Preparing for Archery Season in Southwest Montana

Physical Condition & Typical Shots

Intercepting, shadowing and using calls can be strenuous work. Being healthy and physically fit will increase your odds greatly during archery season. We recommend that our hunters start building, strength and stamina several months prior to their hunt. It takes great skill to make a kill being winded, full of adrenaline, and being in the high country. Practicing shot positions (i.e. sitting, kneeling, uphill, downhill, through timber and around obstacles such as branches and limbs), will increase your familiarity with your bow, thereby increasing your chances at a kill shot.

Bows

Any primitive or modern archery weapons are welcomed provided you are comfortable shooting them. Crossbows are illegal to use in Montana. Most of our hunters use compound bows that shoot up to 300fps. Draw weights are between 60-80#. The most important thing to remember is to be comfortable and be familiar with your equipment. Practice, Practice, Practice!

Calls

A simple cow call is the most important call to have. The guide or archer typically needs to stop the animal in his shooting lane. We have also had success stopping a bull in flight after we get winded, this can give the archer another shot. Cow calling after a bull is hit will also settle him down and generally he won’t go far. The best hands free cow call is a diaphragm. You can also be proficient without any artificial calls. Typically your guide will use a bugle certain days to locate. Generally in our area we will see elk in meadows and depending on the situation will employ several techniques. Decoys, bugling, raking of trees, cow calls (estrous, mew, and lost). If you have a call, practice, practice, practice!

Sights, Arrows, Rests & Quivers

Multi- pin sights are most common now and have replaced the adjustable single pin sights. Be comfortable shooting up to 50 yards. Durable sights that have protective covers around the pins are best. Sights are the most common piece of gear that break.

Most all hunters are shooting carbon arrows with vanes. Aluminum arrows with feathers have worked in the past but can be more problematic.

A favorite rest is the whisker biscuit. This arrow rest takes away most of the variables that you may encounter in the field. If you are comfortable with the drop-aways, keep using what is working; you certainly get better arrow flight with this type of rest. Quivers should hold 3-6 arrows. Hip and pack quivers have been notorious for being cumbersome and noisy. I like to carry only 3 arrows in the field. But have at least a dozen in camp. A hard case to house arrows is recommended for your trip out here and into camp.

Broad Heads

Fixed 3 bladed 100-125 chisel tips are our favorite head. Muzzy, Thunderheads, or something comparable is adequate. Ideally we want a complete pass through. Two holes in an elk means more blood to follow, a better trail, and better chance at quick recovery.

Do not bring expandable broad heads. They are not getting the penetration we need on elk. They do fly better but we have experienced deflection and malfunctions.

Bow sling, Binoculars, Rangefinder

So far my favorite bow sling is the Primos. It offers easy on and off, protects your string and cam and it is comfortable. We have leather bow scabbards on the horse but it is nice to have that added protection that this sling offers.

Lightweight 10×42 binoculars is ideal for the country we hunt. A range finder has been one of the best improvements the archery industry has developed so far. Every new environment that you hunt, your judge of distance will need to be tuned. No better way than with a decent rangefinder.

Backpack & Fanny Packs

Backpacks are generally recommended for carrying lunch, water, extra clothing, and other personal gear/equipment. The pack will be tied to the saddle opposite your bow so that it is well balanced. Then, when you get to hunting it will be taken along while your horses are tied.

Clothing & Staying Warm

Believing all the marketing about what this type of material can do, and how you can’t survive without it can get expensive, Capalene and Polypropylene claims it is easy to dry and you will die with out it. When I have moisture collecting on my body I want something to wick it off. With the ability to dry your clothes every night, the comfort, warmth and breathability cotton provides is hard to beat. Everyone is different and has different needs. It’s hard for me to replace wool, cotton, leather and silk. If you are the type that sweats a lot then you might consider some of the synthetic under-layers, although I have found that they stink in a few days, they are cold, not breathable and uncomfortable. Bring two pairs of gloves, two types of warm hats and heavy socks (i.e. SmartWool).

Be sure that any clothing you buy is made of quiet material, sometimes the slightest foreign sound makes all the difference in spooking a bull. For the same reason, new boots should be well broken in prior to arrival.

Boots

I recommend bringing 3 pairs of footwear: A lightweight slip on pair you can use around camp, a type of outdoor slipper; a tennis shoe style hiking boot for warmer weather hunting; a Gortex, light Thinsulate (or comparable) leather, 200gram, 8″ high boot, you will probably use this the most. All our saddles are equipped with over sized stirrups to accommodate some wider boots.

Climate, Altitude, & Hydration

The weather during archery season can be anything from 70s and sunny to 10 degrees. If you are coming from sea level you will experience 15% less oxygen at our altitude of 7800ft. It generally takes a day and a half to partially acclimate (and up to 6 weeks to fully acclimate). This means your body is producing more red blood cells to deliver the additional oxygen required. Staying hydrated is the key ingredient to ward off nausea, fatigue and headaches. I carry a 1 qt. water bottle. This gets me through the day. Coffee, alcoholic beverages, and smoking are strongly discouraged during the first couple of days before arriving and the first couple days in camp to help avoid Acute Altitude Sickness.