Just about everyone who watches any of the outdoor TV shows has seen a bunch of hunts for deer along the now famous Milk River. Bill Jordan of Realtree, Michael Waddell of Bone Collector, and Jackie Bushman of Buckmasters have all hunted here many, many times. The area became very famous for having tons of deer. Seeing 200-300 deer a day, including 40-50 bucks, was not uncommon.
Then Blue Tongue Disease (a form of Hemorrhagic Disease) hit about 6 years ago and the area lost most of its deer herd. As a result, hunters stayed away. But the severe reduction in numbers was actually a blessing in disguise in terms of quality, as they were clearly over-populated. But now the Milk River is back! Although deer numbers are still not what they were before, the trophy quality has increased significantly!
Before the die off, those 40-50 bucks you’d see a day would include only a few that pushed 140”. These days, although you’ll see far fewer bucks a day, many are now in the 150”-160” class, with some larger, and will average 135”-145”. This is simply an awesome hunt (you will once again see lots of deer), but hunters have not yet clued into the Milk’s recovery, so it is now a bit of sleeper. If you like to get in on opportunities before the rest of the hunting world, this is your hunt! In fact, the herd is recovering so quickly that it may soon again reach the point of over-population, so now is the time to take advantage of a hunt that offers both quantity and quality.
This outfitter also hunts numerous ranches along the Powder River for whitetails, and also for some very good mule deer and antelope. These ranches are carefully managed so clients have ample opportunity at quality animals. On these whitetail hunts, 160” up to even 180” is possible.
You can expect home cooked meals, comfortable lodging, and a friendly and knowledgeable guide staff. This outfit has a very high rate of repeat business, and of course a very high hunter success rate. Lodging varies with location, but is always clean and comfortable and the food is great.
WHITETAILS: This is a wonderful place for the bowhunter as well as for the gun hunter, due to the high deer numbers which almost guarantee shot opportunities. These folks hang a ton of tree stands and it is not unusual to watch 20 to 50 deer in a single afternoon. We expect you to go home with a nice buck! Guiding is 2 hunters per guide.
The guides will spend countless hours scouting preseason and even during your hunt, all to ensure you are positioned in the best location to take home a trophy Whitetail. They use a variety of portable ladder fixed position stands throughout all of our whitetail seasons: archery and gun. You should also know that they will continue scouting and glassing even after you have been delivered to your evening hunting spot. This gives you another pair of eyes in the field! It also lets your guide adjust stands or prepare you for the next day.
The Milk River and the Powder River hunts are both producing similar numbers in terms of deer seen daily by hunters, but the Milk River is producing better bucks right now, as the Powder River experienced a recent winter-kill that took a toll on the largest whitetails. But really big deer can show up anywhere, as these ranches are carefully managed so clients have ample opportunity at quality deer, and he only takes a couple of hunters per week at the Milk River, and only about 6 per week at the Powder River.
Whether you’re hunting with archery equipment or a gun, guides will use a wide variety of tactics to get you close to your trophy. They also will use spot and stalk for archery and gun hunts during the day. Evening hunts, especially archery hunts, have even seen them utilizing whitetail tactics through placement of treestands near food plots and travel corridors. By far, most professional hunters will tell you that the toughest trophy to collect with archery equipment is a mature muley buck. Clients on these hunts usually experience several stalks per day on P&Y class animals. Their Powder River mule deer rifle hunts are one of their absolute best hunts, with clients taking deer mostly in the 155” to 175” inch range, but also some high-180s and even low 190s. Their success rate is close to 100% on this hunt. Their biggest mule deer definitely come from the Powder River hunts, which has a very healthy population of 3- to 5-year old bucks.
SELF GUIDED MULEY HUNTS (NEW)
Self-guided or trespass-fee mule deer hunts are very hard to find these days, but we have one! This outfitter has recently purchased a 3,200-acre ranch in east-central MT (about 30 miles north of Terry, MT), with another 3,000 acres of BLM land adjoining it (and more public land nearby too). It is easy terrain, with good ranch roads (no ATVs required). They are offering DIY/self-guided deer and antelope hunts. 2018 was the first season and they hosted only 2 hunters but they bagged the nice muley bucks pictured below. In 2019 they hosted 6 hunters and they harvested 4 whitetail bucks and a mule deer buck.
A deer license is good for whitetails or mulies. Whitetails 140″-150″ are around, and they’ve seen mulies up to 170″-180″ on the ranch. Antelope tend to just pass through the ranch, rather than hang around on it, but again, there’s more public land adjoining and nearby.
