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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

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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

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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

Who doesn’t want to catch a fish as big as you? Alaska is a destination where you can do this. I recently took a trip to SE Alaska to check off this task from my Bucket List. Fish in Alaska waters are big, rough, and tough. Don’t go there unless you are up for tackling the task.

Green Rocks Lodge was our destination. A fishing buddy had been there many times before. We scheduled our trip and hooked up in Seattle from Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Montana. Fishing has a way of bringing friends together.

Green Rocks is a Blue-Collar Fisherman’s lodge. You will not have candlelight dinners, hot tubs, guided trips, and fancy digs. The lodge serves family style meals, camp comfortable rooms, and battle tested boats, tackle, and gear. Showers were hot, beds were comfortable, and meals filled the spot.

Getting there require a few jets stops and airports. Taking Spartan gear and clothing will serve you just fine. The goal is to Eat, Sleep, and Fish! Everyone else will look and smell the same. Raingear, muck boots, and limited wardrobes are the rule.

The fish we were after were BIG HALIBUTTS!!! Our dreams came true. Big Butts fight hard, taste great, and require teamwork to get into the boat. Getting a hundred plus lb. Butt into the boat requires a skilled harpooner, gaffer, and some luck. The great battle begins when the fish sees the boat. Large Halibut can injure and damage fishermen and boats.

Fishing wild Alaska waters is dangerous. That’s why so many Big Fish live there. Along with the Halibuts, you can catch Salmon, Rockfish, and other tasty delights. Crabs and shrimp are also in abundance. There is no limit on the scenery and wildlife that you will encounter. Otters, eagles, waterfowl, whales, porpoises, and much more will greet you. Rain and heavy storms are common. Strong rip tides can also make things rough. Sharp gaffs, harpoons, knives, deep waters, and adventures must be considered.

Alaska can be the Deadliest Catch in an instance. On our trip, one experienced crew ran aground and destroyed the lower unit of the outboard motor. They also lost the anchor, a crab pot, and a shrimp pot. These add ons became the responsibility and expense of the users. A satellite phone allowed them to contact the lodge and get rescued. No one was injured. My buddy said that “It was nothing a credit card and a cold beer would/t fix!”

We came home from Alaska with a couple boxes of frozen vacuum sealed filets. Alaska Air made sure that there were no screwups and our trip ended sadly but wonderfully. I will add some more stories to this series in the coming weeks.

If you have a dream to Eat, Sleep, and Fish, travel to Alaska for a BIG Reward!

Montana Grant

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Mineral or Salt Licks can improve the quality and health of your local deer herd. “Lick Love” works best to keep deer on your property and attract fresh genetics to your area. Here’s how to best use Licks in your hunting area.

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The one thing to remember is that there is never just one thing! Every hunter wants to harvest a heathy Big Buck! Most will try anything legal to ensure this outcome. Food plots, baiting, Timber improvement, water and land management, are all good ideas. Licks can also help.

Mineral and Salt Licks are most popular. The best time to place your Licks is NOW! For best results, Spring Greenup is best. Bucks have shed their old racks and immediately begin growing the next generation of antlers.

Lick Love will work best if you have control over your hunting property. One well located Lick Site is best for every 100 acres. After learning your property, find an area that is near the center. Water or bedding areas make for good locations. If you have Natural Licks on your property, enhance these areas. It may take years to get deer to regularly pattern to your new Lick Sites.

Common mistakes made by Lick Lovers are to place them near their hunting stand. Other critters will use your Licks and can ruin a hunt. Hunters also tend to visit the Lick Sites too much. This only leaves your scent, disturbs the deer, and defeats the purpose of placing licks. Smart hunters do not disturb bedding areas and Lick sites.

Most Lick Love happens at night. Check on your deer using a deer camera. This will give you an idea of what your deer herd looks like. Lick Love happens when conditions are dry and hot. Spring to August is prime Lick Love season. Placing licks during hunting season will impact next year’s herd but not the current population. Lick manufacturers will argue that Fall use is good but… their goal is to sell a product.

Deer Love Licks because they offer salt. Minerals are bitter and will not attract deer. That’s why some Lick additives include apple, molasses, and sweeteners to improve taste and mask the mineral flavor. Salt is also found naturally and may be why some areas have great deer herds. Farmers also use Licks for cattle and other farm critters. Deer will also visit these areas.

11 Minerals are found in deer antler. Calcium and Phosphorus make up about 60 % of the antler. 40 % of antler is protein. When antlers are in the Velvet growing stage, this changes to 80% protein and 20 % minerals. As the antler grow up to an inch a day, and deer can use minerals for proper nutrition. Salt helps with overall health and wellness. Once the Velvet dies, in mid-August, the lick no longer serves a purpose for antler growth.

All deer and natures critters are attracted to Licks. The salt and minerals will help with all of their general health needs. Licks serve more as a vitamin supplement for health than antler grower.

