down range for a quick site in, and the rest were reserved for the hunt. Who knows if their rifle was dropped, kicked, or just out of adjustment?

Other marksmen spend hours on the bench. They try special loads, bullets, techniques, and fine tune their bench shooting skills. This proves that their rifles and guns are capable of great accuracy. Bench shooting and hunter shooting are two different beasts.

My friend Keith is the best shot I know. He is fine off the bench but better off hand! One morning a buck and a herd of does came across a powerline. Keith was in a chair, with a bench rail to shoot off. Instead of using a support, he stands up and places 2 rounds, from a semiauto 280 caliber, an inch apart, at a moving buck, at almost 300 yards! I helped drag that great buck.

Shooting is fun! Practice, with your hunting weapon year around. If you brag about the long-range shots that you have made, prove it. Shoot your rifle at 300-600 yards and see what your skills are. If you miss, practice.

Most misses come from negligence. You did not maintain the gun, or rifles accuracy. Flinching, bad position, improper trigger pull, hurrying the shot, or flicking the trigger are often the other reasons. Don’t blame everything else. Figure it out and learn a lesson.

               FLINCHING    Most hunters know they missed before they pulled the trigger. The same is true with an arrow. It just doesn’t feel right. Calm down and focus! A smooth trigger release is essential. The weapon should surprise you when it goes off. Flinches are usually a quick trigger jerk or squeeze. Lifting your head off the stock doesn’t help. Anticipating a recoil will also cause you to tighten up and flinch. To fix this, try dry firing. Use a spent cartridge in the chamber to support the firing pin. They make dummy rounds that you can use. Pull the trigger so much that it becomes natural and develops muscle memory. Keep both eyes open and relax.

               When firing live ammunition, have a friend watch you shoot. Film the shots of you shooting, with your cellphone. Once you see it, you will believe it.

               SHOOTING TOO FAST    Once the crosshairs settle on the target, many shooters slap the trigger. You should take a full breath, release half, settle in and find the spot between your heartbeats. Now squeeze the trigger smoothly. Many shooters are so afraid of not getting the shot, they forget to breath. This is where muscle memory comes in. Its ok to be excited but focus on the moment and control the shot. If the shot does not feel right, don’t shoot! Dry firing makes this happen. A thousand trigger pulls are not too many. Precision shooting is a perishable skill, so practicing keeps you tuned in.

               POOR POSITION    Field shooting means that your entire body must be in position. There is no chair or bench. You need to embrace what you have. A proper stance allows for a balanced shot. Being steady must happen before you can shoot. Shooting freehand means using a nearby tree or a hasty sling support. If you are not comfortable, you will miss. Practice shooting afield in the off season. Use a BB, pellet gun, or a 22 rifle. The One best shot is a result of hundreds of practice shots. Shooting is shooting. It doesn’t matter what the weapon is. Practice makes perfect. Choose safe, backstopped targets and shoot standing, sitting, or… Situation awareness comes from practice and repetition. Plan your shots before you pull the trigger.

               NOSE PICKING    This means that you slapped the trigger. Once the shot went off, you moved your trigger finger forward. This will move the rifle before the round exits the barrel. Maintain your trigger squeeze well after the shot. Dry firing is the secret to breaking this bad habit. Focus on the bullet or arrow traveling to the target. Look for the outcome of the impact.

               POOR TRIGGER CONTACT    Use the center of your pad on your finger to address the trigger. Adding a trigger shoe will make this more comfortable and wider. My accuracy improved when I added a larger surface for my fat fingers to touch. Center finger pad pulled straight back. Simple, sweet, and perfect! Oh, and don’t forget to breath. Find that space between your breaths and heartbeats. The greater the range, the more important this is.

“One shot, one kill” means experience from many practice shots. I shoot a Ruger single shot 30-06 single shot rifle. I brag about how I only take 3 rounds afield, when I hunt. One for the critter, two if I must put them down, and a third for me if I miss the first two. Honestly, this does not count the hours of annual bench time. If you don’t take ownership of your misses, you will miss again.

