“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.

Getting settled into my stand well before light, I heard the bugling several hundred yards away out in the alfalfa field. Moments after light I could see the elk out in the field through the woods, but after about an hour, they headed for the hills instead of the river bottom on this particular day. Later that morning, I noticed some elk just off to my right, but they were all calves that apparently got left behind the main herd. I’d seen several whitetails up until this time in the morning, but no shooter bucks.

It was late morning when I noticed some deer moving off to my right heading in my direction. I could see several bucks, and one really stood out from the rest. As they got within bow range, a big, wide 8pt. (4×4) stepped into the open, presenting me with a broadside shot, but I had my eye on the one behind him. My heart began to pound more and more as I waited for the others to come out into the open. I ranged a log earlier that morning at 31 yards, and they were just a few yards beyond that. After standing there a few minutes, the buck I was waiting for stepped out into the open presenting me with a 33-yard broadside shot. Carefully coming to full draw and then taking a deep breath, I settled my pin just behind his front shoulder and released. Seeing it was a great hit, I watched the buck run off and heard him crash just out of sight.

After waiting a while until my one friend showed up, I could hardly wait to get down and wrap my hands around his antlers. It started out as I went in there for the elk, but knew I had a good chance at a whitetail as well. I couldn’t have been happier with how this particular morning all played out and will definitely be one hunt I will never forget! A lot of it boils down to being at the right place at the right time and I’m glad I had the opportunity I did that morning to capitalize on it.”

I just received several reports of nice bucks killed in Oregon, Washington and Wyoming. Mike Rinehart, a Wyoming guide and one of my best contacts, shot the deer of his lifetime two days ago. I’ll feature that 165- to 170-class whitetail in my next report. It’s a beast — weighing in at almost 275 pounds — and there should be many more to come as activity spikes as the temperature drops across the region on the back of the cold front moving in. This blast of frigid air, coupled with shorter days, should spark off the pre-rut everywhere. A year of waiting is almost over; the rut is about to begin.