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West

Reporter: Jeff Holmes

States covered: Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington, Wyoming

The river bottoms, farmlands, and woods of the West are home to some big-bodied trophy whitetails, and Jeff Holmes knows them well. A lifelong deer hunter and a Western fish and wildlife communications specialist, Holmes spends much of whitetail season in the woods of Washington, his home state.

West

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Real-Time Updates From The West
  • December 3, 2013

    Post Rut and Cold Weather Create Opportunities for Biggest Bucks of the Season

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    By Jeff Holmes

    Several contacts are still in the field in search of big bucks, like North Idaho's Troy Pottenger of Nextbuk Outdoors, who's after this wide-racked mountain whitetail along with a couple others that survived general deer season. I'll have his reports from the Inland Northwest as well as plenty more action from Colorado and Montana later this week.

    Bitter cold and winter conditions are settling in on much of the West right now, and hunters are braving the elements in search of some of the biggest bucks of the season. The year's best trophies are taken every year on the backside of the rut.

    [ Read Full Post ]

  • November 20, 2013

    Big Bucks Breeding as the Rut Peaks

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    By Jeff Holmes

    I'm not used to being a smut peddler, but I asked Mike Rinehart of Wind River Whitetails to capture this buck bedroom scene earlier this season after he told me he reliably gets such images. Sure enough he did it.

    Rinehart's hunters have been doing exceptionally well, based on kill photos. With two hunters left to take the field, he expects all of his clients to take mature bucks again this season. [ Read Full Post ]

  • November 20, 2013

    The Rut is On, Find the Biggest Bucks in Secluded Areas

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    By Jeff Holmes

    This very heavy, tall, and wide 5x4 is one of several bucks I got pictures of yesterday. Mike Roby spotted and stalked the buck outside of Libby, Montana, just before the rut. He then spent the last few days in the field watching friends and family members take nice bucks as the rut started in earnest in Northwestern Montana—and across the rest of the West.

    Typically after I speak with a bunch of contacts around the map, I'll get differing opinions about rut status. But right now, everyone is saying the same thing: It's on.

    [ Read Full Post ]

  • November 19, 2013

    Sheer Luck Bucks Are A Sure Sign Of The Rut

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    By Jeff Holmes

    The rut is breaking loose across the West. Not only are deer getting more active, so are big numbers of hunters who spent most of the fall fishing, watching sports, and hunting other western species. Where seasons allows, most western whitetail hunters focus solely on the middle of November. Many deer tag holders spent large portions of open seasons away from the whitetail woods this fall, but that's changing, and so are the results from the field. Hunters are seeking bucks right now, and bucks are reportedly seeking does with purpose, all over.

    Not only are more bucks being reported on their feet during daylight, but the annual reports of sheer-luck big bucks are starting to come in, a sure sign of the rut. I've confirmed a bunch of nice whitetails taken over the past several days from Montana, Idaho, and Washington—some by pure luck—and I'm on the trail of reports from Wyoming and Oregon. Colorado will open up again for whitetails at the end of the month for their late season.

    [ Read Full Post ]

  • November 14, 2013

    The Rut Gets Hot Wherever Cold Moves In

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    By Jeff Holmes

    Reports of increased buck activity came in over the weekend and through the first half of this week from Northeast Oregon, Northwest Montana, Southwest Montana, and elsewhere in Eastern Washington. In my next post, I'll do a comprehensive overview of deer activity in all five states.

    Meanwhile, in the Shields River Valley north of Livingston, MT, Montana Whitetails' Keith Miller reports the deer are right on schedule for this time of the month but that unseasonable weather may be slowing the action slightly.

    [ Read Full Post ]

  • November 5, 2013

    ‘This Blown-Up Scrape Makes My Teeth Chatter’

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    By Jeff Holmes

    Overall Activity Status:
    Troy Pottenger of Coeur d’ Alene, Idaho, is a Nextbuk pro-staffer and is hands down the most accomplished fair-chase whitetail hunter in the inland Northwest.  When he talks, I listen – hard.
     
    The walls of his home look like an exhibition of monster whitetails, some taken from the Midwest, Saskatchewan, and points in between, but most arrowed on public land in Eastern Washington or North Idaho. Pottenger spends a tremendous amount of time in the field, and his excited text message to me late last night brought the picture and news this inland Northwest whitetail hunter has been waiting to see and hear. This blown up scrape on a traditional scrapeline makes my teeth chatter thinking about being out there. [ Read Full Post ]

  • October 31, 2013

    A Horse Of A Buck From The Cowboy State

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    By Jeff Holmes

    As I last reported, colder temperatures are moving into most of the region, and signs of the pre-rut are becoming increasingly apparent, including scrapes reported in all six western whitetail reports and widespread reports of increased daytime activity.

    Reports from Wyoming's high country over the last two weeks have indicated pre-rutting behaviors are most advanced in the Cowboy State, and this week's report confirms it. This horse of a buck fell to Mike Rinehart of Wind River Whitetails after he observed the buck ravage a sapling from afar before walking into range of Rinehart's stand. [ Read Full Post ]

  • October 30, 2013

    More Trophy Bucks to Come as Colder Temperature Sparks Rut

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    By Jeff Holmes


    "I'd like to apologize to Steve Miller for showing the wrong buck and hunter when I posted this report yesterday. Here's Steve and his mature buck after a clean kill on the last day of Montana's archery season."

    Pennsylvania’s Steve Miller was mostly seeking elk from his stand last week. He was among the cottonwoods in one of Montana Whitetails leases northeast of Bozema. But as it happens out West — especially on prime, private ground — Miller was rewarded with a big-game bonus, pictured here. 