Respect our wildlife with an accurate, quick, sporting harvest!

Montana Grant

For more Montana Grant, aim for him at

This article is posted on www.DannerholzWhitetails .com

Once the critter is down, now what? Trophy critters require assistance when getting them from the field to your rig. Back in the pioneer days, a horse, wagon, or mule may have been handy. Today, we need to consider other options.

We have all heard the stories about the guy that shoots the big buck that runs back toward his truck and falls into the bed. Anything even close to this has never happened to me.

Years ago, I traveled to the top of Martin’s Mountain, Pennsylvania, early one morning. Opening day meant big crowds and moving deer. I picked a spot well above the hunters and waited for the morning drive. Sure enough, dozens of deer were pushed uphill, right into my lap. One well placed shot and my tag was in place. Now it was time to drag my big whitetail back to the truck, 4 miles away.

The path was rugged and covered with blowdowns and rockpiles. I used an old looped safety strap around the buck’s neck, and over my shoulder. The dressed buck weighed 142 lbs. It gained weight with every step. By the time it was back to camp, there was no hair left on its sides. It looked like a hairless cat. Even though the hair was gone, the hide protected the meat. Surely there had to be a better way.

Over the years, we tried roll out plastic sleds, poles, quartering, two-man carts, travois, and anything we could think of to get the critters out. Today, we are blessed with a menu of special rigs, carts, sleds, and gear to make this task easier. If you hunt on private land, a wheeler, truck, or farm equipment will do the trick. Public land discourages vehicle use.

On another Evitts Mountain adventure hunt, in Maryland, I nailed my morning buck and tried to haul it out in a more traditional way. Hopefully, no hair would be dragged off, this time. We have all seen the pictures of hunters returning to camp with a critter tied to a pole. They hauled it over their shoulders and shared the load. No one ever mentions how the critters sway as you walk. Up and down hills transfer the weight. This is an idea that looks better than it works. We busted our butts carrying this swinging buck several miles to the car.

Farmers, ranchers, and private landowners seem to always have a tractor, dozer, super wheeler, or some rig to haul the critters. On one Montana elk hunt, the landowner had several family members lined up across a ridgetop, on opening day. I went along as a helper. Over 100 elk came down the coulee at first light. Everyone opened up and 12 bulls were down. The landowner’s son, Jon, ran back to the barn and drove back in a front-end loader. They hooked up 4 bulls at a time to the front and hauled them back to the barn. I am not sure how sporting this hunt was but the haul out was sure easier. What I do remember is that the matriarch of the family, Leonard, waited for everyone else to shoot. After they were done, Leonard used shooting stix, and a 300 WinMag, to drill his bull at 1000 yards!

Most hunters do not have the advantage of horses, tractors, or front-end loaders. We must rely on muscle and ingenuity. Wheelers help, if allowed. Wheeled carts are handy. Wheelbarrows work, and maybe a winch. On one haul out adventure, a buddy nailed a huge 5×5 buck at the bottom of a valley. Instead of attempting a carry or drag, we attached a rope to the winch on my wheeler and ran 4 lengths of climbing rope to the deer. The deer’s front legs were folded over the antlers to streamline the drag. My buddy was with the deer, and a radio. When I got the word to winch, I flipped the switch. Before you knew it, the buck and Buddy were on their way up the steep hill. At a few points during the drag, Darryl had lost his footing and just held on. Both hands were needed to hold on so he couldn’t use the radio. I stopped as the winch wheel filled and re-tied the rope. It took some time but neither of us broke a sweat.

Planning ahead of time, for a haul out, is a good idea. If you have a waterway, road, trail, or downhill topography in your area, know where to go with the flow. After one successful morning, I hauled my buck to the shore of a lake. It was in the opposite direction of the camp. My buddy was already at camp with his buck. Our canoe was at our camp, across the lake. Before you knew it, he was paddling over to me, and my buck. The deer was loaded and floated home.

