Montana on my Mind Hunter: David Wozniak
Cameraman: Kevin Dishhong
It all started with a phone call from Joe Rush at Archer’s Choice back in the spring. An opportunity to hunt trophy whitetails with Powder River Outfitters in southeast Montana had arisen and Joe wanted to know if I’d be interested in going. Better yet, the hunt would take place in early-September and many of the bucks would still be in velvet! I’ve always wanted to take a big whitetail in velvet and here would be my chance. My anticipation for this trip built up all summer, and the week leading up to leave I was like a little kid the night before Christmas. I had an early morning flight out of Canton-Akron, Ohio on September 2nd. I had a connecting flight in Denver where I met up with fellow POSSE Kevin Dishhong. Kevin and I flew into Billings, Montana. From Billings, it is about 2 ½ hours by car southeast to Powder River Outfitters. To put it mildly, Kevin and I had an interesting time trying to make it to camp. When we did finally arrive, POSSE member Dean Ashton and Zendal Carrol, from Archer’s Choice, were already in camp, unloading their gear. After unpacking and double checking the sights on our Hoyts, CJ Gaskill, owner of Powder River Outfitters, took us to an elevated bluff overlooking a couple lush alfalfa fields bordering the Powder River. That evening, we glassed over 100 whitetails, including countless bucks. We headed back to camp super pumped up for the morning hunt and the week ahead. I’ve never been able to sleep the night before opening day, and this was certainly no exception. I was paired to hunt and film with Kevin and we had decided he would hunt first. Kevin and I had always gotten along well, but had never hunted together. It can take some time to build a repoire when filming with someone you’ve not filmed or hunted with before, but Kevin and I hit off from the second we got in the tree. Fortunately we were quickly communicating well, because it didn’t take long for the action to start. Though we didn’t kill a buck that day, we knew it was only a matter of time. I was up to bat the next morning and within the first hour of daylight was faced with a difficult decision when FOUR, yes FOUR, really nice bucks in velvet came by less than 10 yards from our tree. One buck looked mature but CJ had told us we’d get opportunities at 140 class bucks if we were patient. Though beautiful trophies all over the Pope and Young minimum of 125”, none of the bucks quite met CJ’s request, so I decided to pass. That afternoon, we hunted a stand location where a sharp bend in the river coupled with a strip of cottonwoods created a perfect choke point to funnel deer headed from their bedding area to feed in an alfalfa field. Though the temperature was in the low 80s, deer began moving as soon we got settled in the stand. Around 5:30 pm, I noticed 4 good bucks heading our way. I pulled up the Nikons and saw the lead buck had a great frame and definitely was mature. The 4 bucks quickly closed the distance and were within range. At 40 yards, I drew the Hoyt but right as I anchored the buck turned and started walking directly toward me, then stopped. After a few tense moments at full draw, the buck looked away for a second and gave me the chance to let down. As he turned to catch up with his buddies, I quickly drew, anchored and released. The buck ran toward the alfalfa field, then circled back toward the bedding area and crashed within sight. Filming the shot and buck running away could not have been easy due to the size of the tree we were hunting and way the buck came in, but Kevin did an amazing job and I give him all the credit in the world for laying down some great footage. As Kevin and I celebrated in the tree and waited for our guide Adam to drive into the area to “bust” the field, we looked in the direction the 4 bucks had come from just minutes earlier…here came a procession of at least a dozen deer, including two bucks with drop tines!! This place truly has to be experienced firsthand to be believed. I would like to thank Ralph and Vicki and Archer’s Choice Media for this incredible opportunity, CJ Gaskill of Powder River Outfitters for providing a VERY high quality hunt, our guide Adam Gronning for all his hard work, and Kevin for the filming, hunting and friendship…last but not least I’d like to thank my girlfriend Stephanie Olinger for purchasing my Montana hunting license and tags for me. The experience of camp is as important as the hunt itself. Sharing camp with Kevin, Dean and Zendal was an absolute blast. Good food, great camaraderie and more game than you can imagine helped make this trip a wonderful adventure I will always remember. Remember, keep your eye on the prize and always shoot straight from the heart!