The antelope season opens about September 10 and runs to about November 8. The deer season opens around October 21 and goes to the Sunday after Thanksgiving, so there’s about 2.5 weeks of overlap. With 1 preference point, it’s about a 70% chance of drawing a deer tag, or about 90% chance of drawing just the deer portion of a deer/elk combo tag. Without a preference point, deer odds drop to about 60%, and about 80% on the deer/elk combo tag. Antelope tags are about 50%-60% chance of drawing. If you fail to draw, your deposit will be rolled over to the following year, and then the odds improve significantly. Clients will have use of the ranch house, with full kitchen and amenities. There is a meat processor not too far away. There will likely be no more than 3 groups over the course of the entire season, and ONLY 1 GROUP WILL BE HUNTING THE RANCH AT ANY ONE TIME
2020 PRICES (subject to change without notice until deposit received)
Milk River – Archery (begins 1st Saturday in September and lasts 5 weeks):
Whitetails 5 Days – $3,500
Mule Deer 5 Days – $3,250
Antelope 3 Days – $2,500
Milk River – Rifle (begins last Sunday in October and lasts 5 weeks):
Whitetails 5 Days – $5,500
Mule Deer 5 Days – $4,250
Antelope 3 Days – $2,500
Powder River – Archery (September 1 to October 15 roughly)
Whitetails or Mule Deer 5 Days – $3,500 + $3,000 harvest fee
Antelope 5 Days- $2,500
Powder River – Rifle (October 20 to November 25)
Whitetails or Mule Deer 5 Days – Rifle $7,500
Antelope 3 Days- $2,500
The Powder River hunts have a high rate of return clients so availability is very limited.
Self-Guided Deer Hunts – 5 days $2,000 per person for group of 2; $1,500 per person for group of 4
Self-Guided Deer/Antelope Combo – 5 days $2,500 per person for group of 2; $2,000 per person for group of 4.
Spring turkey/prairie dog combo – 3 days $1,950 per person.
Tremendous upland bird and waterfowl hunting also available, starting at $1,950 per person for 3-day packages.
TRANSPORT: All hunts include transport during the hunt and they will do airport pickup at either Havre or Glasgow airports.
OTHER DETAILS: Unless otherwise indicated, all hunts include 2×1 guiding, meals, accommodations, meat care, trophy care, and transportation during the hunt.
NOT INCLUDED: Airfare to and from Havre or Glasgow International Airport; license and permit fees; processing, taxidermy, or shipping of game; tips.
LICENSES: Purchasing a bonus point the year before you wish to hunt will just about assure you will draw, but odds are still good without such a point. Or you can apply for the Elk/Deer Combo, as the odds are nearly 100%. Although this tag seems like it’s more expensive, you will almost certainly NOT draw the elk portion and that will be refunded to you, leaving you with just a deer tag. The tag is a general tag that is good for EITHER whitetail OR mule deer.
The deadline for 2020 General Big Game License, Elk and Deer Combination Licenses, Landowner Sponsored Deer Combination License, Deer and Elk Permits applications, and Come Home to Hunt is approx. March 15. The antelope deadline is beginning of June.
Purchasing Preference Points
Preference points for a nonresident big game, elk or deer combination license may be purchased for a nonrefundable fee of $50. Preference points can be purchased:
• at the time of application for the nonresident combination license; or
• between July 1 and September 30 for individuals who did not apply for a nonresident combination license.
• NOTE: You must apply for the nonresident combo the following year, or this point will be deleted.
Applicants may purchase only one preference point per license year. Preference points purchased at the time of application are awarded prior to the drawing.
Up to 5 applicants may apply as a party. FWP shall use an average of the number of preference points accumulated by those applicants to determine the party’s preference points. FWP shall consider any fraction that result from the calculation of an average when determining that priority.
Bonus Points for Deer and Elk Permits
Bonus Points can increase your chances to draw a buck mule deer or bull elk permit.
Bonus points essentially offer you additional drawing chances and are used for first choice drawings only.
Existing bonus points will be mathematically “squared” prior to the drawing. That means if you already have 3 “base” bonus points those will be “squared” and you’ll then have 9 bonus points going into the drawing.
If you’re unsuccessful, you’ll be awarded an additional base bonus point for next year’s drawing.
If you wish to participate in the Bonus Point program for deer/elk permits, make sure to check “YES” on the Bonus Point questions and include $20 (nonresident) or $2 (resident) Bonus Point fee per permit type.
All “base” bonus points accumulate over time until you obtain a license/permit.
Notification and Refunds
Successful applicants will receive their license and a separate hunting regulation packet. Unsuccessful applicants will receive a refund check of the license price (minus the $5 application fee, base hunting license and AISPP). The Preference Point fee is not refunded. Please contact the FWP Special Licensing Dept at (406) 444-2950 if you do not receive one of these notifications in the mail by the end of May.