 Railroad Hollow, in Green Ridge State Forest, Maryland has a 10-mile blocked road. Perfect for a bicycle access. I rode my fat tired, camo painted, 1930’s bike mid-way and hid it under a hemlock tree. After filling my buck tag. I loaded the deer onto my bike. The rear body cavity perched on the seat. The head and antlers piled into the front bike basket. This bike had no gears. I was able to role the deer for 5 miles with minimal effort. When there was a downhill slope, I was able to stand on the pedal and glide with my buck.

You can’t beat a sled in the snow. Sturdy plastic tuff sleds come in all sizes and can later double up as ice fishing sleds. On one cow elk haul out, we manhandled a huge elk to a fire road. Once there, this guy pulls out a little, pink, plastic kiddie sled. We loaded the whole critter onto the sled. Most was hanging off. I was able to tow the whole 500 pound plus cow elk with one hand. The problem came when going downhill. The critter wanted to toboggan to the bottom.

Wheeled carts come in all kinds of configurations. Some have hand brakes. The wider the wheelbase, the better. Narrow rigs tend to dump over. Lower center of gravity carts works best. Fold up carts allow easier mobility. On several opening day antelope hunts, we hauled out up to 4 lopes at a time on a wheeled cart. We would haul the folded cart into the field before light. It would hang on a fence until needed. Once we haul pulled our triggers, the lopes were shuttled to a loading spot. We all took turns hauling the loaded sled back to the truck.

Having some gloves, and extra cord to secure the meat, are also handy. The best thing to have are some strong hunting partners. The more muscle, the easier the haul. Share the meat with whoever helps.

If you are young and strong enough, throw the critter over your shoulders and begin the long walk. If the critter is too big, quarter it and bag it. Carry it out 100 pounds at a time. Use an old pack frame or shoulder rig. The meat you must work hard for always tastes better.

Hunt hard, hunt harder!

Montana Grant

For more Montana Grant, haul him in at

Before I say one more thing, let me congratulate these rookie Youth Hunters for their successful and safe hunts. Their Mentors really set these kids up for a lifetime of wonderful memories. The pictures display wonderful smiles, satisfaction, and demonstrate proper safety. These visuals are important when sharing pictures about hunting on Facebook and other sites. These pictures are magazine quality except…

Why the Bloody Tongues? When the average person looks at the pictures, they are drawn to the tongue hanging lifelessly out of the deer’s mouth. The Youth Hunters, and the deer, look amazing except for the tongues!

Now don’t get me wrong, I have the same kinds of pictures from years ago. They are not hanging on the wall because the tongue image is so distasteful. It only takes a moment to shove the tongue inside the deer’s mouths. A cloth, grass, or sanitary wipe can remove any blood from the nose. Now the picture will highlight the hunter, and the trophy.

Like it or not, most folks do not hunt. Others find hunting an awful “Blood Sport”. Driving around with dead carcasses on our hoods, heads, legs, and horns sticking out of the truck beds, and pictures of bloody hearts and bullet holes do not send the best message for our sport. Times have changed. A quick cell phone picture can send the wrong message in a hurry. The spin can destroy positive attitudes and impressions about hunters and hunting.

 It is up to the mentors to model appropriate behaviors. We teach safety, marksmanship, tracking, survival, and hunter skills. These important lessons will be practiced over their lives. Molding Youth Hunters into Ethical Hunters is critical. Hunting is no longer about subsistence. Hunting today is a choice to harvest organic, free range, healthy meat. It is cheaper to buy meat from the store than to hunt.

Usually, the photographers are as excited as the lucky hunter. They simply forget to take more time to take a great picture. Ironically, we spend so much time building up to this moment, why would you rush through the final reward? The picture confirms the harvest and creates a moment in time that will last forever.