    “It was Sunday October 20th, the last day of the regular archery season here in Montana. With limited time to hunt, I was hoping to make the most of my time spent in the field. After talking with the local rancher, he said there were some feeding in his fields on a regular basis. Having a big game combination license (Deer/elk) I decided it was a great opportunity to go after both in this particular area within the river bottom. [ Read Full Post ]

  • October 24, 2013

    Breaking Mild Weather Should Get Bucks Moving Early Next Week

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    By Jeff Holmes

    Overall activity status: "Check this old guy out," reports Wind River Whitetails' Mike Rinehart. "I bet this deer is 7 ½ years old, and look at the junk on his head. His left antler is palmated, and check out the mega neck he has.  This deer will push 250 on the hoof."

    Bucks are already beginning to scrape on Rinehart's mile-high ranch in Western Wyoming's eastern front, and the weird-racked buck above as well as the mature buck below just started showing up on his game cameras for the first time.

    [ Read Full Post ]

  • October 21, 2013

    A Bull And A Buck In Wolf Country

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    By Jeff Holmes

    Bill Williams of Lewiston, Idaho, hunts a portion of the storied Clearwater River Country that has been less popular with hunters over the last several years because of the presence of wolf packs and resulting shifts in deer and elk populations and behaviors. Late last week, amidst fewer competing hunters than normal – both human and canine – Williams took this bull elk in the morning and dropped this big, mature whitetail in the evening.
     
    “A lot of people won’t even hunt here anymore,” said Williams of his favorite spot in the mountains of north central Idaho, a state that is perhaps home to the best whitetail opportunities anywhere in the West. [ Read Full Post ]

  • October 17, 2013

    Pre-Rut Activity Heating Up Out West

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    By Jeff Holmes

    The pre-rut appears to be starting or on the verge of starting across most of the West.  Surely some deer are still bulking up and gorging themselves in anticipation of the rut and winter, but things are heating up based on the increased buck activity being reported in Idaho, Montana, Washington, and Wyoming. Typically only a handful of nice whitetails are taken during the October general hunting seasons in these states compared to the big number of bucks that will fall in November.  But as my contacts and I have pointed out, fall conditions have been in place for well over a month throughout much of the region, and unlike the previous few years where most seasonal event have come late or right on time, we appear to be moving toward the rut a little early out West.

    I first met Randi Shaw, now Randi Lithgow, three autumns ago in northeast Washiongton's ultra-wild Pend Oreille County.  We didn't run into each other in the backcountry of the Selkirk Mountains, rather at a tiny-and-sometimes-rowdy gas station in the even tinier town of Usk.  She emerged from the Suburban of a friend of mine with an acute case of "scope eye" she sustained from dropping the hammer on a black bear she'd spotted and stalked with the help of her now husband, Mike, and his friend. Shaw hunts elk with a muzzleloader, but she explains why she ended up taking this gorgeous little buck with a rifle earlier this week, even though it was opening day in a county with much larger bucks available and deer woods outside her backdoor.

    [ Read Full Post ]

  • October 11, 2013

    Will We See An Early Rut In Wyoming?

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    By Jeff Holmes

    An exciting report from the foothills of Wyoming’s Wind River range indicates wild storms and weather typical of November has stirred up deer activity, including clear signs bucks are moving into the pre-rut. Mike Rinehart of Wind River Whitetails offers a report that I’ll first preface with his description of the Wind River Valley.

    “Our ranches are in the foothills of the Wind River Mountains where they intersect with the farmlands of Fremont County. The Wind River flows through both of our ranches and the river bottom is loaded with heavy thickets of large cottonwoods, willows, and lush vegetation that intermingle with some of the best agriculture lands of alfalfa, corn, and soybeans in Wyoming and the Rockies. Riverton, Wyoming, the closest town, is 5300’ in elevation. Fremont County is the largest county in the state and is the largest producer of alfalfa hay. The hay is mostly exported to the southern states and is sought after by horse breeders due to its high protein and no blister bugs etc., which is why I believe we are harvesting bucks that are 250 to 275 pounds. The surrounding landscape has whitetail, mule deer, bears, moose, elk, beaver, mink, mountain lions, bobcats, foxes, pheasants, coyotes and unbelievable waterfowl.” [ Read Full Post ]

  • October 10, 2013

    Montana EHD Update, Part II: Outbreaks Broad, But Not Intense

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    By Jeff Holmes

    I hate to follow up a post about disease and herd loss with another one, especially when whitetail deer populations and hunting opportunities are still excellent throughout much of the afflicted state, but the scope of the Montana EHD outbreak is broader than I previously reported.

    Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks (MFWP) and sources on the ground confirm what the blogosphere has rumored for months: losses have been widespread but not especially heavy throughout southcentral, northcentral and possibly west central Montana. I reported earlier this week on outbreaks in the northcentral part of the state as well as on a smaller outbreak near Missoula confirmed this week.  Excerpts from two MFWP news release describe the situation:

    “South central Montana is experiencing a widespread outbreak of hemorrhagic diseases that are killing white-tailed deer, antelope and possibly elk. Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks wildlife biologists say the naturally occurring diseases are more widespread than they have seen before, but are not particularly intense in any one area.

    [ Read Full Post ]

  • October 8, 2013

    Forecast Frost Should Bring EHD Relief To Montana

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    By Jeff Holmes

    While recent reports from Big Sky country suggest disease is taking a toll on whitetail deer populations in the foothills and river valleys of Region 4 (north-central Montana), whitetails are doing very well throughout the vast majority of the huge state. This Region 3 whitetail dandy comes courtesy of Keith Miller of Montana Whitetails. His client arrowed the buck a few days ago during the end of an unsettled weather pattern that affected deer movement throughout much of the West. Weather conditions are now stable throughout most of the region. [ Read Full Post ]