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Becker County Sportsman - Hunting antelope in Montana

A party, largely from Detroit Lakes, made a trip to the Crazy Mountains of Montana, in quest of antelope. This rather difficult critter to hunt was apparently abundant, and the experienced hunters were very successful. The party nailed seven bucks on their trip.

For the most part, hunting was on lands owned and managed by the Federal agency widely known in western states, the Bureau Of Land Management (BLM). Upon entering the lands, leased for cattle grazing by local private interests, the hunters were required to "register" by providing license numbers, home addresses, and other data.

The lowlands abutting the Crazy Mountains north of Bozeman aren't cropland. A vast area is needed by the lessee in order to have enough range to support a number of cattle.

The hunters included Louie and Mike Eidenschink, Don Tietz, Bruce Olson and his 15 year-old daughter Paige, Jim Sinclair, his son Steve, and Steve Swanson. Dennis Olson of Bozeman was along, using archery to take his antelope. Terry Koenig of Fargo was yet another party member. Armament ran the gamut of calibers, but most were in the .25 or 270 class, all of them bolt action styles, and of course scoped.

The ranges at which the antelope bucks were taken averaged over 500 yards. The animals were sighted and observed at longer distances, which required difficult crawling, keeping a low profile, as antelope are famous for their eyesight and caution. The grass was knee high, and thin.

The day before actual hunting began was spent scouting and observing, and planning the tactics. Landowner permission was secured. The evening previous to the hunt was spent at a local sportsman's bar with delicious Montana beef and a few drinks on the menu.

The locals in the group had left DL at five in the morning October 4th, and assembled at Fargo. Louie and Mike Eidenschink went to Don Tietz' Red Rock Ranch at Richardton, N.D. earlier. Bruce Olson's son, Dennis, lives in Bozeman, and he hauled a quantity of ice for cooling down the game the group anticipated in taking.

Indeed, there was game! It abounded in wild critters, to be sure. It was common to sight 400 whitetail and mule deer every day, as well as seeing elk in the lowlands away from the nearby mountain range. Wild turkey, and a great many Hungarian partridge were flushed when the hunters were crawling in the grassland, hoping to diminish the shooting distance before settling down with the rifle sling and attempting a shot at an antelope.

The hunting parties encountered colonies of Hutterites, whose children begged for candy. The ranchers are given a share of the license money, as the hunting parties need to sign up at locations in the field. It is a program similar to the PLOTS system, which North Dakota uses successfully. PLOTS means "Private Lands Open To Sportsmen."

Thirteen year old Paige Olson was excited to be hunting with her dad and her brother, but when talk turned about spending the night on the prairie ground, with a temp at 30 degrees or less, she opted for a night at a motel stay.

On Sunday, the opening day, Terry Koenig was first to score. He filled his tag with a nice buck antelope, at a distance of about 500 yards. Mike and Bruce followed, with exceptional animals. Steve Swanson was the fourth successful hunter, that opening morning. By noon Jim Sinclair was well satisfied with a big antelope.

Don Tietz did not arrive until Sunday evening. His opportunity to take an animal went awry, but he filled his tag with a nice antelope early on Monday morning. "It was a very long 500 yards, and it was worth the wait," he said.

With everyone filling out early, Louie Eidenschink had to hunt alone. The other hunters had filled their tags, and were anxious to take a motor tour through the beautiful and remote, rolling hills of central Montana. Mike and Don, however, accompanied Louie on his stalk for an antelope. After eternal crawling, some chances were presented but Louie passed up some chances, waiting for a truly great specimen. When he finally connected with the 150-grain bullet from a Remington 700 rifle, the .270 proved its worth. Mike volunteered to tote the buck the miles back to the truck, carrying it on his back. This was no mean feat in itself.

Most of the heads and horns were sent to Bozeman for European style mounts. Don Tietz had decided earlier that he wanted a full body mount. Undoubtedly, it will find its place in the family room at Red Rock Ranch, where Don and son Guy already display a full mount caribou taken a few years ago at Canada's Newfoundland Atlantic Province. The antelope carcasses are more easily handled than are our larger whitetail deer. But the hunting party made good use of a children's swing set found in a playground. The main bar served as a good meat pole.

The pronghorn antelope is a notoriously cautious animal, with discerning eyesight and hearing. A 500-yard shot is commonplace and a long stalk usual.

The hunters met at the local sportsmen, and the locals assured everyone that the resulting steaks and chops would be among the most flavorful they'd ever eaten, due to the nutritious grass on the Montana lowlands.

Steven Sinclair had a great time, being on the scene when his dad took a big buck at long range, with a single shot. They had made the stalk together.

Louie Eidenschink defended his passing several chances before settling upon the antelope he wanted. But on Tuesday morning he felt that he had made the right choice. "It was the best pronghorn that I had seen," he insisted.

The license cost for non-resident is $200, which permits a hunter to take a buck or a doe. Before hunting begins, however, it is necessary to secure written permission from the lessee of the BLM lands, and registering before entry. But access and permission aren't sought until a hunting party has made a diligent field check to determine the availability of the game sought. This group of experienced hunters, however, was aware of that detail, and apparently their choice was accurate and correct.

Rand-McNally's road atlas doesn't identify the nearby rises as "The Crazies", but as the Rockies. These flatlands amidst even higher ranges to the north and south are rich in game animals, not only antelope. The local groups adventure was very successful, enjoyable and satisfying far beyond their expectations.