Now some our hunting brother and sisterhood will react to this article, and others negative opinions, with a single fingered salute. “If they don’t like it don’t look!” or “Mind your own business!” The truth is that all hunters are measured as one group. Impressions we make reflect upon all of us.

We can certainly post these pictures to our groups or use them in our sporting circles of friends. Pictures remind us about special moments in our lives. As parents, we hang them in our children’s rooms, so they are reminded about good choices and positive moments. Their trophies, pictures, antlers, and other rewards remind them that their cup is always half full.

Years ago, hunters would cut the tongue out of the deer’s mouth to confirm ownership. This common practice allowed for a positive identity, if the deer was stolen. You also placed the tongue in a bag to eat. Many hunters found the tongue, heart, and liver, delicacies.

You must admit that the pictures of a great hunt would look better without the tongue hanging out. Ethical hunters show respect for their harvests by taking a moment to stage the picture. The weapon or garment cover the bloody wound, the tongue is placed into the mouth, lighting and backdrop are positioned, and several pictures produce a perfect memory.

Tuck the Tongue!

Montana Grant

For more Montana Grant, see his tongue at

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The buck stepped closer into the shooting lane. He was just a few steps away as I drew the bow and settled in for the shot. Just as he entered the open lane, I grunted, and the buck stopped. Thwack! It sounded, and felt like, a perfect shot but…

All deer hunters have been at this place. Did I make a perfect shot or…? Whether you are an archer or gun hunter, the issue is the same. The only main difference is usually the range. With a rifle, the shot may have been hundreds of yards. With a bow, it is usually less than 20 yards.

On an archery elk hunt, I had a friend shoot 35 yards at a broadside bull. The arrow sounded right, and the bull rolled, tumbled, kicked, and flopped down the hill. There was no way he missed. When we got the shot site, there was not a single drop of blood. Entire shrubs, bushes and trees were broken in half, but no blood. I marked the spot where the elk stood and began a more thorough search for the arrow. There 10 yards away, sticking in s stump, was a blood free shaft. He had shot low, but the bull saw the arrow coming and danced out of the way.

Unless you have video of the shot, you are guessing about the impact. Once you look at the blood, you can better judge the shot. Lung shots produce frothy blood, heart shots are bright red, etc. Situations are always different, but here are some thoughts about First Blood. Now is the time for patience!

Deer are incredible survivors. They can take amazing damage from arrows, slugs, bullets, or impacts, and survive. The blood of a deer clots incredibly fast. Wounds can seal up in a hurry. I have seen bucks with broadheads and bullets, in or near their hearts that were years old. A calloused membrane had encased the blades or slugs. One huge bull elk shot along the Missouri Breaks, in Montana, had survived 7 arrow wounds. All 7 points were still in his body! Some meat was infected, and had festered, but the bull was alive and kicking.

Every shot should take out the lungs. If the critter can’t breathe, they will pile up. Forget taking head shots, frontal, spine, and ass shots. Take out the lungs. Our best intentions sometimes fail.


Killing a deer is about bleeding. If you don’t hit a major artery or blood area, the shot will not quickly be effective. If this shot is on target, you usually watch or hear the deer fall. If you don’t have this outcome, wait at least 30 minutes before you go to the deer. Take some pictures, relax, text, or just chill. Make sure that you locate the last place you saw the deer. Now find your arrow. The arrow will tell you the truth. If there is blood on the shaft, it came from the deer. What kind of blood is it? Bubbly and frothy means lungs.


This is the deer hunter’s nightmare. It means a slow kill and tainted meat. The arrow will have stomach contents on it. If you can confirm this shot, back off and wait several hours or come back the next day. Otherwise, you will just keep pushing the deer out of its bed. It may run off the property or into another hunter.


If the deer is angled when you shoot, you may only tag one lung. The blood will be pink and bubbly. It looks like a perfect shot, but the deer is hard to find. This deer can still be mobile so scut ahead. Search water holes and streams.


