Steve’s Favorite Critters from 12 Seasons of MeatEater

Steve’s Favorite Critters from 12 Seasons of MeatEater

With MeatEater Season 12 just launching and the general big game hunting season in Montana coming to a close, I couldn’t help but take a look back at the hunts and critters over the past dozen years. I’ve been fortunate to spend a lot of time in the field on pretty damn cool adventures, but the following experiences have stood apart.

Washington Elk

WA elk This elk’s skull now has the wall above our piano all to himself. I got a decent hit on him with my bow but he went a long way without losing a lot of blood. We trailed him a few hundred yards but were afraid that he wasn’t dead and that we’d push him out of the area. What a relief when we found him the next day. We lost some meat around the ball joints due to spoilage, but not too bad.

Idaho Mule Deer

Idaho Mule Deer I hunted mule deer for over a dozen years before getting a really big one. All of that time was spent in Montana, where you can hunt muleys with a rifle for six weeks on an over-the-counter tag with a season that runs through the rut. Which means that giant mule deer are hard to come by in Montana. I got this buck the very first time that I hunted mule deer out-of-state. You should understand that these bucks are still rarer than hell no matter where you go, but it’s nice knowing that they’re out there.

Nunivak Island Muskox

Nunivak Island Muskox I killed this muskox on Nunivak Island in the Bering Sea. I was living in Seattle at the time, and after the hunt I sent my kid to school with a muskox sandwich. I guaranteed him that he was the only kid in his school district with a sandwich like that. The thing about muskox hunting is that it’s more about logistics and enduring the elements than it is about hunting skill. I’m sure glad I did it, but I haven’t applied for a muskox tag again. I’m not opposed to going, but it doesn’t necessarily feel like something that I have to do a second time.

Montana Mountain Goat

Montana Mountain Goat It’s a bitch to draw a mountain goat tag in Montana. I applied for twenty years before drawing one. Montana squares your bonus points. Meaning if you’ve got 12 bonus points, your name is in the hat 144 times. That puts you way above a hunter with zero points, whose name is in the hat just once. But even with all of those points it can still take forever. If you draw the tag, you’re obviously going to want to take it seriously. Second chances are basically nonexistent.

Idaho Mule Deer

Idaho Mule Deer I hunted this buck with Jason Phelps of Phelps Game Calls. He’s a known elkophile and somewhat of a deer skeptic, but he still worked his ass off on my behalf. We glassed a pile of bucks. This was probably the second biggest one that we found.

Montana Elk

Montana Elk I often joke (well, it’s partly a joke and partly dead serious) that we should convert Yellowstone National Park into a Federal Wilderness Area. Remove all of the infrastructure, build a few big trailheads along the border, and hand wildlife management over to the states. Until that happens, Montana’s Buffer Zone tag is the closest that you’ll get to hunting elk in the park. They issue just five tags a year, and odds are really low. In twenty years of applying, this is the only special unit elk tag that I ever drew in Montana. The rest of my elk hunting in Montana has all been over-the-counter.

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