Sportsmen are always looking to do things on the cheap. One Allegheny County hunting friend used to dump a cheap 50 lb. bag of road salt into a stump on his hunting property. The deer would eat the stump apart to get to the salt. A huge crater was left when the deer ate the dirt beneath the stump. Each Spring, he would drag in a new stump and repeat the trick. For over a decade, the Hunting camps harvest was great. When he passed, no one kept up his salt stump chore. Harvest declined and the club folded.

Here is a smart way to make your own Lick Supplement.


One 50 Lb. sack of Dicalcium Phosphate

Two 50 Lb. sacks of Trace Mineral Salt (this will contain additional minerals such as zinc, manganese, and iron)

You can find these materials at a Farm Store where feed and fertilizer are sold. Agricultural animals benefit from many of the same nutritional needs. The Dicalcium Phosphate will cost $25-30 a sack. The Salt will be $12-15 a bag.

During the hot summers, deer are looking for salt. Locate a spot on your property where there is water. After salt, deer need water. Bedding areas are a good idea. Deer trails will show you where deer travel but place the Lick Site several feet ff a trail. Pick an area that will be left as a sanctuary. Once you apply the Lick, it will not need attention for 6 months. If you must visit the site, use a Camera that you can access digitally.

Clear an area that is 5-6 feet across and shovel up the dirt. Mix the Lick Love in a ratio of 2-1. Salt masks the bitter taste of the minerals so twice as much is needed. One lick per 100 acres is all that is a rule of thumb. Too many Licks is less effective. Dump the lick material over the cleared area and stir It with the shovel. A bucket of water will help set the powder and keep it in place.

It may take a few seasons to really notice a difference in your deer herd. Attracting other deer will enhance genetics. Heathier does will reproduce healthier overall deer. Larger branched antlers will become more common. The results can be monitored using your deer cam images. At the very least, you will be enhancing local overall deer health.

Take time to add some Lick Love to your hunting area!

Montana Grant

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No one wants to unintentionally kill a fish. If we plan to eat the fish, it gets a “head thunk” and goes into a creel or ice chest. Fish can also be released and caught another day.

Correct Catch and Release techniques are discussed, debated, and often disregarded. Three fishermen will give you 4 opinions. Just because a fish swims away does not mean that it will survive.

Cell phones may have become one of the reasons even more fish die. On one trout fishing trip to the Yellow Breeches Creek in Pennsylvania, I met an angler with a selfie stick. He had just caught a small brown trout and was taking dozens of pictures with him and the fish. He would hold the fish in the water, throw the fish in the air, and tried every pose that he could think of. When I questioned what he was doing, he told me “Oh I never keep any trout. I only Catch and Release!”

Grip and Grab has often been the way to hold a fish. Dragging or booting the fish onto the shore covers them with dirt and debris. Allowing them to struggle in a net or flop around the deck is also a death sentence.

One of the great things about Catch and Release is that you don’t have to kill the fish. You can enjoy fishing, catching, and celebrating the day without a fatal outcome. This is not an option when hunting unless you hunt with a camera.

Even with the best Catch and Release techniques, some fish will die. Many fishermen do not choose to kill the fish, they simply do not know how to prevent heir demise. Science suggests 5-15% of fish released may die. This varies based on temperature and type of lures, flies, hook, or bait used.

Here are some points to Catch and Release Right!

               Sharpen Your Hooks! 

Studies show that a sharp hook will catch more fish and are more easily removed. Barbed hooks do not make a huge difference.The mouths of most fish are mainly cartilage. This fingernail like material has no nerves and is hard to penetrate. A sharp barbed hook makes a larger and cleaner hole for the hook to be extracted.

               If the fish is gut hooked, cut the line!

               If the hook or fly is deep in the guts of the fish, cut the line near the fished mouth. They will pass or dissolve the hooks in a few days. Even a hook left in the eye will eventually rust and dissolve. Their stomach acids are strong enough to do this job. A bled fish is a dead fish!

               Use a proper net! 

 Nets vary in size and material. A wider net is easier to fit the fish into. The best net is made of wide gapped fabric. A tight net mesh will wipe the protective mucous off the fish’s body. Once this protective layer is gone, bacteria, parasites, and disease will attack the fish. The key is to WET the NET before touching the fish. Nylon, rubber, and poly nets of the proper fabric size will make for a safe and quick release. They need to be attached to your vest or readily available.

               Keep the fish wet!

               Water saves fish lives. Once out of the water, the fish begins to suffocate and dehydrate. How long can you hold your breath? A wet fish stays cooler, calmer, and protected. Now deal with the hook and get ready for the release.

               Hold the fish properly!

               Grip and Grab means certain death. The air bladder of a fish is fragile. If squeezed, it will burst. Hanging the fish by the mouth can damage the vertebrae. Putting your fingers into the gills and under the gill plate will damage them. Any bleeding means almost certain death. When squeezed, the heartrate, blood pressure, and stress increases. These are a lethal end.

Plan pictures ahead of time!