If you are not sure where you hit, he critter, things can get tough. Not seeing the arrow hit the deer is a problem. Not finding the arrow or much blood at the kill spot does not help. These hits are usually a muscle hit and without cutting an artery, chances are slim to find this deer.


If you hit the pump, two things will happen. Blood will be everywhere, and deer will usually go down fast. BUT… I still remember seeing a picture of an elk with a Zwickey broadhead in the center of its heart. The bull lived several years after the wound. Deer are tough critters. Without the right shot, they can survive.


If the deer clamps its tail to their body after the shot, there is a good chance you hit too far back and tagged the liver. Blood will be sparse ad dark. Wait 3-6 hours before following up. This shot is fatla, but if you push the wounded deer, it will run and leave little blood.


Blood tells the tale. If you see little blood, the outcome can be that you will not find the deer. If you are tracking this deer, look ahead for the deer as well as its trail. Sneak along to avoid jumpin the deer. Look for a bedded deer and be ready to shoot again. Use binoculars to scan ahead. You are trying to see the deer before it sees you. If you lose this deer, it will probably survive.

If you lose a deer, look at the map and consider searching along watershed edges. Wounded deer need to drink. They also tend to go downhill. Tracking dogs can be helpful. If it is past time, look for birds feeding on the carcass. You may still acquire the rack. Don’t forget to call up some hunting buddies for help. More eyes can see more sign.

Every case is different. The best way to ensure a mortal kill is practice and preparation. If your bow and scope are sighted in, accurate shots are more likely. Plan for that one best shot! Be confident in your trigger pull or release. This can only come from hours of practice.

Aim small, miss small!

Montana Grant

For more Montana Grant, aim for him at

This article can also be found at www.dannerholzwhitetails. A place to hunt a Trophy Buck!

The biggest, oldest, and real monster bucks are in a class all their own. To tag one of these Big Racked Monsters, you must hunt them as if they were a different species.

All kinds of deer, elk, or big racked critters get that way because they are survivors. To get big, you must have some age, genetics, and health. Survival is key. Avoiding a crowded world, fragmented habitat, threats, close calls, and finding sanctuaries allows these critters to live a full life. Their genetics get passed on to the next herd.

Not every hunter can tag these trophies. Most hunters rely on luck. “Even a Blind squirrel will find an acorn every once in a while!” To consistently score on big bucks, hunt differently than everyone else. So many hunters never change. Hunting today is actually easier. The range finders, optics, quality weapons and ammunition, technology, maps, and learning videos should make us all better hunters.

Great hunters are students of the sport! If you are not learning, you are leaving deer tags on the table. Men learn through hands on and being visual learners. I could tell a new hunter my best secret hunting tips a hundred times, but I only need to show them once. Girls figure it way easier.

White tailed deer are abundant today. Most hunters will stumble into a few during their lives. Racks and mounts in their living rooms, Man Caves, and sheds are evidence of this. For other hunters, these “trophies” are often passed up on.

During one hunting season, a couple of us got together and leased a “Trophy Deer Sanctuary. This Island woods was in the middle of prime hunting. There were all the ingredients for success.  We all shared the property unselfishly until gun season. On opening day, I hunted an edge that was a soybean field away from another private area. In the morning, 2 nice bucks came across the field and passed within several yards of my stand. Both were 2 ½ year old 4×4 bucks with racks just to the width of their ears. Our agreed limit required that the buck’s antlers be wider than the ears. This Sanctuary rule was set by the owner of the property. We all agreed to until… Two shots rang out. Both non-trophy bucks bit the dust. Our one buddy decided that it was ok for him to shoot what he wanted. When the landowner discovered what had happened the lease experiment was over. Our sure proof plan to be Trophy hunters failed.

If every true hunter were honest, the best tag filled was not there’s. It belonged to a sibling, friend, kid, or student that they mentored. Too many kids do not have a “Hunter” in their lives. Divorce, stress, working parents… there are plenty of excuses but few solutions. Hunting is about solving problems, using your wits and senses, following limits, rules, and laws, safety, and fellowship. All of these themes are like a menu that every parent wants for their kids. Giving the gift of hunting is a generous and amazing gift. My BIGGEST and BEST trophies are hanging on the walls of my students.

My son Kyle harvested his first buck using the same 30-30 Winchester rifle that I used. We sat together one evening as a 6-point buck came out of the willows chasing a few does.  We had spent hours practicing shooting, safety, rules, hunter safety, and hunting. This was the moment of truth. No participation trophies would do. Either hit or miss. At 150 yards, the buck stopped. “Take him” I said as I glassed his first buck. Suddenly a doe stepped in front. Kyle did not shoot. Whew, that was a close one. As the doe cleared, the buck started to walk. “BOOM”, the rifle went off and I could see that the buck was hit. It ran a short distance and piled up. When we got to the buck my son yelled” this is the most exciting thing I have ever done!” He dressed and dragged his critter without complaint. 17 other rookie hunters have done the same, using this rifle. It is my luckiest TROPHY rifle, but I only shot one deer with it that was my First Trophy!

True ethical, honest Trophy hunters are a rare breed. Not every hunter is as dedicated and willing to sacrifice smaller critters to attain their goal. Not all bucks grow into trophies. We all make our own trailheads and choices. A trophy is more than big antlers and meat. Trophies are stories and memories that we earn and share.

Real hunters hunt!  Fred Bear, the Father of many Archers, felt that hunting from a tree stand was unfair. Real hunters stalked and hunted their prey. Tracking, wind, camo, and skill was required to fill his tags. Marksmanship was also a factor.

It is not so much the buck that is the trophy, but more about the story that makes it trophy class. You can buy a mounted trophy, shoot a farm fresh game farm trophy for the right price, or maybe celebrate a great trophy with someone you taught how to hunt.

What do you think?

Montana Grant

For more Montana Grant, see his trophy stories at

Fish have always been abundant in Yellowstone Park. The watersheds have been healthy and perfect habitats for trout. Yellowstone Lake alone is 136 square miles of trout habitat. The average depth is 139 feet and as deep as 390 feet. That’s a lot of room for a lot of trout.

As a kid, fishing in Yellowstone Park was amazing. Our family would spend the entire summer moving from camp to camp throughout the park. Yellowstone River was so full of Cutthroat trout that they seemed infinite. Kinda like the Buffalo back in the day. Buffalo Ford would have a hundred fly fishermen trying to catch a “Cut”. If you did not have a yellow bodied Caddis, good luck. The trout could be so selective but if you “Matched the Hatch” it was magic. The trout were huge, abundant, and healthy.

The true story of Yellowstone trout is different from what you may have heard. Back in the day, Yellowstone Cutthroat trout was it! No other trout were native to the park. This was prior to 1890. Things quickly changed after this time. After this time, browns and rainbow trout were randomly introduced into the region.

Park Rangers hauled other fish species throughout the park in milk cans on the back of mules. Trout were stocked pretty much anywhere they thought a trout could live. Brook trout were also scattered around the area. Native West slope Cuts and Fluvial Grayling have been struggling to survive ever since. All of this was happening along with a thriving commercial fishery in Yellowstone Lake. Tons of wild Cutthroat trout were caught and sold across the country!

Tinkering with ecosystems was not thought to be an issue. Nature would find a way. Early explorers found 40 percent of the park’s waters barren of fish. Many waters were isolated and did not allow migration of fish species. The Upper Firehole, Gibbon, and Madison had no trout. The Gardiner and Bechler Rivers were also troutless. Only 17 of the park’s 150 lakes held trout populations.  This survey occurred in 1889.

There were other native fish that included suckers, sculpins, and minnows. A total of 11 species were identified. Fisheries Biologists began to fill the fishless waters with almost every type of sport fish they could obtain.