Fishermen love to show off their success. Have your plan made ahead of time. You know where your phone is and imagine the angle you desire. Close is often better than far. Mix up your angles, backgrounds, and themes. If you need some time to get the picture ready, prepare your selfie stick, comb your hair, change your hat, or put people in position, keep the fish calm in the wet net. Gently wait for everything to be ready. Getting into the water, along a shore, helps. Lift the fish by the tails and just in front of the pectoral fins. Throwing the fish around and making faked action shots adds more stress. The actual photos can now take just a few moments. Say cheese and release gently please!

Use Forceps!

Shoving your fat fingers down the fish’s throat does damage and stresses out the fish. Use FORCEPS! Attach the forceps to your shirt, vest, or coat where they are always available. Grab the bend of the hook and unstick the hook. Avoid causing any bleeding. Use forceps in the length needed for the species you are targeting.

No fish towels or rags!

These will wipe away the fish’s natural protection. Imagine removing your skin. Mucous keeps bacteria, disease, and parasites off the fish’s body. Dirt, gravel, grass, and debris will also remove the mucous when the fish is beached or flopped on the shore or deck. Use a towel after dealing with the fish.

Resuscitate before release!

The longer the battle, the longer the recovery. Hold the fish in the water and work it back and forth. Allow fresh water to pass through their gills. Keep the fish in the wet net as you do this and face the fish into a tide or current. Holding one hand around the base of a fish’s tail is helpful. When they can easily pull free, the release is complete.

Circle Hooks save lives!

The correct size Circle Hook is hard for a fish to swallow. This means more hook ups in the mouth and lips and less damage to the gills and internals. This is especially important when fishing in areas with slot limits. Match the hook size to the fish species, and bait, that you are using. Many areas now require Circle hooks when live lining or fishing baits.

Fight the fish quickly!

The longer you fight the fish, the less likely it will survive a release. Lactic acid will build up in the muscle of the fish and remain for a long time. This will also impact the fish’s flavor if you plan to eat them. Fish become dormant and may not feed. Eventually they weaken and become vulnerable to predators or disease. Fight the fish aggressively! Use a proper balanced and matched rod and reel. The reel needs an excellent drag loaded with quality line.

Swap out Treble hooks!

Lures, spinners, and crank baits work better, get snagged less, and will catch more fish with a slightly larger and sharp single hook. Use the split ring attachment to change the hooks. A rear hook on a popper or surface plug is often enough. Now you have only one hook to take out of the fish. A single hook is also less likely to hook the fisherman.

Avoid Stainless Steel hooks.

These hooks will not rust or break down from a fish’s stomach digestive acids. If you plan to keep the fish, a stainless hook is durable, stays sharp, and is efficient. For Catch and Release it may be a released fish death wish.

Gaffs are for Catch and Keep only.

Catch and Release of gaffed fish is a unlikely. Once you slam a sharp gaff into the body of a fish, the blood pressure immediately drops, and the fish begins to go into shock. If the next stop for the fish is the cooler, then fine. Even a lip or mouth/gill gaff hook up is damaging. The vertebrae, gills, eyes, and are all vulnerable to a fatal wound.

Guides, Outfitters, Charter Captains and experienced anglers need to be masters of the Catch and Release skills. They have a responsibility to protect and manage the fishery correctly. After all, these fish are their lively hood. Without the fish, their clients are just going for a boat ride. Educating their clients is an important part of their job and what the clients need to learn.

All anglers must become Stewards of our sports if we hope to have them in the future. “The most important things that we learn in our lives are the things we learn after we already know everything!”

Don’t even get me started about kissing a fish!

Montana Grant

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Thank You for your Service! This is the line we give to police, firemen, military, teachers, and other wonderful public servants. They sacrifice, save lives, and protect our freedoms and democracy.

There were times when “Thanks” were not given. Soldiers returning home from the Vietnam War were insulted and disrespected. Police have been ridiculed after a flawed shooting or abuse. Firemen were once considered drunks and lazy. Teachers are wonderful until they are not.

One group of American Citizens has been consistent, generous, and important for our outdoor spaces. Sportsmen have a heritage of conservation, wildlife management, watershed and fishery protections, and guaranteeing we all have outdoor places to enjoy.

Without Hunters and Fishermen, we would not have public lands and watersheds. These guardians of the outdoors pay a tax on all gear, equipment, and things needed for their sport. The taxes are then returned to states based on the total amount of sporting licenses sold. The more sportsmen, the more revenue.

Open Space Funds are supposed to be used for outdoors management, purchase, protections, and maintenance. Sadly, many states just throw this revenue into their public general funds and violate their true intention.

Ironically much of these funds go to support trails, access, parks, and areas where hunting and fishing is not allowed. Despite this misuse of funds, the public still has an abundance of outdoor places to enjoy. Without Sportsmen fees, taxes, and support, there would be little.

Buying your states sportsmen’s licenses is a great way to support our outdoor spaces even if you don’t hunt or fish. These funds go directly into the programs that protect and maintain our parks, waters, and public lands.

Thank a Sportsman!

Montana Grant

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