Along with a diversity of trout, Biologists stocked, Yellow Perch, Smelt, Black Bass, Lakers, Atlantic Salmon, Crappies, Bluegills, Grayling, Whitefish, and other species of finned candidates. Many failed to survive, some did. It was not until 1936 that nonnative species were banned from stocking.  Some lakes were poisoned to remove perch, brook trout, and brown trout. Fortunately, natural barriers and isolation allowed some damage to be repaired.

Additional Illegal Bucket Biology introduced Lake Trout from Shoshone Lake into Yellowstone Lake. This invasion began in 1994 and has cost millions of dollars since to gill net and remove this voracious invader. The native Cutthroat population has since crashed, and the fishery is in trouble.

The Park Service, in 1901, began using local lakes to create hatcheries in the park. Trout lake, Grebe Lake, and others were stocked with small trout. These trout grew up on their own and were then netted and transported around the park. Rainbows, Browns, and Grayling were in the mix. Between 1903 and 1953, 818 million eggs were exported from Yellowstone Stocks. More than 50 federal, State, and private hatcheries were supported with eggs from Yellowstone. Cutthroat trout eggs were distributed internationally!

Overharvesting of fish has also taken its toll. In 1908 the daily creel limit was 20 trout. It was decreased to 10 fish in 1921, 5 fish in 1949, 3 fish in 1954, and 2 fish in 1973. In 1919 commercial fishing in the park was banned. It was not until 1969 that bait fishing was banned. Adding other fish stocks, not native to the region, is still a problem. The Madison River alone has over 17 subspecies of non-native hybridized Rainbow trout that have been stocked and reproduce almost year around. Huge limits, live bait, and heavy pressure wasted tons of fish.

One summer we camped in the old overflow camping area behind Fishing Bridge. The “Bridge” was shoulder to shoulder fishing on both sides and thousands of huge trout cruised beneath it. Every type of bait and tackle was on site. Just downstream of the bridge was a floating boat dock where you could rent small motorboats. Since there was no room to fish on the bridge, I went done by the boat docks to fly fish. A stonefly hatch was coming off and trout were rising everywhere. A size 10 stonefly did the trick and the young Montana Grant 12-year-old kid was putting on a clinic! I caught dozens of huge 18-20-inch Cuts on a fly rod! We kept no fish but the thing I remember were the dozens of dead trout in the campground trash. Bears were happy as they tore the trash cans up to get the easy pickins. Folks would catch their limits, take their pictures, and throw them away! Such a waste.

In 1973 Yellowstone celebrated its centennial and protected the Cutthroat Trout. They were declared “Catch and Release” only on most park waters.  A creel limit of 2 fish per day under 13 inches was set. Fishing Bridge was closed. Spawning areas were protected. Immediately, these wonderful fish bounced back. Studies showed that Cutthroat trout were susceptible to being caught numerous times. Catch and Release rates were low at around 3 percent. Trout were commonly caught more than 10 times. Despite enormous pressure, the trout were abundant and healthy.

Correcting past sins is hard work. The invasive Lake trout feast on the smaller and abundant native fish. All lake trout caught in Yellowstone Lake are required to be killed. After 20 years of intensive gill netting and open harvests, the lake trout are finally being reduced in size and population. Things are starting to improve for the native Cutthroats.  The last time I fished Buffalo Ford, a few years ago, I saw 10 trout and caught 6. West slope Cutthroat trout are being replanted into their native waters. The “Good Trout vs. Bad Trout “debate is not popular. Just because you want to fish something else somewhere else is a poor argument. “Bucket Biology” only destroys natural fisheries. Take what nature gives and respect it. Like it or not, much of the damage is done. Humans have left more than a “fish footprint” in Yellowstone Park.

Treat the Park as a living thing and let it evolve!

Montana Grant

For more Montana Grant, catch him at